Signs of Summer

Fountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterThe fountain in front of Union Terminal, a.k.a., Cincinnati Museum Center, runs all summer and is turned off all winter. Therefore, one sure sign of summer in Cincinnati is the turning on of the fountain. That happened Friday at 10:30 AM. I had kind of hoped to see the stepped pools below the fountain go from bare concrete to a series of waterfalls right before our eyes but it wasn’t quite that dramatic. Whether the pools were primed in the interest of time or whether the standing water was simply left over from some secret testing I cannot say, but they started the day ready to overflow at the slightest provocation.

Fountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterFountain at Cincinnati Museum CenterFountain at Cincinnati Museum Center




I still think bare concrete morphing to cascading waterfalls would have been cooler but watching the fountain go from zilch to a spurt to a full spray wasn’t bad.

Day in Pompeii CharacterDay in Pompeii CharactersAll the kids, and there were plenty, were properly wowed and they also enjoyed the characters on hand to promote the ongoing A Day in Pompeii exhibit. I’ve seen the exhibit and it’s a duesy. University of Cincinnati Professor Steven Ellis, along with several UC students, has been instrumental in the current excavations in Pompeii and that was instrumental in making Cincinnati one of only four US cities hosting the exhibit. As you can see, security was tight.

The weather was obviously quite nice for the events at the fountain but Friday was just one of several consecutive near perfect days. Perfect not only for fountains of water but for fountains — or taps — of root beer. I made it to three different root beer stands on three of those near perfect days.

Jolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioJolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioOn Thursday it was the Jolly’s on the west side of Hamilton, Ohio. Back in 1938, Vinny Jolivette opened an A&W Root Beer franchise in Hamilton. He built this place in 1967 and, casting off the A&W identity, used the family name to inspire a new one for the restaurant. It’s west of the Great Miami River on Brookwood. Somewhere along the line, they added another on the east side of town on Erie. That one has a cooler sign but this one still makes its own root beer and that trumps the sign. The two remain officially connected (The car side signs carry both telephone numbers.) but are managed somewhat separately by two brothers. There is a third Jolly’s in Tiffin, Ohio, that was started, also as an A&W, in 1947 by Vinny’s brother, Roy, and it seems there was a fourth somewhere in Indiana (possibly Bloomington) but I know very little about it.

The Root Beer Stand, Sharonville, OhioThe Root Beer Stand, Sharonville, OhioI stopped by The Root Beer Stand in Sharonville, Ohio, on Friday afternoon. It started life in1957 as an A&W then went independent in 1982. It stopped using carhops in 1972. Originally built and operated by the Rideour family, it moved on to its second and current owners, Scott & Jackie Donley, in 1990. The Donleys have kept everything pretty much the same and that definitely includes making the root beer using water from their 280 foot well. Claims that “it’s something in the water” may very well be true here.

Neil's A&W, Union City, OhioNeil's A&W, Union City, OhioI got my Saturday root beer fix at the A&W in Union City, Ohio. Despite this being a place I frequented as a teenager, I know few details of its history. I do recall that is was owned by a fellow named Smith in the 1960s and that he operated a used car lot right next door. I have vivid memories of sipping root beer and drooling over a black 1956 Thunderbird that sat in that lot when I was about seventeen. At some point, it became Neil’s A&W Drive In and so it remains today. Curiously, this place doesn’t show up on a the official A&W website nor does it have its own site but it does have a FaceBook page.

All three of these places make their own root beer using at least some of the original A&W equipment. Guess that stuff was made to last. All of them taste great and I’m guessing that the recipes are all the same or similar. The Root Beer Stand has its special water and both it and Jolly’s serve their brew in chilled glass mugs. I love ’em both and I do tend to dislike chains but “real” A&Ws (Not stuffed-into-a-corner-of-a-gas-station A&Ws.) are pretty cool and it’s hard to beat an ice covered mug.

Neil's A&W, Union City, OhioJolly's Drive In, Hamilton, OhioI’m guessing that some noticed the slightly red convertible in the center of the Root Beer Stand photo. That’s my 1963 Valiant and plans to drive it to Darke County and the A&W at the border led to the warm up visits to Hamilton and Sharonville. The 200 mile round trip was the cars longest outing since the cold drive home from Cambridge in early 2011. She done good. These pictures show her at Jolly’s and Neil’s.

