Dr. Know: Saving a Mechanical Bear, Missing Bushes, and Bengals Tailgates


In the 1950s, there was a large warehouse fire on Front Street. My late father, Fire Capt. Elmer Enders, suffered a burned hand in the blaze and was there when they dragged out an immobile “victim,” only to discover that it was a stored Shillito’s mechanical bear. Even as a kid, I could sense his team’s embarrassment, but can no longer remember nor determine the exact date of that fire. Can you help? —COME ON BABY, FIND MY FIRE

Dear Baby:
Cincinnatians of a certain age are prone to relaying nostalgic stories of the Shillito’s Elves anytime the calendar turns to December, though this one isn’t quite as cute. Sadly, despite the fact that the Doctor has developed considerable forensic skills in the news morgue, he must report his failure to pinpoint the specific incident you seek, for two important reasons:

First, the area from Front Street up to Third Street during the 1950s seems to have been constantly on fire. Warehouses and businesses were like Spinal Tap drummers, regularly bursting into flame. While news accounts often named each injured firefighter, they also would report something like, “Four firemen sustained minor injuries.” Your father may be hiding in there.

The second problem lies in isolating the specific injury you described, because he had quite a tally. News accounts list your father’s multiple burns, lacerations, wounds from falling debris, collisions when racing to a fire, and one bite-and-run from a dog in a passing car. If the rescued bear was so embarrassing for his crew, perhaps your father managed to keep it out of the newspapers, with whom he obviously had a long relationship.

You may not wish us to add still more information, but we must insist: Capt. Elmer Enders fought fires valiantly for 34 years, more than 20 of them as head of Engine Co. 3 at Ninth and Broadway, and he later spearheaded the transformation of that building into our city’s first Fire Museum. We salute him, as do all past and present Shillito’s Elves.

When you take the exit ramp from I-71 to Red Bank Road, you’re passing behind The Seven Hills School. There was a time when everyone knew this, because you couldn’t miss the giant bushes that spelled out the school name. Now they’re gone. What happened to them? —BUSH BEREFT

Dear Bereft:
Many Cincinnati institutions go all cliché displaying their name: etched in stone, up in lights, shrink-wrapped on a streetcar. The Seven Hills School chose instead to plant giant letter-shaped shrubs as a shoutout to passing motorists. Nobody at the school today seems to remember exactly when the bushes first appeared, but they disappeared around 1999 to make room for a new arts center. If you are hoping someone spirited them to some topiary retirement home where they romp with “Gibson Greeting Cards” and “Mt. Auburn,” the answer is no.

Full disclosure: The Doctor’s own children once attended this family of schools, and a song he wrote for their kindergarteners in the 1980s has been taught to each year’s class ever since. Small things can be hugely humbling.

This year’s Thursday night Bengals game was perfect: We won, great weather, and I went to my first Longworth Hall tailgate party. Looking at that enormous building, I wondered how the tenants deal with us when there’s a weeknight game. Do their cars get blocked in? What if someone’s been out working all day and needs to get back into the building after 6? Is there a policy? —TAILGATE WAIT

Dear Wait:
Thanks for caring. Yes, there is a policy. Officially, Longworth tenants have free entry to the parking lot every day until only 5 p.m., but that rule is rarely enforced outside of special events. However, all Longworth leases specify that tenants do not have free squatting rights on tailgate day. After 6 p.m., it’s You Pay or No Dey.

Bengals weeknight games occur but once or twice a year, so let us assume that Longworth tenants copy a practice that the Doctor applies with the Reds every spring in regard to his downtown parking: He looks over the entire baseball schedule, notes each weekday afternoon game on his calendar, and either attends those games or plans something like renewing his car tags in Batavia that day.

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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