The World Accordion to Charlie

In print, on-air and online, Charlie Campbell makes Dayton shine

By Amanda Dee

Charlie Campbell is the Mark Zuckerberg of Dayton—except his mouth curves up in a permanent, wrinkled smile and he’s more interested in “live-to-live interaction” than interactions online. Plus, he plays in an accordion band. (And he’s never seen “The Social Network.”)

Charlie is the man behind It’s Great in Dayton, a weekly email newsletter that shares what people are doing in Dayton with 4,000 subscribers.

His eyes blaze blue behind his circular lenses. A red baseball cap and striped wool scarf hang on the side of his chair. His legs are crossed and his hands rest near his coffee mug when he starts telling his own story:

“Alright, here’s the deal …”

Charlie didn’t start out in Ohio. His mother graduated from Dayton during the Great Depression, attended Northwestern University then traveled east and got married. In 1943, Charlie was born in Connecticut.

In 1961, he graduated from high school, and his mother sent him to Denison University, a liberal arts college in Ohio. Four years later, he graduated.

“Alright, now … Have you ever heard about the Vietnam War?”

In that era, he says if you weren’t married or going to graduate school, you were going to be drafted.

“So I spent a year and a half in the Philippines, a year and a half in Oklahoma City and I volunteered to go to Vietnam because I wanted to see what it was all about,” he continues.

After 12 months in Vietnam, he flew to San Francisco, where he was discharged.

“So far so good?”

Charlie for president

“Have you ever heard of Miami-Jacobs College?”

Since 1860, Miami-Jacobs Career College has been teaching career and technical education. Charlie says his grandfather “put it together.” After finishing his service in 1970, Charlie’s phone rang:

“My mother’s brother, he was running the show at Miami-Jacobs College here in Dayton, so he said, ‘Hey, Charlie. We got a job for you in Dayton,’ and I said, ‘OK—I don’t have anything else to do. I’ll come to Dayton until I find a real job.’”

After serving as president there for 30 years, he never found that “real job.”

Charlie for mayor

Jump to the early ’90s. Email is just becoming a “thing.” In Dayton, the Dayton Dragons team is just becoming a “thing,” as was that part of the city.

After the total Dayton population peaked in the ’60s at nearly 242,000 people, suburban flight and the changing economy left the city hemorrhaging for residents and businesses, as historian Margaret Peters says in her research about Dayton history. In the ’70s, the city’s population dropped to a little more than 193,000. In the ’80s, Dayton hit a little more than 182,000—about a 60,000-person decrease in 20 years.

“I mean in the ’70s and ’80s that part of Dayton was, you know, empty. Empty buildings. Nothing going on,” he recalls. “Now, sure enough, when the Dayton baseball team was established, those buildings were all torn down and really things were happening in that whole area.”

Before the project was officially announced, the neighbors near the future Fifth Third Field got to talking.

“There was this talk about [how] there was going to be a baseball team …” he continues. “So I thought, ‘OK, I gotta find out in our neighborhood about this.’ So I wandered around and I had a little flyer and I said, ‘Hey, all you guys come to Miami-Jacobs. We’ll have a cup of coffee.’”

He congregated a group at the college. Then, that group grew. They started meeting at a church every week. Then, that group grew. Charlie stopped faxing and started emailing.

“So now we’re moving into the century, so now it’s like 2002, then I sold the Miami-Jacobs business,” he continues. “I was done after doing that stuff for 30-something years. So I sold the business and I was no longer a business guy in that neighborhood.”

However, his retirement from that business didn’t stop Charlie from staying involved in everyone else’s.

“They had said, ‘Alright, Charlie. We’re going to make you the mayor of Webster Station [the area by Miami-Jacobs] … I then decided hey, I’m gonna be promoting things about Greater Dayton,” he says, handing over the first of his three different business cards.

Charlie, the journalist

Every Sunday, Charlie types up a draft for the It’s Great in Dayton newsletter. He sends it out every Monday to his 4,000 subscribers.

“A lot of times, I’ll get replies: thank you for putting in whatever it was, or other people will then say, ‘Hey, have you heard about [pause] next week?’ So a lot of the times, the things that go in my newsletter are, you know, they’re not widely known because they’re not in the Dayton Daily News.”

He often features columns by his wife Molly, a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Award winner in the human interest and humor categories. Charlie says she pokes fun at him or “The Accordion Man,” as she sometimes calls him in her columns.

Though, Charlie suspects Molly only “scans through, clicks on [the newsletter] and keeps going,” adding, “and she does this weekly column and there have been times I’ve kind of glanced through it and been like, ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah, not interested.’ Because frequently she’s not even aware that I’ve put in her column in my newsletter. And then I’ll say to her, because I get the data from [the traffic], 25 people clicked on [your] column.”

