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Five Fourth of July Events for a Healthy Holiday Weekend

Though Fourth of July will look a bit different this year, that doesn’t mean all the celebrations have to stop. These five Greater Cincinnati events have been planned and adapted for everyone’s safety, so you can enjoy the fun, festivities, and fireworks from your couch or car.

Live from Music Hall: A Virtual July 4th Concert

Though the traditional Red, White & Boom concert won’t go on as usual, the Cincinnati Pops will still celebrate the holiday by streaming a free live concert led by John Morris Russell with special guests Melinda Doolittle and Over the Rhine. Tune in on Facebook or YouTube at 7 p.m. to catch this special celebration of America and its music.
cincinnatisymphony.org

Red, Rhythm & Boom

The city of Mason’s annual Red, Rhythm & Boom event will be a remote and virtual experience this year. A patriotic sidewalk chalk contest and patriotic pet contest are part of the online festivities, along with celebratory videos for the event. For a socially distant and festive workout, take part in the 5k patriotic bike ride.
imaginemason.org

Fourth at the Fort

Fort Thomas’s holiday hoopla will feature a virtual Americana Showcase—check out the patriotic talent show on the city’s website or drive around town to see the decorating contest entries. Don’t forget to watch the annual fireworks, which are being set off from three locations this year so you can see them from your own neighborhood.
fortthomasmatters.com

Independence Parade

The parade must go on! The Independence July 4th Parade will begin at 11 a.m. at Summitview Academy and will end at Simon Kenton High School—an extended route that allows everyone to spread out safely. Then, catch the fireworks at 10 p.m. The special high-burst shells allow you to get in on the action even from far away!
cityofindependence.org

July 4th at March First

Sycamore Township’s March First Brewery will be hosting a socially distant tailgate party in their parking lot from noon to midnight, complete with food trucks, guest breweries, and live music performances from Chris Lee Acoustic, Stoney Deluxe Trio, Hayden Kaye, and the Bronson Arroyo Band. Cap off the evening by viewing the Sycamore Township fireworks from your tailgating spot!
marchfirstbrewing.com

Cincinnatians Create Petitions to Support the Black Lives Matter Movement

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In 2002, the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) entered into a collaborative agreement with local groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation and the Cincinnati Black United Front, to implement reforms and initiatives to address police brutality. But, as Rev. Nelson Pierce Jr., a pastor at Beloved Community Church in North Avondale, says, “An agreement only works when all of the parties involved work together.”

Unfortunately, police brutality continues to be an issue. Although Black people make up only 42 percent of the city of Cincinnati’s population, they have comprised approximately 70 percent of adult arrests, 85 percent of juvenile arrests, and 74 percent of use of force incidents since 2000, according to Beloved Community Church’s website.

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum in the past month, following the death of George Floyd on May 25, and Cincinnatians are actively taking steps to create local change. Here are five examples of local petitions that have received positive responses.

Defund the Police created by Beloved Community Church

Pierce and his colleagues have collected more than 7,200 signatures for their online petition calling for the of CPD to be defunded. Pierce wants to be absolutely clear about one thing: The petition does not call for the complete disbanding of the police department. Instead, the church urges Cincinnati to divest resources away from policing and reallocate them into the healthcare, housing, and education that Black communities deserve. “It is easy for people who have some sort of privilege or power to overlook and ignore the voices of the people who are the most vulnerable,” he says. “We believe God calls us together to fight for the liberation of all the people who are oppressed.”

Pierce adds that the police department’s “Tough on Crime” rhetoric pushes the wrong image of these communities and has been a “very thinly veiled attack on Black communities since the 1980s.” This phrase promotes the idea that Black communities need to be policed with tougher and more aggressive measures, despite studies that show the best way to address crime is through providing stronger economic security for communities. “When people live in neighborhoods that are real communities, crime goes down,” Pierce says. “When we disinvest in communities and put that money in policing, we are inflaming a problem and providing a false solution to that problem.”

Mercy McAuley High School Coalition started by Noelle Rotte

Mercy McAuley High School (MMHS) alumna Noelle Rotte argues that predominately white institutions should be taking it upon themselves to implement anti-racist teachings and not “whitewash” history. She organized the Mercy McAuley High School Coalition and wrote a letter to her alma mater calling for specific changes to be made to the school’s curriculum. A total of 370 alumnae joined Rotte in signing the letter.

“It’s important to recognize that white folks are very privileged in this society and that all of the systems that are in place in the United States are built for white or white-passing folks,” Rotte says. “It’s really not the job of Black and brown folks, indigenous folks, or people of color to teach white people about these issues.”

