Dr. Know: Fancy Fire Hydrants, a Long-Lost Rock Venue, and Those Infernal Contraflow Lanes

The good doctor holds forth on troubling issues, including deciphering color coded hydrants, whatever happened to Panacea, and torturous road construction.

Illustration By Lars Leetaru

I recently learned that fire hydrants have a color code showing differences in water pressure, which is important to firefighters setting up at a fire. But I live in Hamilton, where a recent local art project decorated many hydrants in many colors. Some look psychedelic. Was this a safe thing to do? —WE DIDN’T STOP THE FIRE

Dear Didn’t:
False alarm. Hamilton’s fire hydrants stand ready, patiently awaiting any moment a truck may pull up and connect. You are correct about hydrant color-coding: water pressure can vary depending on a hydrant’s interior condition or the water system it’s connected to. This matters to a firefighter, whose requirements are different when arriving at a fire inside, say, a small home versus a $60 million Indian Hill fire that settles out of court.

You are also correct that the streets of Hamilton are sporting many festively decorated hydrants. Artists at High Street’s InsideOut Studio have the blessing of the city to add this simple spark of beauty along its thoroughfares. It’s part of a larger mission by the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati that helps artists with disabilities create a wide variety of works to display and sell.

Hamilton’s Fire Department assures the Doctor that this poses no danger to the community’s firefighting needs. All of the community’s hydrants are just like people: Inside, they’re all the same, so there is no need to judge hydrants by their color; only by the content of their character. Sleep safe this holiday season.


This year saw many 50th anniversaries in rock music, like Woodstock and Abbey Road, plus the Ludlow Garage locally. But I’ve seen no mention of a short-lived venue in 1969 called Panacea. It was in Oakley. Everyone seems to have forgotten this place. Can you find some evidence? —IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY

Dear Ago:
Once again, the Doctor is conscripted to locate the lost brain cells of Baby Boomers. Far out. It is true that Cincinnati’s rock world of 1969 saw several venues survive only about as long as a lava lamp. Even the legendary Ludlow Garage was with us for only 18 months. But that was an eternity compared to the fruit-fly longevity of Panacea in Oakley: about three weeks.

Panacea looked promising. Its founders were already successfully operating the Black Dome in Clifton, and Panacea’s opening night started strong with the James Gang, a rising Cleveland band. (Attention, millennials: the James Gang was fronted by a guy named Joe Walsh. He later joined a band called The Eagles. The Eagles are a big reason why you change the radio station when you borrow your parents’ car.)

It is not clear why Panacea closed so quickly. Perhaps it was the lack of a nearby college population, or simply the fact that 50 years ago, Cincinnati’s “underground rock” population wasn’t big enough to support so many venues. The counterculture hadn’t conquered the world yet. Dude. Face the ugly truth: America’s biggest song of 1969 was “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. Heavy.


I was so happy when the I-71 south corridor between Red Bank Road and the Norwood Lateral finally opened up. But just a week later, they ruined it going north! One of those infernal “contraflow” lanes. Is this anything more than just resurfacing? How long will this torture continue? —GOING NORTH HAS GONE SOUTH

Dear Gone:
This torture will continue until the entire area becomes suitable for a new concert venue, or maybe a soccer stadium. The Doctor kids. The Ohio Department of Transportation feels your pain. They tell us that when the bandages are removed, I-71 will feature an additional lane from Norwood up to Red Bank, plus a new exit ramp to Kennedy Avenue, and best of all, spectacular dividends for investors in orange barrels.

As with any project of such magnitude ($36 million), its completion depends upon variables like the weather and the motivation of construction workers. Official completion is currently targeted for the summer of 2021. Assuming that date is accurate (cough, cough), this means we are likely to witness a tearful candlelight vigil organized by millions of cicadas, mourning the massive loss of trees.

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