I’m Not Moving Like I Used To
— Places I’ve Lived (Part 1)

“Of course not,” I can almost hear you say. “You’re a creaking old codger on the verge of decrepitude. You’re lucky you can move at all.” While that’s certainly true, it isn’t what the title refers to. The sort of moving this article is concerned with is the changing of residences and I recently realized that I’ve occupied my current domicile longer than any other. I moved in over the Memorial Day weekend of 1997 which means I’ve been here twenty years. That’s two decades, a full score, a fifth of a century. The times for second and third places are just thirteen and twelve years.

The photo at the top is of the first place I called home. It’s a house Mom bought in 1945 while Dad was overseas. I don’t know when it was built but it was old enough to need new siding when Mom bought it. She personally covered it with that fake brick tar paper that used to be fairly common. That covering remained through my high school years when a classmate lived there. Since then it has obviously had the siding replaced and it has been painted at least a couple of times. I recall it being blue for several years. The porch and garage were added long after I lived there and I’m sure there have been other upgrades as well. The house was never high class but it apparently is of pretty high quality. It looks better now, seventy-two years after Mom tacked on her tar paper, than at any other time in my memory. It’s in Woodington, Ohio, which is the birthplace of Lowell Thomas. Lowell’s former home has been moved to the grounds of the museum in the county seat. Plans to preserve and relocate my former home have yet to materialize.

While I was living in Woodington, my maternal grandparents were living on a farm just around the corner. Sometime before my third birthday, the generations swapped places. I doubt it was a real trade but some sort of family arrangement resulted in my grandparents and about five of my aunts and uncles taking our place in the village while we three moved into the house pictured at left. My sister arrived not too long after the move. The house is certainly no younger than the one I started out in and could be considerably older. The barn and other out buildings are gone and a large garage has been added. Like the house in Woodington, this one is looking better than it ever has.

We weren’t long at the farm. I recall Dad once reminiscing about the move with the comment “I guess I thought I wanted to be a farmer.” My sister was born in March and by winter we had moved to the house at right in the nearby village of Hill Grove. We were there for the “Blizzard of 1950”. The northeast corner of the state was hit the hardest but all of Ohio got lots of snow and frigid temperatures. In Columbus, Michigan won a trip to the Rose Bowl by beating Ohio State 9-3 in a game with 5° temperature, 40 MPH wind, and not a single first down by either team. During the worst of the cold snap, our whole family slept in the living room with my baby sister wrapped up in a dresser drawer. The Facebook “on the road” profile picture I use for wintertime trips was clipped from this photo taken in front of this house. A little more of the house — and sled — can be seen in this photo. It’s been well treated by subsequent owners and falls into line with the others by looking better now than then.

I think we only spent the one winter in Hillgrove before moving into the village of Ansonia. I’ve referred to both Woodington and Hill Grove as villages but they are technically “unincorporated communities”. Ansonia was a real official incorporated village. with a population of 877 in the 1950 census. Our house was directly across the street from the American Legion and the school athletic fields were at the end of the street. In high school I would march past this house on the way to and from every home football game. It was newer than my previous abodes and, while I don’t know that it looks better than when we lived there, it looks at least as good and has clearly had some caring owners including someone who added the garage and connector.

This is the place that’s currently in third on my length of residence list. It occupies a two acre plot in the midst of large farms about three miles west of Ansonia. We moved here in the summer of 1953 and Dad remarried (Mom died in 1959) and moved in the summer of 1965. Those dates exactly bracket my school years. Initially my sister and I shared one of the two bedrooms but that was quickly seen as a problem. Dad was both clever and handy and first divided the room with a wall that included storage with my bed on top. Step two was enclosing a porch area on the back of the house and moving me into it. It’s visible in this photo of the other end of the house. The third and final step was finishing the attic and squeezing in a stairway. I spent about seven years sleeping on the other side of that window near the peak of the roof.

2015 article on Dabney Hall talks about the faded bricks and old AC units hanging in the windows. It is now the oldest residence hall on the University of Cincinnati campus. When I lived there in 1965 it was, at five years old, one of the newest and there were no signs of air conditioning anywhere. Shortly after my 1974 divorce I dated a girl a few years younger than me who had a friend a few years younger than her who lived in Dabney and we attended a party there. By then what had been an all male dorm was co-ed with refrigerators and microwaves in every room. I marveled at the changes but it’s hard to say whether the presence of girls and fridges would have kept me in school longer or led to me dropping out sooner.

