Ed offers numerous presentations to a wide range of groups on a large variety of topics—ranging from regional history and folklore to writing instruction and public speaking workshops. These presentations are appropriate for conferences, luncheons and dinner events, Elderhostels, historical societies, libraries, museums, churches, fraternal clubs and almost any organizational gathering—and a degree of humor is incorporated into almost every talk, regardless of the topic.
Following is a list of some of his presentations, along with brief summaries of their content and focus. Many of these offerings can be modified to meet the time and content needs of the sponsoring group or educational institution.
Enjoy a session of foolish regional jokes and stories—offering NO intellectual, educational, or redeeming social value.
Storyteller Ed Okonowicz will transport you back to the old-fashioned country store/post office/barbershop. A gathering place where tall tales grew taller, painful groaners were shared, and larger-than-life yarns spun to pass time during lazy afternoons.
The program’s content is certified 99.8 % absolutely true—by a career politician and carnival huckster—who have contributed their favorite mendacities, to be propagated with their permission.
If you’re interested in learning something useful or depressing,” said one satisfied attendee, “stay home and watch the evening news or PBS. But if you want to belt out some robust laughter (and groans), go hear this program. Nobody with any sense dares tell these silly tales in public anymore.”
'Predictions & Promises That Turned Out WRONG!'
Everyone knows self-proclaimed experts believe themselves to be “the smartest person in the room,” never hesitant to show off how much they know. History, however, has proved many of their “statements of fact” to be completely wrong. Renowned and honored physicians, economists, scholars, business executives, scientists, politicians, military leaders, and entertainment moguls have been embarrassed by the eventual success of inventions and talented acts they scoffed at and rejected.
The stories include predictions of the death of Rock 'n' Roll and stupidity of drilling for oil, to the horse remaining dominant over the locomotive and automoblie, plus the military ineffectiveness of the tank and airplane. Dozens of photographs and stories are included in this entertaining program.
So You Think You Know All About Delaware — Whether a native or transplant, Delawareans are proude to be known as residents of the First State. But what do they really know about Delaware? This talk (which includes a multiple choice quiz) challenges natives and newcomers to show their stuff about Blue Hen history, politics, geography, and more. Why does Delaware have a round top? How did the C & D Canal help save the Union? And what's the story with all those chickens, and pumpkins, and scrapple, and pirates . . . and lots more?
Meet the Presidents, First Ladies and Their Pets
Meet the Presidents: Trivia, Tales and Truths about Our Nation's Leaders—a Jepoardy style presentation of lesser known facts about the chief executives, including nicknames, duels, pet problems, superstitions, odd jobs they held . . . and much more. PP/DHF
Meet the First Ladies: Trivia and Tales of the Presidents' Wives —stories and lesser known facts about the fascinating women, who enthusiastically—and in come cases, reluctantly—influenced and supported their husbands, who served as our country's leaders. Photographs and surprising information is featured in this talk about each First Lady, from Martha Washington through Michelle Obama.
Spot on the White House Lawn
Presidential Pet Tales (and Tails)—Millions of Americans love their pets, and America's First Families are no exceptions, having had their share of feathered and fury friends. From Washington to Obama, a wide range of faithful companions resided in and roamed around the White House—including dogs, cats, ponies and parrots, plus a few bears, tigers, horses and alligators. From Abe Linclon's pet turkey to Bill Clinton's faithful companions 'Buddy' and 'Socks'; from Gerald Ford's secretive adoption of 'Liberty' to Woodrow Wilson's landscaping crew of goats, this entertaining and informative program—is perfect for February (Presidents' Month) or anytime during the year. PP
The Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor and Pearl Harbor Hero George Welch—facts associated with our nation's highest combat military honor are featured in this talk, plus photos and stories of selected medal recipients, information on recent honorees and a section on a Pearl Harbor pilot, who many believe should have received the Medal of Honor twice. Why was the medal created? Who received the honor more than once? What two families had father and son recipients? Why were hundreds of medals rescinded? Who was the only woman to earn the coveted award? What general said he would sell his soul to attain this distinctive honor? When was the Confederate Medal of Honor established, and how many recipients are there? A very popular, inspiring and informative talk.
There are TWO versions of this presentation—one including recipients from DELAWARE and another version featuring recipients from MARYLAND.
Food Lore: Muskrat, Scrapple and More—proves what we eat tells who we are and offers clues to our heritage, culture, family history, and regional identity. This has proved to be one of the most popular programs because of the wealth of surprising information regarding national and regional foods, as well as the humorous stories and anecdotes associated with our collective and personal love affairs with eating.
America's Covered Bridges: From Transportation to Tourism—Next to lighhouses, nothing stirs the imagination like Covered Bridges. Photographs enhance stories about the longest and shortest, the most colorful, and most well known covered bridges. Plus answers as to why and how they were built, their importance, decline and preservation as tourist attractions and, even today, important transportation links in rural communities.
