Happy Eostre

Eostre Beer, Howard Town BreweryThe Christian holiday called Easter may or may not be named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre who may or may not be related to the Germanic goddess Ostara. It is not, despite what you may have read, named after the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Ishtar was, by all accounts, a really fun lady and probably deserves some sort of holiday but Easter isn’t it. It’s not 100% certain that Easter is Eostre’s either but it is certain that this beer was named for her. That’s her picture right there in the middle of the label. Eostre — the beer — is brewed by the Howard Town Brewery in Glossop, England. HTB’s website lists the quantity of each beer currently available and for Eostre that amount is zip. Bummer. No way to have a Happy Eostre just now, I guess.

Ishtar, Babylonian goddess of love and warUntil the folks in Glossop get around to brewing another batch of Eostre, I suggest we work on getting this divine Babylonian her own holiday. We could celebrate it by wearing wings and leaving our hats on.

And Now For Something Completely Different:
A Guest Post on the 1913 Flood

There haven’t been a lot of requests/offers to do a guest post on this blog but there have been a few. Until the most recent, all were from sites with nothing but contrived and flimsy similarities. They resembled shotgun “link swap” requests more than anything and that, of course, made them easy to ignore. The latest request was different. It came from some fellow Ohioans who call themselves “weekend history buffs”. Their recently launched website looks promising and their initial round of blog posts involves something that’s been on my mind of late. Exactly one-hundred years ago today, water started spilling into the streets of Dayton, Ohio, from stressed levees. The flood that followed is the topic of this post from the folks at HistoricNaturalDisasters.com.

HistoricNaturalDisasters.com Guest Post

The week of March 21st through March 26th marks the 100 year anniversary of one of the greatest natural disasters to ever hit the United States. A series of storms caused flooding and even tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest and parts of New England during this week in 1913 and left hundreds dead and thousands homeless, and caused billions of dollars in damage. One of the cities hit the hardest by the storm’s fury was Dayton, Ohio.

Located along the Great Miami River bend, Dayton had been prone to major flooding events every decade or so since its establishment in 1796. What happened during the storm of 1913, however, was a flood the magnitude of which was unlike anything Dayton had ever seen. Starting on March 21, storms dumped between 8 and 11 inches of rain on the already oversaturated Great Miami River watershed causing all the rivers in the region to swell far beyond their normal banks. At approximately 6 AM on March 25th, the levees holding back the Great Miami River broke and water began to rush into the Dayton streets at speeds approaching 25 miles per hour.

The waters filled the city so rapidly that most of the residents were trapped in their homes and many were quickly forced to take refuge on their roofs as the waters filled the first and second floors of their homes. Many people were faced with essentially camping on their roofs for days on end as they waited for rescue, which proved nearly impossible for relief workers in boats due to the incredibly strong currents of the flood water. The currents were so forceful in fact that many homes and business were literally ripped from their foundations and carried away by the waters, disappearing from the Dayton streets forever.

Downtown Dayton was among the hardest hit areas, with flood waters reaching a high of 20 feet in some spots. Unfortunately, the destruction was just beginning, as fire took hold where the waters receded, fed by natural gas escaping from broken stoves and gas lines and pushed along by strong winds. An entire block of businesses and factories in downtown Dayton was burned down to the water line, with the fire department unable to get men and equipment close enough to help due to the depth of flood waters.

By the end of the flood, March 26th, the damage was widespread. 14 square miles of the Dayton were underwater, and more than 360 people were dead. Some 20,000 homes were completely destroyed, an estimated 65,000 people were left homeless, and all told, the city had suffered close to $100 million ($2 billion in today’s dollars) worth of damage. The cleanup effort took more than a year to complete and Dayton’s economy didn’t make it back to pre-flood levels until more than a decade after the disaster.

1913: Fifth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton during the worst of the flooding

1913: The ruins of the Lowe Brothers Paint Store on the Southeast corner of East Third and Jefferson Street in Dayton

2013: The corner of East Third and Jefferson Streets as it appears today

2013: The corner of East Third and Jefferson Streets as it appears today

1913: Fifth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton during the worst of the flooding

1913: Fifth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton during the worst of the flooding

2013: Fifth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton as it appears today

2013: Fifth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton as it appears today

Thanks so much to Denny Gibson for letting us share a piece of this historical project on DennyGibson.com. We’re humbled by the interest in this project, and we really hope you enjoyed this snippet of history!