This is the house Dad moved to after remarrying when I was about to leave for college. I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore years there and it is where my stepmother still lives. Not visible in the picture is an attached brick workshop, added in the 1970s, where Dad spent a lot of time re-caning and refinishing furniture.

This is the location but not the building where I began my second year at UC. The aging apartment where my friend Dale and I lived has the distinction of being the only one of the sixteen places I’ve lived that is no longer standing. This seems particularly astonishing in light of the fact that the three earliest of my homes were all pretty old when I lived there. The pictured building is a nursing home so it’s at least possible I could return there someday.

Because of its length, I’m spreading this subject over two posts. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I’ve called just one place home during the most recent twenty years of my life. The eight residences covered in this post filled the first twenty for an average of roughly two and a half years each. I’ll get to the second eight next week.

Trip Peek #53
Trip #96
Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll

This picture is from my 2011 Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll trip. As you probably suspected, its selection is not at all random. In anticipation of an approaching trip, I had just finished scheduling this blog’s next few posts when I learned of Chuck Berry’s death. I immediately thought of the only time I had seem him and, with the scheduling of posts fresh in my mind, of posting a “Trip Peek” of that 2011 trip. Even as I began to do it, I was unsure about whether or not breaking with the random selection of “Trip Peeks” is proper. I did it once before when I picked a Christmas related “Trip Peek” to appear during a Christmas road trip. If I can break the sequence for a Christian holiday, I can sure as hell do it for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Berry was doing one show a month in 2011 and I had secured a ticket to the May 25 event. As the date neared, my father, two years Berry’s senior, was hospitalized and it seemed likely that the trip would not occur. But Dad’s condition improved a few days before the show and I went ahead with my plans. The idea was to spend two or maybe three nights on the road with some time on Route 66  in Saint Louis on the way to the show and some time on the National Road as I returned. The first day went pretty much as planned culminating in an extremely satisfying concert in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill. Somewhat to my surprise, Berry was on stage for the entire show and performed almost all of his familiar hits. The featured photo was taken near the end of the concert when Berry invited adoring ladies from the audience to join him on stage.

Dad’s health took a turn for the worse during the night and I headed directly home in the morning. He died one week later.


Trip 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 associated trip journal.

Trip Peek #51
Trip #18
Big E, DC, and the Cardinal

This picture is from my 2004 Big E, DC, and the Cardinal trip. The trip appears in my top ten “Decent” list and it certainly deserves to be there. The Big E in the title is the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. My youngest son was serving aboard the huge carrier at the time and I was privileged to be part of a three day Tiger Cruise as she moved from Florida to her home port at Newport News, Virginia. With no military experience of my own, those few days sleeping and eating with my son’s crew mates was quite educational even though it was a spruced-up danger-free family-style version of life at sea. All airplanes were removed from the carrier before we civilians came on board but a few returned to provide landing and take-off demonstrations. The photo shows a S-3B Viking being launched.

After a couple of days in Newport News with my son and his family, I took a train to Washington, DC, and checked out a few museums and monuments. The Amtrak train that runs between Chicago and New York City is named the Cardinal. It provides Cincinnati’s only passenger rail connection and it carried me home at the end of the trip.


Trip 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 associated trip journal.

Another Christmas Squirrel

Exactly two weeks ago I pulled out of my garage and waited, as I always do, for the door to close behind me. As it rolled down, I glanced up to my left to see a squirrel perched like a sentry at the peak of my condo’s roof. He or she waited as I thrashed around the car for a camera. I found one and hastily snapped an insurance photo through the window in case opening it spooked my subject. No worries. The squirrel held its position as I snapped more pictures through the half-open window. It darted down the roof’s far slope when I finally started moving the car forward.

The scene and the season connected in my mind and reminded me of my four year old My Christmas Squirrel post. The photo at left is quite a bit different from the one leading off that post but some of the key players are there. In particular, the tree, the snow couple, and the merry-go-round are in both.

