Home Blog

A Piece of North Avondale History Gets a Modern Update

4040 Beechwood Avenue

On this tree-lined street of large, early 20th century homes, this brick beauty looks right at home. What you can’t see from the street is this restored masterpiece’s past life. Originally built in 1918 for Adolph Dryer, owner of the Standard Printing Ink Company, it had been vacant for more than a year when current owners Ronicha and Brian Larouche came along. Luckily, they saw a diamond in the rough. “I remember standing in the driveway, peering through the dining room window, seeing the floor to ceiling wood paneling,” Ronicha says. “Structurally, the house was perfect. Cosmetically, we had our hands full.”

The living room ceiling needed repair, most of that wood paneling Ronicha noticed had buckled with temperature changes, there was no air-conditioning, the original light fixtures had been removed, and the original windows would not close. Still, their goal was to maintain the original character of the home and make updates as needed. With 19 rooms and roughly 6,000-square-feet to update and rehab, the Larouches had quite a project on their hands. “We feel like we rescued this house,” Ronicha says. “We have tried to keep the original integrity of the home intact while giving it modern conveniences to make it comfortable.”

And that comfort is obvious throughout the five-bedroom, four-bath home. The front door opens to a wide central hall. To the left is a formal dining room with access to the kitchen through a butler’s pantry; to the right is a formal living room that connects to the solarium, which features floral wallpaper, a large Rookwood fireplace with an inset scene of trees along a lake shore, and arched windows with a set of doors that opens up to the back patio.

In the kitchen, a working brick fireplace warms up the sleek black-and-white space. Industrial-style pendants illuminate the center island that’s also home to the sink and a dishwasher. Stainless appliances like the six-burner stove and massive fridge signal that this kitchen is ready for entertaining (as does the breakfast nook). A walk-in pantry with drawers and cabinets provides more storage by stealing space from an oversized coat closet.

The main stairs are visible from the front door, but there’s also a back stair, accessible from the kitchen. The second-floor landing features built-in bookcases and with the windows in the staircase, offers plenty of light and space for a reading nook. The master bedroom has a fireplace, and a sleek glass-enclosed shower with dual showerheads as well as a heated towel rack. Also on the second floor, we’re dreaming of naps in the screened-in sleeping porch. And up on the third floor is every kid’s dream space—a clubhouse of sorts. Think windows surrounding the room, built-in seating, and cozy corners for gaming, homework, or just hanging out.

Outside, there’s plenty of potential with a flat backyard, a detached garage (which, according to the original owner’s grandson, features a ceiling-mounted contraption for washing the family’s cars), and a basketball court-sized driveway. The Larouches found a lot to love in this neighborhood, where they’ve lived for 12 years. “We chose this area for many reasons,” Ronicha says. “No two homes are alike. The tree-lined, gas-lit streets are lined with sidewalks, perfect for our children and dogs.” Let’s hope this home’s next family loves it as much as the Larouches.

Click through our gallery to view more photo of this home:

Whimsical ScareCoronas Ease COVID-19 Concerns in Northside

The idea for Northside’s ScareCoronas came to resident Tina Gutierrez in the middle of the night; she had been feeling the loneliness born from COVID-19-induced quarantine and was thinking of ways to ease the “bad feelings” she was experiencing. As an artist, she turned to what (and who) she knows best. She called neighbor and friend Rene Micheo at three in the morning with an idea: “art for Everyone, with a capital E.” Though at the time, they could not have imagined the spread that these charming do-it-yourself Scarecrow-adaptations would have, they knew they needed a project.

The ScareCoronas, dubbed by Micheo, are created from household objects in order to “scare away the virus.” Erected in yards, porches, and even in miniature for apartment widows and balconies, some are scarier than others, many are goofy, and all are whimsical. What started as a two-person team soon expanded to include Regina Kuhn, who Gutierrez says is the “glue” of the operation. She developed the Google Maps and Google Earth tracking functions on the ScareCoronas website that provide virtual tours of the community art installations. Kuhn also developed a downloadable scavenger hunt, allowing for families to safely get out of the house and get to know their neighbors through the art they have created.

The ScareCoronas team has worked what Gutierrez calls “a full-time job and a half” while developing and managing this project, but they are seeing the pay-off: Micheo has been contacted by communities across the country, and even across the pond, who are participating.  ScareCoronas are popping up in Colorado, Las Vegas, and the United Kingdom, all while continuing to grow in Northside and surrounding Cincinnati neighborhoods.

Though still in the works, Micheo, Kuhn, and Gutierrez are developing a ScareCoronas contest. But, as Gutierrez says, they didn’t want it to be competitive, as they want to continue encouraging people to “make art for art’s sake.” The contest allows each ScareCoronas participant a vote toward selecting their favorite charity organization, who will then receive a donation from the Northside Community Fund. Gutierrez says this way all participants, from the professional artists to the children and families who made a ScareCorona, will be “honored equally for getting out there and doing something.”

Created by neighbors for neighbors, the connection between Gutierrez and Micheo is clearly reflected in the work they do. Micheo says of his long-time friend, “her work always has a muscle behind it and she creates things that encompass a lot of people; the reach is there to stay even once the event is over.”

