Well, it’s time to steampunk the time machine again. The one over there. The one in the corner. That’s mine.
Yes. The time has arrived to set its calendar function to a May day in North America — its 1,965th iterations of C.E or A.D. (your choice). My machine, its vacuum tubes warm to the challenge. I click the counter to 2000 + 17. Dial needles slowly sway forward as the tubes warm. I click the destination counter to 1900 + 65.
OK it was McDonalds. My parents dropped me off so I could put in an application while they did journey upon an errand. I shall never disclose the nature of their journey-called-errand because both joined the deceased quite some years before I started writing this account you now read, that is, unless you have already departed from this post.
A merry chemistry-set Christmas to all and each. God spare us, every one!
A green and yellow exhaust-fuming bus stopped at the top of Glenroy Avenue, just across from the mailbox (still painted red, white and blue) — a very short walk from the Poe house and across from the once and future Haneberg house of Rick fame. There was a corner house with detached garage and level-as-a-dream driveway — more on driveway slopes in a minute. But you might not want to look at a topographic map of 315 geography to discover something the contour lines reveal — water flows downhill. And all waterways lead to Schroer.
It might not ever be a good time to read about Schroer, unless you have four minutes remaining ’til the microwave beeps three times…
Hey Bill, you haven’t even started to talk about chemistry and the microwave is beeping.
Anyway, dad drove 100,000 miles a year for Pittsburgh Paint and Glass and he liked to park his car in the toasty garage. My memory-favorite is the schoolbus-yellow ’55 Chevy. Look at the photo above and imagine the steeply descending driveway chock-full of snow. Envision shoveling from the top of that stone wall down to the garage door. When the car made it to sidewalk level we watched dad drive the rear tires onto chains. Whoa, or something; my brain cells are suffering frostbite.
Since we’re not on topic, was that in the days before studded tires made tire chains as obsolete as laser discs?
So, back to the fuming bus — don’t confuse it with yellow Kissel Brother school buses of rusted-floorboard lore. Seriously, you could see asphalt passing below the bus. Well it stopped at the John Shillito Department Store. Now long gutted and converted into upscale condominiums. There was an amazing toy department that stocked chemistry sets.
Holy crap, finally, a hint of your topic.
Mad scientists of 1950’s film fame inspire young mad scientist wannabes such as this writer. A spirited collision of science-fiction reading, household chemicals, periodic table of the elements, sulphur and ignitable materials then sold at the drugstore in Storetown (Greenwell and Delhi area). There was even a Dot Food. Storetown is a few miles northwest of Sacred Mountain, in case that datum helps you orient.
Wasn’t The Gunpowder God published in Analog around 1964?
Written by H. Beam Piper. Premise: Pennsylvania highway patrol officer runs into a Möbius warp of the kind that sweeps you into alternate histories — in this case a gunpowder-free culture. Same geography, different history. That story piqued my interest in the flash-points of various combustible compounds.
Hey, it was even better than that. Piper provided the exact steps for the sulphur, charcoal and sodium nitrate — including the evaporation and precipitation steps. Stuff that a normal mad scientist might miss.
Any other 315 trivia we don’t want to know?
Yes. An ancient bottle of boric acid was still in the hall closet after dad died in 2012. It probably hadn’t been opened since the 60’s, when it joined my personal chemistry lab and darkroom. Things accreted in that basement. Layers and layers of family life in remnant form.
We just want to know about the chemistry experiments there, and we’re tapping our shoes off.
Yes. There was a refrigerator with its compressor on top, a gas stove to supplement the denatured alcohol burner, an old dresser to lend mad scientist flavor. Hot and cold running water.
Everything on the periodic table was fair play. Acids in the form of vinegar (acetic acid), bases in the form of Drano (sodium hydroxide). Look at ammonia from an open-ion perspective. Force some burning sulphur fumes into a concocted plastic container holding a little water. Shake it up and hope the resulting sulphuric acid melts through the plastic.
Fortunately for the other inhabitants of 315, I never got that far. I would pour a mixture of Drano and water onto aluminum foil and try to figure out how the bubbles could be captured and stored.
