Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crystal Keller: 1966-2012

Crystal Keller died a most public and headlined death, however she was honored in an equally grand celebration at Eldorado’s Food and Spirits, on Friday, January 27, 2012. Crystal, forty-five, of Selby Boulevard, a graduate of Pickerington High School, committed suicide by train collision at the Lincoln Avenue crossing at Indianola, on Monday and her body was pronounced dead at Riverside Hospital on Wednesday, 11:45 p.m.

Two days later, the Shaw-Davis Funeral Homes’ Clintoville Chapel was where her parents, Cliff and Jane Keller of Vero Beach, Florida, her pardner, Barbara McDowell and her loving friends gathered at 6 p.m. After the funeral home gathering, mourners went a few block up North High Street to Eldorado’s Food and Spirits, where the second part of the evening began promptly at 8 pm., when the band, Arnett Howard and Friends, kicked off with Young, Wild and Free. Every seat in the bar was filled, including Crystal’s family and loved ones, the Bare Naked Bibliophiles and the work buddies of drummer Ron Henderson filling up the last of the tables.

Hostess Debbie Day welcomed everyone, though the cirumstances were very sad. But she had great words to say about Crystal’s “million dollar smile” and she introduced Cliff and Jane Keller, the parents of Crystal. And when she brought up Barbara McDowell, Debbie exclaimed, “And if I was a lesbian, Barbara is who I’d be with.” The crowd yelled their approval and with the food and beverages flowing, the band kicked the party into high gear.

Doin’ Da, Butt, Lovely Day, You Can Make It If You Try, Do You Love Me?, Shout, You Raise Me Up and Georgia were some of the songs played to honor Crystal. Cliff and Jane Keller danced the night away, the floor stayed packed and the band cooked. The celebration in honor of Crystal couldn’t have been any better: the entire party stayed until the end, some four and a half hours later.

Crystal Keller went out with a bang...literally and figuratively.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wayne Woodrow Hayes: 1954 National Champion Coach

The new Columbus Bicentennial Blog co-conspirator (??) Christine Hayes is probably too young recall the November 7th issue of Sports Illustrated in 1955. The "19th Hole" had letters from readers responding to the October 24th issue, which featured Hopalong Cassady on the cover and a long story about how Woody Hayes led the Buckeyes to a national championship in his fourth season.

One letter was from Christine's father;
A good article—well observed and alive with good reporting.
Your research was penetrating—yet you were selective in a kind way. 

Columbus Citizen, Columbus, Ohio
Mr. Hayes, cousin of Ohio State Coach Hayes, writes a general column in the Citizen—ED.

"Respectfully submitted,
Robert Stevenson, Columbus

Filling six web pages, the Sport Illustrated article begins;

“Big Brother to everybody when he's on top, but candidate of candidates for the salt mines when he's not, a head football coach at OSU has been described as having, next to the Presidency, the toughest job in the United States. Not only does he have to direct the fortunes of his squad, but he is at the constant beck and call of all the quarterback organizations in Ohio, to whom he must make full accountings.

The coach's postgame confessions of sins are regularly delivered in a manner reminiscent of a defendant at a Soviet trial. "I was wrong there," he will say, hanging his head abjectly. "I shouldn'ta done that." The fact that he may have been right, or that the point in question is at least debatable, makes no difference. The boys in the back room want blood.

The man on trial this week (for losing 20-14 to Duke) is an oddly wound-up individual named Wayne Woodrow (Woody) Hayes, who is both a charming and frightening product of what, in these years of postwar prosperity, is more of a bountiful big business and a mass hysteria than it ever was before. In many respects Hayes is the perfect man for the job. Beyond replaying the game cozily with the manifold quarterbacks in mufti, he is bumptiously tough and is far from a hypocrite.

Hayes is completely, in fact devastatingly, aware that in the struggle for survival he must produce a winning team or lose his $15,000-a-year position and, even more important, his prestige as a big-time coach, which happens to be Woody's total raison d'tre.

"I love football," Hayes says, with his slight lisp and almost with tears in his eyes. "I think it's the most wonderful game in the world, and I despise to lose. I've hated to lose ever since I was a kid and threw away the mallets when I lost at croquet."

This perhaps unadmirable trait has the unalterable approval of every man Buckeye, but Hayes gets no points for mere enthusiasm. Each week of the season brings on a public reincarnation of himself, in the image of hero or villain.

If, as usual, there are nine games to the schedule, he lives nine unpredictable, breath-taking, spine-tingling lives. Depending on how much of a winning edge he has at the end of November, the reincarnations can be terminated in one tremendous, popularly applied, postseason kick-after-lack-of-touchdowns—OUT!

Robert Shapien, Sports Illustrated

Sarah Slept

Sarah Bernhardt played the Southern Theatre in November of 1910. She performed scenes from Camille and three others from among her best plays. By this time Sarah was known as The Divine Sarah, and was lauded with fame and money, both American and European.

The best suite in the leading hotel had been reserved for her. But no hotel held her dreams in Columbus.

She connived with railroad men and they hid her private rail car where she could have clandestine slumber. Later, when she had gone on to Chicago, it was admitted that Sarah’s car had been on “the Glen Echo siding.”

My father, Ben Hayes, went on a “field trip” to find that siding. He concluded that a house sat on the prior site, on Cliffside Drive.

“So I went to Glen Echo. Dogs barked at me, acorns fell on my head, small boys tried to sell me The Grit. Four north-south tracks run parallel to Indianola Avenue, crossing the stream that flows into the ravine. Just straight-on track. No siding, no spur, no switch,

I shivvied down a steep shale bank into the ravine that is wild and water-eroded. The shale, when exposed, cracks out in triangular and diamond patterns. As I looked at the crazy lines in the rock it occurred to me that the North High School site was the key to this.

When Sarah played the Southern there was a brick and tile works where the high school now is. So one of the railroads had a switch running down to it, overlooking a bluff on one side, sheltered by tall oak trees on the other.”

Perhaps her choice was aided by the Armbrusters, set designers who lived and had their studio in the Walhalla Ravine area (so named by the Armbrusters.). Sarah might have met them in the theatre, and been enchanted by the thought of sleeping near streets named in the Wagnerian operatic manner: Midgard, Brynhild, Gudrun, Mimring.

Charles Dickens slept in the Neil House one night. Abraham Lincoln slept in a house at Spring and High. But Sarah Bernhardt slept a week of nights along our Cliffside.”

Christine Hayes

Grand Squirrel Hunt: August 31, 1822

The Columbus Gazette, “The squirrels are becoming so numerous in Franklin County as to threaten serious injury, if not destruction, to the farmer during the ensuing fall. Much good might be done by a general turnout of all citizens ... for two or three days, in order to prevent the alarming ravages of those mischievous neighbors.