Click through our gallery to view more photos of Northside’s ScareCoronas:

Curtis Sittenfeld’s New Novel Reimagines Hillary Clinton

The new novel by New York Times bestselling author and Cincinnati native Curtis Sittenfeld, Rodham, imagines what would have happened if Hillary Rodham hadn’t married Bill Clinton. Sittenfeld discusses how her Cincinnati connections helped her gain insight into the world of politics and campaigning and how the pandemic has impacted her writing habits.

What inspired you to write Rodham?

There were two sources of inspiration that blended. First, in early 2016, an editor at Esquire asked if I’d like to write a short story from the perspective of Hillary Clinton accepting the Democratic nomination for president. I’d previously declined invitations to write essays about Hillary, because I didn’t think I had anything to add to the analysis of her that’s been underway for almost 30 years. I wasn’t interested in examining what the American people think of Hillary. But, to my surprise, I was very interested in examining what Hillary thinks of the American people.

The second factor was a dawning realization that grade school kids in 2016 knew Hillary was running for president but didn’t necessarily know that Bill Clinton existed, let alone that he was a former president with all sorts of political baggage attached to him. I began wondering how the election might have played out differently if adults also viewed Hillary as independent from Bill.

Did your brother, Cincinnati City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, help you get some of the finer points of what happens on the campaign trail?

I texted P.G. many, many times during the three years I was writing to ask him big and small questions. For instance: If a senator attended a fancy political/cultural forum or festival in 1996-ish, which staff would go along? His response: Could be their government chief of staff or a younger traveling aide, or it could be a fund-raiser from their political operation—the person who whispers in your ear, That’s Mrs. Jones, billionaire oil heir, etc.

You’ve done some campaigning for Kate Schroder, who will face off against Rep. Steve Chabot in November for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. Did writing Rodham change your view of campaigning or what female candidates face?

Doing research for Rodham helped me see patterns in female candidates’ experiences rather than viewing certain moments or stories as isolated or singular. For instance, in Rebecca Traister’s book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, she points out that female candidates are often shown in photos with their mouths open, as if they’re yelling. Or there’s a widely reported story about Hillary once being told to cover her cleavage on the Senate floor, but according to Amy Klobuchar’s memoir The Senator Next Door, almost all female senators have been chided in this way. I could give about 100 other examples, but instead I’ll take this moment to say, Isn’t Kate Schroder great? I initially became aware of her because people think we look alike, but all my narcissism aside, I’m impressed by her intelligence and commitment. And she’s a public health expert to boot!

Rodham feels like it’s in conversation with GenX women who came of age in the early 1990s and remember Anita Hill and the 60 Minutes interview with the Clintons and the “baking cookies” remark that Hillary Clinton made, but weren’t quite old enough to completely know what to think. Did writing the book make you return to these moments and really think about them, given what you know now?

I was a junior in high school when Bill Clinton announced he was running for president, and a senior when he took office. So the Clintons have been in the public eye for my entire adult life, and certainly my views on them as individuals and as a couple have changed over time more than once. In addition to being fascinated by politics, I’m also fascinated by the passage of time and how that’s a kind of plot point in all our lives whether or not we want it to be.

What has life been like for you during this pandemic? Are you writing another book right now?

I’ve heard a lot of writers say it turns out they’ve been unwittingly social distancing for years, and I fall into this camp. Of course, it’s really different to hide out at home and try to work when it’s a choice versus when it’s mandated or encouraged as a way to reduce deaths in a pandemic. Like many people, I feel some combination of grateful to be with my family, anxious, and stir-crazy. I’ve been writing essays more than fiction and getting distracted more than writing anything, but I always eventually return to fiction.

How will you connect, or how are you already connecting, with readers without being able to go on a book tour?

Through social media, of which Twitter is my preferred method, and then my publisher is organizing virtual events—conversations I’ll have with other writers, an online book club, that sort of thing. In fact, I’ll be doing a book event with P.G. at the Mercantile Library on June 2 at 7 p.m.

Boomtown Chef Starts a YouTube Channel with Quarantine Recipes and Takeout Reviews

After three days of offering carryout-only service at Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey at the beginning of the COVID-19 closure mandates, its co-owner and executive chef, Christian Gill, knew it was time to temporarily close the restaurant. But plenty of his industry peers had decided to remain open, often with a limited menu and limited hours, for takeout or delivery—and he wanted to help.

Enter Feast Mode 513, Gill’s new YouTube channel. It started as a collection of takeout reviews of restaurants he thought Cincinnati needed to know about, including Nation Kitchen & Bar, Boomtown’s Pendleton neighbor. “They’ve been killing it,” Gill says. “It’s not a large crew working in there, just two or three people [making] burgers, tacos, barbecue—accessible comfort food.”

Over the last few months, though, Gill has seen his restaurant friends and colleagues around the country posting how-to cooking demos for pandemic recipes, and they’ve encouraged him to post some, too.