Flipdaddys: Burgers & Beers... & BrunchI recently learned that the neighborhood Flipdaddy’s does brunch on Sundays so I walked over this morning to check it out. It was quite good. I’m always dismayed but rarely surprised to find myself alone on a restaurant’s patio. But, with the thermometer at 74 degrees, I was a little bit surprised today. Lots of people just don’t like any temperature I guess. To be fair, one couple and their home from college daughter did venture outside to eat. That was it. The restaurant was fairly busy inside but just one other outside table was ever used all the while I leisurely worked through my bacon & eggs and slowly sipped my Magic Hat dessert.

The Stars: Up Close and Personal

Wolff PlanetariumThis was the first week of the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament. Both local entries, Xavier and the University of Cincinnati, survived their first games and are playing tonight (Sunday). The week also contained Saint Patrick’s Day with temperatures in the 70s and a parade on the actual holiday. However, even amid all the madness, marching, and meteorologic magnificence, the highlight for me was sitting in a folding chair inside a seventy-five year old stone building.

Trailside Nature CenterTrailside Nature CenterThe building was the Trailside Nature Center in Cincinnati’s Burnet Woods. The chair was part of a circle surrounding the oldest planetarium west of the Alleganies. The WPA built the Nature Center in 1939. It didn’t have quite as many walls in those days and there was no planetarium. That arrived around 1950. Planetarium is the name of the precision projector; Not the building. This one, known as the Wolff Planetarium, is a Spitz A-1. The original unit, purchased for about $500, was an A model but somewhere along the line, it was sent in for repairs and came back an A-1. Maybe it was easier to replace rather than repair the broken unit or maybe the update was the best way to fix things or maybe it was a mistake. No one in Cincinnati wanted to chance asking. Another bit of luck seems to be behind the dome. While it is possible that the builders had a planetarium in mind (America’s first planetarium, the Adler Planetarium, opened in 1930.) there is, apparently, no evidence of that. In fact, the dome is just a wee bit short so that some stars get projected on the wall below the “horizon”. The building originally contained even more museum style displays than it does now and the dome was just part of the ceiling.

I’ve been to a few planetariums but most have been the typical late twentieth century set up with a recorded presentation and automatic/computerized positioning and all had seriously reclined seating that points your eyes to the artificial sky without your neck being involved. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Laying back in a nicely padded recliner is one of my favorite “activities” and swiftly stepping through seasons or centuries accompanied by carefully synchronized music and commentary is certainly entertaining and informative. But it’s not interactive and it’s not very intimate and it’s probably not as much fun as I had Friday night.

Trailside Nature CenterA good part of that fun can be directly attributed the Mr. Mike. Mr. Mike does the greeting, reservation list checking, and fee collection. He also pulls the curtain!, operates the projector, delivers the commentary, aims the (definitely not here in 1950) laser pointer, and occasionally punches buttons on a boombox to launch stuff like Also Sprach Zarathustra  and Here Comes the Sun. He also encourages and answers questions and prompts attendees to help with sound effects as he tells Greek, Roman, and Native American stories (“…and then the mother bear let out a deep growl.”). Constellations of the Zodiac were a big part of Friday’s show and Mr. Mike shared pointers on how to find several of them.

I don’t know if Friday’s audience was typical but I do know it was one of the most diverse I’ve ever been part of. That this was in a room with a capacity of twenty made it even more impressive. Five of the seats were filled by three rest home residents and their two attendants. They arrived in a lift equipped van and slowly made their way to the show on walkers. The park borders the University of Cincinnati campus and two seats were filled by a young couple who looked as if they might be students on a date. There was a mom-dad-and-two-kids family. There were two or three mothers with young children. There were black folks, brown folks, and white folks. Everyone was attentive and most contributed comments or questions. The kids did the best sound affects. The people from the rest home showed the most appreciation.

Mr. Mike’s helpfulness continued after the show. Outside, he identified the only star visible in the early evening sky as Sirius. The other two bright spots most of us thought were stars he told us were the planets Venus and Jupiter. You may find information on the internet claiming there are weekly shows with $2.00 admission. At present shows are held once a month and admission is a still bargain $5.00. Call  (513) 751-3679 for the latest information and to reserve your folding chair.