It is , therefore, respectfully submitted to the different townships, each to meet a choose two or three of their citizens to meet in a hunting caucus at the house of Christian Heyl, on Saturday, the 31st... at 2 o’clock P.M.

In case any township shall the unrepresented in the meeting, those present will take the liberty of nominating suitable persons for said absent townships.”

Signed Ralph Osborn, Gustavus Swan, Christian Heyl, Lucas Sullivant, Samuel G. Flenniken, John A. McDowell

A subsequent paper says, “The hunt was conducted agreeably to the instructions in our last paper. On counting scalps, it appeared that nineteen thousand six hundred scalps were produced. It is impossible to say what number in all were killed, as a great many hunters did not come in.”

W.T. Martin, May, 1858

It Started in Columbus: Lineup of Letters

James Romanis, a veteran of the 17th Infantry in Cuba, met with Francis Dubiel at Dubiel’s tailoring shop at 286 E. Main Street. The two, and eleven others started the American Veterans of Foreign Service here in Columbus in 1899.

In 1913 this organization and others united to form the VFW. They lobbied for benefits for veterans from the government. But the original idea came from Columbus, from Spanish American War and conflict in the Philippines veterans.

The VFW held a convention in Columbus about the same time, during a hot summer. Its delegates were so numerous they nearly overwhelmed the city.

Nine years earlier the United Mine Workers of America had held its launching session in a Main Street hall on the other side of Fifth Street. The impetus for the coal-miners’ union was hatched in New Straitsville. The UMW returned to Columbus in 1940 for their 50th anniversary convention. But the Balz Hall, its place of origin, no longer stood. Ceremonies were in the Columbus Auditorium, which later became Lazarus Annex.

The American Federation of Labor was invented here. Its first public meeting was held in another public hall in the Central Market area. It remains today as the front part of the AFL-CIO.

UCT and U-Drive-It began in Columbus. United Commercial Travelers have moved from their Park Street headquarters on Goodale Park, but they are still based here. U-Drive-It was a pioneer renter of autos and trucks.

Peruna had their headquarters here. The great tonic of Dr. Samuel B. Hartman put Columbus on the map. But he invented the world’s most famous patented medicine in his kettles in Fairborn, a Dayton suburb.

Another substance had its start here. Felix Jacobs, who had the Columbus Revolving Scraper Company, held many industrial patents. One of them was for Ready-Mix Concrete, though he named its inventor as Stephan Stepanian.

The soda fountain delight, the banana split, was invented in Columbus. We could call it the BS, for blood sugar, or the business it brought to Aunt Letty Lally at Foeller’s in 1904. At first the invention was called the “567” as that was the address of Foeller’s, 567 North High Street. She split a banana into a pickle dish and added the three requisite scoops of ice cream and then the syrups and whipped cream. No mention of when the cherry appeared.

At fairs in Franklin Park, the Shrum Ice Cream Company had men and boys peddling ice cream in individual portions. The Shrum family had its plant on Mt. Vernon Avenue east of Washington Avenue. The ice cream sellers were then calling the individual packages Hokey-Pokeys, but we know what they really were: the first “Yummy” men.

Christine Hayes

Dr. Wilburn H. Weddington, family practice physician

Born in Hiram, Georgia, twenty-five miles west of Atlanta, Dr. Wilburn Weddington, professor emeritus of family medicine at the Ohio State University, was raised on his grandfather’s farm. Dr. Weddington still owns his grandfather’s place, he has built a log home on it and still visits.

He graduated from Morehouse College for Men in 1945 and entered Howard University’s Medical School. When he finished medical school, he practiced in Marietta, Georgia, before he entered the U.S. Army and was assigned to Lockbourne Air Base in Columbus where he rose to captain. He was discharged in 1957.

His family practice offices were located at 721 Mt. Vernon Avenue and he and his wife, Carlene, lived in Eastgate. He belonged to the Cavaliers Club and in 1971 he joined the staff at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

During the beginning of his career, primary-care physicians comprised well over half of American doctors, and Dr. Weddington remembers his field being highly respected, as medical students were excited about going into family care.

"As a young doctor in the '50s, there was dignity in practicing family medicine, and I always put the needs of my patients first," he recalls. "Even back then I did not make a huge salary, but I absolutely enjoyed my work."

As Dr. Weddington saw the numbers of family doctors beginning to decrease in the 1960s, he also experienced some of the difficulties that family physicians currently face, such as heavier patient loads, but he did his best to accommodate as many people as he could, and he never turned anyone away who could not pay. He credits the 1965 passage of Medicare and Medicaid for enabling him to continue to provide treatment, since most of his patients were elderly and low-income.

"Family physicians are the front line of defense in diagnosing diseases before they become fatal," he says. "If we don't take steps to increase their ranks, the toll on our health-care system will be even more devastating."

Dr. Weddington is the namesake of The Weddington Society, an organization at the Ohio State University, founded in 1992, to provide support and assisstance for undergraduate students in pre-health programs. He retired from OSU’s College of Medicine in 1994.

Flytown: Northwest Columbus

Flytown was democracy's melting pot for the city of Columbus.  But even more important it became known as a "port of entry" for the immigrant settlers of Central Ohio.  New arrivals found friends and relatives, who guided them through the initial steps of becoming naturalized Americans. 

Here was born a feeling of comradeship that led to patriotic loyalty that knew no division. Seventeen nationalities contributed to their knowledge and experience t the community spirit and culture of Flytown. This is a section of Columbus that has become known and respected the width and breadth of the land.

In 1865, the district of Columbus known as Flytown and subdivided into city lots.  Brick and frame houses dotted the area and friendly community soon emerged. Industry did not locate here because of the lack of necessary facilities. In order to obtain water, light, and power, the district was annexed to the city in 1880. 

Industry began to move in since building sites were cheap. Railroads and highways provided transportation, and water became available. An Iron foundry was established in1870 to be followed a few years later by The United States Pipe and Foundry Company. 

In 1900, the Columbus Forge and Iron Company and the Commercial Paste Company built plants in Flytown.  In 1901, the Franklin Lumber and Furniture Company was founded and shops were constructed by The Columbus, Piqua, and Indianapolis Railroad.  All of these plants and other employed immigrant workmen; Germans, Irish, Negroes, Italians, Swedes, Jewish, Greeks, Hungarians and others. 

When Rosenthal Brothers, Wool-Pullers, located on Spruce Street, there were no houses for their employees.  A building marathon ensued. It is said the houses literally "flew up" overnight thus the name Flytown was coined.

Edith Clark was a pianist and singer who I met once in the 1980s, doing a stint at the legendary piano bar called the Dell, on Parsons Avenue. I found her photo in the archives of the Columbus Call-Post, a newspaper serving the Black community.


