Thursday, November 10, 2011

Where Can I Find the Prosit?

A photo I took on a recent trip back home.  The space between Murphey's Pub
and the red brick building is where I thought Grandma's apartment was.  It had a
decent side yard, and the other buildings are close together.  Also
in the photo of Grandma and Aunt Dot in the side yard, the "Warner Street" sign
is visible, meaning the house had to be in that spot.  This photo is taken on the
corner of Warner and Clifton.

I've looked and looked all over the web for the old Clifton Avenue saloon where my father and his friends hung out in the late '40s and early '50s.  I believe it was in the building now owned by Murphey's Pub.  Everytime we go home for a visit, I tell myself to go in the pub and see if the owners can give me any information on the Prosit Saloon.  I got on their website today and read the history they've posted.  Interesting.

They state that a Virgil Hahn established his bar and grill at that location in 1938, and the first beer was served. Then, in 1958, the business was sold to a Charles Mahoney who maintained the business until 1969, when the establishment became the present-day Murphey's.

The site also states that there have been many proprietors over the years.  Is it possible that between Hahn's and Mahoney's, the Prosit existed?

I remember, when we lived on Klotter Avenue, just a block or so down Clifton hill, in the sixties, the Prosit was there. On Clifton Avenue, not far from the corner of our street.  Honestly, it was there.

Perhaps in the empty lot next to Murphey's Pub there stood another commercial building that was demolished, and that was where the Prosit sat. Up until now, I've thought the empty lot was where the apartment building stood that Grandma lived in when I was a child, where Aunt Dot, Aunt Clara and Uncle Frank lived up until they married.

'll have to take another look when we're up there next, actually get out of the car and walk...maybe the physical closeness to the street and buildings will jolt my memory.  I'm also thinking I need to look up old property records to see what happened to the Prosit.

In the meantime, if a kindred Cincinnatian reading this remembers the old Prosit, give me a holler.  I'd be much obliged.  Back to my storywriting.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Storybook of Who You Are

Got this idea from a book I'm currently reading.  A Softer Strength, a Christian book by Dondi Scumaci.

What is the story of who you are?

If you scrapbook your family's life, or working on a written history of your family, have you given serious thought to revealing your personal life story?  The part that happened before your present life, whatever that may be.

If you're a Mom now, do your kids know who you were before you became their mother?

Think about it.  How important would it be to see and read the story of your mom's life?  Your dad's story?  Maybe your grandparents' lives?

I'm piecing together the life stories of my parents and grandparents in the present now.  Yes, I enjoy the research, the discoveries I make almost on a continuing basis.  But I can't help think how awesome it would be if my ancestors had written something while they were alive.

I guess I'm lucky, or blessed, or both, to have a good long-term memory of the stories I heard as a kid, of the family events and celebrations, the good times and the bad times.

But I'm really not talking "history" here as much as "story."  Personal story of who a human being is, inside and out.

I wonder if many of us even know who we are inside and out.

I'm getting more familiar with who I am because of the writing.

I also some of us even care or think it's important to know who we are.  Really know.  We wear many hats in our lives.  We are many things to many people.

Is it important to know thyself?

"There are three Things extremely hard, Steel, a Diamond, and to know one's self." ~ Benjamin Franklin
Wherever we go, whatever we do, self is the sole subject we study and learn. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Journals (1833) 
Emerson also wrote a poem entitled "Γνώθι Σεαυτόν", or Gnothi Seauton ('Know Thyself'), on the theme of 'God in thee.' Emerson's belief that to 'know thyself' meant knowing the God which Emerson felt existed within each person.

Maybe we're afraid to go that deep into ourselves.  We like the status quo because it's safe.

At any rate, I'm at a point in life where I'm forced to expose the person I am for my own mental health.  I wonder if this happens to all of us at some points in our lives.

I've heard people who've experienced heart attacks speak of this.  Having a close call in life can make a person dig deep.  Become "real."

My favorite take on becoming real.

What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”~The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

Becoming real causes healing.

Some think they don't need healing...they're just fine, always have been, always will be.

That's strange thinking in my opinion.

Surface living.  Not worth much.

Always keeping everything as light as that fake butter they sell in the grocers' dairy cases.  No real substance.  A substitute for the real thing.

A lot of us come from families whose mantras read, "Don't let others know who we really are. Keep everything to ourselves.  Don't let the neighbors know."

Eventually that dedication to secrecy catches up with us.  

Because families aren't always right about things.

Are you still resisting that fact?  That families aren't always right?  Why?  What's at stake?