2012 Saint Patrick's Day Parade2012 Saint Patrick's Day ParadeOf course, I can’t just ignore Saturday’s parade. With the temperature at a record tying 74 degrees, the crowd was huge was the parade. I have not heard attendance estimates or the number of units but getting the parade out of the staging area took well over an hour and a half.

Thomas GriffinFormer Air Force Major Tom Griffin, one of five surviving Doolittle’s Raiders, was the parade’s Honorary Grand Marshall. I’ve always thought that “honorary” meant “not really” and I’ve never figured out what a parade’s Grand Marshall does except ride and wave. In other words, Grand Marshall seems like a rather honorary position so the title Honorary Grand Marshall seems something of a slight. I hope I’m over thinking it. Major Tom was one of the things I was looking for in the parade. I got this so so shot through the crowd at the turn onto Fifth Street then moved ahead in hopes of getting a better picture. After working my way through the crowd at Fountain Square and beyond, I discovered that the car he was in had disappeared and that the real Grand Marshall, whose name I failed to note, had bailed out of his ride. I gave Griffin the benefit of the doubt and thought he might not have felt up to traveling the whole route. But I’ve since seem a photo of him standing at the reviewing stand and I’m guessing the the real GM is there, too. I heard “Where is he?” comments from the crowd beyond the Square so I know that others wanted to see the hero as well. I’ve never studied the subject but this is the first time I’ve been aware of Grand Marshalls of any sort not finishing a parade. If it was Griffin’s decision — if he wanted to see the parade from the front row — I’ve no complaint whatsoever. He has more than earned the right to get out of the car anywhere he pleases. However, if anyone else at all came up with this idea, you should probably apologize for leaving more than half the parade route asking “Where is he?”

Air Force Museum

C-141 Starlifter and YC-125B Raider at Air Force MuseumThe National Museum of the US Air Force is about 35 miles away from my home. I drive by it at least a couple of times a year. Almost the instant I retired I told myself I’d get up there soon on a weekday and avoid those weekend crowds. So, over two years after telling myself that and well over two decades after my last visit, I made it to the museum on an unseasonably warm February Friday. I’ve posted an Oddment page here. Comments may be made to this blog entry.

Tricked into Breakfast

I was tricked (probably by myself) into going downtown on Thursday. A story on the morning news told of artifacts unearthed by an ongoing major development of the Cincinnati riverfront, The Banks. It mentioned the articles being transferred to the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Research Center and gave a time of 9:30. Somehow I read into that the idea that the artifacts would actually be on display for the day. By the time I learned I was wrong, I had enjoyed a delightful breakfast,

Annabel's Restaurant I thought seeing the artifacts would be good and decided that, if I was making an earlyish trip downtown, I ought to take in a new breakfast spot. Annabel’s doesn’t have its own website but has been getting rave reviews at places like Yelp and Urban Spoon. In addition to praising the food, almost all of those reviews mentioned a crowd and a long wait. But many also mentioned brunch and quite a few also mentioned Sunday. Although brunch is certainly not restricted to Sundays or even weekends I hoped that the reviews were and I now think that likely.

Annabel's Restaurant Annabel's Restaurant - Faux ToastAnnabel’s is small. Reviews that talked of a wait almost always mentioned this. There is seating for exactly two dozen people. Today, three two-tops to the left of the picture were full or, in the case of mine, half full, as was a two-top to the right. The restaurant is open 9:00 to 2:00 Thursday through Sunday. One of those reviews suggested getting there at 8:00 AM on Sunday to be sure of a seat. I suggest getting there just about whenever you feel like it on Thursday. No long wait for me but the food was just as awesome as the reviews claimed. I had the Carrot Cake Faux Toast which the menu describes as “French toast without the French” and which I describe as delicious. As I told the waitress, I was almost as impressed with the honey/syrup server as I was with the food. The top bit lifts off of the bottom bit and pressing the lever dispenses syrup through a hole in the bottom. Even if it dripped, which it didn’t, it would drip into the base and not in your lap. Brilliant!

The Thursday evening news also had a segment on the artifacts. Some of the items, such as nineteenth century bottles, were shown but the segment ended with a clear message that, though a public display of the artifacts is planned, that’s not yet the case. The morning version might have been somewhat misleading or I might very well have mislead myself. In either case, on Thursday morning I found myself on the west side of downtown Cincinnati in need of a new plan. Not a problem. Some conflict had interfered with recent plans to visit an exhibit at the nearby Betts House so that became a perfect substitute.

