A Full Day of PT
(Public Transportation)

afdopt01On Tuesday, I climbed aboard a Cincinnati city bus for probably the first time, other than some event specific shuttles, since 1970. Prior to taking a job in South Lebanon near the end of 1970, I worked downtown and often rode the bus from Pleasant Ridge and, before that, Clifton. I don’t believe bus service extended much beyond Pleasant Ridge in 1970. Probably Kenwood. Possibly Montgomery. Now buses run all the way to Kings Island, just a couple miles short of that South Lebanon job, but they don’t run often. Their purpose is to connect people with jobs so there is a flurry at the start of the work day and another at the end. Little in between and even less on weekends. I’ve long thought of heading downtown on a bus but the sparse schedule put me off. Boarding a bus in the morning essentially means being gone for the rest of the day. That’s not really a problem, of course. It happens often. Committing to it in advance and knowing that there will be no car a shortish walk away is somewhat different, however.

afdopt02afdopt03I decided to go for the first run of the day. The route starts about a block from my home and, as can be seen in the up top photo, the bus arrived and I was on board — alone — a little before the 6:07 departure. There are two other pickup points, both a little to the north, before the bus hits the southbound expressway for downtown. Four passengers were added at the first one and sixteen at the second. The second was at Kings Island where I tryed to take a picture of the distant sign in the dark. Once on I-71, everyone, except the driver and a lady knitting, had their eyes on their phone or an e-reader.

afdopt05afdopt04Total ride time was almost exactly one hour and I arrived downtown just a few minutes past 7:00. I spent a little time on Fountain Square which is in minor disarray as the skating rink is put in place for the winter. The moon, just two days past full, plays the part of a halo for the fountain. It has been drained of water but still looks good and will look even better before the day ends.

afdopt06afdopt07I boarded the day’s second form of public transport next to Fountain Square. When I rode the Cincinnati Bell Connector during its inaugural weekend, it was always full. Today, it carried just one passenger when I boarded at Fountain Square. It was a handicapped lady and I got to watch her drive her electric scooter directly from the car to the platform when she exited a few stops before I did. Pretty slick.

afdopt10afdopt09afdopt08I had thought to have breakfast at the recently reopened (after a fire) Tucker’s but discovered that they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I substituted the even older (1936 vs. 1946) Dunlap Cafe. It’s just a block away from the northernmost streetcar stop at Rhinegeist Brewery. Besides good and cheap eats, the Dunlap has an impressive beer can collection that includes several from Olde Frothingslosh. In the past, I hadn’t paid much attention to the little park across the street but the benches caught my eye today. I’m guessing that nearby residents are responsible for the tiles.

afdopt11afdopt12I will be traveling on November 8 so, for the second time in my life, I won’t be physically going to the polls on election day. I figured out which streetcar stop was closest to the Board of Elections location and set off on the next train to drop off my absentee ballot. A small-world moment occurred along the way. At an intermediate stop, friend, blogger (Queen City Discovery), and author (Fading Ads of Cincinnati) Ronny Salerno stepped aboard and we got to chat until he stepped off one stop before mine. At the ballot drop box, a lady in front of me posed for a selfie with her ballot in hand and the box as background then offered to take my picture dropping the envelope. I thanked her for the offer but opted for just a shot of my hand and ballot.

afdopt14afdopt13There is also something of a coincidence involved here. After dropping off my ballot, I walked back toward the center of town with no real destination in mind. I reached this park, Cincinnati’s oldest, by chance and the coincidence is that I recently read a blog post about the man who donated it to the city. Until a few years ago, I sort of assumed this was Garfield Park because of the statue of our twentieth president. It’s real name is Piatt Park. I’m sure that reading Cincinnati’s Richest Man Died In Debtor’s Prison a week or so ago has a lot to do with my taking and posting these pictures.  A statue of our ninth president, William Henry Harrison, stands at the other end of the park. Combined, the two presidents honored here served less than eight months. Harrison 32 days, Garfield 200 days.

afdopt15afdopt16Fire on the fountain. Apparently if you need to clean something big and bronze, a torch and a brush is the way to go. The workmen told me that the 145 year old Tyler Davidson Fountain (a.k.a. The Genius of Water) gets this treatment twice each year. Good ventilation, I suspect, is also important.

