Friday, September 09, 2016

Retired BJ photographer Ott Gangl and newsroom retiree John Olesky had another of those Ol’ Blue Walls reunions, this time at the Akron Family German Society’s Oktoberfest in Brimfield on Saturday, September 9.

They talked about the ol’ days at the BJ, of course. Ott has been retired about 25 years, John for 20 years.

Both discussed their shock over the death of BJ Features Department editor/pet columnist/food columnist Connie Bloom. Ott, perhaps the best BJ photographer in history of the female form (his Sinday photo shoots in the BJ photo studio, when the rest of the newsroom was empty, are legendary with a parade of skimpily clad women), of course had a story about Connie.

There was threatening weather predicted for the Soap Box Derby, so Ott was assigned to take a photo of a pretty woman separating the clouds. Ott saw a line of women, picked out Connie and her long legs, and told her to hop in his car.

They went to Derby Downs, and Ott told Connie to “separate” the clouds. She made the appropriate motion and Ott had his leggy photo of the clouds-separator for the BJ.

Ott experienced ethnic cleansing first-hand, as a 12-year-old victim, in World War II.

Ann & Ott take a break from skiing in Colorado
Let Ott explain:

“I was born in Yugoslavia to German parents and went to school first in German, then in Serbian with everything in Cyrillic and then in Hungarian, all because our town changed countries.

“In 1944 we were ethnically cleansed, barely escaping with our lives and ending up in Germany where I joined the pre-Hitler Youth because I wasn't old enough for the actual Hitler Youth.”

Boys Ott’s age really didn’t have much say in the matter. They were just put into the Hitler Youth movement.
A friend I had in Dayton had the same experience, winding up in the SS because he was thrown in, at a young age, to fight for his country, just as teen Americas were fighting for their country.

Ott continued:

“At war's end we asked our relatives in the U.S. to sponsor us and eventually immigrated to Akron in 1952. I was 20 years old. After the required five-year wait, we applied and got our citizenship.

“I was working at the Beacon Journal as a photographer by then, hired by a Jewish chief despite my (German) accent.”

The Jew and the German were chief photographer Julius Greenfield and Ott.

Ott and wife Ann, at 84 and 83, look remarkably healthy.

There’s another Ott Gangl story that I like to tell. Ott and Ann have skied all over the world (in fact, Ott and Ann were at a table with skiing friends).
But there was a time, in Switzerland, when Ott broke his leg while skiing.

A few days later on the BJ bulletin board some wiseacre put up a notice: “Used skiing equipment for sale. Owner no longer able to use them.”

It wasn't Ott, of course. The photo department was always one of the wildest departments at the BJ.

And Ott resumed his fearsome whooshes downhill almost before his leg healed.
It was Ott who set up  a photo shoot of BJ Features Department personnel while department head Michelle LeComte was on vacation. We all put on swimsuits, beach hats, etc. with plenty of leg showing from the TV Editor whose initials are J.O. and Ott clicked away.

When Michele returned from her vacation, there was the photo on her desk with a note: “Having a great time. Wish you were here.”

Ah, my 26 years at Ol’ Blue Walls was a fun time. And Ott and his wild and crazy photographer cohorts is one reason for it.

1 comment:

Ott Gangl said...

John, it was nice to see you at the Oktoberfest. A couple of corrections to the story: our chief photographer was Julius Greenfield and I broke my leg skiing in Switzerland and no sale of equipment since I needed it for the next ski season...otherwise, the atmosphere and the beer at the Oktoberfest was great.