Cumberland Times-News

April 21, 2013

Students documenting Frostburg’s 200-year history

Film utilizes expertise of individuals from city’s past

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— FROSTBURG —  Students at Mountain Ridge High School are putting the finishing touches on a full-length documentary in honor of the town’s 200th anniversary.

Titled “200 Years of Mountain City Memories,” the film was created in teacher Matthew Ravenscroft’s project-based elective course called Historical Research Methods.

Work on the documentary began in 2012 and utilizes oral histories from around 30 individuals with an expertise in the community’s past.

“It’s an upclose look at how time has changed. It’s definitely interesting,” said Daniel Blair, 16, a junior.

The documentary chronicles events beginning in 1812. Each student was assigned a specific time period.

Blair covered the early years of the project, through 1860.

“I didn’t realize how prominent Frostburg was in the early days with the National Road,” said Blair.

All of the 18 students in Ravenscroft’s class contributed to the documentary, which will be an hour and a half in length.

“It’s not a traditional class. It’s hands on; there’s no textbook,” said Ravenscroft. “It’s using project-based lessons to help kids learn.”

Chris Stemple, 17, worked on the years 1946 to 1970.

“It’s not like learning from a textbook. You actually apply it and we create our own product,” said Stemple.

Each year a different subject is selected for the documentary. Students write narratives, make interview appointments, film their subjects, mix sound and edit footage.

“We tend to think that kids know technology. But they don’t know how to use it in a professional manner. Here they know it’s for the public and they have deadlines,” said Ravenscroft.

Students phoned their sources and scheduled interview appointments themselves.

Some of those interviewed for the film were Betty Van Newkirk, Garry Ritchie, Frostburg Mayor Robert Flanagan, Lonnie Nixon, David Dean, Al Feldstein and Elizabeth Eshleman.

“The most interesting part was going to the Frostburg Museum and the FSU library to see all the stuff they have and learn about it,” said Mariah Spiker, 17, a senior from Westernport who worked on the years from 1970 to current times.

Mary Jo Price, a librarian for the Special Collections Room at Frostburg State University, was a source that provided a wealth of material for the film, Ravenscroft said.

Stemple was surprised how Frostburg was not excluded from the Cold War events and the threats at that time.

“We had a bomb shelter underneath the post office. Lonnie Nixon, a teacher here, helped to build bomb shelters under the houses on Sunset View,” said Stemple.

“I had never got to do anything like this before, it was pretty cool,” said Spiker.

Stemple found valuable material online.

“I got to use stock footage from the National Archives,” said Stemple.

Ravenscroft said that Brian White and local historian and author Dan Whetzel were instrumental in helping to put the class together.

“They’re getting to create something that will last forever,” said Ravenscroft.

Blair said it was interesting to see how Frostburg went from a National Road town to a coal producer.

“By the end of it, I call them professional problem solvers,” Ravenscroft said.

The public premiere of the documentary is May 10 at Mountain Ridge. The film starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

DVDs of the documentary can be purchased at the premiere for $10. They will also be available at Main Street Books for $15. All proceeds from the documentary go back to the school to fund future projects. More details can be obtained by calling the school at 301-689-3377.

Greg Larry can be contacted at