I interned at the Call-Post in the early eighties and a book that Edith had written came into my possession, through my friend and fellow journalist Charles Briggs. In The Way, The Gifts and The Power, published in 1971 by New York's Vantage Press, Inc., Edith created an autobiographical character named Isobel Grant, who grew up in a community in Columbus called Flytown. Now known as the Arena District, the area was also the community where musicians Hank Marr and Ronnie Kirk, as well as Edith, grew up in the twenties and thirties.

Here is the narrative that begins on page thirty-six of The Way, The Gifts and The Power, describing the community in the 1920s;

"Flytown was a community singular unto itself. It nestled around the Ohio State Penitentiary, a stones throw from where the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers merge, a hop, skip and jump from the geographical center of Columbus.

Bordering Long Street on the south, Flytown meandered along the edge of Front Street past Naughten, Maple and Vine, crossed the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at Spruce, skirted down Goodale Street past the park, followed the street car line past Neil Avenue, cut through Henry Street to Buttles, then up to an undefined line which eventually ended at the Olentangy River to the West.

A railroad spur track ran behind Michigan Avenue to serve the many factories which lined the river; the Indianapolis Paper Stock Company, the Pipe factory, the Wire Works. The factory that made molds edged a big vacant lot where my father, Carl, and his cronies played baseball for barrels of beer. 

Past the mold company there was a small open field where the kids played and men kept their dump wagons. There was the Paste factory, the Piano company, the Vault company, the derrick makers, the stove factory, and on up towards First Avenue, the Oleo makers and the beer company. On Michigan Avenue, proper, there stretched the lumber company.

Carl was working for the Power and Light Company Downtown when he mashed his thumb on the job and, taking pride in his male invincibility, ignored the soreness until it festered into gangrene and he lost part of his left arm, almost up to the elbow, in order to save himself from dying due to blood poisoning. With the money that he received as compensation for the lost of a limb, Carl and Reba, my mother, paid cash for a house further down Michigan Avenue.

By this time the bootlegging and highjacking Italians were becoming affluent enough to leave Flytown and move across the river into a newly developed suburb which began at Goodale Street. Our family was the first colored family on that block. Reba took great pride in jerking the "For Sale" sign as a symbol of an answer to some White neighbor who called to inform them that the house was not for rent; it was for sale.

Carnivals and medicine shows often set up on the baseball field on the corner of Poplar and Michigan in the summer time and the neighborhood reveled in the novelty of the show put on by the medicine man. The Godman Guild was the heart, the hub, the center around which revolved the community of Flytown. It taught the residents laws and ordinances, showed them the way wherein they must walk and brought their causes to the rulers of the city.

Long before the nation would be confronted with the same problem, the Godman Guild met and found solutions, faced squarely and honestly the needs of the neighborhood and welded the transplanted souls into a solid acknowledgment of pride in themselves and their community. The pillars of society of Flytown were as high-minded and respectable, virtuous and God-fearing as any people in any neighborhood; for their children they had the same goals as any human being in the nation."

Thanks to Edith Clark, we have a detailed glimpse of Flytown, a community that ceased to exist in 1955 when urban renewal and highway construction brought progress to the near Northside of Columbus.

Arnett Howard

The Electric Rabbit: Another Columbus First

Earnest O. Hamilton, a Columbus tailor, stepson of the man whose company decoratively plastered many downtown theatres, invented the electric rabbit. The mechanical rabbit was used as a lure in dog racing.

It was needed by dog track operators to pace the greyhounds and the whippets. Mr. Hamilton’s invention was used extensively at tracks, not only in Columbus, but at Celtic Park in Long Island City, in Atlantic City, and in Florida. Although illegal, dog racing was permitted and openly advertised in Central Ohio in the 1920’s. Tracks were operated in Grove City and West Jefferson. The Columbus Whippet Racing Club ran Rosemore Track on E. Main Street.

In 1928, Melvyn Douglas, Edith King, and other actors of the Hartman Theatre Stock Company were photographed with greyhounds on the State House lawn. It was a double promotion of the dog racing and The Springboard, the opening play of the Hartman’s 1928 summer stock season.

The stepfather of Mr. Hamilton was Caleb W. Melluish, who moved to Columbus and set up his plastering shop at 48 W. Broad Street in 1886. The site of the shop would be razed two decades later to build the AIU Citadel (LeVeque Tower) and the Palace Theatre.

The plastering wasn’t just walls; it was decorative relief objects: cornices, figures, borders, filigreed grilling, paneling, and dome effects . The theatres that Melluish and company plastered were the Southern, the Majestic, the Dreamland, the State, and the James.

By this time the company employed many men and had moved to Vine Street and then to larger quarters on 181-183 W. Broad. Several banks, the Columbus Club, the Athletic Club, Seneca Hotel, Broad St. Presbyterian Church, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Ohio Archaeological Society Museum, all received the Melluish ornate touch.

I wonder if there were any scrollwork-plaster hounds and rabbits?

Christine Hayes

Charlotte Curtis, journalist

Charlotte Curtis learned her debating skills at the dinner table in Bexley. She was always expected by her parents to be a sharp observer of life and life’s issues. After graduating from Columbus School for Girls and then Vassar, Charlotte took a job at the Columbus Citizen.

For the demure-looking Charlotte, the cynicism and roughness of her colleagues on the paper was invigorating. She honed her writing skills as a reporter and as the society editor. She quickly changed the women’s page writing into incisive and often humorous coverage, sometimes to the dismay of her subjects.

I remember Charlotte as a friend of my parents both in Columbus and later when we would visit New York. She was always perfectly fashionable and the center of attention in the room. I imagined, as a gawky child, that I could never emulate her impeccable style. I was right.

Don Weaver, editor of the Citizen saw that Charlotte had great talent and gave her free reign. Her talent took her on to the New York Times in 1962, after eleven years at the Citizen. She stayed at the Times for twenty-five years, where she was to transform social reporting into social commentary. She was one of the few journalists who became as famous as the socialites about whom she was reporting. She was the first woman on the masthead of the Times as a senior editor.

Of course, the heady years of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s gave the writing its quirky flavor. Her now-famous coverage of the Truman Capote masked ball (1966) and the Leonard Bernstein-hosted fundraiser for the Black Panthers (1970) caused commentary and brouhaha, which Charlotte in true nonplused manner could not understand. She was just reporting the way she saw it.

Charlotte did get in deep with the women’s movement, as the struggles with the new term “Ms.,” was the tip of the iceberg as the new ways of thinking clashed with the old ways of reporting women’s issues. The launching of the op-ed page in 1970, a forum of public opinion that would appear opposite the paper’s editorial page, reflected the need for a new kind of news. Charlotte moved from the editorship of the family/style section to the editorship of the op-ed in 1974.

Harrison Salisbury, the prior editor, said of her: “She could capture a character in a few phrases….She had the quickest eye of any reporter I’ve seen. She was a walking encyclopedia of names, people, places.” Charlotte Curtis’s new position elevated her into being one of the most influential women in the country.