Which is how Feast Mode segment “Shit in the Fridge” was born, where he makes a simple recipe using staple ingredients viewers are to likely have on-hand. One recipe, Struggle Ramen, has a base of your favorite pack o’ noodles, the stuff Gill says he lived on during college (and sometimes, College Gill didn’t even bother to cook the ramen. Mmm, crunchy). Struggleburger Helper is a fresher take of the Hamburger Helper from his youth. “You can take pretty much the same amount of time to make Struggle Burger Helper, and it’s easy,” he says.

Gill and his Feast Mode partner, David Carrero, shoot “Shit in the Fridge” on Mondays and visit a trio of restaurants on Tuesdays, where they focus on the food and the safety measures implemented in the kitchen. They spend the remainder of the week shooting voiceovers and editing video.

“When we set up in my apartment, we mask up until I have to talk,” Gill says. “[Carrero is] at a more than 6-foot distance. I sterilize my apartment on a daily basis. When we go into restaurants…there’s no interaction with any of the chefs or any of the staff.”

Boomtown opened again for carryout on May 19 with a limited menu and hours. To assure everything works as a to-go option, Gill says, he doesn’t assemble the finished dish, like the Yukon breakfast sandwich: The restaurant will pack up the biscuit, fried chicken, gravy, cheese, and bacon separately so customers can build it at home. He even switched up the biscuit recipe.

“Instead of the delicate layers of a light and hearty biscuit, we have a crispy exterior hiding a fluffy, buttery interior,” Gill wrote on Boomtown’s Facebook page. “The classic Boomtown Biscuit took a lot more heart, soul, and muscle to keep up with the demand. The Drop Biscuit is the same recipe, just a different execution.”

Though the restaurant is reopening, Gill and Carrero will continue with Feast Mode 513, which got about 10,000 total views between YouTube and Facebook during its first month, Gill says.

“[By supporting local restaurants,] you feel better about being in quarantine, and you’re contributing to the community,” he says.

In 1968, Jimmy Page and the Yardbirds Played at St. Xavier’s Prom

0

By all accounts St. Xavier High School was a pretty buttoned-up place in the late 1960s: an all-male student body with a coat-and-tie dress code, daily Mass (confession optional), and a special Jesuit brand of detention called J.U.G., or Justice Under God (still in place today; ditto for the all-male thing). The chief rule enforcer back then was Patrick J. Boyle, S.J., the school’s assistant principal and unofficial dean of discipline, legendary for incidents like sending boys home mid-day for a haircut if their locks even grazed the tops of their shirt collars.

At the very same time, out in the world-at-large, the times they were a-changin’, as the song lyrics sort of go. Between war, devastating assassinations, increasingly violent protests, political theater, and even the world’s first manned lunar orbit, 1968 in particular would end up being one of the most pivotal and tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. High school and college students nationwide had begun advocating vehemently for a freer, less restrictive, and more open society; in the process they’d also managed to usher in a new era of rock music that aptly reflected the times (sex, drugs, et al). Such was the cultural landscape when St. X’s class of 1968 entered its senior year and a new principal, Father Ed Smith, arrived on campus for—among many other things—his first meetings with the student council.

One of the group’s first orders of business: planning the prom. For as long as anyone could remember, it had been a seniors-only event, separate from the junior prom and usually held at a place like the Music Hall ballroom or the Vernon Manor Inn, with young men and women in formal attire, a sedate local dance band, and Jesuit chaperones. That year, though, someone decided it was time to change things up, and convinced the two classes to combine their proms; if they did, they were promised, a nationally known rock band could play at the event.

Some say the plan was hatched by a fearless junior named Rip Pelley, with an almost inexplicable connection to music industry insiders. Some say the rock band idea was a proverbial olive branch offered by Father Smith, who’d requested the combination prom in an effort to save money, or because he’d done it that way at his previous school. Either way, what came next is the stuff of legend: The Yardbirds ended up playing the 1968 St. Xavier High School Junior-Senior prom. Lead guitarist? Rolling Stone magazine’s third-greatest guitarist of all time, Jimmy Page.


HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN

Combining the proms was not an idea St. X seniors initially appreciated. In fact, says then–senior class president Pete Ruehlmann, student council members knew many of their senior classmates wouldn’t be interested in sharing their “special night.” Ultimately, the class of 1968 voted and approved the change by a narrow margin; a big part of the incentive for those on the fence, says former student body vice president Tom Keefe, was that concept of “a nationally recognized name band. What genre? Rock and roll, absolutely. How big? Someone that, if you turned on WSAI, it was gonna be a band on the radio.” But who that band would be or how an all-boys Catholic high school in Cincinnati was going to get hold of them, no one really knew. Enter Rip Pelley.

RIP PELLEY, ’69
I was president of the junior student council. I was [also] a guitar player in a music group locally called Uncle Sam’s Population; we were far from the best group in town, but we weren’t that bad. But I actually had an agent, Stan Hertzman, who used to book me into these small, little $100-a-night gigs.

TOM KEEFE, ’68 student body vice president
Once the decision was made that [the prom] was gonna go combo, it was almost a jumping-off point [for] Rip Pelley, this junior. I knew Rip; many of us did. Rip had this unbelievable connection for a 16- or 17-year-old with the music industry.

