Dr. Know: April 2014

I understand that Cincinnati is called Porkopolis because the city was once the center of America’s pork-packing industry. Well, Americans still eat pork. So what happened to our industry? —Curious

Dear Curious:
The center did not hold. There was a perfect pig storm. Several industrial and agricultural trends combined to eviscerate what had been a spectacularly successful Queen City industry. Cincinnati porciculture had made possible dozens of eye-popping Clifton estates and engendered scores of lard-based businesses including today’s purveyors of Oil of Olay. But even though Cincinnatians pretty much invented the large-scale business of packing butchered hogs in barrels of salt for shipment to the carnivorous universe, the packers were unable to prevent the migration of the pig-raising business to the upper midwest, where pig feed was easier to raise on a grand scale, and where railroads tied farms and feedlots to the huge new slaughterhouses of Chicago. Finally, the invention of the refrigerated railroad car made it possible to ship those pork bellies we hear about on the stockyard reports without packing them in barrels of salt.

The Doctor wonders if you, Curious, feel as he does, which is to say wistful as he motors through the culs-de-sac of the Boehnerbelt, picturing in his mind the small family farms that once stood where vinyl now rules the landscape, where small families shared their barnyards with easily raised, quick-cash-generating pigs, friendly, tasty animals that could be herded down to Camp Washington by any simpleton. Those pigs now apparently wander the streets of Des Moines, Iowa, leaving our own lanes stuffed with SUVs and minivans. Who got the better deal?

Oberlin College has a Conservatory of Music; Yale University has a School of Music. But University of Cincinnati’s hyphenated College-Conservatory of Music seems to have a surfeit of institutional designations. How did CCM
get that name? —Keyed Up

Dear Keyed Up:
Yes, it does sound a little bit like the educational equivalent of Fields Ertel Road. That faintly clumsy name happened in the dark days before the bright dawn of modern branding science: 1955. That was when the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, a genteel institution that skewed female, then housed in what had been the Shillito mansion on Oak Street, merged with the Cincinnati College of Music, a school closely associated with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musicians, located in the eavesdrop of Music Hall. The College seems to have been the weaker of the merging parties, but neither of the schools was particularly robust. Had it not been for the deep tax-padded pockets of the University of Cincinnati, where the school survives, it is quite likely that CCM would have vanished as completely as Cincinnati Wesleyan, the ladies college that once stood in the West End. The merged institution kept the Oak Street building until it moved to the university. Then the Shillito mansion was razed to make way for a blisteringly ugly junior high school that became redundant within a couple of decades. You can still see the College of Music’s one surviving building on Central Parkway south of Music Hall where it now houses Local 392, the Plumbers, Pipe Fitters, and Mechanical Equipment Services Union.

My dad has always wanted to sing the National Anthem at a Reds game. And he’d be great! Does he volunteer or sign up or audition or what?—Eager to Assist

Dear Eager:
Yes. He does. The Reds have an easily navigated anthem artist selection process laid out on its friendly, fan-oriented website. Since your dad is probably of a certain age, he will probably be able to go down to his basement, fire up the Pioneer amplifier and the Panasonic dual-cassette recorder that he bought in the PX in Da Nang, croon the anthem to his satisfaction, and ship the cassette down to the Great American Ball Park where good-natured Reds employees will store it with the hundreds of other cassettes and CDs the organization receives from full-throated fans every year. If your dad is a little more techno-hip, he can sing into his smartphone and e-mail his audition to the team. We are assured that the organization does listen to the renderings and selects some from the slushpile. It is, after all, a long season. The Reds vocal roster includes 20 pre-selection-process performers who get asked back year after year. Among them are Wally and O’Weida Gosser, who have been belting the Banner for half a century.

Originally published in the April 2014 issue.

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