Betts HouseThe Betts House was built in 1804 using brick made on site. It started as a two-room farm house and grew to a two-story eight-room residence as the city grew around it. The house that was once far beyond the settlement’s boundaries, now has to include the qualifier “downtown” in its claims. The website identifies it as “the oldest residential structure in the downtown Cincinnati area”. The house was restored in the 1980s and opened as the Betts House Research Center in 1996. The “Research Center” part of the name came from plans to establish a reference library in the house but that turned out not to be feasible. Director Julie Carpenter calls the Betts House a “museum without collection”. The house itself is certainly a worthwhile exhibit and it usually has something else, like a photo or painting exhibit, going on, too.

Betts House - Big Shake ExhibitIts current exhibit is The Big Shake – How the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes Rocked the Ohio River Valley. When I first read about the exhibit I wanted to see it but I really didn’t make any particular connection with the house. I thought of it as simply a display and a space coming together. The exhibit — and Carpenter, who organized the exhibit and provides an introduction — soon straightened me out. Though the series of earthquakes was centered more than 300 miles away near what is now New Madrid, Missouri, they were huge. The tremors were not just felt in Cincinnati; They did some damage. No large structures were destroyed but houses were severely shaken and chimneys were toppled. A brick summer kitchen behind the Betts House was made unusable and it’s felt that a toppled chimney was the likely cause. So the house is a survivor and a rare one. Other area structures certainly survived the earthquake but they didn’t survive the two centuries of progress that followed. In that, the Betts House is alone. It is a most appropriate setting for this exhibit which provides information on earthquakes in general and the New Madrid Earthquake in particular including its connection with the Betts family.

Olive, an urban diveOlive, an urban diveOn Saturday the 14th, I stopped in another new eatery that had been on my list for awhile. It’s Olive, an urban dive in Dayton, Ohio, and, yes, it really was once a Wympee’s. I never ate there when it was actually part of the Wympee empire but I did eat there a few times while it was an independent diner/’burger joint. The outside may look the same but the inside, as photos on the restaurant’s website show, has been totally redone. The menu is slightly Mediterranean but everything else is local. “local over import, labor over convenience and service over everything else” is their published motto and I can vouch for the service part. The service was excellent, the food quite good, and the prices OK. That local streak extends through the music, too. It comes, at an unintrusive volume, from an iPod (or something similar) that contains nothing but local performers. A nice touch that I particularly liked.

Signs on the Move

Sign Museum Entrance - pig and genieOne phase of Tod Swormstedt’s dream came true in 2005 when the American Sign Museum moved into a warehouse on Essex Place in the Walnut Hills section of Cincinnati. The next phase is coming true as it gets ready to move out. The warehouse was not the ideal location but it did its job and provided a home for lots of signs and a shrine for lots of sign lovers. Signs come in all sizes and one of the site’s shortcomings was a lack of height for some of the larger specimens. Many set in a parking lot across the street exposed to weather and vandals. That’s not a problem at the museum’s new home about 2 1/2 miles away in Camp Washington. The former factory’s 42,000 square feet will accommodate many more signs in general and its 28 foot ceilings allow the tall guys to get out of the rain. In addition to “normal” museum exhibits, visitors will get to see the sign restoration shop and a working neon shop. In fact, the neon shop, Neon Works of Cincinnati, is already operating there and has been for roughly two years.

The Camp Washington site was initially acquired in 2007. Renovation of the building and installation of new exhibits progressed while the existing museum operated as usual. No more, though. It’s time to start moving. Yesterday, January 7, was the last hurrah for the Essex Place location and a grand hurrah it was.

American Sign Museum Open HouseAmerican Sign Museum Open HouseThe museum announced the closing and accompanying “Done with the Old. On to the New” open house about three weeks ago through its email list and a week ago through Facebook. Apparently a couple of hundred people responded by registering for the event. Then, on Friday, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran this article and registrations skyrocketed. Registration was not required and no really accurate counting took place but it’s safe to say that over a thousand people visited what many consider Cincinnati’s best kept secret on Saturday. These photos were taken after 4:00 when things were thinning out. (The Cincinnati Bengals lost last week but, because some other teams lost, too, backed into the playoffs and a 4:30 game. Football fans left the museum to position themselves in front of a TV. The Bengals backed out of the playoffs by losing again.)