PELLEY
All I was told was, “Go get the information, and we’ll vote on it.” I called [Stan] up and I said I need to book a big band, and he gave me the name of an agency in New York. So I called that agent and I said, “Give me a list of groups that might be available to play our prom and what their prices might look like.”

KEEFE
As strange as [it] might sound, there was a process he went through. My sense is that he would report back [to student council]: I tried this one and it isn’t gonna work or The money isn’t right, or whatever.

PELLEY
Long story short, we settled on the Grass Roots. The [Jesuit] prefect [for student council] heard the music—I think “Midnight Confessions” and a couple other hits; they were conservative enough that the priest was OK with it. But one of the rules was that I also had to get a bubble band—an orchestra, [like on] The Lawrence Welk Show [with] the bubbles, right?—to play in between the two 45-minute sets that the rock band was going to play. It just so happened the girl I was dating at the time, Patti Purdy, her father had an orchestra. You gotta get in with the family, right? [Laughs.] So he got the nod. They were a good, well-known group around town, performed all over Cincinnati and the region.

PATTI PURDY CHARLES, ’69 Regina High School
My dad had been playing music forever; I think we were his first prom. [His orchestra] was, I don’t know, six people, maybe five. My dad played clarinet and saxophone; there was a drummer and probably a keyboard player. They played what we would call grown-up music at the time—jazz and covers of people’s work. Rip probably thought my dad would be easy on the price, and I’m sure he was. And they knew each other. Not well, but they did know each other; we had been dating for a while.

PELLEY
The contracts were signed. Everything was great and fine and wonderful until I got a call from the agent in New York. It might’ve been like a month or two [before prom], and he said that something came up with the Grass Roots. I can’t remember if it was an illness or a scheduling conflict—whatever. All I remember is, I was looking up the phone number to Moeller High School to see if I could get in. So he said to me, “Well, I got a substitute that I think you’re gonna like: the Yardbirds.” And I said, “Yeah, but it’s gotta be the same price.” He said, “You got it. It’s the same price.”

DAN TEMMING, ’69
You have to understand: Rebellion hadn’t really crept into the dialogue yet, but they were not your standard British Invasion–type band, like The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits—groups you used to hum along to on the radio when their songs were played. The Yardbirds were a far more edgy band, based in blues and rhythm and blues. They had had some top 40 hits. The difference for me and some other guys—we kinda knew the bloodline that this band had in terms of guitar players. They started out with Top Topham, then he left and Eric Clapton joined the band until they got their first hit. Then Jeff Beck came along and played on most of their other top 40 hits, and then he left. By that time they’re an international band and Jimmy Page, who basically was a session musician in London, hooked up with them.

PELLEY
So, knees knocking, I had to go back in and present this to the student council and the prefect. And it was kind of mixed. Some guys were like, Who? The prefect made me walk with him through the hallways asking people what they thought about the Yardbirds.

PAUL NELSON, former St. Xavier Director of Development and student council adviser
The principal, Father [Smith], and dean of discipline, Father Boyle were pretty law-and-order oriented. I suspect both of them knew as much about the Yardbirds as I did—not a thing.

PELLEY
But we were out of time, right? So I just kinda said, “Look, this is a really good group from England. And the guitar player is great, and blah, blah, blah.” However it got worked out, whether it was my art of the deal or whatever it was, we went with ’em.

NELSON
There was really quite a great deal of trust put in student judgment. Not that [administrators] didn’t check and verify, [but] they were really trusting the students wanted to do something good.

KEVIN “CASEY” McKEOWN, ’69
Rip sold the whole deal to the student council. I always said Rip could sell a snowball to an Eskimo; he was very persuasive.

CHARLES
He could do anything for his age. He was pretty remarkable.

KEEFE
Rip really was a unique player in this entire process. He knew the right guy, who knew the right [band]. It was Rip working his connections. And daggonit, we went from a concept to: Rip Pelley got the Yardbirds!


THE DAY OF THE PROM

The Yardbirds’ lineup since December 1966 had been Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, and Jimmy Page. “Incessant touring,” wrote The Yardbirds author Alan Clayson, was a way of life for the band as they began their eighth U.S. tour in March 1968, playing at everything from Alabama’s International Speedway Fairgrounds to coliseums and college campuses (they also allegedly visited one other high school that year, in Connecticut, for a “senior class concert,” per Clayson’s book). The night before the St. X prom, they taped a performance in Cleveland for a national TV show called Upbeat.

Here in Cincinnati, Pelley had secured a special location for the prom performance: the brand new $10 million Convention Center, which had just opened in 1967. “With St. X students from all over town,” says Pelley, “I thought it was a good centralized location.”