In her letter, Rotte asks MMHS to consider five things:

1) Provide a more diverse summer reading list.

2) Administer mandatory cultural competency training to all employees, if not already doing so.

3) Employ more administration, teachers, and staff of color.

4) Offer and expand on courses to include racism in science and medicine, systemic racism and white privilege, how to be anti-racist, and a mixed-media course on race.

5) Allow time within retreats to discuss the Sister of Mercy critical concerns, which are Earth, Immigration, Non-Violence, Racism, and Women.

SUA to Create a Detailed Plan of Action to Support and Protect their Black Students started by Asha Daniels

Asha Daniels, an alumna of Saint Ursula Academy, created a similar petition for her alma mater. Within the petition, she writes, “You have a responsibility to Black students to openly affirm that they are safe from racism and discrimination in their academic environment.” The petition has already garnered more than 2,400 signatures.

Daniels asks SUA administration to address the following:

1) Mental health resources for students and faculty, including on-site racial bias training for faculty and staff to properly support Black students.

2) Invest in Black representation within the community

3) Mandate Black history within the curriculum.

4) Renounce Marge Schott, whose name is on an academic building at the school.

5) Instate a zero tolerance rule against racism.

6) Implement ongoing and visible accountability.

Rename Schott Hall and Schottzie Stadium started by Kathleen Perazzzzo

Another alumna of SUA, Kathleen Perazzo, made a petition specifically calling for SUA to rename campus buildings carrying Marge Schott’s name. Former Reds owner Marge Schott was banned from Major League Baseball for multiple transgressions, including her support of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1996.

In her petition Perazzo writes, “Marge Schott Hall and Schottzie Stadium are represented by students and players of all races, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities. To name an academic hall and athletic field after an openly racist woman, no matter the amount of money she donated, is not only irresponsible, but it is also directly contradictory St. Ursula’s mission of integrity and inclusivity.”

The petition received more than 2,800 signatures, and the SUA administration agreed to rename the buildings.

Change the name of the University of Cincinnati’s Marge Schott Stadium started by Jordan Ramey

University of Cincinnati alumnus and former baseball star Jordan Ramey felt called to address the same issue at UC’s campus. As a Black baseball player, Ramey says he always felt conflicted playing in a stadium named for Marge Schott.

The University of Cincinnati’s baseball stadium.

Photograph by Paisley Stone

“Everything is a wavelength. Somebody can say, It’s just a name, but the name presents a wavelength that gives off [negative] energy and that energy carries out into society, the city, and the school,” he says. “It shows an athlete that we are permitting that culture. … It’s like we’re permitting this kind of mentality that [racist] behavior is still acceptable.”

After launching his petition, Ramey received immense support from the community and other baseball stars like Nate Moore, a current UC baseball player, and Josh Harrison, a former UC player who went to be a two-time MLB All-Star. After just one month, the petition included more than 10,000 signatures, and UC agreed to rename the stadium.

Beyond his petition, Ramey hopes his efforts, and others like his, will set an example for young people wanting to enact change. He is also aware of the petitions started by SUA alumnae and says campaigns like these, even when started by a younger generation, will make all the difference in seeing change. “It’s important to understand that wherever you see injustice, to speak out about it,” he says. “It may seem like at first you’re the only one who sees it, but you’re not. We have a lot of things to fix, and we have to show that we’re not going to allow racist culture any more.”

A Virus Sweeps Through the City in 1918

The influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 was monstrous. Estimates are that it infected a third of the world’s population, killing 50 million across the globe and 675,000 in the U.S. alone. It wiped out more troops and civilians than died in World War I. It was hard on the very young and the very old, of course, but in an odd twist it was deadly for robust 20- to 40-year-olds, too. A single statistic sums up the impact vividly: In one year, average life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by a decade.

The Spanish Flu, as it was called, has gotten short shrift in schoolbooks. The initial wave in the spring of 1918 seemed like the typical flu; people called it the “three-day fever.” A second wave, which made its way from the East Coast to Cincinnati in the fall, was another matter—a virulent, fast-acting respiratory assault.

The first diagnosed case here was on September 27, 1918: Mrs. George P. Topmiller, who’d recently visited her husband at Camp Lee in Virginia. Shortly after, General Hospital reported two more patients, both with military connections. It was a refrain that would be repeated again and again in the waning days of WWI, as the infection spread through troops in crowded U.S. training camps and accompanied them to Europe.

+Cincinnati Magazine looks back to see how Cincinnatians of the past made it through their dark days and to the leaders of today’s efforts to move forward. Read all the stories here.