The 315 vicinity produced a team of neighborhood firework freaks who could find their way to Al’s in Covington, a Ma and Al shop that sold interstate fireworks to the likes of us. All very nice, but wasn’t it better to slice up cherry bombs and M80’s, stuff the ignitable into a bamboo pole? How to do it. That was another question. Severe burns and severed limbs? Hey, don’t change the subject. Bold scientist at work
Bill, don’t you have a deadline or anything. It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and, quite frankly, we are bored to frazzle. Do you know what that’s like?
No, but I’ll wrap this up for now and unwrap it later. And that reminds me: have a grand time unwrapping recyclable paper. Reuse.
Sacred Mountain yet rests above the Ohio River in Delhi Hills 45238. But you’ll have to dig under a plenitude of 1960s houses and apartments in what is still called Delshire. I call it the scouring of the Delhi. Over 3,000 residents today. There were 0 human residents in 1960. We often talked of overnighting at an abandoned farmhouse in that census year of zero homo sapiens.
The boy-scout compass we used did not have any GPS functionality. Anyway, here is a link that we also didn’t have at the time to its latitude and longitude. If you have a time machine handy, set the values:
Then set the time for June 1961 (approximate, depending upon the capabilities of your specific time machine). Then look around. You might ask locals about Ma and Pa Wagner’s (native German speakers with super strong accents) shop, the one with all the great candy. They have three cherry-sized things for a penny.
Tolkien had already written about the ‘scouring of the Shire’ but I hadn’t known it at the time. The mythical landscape disappeared before the 60’s were less than half gone. In resume-timeline fashion the 60’s waxed with grade school (1961)and waned with university (1969).
Mythical names are serious tokens of youth. Let’s consider the central stream that cut through the middle of Sacred Mountain, now running into an unnamed cement culvert.
Water has a way with wear. It’s one of the few liquids that actually expand upon freezing, so it floats on water. It floated there in Winter 1960 according to personal witness.
And gravity has a way with attraction. Water seeks its level and finds it. Water coursed down a rapidly moving stream to disclose limestone strata on its water-wearing way to the Ohio, the Mississippi and the sea.
OK Bill, that’s already boring. Tell us about the vines that you lied on and that you swung with, the dust cloud of a pick-up truck and the contents of the barn.
Well, let me just tell you that it was a rapidly running stream with 10 foot falls at one place. Light-grey shale is often slippery when wet (Cuidado!). Expect to slide into the pooling water below.
OK. Food foraging kids of the 50’s living near 315 Glenroy spent every available moment grazing outside. It gave their mothers time alone in a two-bedroom house housing a family of six. Sleeping in the backyard of 315 was one way of escaping the Summer inferno that toasts the air in an unventilated bedroom. ‘Twas the day before air-conditioning in home or vehicle. Walks taken in the middle of the night to visit Dolly the retired horse were called ‘Journeys.’
OK Bill, now you’ve made us uncomfortable and you again lose the narrative to pedantry. So?
There was a tree so heavily covered with vines from canopy to forest floor that it was almost a room: darkness at midday. If you climbed up the tree your head would pop out. The surrounding vines were thick enough to allow you to recline upon them and observe the clouds.
Swinging over a stream via vine is more than bracing, but by the end of the season it’s lack of that water I talked about earlier that results in a dead vine that will suffer no weight. Plan to land on your back. Just suggesting.
A gravel road traced its way from Mt. Alverno Ave. to the cliffs of Sacred Mountain. We knew it not at the time, but the abandoned farmhouse and full-sized barn were slated for scouring. The puffs of gravel dust served as a warning to juveniles (of potentially delinquent status).
Anyway, we shared sentry duty atop that barn. A cloud of dust portended a spoilsport whom we never met in person. A cry of ‘truck’ meant a call to jump down from barn roof to chicken-coop roof, then down upon the ground, and a run to the safety of trees and wood.
The Chantilly Woods was home to a large and hungry wolf. There existed no evidence of its existence, but we would not let that get in the way of a good story. Somehow it gave us pause, so we never ventured into its apocryphal lair. Obviously it jealously guarded the forest against invading juveniles, so we skirted the perimeter in what I will now say was deference to a legend and a nod to the sanctity of myth.
