by Steve Laird
I was born Dec. 9, 1943 at 704 Mt. Hope Road. We lived in a 5 family apartment building; my great aunt, Emma Brannigan, owned the building.
The back yard overlooked the city and the view of the river and of KY. When walking in the back yard when the sun was rising, sparkles were everywhere on the dew from the sun. Looking towards Ky was beautiful. The green of the hills in the summer and the white of snow in the winter. Mt. Adams church steeples caught the sun, Carew Tower and the sun catching the reflection on the water of the Ohio River, St. Michaels in Lower Price Hill and the buildings and homes there.
In the spring of the year the river would rise up to flood stage. In the early 50’s the Avalon Steam boat got caught between 2 Bridges, Southern Ohio and B & O Bridge. It passed one bridge and before it could pass the second the river rose so fast the stacks were too high to fit under the bridge. It turned around and did not make it back thru the first bridge. It sat on the Ky. Side of the river for days before the river level lowered enough to pass. The Avalon is now the Belle of Louisville.
Looking down into Lower Price Hill when the river was up hurt my heart. People were getting out of buildings on rowboats, trying to get personal items out and not damaged. St. Michaels and Oyler School playgrounds were underwater. Flooding happened every spring but some years were worse than others and this is when the homes were in jeopardy.
In the summer we could see the lights from Crosley Field and the fireworks at Coney Island. We could see fires in the city and my mother would have us pray for the firemen each time. The fall brought a painters palate of reds, gold, green, yellow, orange then brown and bare. Nature’s firework display.
Sounds of the birds in the trees blending with the sounds of the trains and barges, whistles, clanging, traffic horns, and motor sounds, all wafting up to my eagles nest. The sound of rocks we threw, hitting Maryland Avenue. The sound of the calliopes going up and down the river were my favorite. WWII bomber planes flying over in groups of 40 or 50 in formation; this was loud and scary. WWII was over but there were planes going many places. Sounds would echo off the hills and make a cacophony experience, like an orchestra tuning up. The most amazing thing was how the snow would muffle all of this. It created a holy, hushed silence. It felt like church.
The fragrance of Lilacs from the bush in the back yard. The sweet scent of the fruit trees, pear and peach with a promise of wonders to come. The Honeysuckle bushes that circled the side yard, and scented the whole area. Our neighbors had a garden of flowers that spread smiles and peace to our hearts when walking home and up the long winding drive way to our house. There were some bad smells too, coming from Mill Creek and Queen City Barrel. Not all the time, I was young and my dad told me what it was. The neighbor with the flower garden also had a chicken coop which was odorific from time to time. Heat had a lot to do with bad smells.
Climbing a peach or pear tree and tasting the juicy flesh of the fruit. There were neighbors who had grape vines and we could ask to pick them when they were ripe, and eat them off the vine. Collecting empty pop bottles and cashing them in for penny candy at Harmeyer’s Grocery or Kidwell’s Grocery. Pulling the stamen out of the Honeysuckle flowers and catching the drops of nectar on our tongues. These memories are tangible as if it were yesterday.
The feel of the sun, the rain and the snow on my face. Sitting on the edge of the yard, running my hands over the grass, the fuzzy feel of peaches, the rough skin of the pears. The feeling of stickers when reaching in to pick up the pop bottle that someone threw away under a sticker bush. The feel of fear and wind in my face when we swung on a vine that grew at the top of the hill.
All these experiences gave me a feeling of security and of belonging. Coming from Price Hill, a loving family and 4 siblings, who completed the rest of my nest, created the person I am today. I wish I had been in touch with my intuition back then, as I would have more memories, and much more appreciation of the wonderful childhood I experienced in Price Hill. There is a reason folks who are raised in Price Hill have such a connection to place. I was 13 and we moved to Delhi. I understand the migration mentality of the Appalachian people who go visit home. I would always look up and look at the house as I drove across 6th Street Viaduct, remembering “Home”. It was demolished on the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, 1988. I looked up and it was gone. There is a new private home where our neighbors were, but our lot remains empty. I hope the residents take the time to look out and see the miraculous view they have today, different from the past but a stunning example of how amazing our city really is. After a storm many times a rainbow would appear from Clifton to Kentucky. We are blessed and the rainbows will continue.
Photo Credit: Kathryn Trauth Taylor