The flavor of the op-ed page went from being a forum for government types and “experts” to incorporating Charlotte’s wide knowledge of the nuances of culture and class systems. As her new position dictated, she attended the high-powered luncheons where publishers and editors met with top cultural, political, and literary figures.

Her job as editor freed her to write for other publications such as Harper’s and Rolling Stone. She also published a book of some of her articles called The Rich and Other Atrocities (Harper and Row, 1976).

Charlotte Curtis never neglected her home town of Columbus, returning often and keeping a condominium here. She and Les Wexner became friends and she approved of the direction he gave to Columbus. Charlotte Curtis died of cancer in 1987.

Christine Hayes

James Albert "Al" Jackson, feed merchant, developer

One fascinating Columbus businessman was James Albert “Al” Jackson, a successful feed merchant in the day when Columbus citizens kept small flocks of chickens in their backyards. He and his business partner, James E. Williams, built and opened the Empress Theater at 768 East Long Street in the 1920s. The building contained other businesses; a soda grill, a dance hall called the Crystal Slipper and a barber shop.

Mr. Williams passed away in 1921, with his wife, Ruby, taking over his business interests and becoming the active partner to Mr. Jackson. When a theater owner on Mount Vernon insisted on keeping Black customers out, Mr. Jackson said that he’d fix them, “I’ll build a theater better than any one in the United States.”

When the Ogden (Lincoln) Theater opened in 1928, there was none like it in the country. The whole interior took you back to Egypt with marble pillars carved and painted to look like Egyptian antiques. The two inch scarlet carpeting was plush and enveloped your feet when you walked on it. The stage curtains were made of golf velvet.

The Club Lincoln was where Sammy Stewart’s Orchestra opened, Thansgiving, 1928 and little Sammy Davis, Junior was four years old when he made his first impromptu appearance onstage. Another building was soon built for professional people and named for Jackson’s wife, Teresa.

Between Garfield and Hamilton were constructed apartments know as the Jackson-Logan Apartments, with his new partner, John Logan. He opened the Ritz Poolroom, where you could buy Erlenbusch Ice Cream.

There was great success that happened to the feedstore owner because he gave a part of himself back to the Columbus community.

Anna Bishop

Picnic With the Moms, Pops and Sweethearts

Picnicking used to be the prime source of weekend entertainment in Columbus. This was before the barbecue made its way into backyards. Also, this was before suburbia even existed. The city dweller or the tenement dweller wanted some open air, trees and water.

In early days, Columbus picnics were held south of town; maybe because the breweries were there. Picnic spots included Stewart’s Grove, Jaeger’s Orchard, and Maurer’s Meadow. The Maennerchor held picnics in the Gerhold-Lesquereux lawn, opposite the Clarmont, because that site was within wheelbarrow distance of Columbus Brewery.

Later, the names of picnic grounds included Lake Park, Minerva Park, Olentangy Park, Indianola Park, Glenmary Park, Hempy’s Grove, Edgewater Park, Columbiana Park, Catalpa Park, the Trees, Mac Park, Heimanndale Grove, Buckeye Park. Minerva and several other outlying parks were created expressly to increase the passenger load of streetcar and interurban lines.

Lake Park was an exception. Built by Jonathan Linton near the intersection of Frank Road and High Street, it could be reached by a canal boat that left the Main Street Wharf. A mule pulled the canal boat.

Columbus fishermen sometimes took a longer canal trip to Buckeye Lake; they stayed over at the Minthorn House. Worthington picnics were east of the village in Griswold’s Woods. Dublin had Aunt Lucy’s Thicket, and the picturesque gorge below Hayden Falls.

Newark was flanked by Idlewild Park and Black Hand Gorge. The Columbus-Zanesville interurban went to both, the cars cruising through a sandstone tunnel beneath the grove at the Gorge. Now you can walk the former canal and interurban paths at Black Hand Gorge. You could even take a picnic rather than stop at McDonald’s. There’s a giant picnic basket nearby – the Longaberger headquarters – to get you in the potato salad mood.

Moms and Pops and families would head for the curving slopes of the Big Walnut to parks, camps, and creeks. There was a day when parades went to Heimanndale (the site is now inside the city) just about every summer Saturday and Sunday. Marchers went down Parsons Avenue, swung eastward onto Groveport Park to the grove.

Taking the sweetheart to a picnic was touted in the sheet music of the day. If the prospective sweetheart fixed the picnic basket, it was a good test of her cooking skills for future reference. Can’t you just smell the fried chicken?

Bands, dancing, and later, orchestras, dance halls, theatrical productions, and amusement parks enticed the picnicker. Never was the weekend outing so sophisticated. But things could get wild on Independence Day. Two steam locomotives were permitted to crash head-on at Buckeye Park on July 4 in the 1890’s. The park was located between Columbus and Lancaster.

I was once allowed to stand in the cab of a steam locomotive as a small child. The flames of Hell rose before me in the tinderbox. The huge metal iron horse groaned and rumbled all around me. The engineer and my father laughed. It was a memorable experience; I wish they hadn’t destroyed most of them. An idle steam engine is not like a live one.

Christine Hayes

photo by Marion Richardson

Elvis in Columbus, May 1956

On May 25, 1956, the day before the show, the Ohio State Journal wrote "There are many seats still available for both performances of the Elvis Presley show which will be presented at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. this Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building. Tickets may be obtained at Heaton's Music Store until 5:30 p.m. the day of the show. After that the box office at the Vets Memorial will be opened.  In addition to singer Elvis Presley, the show will feature Jackie Little; the Blue Moon Boys; the Flaims; Frankie Connors and Phil Maraquin."

The Columbus Dispatch wrote, "Elvis Presley, a "cool cat" in a Kelly green coat and Navy blue trousers, sent the crowd at Veterans Memorial Saturday night.
 Long hair flying, he bumped and rolled through half a dozen numbers amidst piercing screams from a house three quarters full. The audience was teenagers with a heavy sprinkling of adults.

The 160-pound six-footer from Tupelo, Miss., drew screams each time he gesticulated, or contorted his lanky body. His mouth was moving, but you couldn't prove he was singing above the near hysterical din.
 BESIDES THE green coat and navy blue trousers, he wore a dark blue shirt, red socks, and blue suede shoes.

It is alleged he mouthed one ditty urging people not to step on the latter. 
A light wood guitar dangled from the loose-jointed twenty-one year old's neck. He picked at it now and then, but relied largely on a raucous three-man combo to provide the beat."

The Columbus Citizen's theater editor wrote a somewhat lenient, if not more favorable, review than just about any written on that tour when he wrote, "Mr. Elvis Presley, a young gentleman from Memphis. Tenn., presented a voice recital last night at the Veterans Memorial.  About 2000 music lovers attended the first performance. A somewhat smaller number of folk music devotees were present at the second. THE ARTIST was tastefully attired in a Bright green jacket, crimson socks, a tan guitar, and black shirt, trousers and shoes.

