My Travel Memories: The Return to Detroit and Cincinnati

The first time we visited Detroit, it seemed like a nice enough city.  Of course, looking at the long term, Detroit was about halfway declined by then (Detroit had peaked in the 1950s).  The decline, however, was much more obvious to us in 1987.  Maybe we just visited more obviously declined neighborhoods on this trip, but we found that to be really sad.

Cincinnati was also kind of depressing as well.  In 1980, my mom and I had spent the day at Union Terminal, which was, at the time, a shopping mall.  When we returned in 1987, the mall was closed.  We had, at that point, no idea that three years later Union Terminal would reopen as the Museum Center.  We had had dinner in the rotating restaurant atop the Quality Inn which is now a Radisson in 1980.  That restaurant was closed as well.

I’m hoping to redeem the memory of that trip to Cincinnati, at least, the weekend of the total eclipse in 2017.  We won’t be able to see the eclipse in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which will be where the eclipse will be total for the longest period, as the trip back to San Antonio will take too much time.  If all goes as planned, we’ll be going up through Memphis and Nashville to Cincinnati and then across to either Kansas or Nebraska, depending on where we can get a room at this point.  Then we’ll come straight back and go back to work and (likely, though the calendar hasn’t been released yet) school the next day.  And we don’t need to stay right on top of the eclipse site, since we’ll be driving.  We can stay a bit out of the way and drive to the eclipse site.  Having our car will also open up more possible places to see the eclipse.  If the place we stay ends up being overcast that day, we can go northwest or southeast until we find a place that’s open.

My Travel Memories: Cincinnati, Ohio

Finally, we get to Cincinnati.  Cincinnati is not a perfect city by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s in the “rust belt,” which (for those not in the United States) is a reference to the region that used to rely heavily upon industrial jobs but where the industrial jobs have disappeared, sending the economy and population of the region into something of a tailspin.  Cincinnati also has, from what I have read, a great deal of racial tension.  Chicago is not free of racial tension, but I grew up in an area that had had been dragged kicking and screaming into racial diversity and now I live in San Antonio, which is more diverse than not (the 2010 census reports that the population of white non-Latino residents in the city proper is 26.6%).

So, Cincinnati is not exactly heaven on Earth or anything like that (despite being the place where a family friend had a conversion experience). What Cincinnati has that makes it worth the trip?  Is Cincinnati Union Terminal (now home to the Cincinnati Museum Center).

I have actually been to Cincinnati twice. The first time was in 1980, when Union Terminal was a shopping mall.  My mom and I visited the mall while my dad was working and we had a wonderful time.  The mall was, well, a mall.  But the building?  Is beautiful. The rotunda, the tiny details. Even the pay phones were gorgeous.  This was, of course, back in the days before everyone had a cell phone and we had to call my dad to arrange where he was going to pick us up, so we had to find a pay phone and the phone booths were very Art Deco.  I half-expected Superman to emerge from one.

Speaking of Superman, Cincinnati Union Terminal is also the inspiration for the Hall of Justice from the old 1970s Super Friends cartoon show.  So if train stations aren’t your thing, and neither is Art Deco architecture or museums, perhaps it would be worth the visit for the comics/Saturday-morning-cartoon fan in your traveling group.

When my folks and I returned to Cincinnati in 1987, Union Terminal sat empty.  This was distressing for both my mom and me, since it’s such a lovely building and we’d had such a good time there.  Little did we know (since the Internet wasn’t widely available yet) that plans were under way to turn Union Terminal into the Cincinnati Museum Center.

I only discovered this information around three or four years ago, when a friend was planning a trip to Cincinnati and asked what there was to do there.  I was sad that the station had been empty and looked it up, dreading to find that the building was razed.  Lo and behold, the building had been given new life.  Since 1990, the Museum Center has been home to the Cincinnati History Museum, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and an Omnimax theater.

Of course, I have not returned to Cincinnati since the opening of the Museum Center, but I am planning another trip to Cincinnati in 2017.  My hope is that when Alex and I go to Kentucky for the eclipse we will drive there (stopping in Nashville to see the Parthenon on the way).  Perhaps we will visit Graceland as well; I don’t know what kind of time we’ll have available.  But Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the town closest to the point of greatest eclipse, is only four hours from Cincinnati.  I’ve been in Texas for nearly 23 years now.  A four-hour drive really is “only” to me. So I figure that we’ll start a day earlier, overshoot Hopkinsville by four hours, visit Union Terminal (and take lots of pictures!), spend the night in Cincinnati or in Louisville, and then get up extra early to make it back to Hopkinsville in time for the eclipse.  At least, that’s the plan.  Let’s see how it works out in practice.

