Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just My Luck!

I have a new-found friend, Bryan Phillips, who has a facebook page on Cincinnati's East End, Columbia-Tusculum and Linwood. If you have an interest in this old Cincinnati neighborhood, his site is a gold mine.  Since meeting him I've been able to have a few lunches with other "old" East Enders who have helped me get a better understanding of the neighborhood that defined four generations of my family.

People from the neighborhood are constantly sending Bryan pictures and information for his page.  Bryan knows I have a wish list:
  • Locating a picture of my great-grandfather's house on Gladstone.
  • Any pictures on Eastern Avenue (Riverside Drive) from the 2200-2500 block.
  • Pictures of the old homes on the street that now is Columbia Parkway.
  • A picture of the house on the riverbank behind St. Rose Church.
Today he struck gold!  A follower of his page, Gary Sunday, made five more 1937 flood pictures available for the site. A short time later, I got a phone call from Bryan. He knew this picture would get me going.

1937 Flood - Pictured is Highland School
My grandparent's home is to the far right with the chimney in view.
Photo Credit:  Gary Sunday and Bryan Phillips

When I first saw the picture, I thought the house was the building just behind the telephone pole.  My brother, however, recognized an unmistakable pattern in the brick work of the chimney. I still remember being shown the "line" about four inches below the ceiling that marked the crest of the flood.  Paint could never completely cover it. Other pictures that we've seen of the flood show water levels that are not nearly as high.

Gary had some other priceless pictures in his collection.

St. Rose Church and School
My Joneses lived on the river bank BEHIND this church in the 1870s.

At the  height of the flood, the city was no longer able to pump water to the residents.
This building is now surrounded by an unattractive wall 3' higher than the high water level of the '37 flood.
From Torrence Rd. looking west on Eastern Ave.

Looking west with St. Rose steeple on the far left.  All of the houses no longer exist.

There are a few more pictures on my "wish list". Why do I feel so hopeful?  It takes a community.
Thanks Bryan and Gary.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dad and the River

Dad and his canoe
It's hard to believe, but my Dad, John Thomas Jones, died 34 years ago.  He was only 57 years old.  So I write this at such a disadvantage.

Ramp from behind school to river

We know Dad LOVED the river.  After all, from the time he was nine years old, he lived in a house directly across the street from the river.  It was in full view.  The property for his school, Highlands Elementary, backed up all of the way to the bank of the river. In fact, a couple of decades ago his former school housed an "Inland Waterways" vocational program for high school students who learned the skills necessary to work on the river on barges, tows, etc.  They trained on a barge called the Marilyn McFarland that was moored just behind the school. Every graduate had a job waiting.

Tow and barge from behind St. Rose Church with northern Kentucky in the background
It's hard to imagine the river he knew as a child.  The river is so different today. One of the main differences is that the river pool stage is double what it was then.  During the summer, the river often became too shallow to support navigation.  I remember Dad taking us down to look at a "wicket dam" just before it was to be removed.  (I checked -- the last wicket dam was removed in 1963.  I was in the 8th Grade). Two new dams were opened, Meldahl and Markland, effectively creating a 95 mile navigational reservoir with a much deeper pool stage.

I also remember that Dad was completely intrigued with the river when it flooded.  I still remember being terrified when we drove down to the river's edge to check out a flood.  I was absolutely convinced that the emergency brake on the car would not hold and that we were going to be swept away in the rushing water.

When Dad was a boy, the river was his playground.  He used to talk about taking his canoe out into the river and riding the "rollers" churned up by the passing steamboats and tugboats.  Based on the previous post, I can just imagine that he was afforded a lot of opportunity to do this because of the multiple trips made back and forth to Coney Island each day during the summer.

