This article was written by Roberta Baechle Michel, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Cheviot, Ohio 1950
It is a Saturday evening in early summer, 1950. I’m on my Gramma’s front porch hopping on one foot, spinning, hopping on another foot, spinning, “Aren’t they ever going to be ready? “. I’m waiting for my Gramma and her sister, Aunt Rose, to be ready to go “Up to Cheviot”. This is one of my favorite things to do on Saturday night when all the stores stay open late. Finally, they are ready to go. Of course, they had to powder their noses, put on their best hats, straighten their stocking seams and tie up their white walking shoes because we are bound to meet many people we know walking on Harrison Avenue “Up in Cheviot”. I even had to put on a good dress and my best shoes.
I’m off the porch way ahead of my companions. I wait obediently at the curb to take Gramma’s hand to the curb to take Gramma’s hand to cross Lovell Avenue. There are never many cars on Lovell and usually I’m allowed to cross alone. We do a diagonal from Gramma’s house, the third down from the corner, to the South East corner of Harrison and Lovell right in front of Eko’s Saloon. We march smartly past the saloon because Grandma is a stanch teetotaler and has no use for saloons. She would die if she knew that sometimes on Friday afternoon when my dad’s friends, the Hummel bricklayers, get off work they take me to Eko’s. I get to sit on a high stool at the bar and drink real Coke with a straw! Next to the bar is Julius Scharff’s Barber Shop. Sometimes I go to the barber with my dad. I sit on the footrest of the barber chair and listen to Mr. Sharff and my dad talk while Mr. Scharff cuts his hair. I like to listen to older people talk. You can hear a lot of stuff they wouldn’t tell you if they were only talking to you. Gramma grabs my hand again as we are passing another saloon, Stormey’s. I know my Uncle Lou, Rose’s husband, goes in there to get a jug of beer in the afternoon. I also know they give out nickels on Halloween to all the kids. I think Stormey’s is OK, but we are hurrying by. Right next door is Heibach Hardware Store. I go in Heibach’s a lot with my mom. She is Miss Fix it around our house and is always going to Heibach’s for screws, nails, washers and so many other things. You have to go up some steps to get in the front door. I like the smell of the place, like a musty old barn. It even has planked floors like a barn. There are so many interesting things hanging on the walls and in drawer after drawer in big cabinets. I wish I knew what everything was used for. Mr. Heibach knows everything. No matter what kind of thingamajig my mom needs he always knows right where to find it.
Now we are going past the Green Township Cemetery. It is truly a spooky old place. It is totally overgrown with shrubs and cedar trees which block out almost all light. Even on a sunny day it is dark in the cemetery. The gravestones are mostly falling over or broken. They are so old you can barely read them. My cousins and I like to play hide and seek in the cemetery. I’m usually a little scared but I will never let my boy cousins know that. If you actually get through the cemetery to the back, you come out on a hill overlooking Westerhouse Mfg. Company. The hill is the best place in Cheviot to dig clay after a rain. It makes swell mud pies and doll dishes . If the stuff sits in the sun for a while it gets hard just like real dishes.
Kessen’s Shoe Store is the next shop. If Mrs. Kessen is there we will stop because she and Gramma are friends. I like to look at all the shoes. I never buy shoes there because my mom says they are too expensive for us. If you are lucky enough to actually buy shoes in the store you get to stick your feet in a machine that turns your feet into bones. It is really cool to actually see your own bones. Mrs. Kessen let me stick my feet in the machine once even though we didn’t buy any shoes. Mrs. Kessen isn’t there, so we keep going. We pass yet another saloon and then Rohe’s Pharmacy. With any luck we will stop at their soda fountain on the way home for an ice cream.
I take Gramma’s hand to cross Glenmore Avenue. This is possibly the busiest corner in Cheviot because the buses and the streetcars all turn the corner at Harrison and Glenmore. They call it the end of the line. I don’t know why it’s “The End” because they keep right on going downtown to Cincinnati from there. The streetcar stops right in front of my friend’s, Peggy Schloemer, dad’s produce store. Sometimes we play at the store because Peggy’s mom helps her dad in the store just like my mom helps my dad in his delicatessen. Peggy and her brother Steve live right across Lovell Avenue from me over Eko’s Saloon.
We are really in downtown Cheviot now. Dow Drugs is on the other corner across from Rohe’s. Next to Dow’s is Model Shoe Store. This is where I mostly buy my shoes. I love to look in the windows at all the pretty shoes. Finally, we are getting to my favorite store in all of Cheviot, Woolworths 5 and 10, better known as the dime store. Gramma lets me go to the toy counter all by myself and says she’ll be back by to get me. I head straight to the paper doll books. Yep, they got a new shipment; new Esther Williams and new Grace Kelly and a new Bride and Groom book. I meet my friend Gayle there. She is in Cheviot with her Grandma also. Her grandma lives next door to my grandma, and she is spending the night. That means we’ll be able to cut out paper dolls on the front porch tomorrow together. We discuss the pros and cons of the new books. I know I’ll buy Esther Williams as she is my favorite movie star. My mom takes me to see her movies at the Cheviot Show right next to the dime store. Mom likes Esther Williams also; she is such a fabulous swimmer and does beautiful water ballet.
