Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Jai Lai Restaurant

The Jai Lai Restaurant began as a small café at 581 North High Street, corner of Poplar, just a few days before Prohibition ended in 1933. The restaurant moved to 1421 Olentangy River Road in 1955, which, in 1997, became the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café. In the beginning it was a saloon to sell whiskey and beer, legally, by the drink in front of its atmospheric bar brought northward from an old southside saloon. The beautiful wooden bar went to Little Brothers after the second Jai Lai closed. The High Street entrance was a recessed doorway. “Genuine Turtle Soup” was a sign that stood by the doorway, but it was just a come-on. Everyone was so excited by the repeal of Prohibition that no one cared about soup. Opposite the bar, with its stools, the café had a few tables and chairs. A strip of new linoleum ran down the floor like a highway of refinement. Jasper E. “Jap” Wottring had pulled off the opening of the new saloon by borrowing $1500. Previously, Wottring had a small saloon at 45 West Spruce Street, his partner in that endeavor was Fritz Wentzel, Flytown’s bare-knuckle fighter. The saloon was called “The Old Vienna Café.” Later, the Jai Lai became known for its beef stew for lunch, and its prime rib for dinner. Fancy décor ran to shawls, gourds, black ironwork, moose heads, aquariums, and stucco Spanish arches. The city’s arena for boxing, Haft’s Acre, was right behind the Jai Lai, so famous boxers of the day were known to frequent the Jai Lai’s booths, as well as visiting actors. Woody Hayes and Ben Hayes had certain nights at their special tables, never to overlap. Hired as a host was “Chappie” Geygan; he grew up in Sacred Heart Parish and played baseball for the major leagues. August Hefner, one of the professional waiters, would lecture in the parking lot on international politics. It was named the Jai Lai after the Jai Lai Club of New Orleans. Anyone who was anyone in Columbus wanted to be seen there. At one time Tom Scully was the inspector for the Columbus Police, and he was prone to say, “If I want a detective in the afternoon, all I have to do is dial that phone at the back end of the Jai Lai Bar.” Christine Hayes

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Streetcar Smoothness

On our recent visit to New Orleans, we had a mighty fine place to stay at the Hubbard Mansion, 3535 St. Charles Avenue. We enjoyed our rides on the St. Charles streetcar to the JazzFest, and savored the sound from our room of the streetcar passing by every five minutes. Here’s a Ben Hayes story about a Columbus streetcar: “On that Fourth of July, Ray Grant ran the interurban in from Grove City. Just as on any other day, proud to – because his father, Adam, had built the line. ‘Adam Grant’s Little Streetcar’ – people called it that. Ray Grant thought he would prove something. He had Charley White, the barber, shave him on the way into Columbus. Ray Grant stood at the controls, operating the car. White sat on a high stool, lathering and shaving Ray. So the Fourth was celebrated. Ray said, ‘We had the smoothest roadbed in Ohio – better than a Toonerville.’” Another story about a smooth operator: ”Ed Ruder was the conductor on a Columbus, Delaware, and Marion electric streetcar in 1925 when they stopped to pick up presidential candidate Frank Willis at Franklin Street in Delaware. Ed noticed that Willis had two different shoes on. When Ed mentioned this to Mr. Willis, he then asked Ed to bring him another pair of shoes on a return trip. Willis was waiting at the appointed spot to pick up the shoes.” Many people rode the CD & M streetcar in 1923 to President Warren G. Harding’s funeral. After the funeral, Ed Ruder was given the nickname “Sardine” for packing one hundred forty-three people into one streetcar. Conductor Ruder was still collecting fares in Prospect and by the time the car reached Delaware, he was out of change. “No doubt some people got all the way to Columbus without paying their fare,” he commented. Christine Hayes

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sarah Starling Sullivant, pioneer mother

Arriving in Franklinton in 1801 as the sixteen year old bride of Lucas Sullivant, Sarah Starling Sullivant faced a daunting life. As the sheltered daughter of a prosperous plantation owner in Kentucky, she was not acquainted with the harsh manual labor required by frontier living. Not one to complain, Sarah accomplished with her own hands much of the work she had always seen assigned to slaves. An attack of malarial fever in 1805 weakened her health so acutely that she no longer had the energy to attend to her tasks. In spite of poor health, however, she was a ministering spirit to all. When General William Henry Harrison made Franklinton his headquarters during the War of 1812, soldiers flocked to the settlement. Many of the Kentucky militiamen were old friends and relatives of Lucas and Sarah. The men were invited to camp in front of the Sullivant house, and Sarah provided food and nursed them when illness struck. It was toward the end of the war when typhus broke out in the camp. As Sarah nursed its victims she contracted the disease and died on April 28. She was only thirty-three and left behind four small children, William Starling, Michael Lucas, Joseph, and a little girl, Sarah Anne, who died the following month. Arthur Boke was adopted and raised by the Sullivants. Arthur, who was born in 1803 to a slave woman belonging to the Sullivant family in Franklinton. Arthur’s mother abandoned him at birth. Sarah Sullivant had compassion on this helpless baby and nursed him along with her son William. Sarah named the baby Arthur Boke after one of Lucas‘s white military friends who happened to be passing through Ohio in 1803 about the time of Arthur‘s birth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rahsaan Roland Ronnie Kirk, multi-instrumentalist