Haunted Lighthouse Tales and Sea Superstitions—shouted warnings, shipwrecks, mysterious piano music, deaths at sea, apparitions and the effects of deadly storms are all part of this program on unexplainable tales told about lighthouses located around the country.
Smith Island layer cake is the state desert of Maryland.
Sharkfin Light in the Chesapeake Bay
Confederate Prisoners at Gettysburg
Civil War Trivia, Ghost Stories and Legends—Scores of books have been written about ghost stories and paranormal incidents associated with the Civil War. For 12 summers, I helped guide visitors through a "Ghost History Candlelight Tour" on an isolated haunted island—accessible only by ferry and a century-and-a-half removed from modern conveniencs, such as electicity, paved roads, air conditioning and fresh water. This depressing locale was the site of Fort Delaware, a Yankee Civil War fort that held 33,000 Rebel prisoners—and which many visitors, and even some re-enactors and staff, believe is haunted. This program features unusual Civil War trivia, surprising facts and ghost stories, in general, along with a number of paranormal legends associated with the granite, moat surrounded prison on Pea Patch Island. Nearly a hundred images accompany this interesting and eerie talk—which combines history and haunts, and which is ideal for the Halloween season, or anytime during the year.
Civil War Trivia & Fort Delaware Tales—fascinating facts and legends about the War Between the States. Details on Lincoln's assassination, oldest surviving veterans, the Confederate White House, Libby Prison, old photographs and surpising stories. The second half of the program focuses on stories and legends about Fort Delaware, an island prison that held 30,000 Confederate prisoners during the War Between the States. This program is used in school classrooms for students prior to their field trip to Fort Delaware. Used in classroom prior to school field trips to Fort Delaware.
Poe's grave in Baltimore
Tales Tombstones Tell—dozens of images of interesting Delmarva and Mid Atlantic tombstones illustrate how cemetery markers, symbols, inscriptions and architecture have changed over time. Learn how demands for space and convenience have affected traditional cemeteries, and hear which historic figures have been "moved" in the name of "progress" or commercial gain. As one attendee said afterwards, "I though this was going to be a boring academic lecture, but I was relieved it wasn't. And I learned a lot and had a great time because the program was given in an entertaing way."
Delmarva's Best Ghost Stories—includes ghost stories and legends from Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore, including Bigg Lizz, Patty Cannon, Woodburn (Delaware's haunted governor's mansion), Fiddler's Bridge, Fort Delaware, Phantoms at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry . . . and many more.
Maryland's Best Ghost Stories—features folktales and legends in the Old Line State, including Black Aggie, Poe's Gravesite, Fort McHenry, Governor's Bridge, Point Lookout Lighthouse, Baltimore's Phantom, Cellar House, Witch Moll Dyer . . . and many more.
Superstitions, Curses & Friday the 13th—explore the fascinating world of superstitions, including their originsand why they remain a significant part of our folklore, culture and everyday life. The Hope Diamond, William Penn, Babe Ruth, Mark Twain, FDR, the Pyramids and the black cat are a few of the featured personalities. If you have even a slight belief in superstitions, or the smallest concern when 13 falls on a Friday, you're in good company with millions of others around the world—find out why.
Fort Delaware, island prison
The feared Black Cat
Grave Robbing and Body Snatching Tales—"resurrectionists," a term for 19th-century, nocturnal body thieves that supplied "subjects" to America's newly established medical schools, are the focus of this horrorifying talk. Historical information and old folktales are the basis for this informative, humorous, and entertaining progam on cemetery lore, exhumation practices and regional stories.
Learn the differences among grave digging, grave robbing and body snatching; how laws turned body snatching into an accepted and lucrative industry; the tools and techniques of the trade; unusual items placed within coffins; precautions employed to protected deceased loved ones . . . and much more.
"This latest spooky offering from Ed Okonowicz is totally different from the often seen graveyard walking tours. This is an entertaining visit with a real worker from the 19th century, a look at his life, his journey, and why he has choosen this occupation over all others."
—Karen Quinn, director, Corbit-Calloway Memorial Library, Odessa, Del.
Remembering Nights At the Drive-In—looks at this important, but rapidly disappearing, symbol of American Roadside culture. Stories of the Delmarva Peninsula's last outdoor theater, Felton's Diamond State Drive-In, plus an overview of the venue's origin, Golden Age and eventual decline. Where was the first drive-in? Who invented it? What were the initial problems? How many were there, and how many survive? Lots of great photographs, movie posters, and true stories will rekindle memories of a time when America's love of automobiles and movies combined during memorable evenings under the stars.