Sign Museum Director Tod SwormstedtIt takes more than two men and a truck and a weekend to move a museum but Tod and crew think a couple of months should be enough. They have targeted April 28 for the Camp Washington Grand Opening which will be exactly seven years after the Essex Place Grand Opening. I was there at the original and I fully intend to be there for the sequel. With the new location, the huge jump in space, and increased hours, I don’t think this place will be a secret much longer.

Even though this was my last visit to the sign museum on Essex Place, I’ll probably be back to the building. The museum’s co-tenants, Essex Studios, remain and their Art Walks will resume in the spring. A large number of talented artists from a wide range of disciplines fill the studios and make the Art Walks a cross between a visit to a museum and a festival. It’s another Cincinnati secret I recommend.

Essex Studios SignEssex Studios SignThe Art Walks are in the evenings, however, so it may be a long time before I again see the building in sunlight. Therefore, I figured this was a good time to present this lesson on how a small difference in perspective can make a big difference in perception.

Me with Karen & Bill McKibbonAfter the museum, I met Canadian roadies Bill and Karen McKibbon for dinner at their hotel. The McKibbons both work in the school system which gives them a great chunk of time off in the summer and a pretty decent one around Christmas. They use that time in well planned road trips documented here. We’ve followed each other’s travel online for quite awhile but had never met. The closest we came was when I chased them out of the country in August but they crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie five days before I did. Today they were passing through Cincinnati on the way home from the sun and sand of South Padre Island, Texas. It’s always good to turn cyber-friends into real friends.

Dickens of a Christmas

Ohio History Center ControversyI missed it. I missed an exhibit I really wanted to see. From April through November, the Ohio Historical Center had a display entitled Controversy: Pieces You Don’t Normally See. Of the five items it contained, the retired electric chair seemed to be the main attraction with a KKK outfit, a thumb mitt, an adult crib, and a nineteenth century condom rounding out the bill. I’m sure I drove by the building more than once while the exhibit was in place but, as we often do, I assumed there would always be another chance. It wasn’t until I visited the Ohio Historical Society’s website to sign up for Dickens of a Christmas that I realized that I’d blown it.

Dickens of a Christmas is an annual festival sort of thing that takes place in the recreated nineteenth century village adjacent to the Historical Center. I registered to attend the first night of Dickens of a Christmas and, even though there was no electric chair or condom to be seen, headed to Columbus in time to visit the Historical Center in the afternoon. That’s how I got the picture of the entrance to the recently closed Controversy exhibit.

The American Soldier Photographic TributeOhio Battle FlagsIn addition to the many worthwhile permanent exhibits, the Center currently has a captivating temporary exhibit called The American Soldier: A Photographic Tribute From The Civil War To Iraq and several of the 434 Civil War battle flags in the museum’s possession are on display. Plus, although it’s a poor substitute for an adult crib from an insane asylum, there was, once upon a time, at least a little controversy associated with the two headed calf.

Saint Nicholas at Dickens of a ChristmasThe Ohio Historical Center is certainly a cool place to spend an afternoon but the title of this entry is “Dickens of a Christmas”. My evening at Ohio Village is covered in a separate Oddment page here. It is only the second Oddment page added since the start of this blog. While there is no precise definition of what qualifies one subject for an oddment page and another for a blog entry, it seems likely that I’ve completely covered a subject in a blog entry that might have appeared as an Oddment in pre-blog days and it is all but certain that some of the existing Oddment pages would have instead been blog entries had the blog existed at the time they were created. I believe one of the things that helps decide Oddment or blog is number of pictures. I haven’t posted a huge amount of pictures from Dickens of a Christmas but there are more, sixteen, than I feel comfortable with in a blog entry. Look them over at the Dickens of a Christmas Oddment page.

I know some who see this will have heard of Kickstarter but I’m guessing not all. It’s a method for funding projects with large numbers of small contributions. Learn more about it at the Kickstarter website. Kickstarter depends a lot on word of mouth. Friends tell friends, usually in an indirect Facebook/Twitter/newsletter sort of way, about projects they like and that, in case you haven’t guessed, is what I’m doing here. I’ve contributed to a couple of projects that I liked and blown off a couple more that didn’t quite click with me. I recently learned of a documentary project that I like and, since you’re reading about it here, there’s a chance you will too.