My recent west coast trip provided an opportunity for a friend to tackle some sorely needed cleaning and repairs in my home. As my return would be just after Thanksgiving, she saw fit to not only expose (for the first time in years) the surface of my dining room table but to give it a Christmasy look. The aforementioned tree and snow people were joined by the basket of small stuffed critters which, while not specifically Christmas creatures, looked very much at home. I added the merry-go-round and brown bear.

The merry-go-round is one my Dad made. The figure I called “My Christmas Squirrel” in that earlier post rides on it. Other than being a toy, there is nothing Christmasy about it and my sister, who also has one, expressed surprise when I mentioned that it was among the things I displayed for the holiday. Makes sense to me, though. There’s also a connection between the bear and my Dad. Dad collected stuffed bears and had a double bed in a spare bedroom covered with them. Xavier Roberts, the guy who created Cabbage Patch Dolls, also made a series of Yonah Mountain Bears and I bought one as a gift for Dad when I stopped by Babyland General Hospital in 2004. After his death, Dad’s bears were divvied up among the grandkids and I accepted the return of the bear with the “Santa’s Favorite” bib. It is now part of my Christmas menagerie. Snowmen and squirrels and bears. Oh my!

Mo’ Bricks

brickmas01How big is Cincinnati? Big enough to simultaneously support two major LEGO exhibits. That’s how big. The Art of the Brick opened at the Cincinnati Museum Center on October 23. It runs through May 1. Down at Newport on the Levee, BRICKmas opened November 25. It runs through January 1. The Art of the Brick is the work of a single artist, Nathan Sawaya. BRICKmas is the work of lots of people coordinated by the Ohio Kentucky Indiana LEGO Users Group (OKILUG).

brickmas02I visited The Art of the Brick back in November and posted a blog entry here. I visited BRICKmas just over a week ago (Dec 12) with my daughter and grandson. Theoretically, BRICKmas could have been the subject of last week’s blog post but that slot was already filled with the Saint Anne’s Hill Christmas Tour. I considered doing a “bonus” post but decided to make it easy on myself and save BRICKmas for this week. Here is what I did eight days ago.

brickmas04brickmas03BRICKmas fills two separate areas. The first contains several large and complex displays. Each has a theme and some are reproductions of specific scenes or locations. Electric trains and other moving items add life.

brickmas05brickmas06brickmas07The folks who made the displays clearly had a lot of fun and a lot of imagination. I learned later that there is a Santa Claus figure in each display. We spotted a couple but didn’t know to look for them. There were also quite a few non-Santa figures in the displays that were equally out of place. Some were hidden. Others not. The pumpkin-headed horseman in the first picture to the left is actually in the area covered by the second picture in the preceding paragraph but he is hidden by a tree. The other two picture contain some rather incongruous figures in plain sight. There is some help in finding them here and here.

brickmas09brickmas08The Roebling Bridge model at the top of the article and both displays in the photos at right were in the second section. Here the individual items, like the full size heads, seemed larger, and the themed scenes, like the Sponge Bob Square Pants setting, seemed smaller. This section was more or less targeted at the younger attendees and this is where the play areas and do-it-yourself tables were. It was here that we noticed some kids with scavenger hunt type check lists. We were disappointed that we hadn’t received one but it was really too late to get overly concerned about it. Apparently the first thing we were supposed to find was the check list and we failed miserably.

brickmas10This picture was taken shortly after we arrived at the levee before visiting the BRICKmas displays. I’m going to pretend that it was at the end of the day as we’re about to head home. Even though Wesley’s drivers licence is a few years away, he’s pretty sure he could handle a little sleigh and a few reindeer.

My Wheels – Chapter 17
1965 Corvair

65corvair1We had apparently become accustomed to being a two car family at this point so, when the blue Nova became a non-runner, I went shopping for another beater. I bought a 1965 Corvair in Kentucky. It didn’t look as ragged as the one at right (which might actually be a ’66) but it probably was. It was a full-on stripper with 3 on-the-floor, bare rubber floor mats, and no perceivable options other than an AM radio and even that might have been standard.

65corvair265corvair3It had begun life as a poor white Chevy and that was still the color of the top. The bottom had been painted fire engine red. It was a decent repaint and still pretty shiny. It was sort of a blend of these two cars minus the fancy wheel covers and all that chrome. It really didn’t look too bad from the proper distance. Up close, something of a reverse freckled look became noticeable. A few chips had appeared in the red part so that bits of the white part showed through. It was a mild case of reverse measles that gave the car “personality”. Yeah. That’s what it was. Personality.