I pick out my book and go in search of Gramma to pay for it. She is in the jewelry department. She works downtown every day and wears beautiful pins and earrings that she buys at the dime store. Together we find Aunt Rose in the needlework department. Rose is always busy making some sort of crocheted item. She also embroiders a lot. She is teaching me to cross stitch. I can’t wait until I am good enough to buy something to embroider in this department. We make our purchases from Mrs. Matthew’s who works at the dime store and lives next door to me in the apartment above the butcher shop.
We head further up the street, past the Cheviot Show and the jewelers to Mettman’s Department Store. Gramma buys all her underwear here. She wears some funny kind of thing called a union suit. It looks like my dad’s sleeveless undershirt with bloomers attached. Uhg! I hope I don’t have to wear union suits when I grow up.
We still have time to go the Mrs. Schmidt’s Gift Shop. Mrs. Schmidt has the most beautiful things. I’m reminded not to touch a thing, only look. I head to the rear of the store where the Character Dolls are kept on a high shelf. They are just beautiful, all dressed up in such fancy dresses. I spy Little Bo Peep, Cinderella and Little Miss Muffet. The dolls are not to play with, just to look at. Gramma gave me one for my last birthday. . It is “The Birthday Girl” and is packed in the prettiest pink polka dotted box. Mom lets me take her out and look at her whenever I want. She is going to put a shelf in my room so I can display “The Birthday Girl” all the time. Gramma has two lovely lady figurines on her mantle that she got from Mrs. Schmidt’s. They are dressed in china ruffles and one has a china muff. I love to look at them.
Gramma says if we want to get ice cream we have to start home now. How fast this evening has passed but I am looking forward to something sweet. I get a double chocolate malt when we get to Rohe’s. I am sitting at the soda fountain in hog heaven. Gramma and Rose are busy talking to all the other people who have stopped for ice cream. Of course, they know Mr. Rohe, who owns the store. He is the druggist. He has a son named Ron who is my age. Gramma and Rose know EVERYBODY.
They have lived in Cheviot since 1901 when their father, John Voss, opened a “Saloon” at the South West corner of Lovell and Harrison, where Rein’s Butcher Shop is now. They lived upstairs from the saloon which my Gramma calls a pool hall and restaurant. You know how she feels about SALOONS. It was called John Voss SALOON.
As I sip my malt, I contemplate all the shops that we didn’t have time for this evening. We didn’t get by Gay Ninety’s. Gay Ninety’s is a restaurant for very special occasions. My cousin had his First Communion breakfast there for all the family. We really had to get all dressed up to go to the party. I thought it was the best. My Uncle Lou goes to Gay Ninety’s a lot. He says something about seeing the book in the back room. That must be a special book because he goes to look at it quite often. I hope I can have a Birthday Party there sometime and maybe I’ll get to see the special “Book” too.
We didn’t get by Cavanaugh’s carry out, or Miller’s Clothes or Duwel Hardware. And if we had crossed Harrison Avenue to the North side of the street, we would have passed Redman’s Furniture Store and Cohen’s Shoe Store and Schinkles Poultry Store. And at the corner of Glenmore and Harrison is Leo’s Western Auto. My friends’, Tom and Carol Weber, father manages the store. I’ve got my eye on a blue two-wheeler. My dad thinks I’m too little to ride a two-wheeler. He doesn’t know I ride my cousin’s bike whenever I’m at her house. Maybe next birthday.
We’ve finished our ice cream and are on our way back the last block to home. Across Harrison Avenue is the Central Trust Bank, a barber, the Westwood Baptist Cemetery and then my friend’s, Kay Umberg, dad’s restaurant. Then there is another saloon and the automobile store. Next is Slim’s Bakery which usually smells so good of baking bread, but not on Saturday night because they are not open on Sunday. Almost next to the bakery are the firehouse and the police department.
Across Lovell is Wahl’s Department Store. My mom takes me in there a lot because they have a yard goods department and mom sews all our clothes. Mrs. Wahl sometimes gives me an old pattern book. I can cut paper dolls out of this for an entire summer. Across Harrison from Wahl’s is Rehn’s Butcher Shop where we buy all our meat. It is just around the corner from my dad’s business, The Lovell Delicatessen, where we live on the second floor. We are home again. We had a really perfect Saturday night “Up to Cheviot.” I’m going to bed and dream about playing new paper dolls with my friend tomorrow and about going back to Cheviot on another Saturday night.