My older daughter and I went to a really great event on Sunday called Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year. It was held in the large cafeteria of Holy Family school in Price Hill (a suburb of Cincinnati). As you can see by the poster, there was something for everyone with continuous music from 1 PM to 5 PM….
One portion of the program included hoe-down style square dancing and I was so glad to see my daughter on the floor enjoying herself after two years of medical problems …
Admission was something for the potluck dinner, although no one was turned away who wanted to eat. I brought my Swiss Chicken and Orzo Casserole which I baked and then put in a hot pot to keep warm. There was a wonderful spread of food including chicken, ham, three kinds of bean casseroles, cornbread, salad, bread and lovely desserts – all delicious. There was a contest for the best “corny” dish and a pie contest. I haven’t entered a pie contest in over 30 years but brought along my favorite Concord Grape Streuselpie and won first prize.
The Memory Quilt mentioned in the poster is a collection of memories of Appalachian and country life that attendees have written over the years and collected in binders – a quilt made by writing rather than sewing.
We don’t usually have anything special that we look forward to after New Year’s in January, but from now on, this event will be highlighted on our calendar.
Because of back problems the past two years, I haven’t been able to travel too far and my daughter and I have taken one day a week during the month of September for a “staycation” day in an area that doesn’t require too much driving. We enjoyed our last day of this year’s staycation traveling about 1-1/2 hours to Springfield, Ohio. We pass through the charming town of Yellow Springs and love to have lunch at Young’s plus a stop on the way back home for one of their renowned Bull Shakes made with cream from their own Jersey cows.
It’s about 30 minutes from Yellow Springs to a huge antique mall called “Heart of Ohio” with 650 dealers. I found a treasure -a handmade book rack that I would date to the 1940s with my favorite Scottie theme. I imagine it was made from a kit and includes flaws like the very visible screws and holes drilled in the wrong place, but that made it more lovable to me.
When we got in the car, my daughter handed me something she had bought as a remembrance of our trip.
It’s Roseville and the chips (which I don’t mind) made it very affordable. I love the little dog lapping up the spilled milk.
On the way home, I was telling my daughter I had seen a small “Made in Japan” Dutch planter which I talked myself out of buying. Later that evening, she came out with another package that she was going to save as a Christmas gift – the planter I wished I had picked up.
This was a very successful day.
One week of our staycation we went to a favorite restaurant (Grand Finale in Glendale, Ohio) and our favorite local antique mall (Ohio Valley Antiques in Fairfield, Ohio). We’re at these two places so often, I didn’t think about taking pictures.
I’ve been donating quilts to the Greater Cincinnati Linus Project since I first started quilting 11 years ago. Most of the donations (4 to 5 a year) have been twin size, but I’ve been having back problems which ruled out making anything that large. I thought maybe I could handle making a smaller quilt and wanted to use some of the red, white and blue scraps I’ve accumulated. I chose a simple pinwheel pattern and sized it to make a 9-1/2 finished block.
Our Linus group prefers fleece rather than backing fabric and batting. I chose a bright red fleece and made the binding from strips of the red scrap material.
I didn’t add a border and used very simple straight line quilting on my Bernina. The quilt finished at 30×40 inches – a nice size for a young child to carry around.
By the time I was born in 1932, radio was available, but not to people like my family who had no money for frivolous things, sometimes barely enough for necessities like food. My father was always fascinated with radio and by the time we had moved to a one room flat in 1935 and he had a job with the WPA, making enough to feed his family, he started building crystal sets. As he progressed in the WPA, going from the lowliest laborer to time-keeper, we came up in the world and moved to a two-room flat and had a pretty nice radio. I can remember one playing while we sat at the kitchen table in the morning. I liked the jingle that four young guys sang (lyrics the way I remember them):
Shine your shoes and you’ll wear a smile Shine your shoes and you’ll be in style The sun shines east and the sun shines west But Griffin polish shines the best. Some folks are not particular How they look around their feet, But if they wore shoes upon their heads, They’d make sure their shoes looked neat. So, keep your shoes shining all the time, All the time, it’s the time to shine When you hear this familiar chime (ding, dong, ding) It’s time to shine.
Forty years later, I found out it was the young Williams brothers singing the jingle, including the youngest, Andy Williams, who would become one of my favorite singers in the 1960s.