Think about The Story of Who You Are.  It's a storybook.  You can write it.  You can illustrate it with all those photos you have.  You will end up knowing yourself and becoming real.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Deans of Muses Mill

Latest research on Grandpa Frank.

This is all prior to his visit on Sander Street. 

Military record found on Frank Dean, birth date same, June 1989, enlistment date 30 Apr 1918, which puts him at 20 years of age.  10 Company Pensacola Coast Guard Artillery Corps, at Ft. Barrancas.  Two military records for this, and one lists him as "Francis."

Assuming this is indeed Frank, shortly after an honorable discharge on 22 Mar 1919, he married my grandmother, Clara Wehrle, on 6 May 1919.  On that marriage record, Frank lists his parents as Nelly Cramer and John Dean.

Retrieved a marriage record for Nelly Cramer and John Dean, dated 18 Jun 1900, two years AFTER Frank's birth. 

John Dean, born "abt 1862," is found in the 1880 Kentucky census, and he did list his birth state as KY, residence being in "Muses, Fleming, Kentucky."  He is 18 at that census and occupation is listed as "farm laborer."  Google of the town shows "Muses Mills," which is in Fleming County.  Parents:  Elisha Dean and Betsy Dean.  Familiar name to mine.  Hmmm.  John listed on his and Nelly's marriage license his parents' names as Elisha Dean and Betsy Jacobs. 

Nelly listed her parents as Ellen Cornell and John Cramer.  A record for their marriage shows a date of  16 Mar 1874. 

Nelly Cramer was then found on the 1910 Ohio census as the wife of Joseph O'Flaherty and Frank is listed as "stepson," aged 12, with a sister, Ettie, 8 years of age.  This marriage record found is dated 30 Mar 1910.

I then found a death certificate for Nelly O'Flaherty, at age 42, dated 19 Jan 1918, while Frank was in the military.  The death record shows cause of death as "mitral insufficiency" at St. Mary's hospital.  Nelly's birth date was 29 Jun 1876. 

The next recorded information on Frank appears in 1920, in the Ohio census, married to Clara.  My father was born 20 Feb 1920 and this census precedes his birth.  The 1930 census lists Raymond, my father, as well as younger siblings at that time, Norbert, Dorothy, and Clara.  "Junior" was yet to be born.  This tells me that Frank was still in residence.  It would have been shortly after Frank, Jr.'s birth when my father made him leave. 

As of this time, I'm thinking I'm a Dean descendant from the Deans of Muses Mill, Kentucky. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grandpa Frank

Bettyann on Mandatory Hair Bow Day at St. George Catholic School. 
One of those times Aunt Vera pincurled my hair the night before.
Sander Street - The Fifties

The staircase had a banister tailor-made for young kids, spiraling from the top floor to the bottom, curving around two landings without any hindrance. That means our cousins could hop on the banister in the hall outside their apartment and take an express slide all the way to the bottom hall that exited off our kitchen to the backyard. Aunt Vera was constantly yelling, “You kids stay off that banister!”

This house on Sander Street is where many of my stories take place. This was in Corryville, just a few blocks from St. George Church and School.

We’d moved here from Hollister Street, directly across from Inwood Park on the corner of Hollister and Vine. We didn’t live in the Hollister house too long, as I remember, but I know one of my siblings was a baby on Hollister. By process of deduction, it had to have been Nancy, because Donna, two years earlier, had been born in Morrow, Ohio, when we lived with our maternal grandfather, Lawrence Jones.

Nancy was still a baby on Sander Street. I remember her in the crib which stood against the wall next to the double bed. All of the children slept in the same room, all in the double bed except for whoever slept in the crib. When a new baby came, the one in the crib graduated to the double bed. When it became too crowed in that bed, a “rollaway” bed was added next to it, and my next eldest sibling, Phyllis, and I moved there.

Among my only memories of Hollister Street, the second floor apartment of a large, Victorian style house was learning about “Four O’Clock” flowers from the landlady, an avid gardener, and waiting patiently for entire days in the yard to see them open up at exactly four pm, which I never saw. I’ve grown Four O’Clocks for years now, and they always remind me of Hollister Street. And, no, I still haven’t been watching when they opened at four o’clock.

I also started first grade on Hollister. I’d started the year before in Morrow, at Grandpa’s, but then I caught every known childhood disease possible and was absent over half of the year. At least that’s what they told me. I know now that our lives were sheer pandemonium during that time, when I was six and eligible for school. There was no kindergarten then.