The fun began before I even had it registered. In order to transfer the title of an out of state car, it has to be physically inspected. The inspection has nothing to do with the condition of the car. Someone with the proper authority has to verify that the title matches the car. At that time, and maybe still, most car dealers had one or more properly authorized people on staff. The seller allowed me to take the car with his plate on it (I may have eventually mailed or taken it back) and I drove the car to a dealer. A properly authorized person looked it over and denied the transfer. The car’s VIN, which was inside the engine compartment, did not match the VIN on the paper Kentucky title. It was easy to see why but knowing didn’t help.

The proper VIN had a ’13’ in it. At some point in the past, probably because of grease and crud on the number, it had been written down as a ‘B’. It was definitely a “we’ll laugh about this later” situation. We both knew that the car and the paper belonged together and that the paper was wrong but the inspector was not authorized to fix it. All he could do was say yea or nay and he wasn’t about to say yea.

I tried another dealer without success and came within one county of returning the car. The error, I eventually learned, had occurred two transfers back. As long as the car stayed in Kentucky, no physical inspection was required and the error was simply propagated forward. I bought the car from a guy in Campbell County who had bought it from a guy in Kenton County. Or maybe it was the other way around. In any case both counties were close and once I got the right one, it was fairly easy to get a corrected title issued.

We were once again a two car family but not for long. The two cars, the ’69 Opel and ’65 Corvair, held up just fine. It was the family that fell apart. When my wife and I divorced, we sold the house and split the trivial amount of money that resulted. About the only things I wanted from the house were my clothes and some LPs (“No way you’re getting that copy of Hard Day’s Night I bought in high school!”). There wasn’t much property to divide and the division went pretty smoothly. She got the Opel and I got the Corvair. I also got the canoe. Because these three things are titled in Ohio, they had to be listed in the divorce decree and titles transferred. The first line of the decree was something like “Dennis L Gibson will have as his sole possessions the canoe and the Corvair.” I believe the intent was to establish that I was the sole owner of these two opulent vehicles but it read as if they were the only things I owned which was, Beatles albums aside, pretty much the truth.

The end of my time with the Corvair was at least somewhat interesting. It naturally continued its decline but served me reasonably well for many more months. When the starter went out I decided it was time to move on. But not immediately. My credit rating at that point was the opposite of good and it took a couple weeks to arrange a purchase. During those weeks, the Corvair did its job. I was living in a trailer park with enough of a slope to the driveway to get it started in the morning. The far side of the parking lot where I worked had an even better slope for getting it going at the end of the day. When I needed to stop somewhere else, such as at the grocery, I just left it running. No one was going to risk an auto theft charge for that measly car.

Christmas Escape 2014

pic01dDespite a sincere and publicly proclaimed desire to get to Key West last year, it didn’t happen. I can’t guarantee it will this year either but at least I’m headed that direction. I attended the Lighting of the Serpent on the evening before leaving and have plans to drive some Dixie Highway both coming and going. I’ll probably also visit some friends and/or relatives somewhere along the way.

The journal for the trip is here. This entry is to let blog subscribers know of the trip and to hold any and all comments.

Route 66 Festival 2014

pic01bI am now on my way to the 2014 International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona. My first day ended in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is not exactly on the imaginary straight line connecting Cincinnati and Kingman. In fact, it is at least 300 miles from any such line and I’m going to get a lot farther away from it before I’m done. I’m starting out in Tennessee because I’ll be visiting my son in San Diego before the festival and I’m following the Old Spanish Trail, which starts in Saint Augustine, to San Diego. Between Chattanooga and Saint Augustine, I’ll be on the Dixie Highway which isn’t any farther off of a Cincinnati to Saint Augustine line than those fancy modern interstates. I’ll probably get on the route in the title a little before the festival and I’ll certainly drive parts of it as I head home afterwards but, if Route 66 is the only reason you’re here, you’ve got a couple of weeks to wait.

The trip journal is here. This blog entry is to make blog-only followers aware of the trip and to provide a place for comments which are very welcome and appreciated.

