Dr. Know: January 2015

No Goetta For St. Louis, Jerry Springer Sings, and Speeding in Cincinnati.

Whenever I visit my Cincinnati friends who are now living in St. Louis, they make me bring a supply of goetta. St. Louis history includes heavy German immigration just like ours, with similar results in architecture, breweries, etc. But goetta? It ain’t there. How did St. Louis miss out? —Speak Up, I Can’t Glier You

Dear Glier:
The Doctor tactfully calls your attention to this magazine’s cover. Please note the extremely large word spanning the top, and ask yourself if this question should have, perhaps, been sent to a publication, say, further west. Nevertheless, the Doctor will respond as a professional courtesy.

Yes, German immigrants came to both St. Louis and Cincinnati, but not from the same regions, not with the same recipes, and definitely not with the same children. It’s always those damned kids who ruin everything. Back in Ye Olde Country, Mama’s techniques for extending scant amounts of meat varied according to what was available locally: cornmeal here, oats there, buckwheat wherever. In Ye Newe Worlde, with abundant meat no longer requiring grains as filler, the kids turned necessity into the mother of innovation. American regional delights such as goetta, scrapple, etc., were developed over here, not over there, and some recipes have basically never moved out of their parents’ basements. Thus, Cincinnati eats goetta and St. Louis eats brain sandwiches. Really. Fried calves’ and pigs’ brains between bread slices. We win.

I’m thrilled that the Union Terminal levy passed, and I’m touched that Jerry Springer, who hasn’t lived here for decades, took part in the campaign. But did Jerry really think he was helping with his song, “Save Union Terminal?” A friend played it for me, and it’s just awful. —
Save Our Ears

Dear Ears:
Your Cincinnati roots obviously do not go very deep. Your “friend” is either playing an affectionate prank, or he secretly hopes this recording will make you move away.

The song from which you recoil is more than 40 years old, created after Union Terminal first closed in 1972. With this record, rookie City Councilman Gerald N. Springer took up the 1.0 version of Save Our Icons. He even performed it live, hoping to get lots of attention (he was still years away from getting attention inadvertently).

The Cincinnati Historical Library and Archives at Union Terminal still receives queries about Jerry’s song and where it might be obtained. It is, alas, long out of print, but can be found on YouTube. Springer did not, as many believe, write the song; it was co-written by local musician Sonny Flaharty and record producer Shad O’Shea. O’Shea’s other musical achievements include a track that was later chosen for an album titled The World’s Worst Records. For that anthology, Jerry’s song was not bad enough to make the cut.

I am surprised at your city’s wide-open speed limits. Where I come from (Tulsa), about 5 MPH over the posted speed is typically acceptable. But here that makes me the slowest driver on the road. Is there a cultural thing about Cincinnati that makes driving 75 in a 55 MPH zone OK?
—Drive My Car

Dear Drive:
Let us pause here, allowing those chronic visitors to Cincinnati traffic court a brief moment to wipe up from their collective snort.

Your speculation that our leaded feet carry a genetic component has some merit: in the automobile’s early days, Cincinnati’s accident record was famously bad. Editorials bemoaned the danger to pedestrians “every time some whang-doodle jigs open his wide bazoo” (terminology that today might suggest a more perverse brand of public nuisance). Alarmed Cincinnatians sparked one of America’s first attempts to legislate motor safety, successfully petitioning to add a referendum to the 1923 election: whereas, a “speed governor” would be required in all local vehicles, preventing the engine from exceeding 25 MPH.

Auto manufacturers were quarrelsome back then, but this threat instantly united them. Generations before dark money and super PACs, “local” organizations sprang up to campaign against the issue. By election day, votes supporting the ordinance were one-third the number of signatures on the original petition. Cincinnatians kept on speeding; their descendants are roaring past you today. Welcome to our town, we hope you get used to our customs. Oh, and please write back to tell us which local highway achieves a steady 40 MPH flow on a typical weekday afternoon.


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