We listened to the Farm Hour, with reports on grain futures and cattle sales, along with weather reports. The broadcast came from a model-farm type operation and they always talked to the farmer about what he was going to do that day on the farm and sometimes to his wife about her cooking and housekeeping tips.
Mother kept the radio on all day while she did her housework, favoring the country music of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family, Cowboy Copas, and Mac Wiseman, learning songs that she later sang to us. The sadder the ballad, the better, as far as Mother was concerned. She never complained, never cried, always had a pleasant smile on her face, but she loved the most doleful, tragic ballads where people died and roses twined around their tombstones.
My father liked sports broadcasts – baseball, football and the boxing matches. I can still hear the tinny sound of the announcer from Madison Square Gardens in New York, announcing the name of Joe Louis and his unlucky opponent. We all listened to the news broadcasts and shows like Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Lux Radio Theater.
Just before World War II, we could afford to move to a four-room apartment and my father managed to get a wonderful radio that had a green eye that vibrated and pulsed with each sound coming out of it. The radio was glorious and my little sister and I loved to watch the magic eye do its gyrations. It was on this radio that we heard the news on a wintry Sunday that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and we were now in the middle of World War II. Throughout the war and for several years afterwards, the radio continued to be the major form of information and entertainment in American homes. Our family gathered in the living room around the radio, everybody doing something besides just listening – my parents reading, my sister and I lying on the floor with puzzles or coloring books or paper dolls.
On Saturday nights, we usually listened to a barn dance show, probably the precursor of Grand Ole Opry, and heard someone “calling Rattler from the barn – Huyh, Rattler, Huyh, Huyh” and some guy saying, “I’m going back to the wagon, folks – these shoes is killing me”.
I can remember sitting in the kitchen with the radio playing Fred Allen while we ate a supper of leftovers from a big Sunday dinner – fried chicken, potato pancakes made from the mashed potatoes, the remaining meringue-covered chocolate or coconut cream pie.
Of course, we loved The Shadow – “Who knows what evil lurks in the thoughts of man — The Shadow knows!”; Bull Drummond; Your Hit Parade and the latest song by Frank Sinatra (a young, skinny kid at that time); The Lone Ranger and Tonto; Little Orphan Annie and Jack Armstrong and so many others. We always wound up each New Year’s Eve listening to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.
Radio was so important to us until one day in 1946 when figures appeared on a tiny screen in my father’s workshop as he built our first television set and radio was never a very big deal again.
About 30 years ago, my oldest daughter gave me a beautiful set for Christmas that included a tiered plate, a basket, two candle holders and 4 mugs. They were purchased at Lazarus department store in downtown Cincinnati and I have loved them and used them every Christmas.
On Saturday, we visited a lovely thrift/consignment shop (Vintage Market & Thrift, Loveland, Ohio) and saw eight dessert plates to this set on display. The original price was reasonable, but there was also 75% off on Christmas items, so I snatched them up. They were still in their original boxes which were in mint condition and still had the remnants of a Lazarus label on the side.
I also picked up a plaque to add to my Dutch collection …
In 1938, my parents, my little sister, Shirley, and I were living in a rented flat on Elm Street in downtown Cincinnati. The building is still standing and I posed for a picture back in 2002.
My father worked for the WPA as a timekeeper and we were finally coming out of the depths of the depression. The living room of the flat had huge sliding wooden doors and on Christmas Eve, my sister and I (3-1/2 years and 6 years) sat with our eyes glued on that door and imagining what Santa might be bringing us. As we sat huddled together in the kitchen, I heard a tinkling of sleigh bells. My father argued a little bit with me, but I swore I heard sleigh bells so Santa must have arrived. Finally, he pulled open the doors and it was like walking into the toy department of a big store (like the Fair Store or Rollman’s or Shillito’s). My parents didn’t wrap any of the gifts but rather had them set up all around the room, ready for fun. The first thing Shirley and I spied were beautiful baby dolls for each of us in little metal strollers. The dolls were dressed identically in white dresses and white flannel coats with bonnets. We were able to tell them apart because my doll had dark brown eyes (as I had) and Shirley’s doll had her shade of blue eyes. They were the most beautiful dolls we had ever seen.
I named my doll Mary Dorothy after two of my classmates at old Raschig School – Mary Louise McFarland and Dorothy Sutton. Shirley just called her doll Baby until later on when we had a new cousin named Carol Ann and then the doll became Carol Ann, too.