It spread fast here. There were only 16 known cases on October 2, and Cincinnati Health Officer Dr. William H. Peters assured the public there was no cause for “undue alarm.” A day later, the city recorded its first Spanish Flu death. Calm public assurances aside, Peters ordered hospitals to bar all visitors except in critical cases, and he and Mayor John Galvin assembled city authorities, school and medical representatives, and business interests to discuss the situation. On October 5, Peters closed theaters, movie houses, schools, churches, and Sunday schools. Courts were allowed to hear only the most serious cases, and employers were ordered to send sick workers home. Public and private gatherings were prohibited, but restaurants, soda fountains, pool halls, and bowling alleys remained open, and saloon patrons could carry out bottles.

Cases continued to rise in October, frustrating Peters, who banned burning leaves, believing that drifting smoke contributed to the spread. Hotels had to remove lobby furniture to discourage loitering, and dentists and barbers were told to mask up. The library destroyed books used by influenza victims; school principals were ordered to do the same. Stores largely remained open, though hours were limited. Citizens helped the sanitation department clean streets, and the Women’s City Club ran “penny lunch rooms” in empty public schools, feeding families when fathers were too sick to work and mothers too sick to care for their brood.

The work of Sr. Blandina Segale of the Sisters of Charity illustrates how relentlessly the infection bulldozed through young families. A diary entry for October 28, 1918, records that she went to take charge of one household’s orphans; the mother had just died at home, and the father succumbed in the hospital. An uncle came to make funeral arrangements, and by the time he returned home his own wife was dead.

As the month wore on, the community grew impatient. The zoo and Queen City Club appealed to the Board of Health to be released from closure restrictions; churches pressed the case, too. But Peters (who himself fell ill in October) held firm, not lifting restrictions until Armistice Day, November 11. Then a sharp rise in cases among schoolchildren caused the Board of Health to re-close schools in December and ban children from stores, streetcars, and other public places. That spike brought the threat of a second, more sweeping city lockdown. The restrictions didn’t happen, but the public wrangling over children, churches, stores, and saloons sounds familiar today.

Nearly 1,700 Cincinnatians died from influenza or the resulting pneumonia, including 122 preschool children—statistics that would have been much higher, historians say, if the city had delayed closures even by a few days. Those numbers, and the quotidian details of the city’s day-to-day struggle, are part of research undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006–2007. The project looked at 50 U.S. cities’ response to the Spanish Flu pandemic. The purpose was to figure out what non-pharmaceutical interventions— school closures, isolation and quarantines, and cancelled public gatherings—might be effective if the U.S. faced a 21st century disease without an effective vaccine.

How did Spanish Flu end here? Gradually. On January 5, 1919, Peters announced conditions had returned to normal. Yet historical records show that the Board of Health fought flare-ups for months. Today we’d call that the New Normal.

Battling the Political Machine in 1884

With the morgue at capacity, victims of Cincinnati’s 1884 Courthouse Riot lay in makeshift infirmaries and nearby drug stores, a grim tally of 56 dead and nearly 300 wounded. The Courthouse was a ruin, a century of legal records in ashes.

The spark that ignited three days of rage was a jury, almost certainly bought and paid for, that returned a verdict of manslaughter in a sensational homicide case for which abundant evidence, including a signed confession, clearly supported a judgment of premeditated murder. But Cincinnati’s anger had simmered for years before it exploded into violence and anarchy.

+Cincinnati Magazine looks back to see how Cincinnatians of the past made it through their dark days and to the leaders of today’s efforts to move forward. Read all the stories here.

Since the Civil War, the foul stench of corruption had permeated City Hall and the Courthouse. So blatant was the disregard for law that the “ring” in charge of the local machine was bipartisan. Democrat John Roll McLean, publisher of The Enquirer, conspired with Republican attorney Thomas C. Campbell to feed on the public trough. Porkopolis reveled in the pork barrel.

In every election, “floaters” voted early and often. Jurors lined up to exchange verdicts for bribes or favors. The police department was stuffed with political featherbedders. Laws—notably those mandating that saloons close on Sunday—went unenforced. Murderers and rapists walked the streets. It had been decades since a white man was hanged in Cincinnati.

On Christmas Eve 1883, William Berner, ne’er-do-well son of a German grocer, and his accomplice Joseph Palmer, lusting for William Kirk’s bankroll, bludgeoned and then strangled the West End livery owner. Police had Berner’s confession and a string of witnesses, but his attorney, ringleader Campbell, had the jury in his pocket. Even the judge expressed disgust at the lenient verdict.

Music Hall was packed the night Berner was sentenced. Cincinnati’s leading citizens speechified in favor of a measured yet forceful protest and for reforms to the criminal justice system. But the audience howled for blood. As the standing-room throng of 10,000 angry men poured onto Elm Street, one cried out, “To the jail! Come on! Follow me and hang Berner!” The riot was on.

