|They’re all looking at me, aren’t they?|
Say what you will about the City of Dayton, Ohio. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s not like we haven’t heard it all before. Sure, like any aging city in these great states we’ve seen the place go from boom town to some very troubling problems. And sadly, much of it has taken root in our historical sections of the city.
Which saddens me as I drive through our humble downtown and surrounding areas now. I have history here too having walked our city blocks as a gainfully employed young woman of the 1980’s. Lunchtime then was an event of changing out of them fancy heels into sneakers to spend an hour shopping at Elder-Beerman’s before grabbing a burger from the food court at the Arcade. We had the Rike’s building then, where I worked at E.F. MacDonald on the eight floor. And the upscale Metropolitan clothing store was across the street, next to Frisch’s Big Boy with their cherry cokes. The sidewalk hot dog vendor guy, striped umbrella shading his steaming cart on Second Street. All are gone now.
The artful rotunda (yep, those are really turkey gargoyles up there) atop the Arcade will likely never be appreciated by another generation of Daytonians. But the Rike’s building, which would bring families downtown to view the annual Christmas window decorations, was replaced by the Schuster Performing Arts Center. A definite plus for Dayton and redeeming cultural center that brings Dayton’s street cred up by several notches.
Dayton has so much to be proud of, historically speaking. If we can just be reminded of it all. And if we can continue to preserve it for our children, so they can pass this heritage of information on to their own. We want it remembered that our gem city was built on a foundation of inventors and entrepreneurs.
We Daytonians are proud of our pioneers of creativity. Deeds with the self-starter, technology that is used today in our modern vehicles. And of course Patterson who built a little company called NCR on the wings of the success of his electric cash register. And that fellow so important to my career, Paul Iams*, who founded The Iams Company with his concept that a high-quality protein based dog food will improve the health and well-being of our faithful friends.
Oh, but what are we really famous for, people? Do you know?
Dayton can crow her pride as the birthplace of aviation. In spite of that other state that attempts to stake claim to this first-in-flight stuff (yeah, I’m looking at you North Carolina and your annoying license plate logo.) it is within the boundaries of our fair city that the Wright Brothers were lovingly reared. It was here, right in our West Side, that Orville and Wilbur stewed their creative juices to design a flying machine. The first one that actually could leave the ground and stay up there for more than a few seconds.
The Wright Family lived in what is our West Side in the late 1800’s, then a beautiful middle-class neighborhood of large frame homes and well tended gardens. And an area infamous now for its slow decay. But tucked within this shameful blight, we have a pocket of preserved history as the Wright Brothers National Memorial. To walk through this restored neighborhood, it feels a little like being in a bubble. We’re safe here, inside our shimmering walls. All that stuff on the other side of the opalescence is too blurry to be seen from here. Squint your eyes and you can imagine what once was.
In celebration of Euka’s six month birthday we took her to see the Wright Memorial museum. Well, that’s what we told her. We were actually on tour with our fellow members of the AACA, The Antique Automobile Club of America. Because we apparently have a visceral need to steep ourselves history of all kinds, even cars it seems.
|In hindsight, I should have spent a
minute to adjust that cape. [sigh]
So how’d our girl do, you ask? Quite well, I think. At work we have some trouble with the happy Euka trying to jump on people. Usually the same people, so there’s a pattern there that makes it tougher to fix. At the Wright Brothers’ museum, her greetings were professional [whew]. Even with small children, she would hold a sit for a head pat when what she really wanted to do was sloppily lick their little faces. Good girl, good girl.
Euka gave no response to the manikins in their period garb, which frankly creep me out a little bit. I have to just walk quietly past these things. So long as I don’t look ’em in the eye, I won’t be sending creep-out vibes down the leash to the puppy. Hey, that stuff happens, you know.
Euka respected the displays with nary a sniff. Stairs were handled with the ease of a pup who’s done this stuff before. Just a little trouble with confidence going from carpet to slick floor, so we kept that event to a minimum.
And her reward at the end of the tour was naptime during the thirty minute movie of the Wrights. My reward was learning so much more about the Wright Family than the FAQ’s that we’re fed over and over in the usual info tidbits. Did you know that it wasn’t just Orville, Wilbur and Katherine that we always hear about? There were seven kids in the family, one son was a city commissioner. Another sib was estranged from his famous brothers. Who knew? And dogs! They had family dogs. Must learn more . . .
And hey, North Carolina. Are you still here? I have two words for you. Well, besides Orville and Wilbur because those are proper nouns. Huffman Prairie, y’all. We take your twelve second glide at Kitty Hawk and trump you with the invention of full powered flight in Dayton. Who’s got your birthplace of aviation now? Put that in your bowler hat and well, you know. Booyah or something, y’all.
|A memorial bench to the Wright Brothers at
Woodland Cemetery. In Dayton.
|And the Wright Family plot at Woodland Cemetery. It’s
traditional to toss a penny on Wilbur and Orville’s markers
when you visit. And by the way, these guys are buried in
Dayton, the Birthplace of Aviation.
*Euka sends a shout out to Paul Iams, the developer of the original Eukanuba formula. Eukanuba was a term popular during the Jazz Era. It means “something supreme”. Euka would agree that her name fits perfectly.