Dad's canoe was a casualty of becoming a "family man."  When he and Mom were married, he sold his canoe in order to enable her to buy a sewing machine.  Despite his new priorities, his love for the river was not diminished -- just postponed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Island Queen and Coney Island

If you were a "Baby Boomer" in Cincinnati and white (I was shocked to find out that African-Americans were kept from the park until the '60s) you went to Coney Island.  It was THE amusement park in this area.  It was located on the banks of the Ohio River, had a nice picnic grove, amusement rides, a man-made lake, and a HUGE swimming pool.  It was the place to go, and our family went once every summer with our Ryan cousins.  Little did I know that not only our parents, but also our grandparents, probably participated in this tradition.

My uncle, Tony Scardina, is pictured eating watermelon in the picnic grove area of Coney Island.
  He later married Margaret Ann Jones, my Dad's sister.
Photo Credit:  East End, Columbia-Tusculum, Linwood Facebook page

Coney Island has an interesting history.  You can read about it by clicking on this link. There were a few facts that really surprised me.  Get it's earliest start as a picnic area in 1886, the land had been purchased by two steamboat captains.  As part of their business model, guests were transported to the park by steamboat.  As the park continued to make a variety of improvements, the first Island Queen steamboat was built at a cost of $80,000 and began transporting passengers in 1896.  The boat could transport 3000 passengers at a time. Unfortunately, the original Island Queen was destroyed by fire moored in Cincinnati when fire spread from another steamboat moored along side her.

Two other steamboats were temporarily placed in service while a new Island Queen was built. This boat, built at a cost of between $300,000 and $400,000.  It was christened in 1925 and served until 1947.  It was on this boat that my parents met. From the picture below, you can see how often the boat was scheduled to make the trip a few miles upriver.

Photo Credit:  Don Prout/
Permission to share on blog requested.

From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Note the "lighthouse" at the entrance near the top of the ramp.

This second Island Queen has a place in the memory of almost every resident of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky between 1925 -1947. Unfortunately, like the first Island Queen, this steamboat also burned.  According to the website, the fire started when a welder's torch was lit near the oil storage tanks.

The Island Queen burning in 1947 in Pittsburgh.
From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

A piece of Cincinnati history, and the personal history of my parents, was lost forever in that fire. Little did they know at the time the role another steamboat, the Delta Queen would play in our Jones family history.

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Wiki:
Coney Island Central:
White, John H., 1933-. The Island Queen : Cincinnati's excursion steamer / John H. White and Robert J. White. 1st ed. Akron, Ohio : University of Akron Press, 1995.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How Mom and Dad Met

Virginia Ryan and Johnny Jones courting
Setting the Scene: World War II has ended, the "boys" are home, and there is a pent-up demand for finding a husband and starting a family.  My mother used to say that during her prime dating years, the only guys available were married or classified IV-F (men deemed physically, mentally or morally unfit to serve).

So how to find a husband -- Being a "good, Catholic girl" it seemed logical to try to meet men at the Newman Center.  The Newman Center was designed to serve the needs of Catholic students attending non-Catholic Universities. The University of Cincinnati had a vibrant chapter headed by Bob Kroner. Coincidentally, Bob grew up in the East End and was a friend of my father.

One of the popular activities of the time was to take a riverboat ride to Coney Island on the Island Queen.  The boat had a great ballroom and it only cost 25 cents to ride from Cincinnati to Coney, a few miles upriver.

Credit: The Island Queen, Cincinnati's Excursion Steamer, by John and Robert White

The U.C. Newman Club decided to sponsor a dance on the Island Queen. Bob Kroner was President of the Newman Club. He and Dad were great friends and neighbors and Dad tagged along with Bob on a regular basis. Never mind that Dad was neither a U.C. student nor Catholic. Given my family history, it seems only appropriate that my parents would meet on a boat, on the Ohio River, that literally passed by the Jones home on its way upriver to Coney.  Perfect!!!

Well, they must have made an impression on each other because within a couple of years they were married and well on their way to becoming parents of what would become a very large family. Serendipitous? Fate? You tell me.