Just how bad was it? Ask the Fourth Regiment of the Ohio National Guard. Called in to reinforce the beleaguered police and local militia, they took one look at the bloody melee, about-faced, and skedaddled back to Dayton.

Wave after wave of insurgents stormed the jail on Sycamore Street behind the Courthouse, each assault parried by the Sheriff, who called for reinforcements. The riot alarm brought out thousands more spectators, many of whom joined in the frenzy. Overeager militia, ordered to fire over the mob, instead loosed volleys directly into the mass of humanity. Among the slaughtered were rioters and cops as well as other militia members. The indiscriminate gunfire pushed the furious horde to greater heights of bloodlust. Gangs ransacked pawnshops and gun dealers, while deputized marshals shot innocent passersby and each other. Skirmishers drizzled kerosene on piles of looted furniture at the Courthouse doors. The inferno lit the sky for miles around.

Far across the ocean, French novelist Victor Hugo saw amid the Courthouse flames the dawn of a new age. In a letter to Cincinnati’s Literary Club, Hugo announced, “The rioters of Cincinnati inaugurated the era of glorious revolution; they were champions of justice; they were more than champions; they were heroes; they were more than heroes, they were men. The world says so, France says so—I say so.”

Within days the local Bar Association went to work revising problematic court procedures. Campbell was briefly disbarred. A Committee of One Hundred demanded voting reform, and a Committee of Five Hundred assailed Sunday saloon sales. The police department reorganized under an independent commission. The unlucky prisoners left in the jail faced the hangman rather than friendly juries.

Unfortunately, the riot’s longest-lasting impact was engineered by a young saloonkeeper named George Barnsdale Cox. Watching from the sidelines, he recognized a vacuum opening in the city’s power structure and made his move. Within four years, he earned the nickname of “Boss” Cox and controlled, for another 30 years, a political machine that eclipsed the old McLean-Campbell ring.

The excesses of his regime inspired a plethora of opposition movements that mostly neutralized each other rather than reining in Cox. In 1924, attorney Murray Seasongood energized a coalition of reform parties, progressive crusaders, good government proponents, and the city’s elite to form the Charter Committee, which led citizens to approve a city manager system, honest elections, civil service hiring, and a slimmed-down city council. It took another generation, but the fire that had been lit in 1884 finally consumed Cincinnati’s political machines.

Local Public Radio Stations Celebrate Milestone Birthdays

Each of the three stations comprising Cincinnati Public Radio celebrates a milestone anniversary this year. WMUB (founded at Miami University) went on the air in 1950, and WGUC (launched by the University of Cincinnati) debuted in 1960, both predating National Public Radio; WVXU (originated at Xavier University) followed in 1970. Tune in today, and you’ll find organized, cohesive programming: WMUB is a repeater station of WVXU, an NPR news affiliate, while WGUC is all classical music all the time.

Before Cincinnati Public Radio came into existence, though, the stations were wildly divergent. A turn of the dial could yield anything from Car Talk on WGUC to polka on WVXU. Then WGUC formed the Cincinnati Classical Public Radio nonprofit in 1994 and purchased WVXU in 2005.

“The strategic plan we devised with the board was that we’d like to, if the situation ever developed, operate two independent, distinct broadcast services to cover the city of Cincinnati,” says Richard Eiswerth, the organization’s president and general manager since 1998. “One would allow WGUC to return to its roots as a full-time fine arts station, and the other would address the responsibility we felt we had to news and information. It was quite by coincidence that Xavier called us.”

Xavier University worked with brokers to secure a new owner for 91.7 FM. National religious broadcasters came forward, but the local proposal won out. Car Talk and All Things Considered moved up the dial to WVXU, and the umbrella organization became simply Cincinnati Public Radio. In 2009, it assumed operational costs and programming duties for WMUB, while Miami continues to hold the license.

Today’s WVXU consists largely of NPR programming from across the nation and the world, but the people behind the station are uniquely Cincinnati. The voices greeting listeners every day are household favorites, none more so than Morning Edition host and longtime news director Maryanne Zeleznik. A graduate of Miami University, she worked at WMUB as a student and joined WVXU after 20 years with the former public station WNKU. Every morning from 5 to 10 a.m., Zeleznik greets listeners, filling them in on the news of the day. She’s acutely aware of the intimacy of her job. “It’s a very personal medium,” she says. “They let you into their homes and their showers and their bedrooms and while they’re eating breakfast, and you’re a part of their morning.”

