Dr. Know: Riverfest Booze, Naming Cincinnati Gardens, and Swastikas (?!) in Northside


Many people complain, but I think it’s great that Riverfest is an alcohol-free event. I’m sure, of course, that smugglers always try to sneak booze in. Any ingenious methods that have been attempted over the years? —I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM

Dear Problem:
Necessity is not the mother of invention; Riverfest’s alcohol ban is. Attendees can be quite creative, although their success rate is, by definition, unknown. Some once thought syringe-injected watermelons and other absorbent fruits were a unique secret, but this idea had lots of company, including cops. Giant ponytails with deeply hidden bladders may also have been an innovation at one time (probably the ’80s), but no longer.

Other it’s-been-done-so-don’t-try-it strategies: Refilling allowable liquid containers such as bug spray or baby bottles with booze. Pringles cans with only a few chips on top covering a Ziploc bag of contraband. Ziploc or Seal-A-Meal bags duct-taped to the body. (They slosh, and if you fill them full enough so they don’t, they are visible.)

Some still think they can visit the Newport floodwall a day early, bury their stash, carefully replace the turf, and memorize the location. Which they can, but they always find everything gone. You think the cops and their dogs spend the night before playing Pokémon Go?

Honorable mention: the gentleman who showed up one year with a load of camera equipment, including a large tripod with its legs fully extended. And filled with hooch. (Again, the slosh factor.) Please enjoy this year’s Riverfest responsibly.

Before Cincinnati Gardens disappears, can you tell me why the place was named Gardens? Why not Arena, which is what it is? —SAW BEATLES THERE

Dear Beatles:
How did our Gardens grow? Several competing teams, including a company named Cincinnati Arena, were skating mightily to create a local indoor sports facility in the 1940s. Cincinnati Arena scored the first goal by starting construction at the former Chester Park site near Spring Grove Cemetery. But another team stepped up to the plate (the Doctor’s metaphors stray): Cincinnati Gardens, Inc. Despite having no site, the Gardens group managed to land the first contract for an American Hockey League franchise. This won them the horse race (see parentheses above) to build an arena, except that they couldn’t name it arena.

Moniker problems didn’t end there: the new Cincinnati hockey team played its first few games without a name, wearing jerseys with question marks, before “Mohawks” finally won a local naming contest. Then there’s this: The Gardens’ corporate name was plural but the building’s original name was singular: “Cincinnati Garden.” If the owners had wished to emulate that more famous Garden in New York City, it’s a mystery why they added an s to their name in the first places. Soon, of course, it all will no longer matters.

Our beloved Garden(s) may be falling to the wrecking ball, but at least it never fell to the indignity of a corporate renaming, like The LaRosa’s Olive Garden(s).

I live in Northside, near the old Park Theatre on Hamilton Avenue. It’s now an appliance store, but I recently saw a photo from when the theatre first opened in 1913. Why on earth did they have two swastikas above the entrance? I realize that Nazis didn’t exist when the place was built, but I still wonder why something like that would be on a movie theater facade. It’s covered up now.  —MOVED IMAGES

Dear Moved:
The times, they change. The swastika, a symbol used by many religions for many centuries, saw its esteemed reputation forever tainted by one famous villain. The Doctor can relate—his own high school once enjoyed an esteemed reputation from one famous alumnus: Bill Cosby.

Prior to its hijacking in the 1930s, the swastika was often displayed in America for good luck. Artifacts survive of its wholesome usage by Ladies’ Home Journal, Coca-Cola, and others. The Park Theatre’s display in 1913, then, was typical, or at least not atypical. At the Northside cinema’s opening, the proprietors proudly declared their facility was “for mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, where the purity of their thought will be conserved above all things.” At some point the symbols were covered up, which may have influenced the theatre’s good luck running out. Sixty years after it was dedicated to purity of thought, the very same auditorium featured the Cincinnati premiere of Deep Throat. The times, they change.


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