Dr. Know: Hyde Park Square Kroger, the World Cup, and More Happy Holidays

This month’s questions for Dr. Know touch on a pocket-sized supermarket, the chances FIFA will take us seriously, and round two of the “War on Christmas.”

My dad walked my sister and me around Hyde Park Square and made us try to guess where there had once been a Kroger. We thought he was joking, because no place seems big enough. Was it the group of stores where the coffee shop is now? Maybe that was a single storefront? Dad wouldn’t tell us. Tell us! —WE’RE SQUARE

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Your modern perceptions are the problem. Grocery stores used to be tiny little things that sold—this may come as a shock—only groceries. Also, the world had only one type of Pepsi, one flavor of Crest, and one texture of Charmin. The Kroger on Hyde Park Square wasn’t much larger than a modern UDF, and that was typical. But then “product extensions” began to multiply, and supermarkets started to resemble airports.

Kroger opened a much bigger store at Hyde Park Plaza in 1974, abruptly closing the one on the square with a week’s notice. The Rich Housewives of Hyde Park were not amused. A shuttle bus was hastily arranged to run between locations, and a Cincinnati convenience store chain (King Kwik) opened a modest market at the vacant address. Neither of these workarounds lasted very long.

The answer to Dad’s riddle? Coldwell Banker West Shell’s offices are where the Hyde Park Square Kroger used to be. Their vending machines probably feature more choices than the entire old store did.

What’s the status of Cincinnati’s bid to be one of America’s host cities for the 2026 World Cup? It’s not like I’m expecting much, but I’ve heard nothing since the summer. We’ve shown that we’re a serious soccer town. Is FIFA taking us seriously? Will my dream come true? —KICK ME AWAKE

Let’s get readddddy to (perhaps, possibly, sort of) rummmmble. FIFA, the international soccer body, will choose 10 American cities out of 17 finalists to host various World Cup matches in 2026. Cincinnati remains a contender. We made our official presentation in July, and the next step is for FIFA officials to visit each city in order to receive a more direct and personal bribe impression. That’s been delayed by our now-familiar friend, COVID-19.

Our brand new soccer stadium and its large and rabid fan base will, of course, be perfect for several World Cup games. The more prominent games will be perfect for Paul Brown Stadium. We’ve got the perfect large and, um, spacious airport, plus an imperfect large highway bridge across the Ohio River that might finally get upgraded if we get the nod. FIFA seems to be punting (sorry, wrong sport) about what comes next. Their website language is pleasantly vague. They’re still working on rehabilitating their deeply scandalous reputation, which has improved to the level of an overcoat on Times Square filled with Rolexes. We’ll keep you posted.

A few Decembers ago you described some old Cincinnati newspaper ads that said Sea­sons Greetings instead of Merry Christmas, just to show that the “War on Christmas” has always existed for anyone who needs it. Please do that again. I could use a little Happy Holidays right this very minute. —SEASON’S GRATINGS

You refer to the Doctor’s column of December 2017 describing Cincinnati Enquirer ads back to the 1880s that wished you just about everything except a “Merry Christmas,” even on Christmas day. We shall not repeat those blasphemies. Instead, here’s something better.

Here you can see some actual Enquirer ads, gathered from the classified section of December 25, 1961. We’ve highlighted the more interesting names in this collage of greetings from 117 Cincinnati businesses. Depending on your age, you will or won’t recognize the many defunct stores and companies, but you will definitely notice how few of them say Merry Christmas. And that includes the churches.

Here you’ll see a pastiche of those much older ads, showing that Cincinnati somehow anticipated the War on Christmas by several lifetimes instead of our usual habit of being 10 or 20 years late. Here’s to a better 2021, with our update of Tiny Tim’s famous declaration: “Non-specific deity or entity bless us, everyone!”

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