We’d also like to thank some of the great archives and archivists who have done so much work to preserve the amazing history of the 1913 flood, including the Dayton Metro Library and historian Trudy Bell. The amount of history compiled at these two websites is amazing. Lastly, thanks to Jason from InsuranceTown.com, who lent us some of the resources we used to help prepare content for the web and publish our blog and inspired our Mapping History Contest.

Don’t forget to check out HistoricNaturalDisasters.com for more images and for information on our Mapping History Contest – help us figure out the locations pictured in historic photos from 1913 and you could win $100!

My Wheels – Chapter 3
1953 Chevrolet

1953 Chevrolet adIn rural Ohio in the middle of the last century, there was no event anticipated with anywhere near the level of intensity as a fifteen year old male’s next birthday. Mine was in the spring of 1963 and I planned for it like a general plans an attack. I’m a little surprised that I’ve forgotten some of the details that I once knew so well but I suppose that the passing of five decades could account for a little memory fade. There was a written test to get a learner’s permit that allowed you to drive with a licensed driver beside you. Then there was a driving test that included parallel parking to get your license. Some amount of time had to pass between the two. I no longer recall what that time was but I do know that I barely exceeded it. I took the test in Dad’s 1961 Comet then, as soon as we got home, pulled back onto the road in my own car. A couple of months before becoming a licensed driver, I had become an automobile owner with the acquisition of a 1953 Chevrolet four door sedan. I’m sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine.

The Comet was an automatic and a compact. I think it may have had power brakes but not power steering though I’m far from certain about that. In any case, driving it was easy compared to the 3-on-the-tree Chevy. Dad wasn’t fond of riding in the Chevy and, although he was one of the most patient people in the world, I think my lack of skill with the clutch was an irritant to him. Pretty much all of my “learning” had been in the Comet. Armed with my brand new license, I spent that first afternoon starting and stopping on empty country roads near home. I eventually reached the point where I could launch the Chevy on level ground without killing the engine or spinning the tires most of the time. Then I drove to a bridge I’d previously selected for its somewhat steep approaches. I drove back and forth across the bridge several times with a stop and start on the upward slope of the approach on every pass. By the time I returned home I felt there was a chance I could actually drive the Chevy in public without embarrassing myself too much.

1953 ChevroletMy car was a green and white Bel Air that looked a lot like the car at left. Exceptions were that mine was a 4-door and it never looked nearly that shiny while I owned it. Late in the summer I threw a rod and did my first engine swap with something out of a wreck. During the winter, the front got a little wrinkled when I was intentionally doing donuts in the snow and unintentionally found a guard rail in my path. When the rods in my junkyard engine started knocking in the spring, the Chevy was done.

This car was ten years old when I bought it for $150 and it was beat. I don’t recall how many miles were on it but there was a fair amount of rust and other signs of wear to go along with those short lived rod bearings. In those days, pampered garage kept vehicles could somewhat avoid the rust and there were rumors of engines that ran 100,000 miles but most people I knew didn’t believe them. Today there are plenty of good looking ten year old cars on the road and 100,000 is deemed break in mileage. Yep, they sure don’t build ’em like they used to.

My Wheels – Chapter 2 — 1948/9 Whizzer

Saint Paddy’s Eve

Guinness at Arnold'sEven though there was lots of rain Friday night and into Saturday morning, the weather guys were claiming it should stop in time for the noon start of Cincinnati’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. I believed them enough to head downtown and not only did the rain stop, the sun broke through the clouds more than an hour before step off time and some pretty serious warming got underway. At Arnold’s, the Guinness parade pictured at right was going on long before I got there and would continue throughout the day.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati

2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiThis parade has followed many routes over the years. Once upon a time, it actually started near Arnold’s but had not been very close is several years. Today’s route passed just a half-block away on Sycamore after running north on Eggleston and — quite briefly — west on Central parkway. The parade is always led by the statue of Saint Patrick seen in the first picture passing the recently opened Horseshoe Casino. The casino wasn’t the only “new” thing on the parade route. At the last minute, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which had marched in the parade last year, was booted. Well behaved but very vocal protesters stood at the turn onto Sycamore.

