If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything happens there ten years later. –attributed to Mark Twain, perhaps apocryphally
As a native Cincinnatian who began this blog in Jan. 2009, I think it’s high time that I compose a post (com-post, for short?) about my home town….but do the math: ten years have yet to pass, so I’m actually more than three years ahead of “Cincinnati time” with this humorous (humus-rich?) travelblog. Further more, it is my fondest hope that by the time I’ve finished de-composing this tour de farce, you will know every bit as much about Cincinnati as you do now (as, I hope, will I).
Cincinnati, for the benefit of the geographically challenged, is located in Ohio on the Ohio, not to mention under the Ohio — on occasions like the Great Flood of January-February 1937. I can bear witness to this, as I was 3 1/2 months old at the time and remember thinking the second-story-level deluge I found myself awash in was one bitch of an ice-cold bath/where the hell did my rubber ducky float off to (my language skills were rather advanced for my age).
Incidentally, some so-called experts are skeptical that Mark Twain (like Yogi Berra a century later) said what he said, but I am not….skeptical, that is. I am mistermuse, and I say the above quote is just the kind of thing Twain might say after spending months working as a printer in Cincinnati from late 1856 to April 1857, printing news that happened in 1846-47. Imagine his shock after leaving Cincinnati for New Orleans on April 15, 1857 to find that the world had aged ten years in less than six months.
But enough about me. It may interest you to know that Twain’s jaded opinion of Cincinnati was not shared by other famous personages of yesteryear. Here are just a few of the two examples I found who found Cincinnati to be the fairest of flowers in America’s bouquet:
Cincinnati is a beautiful city; cheerful, thriving and animated. I have not often seen a place that commends itself so favourably and pleasantly to a stranger at the first glance as this does. –Charles Dickens, 1842
The most beautiful inland city in America. -Winston Churchill, 1932
You may be vondering vhy this post about Zinzinnati is so titled. Vell, after the town vas founded in the late 1700s and settled by Revolutionary Var veterans and pioneers, the first large influx of immigrants vas Germans. Reminded of their native Rhine Valley by the Ohio River Valley, the vord spread back to der homeland, bringing increasing numbers of Germans by der thousands. D. J. Kenny writes in ILLUSTRATED CINCINNATI:
One has no sooner entered the districts of the city lying beyond Court Street, than he finds himself in another atmosphere — a foreign land. The people are Germans, their very gossip is German. They cook their food by German recipes, and sit long over their foaming beer, ever and again shaking it ’round their glass with that peculiar motion which none but a German can impart to the beverage he loves.
To this day, that district is known as “Over-the-Rhine,” but sadly, a city vhich vas once second only to Milwaukee as the beer capital of America, gave up almost all its breweries (including The Burger Brewing Company, whose slogan vas Vas you efer in Zinzinnati?). To explain what happened, I quote Greg Noble and Lucy May in this except from their post titled Cincinnati’s rise and fall as a brewery town:
Back in 1902, when Carrie Nation was busting up saloons with the swings of her ax during the temperance crusade, she arrived in Cincinnati determined to leave her mark in splintered bar tops and broken windows. But Carrie glanced up and down Vine Street, started counting the 136 saloons on that one street alone, and fled in retreat without taking one swing.. She later confessed that she “would have dropped from exhaustion” in the first block.
That was the golden era of beer and breweries in Cincinnati. For decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, Cincinnati was one of the beer-drinkingest, beer-brewingest cities in America. Big local breweries established a rich, proud heritage — only to meet their demise in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. How did that happen?
To use a baseball analogy, think of it as the Cardinals and Brewers spending so much on player salaries that the Reds couldn’t compete. The brewing giants — notably St. Louis’ Anheuser-Busch, Milwaukee’s Miller and others — out-spent, out-produced and out-marketed Cincinnati’s breweries and eventually overcame local brand loyalty.
I could go on, but my eyes are out of focus from crying in my beer thinking about this. Wie schade!