The woods of Chantilly became another bulldozed victim of that demographic watermelon in the throat of time’s serpent; most parents were busily creating baby boomers. All that booming required slapped together units for exploding nuclear families. But that slapping together yielded waste lumber, shingles and nails (a magnet could find in the dust of summer dirt). Sheet by sheet and nail by nail we moved that bonfire-destined lumber before it could be sacrificed to the Wolf god.
As far as anyone can tell, this is the only surviving photograph of a structure assembled completely from waste construction (repurposed). We called it a Shack.
So, anticipating an unasked question, ‘Did that shack have a security system?’ Appetite left whet.
We didn’t have exotic road-tar-flavored jelly beans in Delhi Hills OH during the greater later 1950’s. Left to discover stuff on our own we pulled grass shoots apart to chew the tender light-green centers. Tiny three-leaf clover growing in the side yard were tangy: only later did we worry about the dog urinating against the wall. Hey there’s an aftertaste on my right-rear tongue. Thankfully it’s starting to fade.
Did you know that road tar of the 1950’s bubbled when the air temperature rose? Seeing it bubble reminded me of gum and the flavor of licorice. Only a small nugget of tar remains between two molars now, but that oily taste, what is that? Now the bubble experiment gradually fades from memory, so I shall take my tongue out of my cheek. My tongue tip probably found neither tar nor clover. Choose a hot day for collecting road tar. Find a stick with good heft and balance and wrap your tar around one side. Kitchen matches are good for lighting your completed torch but Zippo lighters work well. Watch for flaming droplets that just might burn your skin.
Remember to bring official Topps baseball cards with you for card flipping or combine cards and spring-loaded clothes pin to flip against bicycle spokes. Trade the cards and then carefully store them in your shoebox. Possibly the same box you brought home after having your feet x-rayed. Don’t imagine that nearly every mother in the country would throw the shoebox away when you’re distracted by the new transistor radios.
Hey Bill, I want to hear more about Sacred Mountain and Lost City.
Sacred Mountain was not only famous for Indian arrowheads found in dark woods: there’s a difference between soil settled by interlopers and the ancient Indian stomping grounds of memory. Modern terrain marked by cinder-block footers and solid stone door steps, such as the single remaining dwelling in Lost City. Must draw sketches and construct mental maps for these.
Hillside Gang ancestors probably sacked this very Lost City. We always blamed that gang for all bully activity. Frontier life at the western edge of Cincinnati: 1950’s.
But what about the food chain Bill? You’re getting lost in pedantry.
Let’s consider Summer at it’s warmest. It’s warmest in the attic on Glenroy but you only go there to attempt sleep during in the summer. It’s much cooler in the backyard under the stars. Why not begin this discussion with the final resort for mid-afternoon snack: Ayds. Marketed as a delicious between meal alternative to a candy bar, now available on YouTube for entertainment and edification.
When the only snack available is tar on the road, eat these and then place the chewed matter produced into a road-crack. A better use perhaps. My wife Lisa remembers Ayds ads and commercials too, and she’s a lot younger than I.
I’ll tell you about pears now. You could find them in that narrow wooded area between Old Man Hocker’s (not his real name) house and the Mt. Alverno Boys’ Home. An enormously mature pear tree grew there. Do you know the two most important reasons for climbing a pear tree? To cool down and relax and to eat pears.
As you approach the pear tree watch for the 1500 bees enjoying what they enjoy best, fruit juice. They’ll sting you plenty if you encroach upon their meal, but you may already know that. Near the top of this tree were branches designed by God for your afternoon comfort.
The tree crown granted a vantage point on the pond and a glimpse of the barns at the school. The kids at the boys’ home milked cows with modern equipment, the cows licked salt blocks, they enjoyed chewing hay and they were adept at breathing frost-laden air in the winter. Great quantities of it. Cow tongues are as big as New Guinea is hot: Uncle Beer always remembered just how hot, so he repeated that factoid for us as often as possible.
Yeah but did you eat the pears on the ground, Bill?