There is no written budget from the event, but between the convention center, the orchestra, and the Yardbirds (who former student council members estimate cost somewhere between $2,000 and $2,800), “we had, like, $2 left over for programs,” says prom emcee Joe Albanese. The event was a major expense, considering St. X tuition back then was $300 per year. Whether it was funded by ticket sales, the school, or some combination of the two, no one fully remembers, but the prom’s price tag definitely raised a few eyebrows, says Paul Nelson, who notes some in the St. X community felt “that money could probably be spent in some better way.” Either way, the prom was settled and things were sailing along smoothly again until Pelley got another phone call just days before the dance, this time from the Yardbirds’ publicist.

PELLEY
I got a call from the Epic Records promotion person in Cincinnati at the time, Julie Godsey. She said to me, “I’ve gotta go out of town, can you do me a favor and pick the band up at the airport?” I’m like, You gotta be kidding me, right? I had a ’67 Mustang that could fit all of three people. So [on prom day] I got Casey McKeown and his girlfriend Diane Smith [now Bossee] in his car and me in my car headed over to CVG to pick up this group. And this had to be 2 or 3 in the afternoon, just hours before the gig.

CHARLES
Rip was excited, so I was excited, too. He thought it was like the best thing in the world to have to put them in his car.

PELLEY
Being the guitar player, I took Jimmy Page; he threw his guitar in the trunk of my car and hopped in to the back seat. Here I am in my tux, my gal friend Patti in her formal dress, and he got in the back seat and said, “Why are you dressed like that?” I said, “You’re playing our prom.” He goes, “What’s a prom?” He might’ve used a little more colorful language. He says, “You gotta be kidding me.” But he was really friendly. We all went to the hotel, wherever they were staying downtown, and they had us come up to the room. They were very nice. I don’t think any of us thought we would end up in a hotel room with the world-famous Yardbirds.

CHARLES
Jimmy Page was a little confounded by our clothing, like, “What are you guys dressed up for? And where are we going?” We were all pretty quiet. He had a very heavy accent—they all did. We did take them to their hotel, and that was kinda weird. I thought it was a little strange for a girl to be in their hotel room, but it was fine. I cannot remember if Diane was there or not. She may have been. I hope she was.

PELLEY
Diane was there. There were a whole bunch of people, five or six of us. We didn’t stay for long.

McKEOWN
I was 16 years old, and I was just starstruck. Those guys were my idols. The girl I was with, Diane, was a looker, so they made [the autographs] out to her—From the Yardbirds, to Diane—and then they each individually signed [my prom program].


THE PROM

No one remembers how the band actually got to the convention center, but they arrived on time and ready to play. Awaiting them were a UC engineering student named Myles Kitchen and other members of local band The Crooked Mile, who’d been hired to do the lighting; a dance floor that some prom-goers swore was actually plywood on top of carpet; and a space that had been decorated by prom committee members and their moms the afternoon before, says committee member Steve Doepker, with trees scattered throughout the room, to fit the evening’s Scarborough Fair theme (in reference to Simon & Garfunkel’s hit song). The Dick Purdy Orchestra and the Yardbirds alternated playing; sometime in between, parents helped crown the prom king and queen.

There is no known surviving set list from that night, and Kitchen’s attempts at creating a bootleg tape of the Yardbirds’ performance were thwarted by the band. But the group played some of their biggest hits, wrote student Tom VonderBrink, ’69, in a letter years later: “Smokestack Lightning”; “Over, Under, Sideways, Down”; and an early version of “Dazed and Confused,” a song Page later played with Led Zeppelin. Photos also show Page playing his guitar with a violin bow at the event—a unique method he employed during his time with Led Zeppelin as well.

JOE ALBANESE, ’68 Master of Ceremonies/Prom Emcee
I guess I was the so-called ringleader. I went up there and said hello—I think Dick Purdy played first. I didn’t have anything prepared to say, so I was just winging it. And when the orchestra took a break, that’s when I probably went backstage and asked the boys if they were ready. I met the band backstage and, as you might imagine, they were flying pretty high. I didn’t take a urinalysis or anything like that, but each of them had a giant paper Pepsi cup filled to the brim with scotch and ice.

DOEPKER
During the evening, I had to go retrieve [chaperone] Father Garvey over in the dressing room for the Yardbirds. I forget what I had to talk to him about, but I went into the room and all the Yardbirds were in there. They had their own bar set up and my eyes got about as big as saucers. They had every drink available to them, whereas we were sipping soft drinks, naturally. I thought, Man, they must have had all this written into their contract.

ALBANESE
I couldn’t understand a word they were saying because of their British accents. The lead singer was really an attractive guy and had this real thick bowl haircut; he was short so I kind of identified with him. And Jimmy Page was sitting down; he’s really tall, and real long hair, and he mumbled a couple of things—honest to God, I don’t know what he said. Anyway, I kind of said, “OK, well, you’re on!” So I went out and introduced the Yardbirds.

KITCHEN
We didn’t see them until they actually came out on stage. They certainly looked different. They had long hair [and] I remember one of them was wearing a very—I call it a puffy shirt, if you recall the Seinfeld episode about the puffy shirt. It had kind of billowing sleeves and was real loosely fit and interesting. They each dressed to their own style.