Living upstairs in Grandpa’s house, I remember bits and pieces. I remember my father was restless and hated living away from the city life. More specifically, away from the saloons and bars that he loved so much. Grandma Dean told me Dad started hanging out in the bars when he went to work during the depression to help support the family. I think he was twelve when he began shining shoes and selling newspapers on the streets.

Grandma said older men bought him drinks in the saloons, and it became a way of life for him. The drinking also wiped the hurtful past out of Dad’s mind. The reason he had to support his younger siblings and his mother was because he’d thrown his father out on the street when he was fed up with watching his mother get beat up. Dad, however, never wanted to talk about that. I saw the guilt he bore for having to do that, even though he was protecting his family.

On Hollister Street, I remember Dad taking me to the first grade classroom at St. George Catholic School, the same school he’d attended as a boy, introducing me to the teacher, a Sister of Notre Dame nun in full regulation regalia, and leaving to go downstairs where he worked as the manager of the bowling lanes, the “Georgian Club.” That nun scared the daylights out of me, and I wanted to run after my father for all I was worth.

The First and Last Time I Saw Grandpa Frank

This is how I learned Dad was guilty about forcing his father out of the home when he was a young boy. He loved his father and demonstrated this love when Grandpa Frank showed up at our house on Sander Street one summer evening.

Me and Grandma Clara Wehrle Dean on Easter, standing
across the street from our house on Sander Street, about
1952, the same time Grandpa Frank Dean appeared.

I was about ten the evening Grandma Dean and I stood at the living room window that overlooked the long, narrow side porch, and stared at a man who was a stranger to me, but who Grandma had vowed to never lay eyes on again.

Dad pleaded with his mother. “Just come out to see him, Mom. He just wants to see you.”

Grandma's chin locked in place and her head turned side to side. “I won't, Raymond. I've already told you. I said I’d never talk to him again or see him, and I meant it.”

Dad went back outside to relay the message to his father, a man dressed more fancy than I'd ever seen in my life. I remember the Stetson type straw hat on his head, set at just a slight angle as if he put it that way carefully. The black pin-striped suit. No man in our neighborhood wore a suit. And the shoes. I'd never seen a man in anything but black or brown shoes, except “gym” shoes as we called them, canvas black and white high-tops for playing basketball. But this strange man sported white shoes. That helps me remember it was summer.

Uncle Norb, Aunt Vera, and Mom were outside too. I told Grandma I wanted to go out, and she’d forbid it. “Bettyann, you will not go out there where that man is.”

I didn't have to wonder why she hated this man so. She'd already told me. She'd started telling me family stories as soon as she knew I could listen and understand, and that was pretty young. I was groomed early by two teenaged aunts, Dad's sisters, Dorothy and Clara, along with Grandma, to pay attention. Listen and learn.

The three of them spoiled me as much as they could get away with. They owned me from the moment I exited the womb.

Dad was stationed in Hawaii, in the army when I was born. It was 1942, World War Two. Mom stayed with her parents most of the time because my Grandma, Cecile Leeds Jones, was dying of breast cancer, and Mom took care of her at home as much as she could and let the Deans take care of me.

Mom told me when I got older that the odor in the house where my Grandma Cecile was dying was almost unbearable and how the poor woman cried out in excruciating pain. The cancer had almost completely eaten away the afflicted breast that my mother had to wash and keep clean.

I also found out from Mom, when she told me that story, how my Grandpa, Lawrence Jones, her father, was out running around with other women. I guess he had what you call “needs.” She said he even brought one of the women home while his wife lay dying in another room.

I didn’t know this until I was an adult. It was hard, remembering how much I’d loved my Grandpa. It was harder understanding my mom’s forgiveness of her father.

I still can't believe my mother had to go through that. How awful she must have suffered. But she left out part of the story, a big part, I wouldn't hear until my sister Phyllis was dying years later.

My other grandmother, Grandma Dean, that early summer evening on Sander Street, spoke in a hushed voice as we crouched at the window and stared out onto the sidewalk, “He always was a dandy, that man. Always had to dress just so.” Dandy, I'd learned, was a man who looked fine.

Like my other grandfather, Grandpa Frank was a player too. That might have been forgiven him, but when he came home and hit my grandmother one time too many, my father put an end to it and told him never to come back.

Then Dad dropped out of school and went to work shining the shoes and selling the papers. He felt responsible for his younger siblings, Dorothy, Norbert, Clara, and “Junior” (named after his father. I called him Uncle Junior for most of my life. I don't think Grandma liked to call him Frank because it reminded her of his father.

“Why is he here, Grandma?” I said. She just shook her head. “I don't know. He's stayed gone all these years, supposed to have gotten married again and had two more kids. Your father says he's sick, but I don't know.”