For Cincinnati Public Radio, serving those listeners and the community is paramount. Daily local talk program Cincinnati Edition injected energy into the format when Michael Monks became host in 2019. The company also produces the Looking Up podcast, cohosted by the Cincinnati Observatory’s celebrity astronomer Dean Regas, and offers indie rock formats Radio Artifact and Inhailer Radio on HD digital signals.

Cincinnati Public Radio has secured a development agreement for a new downtown location directly across from City Hall at Ninth and Plum streets. “We want to incorporate what our branding talks about, which suggests we bring the ‘public’ into public radio,” says Eiswerth. “Rather than encouraging the station to just go out into the community, we invite the community into the station, physically. We want a building that reflects that.”

The new building will have additional studios to generate more content. Public podcast booths will be available free of charge, along with a public performance studio. A cafe is planned, as is a public outdoor gathering space. “We want to have a space where people can come in and just mingle and enjoy themselves, and ideally the facility will be designed to allow us to partner with all kinds of local organizations,” says Eiswerth.

COVID-19 has put the planned capital campaign into what he calls a “quiet” phase, and public celebrations of the respective station anniversaries are on hold. But the stations keep operating, with only about a dozen people in the building at a time. “We do have a very engaged audience right now,” says Zeleznik. “People are appreciative of the coverage we’ve been doing through the pandemic and that we’ve been there for them. Every day, I talk about what day it is. I never used to say, It’s Wednesday. I find myself saying it three or four times an hour now.”

A Tasteful Restoration Helps This Historic East Walnut Hills Home Shine

1949 Madison Rd., East Walnut Hills

The key word for this impeccable renovation is restraint—because often what you keep is more important than what you change. For this six-bedroom stucco manse in the East Walnut Hills Historic District, that looks like original plaster moldings, accordion French doors, and light fixtures. The finest of these historic features are the twin first-floor bay windows: They hug the dining room and formal living room, and are trimmed with radiator-concealing wooden benches. (There are new windows throughout except for these and scores of other original leaded glass windows.)

These details exist in comfy harmony with newer amenities like a three-car garage, an irrigation system that keeps landscaping perky during the summer, and LED exterior lighting. And then there’s the luxe kitchen that looks like it could have been original—if they’d had Sub-Zero fridges back in 1911, when this home was built. The high-end appliances and roomy custom cabinetry, however, are dead giveaways (the good kind) of a contemporary treatment. The result is an exquisite historic home that’s livable and even cozy. The master suite exemplifies this vibe, with a beautifully appointed bathroom and second-floor balcony accessible through French doors, plus two walk-in closets. The master bath itself sports a double sink, soaking tub, heated floors, steam shower, and access to one of the closets.

There are more over-the-top amenities inside: a full English pub–style wet bar in the basement with custom millwork, copper ceilings, and an adjacent family room; a live edge single slab black oak kitchen table with seating for four; and a stylish-but-functional laundry room. But it’s the exterior that steals the show. Head out back for a first-floor veranda and a terraced yard with a river valley view (and seasonal views of the actual river), all overlooking a pergola-covered patio with a fireplace, plus a wooden play structure. And, despite the Madison Road address, you can enjoy a surprisingly peaceful front yard, which is protected from noise by the most thoughtful additions of them all: A circular driveway and a bank of traffic-blocking trees.

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

Cincinnati’s Conscience and the Last Cox Machine Judge

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The Cincinnati Post sprung a surprise party for Alfred Segal in 1954. Segal, who wrote a daily column under the pen name “Cincinnatus,” marked 50 years in the employ of the city’s afternoon newspaper. The newsroom chipped in and bought him a wristwatch engraved “To Al, the conscience of Cincinnati.”

Cincinnati Post Columnist Alfred “Cincinnatus” Segal

Image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand

Judge Dennis J. Ryan

Image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand

It is unlikely that Judge Dennis J. Ryan would have applauded the sentiment, but he surely would have understood. On multiple occasions over two decades, Segal used his column to comment on Ryan’s rulings, sometimes approvingly, more often critically.

Segal and Ryan made quite the odd couple. Ryan was born in 1881, Segal in 1883, and they both began their professional lives in 1904. Ryan lived in Westwood, and Segal was an east-sider. Ryan was Catholic, Segal Jewish. Ryan had a reputation for strict sentencing, especially for what he called the “gun-toting type,” repeat offenders, and reckless drivers. Segal, following years of attacks on the political machine of Boss Cox, devoted the next half-century to preaching tolerance and compassion.