I heard of the project from Dirk Hamilton. It isn’t Dirk’s project but he is in it. I was inclined to give it a couple of bucks ’cause I like the general subject and, of course, I like Dirk but I was hooked for sure when I read the “Part music documentary and part road trip movie…” line. The documentary is called Folk. Check out its Kickstarter page here.

More Horses (and a bit on a madonna)

Last night I completed the trifecta of southwest Ohio horse parades. I just happened to be in Greenville on the occasion of their parade two weeks ago. I blogged about it here. Last week I was again in Greenville and came home through Springfield with a goal of getting some pictures of the recently relocated Madonna of the Trail statue. (More on that later.) I was surprised to see downtown Springfield blocked off and more surprised to learn that it was for the city’s first ever hose parade. I certainly had to stick around for that.

Springfield Horse ParadeCarriage rides were available before the parade and, yes, I took one. Neither the carriage rides nor the parade actually passed the Madonna. The picture at right shows one of the “public” carriages leaving the blocked off area in anticipation of the parade itself. The parade formed behind where I stood to take the picture and turned right to reach the parade route proper.

Springfield Horse ParadeSpringfield Horse ParadeAs mentioned, this was Springfield’s first year for a parade and there were just fourteen entries. All were “hitches”. In other words, there were no horseback riders. The portrayal of  the Christmas story in a setting where eighteenth and and nineteenth century covered wagons (albeit with pneumatic rubber tires) was the norm was simultaneously shocking and 100% fitting. I liked it. Future generations of Springfieldians may have a very unique take on the whole Christmas-pioneer-Madonna-covered-wagon thing.

Black Horse Tavern at the Golden LambSo, after attending Springfield’s first and Greenville’s eighth more or less by accident, I felt almost obligated to attend Lebanon’s twenty-third horse parade. It’s not only the oldest of the three but, with 122 entries, far and away the biggest. It’s also the only double header. There is a daylight version at 1:00 and an in-the-dark illuminated-carriage version at 7:00. Other commitments kept me away from Lebanon until something after 1:00 but I headed there anyway thinking I might catch the tail end of the matinee. I couldn’t even get close. I whiled away the afternoon on the far side of town then returned thinking it entirely possible that I would just pass through again and head home. But I found a parking spot about three blocks from the Golden Lamb. In the Lamb’s Black Horse Tavern, I ran into some friends I hadn’t seen in quite awhile and managed to while away another couple of hours until parade time was near.

Lebanon Horse ParadeLebanon Horse ParadeI’ve attended both light and dark versions of the Lebanon parade before but it’s been a long time. Both the parade and attendance have had time to grow and they certainly have. All of downtown Lebanon was pretty much shoulder to shoulder and withers to withers.

Lebanon Horse Parade ClydesdalesLebanon Horse Parade Fire EngineSeveral of the parade participants had been at Greenville and a few had been at Springfield but with more than eight times Springfied’s entries and nearly double Greenville’s, Lebanon obviously had some exclusives. Foremost among these were a nineteenth century fire engine and a team of Clydesdales. Both of these actually brought cheers from the crowd when they charged down the street.

Golden LambDuring the parade I managed to somehow walk to it’s origin and back. Some of it was pretty awkward but in the end I just stepped into the street and paced the parade. I recall my father once telling me that the secret to getting around a military base is to carry a clipboard and walk briskly. The same technique works with parades using a camera. The friends I had met in the bar told of past success in watching the parade from the balcony at the Golden Lamb. Even though that appeared to be a bit more challenging than in prior years, they were going to give it a try. As the parade wrapped up, I snapped this picture of the hotel’s balcony just in case they were up there. No, I later learned, they had been blocked from the balcony but found an empty third floor dining room where they and another couple watched the parade in relative privacy. The only intruder was a hotel employee who stopped by now and then to take drink orders.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailNow, about that Madonna. In 1928 and ’29, as the era of named auto trails came to an end, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states through which the National Old Trails Road passed. The one for Ohio was placed in Springfield. Two of the four sides on each statue’s base were inscribed with information specific to the statue and its placement. On Ohio’s Madonna these concerned the end of federally funded construction, which was quite close to the statue’s original placement, and George Rogers Clark victory at Peckuwe which was about three miles from the original placement as noted in the inscription. In the mid 1950s, highway construction caused the statue to be moved about a half mile east. The inscriptions were no longer as accurate as they had been but they weren’t off too much. A bigger problem with the move was that, once US-40 became four lanes wide, there was no convenient access to the statue. Reaching it involved either pulling over on the busy highway or parking in a safe spot and walking along the busy highway.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailIn September, the statue was again moved. This move was about two miles distance to a park in downtown Springfield. The setting makes the statue much more accessible while making the inscriptions much less accurate. Some consider this a net win; Others don’t. During the hour or so I hung around the statue last Saturday, I saw about twenty people take note of the statue in some way. There was a lot of foot traffic in the area Saturday and the majority seemed oblivious to both the new park and the relocated statue. Of those that noticed it, about half recognized it including one fellow who arrived with camera and tripod to photograph the old gal in her new home. Quite a few of those who had no idea what it was did read at least one panel. Several read them all. Whether or not any of them develop even the slightest interest in any aspect of the history that this Madonna of the Trail represents is anybody’s guess.