I Am So Confused

So, I just recently wrote up my My Travel Memories for Lexington (and maybe Louisville) Kentucky.  My photo album has us going through Springfield in 1980 and then has some things from Lexington.  In the process of scanning in postcards, I found one that my mom mailed to me, postmarked 1983, that references our first trip to Cincinnati.

But all of the photos of Cincinnati that I can find are from 1987.  Our 1980 photo album abruptly jumps to my first date, in 1982, after Lexington.

So, after discussing possibilities with my dad, we have come to the conclusion that the trip to Cincinnati referenced in that postcard must have been in 1980.  If I eventually find some evidence that it was in some other year (despite Cincinnati being out of the way for any of our other destinations) I will change it, but the way things stand now, it sure looks like we were there in 1980, so I will write it that way.  I think we also went to Detroit that year, and perhaps Cleveland, as well.

The Photo-Scanning Project that Ate Cincinnati

In an attempt to remember all of the places that I’ve visited, I asked my dad to dig up all of our old photo albums.  I originally just intended to scan in the travel-related photos, but the project just kept getting bigger and bigger.  I now have scanned in more than 2,000 photographs and am on what I had originally planned to be my final photo album, but my dad has found five boxes of albums, so I suspect I may just be getting started.  And it’s not just albums. About three weeks ago, I dug out an old photo box that my now-ex and I bought to put our photos in since we didn’t have the discipline to put them into albums.  I just got effectively all of them scanned in.  I say “effectively” because my son had a pretty good eye for photography from a very young age. When he was three, we started letting him have those disposable cameras.  A stack about two inches high of the photos in that box are likely to be his and I have yet to get them scanned in.<!–more–>

My current album is mostly photos of my mom and her family from the 1940s.  Back when my mom was alive a cousin said that he was doing digital photo restoration, but she “heard” (and I am pretty sure I know from whom she “heard” this) that converting to digital is a waste of time.  Then she gave me the spiel about how because of technology, we wouldn’t be able to access digital photos forever, but anyone with eyes can see printed photographs forever.  I offered to do the scanning so that she could just send the disk to the cousin.  And I actually got a start on the project.  I got two photograph albums in (those photos are on a different external drive than the one I have attached to my computer right now) when everything sort of fell apart.  My mom died and my marriage ended.  My now-ex also took the scanner, since it was technically his.  As a result, stopped scanning the photos.  The album that I am on now was my next one up and I really wish I had done this album first or second, because if my mom had seen the shape of some of these photos, she would have agreed wholeheartedly with scanning them in.  A number of these photos are faded almost beyond recognition, and some are actually falling apart.  In an ideal universe, perhaps leaving the prints alone would work.  But right now, when these photos are 70 years old, I am thrilled to be able to preserve them as they are.

And I know that technology will change, but one of the sources I found says that the life expectancy of an “unmanaged” collection of digital photos (by “unmanaged” they mean that no one is there to port them over to new technology) is 20 years.  I fully hope to be here longer than that.  If all goes as planned, I have at least 30 to go and am doing my best to make it another 50.  I have too much traveling to do to die in the next 20 years.  Just in case, however, I have asked my son to donate a hard drive with all of this work on it to a library or archive after my death.  If I am not here to manage my photos, then an organization that exists to preserve memories can do it for me.

On that cheerful note, on to explaining the reference to Cincinnati in my post title.  Sometime when I was a small child, someone referred to something that had gotten out of hand as it having “eaten Cincinnati.”  I am not sure who it was or what the context was, and Google is not helping me.  However, it stuck and now I use it the same way.  Only in this case, I can say that this project may really have eaten Cincinnati, since I have Cincinnati (circa 1987) right here:

Cincinnati, from Covington, Kentucky
Cincinnati, August 1987, taken from across the Ohio River, in Covington, Kentucky.

1/25/2019 On or around November 28, 2018, I realized that I need to start monetizing this blog. To that end, I’m starting to put what I call Gratuitous Amazon Links into my posts. As of January 12, 2019, I’m going back to add GALs to my older posts. If I can’t find anything exactly on-topic to the post, I’m choosing from among the highest-rated items on the same topic as the post. For example, for a post on a park, I’ll search Amazon for books on parks and choose one of the ones with the highest reader ratings. Here is the GAL for this post:

Photography Demystified: Your Guide to Gaining Creative Control and Taking Amazing Photographs (Kindle Edition) by David McKay (Author), Photorec Toby (Foreword), Ally McKay (Photographer), Nick Sharples (Photographer), Steve Scurich (Photographer)