Ryan first landed in Segal’s sights in 1925. Ryan was a rookie judge, one of the final few candidates nominated by the crumbling political machine of Boss Cox. Segal, after decades of investigative reporting, rejoiced as Cincinnati adopted the Charter form of government. When Ryan offered a young scofflaw a chance to turn his life around, Segal [July 27, 1925] approved:

“If Cincinnatus were a judge he would rather be one who could say, ‘During my term of office I saved a number of men from prison and gave them fresh starts,’ rather than one who boasts, ‘During my term I sent large numbers of men to prison.’”

Cincinnatus took a harsher tone in 1930, when a woman faced Judge Ryan with forgery charges. Ryan gave her five to 20 years in prison, and she snapped, “And they call you square!” The judge added two years to the sentence. Segal [November 17, 1930] was outraged:

“Are two extra years in prison a just punishment for offending a judge? One can commit manslaughter and get no more than that. Therefore, Cincinnatus moves that you relent from your stern judgment and punish this woman no more than she deserves and only for the crime for which she was convicted.”

Judge Ryan did just that, subtracting the additional sentence. His change of mind earned praise in print from Segal. A few weeks later, Segal again praised Ryan when the judge declined to send an accomplice in a payroll robbery to prison because of the torment it would cause the man’s wife and five children.

Motorists charged with traffic violations dreaded having their cases assigned to Ryan, who took a hard line on such activity. On February 7, 1938, Judge Ryan sent a man to prison for killing one man and injuring three others in a Reading Road accident. Segal approved, sort of:

“If this is to be the fate of killers on the roads hereafter, I ought to be more careful, says Cincinnatus. … Yet Cincinnatus (were he a careless or drunken driver) might find some comfort in this case. This driver who was convicted by a jury was a Negro. Perhaps juries might be more considerate of me, who is of the white race? Should there be the same justice for me who is white as for him who is black?”

Segal brought out the hammer again on February 17, 1939. It seems a German immigrant, a naturalized citizen, failed to appear in answer to a summons and was arrested. He was hauled before Judge Ryan, who scolded, “You ought to be sent back. You are not fit to be a citizen!” That got Segal’s typewriter steaming:

“Tut, tut, your honor! Let’s not start this! If it gets to be the practice to send back immigrants who don’t respect the government in all departments, what will become of the country? (For in a way of speaking, we are all immigrants and the only difference between one immigrant and another is that his father came over on an earlier ship.)”

Ryan drifted back into Segal’s good graces in 1940, when he declined to send an elderly couple, accused of cheating the welfare system of $15 a week, to prison and instead mandated probation.

But when a 20-year-old woman was convicted of manslaughter in 1942, Judge Ryan sentenced her to one to 20 years in prison. The woman had married at 15. Her husband was away in the army, and she got pregnant through an affair. She gave birth to a baby she believed was stillborn and placed it in an ashcan. The baby was found alive but died soon after. Segal objected to the prison sentence in a series of Cincinnatus columns, noting that the Salvation Army had stepped up to oversee her probation. Segal [June 13, 1942] raged:

“The Salvation Army which, like the judge, hates the sin also regards the sinner. It can’t always despise the sinner. What circumstances made her the sinner? What abject poverty? What despair? And who is there without sin? The Salvation Army takes these things into account and gives compassionate judgment.”

Judge Ryan got a nice bit of publicity on January 24, 1946 (not from Segal) when The Post ran a cute story about his innovative judicial wisdom. A young couple had filed for divorce and appeared in Ryan’s chambers. Instead of dissolving their marriage, the judge ordered the couple to go to the movies, specifically to take in Bing Crosby’s current hit, The Bells of St. Mary’s. According to the paper, as Der Bingle crooned “In the Land of Beginning Again,” the pair clasped hands, forgave each other, and agreed to drop their request for a divorce.

Cincinnatus would have none of it. The next day he opined that another factor was more influential than Bing Crosby or Judge Ryan: the welfare of a 2-year-old daughter.

“It sounded romantic enough as reported in The Post yesterday … Cincinnatus hopes that when Bing Crosby’s song wears off, as it must, they will remember the more rational cause that brought them together—that small girl.”

Alfred Segal was notably silent when Judge Dennis J. Ryan died in 1954, with nary a word of memoriam. Within months, however, Westwood proposed that the City of Cincinnati rename Westwood Commons in his memory. And so it was that Ryan Playground carries the name of a judge who endured the intense scrutiny of Cincinnati’s conscience throughout his judicial career.

The Pathogen Less Traveled

I have this old soft-sided briefcase that predates today’s era of body appendages we call “devices.” It does contain a padded wide pocket for my laptop, but also undisturbed compartments that would fascinate an archaeologist. While it’s no longer the possession I’d be most frightened to lose, the briefcase still accompanies me daily just about everywhere. Now, however, “everywhere” has come to mean “nowhere,” and my briefcase has grown dusty. It’s the little things, they always say, that trigger your awareness of bigger ones.