CHARLES
Everybody [at the prom] had on a formal dress or, for guys, a tux. I wore a long pink dress; I didn’t wear formals every day, so it was pretty exciting to me. Although, when you compare it to what the Yardbirds wore, it was a little overdone. They looked like you thought a British band would look. They were dressed like . . . yardbirds.

TEMMING
The thing I remember most is people just stood there and watched. They’re not a dance band, number one. But number two, you have to understand there was a wide demographic at St. Xavier High School at that time; a lot of the people, particularly probably the seniors, weren’t ready for the type of music and the volume that they were gonna play.

CHARLES
We didn’t really dance so much as stand around and look at ’em. Their music wasn’t all that danceable. But I thought it was exciting.

KEEFE
It did have a concert feel to it in the sense that some of the songs were very difficult to dance to: Is this a fast dance? Is this a slow dance? Is this a stand-and-watch? There were probably those kinds of evaluations taking place throughout the event.

DOEPKER
Everybody just wanted to see ’em, you know? I think at that time we probably knew maybe half the songs that were popular—the other half were songs we really didn’t know. And if I remember correctly, I think they did a lot of jamming, too.

TEMMING
Most of the dates were shocked at the type of music, I guess, and the volume. That would be the best way to put it. Nobody walked out or anything, but just as a general reaction a lot of us thought, Wow, this is really, really loud—not your typical prom music. Which is the reaction I would have expected.

MIKE WHITE, ’68 prom committee chairman; prom court
They were loud, I do remember that. Blowing it down. Well, they had a bunch of Fender stacks; you get a Fender stack, crank it up to about 80—you could blow the back windows out of a place.

KITCHEN
I was surprised they were using Fender Showman amps—those were the biggest, most powerful, loudest amps of that time. It was very loud. Of course, being a guitar player, I was really interested in [Jimmy Page’s] guitar, his second iteration of customizing [his Fender Telecaster]. It was a white guitar originally, and he stripped it down to bare wood. At first he just put some mirrors on the pick guard; he played it that way in ’67. In ’68, probably not long before this tour, he decided to change it and he stripped it, painted it. It’s got, like, red and green flames; it was kind of an abstract, almost like a dragon, combining with fire. I was awestruck at seeing one of my guitar heroes right there in front of me. Quite an experience.

TEMMING
They were on a stage that was just—you step up one step off the floor and you were on the stage. It’s not like going to a concert hall and watching them; you could almost reach out and touch ’em.

TOM SCHEPER, ’68 prom king
What I remember in my mind is Jimmy Page going crazy and playing like he’s on fire; that was kind of a summary of how that performance went—very upbeat, very exciting, loud, something we hadn’t seen before in person. Certainly a lot more enthused than many other proms, where it’s kind of background music playing. This certainly wasn’t that. A great atmosphere. It really was.

TEMMING
It was a hell of a show, I just have to say. After 45 minutes [in the second set], they were gone—no encores. They got done playing and they left, and that was that.

PELLEY
I think I was more like an expectant mother, running around panicked—gotta make sure they showed up, and they were on time, and everything was cool, and no broken amplifiers or microphones. And same thing with the orchestra. I got my girlfriend’s father playing and I got the Yardbirds playing and, you know, my neck was in a lasso if it failed. [Thankfully] it came off great.

ALBANESE
Not everybody was a Yardbirds fan or not everybody was into ’60s rock and roll, which is perfectly fine. When they got done, I guess half the crowd was relieved and the other half was totally blown away.

WHITE
My dad, Allan White, was news director at WCPO for years and years; I was surprised [he] didn’t send somebody over and it didn’t make the news. [When I told him], “The Yardbirds are coming!” he goes, “That’s the silliest name for a band I’ve ever heard.”

KEEFE
As unique a situation as it was for us—a combined prom, a national band—for them it had to be equally unique. We’d gone to proms before. I’m guessing the Yardbirds never went to a prom before and never went to a prom after.

ALBANESE
I know I had a date. I guess I didn’t pay much attention to my date. Oh, well. You can’t win ’em all.


THE AFTERMATH

In the May issue of the school’s monthly Prep Magazine, a St. Xavier student noted two English teachers had their classes write essays on whether or not they liked the prom. “Out of virtually one hundred papers,” he wrote, “only five or six expressed dissatisfaction”; of those, the complaints included that the Yardbirds were “too fast,” “too loud,” and that their songs were “off-color,” writes the author, “meaning, I suppose, that there were references to kissing and holding hands in them. I, too,” he adds, sarcastically, “was embarrassed by these outrageous references to basic love.”

One other student editorial published after the prom notes that the money spent on the event could have paid eight students’ tuitions and “completely failed to convey the atmosphere one would expect at a formal dance.” But in a response published in Prep Magazine, Steve Doepker wrote that the prom was “designed to break tradition” and “had all the markings of being the best X ever had. . . . My opinion,” he adds, “also seems to be the general consensus on this subject.”

PELLEY
It was a tale of two cities, you know? Some people just thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, and other people thought it was not what they envisioned a prom should be. But I think, overall, for the most part, they thought it was successful.