As often happens, I hadn’t been paying attention. The first I’d heard anything about this was back at Arnold’s where I struck up a conversation with a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The parade is organized by the AOH. Yes, he said, he would be marching but it was a “terrible route”. He decried the fact that the parade would not go through “downtown”, by which I assume he meant Fountain Square. Then he seemed to somehow blame this “terrible route” — a phrase he used several times — on the fact that “we won’t allow gays in the parade.” That could hardly be the case since GLSEN’s banishment became known only Friday but the move did not go over well with city officials. As reported by The Huffington Post, several withdrew from the parade in their own protest. I guess I should start paying attention as this clearly is not the end of the subject.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiThere was plenty of  normal parade stuff including what must be one of the largest groups of Irish built cars in the world.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiI’d climbed to the upper floor of a parking garage to get that shot of the DeLoreans and, while there, pointed a long lens toward Arnold’s. It obviously remained busy during the parade and was even busier after. The second picture is in Arnold’s courtyard where I managed to find a spot at the back to listen to the Cincinnati Glee Club perform a medley of Irish tunes. Sláinte!

Fifth Street Brewpub, Dayton, OHOn top of the parade, my weekend plans included a Saturday night concert in Oxford and a Sunday afternoon book presentation in Greenville. Between the parade and the concert, I stopped by the open house at Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton. This is the first co-op brewpub in Ohio and only the second in the nation. I can now honestly tell people I own a brewpub.

Golden Inn, New Paris, OHSouthern Comfort Bar & Grill, New Paris, OHAlthough I could have driven home between each of these events, I made it a little easier by spending Saturday night at one of my favorite independent motels. The Golden Inn is on the National Road near New Paris, Ohio, and more or less half way between Oxford and Greenville. Lea Ann Golden, who runs the place with husband Jeff, mentioned a new restaurant in town and I tried it out. No pictures but the meat loaf and okra were excellent.

Michael Johnathon & Lisa Biales at Big Song Music HouseMichael Johnathon at Big Song Music HouseThe concert was at the home of Marc and Lisa Biales, a.k.a. The Big Song Music House. The performer was Michael Johnathon of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. I really do need to get to the show in Lexington but this will do for now. Lisa has appeared on the show and tonight she opened and returned near the end for couple of duets. Another great evening of music in the Oxford countryside.

Sappy Ohio

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalI really goofed last week. I was in Greenville on Saturday but didn’t realize it was syrup making time at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve with demonstrations and a waffle! breakfast. It would have been perfect but, in my ignorance, I dawdled, ate breakfast in Dayton, and only reached town and learned of the event long after breakfast was finished and the whole shebang was pretty much over. I cast about for a way to make up for this missed opportunity and even briefly considered returning to Hinckley with the buzzards for one of the area’s big maple sugaring weekends as I did in 2011. But, in the end, I decided to stay closer to home and yesterday checked out the 47th Maple Syrup Festival at Hueston Woods.

sapo2Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalI started out by standing in line for the very popular pancake breakfast at the park lodge. I realize that the breakfast isn’t all that photogenic but it sure tasted good. Pure maple syrup does that.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThen I headed over to the Pioneer Village area to stand in line for a “hay ride”. Trucks pulling trailers with seats made of straw bales carried people to the start of a short trail leading to the “sugar shack”. A guide would then lead the way down the trail while providing information about the area and the syrup making process. In chatting with some of the volunteers, I learned that a shortage of guides had resulted in a minor bottleneck. Even though our departure was delayed as long as practical and the ride to the trail was as slow as possible, we still reached the trail several minutes ahead of our guide.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThe wait was worth it. I feel extra bad about not learning our guide’s name because he sure was an extra good guide. He spoke, in a most entertaining way, about both the natural and human history of the area and he talked of the social as well as technical aspects of sugaring. He explained that, since the sap contains only a percent or two of sugar when it comes from the tree, it doesn’t taste very much like syrup. At the guide’s invitation, several young tour members personally verified this by licking fingers that had caught a few drops.

Hueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalHueston Woods Maple Syrup FestivalThere was another line at the sugar shack but it wasn’t a long one. The original Hueston family shack burned in the 1980s but the current one looks much the same and is on the same foundation. Maple syrup must be about two-thirds sugar which means an awful lot of water has to be removed. This is accomplished by the wood fired evaporator  The fog makes it hard to see but the warmth is certainly welcome. After hearing an explanation of the evaporation process, there was one more short line for the shuttle back to the car at Pioneer Village. The well run free festival is a great fun and educational, too.