Storytelling from the Brandywine to the Bay—using age-old and updated presentation techiniques, this program features a wide range of different types of stories (historical, folktales, yarns, jokes) set in the mid-Atlantic region. The stories included in this presentation are linked to the season when the program is scheduled, make-up of the audience and the needs and theme of the particular event and venue. Each presentation includes lots of humor and plenty of opportunities for audience interaction and discussion.
Convention Visitors Talk—sharing local history, legends and folklore about the First State (or Delmarva region) through humorous and suspensful stories, tall tales and interesting anecdotes. This successful, upbeat and presentation—given in a storytelling (as opposed to lecture) fashion—has been well received by a growing number of visitors representing a wide range of organizations.
Americans loved their cars and watching movies under the stars.
Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Other Available Presentations
Delaware History Through Monuments, Memorials and Markers—a look at the First State's impressive past through roadside markers that offer clues to its heroes, historic sites, long gone settlements, disappearing occupations and industries, and unique geographic boundaries.
Elkton, Maryland, 'Marriage Capital of the East'—about the small Maryland village's reputation as a place to get hitched quickly, with no waiting period. Major sports figures and Hollywood stars, plus tens of thousands of average folks, took advantage of the practice in the town in the 1930s.
Disappearing Delmarva—an look at the dramatic changes that progress had inflicted on the region, told through the words of working folks interviewed for the book, Disappearing Delmarva: Portraits of the Peninsula People, by Ed and Kathleen Okonowicz.
Vampires and Witches in Literature and Film—stories of how these two popular figures have influenced our culture through books and movies, and how interest in them continues into modern times. Includes a wide range of examples, from Bram Stoker's Dracula to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
There's More to Talk Radio Than Just Talk—murders, bombings, riots, police raids and big money all have been associated with the talk radio industry, which began at station WILM-AM in Wilmington, Del., in the 1950s, with radio talk star Joe Pyne. Learn about the origin, growth and huge influcene of this communication medium, and the stars it has produced.
Folksongs and Folktales—a program of storytelling, folk singing and old country, general store humor and banter, featuring Dover's Jackie LaGuardia McCabe and Ed. Lots of laughs and great songs and tales.
Possessed Possessions—haunted furniture, collectibles and antiques at the topic of this paranormal program, based on two books on the subject written by Ed and his experiences on The Learning Channel Possessed Possessions program, filmed on the famous ocean liner Queen Mary.
Storytelling and Public Speaking Workshops and Instruction
Instruction in public speaking and storytelling is available for audiences of differerent ages, sizes, and interests—from students in classrooms, to historical society docents and state park interpreters. Ed had taught storytelling and public speaking at a number of institutions, and for various groups—including University of Delaware, Delaware State Parks, Historical Society of Delaware, Talbot County Historical Society, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and various school districts. Each session (or group of sessions) is tailored to the specific needs of the institution or group. Call for more information.
Corporate, Convention and Organization Clients
Museums and Societies
Talbot County Historical Society Arsenal in Olde New Castle Chadds Ford Inn Historical Society of Delaware Historical Society of Cecil County Historic Elk Landing Foundation Delaware State Parks Chautauqua (opening act in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007) Cecil Community College Chautauqua (opening act in 2007) Lewes, Del. First Night Wilmington Friends of the Hancock House Fort Mott State Park, New Jersey Cecil Community College Milburn Stone Theater New Castle 350th Anniversary Celebration Delaware Seashore Preservations Foundation Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation Delaware Agricultural Museum Tyler Arboretum Delaware Geneaological Society Lewes Historical Society Dover Historical Society Delaware Civil War Round Table Harrington Historical Society Skipjack Martha Lewis Kalmar Nyckel Foundation DuPont Country Club
Daughters of the American Revolution Lord Baltimore Women's Club Wilmington Newcomers Club Newark New Century Club Choptank River Heritage Center Carroll Co. Genealogical Soc. 25th Anniversary Historical Society of Carroll Co. Skipjack Martha Lewis Philadelphia Art Museum Biggs Museum of American Art Havre de Grace Maritime Museum Dorchester County Historical Society Capt. John Smith 400th Anniversary Celebration Port Penn Museum St. Michales Museum at St. Mary's Square
Conventions Masonic Lodge Knights of Columbus Maryland Library Association Annual Convention University Continuing Education Association (Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference) Country Club Managers of Delaware National Convention, National Assn. of Press Women National Assn. of State Budget Officers
Diamond State Reading Association American Phytopathological Society Regional Conf. Royal Arch Masons Conclave Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Soc. International Convention Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Soc. Regional Conventions Sampson Air Force Base Vets Fellowship, Inc. Middle Atlantic Folklife Association New Century Clubs (Newark, West Chester) Red Hat Ladies groups PEO groups
Retirement Facilities Heritage at Milford Heritage at Dover Millcroft Forwood Manor Methodist Manor House Ingleside Homes Shipley Manor Cokesbury Retirement Home Methodist Country House Fairhaven Broadmeadow Westminster Village Jenner's Pond