Trip Peek #21
Trip #93
The Sailor’s Family

X-Ray Mirror at Museum of ManThis picture is from my 2011 The Sailor’s Family fly & drive trip to visit my youngest son in San Diego, California. At that time, he was assigned to the USS Boxer and I timed my visit to coincide with a planned “family day” cruise aboard the ship. My son, oldest grandson, and I did that while the daughter-in-law and youngest grandson did safer things. The oldest grandson and I also worked in a day trip on US-80 while the rest of the family fulfilled their normal obligations. The picture was taken the day all four of us spent at Balboa Park. Inside the Museum of Man, my son and youngest grandson stopped in front of a pair of skeletons in a scene that looked like a x-ray mirror. Although the stop was an accident, the humor and coolness of the scene was immediately realized by even the youngest among us. I had flown to San Diego from Indianapolis and an ice storm back home forced me to stay in San Diego a couple of extra days. Worse things can happen in early February.


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.

My Wheels – Chapter 11
1967 Dodge

1967_dodge_coronet2The crumpling of the Corvair was just one of several major events occurring within a few months time. Wreaking the Corvair led to purchasing another car and one of the other events led to purchasing a house. That event was my wife’s announcement that she was pregnant. We lived in a small one-bedroom apartment and immediately started looking for something larger. We looked at multi-bedroom apartments and a few rental houses. The owners of one house we looked at were considering renting as a last resort. They had already moved to a fancier place and were paying two mortgages. The financial strain coupled, I believe, with a little sympathy for the growing young family, resulted in them selling us the house on a land contract; a form of owner financing. So, in fairly short order, we became expectant parents, bought a three-bedroom house, and moved across town. Somewhere in there, we also bought a car.

We bought the car at one of those shady looking lots that can be found lined up on certain streets in every city. That’s not our car in the picture. Some of the paint looks really dull on the car in the picture and that wasn’t the case with our car at all. Otherwise, it’s a pretty close match. The lot where we made our purchase wasn’t a “buy here, pay here” place but it was barely one step removed. I’m sure the lot owner and the guy from the finance company were good friends or maybe related. The Dodge Coronet was no more than two years old but had obviously just been retired from some sort of fleet work. I don’t remember the mileage but doubt it was accurate, anyway. Other than the 318 V8 and automatic transmission, the car was completely devoid of options; not even a radio. But the salesman was slick and the dark blue four-door did look the part of a family sedan for our developing family image. I hung an 8-track player under the empty dash and used the new car to bring our new son to our new house.

Here are a couple of stories involving this car.

Our house sat on a hillside with a small almost unusable garage in the back at the level of the walkout basement. The driveway sloped sharply beside the house. The normal parking spot was about even with the front of the house at the top of the slope. One night, at just about the same time as I heard my wife at the door, I heard a loud bang. Half joking, I said something about the car rolling. She was only part way through the door and, looking over her shoulder, assured me that the car was still there. We laughed and forgot about it — until morning. When I headed off to work, there was no car in the driveway. Most likely left in “Drive”. it had rolled down the slope and halfway over a low stone wall at the top of a steeper and longer slope. It took a tow truck with a long cable to winch the car from its perch atop the wall.

During the time we had the Dodge, I was in a band and occasionally towed a trailer full of equipment. That wasn’t at all good for the transmission which I’m sure wasn’t treated particularly kindly in its previous life. It eventually died and was sent off to some shade tree mechanic for a rebuild. It seems likely that what he did was swap in an oldie from a junkyard but the car once again became mobile and I was happy. Before long, however, the transmission started slipping again. This happened while I was visiting my friend John and he was pretty sure the problem was merely a clogged filter. After we pulled the pan off of the transmission, we realized we needed some technical information so we took out our smart phones and looked up the specifications for a ’67 Coronet. Actually we did the 1970 equivalent and drove to the library to copy some information from a Chilton auto repair manual. Before leaving, we placed the transmission pan on some trash cans beside John’s house. I’m sure our jaws really dropped when we got back from the library and realized that the trash man had come and gone in our absence. Our panic was short lived, however, as John’s wife pointed to the pan lying beside the door. The trash man had started to cart off the detached piece of my car then had second thoughts and knocked at the door to see if it might not really be part of the week’s trash. Saved from myself by another unnamed hero.