Twenty-five years passed and Shirley asked for Mary Dorothy to add to her doll collection. I knew in Shirley’s care, Mary Dorothy would be dressed impeccably and would be in elite company in my sister‘s collection. She stayed there for over 40 years until 2004 when she was given to my youngest granddaughter, but I had to promise to sew the clothes to dress her as she looked on that first Christmas Eve.
Before Shirley passed away in 2010, she gave my granddaughter her doll, Carol Ann, as well as the rest of the collection.
The first time I ever heard the word “television” was during World War II when my father showed me an article in one of his radio magazines about this new invention which would change the world after the war was over. I was interested (anything my father showed me was interesting), but I didn’t hold out too much hope for it – a lot of things were promised “after the war”.
Then one day in 1945, the war was over and within a year, my father was in the workshop he had built on the back end of the porch of our little red brick house on Gotham Place, fiddling around with trying to make a television set. He had always been interested in radios and my image of him throughout the 1930s-40s was of him reading a radio hobbyist’s magazine. He had made small radios and was a HAM operator during the war. One hot Saturday afternoon in 1946, we were called to the workshop to see a screen about 5×5 inches and on it was the rather faint image of two men wrestling. It was the first time my father had been able to access one of the few local broadcasts.
I understand there were kits available around that time to build a primitive TV set, but my father built his from parts he accumulated as he could afford them. He continued to work and finally built his own set – very rough – all of the innards showed and the small screen just sat there without any kind of cabinet, but it was magnificent because there was a moving, talking picture on it. We were among the first residences in Cincinnati to own a television set. He eventually put a huge magnifying glass in front of the tiny screen to make the picture bigger and on Saturday nights he drug out his masterpiece to set in the front yard of the red brick where the folks on Gotham Place could bring their folding chairs and sit clustered around, watching wrestling. By the following summer, most of the families had their own TV sets.
The most popular show at the beginning was wrestling and little by little other programs were added, although the day was far from being fully scheduled. When an actual live broadcast wasn’t on the screen, there was a kaleidoscope test pattern so people could adjust and readjust their sets to hopefully get it right before a real show came on. I also remember some kind of an Indian head image with rays going out from it to help with getting the sets adjusted. My father ran for the set every time any kind of image was being broadcast and fooled with it continually.
Eventually, we bought a small TV set with a 7-inch screen which required a humongous aerial on the roof and a lot of adjusting with that, but aesthetically the little cabinet looked a lot better in our living room. There were still problems with “snow” – a hazy snowstorm that appeared over the picture; getting “out of synch” – the screen rolling around and around; the adjusting of the black and white screen; the logistics of getting everybody in a position to see the tiny screen – but there were never any serious complaints (except from my father who had to fix everything) since everybody was just enraptured by the sight of that screen and the wonder of it.
Programming continued to improve. In 1947, the first Cincinnati Reds baseball game was televised and for the first time in my life, I skipped school to come home and watch the afternoon broadcast. I had taken the streetcar to Withrow High School but got off and got on another one coming back home so I could see that game. It was a little disappointing. I guess I had thought even on the small screen there would be close-ups such as there were in newsreels, but they apparently only had a couple of cameras in the stands and we got nothing but long shots. This was before the zoom lens that at least brought home plate into focus, but I was still glad I got to see that piece of history.
Sporting events were always big on television, and lots of local shows – Midwestern Hayride; cooking shows, Ruth Lyons (a show for housewives by a Cincinnati legend), news broadcasts, comedy shows, Bride & Groom with local star Bob Braun singing “Oh, Promise Me”, etc. A favorite was Paul Dixon’s Make-Believe Bandstand with pantomiming to music by Paul, Dottie Mack and Bob Braun. Dottie Mack was a young, pretty model who was an expert at pantomiming and had a gorgeous wardrobe. For Christmas in 1948, Mother made my sister and me matching outfits based on one of Dottie’s – black faille skirt and tie, white blouse and rhinestone pin. (*See picture, above)
Eventually, we got feeds from the networks with big time broadcasts like Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco, live theater, Ed Sullivan’s show, soap operas and variety shows. My father usually scoffed at the variety shows, saying they were just a bunch of vaudeville acts – and he was right, but most of us had never seen a vaudeville act and we thought they were wonderful: Milton Berle, Burns & Allen, Ed Wynn, and scores of animal, juggling and miscellaneous circus acts.
