Dr. Know: Ludlow Garage, Secret Streets, And A Voice From Above


It’s great to see the Ludlow Garage doing concerts again. My parents have, shall we say, hazy-but-happy memories of shows there in the ’60s. They also say that the place had weird, huge rocking chairs; truly gigantic things that several people could share. Who made them, and what happened to them? —ROCK ME BABY

Dear Baby:

When Cincinnati needs answers about things from the ’60s that were weird, gigantic, and hazy, all roads lead to Jim Tarbell. The Ludlow Garage ranks high on Jim’s lengthy résumé, even though its run as a concert hall was brief—just 16 months. But the venue helped Cincinnati punch above its weight in presenting many rock, blues, and jazz artists of the era.

Mr. Tarbell and his partners quite consciously (semi-consciously?) wanted an Alice in Wonderland vibe at the Garage, but as there was no budget for talking doorknobs, they went with oversized furniture. Jim credits the local Carroll brothers, Jan and Pat, with creating those giant rocking chairs.

Unlike old furniture that winds up in thrift stores, these things would never have fit in most living rooms, so they scattered to places mostly unknown after the Garage closed in 1971. At least one rocking chair, however, has been rescued and meticulously restored-—as if it were a 1968 VW Microbus—by Richard Lemker of Sayler Park. Mr. Lemker would not confirm whether or not, on starlit nights, he climbs into the chair and yells, “Whipping Post!”

Along Columbia Parkway between Torrence and Delta, a tiny street named Audubon intersects with the road. I’m told that it leads down to a whole residential street parallel to the railroad tracks. What’s that street named, what neighborhood does it belong to, and how on earth do people get in and out of there? —TRACT ON THE TRACKS

Dear Tract:

In the movie Being John Malkovich, there’s an office building with a secret level, accessible only by suddenly stopping the elevator and prying the doors open with a crowbar. That’s pretty much what it’s like trying to visit your mystery street: Hoff Avenue.

For God’s sake, do not suddenly brake on Columbia Parkway to enter Audubon Street—you’ll receive a traffic ticket as they load you into the ambulance. Audubon/Hoff residents, however, are permitted to launch themselves out, Mad Max–like, into the Parkway’s five busy lanes. The Doctor brazenly tried it and lived, although his car’s suspension is no longer speaking to him. Most locals do their entering and exiting down at Riverside Drive.

Hoff Avenue was created in the mid-1800s, soon after the Little Miami Railroad laid tracks. The street has about 15 homes, mingled with the remains of retaining walls and foundations that could tell you stories. What neighborhood is it in? Old real estate ads place it in the East End (most accurate), Pendleton (outdated), Kates Place (profoundly outdated), Walnut Hills (a stretch), and even O’Bryonville (defective compass).

I’ve always wondered whose voice is coming from the ceiling of the CVG airport tram. Is it a local person, or an announcer from somewhere else? I’m asking now because after many years, the voice has suddenly changed, from male to female. Who is that new voice in the airport tram ceiling? —VOX HEBRONAE

Dear Vox:

“Stop! The doors are closing! Step away from the doors! Don’t think about why there are only four seats per car, just grab one! That old man doesn’t need it, he has a cane!”

As you can see, tram announcing is a tough, high-pressure job, just like the high-pressure air on which the CVG tram itself travels. It was installed in 1994 by Otis, the company that historically has moved people up and down, but today also moves them back and forth.

CVG spokesperson Mindy Kershner says the announcements you hear come from Otis employees who do live in this area, but the airport is not authorized to release their names. The man who’s been the tram voice for years has recently retired, but we’re still hearing him in the speakers outside the cars. Inside, however, the announcements now include CVG’s newest arrival, Southwest Airlines, and so that new information has been re-recorded. The unidentified female has not exactly shattered a glass ceiling, but a laminated plastic one is progress nonetheless.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, weekday afternoon deejay on 92.5 FM The Fox. Submit your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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