Dr. Know: Spoilers, Married Houses, and Exclusionary Practices

The good doctor investigates an interesting movie theater flyer, houses turned funeral home, and long-lasting discriminatory newspaper ads.
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ILLUSTRATION BY LARS LEETARU

As I left the Cinemark Theater in Oakley after viewing the new Mission Impossible movie, I saw a flyer taped to the wall. It told me to not discuss the movie’s ending while leaving, because people in line might overhear. Is this flyer the newest form of social engineering from corporate hell, or something local? —CITIZEN SANE

Dear Citizen:

Movie audiences have been politely bludgeoned into behaving ever since Ladies, kindly remove your hats appeared onscreen in the 1920s. That such pestering now follows you out the door is a new boundary crossed. In 1939, no flyers ordered parents to tape a kid’s mouth shut after the movie so they wouldn’t blurt, “Wow, it was all just her dream after the tornado!”

A Cinemark official requesting anonymity told the Doctor that the flyer you saw was printed at the Oakley venue and did not descend from a corporate labyrinth. He/she/they further implied that theater employees themselves may have inspired the flyer. And who can blame them? They’re overly exposed to after-chatter. Nobody wants their movie ruined by some jerk who blabs about Darth Vader being Luke’s father or that Soylent Green is people or that Snape killed Dumbledore or that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. Please, people, be more considerate!


A defunct funeral home in Westwood is about to reopen as a pair of restaurants. The long, sprawling building looks to me like it started out as two separate houses that later grew a center section and became one place. Did the homes get married and have a baby? What’s the history there? —HOUSING SPOUSING

Dear Spousing:

This sounds like another movie: Two Restaurants, a Wedding, and a Funeral Home. But don’t submit your screenplay just yet; Hollywood has enough problems right now.

You’re right: Two separate homes arose at 3040 and 3042 Harrison Ave. in Westwood around 1924. Their occupants, however, came from one family. Hamilton County still officially describes this entire area as Ruehlmann’s Homestead because the large Ruehlmann clan, um, ruehled it. You will be unsurprised to learn that a hefty Ruehlmann income stream came from undertaking, and that both addresses hosted funerals long before any formal business emerged.

After the Ruehlmanns, the Wain A. Bolton Funeral Home opened at 3042 Harrison in 1938. Mr. and Mrs. Bolton lived upstairs, eyeing their neighbor and eventually buying him out. James Lunsford later joined by marriage, and the Bolton & Lunsford architectural presto-change-o happened somewhere in the 1960s. The now-dead-and-buried funeral home will become two new restaurants by next year—if all those permits and regulations don’t send everyone to an early grave.


My young grandson recently learned about the days when newspaper classified ads blatantly said “white only” for jobs and apartments. I’m glad he has trouble imagining such a thing. But now I wonder exactly when The Cincinnati Enquirer finally stopped this awful practice. Do you know? —NEED NOT APPLY

Dear Apply:

This was a difficult assignment, on several levels. For starters, searching old newspapers online is a sloppy process. The Doctor searched “white only” for the entire archive of The Cincinnati Enquirer and received a staggeringly disturbing number of hits: 38,423.

After changing his underwear and looking more closely, he saw that a high percentage of “white only” results were quite innocent, such as ads selling Socks, white only, sizes 9 to 11. Also, blurry scans tagged “white only” when the actual phrase was “which only” or “while only.” We can’t, however, brush aside everything. Countless ads for jobs, homes, and more were openly exclusionary. This began soon after the Civil War, trying to be genteel: Rooms for respectable white people (1888). The mask slipped over time: Seamstress wanted, white—only a first-class one (1910). In later years, there was a tiny ray of light: Apartment, colored or white (1955).

Although this practice mostly disappeared after the civil rights legislation of 1964, stuff like White girl wanted for babysitting slipped under the radar for another year. And sneaky coded wording lasted much longer: In real estate, Churches nearby usually meant No Jews. Still longing for those good old days?

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