McGuffey MuseumMcGuffey MuseumNot far from Hueston Woods, the home of William Holmes McGuffey, the man behind the incredibly successful McGuffey Readers, is now a museum. It’s owned and operated by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. McGuffey was part of the university faculty when he had the house built in 1833 then took on creating the first reader, published in 1836, as a way to augment his professor’s salary. The house is filled with wonderful period furnishings including several of McGuffey’s own pieces. Among these are the eight-sided rotating table and the tall desk behind it. I was accompanied as much as guided by a fellow named Steve who thoroughly answered every question I had. Like the festival, the McGuffey Museum is free and fun and educational.

Music Review
solo mono
Dirk Hamilton

solo_mono_cvrI’ve never seen Dirk Hamilton in person with a band. I’ve seen him twice with another guitarist and twice with no one else on stage period. Conversely, I’ve never listened to him without a band. OK, maybe “never” is a stretch but a bold print seldom sure isn’t. I own just about everything Dirk has released and it’s the rare track that doesn’t have at least a few top notch musicians backing him up. That’s not a bad thing. The tunes are served well by the added layers and the folks Dirk chooses to play with always add something to the mix. But listening to solo mono is kind of like a “being there” I can relate to.

Depending on who is counting and how they do it, this could be Dirk’s eighteenth release or maybe “only” his fifteenth or maybe something else. Counting solo studio albums is a lot easier. This is it. Dirk is an excellent performer and a darn good front man but his song writing is what has captured most of his fans. solo mono contains thirteen new songs though they’re not all entirely new to me. The album, released in June of 2012, contains several tunes I’d seen Dirk perform the previous October. I put off ordering solo mono thinking that our paths might cross again in the fall of 2012 and I’d buy it at a show. That didn’t work out so I finally did the mail order thing a few weeks ago and not long after I popped the CD into the player I was struck with “that’s just the way I remember it” thoughts.

As with just about any collection of Dirk Hamilton tunes, the lyrics range from insightful to comical with Hamiltonian wit and romanticism everywhere. At this point I intended to quote examples of wit and insight and the rest but I found myself going around in circles trying to make my selections. Instead, I’m going to cheat big time and just point to the lyrics for the entire album. They’re here. All of Dirks lyrics are on his website; From the “First off let me say that I get sick and I get bored” that opened his first album in 1976 through the “Tommy gun placed on a polka dot gown” that opens this one. I’ve always appreciated the fact that, almost from the moment he and the internet found each other, Dirk has made his lyrics available online. With packageless downloads steadily increasing, that is ever more important and something I wish more artists would do

There is Dirk style social/political commentary — usually oblique and sometimes cryptic — in songs like “Delete Deletions” and “Slow Suicide” and there are genuinely fun songs like “Nobody I Know” and “Jan Jan Janet”. Smack dab in the middle there is a five line splash of silliness in “The Pygmy Forest”. And there are love songs; Several love songs. I don’t like love songs but I like Dirk’s. I don’t know the inspirations behind “She Calls Me Bello”, “Our Sweet Love”, “Unreachable”, and “Kalea” though I’d bet they are real. Dirk’s heart writes quite a few songs for him.

The only instruments on the album are Dirk’s guitar, harmonica, and voice and I confess to having lower expectations because of that. I shouldn’t have because I know, from seeing him live and alone, that many of his tunes work just as well without layers of sound as with. And there is, of course, a certain advantage to having less between ears and lyrics.

It is always a treat to hear new Dirk Hamilton material in any form. I know there will be more stuff with a band (a CD with the Italian boys is already in the works) and I hope there will be more stuff like solo mono.

You can order the CD here or purchase its contents here. You can watch Dirk and Don Evans do a song from the album here and Dirk do a song not from the album (it’s from 1978’s Meet Me at the Crux) at that October, 2011, concert here.

Trip Peek #5
Trip #26
Pair of Madonnas

Madonna at Springfield, OHThis picture is from the my 2004 Pair of Madonnas day trip. The trip was loosely organized around the Madonna of the Trail monuments in Springfield, Ohio, and Richmond, Indiana. From home, I headed northeast to intersect the National Road east of Springfield then more or less followed it west to Richmond. The photograph shows the Springfield Madonna in its nicely landscaped but hard to reach spot near Snyder Park on the west edge of town. In the fall of 2011, the statue was moved to a new park near the center of town. The new home is much more accessible but is even further from the statue’s original location a half mile or so west of Snyder Park.

Trip Pic Peek #4 — Trip #60 — Crescent City Christmas

Trip Pic Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the trip journal it is from.