No tie. This was somewhat of a departure from normal concert attire, but we mustn't be stuffy about such things, must we? "

Presley's Technique Wows the Womenfolk

By Clyde D. Moore

Elvis Presley, the guitar twanging boy wonder from Memphis, did something or other in the Veterans Memorial Saturday night, we're not exactly. sure what. The ex-truck driver with the hog calling technique had a lot of young females screaming hysterically at every gesture and body quiver. And of quivers, there were many, both suggestive and vulgar.

MR. PRESLEY carries a guitar held by a thong around his neck. Whether or not he can-play-the guitar was never clearly demonstrated. He stroked it frantically a few times, but the surrounding clamor was so great that we can't even vouch for the fact that the guitar had strings. A three-piece combo supplied the music.

ATTIRED in a bilious green jacket, navy blue trousers, red hose and blue suede shoes, and with his sun tanned guitar chastely draped across his seldom quiet abdomen, the patron of "Heartbreak Hotel"' manipulated himself in a series of bumps and grinds such as are usually associated with burlesque queens. He also has a tricky left foot which he flings nervously hither and yon, possibly a hangover from pedal pushing days. ·

There were times when one had the impression that Mr. Presley had been seized by a kingsize attack at St. Vitus Dance. But it was this motion rather than his singing, for one seldom heard his voice above the din, which made the females wild. Ever hear 1500 girls scream?

Ben Cowell, entertainment promoter

Ben Cowell wanted to be a boxer so he went to see sports promoter Al Haft. But Al was only interested in professional wrestlers at the time, so he used Ben in preliminary wresting matches. Upstarts who weren’t pinned inside of three minutes got a dollar.

He worked odd jobs for the sports promoter, but in 1929 he took the fire department exam so that he would have a pension. The entertainment bug, though, had planted its teeth deep in Ben. While in the fire department, he took Chief Walter Strickfadden to Cincinnati where Roller Derby was being presented and Ben proposed that it would be a good fundraiser for the department’s widows and orphans fund.

Ben rented the Ohio State Fairgrounds Coliseum and for three days the event was a bust; very few showed up. Finally, on the fourth day every seat was filled and sell-out crowds continued through the week. Roller Derby was a huge success, despite the dismall beginning.

Through the years Ben Cowell brought the world of entertainment to Columbus and he built a solid reputation for honesty, integrity and dependability. Among the many spectacular productions presented by Ben Cowell year after year were Holiday on Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters, Disney on Parade, and of course, the International Roller Derby. Ben brought Liberace to Columbus for seventeen years, Nat Cole, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, Fred Waring, Benny Goodman, Ted Lewis and Ray Charles, as well as hundreds more.

Ben Cowell sold his business and retired in 1965. He harks back to a time when a promoter operated on a handshake and entertainers honored their word. Ninety percent of his bookings were handled without written contract, only a a handshake, a word and the required deposit was enough.

Phil Sheridan

Aminah Robinson, artist

"For me, art is not a job or a career," Columbus, artist Aminah Robinson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's a way of life. Always has been." Many artists live by a similar credo, but few have immersed themselves in art as intensely as Robinson, who is reported to rise at 4 a.m. to begin work and to continue working until midnight or beyond.

Aminah works in her Columbus home and a small backyard structure she calls the Doll House. It would be inaccurate to say that Robinson has a studio, for her home is a studio and sometimes a medium; she makes art from scraps of material that she finds or that people bring to her, from doors, walls, porch components, and even floors.

Yet her art has not focused primarily upon her own life. Rather, she is creatively rooted in a specific place, to a degree matched by few other artists. "My work and life are about Columbus, Ohio…the community, ancestors, and spirits," she says.

Her thousands of works are made from an astonishing assortment of materials including fabric, needlepoint, paint, ink, charcoal, plastic, metal, glass, clay, a huge miscellany of found objects, animal skins obtained from a Columbus slaughterhouse, and a concoction called hogmawg, that her father taught her to make from mud, pig grease, red clay, crushed brick, sticks, and glue. Many of them show scenes of Columbus life past and present, often focusing on Robinson's east-side neighborhood of Poindexter Village.

"I call it 'Journeys' because it is a sharing of the places I've been and of Columbus, which I never forget," Aminah says. "I feel blessed that other people are appreciative of what I do and put the pieces in private collections for the future, which is what the work is about."

Broad and High Streets, 1936

In 1936 the four corners of Broad and High Streets were a lively place. An informal group of night owls would gather at Mills Buffet. They dubbed themselves the Dawn Patrol. They were newspaper people, barflys, insomniacs, detectives.

On the northeast corner of Broad & High, the Apparel Arts Club existed on the third floor at Six East Broad. It was an after-hours bar run by two clothing salesmen. One Saturday night, the police raided the place, and took the bar’s proprietors to the station for booking. “They confiscated a few drinks, a couple girls screamed, and they stopped doing the Big Apple, which was a dance." I wrote a story on the raid which made page one of the Ohio State Journal. It was sensational; I named names. These clothing salesmen bought me a new suit and hat; they resumed business the following Wednesday night.’

And on the southwest corner, there was Pat Murnan. He was the most colorful person we ever had in Columbus. Maurice Patrick Murnan ran a gambling casino at 13 and 1/2 West Broad. On the door was a sign, Downtown Office of Graceland Stock Farm, a reference to Murnan’s thoroughbred farm, now the Graceland Shopping Center in Clintonville. Inside were low and shaded lights, roulette tables, crap tables and a dressy crowd.

Born in Columbus’ Sacred Heart Parish in 1865, Murnan was a boilermaker until he won an easy three hundred-fifty dollars at craps. He was tall, had pink skin, blue eyes, white hair, and suits made by an East Broad street tailor in the largest black-and-white check they could find. He would have a diamond in his dark necktie. He owned a gold-headed blackthorn cane. He wore a high black hat with no dents in the crown, the brim turned down in the front. He had big feet with shoes that turned up at the toe, but his fingers were the outstanding part of him. He would sit across the roulette table from me, and gesticulate to emphasize his honesty. When he laid those big Irish fingers down, they looked like five pink bananas.

Murnan was tolerated by the police, who would raid the place only a couple of times a year; then the gambling would move uptown for a month or so. When Murnan died May 12, 1937, the Journal ran his obituary on page one, when the article hailed his philanthropy and his stock farm. The gambling wasn’t mentioned until the continuation on page six.

Ben Hayes

At Broad & High there were also bonfires set after Ohio State football games; the flames reaching so high that they melted trolley wires and destroyed the traffic light, all of which had to be replaced on Sunday.