A newspaper article about the September 22 move is here. The Madonna can be seen thirteen days before the move here and here.

Old Fort and Young Chicken

That’s my sister and me in the lock-up at Fort Recovery sometime in the mid-1950s. From about age six to age ten or so, the site of the 18th century fort was my favorite “vacation” spot. During those years, a summer was not complete until I’d talked my parents into taking us to this far away and ancient attraction. In time I learned that the log structures were not the originals from 1794. Those were already long gone when a 1938 WPA project produced the one-third sized replica that was there on my first visit. The building we’re peering out of was part of the replacement constructed toward the end of my fascination. A worker at the museum thought 1957 or ’58. Eventually I even learned that this particular “far away” was something less than fifteen miles north on the very road we lived on. Figuring that out took me awhile since all other travels — school, shopping, relatives, Dad’s job — were in some other direction. I still greatly appreciate my parents taking me there even if the effort wasn’t quite as extreme as I once thought.

I mention this now because I stopped by the old fort today. I was near my childhood home for other reasons and there were some happenings at the fort centered around a new book titled Wabash 1791: St. Clair’s Defeat. Yesterday John Winkler, the book’s author, led a walk around the site for educators. Today he gave a pair of talks. I was there well ahead of the first talk at 3:00 but didn’t move to the lecture room until it was filled to overflowing. I did get a good seat for the slightly less crowded 4:00 presentation.

St. Clair’s Defeat, a.k.a., The Battle of the Wabash, occurred 220 years ago last Friday. On November 4, 1791, St. Clair’s 920 men were attacked at the future site of Fort Recovery by a slightly larger force of Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware Indians. The result was pretty much a massacre with 632 soldiers and all or nearly all of the approximately 200 camp followers killed. I’ve seen conflicting statements that the dead soldiers represented a quarter of the U.S. Army at that date and that the battle reduced the U.S. Army to around 300 men. I’m guessing that the discrepancy comes from varying counts of deserters and the sick. I picked up a copy of Winkler’s book so maybe I’ll find the accurate numbers there. Regardless of how much Army remained, much clearly didn’t. By several different measures, this battle was the worst defeat in United States history.

Just over two years later, troops under “Mad” Anthony Wayne began construction of what they would name Fort Recovery. It was completed in March of 1794 and in June of that year survived attack by what has been called the largest force of American Indians ever gathered east of the Mississippi. That was followed by Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers which was followed by the Treaty of Greenville which was followed by the state of Ohio.

When I did an Oddment page for the 2010 Fair at New Boston which included a reenactment of the Battle of Fallen Timbers, I discovered that a song existed about St Clair’s Defeat. A recording by Roger McQuinn, complete with lyrics, can be heard or downloaded here.

Anthony Wayne was my childhood hero. I imagine part of the reason was the “Mad” in his name but I was really impressed with that cocked hat. When I saw my first picture of a bare-headed “Mad” Anthony, the general came near to losing me as a fan. But I overcame the shock and stuck by my hero and still enjoy knowing that he and I ran up and down the same roads separated by just a couple of centuries.

Of course, sis and I did eventually get out of the frontier hoosegow but it happened again.