Yes, here comes your 100th-or-so version of My Cincinnati Home Imprisonment, so let’s make it fun, shall we? This annoying literary genre did not exist when the year began, and if we’re lucky, it will disappear by year’s end. Things are, after all, starting to loosen up. If Cincinnati’s halting spasms of normality continue and everyone just keeps practicing safe habits and doesn’t mainline Lysol, maybe this will be the last Cabin Fever Chronicle you read. Let’s hope so.

Mary and I have, thankfully, escaped terminal boredom at home. She has not counted every brick on our Mid-Century Modern living room wall, and I haven’t stared like a savant at the bathroom floor to note the repeating tile pattern. I did that years ago when we first moved in. The odd things people joke about doing when they’re insanely bored are pretty much the things I do anyway, and I am grateful for Mary’s patience with me.

She and I have weathered each other pretty well. When the data from this housebound era emerges, it will include the inevitable spike in divorces (and murders), but we won’t be listed in there. We adjusted.


Here are things you learn when you’re always at home:

 

  • Unlike at work, a toilet does not automatically flush itself as you walk away.
  • Functioning WiFi is more vital than hot water. Than anything, actually.
  • Dirty dishes mate overnight and produce litters of baby dishes.
  • A toilet that doesn’t flush itself also does not put the seat down itself.
  • Honesty is not always the best policy. Hide your favorite snacks.

At this point, please allow me to introduce you to a new acronym: “AWGTP.” It stands for As we go to press, and it’s a reminder of how frighteningly fast things have changed. Prepare to see it repeatedly, as it accompanies every passage below that might be laughingly outdated by the time these words see print.

Here’s a good example: I still have my job (AWGTP). I’m one of the lucky ones whose employment survives thanks to some technological hocus pocus. From my basement, I continue to appear on the radio weekday afternoons exactly as I have for decades, pretending to listen along with you to your favorite classic rock songs. Hey, the job requires that illusion. There’s more preparation and chores happening while the music plays than you know, and believe me, no matter how much you complain about radio song repetition, a disc jockey is forced to hear it exponentially more times than you. So give me a break if I turn down the volume and take a pass on buying a 20,000th stairway to heaven.

All this could change tomorrow. Others whose jobs were rock solid six months ago are suddenly unemployed, and it’s entirely possible I’ll have joined them by the time you’re reading this story. Right now, however, my broadcast work is essential. The Department of Homeland Security decrees it so, via an official document in my car’s glove compartment. Cincinnati cops aren’t stopping drivers and requiring authorization for being outdoors (AWGTP), but should it come to that, my special document verifies my essentiality. After I’m fired, it will continue to provide good cover when I go for carryout pizza.

Thanks to a long-ignored stash of painting accessories we found in the basement, Mary and I were early adopters of face masks. I hereby declare that as they are replaced, I shall never wear a face mask displaying my favorite slogan, song lyric, or brand. Much of my career has been spent creating commercials, so I have no desire to become one. Fashion masks also create the danger of my walking near a person who has lost their grasp of what is real versus what is virtual, and who might try to “Delete Ad” me.

I make light of my situation, but some things have had weight. Remember those stories from March about Americans in Europe, all suddenly trying to get out, the airports in chaos? Mary was there. She and a friend had gone to Paris on vacation but wisely cut their trip short when things started to crack, and they missed the madness by hours. If that doesn’t seem so bad, consider this other memory shared by them and by me: Mary and her friend had also been in Paris five years ago on the night that terrorists attacked across the city. As word of those attacks broke here, I was doing my Cincinnati radio show and had to maintain my cheery persona, not knowing if they were dead or alive, for about 40 minutes. So this year when Paris seemed to be turning on them again, it wasn’t just a problem, it was a flashback.

I’ve got two kids, both grown. My daughter lives in New York City, my son in California. The daughter (along with husband and two kids) has plenty of provisions, is connected with online schooling, and figures that staying put in a familiar environment is best. I’m not crazy about the four of them being there on the 40th floor, but so far, so good (AWGTP). The son, right around the time Mary was bugging out of Paris, worried that all U.S. travel might shut down, so he packed up his car and drove back to Cincinnati. He’s hired himself as errand boy for The Vulnerable Generation. Dear God, is that what we’ll become known as?


For many around us, it’s bad. Really bad. Joblessness, fear, sickness, death. To varying degrees, everyone’s ordinary life continues to get tossed around in a rancid salad that nobody ordered. I know a Cincinnati family with a dad who’s thousands of miles away, having flown in February to his tiny Spanish hometown for a visit with his elderly parents. AWGTP, he’s still stuck there. Variations of this situation—and worse—are everywhere.