We need to mention the many theatres and hotels and banks in the vicinity, the State House, and of course the long-gone Roy’s Diamonds sign with its multitude of chasing lights, a wonder before the computer age came in to give us the swirling-in-color arches. The building-encompassing sign was over a restaurant that at one time was Benny Klein’s, which featured belly dancers.

The sign is difficult to describe, but I will try. These are yellow and white light bulbs, mind you. The waterfall began its sparkling cascade; then the two ROY’S went on, followed by DIAMONDS and WATCHES, then the sixteen-foot diamond. The words and the diamond blinked and went off, leaving only the waterfall. Then it all started again.

It was a wonder for a little girl standing on the pavement waiting on Broad & High for her parents to finish their drinks and conversation in Benny Klein’s.

Christine Hayes
Photos by Marion Richardson

Elijah Pierce, legendary woodcarver

On March 5, 1892, Elijah Pierce, the son of a slave, was born on a cotton farm in Baldwyn, Mississippi. He described his father as "a thoroughbred farmer who believed in growing his food." But Elijah wasn't born to work the fields: "My two brothers liked to farm, but I didn't. Guess I was peculiar. I didn't like to play with other boys. I liked the woods. I would go there with my dogs and my pocket knives."

His father gave him his first pocket knife early, and by the time he was seven, an uncle had instructed him in the best kinds of wood to use from what could be found on the forest floor and taught him how to carve simple little wooden farm animals. Pierce also recalled, "When I'd find a smooth-bark tree, I'd carve on it – Indians or an arrow and heart or a girl's name – whatever I thought of."

It was in Chicago that he met a young woman from Columbus, Cornelia Houeston, who made him reconsider the virtues of being footloose. "I said I'd never marry (again) ... but one day I told the man I worked for to find another barber, and I got on a train to Columbus."

"I never had a thousand dollars cash in my life till I found she saved it from what I gave her by the week (as a barber). Had it in teacups and pots and tied up in hankychiefs, and one day rolled it out on the bed and showed me."

During the '20s, Cornelia "saw a little elephant and liked it, so I carved her one like it for Christmas. She put it on a chain around her neck. I said, 'You like that thing that well, I'll carve you a zoo.' And I did. Then fellas would come in to the barber shop and say, 'Can you carve such and such a animal?' or some other thing, and I'd try that."

During the Depression, Elijah traveled around to fairs and exhibits and sold a few figures, but gave away most of them as "little souvenirs" for friends and customers, who, in turn, would bring him pieces of wood for carving material.

There were a few newspaper articles about him in the '40s, some by Citizen-Journal columnist Ben Hayes, who often shook his head sardonically at the irony of Elijah's practicing his art "only a block away" from the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, which was either unaware of or unheeding of the greatness so near it.

In 1970 or 1971, Pierce's carvings were entered in a Golden Age Hobby Show, sponsored by the now vanished Columbus Citizen-Journal, at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, a block away from Pierce's own stations at the cross, so to speak, and the red and white striped barber pole depicting his known profession.

Boris Gruenwald, a Yugoslavian graduate student in sculpture at The Ohio State University, saw them there or at a YMCA exhibition and said "this work had to be where people could see it," Pierce explained simply. "That was real nice of him." They became close, lifelong friends. Through Gruenwald's influence, an exhibit of Elijah's art was staged at OSU's Hopkins Hall in 1971. On posters outside, for the first time, he was labeled ELIJAH PIERCE, FOLK ARTIST.

His work was shown at the Bernard Danenberg Galleries and other elite venues in New York shortly after the University of Illinois exhibit, and then, in February, 1972, at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Critics hailed and hosannaed the talents of the newly found artist, Elijah Pierce, then eighty.

Finally, in November, 1972, Pierce's carvings and sculptures were exhibited at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. In 1973, Pierce won first prize at the International Meeting of Naïve Art in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and other great honors paved the way to his receiving a 1982 award from the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship as one of fifteen master traditional artists.

But in a conversation with a friend not long before his death on May 7, 1984, at the age of ninety-two, he laughed slyly. "You know, I'm famous now." The laughter grew in both. "If I'd a known this all those years ago, I woulda bought a bigger hat."

Photo by Kojo Kamau

Warm Backsides

The Civil War and the C. Emrich Stove Company of Columbus both began in 1861. The War is gone with the wind but my father, Ben Hayes, visited the stove company in 1957, when it was still going strong and “continuing to warm the soul as well as the backside.”

The “C” is for Christopher Emrich, the founder, an immigrant boy who became a molder’s apprentice at age twelve. Christopher was born in Germany in 1828, and arrived in Columbus in 1840, probably by canal boat. The company’s address was 127 West Fulton Street.

Iron kettles, ornamental urns, and other hollow ware were made by Emrich’s, but wood-and-coal-burning stoves eventually became the big product. Christopher built his own foundry after working twenty-one years for others. The company was run by succeeding generations of Emrichs. Employees stayed for fifty years and longer.

My father was given a tour of the premises by a fourth-generation Emrich. The shops and warehouses had changed little since the startup of the company. There was an old, worn sign of shop rules. They warned that shop employees should not become too boisterous. They were allowed two pints of beer each day. The first pint was to be imbibed at 9 a.m.; the other came in the afternoon. Emrich’s men did not travel far for their beverage; the brewery was next door.

They stood beside a Tall Hot Blast Air Tight Florence. It burnt coal and had a “lower abdomen of cherry red,” my father wrote. Other names of stoves were like those of automobiles: Cannon, Protection, Iron Sides, Report, Parlor Scout, Sapphire, Mystic Oak, Hocking Valley. Ben and Emrich went down some worn wooden steps to view a tiny parlor heater molded in flutes, scallops, and arches. It was named Rink No. Four and dated from 1868.

Dad was shown Ohio State Fair medals won by Emrich products. “Best Base Burner for soft coal 1883” and “Best Cooking Stoves for wood 1884.” Kitchen ranges grew bigger through the years and features added were mica windows, tea shelf, warming oven, reservoir.

The stoves were distributed to Nelsonville, Logan, and Circleville. Bet you can still find those stoves in use. So Columbus was not just known for its buggies and football. The very heart of Columbus warmed people heading out to the country.

Christine Hayes

Mame Thurber Make A Big Impression

James Thurber writes in the Thurber Album “Almost all my memories of the Champion Avenue house have as their focal point the lively figure of my mother.” He goes on to describe two incidents that live on in infamy.

The first was the visit of Aunt Mary, a woman who hated the two Thurber dogs, Judge and Sampson, an irritable old pug and a restless water spaniel, and Thurber says the dogs hated Aunt Mary too.

Thurber’s mother cajoled the old lady to come back to the house for a second time, and also cajoled her into feeding the dogs. What the old lady didn’t know was that Mame had gathered every dog in the neighborhood in the cellar of the Thurber home.