He has also worked with radio …

“I had known the guys at WYSO, so they had said, ‘Charlie, why don’t you do some promotion, and we’ll put it on the radio.’ And if you listen on Friday from 12-1, sometimes someone pushes a button and it’s me: you hear me saying, ‘Hey, here are things going on in Dayton.’”

… And print, turning in a column every Thursday for Dayton City Paper.

He hands over another card: “Good Time Accordion Band. Fresh Squeezed Music.”

Charlie, The Accordion Man

Jump back to the ’80s.

One of Charlie and Molly’s daughters had a music lesson at Hauer Music, owned by Jerry Hauer, whom Charlie calls “an old friend.”

“So I’m killing time, and I see an accordion … and I was like, ‘I wanna buy that.’ … So Jerry said, ‘It’s gonna take me a long time to find a teacher and get this accordion fixed up, but I’ll get in touch with you.’”

A few weeks later, Charlie got a call. He had a functioning accordion and teacher. A few years later, his one-man band became a 20-person one named the Oakwood Accordion Band. He says it became a “full-time job” managing 20 people, so he eventually called it quits.

“So now it’s with two good guys and me. We call ourselves the Good Time Accordion Band,” he says. “So that’s another whole activity of keeping busy—now ‘cause in my mind, I want to keep busy making contacts, sharing what I’ve heard about, sharing what I’ve learned about, spreading the word about what’s going on.”

Though, Molly says Charlie can only practice in the basement.

The day of his interview with Dayton City Paper happened to fall on a Tuesday, the day of his lessons in Cincinnati. He says his teacher Ricky Nye’s “full-time job is doing the boogie-woogie.”

Charlie, formerly known as Bones

“Have you ever heard about track, running?”

Charlie was a “miler” on the track team at Denison. He ran to third place in the nation in June 1965.

“I was skinny then, and I’m skinny now,” he says. “So [my coach] ended up calling me Bones.”

When he was stationed in the Philippines during his service, he asked to be reassigned to Texas, where there was a track team. He was given the OK—effective after months of serving. So he stopped running.

Since the ’70s, he and Molly have lived in Oakwood. When one of his daughters moved to Kettering to be a Spanish teacher and the other to L.A. to be a movie agent, he and Molly decided to stay where they were. Charlie says he still wanted “a neighborhood deal.”

“Most senior citizens here hire someone to cut the grass,” he says, crossing his arms across his chest. “I do it myself … I stop and shoot the breeze with the neighbors.”

He says he wants “live-to-live interaction,” and that’s how he finds most of his stories.

“I’ll run into somebody and we’ll be shooting the breeze and I always give them this,” he says as he hands over his last business card: this one includes all of his information, including his address, on the left side of an outline of his house.

He hopes his newsletter promotes those “live-to-live interactions”—as well as some good news for a change.

“Now, I’ll give you the perfect example. Do you see this artwork here?” he asks, gesturing at the abstract paintings hanging on the wall behind him. “Do you know who did it? It is Ron Rollins,” he answers, handing over another business card—but this one doesn’t belong to him. “Now, Ron is [an] editor of the [Dayton Daily News]. And I’ve known for years he also does artwork, and, so, I’m in here killing time waiting for you and I look and hey, Ron Rollins. So then … in this business card, it listed a website. I didn’t even know he had that. So, I’ll crank that into my newsletter and be hyping him up with that.”

Though, Charlie says the “Dayton Daily News guys” find his work overly optimistic.

“I mean I’ve known all the Dayton Daily News guys forever … and they joke about it. They say, ‘Charlie, nobody cares about good news. That’s why you put all these terrible things that have happened.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, yeah. I know.’ And they yuck it up about me,” he says. “And a lot of them click onto my stuff.”

According to Charlie, “The thing that’s so amazing is many people feel wherever they live is lousy. You know, they don’t like where they are. And so what I say is ‘Hey, you just gotta check out what’s going on in this neck of the woods and you’ll be amazed.’ But you want to keep exploring. You want to go down roads that you never bothered to look at—see what’s there.”

To read or subscribe to It’s Great in Dayton e-newsletters, please visit greatdayton.com. If you want to share an event or story with Charlie, shoot him an email at charliec@ameritech.net.

Reach DCP freelance writer Amanda Dee at AmandaDee@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Tags: , ,

Amanda Dee
Reach DCP Editor Amanda Dee at editor@DaytonCityPaper.com.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/19

L&D

Major key Last weekend a local couple was watching TV in their living room, having a relaxing evening, when suddenly […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/12

L&D

Jesus take the wheel A local couple recently decided to visit their church on a particularly warm and muggy Sunday […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 9/5

L&D

Flightless In a local park, police were dispatched to the crime scene. A woman called the police when she realized […]

The Docket: 8/29

285_2697643

Stolen in a nanosecond Just last week a woman visited her local sheriff’s office to place a tip on a […]

Law & Disorder: The Docket 8/22

L&D

Totally secure knot …not In a local home a garage door was broken into. This garage door was perfectly secured […]