It's true that Frank had gotten married again, but Grandma never divorced him because of the Pope. She never even tried to get a dispensation from him. She believed in her heart that those marriage vows stood until death do you part. It was okay if you never saw your spouse again, or lived with them. But you stayed married. That was what you signed up for. The idea of my Grandma ever seeing another man would make you laugh. That just wasn't her.

Finally, my Grandfather Frank was gone. I don't remember if he had driven a car or if he walked back up to Vine Street to catch a bus. I only have that memory, that scene, locked in my head of that evening over fifty years ago.

Not long after that, but I'm not sure how long, Frank did end up in the hospital where he was dying of cirrhosis of the liver. He was an alcoholic, had been all of his life. It’s a gene that resided with my Dad and my brother Ray, and finally with one of my own sons.

His father dying, again Dad tried to get Grandma to go to see him in the hospital, but she refused. Dad went and tried to get a priest to come and give his father the last rites of the Catholic Church, but all of them turned him down. Frank had committed the sin of bigamy and had been excommunicated from the Church for a long, long time. Dad came home from the hospital, and I watched from around the corner of living room as he cried on my mom’s shoulder. That was the first time I saw my father cry. It hurt him terribly that he could not get a priest to give his father the last rites.

I’d wondered then, watching his cry, why it was so important for Dad to help his father, when he was the one who threw him out of the home. Later Grandma explained he loved his father and only did what he thought was right for the family, and she was grateful to him.

I also knew my father to be a kind man, a generous man, never to hold a grudge. He had a great capacity for love in his heart. He took pity on homeless men out on the streets, some who were drinking themselves to death. Dad’s own alcoholism never gave him a reason to miss a day of work or not take care of us. I was never abused physically. Dad never raised his hand to our mother. He got in bar fights only when he had to protect Uncle Norb because his younger brother had a big mouth that got him into trouble over and over. When Norbert would smart off to big guys and they went to take him out, Dad stepped up and knocked them to the floor. But he was not a mean man.

1920 Census showing Frank and Clara Dean in Hamilton County, Cincinnati,
before my father was born

Grandpa Frank Dean and Grandma Clara Wehrle's Marriage Record

Monday, May 16, 2011


I started in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.  The first home I remember was a second-floor apartment on Clifton Avenue, a couple of miles up the hill from downtown Cincy.  "Lower" Clifton we called it.  My Grandma lived in that apartment with my two aunts, Dorothy and Clara, and my teenaged Uncle "Junior" (Frank, Jr.).  It's the earliest memory that has survived these 64 years.  I was four in that early memory. 

In Cincinnati, there's Clifton Heights, and there's the Gaslight District, or "Ludlow."  I didn't live in either one of those.  Lower Clifton a short distance from the Vine Street/Clifton split.  Where Harry's Corner used to be at the "V,"  the place that sold linoleum.

The white shingled apartment house where Dad's family lived was next door to The Prosit Cafe.  While most of the houses on that part of Clifton were the tall, narrow type, built one practically against the other with a few feet between, the one next to the Prosit saloon had a side yard. 

I think the reason I remember so much about that place after all of these years is because I was happy there.  That three-room apartment fooled me into thinking the rest of my life would be like it was there.

This scrapbook page features a picture of my Grandma, Clara Wherle Dean, in the side yard, in 1948, when I was six.

The steps to the right lead into one of the downstairs apartments.  My parents moved into that flat about this same time period.  I think I remember Grandma moving downstairs into the front apartment, facing the street.  The only reason I think this is because there are photos that show a front outside door in the living room.  That part's a little sketchy.

This layout shows Grandma and Aunt "Dot" in their summer finery.  They were always beautiful and valued style.  They felt good about themselves, and it showed.  I remember feeling good too when I was with them.  A lot of not-so-good things happened to me, and sometimes it was important to be with Aunt Dot and Grandma.  I wanted to be just like them.  I never really succeeded. 

Maybe it's because I made bad choices and moved away.

I owe a lot to my cousin Debbie, one of Aunt Dot's daughters, for hunting up these old photos for me.  This particular one of Grandma and my aunt means the world to me.  I feel like I am right there with them, like I can reach out and touch them.  The good memories of that time, when I felt so secure and loved, feels real all over again.

Aunt Dot married Bill Mertz about this time, and it just meant I had another person who loved me and made me feel protected and good about myself.  If he didn't enjoy me being underfoot all of the time, he sure never let me know it.  I lived to see his car pull up in front of our house during the '50s and transport me away to my favorite place, where he and my aunt lived with their growing family.