Thurber writes, “I thought we were going to keep all the dogs we rounded up. Such an adventure does not have to have logical point or purpose in the mind of a six-year-old, and I accepted as a remarkable and natural phenomenon my mother’s sudden assumption of the stature of Santa Claus.”

Aunt Mary opened the door to the cellar. “There was a snarling, barking, yelping swirl of yellow and white, black and tan, gray and brindle as the dogs tumbled into the kitchen, skidded on the linoleum, sent the food flying from the plate, and backed Aunt Mary into a corner.” The dogs ended up in every corner of the house, with Aunt Mary beating at them with a broom.

When the last dog had departed and the upset house had been put back in order, Mr. Thurber asked Mame if she was satisfied. She was.

Another incident, which also involved the boy James and a cousin of Mary’s, was a posture to buy a moldy old house belonging to a friend of the Thurbers. The disguised trio knocked on the door at night and confronted the man of the house. He did not
recognize them, and thought maybe he had a buyer, however eccentric.

Mame upped the price of the house and the furniture from the asking price. She swirled through the house and picked up a vase, as traveling clock, and few books. Later, she would have these things delivered back to the house, with the note, “From Mame Thurber, with love.”

“I felt that this twisted hour marked the occupation of my mind by a sense of confusion that has never left it,” wrote James Thurber.

Elsie Janis, Vaudeville Star, Singer, Actress, Composer

Elsie Janis was born in Marion County, March 16, 1889 and she took to the stage at aged two at Dr. Washington Gladden’s First Congregational Church at the northwest corner of Broad and Third.  By age eleven she was a headliner on the vaudeville circuit as Little Elsie. As she matured, she began perfecting not only her singing skills, but her comedic skills as well.

She was acclaimed by American and British critics, Janis was a headliner at Columbus’ Hartman Theater, Broadway and in London. On Broadway, she starred in a number of successful shows, including The Vanderbilt Cup (1906), The Hoyden (1907), The Slim Princess (1911), and The Century Girl (1916).

Janis was a tireless advocate for British and American soldiers fighting in World War I, doing what Bob Hope was to become famous for. She raised funds for Liberty Bonds. Janis also took her act on the road, entertaining troops stationed near the front lines, one of the first popular American artists to do so in a war fought on foreign soil. She wrote about her wartime experiences in The Big Show: My Six Months with the American Expeditionary Forces, published in 1919, and recreated them in a 1926 Vitaphone musical short, Behind the Lines. She made famous the song “It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary.”

Janis maintained her private home, ElJan, on the east side of High Street in Columbus, across the street from what was the Ohio State University's "Ohio Field", the precursor to Ohio Stadium. Janis came back many summers to rest from her hectic professional stage and travel schedules, to visit with relatives. Janis was always proud to be an Ohioan. She sold the house following her mother's death and a McDonald's now occupies the site of ElJan.

Elsie moved to the Los Angeles area of California where she lived until her death in 1956. She did several films for Selznick Pictures, including A Regular Girl (1919) for which she wrote the screenplay, co-wrote the title song, and acted. She joined a distinguished group of writers and publishers to become a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) founded by Victor Herbert in 1914. Janis enjoyed collaborations with some of the most important songwriters of her day including Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern.

Elsie Janis is one of the greatest performing arts talents from the Columbus area and one of the most popular stars of her day.

Paul Tyler and Lucy Depp Park

Paul Tyler, a Columbus South High School graduate born in 1908, was a well traveled saxophonist who played with a number of orchestras, Sammy Stewart, Captain Warmack’s Algerians, Thomas Howard’s Orchestra DeLuxe, the 25th Battallion Ohio Guard Military Band. He was an inspiration to Harry “Sweets” Edison and talked him into joining Earl Hood’s Orchestra when Sweets was a fourteen year old trumpeter.

Paul had lived on St. Clair Avenue and when I met him in 1980, he was residing in Lucy Depp Park, a residential community in Shawnee Hills, Delaware County. The land was originally an eight hundred-ninety acre parcel of land given to Columbus resident Joseph Sullivant by President James Monroe in 1817 for military service.

Sullivant’s son, Lucas, inherited the land and sold three hundred acres of it to a freed man from Virginia, Abram Depp, in 1835 for $1100.00. Depp settled on the land and established a freedom stop for runaway slaves.

A cave housed the fugitive slaves near the banks of the Scioto River on the original three hundred acre settlement, but the placement of the O’Shaughnessy Dam has obscured the site. The area became a retreat for wealthy Central Ohio Black families, of which Paul Tyler was one, and many of them built summer cottages on small lots.

Today, Lucy Depp Park houses permanant residences and across State Route 745, there is a small cemetery that has scattered graves indicating resting places of some of the original Depp settlers. Decendants of the Depp Family still live in the Dublin area and nearby Plain City.

Arnett Howard and Stewart Bernstein

The Lorena Sternwheeler, 1895

I’m hoping that this is the same Lorena Sternwheeler that is moored at Zane's Landing Park at the west end of Market Street in downtown Zanesville. The boat, offering excursions on the Muskingum River, was launched in 1895 and named for a famous Civil War love ballad written in 1857.

She can carry seventy-five passengers and is one hundred-four feet long, seventeen feet wide. The hull is sixty-nine feet and draws two and a half feet of water.  The Lorena weighs over fifty-nine tons and remarkably, is available for dinner cruises, birthday parties, anniversaries, lunch cruises, twilight cruises and charters. 

This Muskingum County treasure travels up the Historic Muskingum River Water Trail and offers a relaxed and pleasant ride through wide waters, passing scenic woodlands just the way our ancestors did. She has carried governors, Miss Americas, Anita Bryant, Pat Boone, and the Imperials.  Newspapers throughout the world write about the Lorena extensively.  Worldwide coverage came when the Lorena survived the "Blizzard of 1978.” The riverboat was within a quarter-inch of capsizing. 
Lorena was an antebellum song with Northern origins. Pastor Henry De Lafayette Webster of Zanesville, Ohio, was jilted by his sweetheart, Ella Blockson, after her family pressured her to break their engagement. The heartbroken clergyman wrote a long poem about Ella but changed her name to "Lorena," an adaptation of "Lenore" from Edgar Allan Poe's macabre poem, "The Raven."

Webster's friend, Joseph Philbrick Webster (no relation), wrote the music and the song was first published in Chicago in 1857. It became a favorite of Confederate soldiers; after the war many Southern women were named "Lorena."

The Belles of Sellsville

The Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers Combined Circuses toured small towns and large towns from Easter to Thanksgiving. The Sells brothers started in 1872. They continued until 1907, criss-crossing the country and competing with the Ringling Brothers, and Barnum and Bailey.

The Sells brothers, Peter, Ephraim, and Lewis, built it to house their circus, and had their homes nearby. Until the Ringlings established the now famous Sarasota winter quarters, most circuses wintered in the north, in the home towns of circus owners. So the location is a tribute to Northern ingenuity and showmanship.