afdopt19afdopt18afdopt17On impulse, I ducked into the Carew Tower and rode the elevator to the observation deck for a different view of the torch & brush guys. When I was last here, in November of 2014, the ice rink was in place and in use. Today workers were still assembling it. 84.51° is both the name and longitude of the marketing company that was spun off from became a subsidiary of (see first comment below) grocery giant Kroger last year. The third picture is of the mid-demolition Pogue’s Garage which, by coincidence, I recently read about in an article whose author, by coincidence, I ran into earlier in the day.

afdopt20afdopt21afdopt22Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was something I’d tentatively planned to do and walking down to it from the Carew Tower worked into my day quite nicely. One reason for wanting to visit today was the center’s participation in the current Foto Focus Cincinnati. I very much enjoyed the Foto Focus exhibits but took no pictures of them. The river beyond the center’s Eternal Flame was once the boundary between slavery and freedom. Construction of the suspension bridge that crosses it was interrupted by the Civil War. The third pictures shows one of the displays reminding visitors that forms of slavery still exist in the world today.

afdopt25afdopt24afdopt23The day’s third flavor of mass transit picked me up just outside the Freedom Center. Operated by the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, the Southbank Shuttle connects Newport and Covington, Kentucky, with Cincinnati’s riverfront. I rode it to near the Beer Sellar on Newport’s Riverboat Row but found it not yet open. I ended up sipping a beer on Hooters’ deck.

afdopt26afdopt27There are several new Cincinnati restaurants I’ve yet to try and today it was The Eagle‘s turn. The Southbank Shuttle took me to Fountain Square and the Cincinnati Bell Connector took be to within a couple blocks of The Eagle. It’s a place known for its fried chicken and it did not disappoint. It was accompanied by “spicy hot honey” that reminded me of how, just a few blocks away, The Genius of Water was being cleaned. I’m an admitted wimp and I know that what I thought fiery others would think just right or even mild but it was not for me. Properly warned, I sampled the honey with small drizzles on a couple of bites then put it aside and enjoyed the chicken and the spicy — but not spicy hot — cheese grits.

afdopt28Had I walked directly to to the streetcar station after eating, I could have boarded almost immediately. Instead, I watched a train stop and continue as I strolled through Washington Park. I strolled on and caught the next one after only a few minutes. Time to the next car is normally displayed at each station but that wasn’t the case at this particular station at this particular time. The wait was around ten minutes. At my three previous boardings, displayed times had been 8, 6, and 12 minutes. The first ride of the day was the only time I entered a nearly empty car. The others were maybe a third to half full. I snapped the photo, showing that my ride home was four minutes away, about a dozen minutes after I arrived at the stop near Fountain Square. The ride back to a block from my home would cost $4.25. I’d used a free ride pass (received when I signed up for Cincy EZRide) for the ride into town. EZRide supports the purchase and use of Metro Bus and Cincinnati Bell Connector tickets from both Apple and Android smart phones. I purchased and activated my $2 all day Connector pass with it although I was never called on to show the pass. Each Southbank Shuttle ride costs $1. Even without an introductory free ride I can go from my home near Kings Island to the northern bits of Over the Rhine to Riverboat Row on the south side of the Ohio River and back home again for $12.50 ($4.25+$2+$1+$1+$4.25). The last route 71 bus leaves the Fountain Square area at 5:30 so it won’t work for a normal time dinner or an evening event but it’s a very sensible way to spend a day in the big city.

Book Review
Fading Ads of Cincinnati
Ronny Salerno

faoc_cvrBuying local is a good thing and so is reading local. I was able to combine the two recently. November 30 was the official release date for a new book about Cincinnati and in the early evening its author made the book and his signature available at a downtown location that appears between its covers. The book was Fading Ads of Cincinnati, the author Ronny Salerno, and the location Igby’s Bar inside a building with a fading “TWINE PAPER” painted on its side. Those two dim words are typical of the fading ads that are the book’s subject.  How could I not?

Although this was my first time meeting Salerno, I knew the name. I first spotted it on some photographs in a small exhibit near downtown Cincinnati a few years back. I wasn’t clever enough to find his wonderful Queen City Discovery blog from that prompt but I did find it eventually and I’ve followed it for some time now. Salerno loves taking photographs and he’s really good at it. He especially loves taking pictures of old abandoned buildings with a story. A third love is also apparent in that blog: the city of Cincinnati. He brings all three loves to Fading Ads of Cincinnati.

