Documentary on life of Ellet to premiere
The premiere showing in Concordia of a documentary about the life and writings of former Blade-Empire columnist Marion Ellet will be on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Cook Theatre at Cloud County Community College.
The documentary was written and narrated by Thomas Nelson, an associate professor of communications at Elon University in Elon, N.C.
The documentary has been selected for presentation at the Kansas City International Film Festival. It is the second documentary produced by Nelson to be selected for the festival. The other documentary, “Prisoners of Plenty,” was about the German prisoners of war incarcerated at Camp Concordia during World War II.
Nelson first heard about Concordia and the prisoner of war camp when he was working and teaching at the University of Maryland's European branch during the mid-1990s. One of Nelson's friends at the time was the son of a former prisoner at Camp Concordia. “The father's stories about Camp Concordia fascinated me, particularly the fond remembrances of the time he spent there,” Nelson said. “It was, after all, WW II and those stories prompted me to visit the site in 2007.”
His next step was to ask Elon University for a stipend to make the documentary. “Not one word of the documentary would have been possible without the help of Lowell May of Junction City,” Nelson said.
May has served as president of the camp's preservation society as well as written a book, “Camp Concordia: German POWs in the Midwest.”
During his time in Concordia filming the Camp Concordia documentary, Nelson read a number of columns written by Ellet, which “I think rank among the best short columns I have read about World War II,” he said. “I thought this woman truly has a gifted touch with words. I wanted to know more about her and the more I learned, the more I wanted to tell her story.
“There is another reason Marion Ellet has my respect,” Nelson said. “She was at the center of a vibrant intellectual life in Concordia. It is a tad contrived to say that she played a muse, but that is the impression that I have after interviewing those who knew her.”
Nelson is the writer and narrator of the documentary about Ellet and Jason McMerty was the videographer and editor. The production also was funded by Elon University.
Nelson said that it is all about history for him and not the documentaries. “I love history of people, places, things,” he said. “Telling the history of these topics confers permanence.”
Nelson traces his love of history back to the time he spent waiting at a school bus stop on Staten Island, New York. He said that there was a nearby marker which stated that the British had quartered 3,000 men there before the battle of New York during the Revolutionary War. “I spent a lot of time at that bus stop over the years just imagining what it must have been like and I still do,” he said.
Nelson graduated from Boston College with a degree in history. He received his master's degree in Radio/TV/Film in 1979 from Syracuse University.
He and his wife, Joan, have a son Nick.
Ellet's love of politics, literature and nature led her to a career of writing. After graduating from Smith College, Ellet went to work for the Blade-Empire on Nov. 1, 1921. A year later she left Concordia for New York where she became a reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle.
Although she had some success, Ellet realized that in an occupation dominated by men she would have been in her 40s or 50s before she could write a column or do any serious reporting on politics. So, she returned to Concordia in 1926 to once again work for the Concordia Blade-Empire. A short time later she began writing her column, Mugwump Musings.
Ellet became a much respected and heralded columnist in Kansas. In 1930, the Wichita Eagle recognized her as one of the 10 most outstanding journalists in the state. The Eagle said that she was the woman who has done the most constructive good in Kansas journalism.
She was a contemporary of Kansas newspaper giants including William Allen White, Rolla Clymer, Jay E. House and Paul Jones.
During her career she won many awards from the Kansas Press Association for her columns.
Ellet's columns were syndicated in a number of Kansas newspapers. She wrote her daily column for nearly 70 years. Her last column was printed on May 1, 1996 and was about Hamas and growing terrorism in the Middle East. She died on Aug. 26, 1996 at the age of 97.
Sponsor for the showing of the documentary is Alpha Sigma Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma, International Society of Women Educators. A reception will follow the showing.
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