No. And we didn’t eat the bees either. I once found a bee swimming in Sunkist Orange Soda, but spit it out before it could sting any internal organs.
We’re getting bored Billziegler1947, could you just list a few other forage-ready foods so we can get back to the football game?
Return a soft drink bottle for two cents and you can buy Peeps around Easter time, but beware when cashing in bottles: Carl’s on Greenwell (next to the Zenith Radio & TV Repair Shop) returns candy, not coins. Weren’t UDF glass milk bottles worth a fortune? 35 cents? Inquiring minds need to know. UDF gave away ice cream cones on Halloween.
100 yards of tomato plants, much of it rotting in the field but more than edible and warmed by the sun, wild blackberries and black raspberries near Dolly the horse, chewing tree sap.
What’s next? Ma and Pa Wagner, radios, shacks, daredevil schemes, farm with barn, storm-sewer explorations and firework fiascos.
Marmer’s in Price Hill is the go-to place for shoe outfitting. It’s either the season for summer wear or time for a school reboot, the time to see how well a new shoe could accommodate foot bones.
And climbing up onto an x-ray machine (fluoroscope) is one efficient method for bringing superman-quality tools to the task. On the top there’s a Viewmaster kind of thing to block extraneous light from the side, allowing you to more clearly view potential fit problems before purchase.
The green things you could see were the many bones of the human foot, the shades of gray between the foot edges and the shoe leather represents the negotiating room available on the inside of the shoe. So, bone green, skin and muscle light gray, maneuvering room dark gray. Judge before you buy.
On the way home don’t forget not to latch the nonexistent seat belts in the car. Drive carefully to avoid contact between skull and windshield.
Don’t want to reenact Signal 30 or Blood on the Highway while proceeding from the Price Hill to the Delhi Hill. Experience that while viewing those prom-night mishaps on the road. I watched my first drink, drive and die film in the church undercroft (Catholic-speak for basement. Also defined as a crypt it seems). Firemen pulled a human-shaped cinder from a burning wreck. The cinder was white and gray, kind of like the space between footbone and shoe leather.
Once on the way to Michigan and its Lake of the Houghton a somewhat infant-aged Claire sat on Mom’s lap. The car had achieved cruising speed on US 27 when a physics experiment happened. The passenger door might have been a bit ajar. Upon leaning slightly against said door said door proceeded to open slightly in kind. The aerodynamics of the vehicle were disturbed when the atmosphere in the car mixed with the atmosphere outside the car. The experiment was brief but startling. Mom and Claire returned to an upright position, the door yanked suddenly shut. The trip continued. Mother and daughter could then continue existence and live to play other roles in 315glenroy.wordpress.com.
A pre-schroer memory ofSchroer, the street where all the water goes. There were yellow other-wordly earth-eating machines running across a dry and dusty field. They were much larger than life and I didn’t know what they were doing, but this world evoked a work of the gods: they just kept going around the same oval track with a pleasing sound of purpose. Mythological beasties. It was actually an ill conceived scheme from the outset but I was not aware that earth-moving creatures represented the proverbial deck-chairs of a Titanic metaphor: water always find its level.
We followed the same path of water in a more snowish form from the King house to Rodescheimer, probably navigating the same toboggan that leveled the silver maple of a previous telling (right here on 315glenroy). A wall of trees began as a couple American elms
and a choke-cherry tree with chewable sap. Sap and rumination in a 1950’s existence. The tree wall proceeded along a ridge of ever denser trees that demarcated the southern bounds of the Hunefeld farm: right where Dolly, the retired white mare of sagging-back persuasion, waited for us to bring carrots foraged from the 315 kitchen. Dolly wasn’t interested in any tomatoes from the field of 10,000 ripe ‘maters that dominated Mt. Alverno west. By way of unneeded advice: if a tomato fight finds you in a tree when Farmer H appears, tell that gentleman of earth that he saved you from the Hillside Gang or the convenient ne’er-do-wells of the moment: the ones who sent you climbing that tree to escape vegetable projectiles. The Hillside Gang will appear in The Legend of Sacred Mountain.