Rahsaan Roland Ronnie Kirk was born August 7, 1936 in an area of Columbus called Flytown and grew to be a world renowned musician, specializing in reed instruments. Sightless from birth, he played tenor saxophone, flute, stritch, manzello, nose flute and he thought about music constantly, banging, plucking and blowing on anything that would make a sound from age five. He is the subject of a book entitled Bright Moments, by John Kruth and I have read the book twice, enjoying a new picture of the book upon each reading. Ronnie was his first name, but in a dream he envisioned himself being called Rahsaan. His playmates were musicians; Hank Marr, Gene Walker and Bruce Woode. Here is an excerpt from the book; “One of the first people to open me to music when I was about three or four years old was a gentleman in my family named Elijah Broderick. He played a beautiful piano, very original to me at the time. It still sounds original in my ear today. I associate it with the stride way of piano playing. His left hand was very dominant. He didn’t listen to Fats Waller or anyone. It was what you would call a natural gig. He played his stuff on the black keys. Now, that’s not to say he was hung up on “blacknuss.” It was just something that happened. One Saturday morning when I was about five or six years old, we came back from this rummage sale and my mother gave me this paper bag. I could feel this object in it. I took it out and it was an old, beat up bugle. She said she paid fifty cent for it. The next Sunday, after I got the bugle, my uncle came down and started playing the piano and I went and got the bugle. I don’t remember what we were playing but whatever it was, it really left an impression on me.” Rahsaan became a multi-instrumentalist, acquiring the ability to play the tenor saxophone, stritch and manzello but to play them at the same time. He began playing two horns at aged seventeen in the Boyd Moore Band and advanced his playing with Bruce Woode and the Chips. Although he was thought as a novelty, he was to develop his technique, “ I hope when the era comes that people are playing two and three horns, they point back to me,” says Rahsaan. I have a film of the 1972 Montreux Jazz Festival, when Rahsaan is at his peak with his reed playing. Or should I say reed playing and cacophony. In an hour Rahsaan raised to his lips and blew tenor sax, stritch, a siren-like whistle, clarinet, flute, nose flute, pitch pipe, manzello and a shell. Close by he employed a foot cymbal and a gong. Chaos ruled the stage. I saw Rahsaan on three ocassions and I regret not seeing him a fourth, when he appeared in Columbus for two weeks at a nightclub, the Apple Tree. I first saw a speaking engagement at the Ohio State University Student Union, a performance at the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival and after he had a stroke, I saw him at Gilly’s Nightclub in Dayton. Rahsaan was likely the greatest musician who played three instruments. And he lived a lifetime in forty-one years, dying on December 4, 1977. Arnett Howard

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grandview Bank Block

The Bank Block in Grandview, which includes 1255-1203 Grandview Avenue, was built in 1928 by Don M. Casto. It was the first strip-center with off-street parking ever built. It was called the Bank Block because its anchor tenant was the First Citizens Trust, later known as the Ohio National Bank. It was also referred to, at the time, as the “Grandview Community Shopping Center.” Other first tenants included Kroger (1928-1950), Piggly Wiggly (1928-1934), and the A&P Tea Company (1928-1938). For the opening Grandview Avenue was widened and new streetlights were installed. The opening celebration included a parade, a street fair, children’s games and live music. In 1932, Scott Knell purchased the property from Casto. After Knell’s death, it went into a trust, which was later turned over to the Cadiz Methodist Church. The block fell into disrepair. By 1976 only two retail stores remained, a hardware store and an office supply store. Much of the space was used as storage. Grandview officials discussed tearing the block down, as the owners were not willing to keep the property up. Enter the Wagenbrenner brothers, Tom, Tad, and Mike. They saved the crumbling walls from the wrecker’s ball, in 1976. The brothers had the vision of restaurants and specialty stores, aided by a marketing study conducted by OSU. They found their anchor tenant in Hubert Seifert, who opened the Gourmet Market (today Seifert is owner of Spagio.) It took fifteen years for the block to get back to its original bustling identity. In 1998, the Bank Block was accepted for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, for its 70th anniversary. The original plan for thirty shops and parking for four hundred cars was restored. Casto, of course, moved on to build his Town and Country Shopping Center in Whitehall, but the Bank Block preceded the opening of that by twenty years. Christine Hayes

