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.