The book is the latest in the Fading Ads of… series published by History Press. About the only reference to a publisher I’ve made in past reviews is an identification at the end. Saying a bit more seems appropriate here. Until last year, the USA’s History Press Inc. was part of the UK’s History Press Ltd. It was acquired by Arcadia Publishing in the middle of 2014. All of those entities deal with local and regional topics and often use something of a formula approach. Although it is not all they do, Arcadia is probably best known for their sepia-toned Images of America books. As hinted at by the title, these books are filled with images most of which are historical. The images are selected and described by local experts who typically also provide several pages of introductory text at the book’s beginning. More often than not, these experts are not just knowledgeable but have a personal attachment and attraction to the subject. Saying that most love what they write about would not be wrong. History Press publications tend to be wordier and, although historical images are sometimes used, include plenty of modern color photos. But, just like those Arcadia books, History Press books rely on local experts for their creation and, just like those Arcadia book writers, these experts are often in love with their subjects, too. Kind of sounds like Ronny Salerno, doesn’t it?

Salerno is a good match for the Fading Ads… series. Before reading the book it had actually occurred to me that he might have had every subject identified and many photographed long before he even took on the job. That wasn’t quite the case, however. He was naturally familiar with many of the area’s old signs but not all. He conferred with other “sign hunters” and got tips from friends but he also found his own senses sharpening as he strolled through both unfamiliar and familiar neighborhoods. The result is nearly one hundred new color photos of mostly — but not entirely — old stuff. There are also several historical photos from places like the Library of Congress.

faoc_int1The photos aren’t left to stand alone. Captions describe each of them, of course, and many get multiple paragraphs of attention. Salerno has been successful in digging up many of the signs’ histories with some of the best stories coming from signs identifying local or regional companies that are no longer with us. Names like Shillito’s and Brendamour’s will be recognized by many Cincinnatians and probably some others as well. Out-of-towners might not be familiar with local landmarks like Davis Furniture (“The Friendly Store”) or the Dennison Hotel (“105 Rooms – 60 baths”) but they are exactly what I and some other locals think of when we think of “fading ads” or the more common “ghost signs”.

faoc_int2Salerno brings up the phrase “ghost signs” in the introduction and says people often thought he was writing about the supernatural when he used the term. “Fading advertisements”, he says, doesn’t have that problem. Fair enough but it’s just possible that his position also has something to do with the book’s predetermined title. “Ghost sign” slips into the book a time or two and in the final chapter Salerno more or less acknowledges the validity of both. As for me, I’m comfortable and most familiar with the term “ghost signs” (and “ghost bridges” and “ghost towns”) so I’ll just continue to think of Fading Ads of Cincinnati as a book about ghost signs.

Geography has a lot to do with the book’s organization and the bulk of the photos are in three chapters titled “Downtown”, “Northern Kentucky”, and “The Neighborhoods”. Like any city of any size, Cincinnati has official and unofficial neighborhoods with their own identities. It’s southern boundary is defined by a river that also defines the border of Ohio. In some ways, the Kentucky communities on the south side of the river are quite different from those on the north but the ease with which a cluster of bridges usually allows interstate traffic makes them often seem like Cincinnati suburbs. The prominent “John R. Green Co” sign in Covington, Kentucky, fits in this book as comfortably as the “Little Kings” sign in Cincinnati’s West End.

I mentioned that not everything pictured in the book is old. One chapter in particular shows almost exclusively new unfaded and non-ghostly signs. The photos were taken at the Cincinnati Reds’ home field and include a shot of a huge sign announcing the 2015 All-Star Game which Cincinnati hosted. The “fading ads” connection is solid and arrow straight. Those stadium signs and many more around the area are the work of Holthaus Lackner Signs, a company headed by Kevin Holthaus. Kevin is the grandson of Gus Holthaus who started the company and whose signature appears on many signs in the area including several in Fading Ads of Cincinnati. The only old sign appearing in the “Signature Legacy” chapter is a remnant of a sign possibly painted by Kevin’s great-grandfather, Arnold Holthaus.

A link at the end of this article leads to the book on Amazon. An entry on Salerno’s blog identifies other online outlets and several area stores where it is also available. Another option is to catch the author at a local bar with a faded sign but you’ll have to be both patient and vigilant.

Fading Ads of Cincinnati, Ronny Salerno, The History Press, November 30 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1467118729