Monday, May 14, 2012

George Bellows, A Painter, 1882-1925, part one

George Bellows’ parents came from Sag Harbor, down on the end of Long Island, New York. Bellows’ father, who came to Ohio in 1850 by canal boat, was known as “Honest John" and he was a contractor. He built the Franklin County Courthouse. The Bellows family lived on Rich Street and George had the great American boyhood. The real love of his youth was baseball, in the day when baseball was the national sport. He was a hero in his neighborhood and he seriously considered turning professional, which would have been the end of him as a painter. Bellows painted a lot of sports scenes but not a single baseball picture, perhaps because the game is too spread out, except for the group at the plate. He was brought up on the Near East Side of Columbus, now known as Downtown, in those days a haven of tranquility, with a double row of elms the length of Broad Street. George never got along with his old man; what does a man in his sixties have to say to a teenaged boy? He did what he wanted and his mother saw to that. He was a great “Hey Ma” boy and he kidded her a lot. She was a strong-minded woman and George married a strong-minded woman. When Bellows went to the Ohio State University, it really was a college in a cornfield. Everybody knew everybody and sports were everything, which they still are. But he was too much the artist to be satisfied at the university. He became a leading cartoonist for the college yearbook and to this day, the walls of the Beta House are lined with Bellows’ drawings of football heros and prom queens. George Bellows stayed at the Ohio State University until his senior year, then left for New York. His mother wanted her boy to do whatever he wanted and he did. Mahonri Sharp Young Former director of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1973

1898 Sells Brothers Side Show Band

The 1898 Side Show Band of the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Combined Circuses included Solomon White, leader and cornet, James White, clarinet, George “Smut” Smith, cornet, Thomas May, cornet, Bill Johnson, alto horn, James Hall, baritone horn, Bill Jones, trombone, Bill May, tuba, Arthur Clark, snare drum and Bill Bell, bass drum. Arnett Howard

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gwen Kagey, School of Dance and Life

Gwen Hammat Kagey was born in Kentucky to an opera-singer mother and a dentist/horse-trainer father. She did not walk until she was four, but then she had dance therapy and never stopped dancing. She spent her early years in Columbus and studied ballet with Jorg Fasting, the Norwegian ballet master formerly of the Ballet Russe. (Fasting founded the Capital City Ballet and lived in German Village) Gwen then moved with her family to Cuba for her teen-age years, where she developed a lifetime interest in Latin and African dance. She returned to Columbus and enrolled at the Ohio State University for a year. At nineteen she went to New York and studied with Jose Greco, the great Flamenco master. She also performed at Radio City Music Hall. On a return visit to Columbus, Gwen met and then later married Barton C. Kagey, who sold OSU jewelry and then later was vice-president of Standard Brands. Gwen then opened her dance studio in Columbus. The first was downtown, on South High next to Foerster’s Restaurant. In 1951, she founded the Sans Souci Dancers, a troupe that specialized in Haitian ceremonial and tribal dances. She taught, in addition, tap, ballet, modern, Flamenco, and Hawaiian dance. Recitals in the early days were on the Central High School stage. (Christine performed there in the early 50’s – a Hawaiian number and a ballet, within a child-class group, on the cavernous stage and under the whitewashed Emerson Burkhart mural.) Other dance studios were at 144 East State Street and in the Kingsdale Shopping Center. She taught five hundred students a week, including Miss America 1972, Laurie Lea Schaefer and Beverly D’Angelo, the film star. After thirty years of marriage, Gwen’s husband died. This did not slow her down. She went back to OSU and got her degree in Theatre in 1975. She taught in the Humanities College at OSU in Hispanic and African and African-American studies. In the summers, she traveled and studied and taught dance in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Russia. She spoke several languages. She began teaching in senior centers and proved to many elderly ladies and gentlemen that they could move beautifully. She endowed a scholarship to the Ohio State University for undergraduate or graduate level in the Department of African-American or African Studies, to attend conferences, workshops, study abroad programs or other activities. I thank Gwen Kagey for my early childhood dance instruction and for all she did for central Ohio in dance and ethnic studies. Christine Hayes

Archie "Stomp" Gordon, pianist, killa' dilla'

“Whomp, bebop, boom, bam! I’m a killa’ dilla’, yes I am.” Archie “Stomp” Gordon announced himself to the world before he was even out of South High School. When he was thirteen, growing up on Barthman Avenue on Columbus’ tough Southside, he organized a group of teenagers into a little band. Drummer Jimmy Rogers told me that he didn’t have a set of drums at that age, but Marty Mellman did and they would ride the bus down Parsons Avenue to practice at Stomp’s home. Rusty Bryant was eleven and wanted to be in the band too, so Stomp told him to find a saxophone and he could join. Rusty said that within one week of getting his horn, he was gigging. Stomp got his moniker because during those rehearsals he would crank up the piano seat, kick off his shoes and socks and spend enough time plunking at the keyboard with his toes that he could pick out melodies to popular songs. Witnesses who followed Stomp around Columbus in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, said that the show was high energy, raucous and sexy. When Stomp hit the road, he played from coast to coast, Atlanta to Los Angeles, Virginia to Alaska. It was a little over three years later, Sunday, January 19, 1958, that Stomp was found dead in a doorway on Madison Avenue in New York City and he was interred in Columbus’ Greenlawn cemetery. Stomp recorded extensively from 1952 to 1956. Stomp Gordon, a killa’ dilla’ indeed. Arnett Howard