I’m lucky, and I know it. You will never see a Madonna-like cringeworthy video from me, doing something like singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Well, maybe you will, except these will be the lyrics:

Imagine one huge mansion
With a celebrity
Preaching to the public
Singing this song off-key

Imagine all their privilege
Talking down to you
Oo-oo, oo-oo

They may say that they’re just like us
But they’re not like me and you
I hope someday they’ll use their money
To maybe go and buy a clue

I try not to worry. It doesn’t always work, but here’s a story that helps me, and maybe it will help you. A guy told me about the night he was driving home on a curvy wooded stretch of Salem Road in Mt. Washington. He was deeply worried about several personal problems that seemed to be going wrong at once. Suddenly, a deer jumped directly in front of him, and an hour later he was in a hospital bed—banged up pretty bad, but far more fortunate than the deer or the car. He went home a few days later, during which all the problems distressing him that night on Salem Road pretty much worked themselves out. He’d wasted a lot of time and energy agonizing over concerns that had evaporated. But not for one second, he realized, had he ever worried about crashing into a deer and landing in the hospital. What, me worry? Why?

AWGTP, I have not been diagnosed with the virus, nor has anyone in my inner circle. Nobody I know has died from it. Maybe it’s my good luck, or maybe it just reflects the fact that I don’t get close to many people.

How are you? I hope you’re OK. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’ll get through this, and we’re all in it together.

Westside Nonprofit The BDK Fund Provides Scholarships and Support to Kids and Teens

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On June 14, numerous Cincinnatians donned bright yellow T-shirts and lined up outside of Elder High School with boxes of toys to give away to children in need. That day, 400 children received free toys from The BDK (Brighter Days 4 Kids) Fund, a nonprofit launched in March 2018 by longtime west side residents Brian Bessler, John DiTullio, and Nick Keyes.

Left to right, John Ditullio and Nick Keyes

Courtesy of The BDK Fund

All three founders had previously been active members of multiple local nonprofits, before realizing they wanted to lead their own mission. Driven by the morals and values that each of their high schools (St. Xavier High School for Bessler, Lasalle High School for DiTullio, and Elder High School for Keyes) instilled in them, the trio created The BDK Fund as a way to “generate money in the form of donations to provide kids that may or may not have the ability to achieve what they’re capable of and passionate about,” Keyes says.

In addition to monetary donations, the nonprofit strives to enrich the Cincinnati community at a deeper level through its BDK Scholars program, which provides four-year high school scholarships to local students. Since its start, the BDK Scholars program has provided tuition assistance to five students, the oldest of whom is an incoming third-year, and aims to grow that number to 12 by 2023.

The program also aims to help teenagers acclimate to new professional and social settings before they graduate high school. “We want [them] to think about college or trade school or whatever it is [they] want to do, and we want to identify the things they are really good at,” Keyes says. “The BDK Fund helps them develop the idea that they are capable of dreaming big because those dreams are not that far off.”

Students involved in The BDK Scholars program also receive additional mentorship through networking events and opportunities and learn the importance of being involved in their communities. “One of the things that we really are focusing on is teaching them about community service and giving back, so hopefully they become future leaders and philanthropists,” DiTullio says.

The BDK Fund achieves this through its Brighter Days program, which hosts community-focused events that BDK Scholars attend as volunteers. In addition to the toy giveaway at Elder High School on June 14, participants of the Brighter Days program have also donated toys to St. Joe’s orphanage, donated to local food banks and clothing drives, and even installed a swing set in a local family’s back yard. The program’s leaders also plan on providing more than 150 books to the incoming first-grade class at Delshire Elementary School and donating more than $2,000 worth of food supplies to TRAM Food Bank in Addyston, Ohio, to support the Cleves, Ohio, community.

DiTullio says Brighter Days strives to host an event at least once a month and estimates that nearly 700 local children have been impacted by the program thus far. “I believe that we could absolutely change the potential for some of these kids that don’t have the means to be able to shoot for the stars because they’re a little bit locked into the situation that is in front of them,” Keyes says. “Our goal is not to generate money or revenue or profits; we’re here to take the dollars from people who don’t know where to give it to … and connect the dots to find where the real [need] is in the community.”

While The BDK Fund is currently focused on helping families who live on the west side of Cincinnati, the ultimate goal is to expand beyond the three founders’ neighborhoods.

Those interested in supporting or getting involved with The BDK Fund can donate online and connect with the nonprofit on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.