In a few short years after the war had ended, television was truly the marvel my father had said it would be.
My daughter and I are continuing to have one day a week this month as a staycation day, lunching and then visiting an antique shop in the Cincinnati area. This week, we went to lunch at a restaurant we’ve been enjoying for over 35 years. This beautiful place is located in the equally beautiful village of Mariemont. Mariemont was founded in the 1920s as a planned community village and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. The area has houses built in the English architectural styles from Norman to classic Georgian. The Mariemont Inn is a Tudor Revival which opened as a hotel in 1929 and the restaurant is named after the term the founder used to describe the village – a National Exemplar in practical town planning.
There are two large dining areas plus party rooms and several areas like this beautiful lounge.
My daughter and I always order a favorite turkey and dill crepe when we have lunch here. The potatoes are simply wonderful – crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
We left the gorgeous Mariemont Inn ….
And drove a short distance to the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley. The antique store, Duck Creek Antiques, is housed in a building that used to be the Grace A Rush Bakery, in business from 1937 to the late 1980s. Mrs. Rush had a thriving fruitcake business in her home in upscale Hyde Park before she moved to the building in middle class Oakley. I raised my family in Oakley and remember the bakery and the wonderful Grace Rush fruitcakes very well. It’s nice now to browse through the booths of over 150 dealers on two floors in this 1930s building.
I found two items at reasonable prices: A large soup cup with a Dutch motif….
….and a small ironstone syrup pitcher.
Another very beautiful and successful vacation day.
Medical problems are going to keep me from going on my normal vacation trip this fall, but I wanted to do something special and decided to take one day a week during the month of September to go some place a little different for lunch and then browse in an antique store. This week, we went to a restaurant called Eli’s Barbecue . It’s located in the East End section of Cincinnati where I grew up on what is now called Riverside Drive (in my day, it was Eastern Avenue).
The decoration is funky and fun ….
…with old LP records being played on a turntable inside.
There’s a big tent for outdoor dining, but my daughter and I prefer to eat inside and see the traffic going by the front windows on busy Eastern Avenue (oops – I mean Riverside Drive).
Barbecue is the specialty and the heady smell of the outside smoker fills the entire neighborhood. We like the pork barbecue and baked beans – and an Orange Crush goes well with this meal.
The restaurant sets one block from the Ohio River bank.
The back view of the building shows the changes that have come to Eastern Avenue and the things that have stayed the same.
After lunch we went to a small town called Milford and I found this pretty plate at an antique shop.
In 1965, my oldest son, Frank, was 9 years old and his one desire was to play baseball. His father was a coach on a very successful and competitive knothole team sponsored by the Sweeney car dealership. He got on the team and got a uniform (probably because of his dad’s coaching job) but rarely got in a game and served mostly as a batboy. This is my journal entry for July 26, 1965.
“Frankie gets dressed right after breakfast and takes off. Sometimes he goes to Oakley Park by himself and has a one-man ballgame, without bat or ball. He spends most of his time running bases and sliding – his forte – and his clothes are so dusty he leaves a trail behind him. He goes around with a ball in his hand most of the time.
He loves baseball – his favorite is Frankie Robinson (Cincinnati Reds) – and he wears number 20 on all his uniforms and even draws it on his regular shirts if I don’t watch him. He’s never too tired to go to the knothole games and is perfectly happy retrieving bats and helmets if he doesn’t get in the game. The first game that the Sweeneys played, they lost and we were all pretty low about it, but Frankie said, ‘Well, what do you think! We wouldn’t have lost the game if I had been in it!’ He wears his green and white Sweeney uniform with complete pride and confidence and doesn’t seem at all perturbed that he doesn’t get in the game until they’re several runs ahead. 7/26/65”
In 1966, Frankie didn’t make the Sweeney team but in 1967, a Cub Scout league was formed where every boy was on a team and had a chance to play in every game, where winning was not as important as having the boys learn some skills and have some fun. Frankie’s team was managed by a Cincinnati Police Sergeant (last row center) and one of the coaches was his father (last row left). Frankie is #4 in the second row. Apparently, Frankie Robinson’s #20 uniform wasn’t available.
It was so much fun that summer with the mothers sitting on the sidelines in big straw hats, watching all of the boys do the best they could (one mother noticed that her son was chasing butterflies in center field instead of focusing on fly balls), and stopping for ice cream cones on the way home – win or lose.