ALBANESE
[The reaction to prom] was split. A lot of folks who love rock and roll thought it was the coolest thing in the world. The folks who really weren’t big rock and roll fans? They just kinda shrugged it off.

KEEFE
I think a lot of people really wanted to be able to go to that prom—it was a big deal. What it was gonna be, no one was really sure. But the fact [is], it was gonna be different.

RUEHLMANN
If you had asked people to vote afterward, it would have been near unanimous that it was worth giving up our “special night.” I can remember these guys saying, “We waited three years for this special night.” It turned out to be a special night probably more so than any of us envisioned on the front end.

CHARLES
I think what was remarkable to me is that Rip was able to get them, and if it hadn’t been the Yardbirds it would have been someone else who was touring. It’s part of being with Rip. He makes things happen.

WHITE
Unbeknownst to us, it wasn’t six weeks or two months later that that particular lineup broke up. And then in July of that year, Page put together that little band called Led Zeppelin.

PELLEY
[Our prom] was certainly precedent-setting for that day and age. In hindsight, who knew Jimmy Page was gonna go on and be the number three guitar player ever? So that’s like beyond, beyond an honor. If the Yardbirds would have just faded away and Jimmy Page would have just faded away, it might not have been as big of an event as the fact that you look back and you go, Hey! Led Zeppelin’s guitar player played our prom!

McKEOWN
I didn’t know who Jimmy Page was at the time. Looking back, that’s kind of an earth-shattering event to say, “Yeah, we had rock and roll hall of famers play our prom.”

ALBANESE
For those of us who lived and died by the rock and roll LP, Jimmy Page playing at our prom and then going on to achieve this stratospheric stardom with Led Zeppelin . . . I’m going, Why bother telling anybody? They’re not gonna believe you anyway. So it’s just kinda like our little secret.

TEMMING
I used to tell my kids Jimmy Page played my high school prom and they said, “Oh, that’s bullcrap.” I had a book on the Yardbirds and in the back of the book was a list of all the concert dates they ever did. And the April 1968 date is listed in there.

SCHEPER
Do you know Ken Broo? He was a TV sportscaster who also had a radio show. A couple years ago I was riding home from work, and he said [on air]: “I just got a call from a guy who said the Yardbirds played at their senior prom. I don’t know what that guy’s drinking.” Like, Sure, there’s no way they got the Yardbirds to play at their prom. And, you know, [he] just kept making fun of it. So I hope he reads this article.

KITCHEN
[Eventually] the Yardbirds reformed. In 2007, [they came] through Santa Cruz, to Moe’s Alley, which is a blues club. I said, “I’ve gotta go!” So I went, and it was loud. Again. [Laughs.] Two originals were still with the band. Afterward, they were selling T-shirts and CDs. I said, “Hey guys, you played a high school prom in Cincinnati—do you remember?” They acted like they did; they remembered it being in a convention center downtown and they thought it was odd that it was a high school prom.

KEEFE
I think as the years have gone on, the story becomes perhaps even larger than the event itself.

WHITE
The greatest prom you’ve never heard of.

Special thanks to St. Xavier archivists Karl Hauck and Nick Kemper, who assisted extensively with research for this story, and to Andy Sweeney, who facilitated those connections.

How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Local Real Estate Market

The real estate industry has long been considered recession-proof (at least recession-resistant). But is it pandemic-proof? And how is Cincinnati’s specific property market fairing in a time of economic interruptions, travel bans, and quarantines? We talked to two long-practicing local real estate agents, Maryann Ries of The Ries Team of Coldwell Banker West Shell and Chris Secaur of Keller Williams Advisors, to get a front-lines account of buying and selling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What was the most immediate change you noticed in our real estate market following the shutdown?

Maryann Ries: There’s a bigger shortage in inventory than there ever has been. In other words, prices are up, days on the market are down. And sales are down, which means that there’s not enough product.

We’re seeing that people who want to move are postponing their decision, withholding the inventory from the market. And that is causing more demand. Prices have increased over last year, and days on the market have declined.

Chris Secaur: I was holding off listings because I wanted to see what would happen with the market. We started putting them on about a month ago. And every one has sold very quickly. Inventory is low and the buyer demand is still there. So that creates urgency. I had a unit downtown that sold in mid-May for well over list in less than a day with five offers.

What impact do those trends have on the market?

RiesThe average sold price in Cincinnati, year-to-date, is 109 percent. It’s really good for sellers; it makes it a little more challenging for buyers. But the truth of the matter is the greater Cincinnati market is much more stable than some other markets.

Something that I always tell people about Cincinnati is that we have a disproportionate number of Fortune 50 companies that have a presence here. We have Fifth Third, Kroger, GE Aviation, Procter & Gamble. The depth and breadth of our corporate presence does tend to stabilize the market. It makes our highs lower and our lows higher. It makes our market a little flatter than other markets. For example, in Colorado Springs, whatever the US Airforce is doing, that’s going to affect their market.

Another thing that has happened this year, compared to other years, is that interest rates are so low that it’s making property more affordable for people who want to buy real estate, and also for people who want to move up.

How has your buying and selling process changed?