I was alerted to the Fort Recovery doings by a Ohio Historical Society newsletter. Just a couple of days prior, the Lincoln Highway Facebook group had a link to this article on Balyeat’s Coffee Shop in Van Wert, Ohio. I’ve eaten at Balyeat’s multiple times but have never had the “Young Fried Chicken” advertised on their wonderful neon sign. The Facebook post reminded me of that and, since Van Wert and Fort Recovery are only about thirty crow miles (or forty Subaru miles) apart, I decided to correct that gap in my experience. Today the chicken is baked rather than fried but I’m sure it’s still young.

I have now removed the forum that was added in 2010. I said I would do that in the very first entry of this blog but I saw no need to rush. Until this week, it has sat there idle exactly as it had for the seven preceding months. Every now and then some spammer would attempt to set up an account but they were few and far between. But this week there has been a mini-flurry (6) from folks with names like “Okkgeiwk” and “horrhyday” which prompted me to finally delete the thing.

Monroe’s Magnificent Mile

Solid Rock Church, Monroe, OHHustler Hollywood Store, Monroe, OHMonroe, Ohio, is a city of 12,000+ that sits on I-75 about halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton. A little more than a mile of the expressway lies within the city limits. The southern boundary is right where the northbound ramp of exit 29 begins. Turn left from that ramp and you’ll find one of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Hollywood stores doing quite well. Something of an entirely different nature is doing well at the northern edge. There the Solid Rock Church sits just east of the expressway and east of the Monroe city limits. The huge church with its electronic billboard is definitely hard to miss but it was even more of an eye catcher when the King of Kings statue stood there. The statue attracted national attention while it stood and I’m sure the eyes of the world were on Monroe, Ohio, when lightening struck it in June of 2010. A different but similarly sized replacement is due to be completed by the end of this year and the frame is already in place. Apologies for the dark and crappy picture I took from the expressway.

Treasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHTreasure Aisles Flea Market, Monroe, OHSo what lies between Monroe’s offerings of sin and salvation? Shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. Facing off across the interstate are two humongous flea markets. Treasure Aisles is on the west side inside the Monroe limits. They say this pirate themed market is where the barrrgain hunters go. There was live music inside although it neither looked nor sounded particularly nautical and there was an optional gun & knife show which I skipped.

Traders World Flea Market, Monroe, OHTo the east and, like the church, just outside the city limits, is Trader’s World. The theme there might be “jungle”, though “Jungle Jim’s” seems even more accurate. Both the area’s one of a kind grocery and Trader’s World have a lot of large animals prominently displayed plus lots of stuff with no jungle connection at all. Trader’s World has murals inside and out, there’s no shortage of things to look at overhead, and antique cars and wagons are displayed in several of the unoccupied booths. No live music that I found.

I drive this stretch of I-75 a lot so have often driven by all of these sights. All four have huge signs and while the Hustler store isn’t visible from the expressway its tall sign is. For the others, the signs almost seem unnecessary since pirate flags, roofs full of giraffes, and a 62 foot Jesus are all fairly successful attention getters. But despite getting my attention over and over, they never got me to stop until yesterday. I was driving by on Thursday when I was struck by the fact that this is exactly the sort of thing I chide others about: Not stopping at attractions in your own neighborhood. Maybe flea markets, churchs, and porn shops aren’t typical roadside attractions but they are using time honored tourist trap techniques to make passers-by aware they are there.

So I visited both flea markets on Saturday. I bought some Brita filters at Treasure Aisles and a slice of pizza at Trader’s World. I haven’t decided if I’ll also visit the church and the porn shop but if I do, I’ll probably hit both of them on the same day to see if I can spot any parishioners picking up DVDs on the way home.

Although they ever so slightly miss the limits of the actual “Magnificent Mile”, two sites just south of the city add to its magnificence. One is the recently opened Cincinnati Premium Outlets which caters to upper crust bargain hunters not yet ready to mingle with giraffes or pirates. The other is LB Ranch. LB is Lawrence Bishop who is not only a very successful horse trader but the founder and Senior Pastor of the Solid Rock Church. Photos of his ranch and his church abound on the Internet but I’ve always been fond of his silo. Before the big Jesus and the elephants and giraffes came along, the horse topped cylinder was the biggest attraction along this stretch of interstate. At one time the horse fell over but remained atop the silo on its side. It was returned to an upright position sometime in the last year or so but appears to be on its last leg.