Their winter home, Sellsville, sprawled westward from the Olentangy River in the King Avenue area of Grandview. There were living quarters, barns, corrals, sheds, rehearsal rings, and stockades. There was even the “Polka-Dot School” for the children of circus workers both black and white.

I have the 1898 Route Book, written by one Frank O. Miller. His photograph is in the gallery of the Editorial Staff, a callow youth billed as the Press Agent. He has elaborate descriptions in the front of the book, gets pithier, and then has nothing to say toward the end.

Forepaugh was a horse trader from Philadelphia, also known as Vorbach. He was the first to erect a second tent and call it a menagerie. He was also the first to paint an elephant white and call it the “Light of Asia.”

Here are some of the comments that made about the female member of the troupe;

Harper, Kansas, July 26, 1898. “The weather is beastly hot. Big business in afternoon, fair at night. The elephant, Topsy, created a little excitement, while placing cages in the menagerie after the parade. She was frightened by the appearance of a chicken under the side wall and came near to going on a rampage. Our Sunday dinner had a narrow escape.”

Seneca. Kansas, August 20,1898. “Very warm day. Big business. A peculiar accident happened last night while the trains were en route. The door of Car 38 became unfastened and Florence, the fine and costly California mare, fell out on the railroad right of way. Strange enough she was not injured the slightest and was brought to camp early this morning by Watchman Clark, looking none the worse for her singular experience.”

Here is his description of the performer Madame Yucca; “How many people can lift a horse? Madame Yucca can, moreover, she can suspend an elephant in the air, greatly to the astonishment and wonder of myriads of people.” Strangely, he adds, “The permanent address of Madame Yucca is N.Y. Clipper.”

The last Belle of Sellsville I’ll mention is never named except for “Major Ray’s wife.” But here is her description; “She is twenty-seven years of age, weighs thirty-eight pounds, and is thirty-seven inches high. She is a product of Illinois. When not on exhibition Major Ray and his wife enjoy the fruits of their labors on a two hundred acre Missouri farm, of which they are the proud possessors.” The photo shows that Major Ray and his wife match in size.

So, no winter quarters in Sellsville housed Madame Yucca or the minute Major Ray family. But I’ll bet Topsy and Florence spent time in Grandview.

Christine Hayes

Do You Remember?

Do you remember the old Columbus when Valley Dale was way out in the country? When Gambrinus was the beer your daddy drank? When 16 E. Broad Street was the city’s only skyscraper? When Cousin and Fearns had a High Street store with nostalgic hardware smell and you could buy nails right from the keg?

Do you remember when college coaches, after a defeat, called on the student body for more talent? How long has it been since Jimmy Rhodes held pie-eating contests in front of his High street restaurant opposite the Ohio State campus? And there arose like a noon-time sound like thunder as brewery workers pounded up the alley from Front St. Long tables had been set and at every place a bowl of hot soup steamed.

Crossword puzzles came along, then became so popular that a special puzzle was supplied with every dessert in a downtown Columbus restaurant. And people tied money in the corners of their handkerchiefs. When young men wore their pants up around their chests. When the Lazarus book shop was on the first floor.

Remember when a farmstead included both a smoke house and an ice house? When bananas were sold by the dozen? And there were oranges only at Christmas time? When you sent a piece of Grandma’s cake to an ailing neighbor, the plate came back loaded with other goodies. Remember turning the ice cream freezer?

Grandpa daily opened the back of his watch and wound it with a key. Cigar ashes were used for tooth powder. The work day was ten hours long and a pay check suffered no deductions. Cloud of dust rose from country schoolhouses as kids stood outdoors beating erasers together. And when you were through using the phone you rang off. Remember party lines?

When auto doors had pockets on them. Those were the days when it was said, “He’s making so much money he’s got pearl buttons on his shoes.” The country stores had boxes of old-fashion ginger snaps. And when Mother baked lemon crackers they had to cool. It was said that ammonia fumes rising from a hot lemon cracker was enough to kill a hungry tyke.

Do you harkback to those days?

Ben Hayes, journalist

Tuskegee Air Women

Black American women were denied the right to fly during World War Two because of their race. Mildred Carter's rejection letter from the Women's Airforce Service Pilots was cold, plainly stated and infuriating.

"It stated that I was not eligible due to my race. It left no doubt," says the diminutive and elegant Tuskegee-born woman with the brilliantly engaging eyes. "I didn't keep it. I didn't keep any of that stuff. I didn't want to look at it, to deal with it."

Mrs. Carter, then Mildred L. Hemmons, was among the first women to earn a pilot's license from Tuskegee Institute's civilian air training school. The school became legendary with the success of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

When the 477th Composite Group, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, came to Lockbourne Army Air Base in the spring of 1946, they brought with them women in uniform. Most of the women were assigned as weather observers and forecasters, cryptographers, radio operators, repairmen, sheet metal workers, parachute riggers, link trainer instructors, bombsight maintenance specialists, aerial photograph analysts and control tower operators. A few lucky Lockbourne WACs were assigned flying duties.

One of the outstanding features of Lockbourne was their band, 766th Air Corp Band and their touring show called Operation Happiness. Operation Happiness was a fun-packed and enjoyable show of dancing, comedy, magic acts, jazz, swing and symphonic music. The show featured WAC Evelyn Matthews, who sang “I’ll Close My Eyes”, accompanied by an airmen chorus.

She was followed by another chorus called the Skylanders and a dance group called the Lockettes. The show featured WAC Sgt. Verline Jones, who sang “Stormy Weather”, WAC Rebbeca Gilbert, who performed a top hat, white tie dance.

The Ohio State News, a Black community publication, said in its December 25, 1948 edition, “More than 2500 citizens of Columbus and Frankin County walked out of Memorial Hall Wednesday night gloriously happy as a result of Lockbourne Air Base’s presentation of Operation Happiness. It was a great present from the airmen to the people of our town.” The reviewer, George Lawrence, went on, “The only discouraging thing was the fact that everybody didn’t get to see this show; for the eighty-five airmen, including WAFs (Women in the Air Force) and enlisted men from Lockbourne put everything they had into Operation Happiness.” He was quoted that the show was to be presented only to airmen in the U.S. and abroad.

According to Willie Ruff, who also played in the orchestra, “Our line of chorus girls were a dozen strong, our comedians got laughs with clean material and our magician could charm the world. We were a road show and a damn good one.” It took a year to cover all of the air bases and Ruff says that “Operation Happiness was the best money the military ever put into public relations.”

After performing at a number of bases, the show was performed at a USAF World Wide Personnel Conference in Orlando, Florida. It was such a hit that installations thoughout the United States, Europe and the Far East requested its performance. Very shortly, the U.S. Air Force became the first of the miltary branches to fully integrate the services and the show ended.