Well, before getting mired in details from Schroer to Hillside Gang I return to that speedster toboggan. Those trees midway from King to Rodescheimer, narrowly separated, tested the mettle of sled riders: thread your snow vehicle of choice between two trees and immediately encounter the steepest of 315 slopes. That slope is only a few yards from the construction workers’ scrap materials fire: the fire that Paul and I thought could be extinguished by tipping a refrigerator carton onto its flames. We learned something about the flame point of a cardboard structure that day, then discovered how divine pardon for setting off an inferno may be achieved through Mom’s familiar way: “You two kneel and pray until I tell you.” While thus serving time, we would share giggles from around the foyer corners.
315Glenroy or the briefer 315 is an eponym for a family living in a small brick house in a neighborhood bordering Cincinnati west. This blog is about that brick house, the people who lived there and the historic trees growing and dying around it. All this in a rich panorama sweeping from 1952 to 2013 (Truman to Obama).
The cast of characters: Dad (1921), Mom (1921), Terry (1946), Bill (1947), Paul (1949), Tom (1951) and Claire (1963). Claire was still a pre-me, Clayo’s word for her preexistent presence before 1963. Famous silver maples planted in the 1950’s: two are still clinging to life with arboreal seniority. The tree closest to the house was a foot-long shoot when flattened to the ground by a speeding toboggan but demonstrated resilience in what matters for all silver maples: launching countless helicopters and dropping red things on the pavement.
Shacks built, tents raised, journeys to Sacred Mountain taken, Dolly the retired horse visited, mulberries eaten and a 6 foot snake adopted.
Here is a future excerpt to whet your reading appetite:
Paul and I served as babysitters while the five other Glenroyers were at a later-in-the-morning mass at St. Dominic (‘s optional), attention drawn between Clutch Cargo in the living room and Claire in the brightly lit yard; she liked the silver maples in the front, but was not interested in Clutch, Spinner or Paddlefoot.
Fifteen minute segments, broadcast from Monday through Friday, starred the most popular Dollar: Bob Bailey. You might not be interested to know that both Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ended their respective long-running series on the same day, September 30, 1962 (marking the end of old-time radio). Four months before Claire’s pre-me era came to a close.
Dim memories of Terry and me, four or five years old, climbing into the neighbor’s car from the passenger side, seeing a parking brake between the seats. Realizing that our mother was chiding us: “you two get out of that car” or words to such effect. A 1940’s automobile of sturdy steel, perhaps a running board for a toddler’s knee. A nice springy upholstered place to crawl upon. These recollections are my latest discovery of hoarded thoughts of 1951 glimpsed from 2015.
The running of the dogs and running with the dogs past the firehouse up Renshaw toward US 27. I don’t remember getting to the top of the street, but do recall that the dogs were very enthusiastic, eager to have us on this merry adventure: tongues and tails a wagging in doggy-dog harmony. Shoulder-to-shoulder with a dog pack of seven or eight doglets.
I’m crawling in the back yard of a tiny house in Highland Heights 41076 with a goal in sight: a tin doll house open on one side inviting me to get in by pulling the wall of that tin house up, then feeling safe and cozy in that perfect shell, looking out at the grass and at our Renshaw house. It was a bright and sunny day, suddenly a shot did not ring out. Maybe bees were buzzing.
A rare circa 1952 photograph from Tom. Posed but still candid. Tom in haute style in red nosh gosh b’gosh unlederhosen that complement Terry’s 50’s look. Paul sharing same subject of attention with his brother (they are both looking to their left as you may have perceived). Terry in writer’s mode with mid-twentieth-century text in hand and inspiring gaze, wearing intriguingly complementary colors to contrast with b’gosh. Is that a 10,000 mile stare on Billy? He is the author of these very words but that guy doesn’t remember what he was thinking when the camera clicked in 1952. Bill Jr. shares that long-sleeved plaid style also favored by Paul who, as earlier reported, is looking at the same interesting stuff as Tom.
The other two (2): Über first cousins Larry and Hal, discussed under separate cover perhaps. Or commented upon by the reader of these very words in the space provided by WordPress for comments.