Fancy People

Every year about this time… or maybe a few weeks later, we would climb into the blue station wagon, pick up my non-driving grandmother and head into the “big city”. We would not take the intestate that might have saved us at least 30 minutes, because it was big… with big trucks, many lanes and people going way too fast. It was US 50 for us, no bigger than two lanes, Ohio river on the right at times, slower… better for a day adventure. Looking back, I wonder if it was easier for my grandmother to make the transitions between the two worlds.

She was born in Cincinnati in 1909. To cover her life would take many posts… but she ended up in a small river town in Indiana working as a telephone operator (think plugs and cords) and married to my grandfather (who worked for the telephone company) raising 3 kids and taking care of her bed ridden after a stroke, mother for many years. She loved to quilt and crochet.

Every year, we would head into Cincinnati and walk around Shillitos /McAlpins (names blend in my memory) and go to the top of Carew Tower. I honestly cannot remember ever actually buying anything, but just being there soaking up the tall buildings from street level, looking out as far as you could see from the top of the tower and seeing the fancy people and architecture.


The city fascinated me. Carew Tower amazed me. In my eyes, it was so elaborate and so regal. The art deco style (I would learn this name much later) and all the marble and gold. My world was much more farmhouse and yellow linoleum, but I dreamed of fitting in here… of staying in the hotel in Carew Tower.


Time has been unkind at times to downtown Cincinnati and names have changed on some of the buildings. Shillitos/McAlpins/Lazurs is long gone. But I walk into Carew Tower and I am 11 years old again. The attention to detail stops me in my tracks as I look at the small things… railings, moldings, ceilings, emblems. I don’t see the empty shop fronts, I see what it used to be and what stills stands. Memories make me smile as locked in details of an annual outing (that I am sure my mother saw as herding cats at times) surface. And needless to say, when I was finally able to be one of the “fancy people” who stayed in the hotel there… it was all I had dreamed of and more.

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