Ries: We have hand sanitizer, we have the owners open every door and cabinet when possible so people don’t have to touch anything. We practice social distancing.

SecaurIn the beginning you had buyers who were afraid to go out and look at things. We had to get creative and do virtual walk-throughs. That’s not so much the norm now; people are getting out and moving around.

As much as you can predict, what can Cincinnati home buyers and sellers expect for the rest of the year?

Ries: We believe our traditional spring market, which is our biggest quarter of the year, will be moving to the fall, when people are moving around again. That is our hope. Because traditionally real estate is what brings us out of an economic downturn.

What needs to happen to get us there?

SecaurMore people need to put their houses on the market, and not be afraid to do so.

Four Scenic Drives That You Can Enjoy From the Comfort of Your Car

“Going for a drive” nearly became a retro relic, an activity from the days when most houses didn’t have air conditioning and the only fix for a hot day was an open passenger window and a high-speed breeze. But now that we’re all stuck together indoors, the idea of a drive for its own sake—in the comfort and relative safety of the family car—sounds pretty good.

So pack up the kids (give ’em headphones and an audio book if necessary), cue up a playlist, and head out to one of these destinations. Each of these destinations clocks in at under an hour’s drive one-way, but most establishments aren’t open for bathroom breaks, so plan accordingly. Then turn around and head home. Happy trails!

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, Union, Kentucky

So named because its salt and sulphur springs drew herds of Ice Age mammoths, Big Bone Lick State Park is worth the drive alone for the bison viewing. Yep, there’s a herd of real-live bison, the last of which were seen in the Kentucky wild around 1800 (before they were hunted to near-extinction). According to Kentucky State Parks, bison are prehistoric superstars, being “the largest land mammal in North America and our only living mammalian link to the Ice Age.” Now they roam en masse around the park’s shady woods.
The museums and historic sites are closed to the public until further notice, but open areas and trails are up for grabs. Visit the park’s COVID-19 site for updates on closures and operating hours.

Miami University and Oxford, Ohio

Once you exit the highway for US Route 27 (which, by the way, you could take all the way down to Miami, Florida, some day), you’ll find yourself traveling along miles of cute Ohio farm country. Cruise onto Miami University‘s campus, which is known for its idyllic red brick buildings and bell towers, and then park along the quaint High Street business district in Oxford’s “Uptown.”

The campus and town are compact and walkable, with plenty of shade trees and iconic views. And carryout Bagel & Deli is always a good idea. Paralyzed by all the cheeky choices? Get the Miami Bagel, a sweet li’l snack of cream cheese and cinnamon on a blueberry bagel.

New Richmond, Ohio

This teeny historic river town was an important stop along the Underground Railroad, and is peppered with relevant sites (look for the historic markers outside each building), along with a tidy paved river walk and handy gazebo for socially-distanced lounging. Continue just five more minutes down the Ohio Scenic River Byway to see the Ulysses S. Grant Birthplace in Point Pleasant.

Tour the Town

Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have dozens of different neighborhoods worth seeing, from Mariemont over to Westwood, Covington up to Indian Hill. Pick a destination—ideally one you’ve never really visited—and make your way there for a driving tour or quick walkabout. You may just find a new favorite neck of the woods.

Breweries Team Up to Support Local COVID-19 Relief Efforts

If there’s one thing Cincinnati loves, it’s beer. Countless beer-centric festivals and traditions, along with the dozens upon dozens of breweries that populate the Greater Cincinnati area, show the city’s affection for the beverage. And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, breweries are returning the support. In light of the current crisis, 43 local breweries have joined forces to benefit the United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC) in its efforts to help those negatively impacted by the pandemic.

“In this environment, a lot of people feel a lot of pain,” says Dave Kassling, managing partner of Taft’s Brewing Co., the brewery spearheading the initiative. “We wanted to find a way to bring everyone together in a different kind of a way, to give back in a great way, but also say, Hey, look, we’re all in this together.

Together, the breweries are selling a T-shirt they designed featuring the logos of the participating breweries and the combined phrases “Drink in Cincy” and “We’re all in this together.” Proceeds will go directly toward UWGC’s efforts.

UWGC is not only providing direct relief to those affected through its own services, but it is also sponsoring the work of other local organizations, including a partnering with P&G to acquire and distribute hand sanitizer and masks and teaming up with Meals on Wheels to provide meals and services to seniors who live alone.

The breweries’ initiative has been met with great enthusiasm. After the first batch of shirts sold out in less than three days, production on another round was immediately ordered to meet the demand. Kassling expects that the few remaining shirts of the 1,000 total will sell out quickly, ultimately raising nearly $25,000 for UWGC’s COVID-19 relief fund.

T-shirts can be purchased at drinkincincy.com ($25 if picked up at Taft’s Brewpourium, $30 if shipped). Along with supporting COVID-19 relief, each T-shirt purchase includes a one-time-use $5 voucher to be redeemed at any of the participating breweries when they reopen.

“It’s more than just a community of breweries; the community of breweries is representative of the community as a whole,” Kassling says. “There’s going to be a day when we all look back and say, We came out of this even stronger.