Friday, November 4, 2016

"Snatches of Memories from Earlier Days" by Rose Lucas

Recently, I attended a presentation by Holly Weidemann about the renovation of the old Fayette County Courthouse, and a jumble of memories came to mind…

Pictures of the courtroom reminded me of our first Boxer puppy.  One Sunday morning, when I was about eight years old, I was at the court house with my dad – he frequently took us to the courthouse, city hall and the jail – the benefits of having an attorney for a parent.   On that particular Sunday, one of the magistrates strolled in with this little brown wiggly puppy, and my love affair with Boxers started.  She was Mitzi, and there have been six more, including the two I have now. 

Working in the backyard garden or sitting on the patio these past few years has not been the same without the chiming of the courthouse clock.  I understand the works will be put back in order, and I look forward to hearing the clock striking again as I have most of my life.  It is a straight shot from downtown to Elsmere Park – no big buildings block the sound, and it is a wonderful and musical gong.  When I worked downtown at my dad’s office in the summers, the clock was just across the street, and it was such a joyful sound. 

Recently I have noticed popcorn in cone shaped paper bags in the grocery store.  I have fond memories of the outdoor popcorn stand located along Limestone at Water Street.  Often our family would go to my mother’s sister’s home in Versailles for Sunday dinner in the early afternoon, and coming home was always a great ride, watching the telephone poles along Versailles Road (no median, and lots of wires).  A slight detour on the way home would land us at the popcorn stand for a cone shaped bag of white popcorn (we only had yellow popcorn elsewhere), and we would have a light treat for supper. 

After I was old enough to walk downtown by myself, maybe I was about nine, I spent many a summer day in Gratz Park.  First I would return books and then check out books from the  Lexington Public library (now the Carnegie Center) , and then I would sit on one of the benches at the fountain and have a sandwich and read.  I kept this up until I had read everything on the second floor (children’s books) and was not old enough to check out books from the first floor (adult section).  I seem to remember the age was 12, or maybe 14, to use the adult section.  Reading library books was a big deal at our home; my dad would bring home new editions frequently.  Thus, my sitting at the fountain turned into sitting on the porch (not nearly as cool) so I could read “grown up” books.

I hope the children growing up in the Northside are harvesting memories for their futures.  Few places offer all the adventures we have and enjoy, no matter our ages.

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Fall in the Northside" by Rose Lucas


Fall in the Northside – I mean the weather, not the missing sidewalks and messed up streets!  Will we ever see smooth walks and streets again?  The sidewalks, particularly, lend themselves to “fall in the Northside”.  I am fascinated by the work being done on Sixth between Broadway and Upper – no thought whatsoever to closing alleys when there was only one lane on Broadway open.  Thank goodness we have the center passing lane!  Some days I wonder who gives out the permits for all this work being done in our neighborhood, and if the “permiter” realizes how many people use our sidewalks, crosswalks and streets.

Ahh…on to more positive topics.  Our neighborhood is truly beautiful in the fall.  Our old growth trees, some of the most majestic in the city, provide color through the first of November.  Our new growth trees are coming along.  Fall decorations, with pansies, mums, pumpkins and other color, provide  pleasant travel for the neighbors and for those who traverse our streets.   Restoration of homes on Broadway, Upper, Sixth and the apartment complex at Sixth and Broadway certainly is improving the streetscape – and is fun to watch.

Growing up in the Northside, one of the greatest pleasures was walking to downtown and passing through the Transylvania campus to Gratz Park.  This remains a wonderful path, and I am so happy to see more and more people walking on Broadway, Upper, and Lime as well as the side streets.

With school back in session, the lazy days of summer have morphed into a busy schedule for all of us, and I am no different.  I am way behind on these Northside memories entries, but this has been an incredibly busy time.  One of the exciting events I want to share is the final wrap up of the 125th anniversary of Elsmere Park.  On September 4, we held a park picnic, and over 60 people attended – the most excitement celebrated all the children who now live on the park, including brand new babies, Chet for Cady and Ryan Brown and Boone for Christi and Whit Hiler, and new neighbors, Emily and Beatrix Cheatham.  At the picnic, young and older folks enjoyed the balloon toss and the egg in spoon race.  Former neighbors came from Alabama and various neighborhoods around Lexington.    Park picnics on Elsmere Park started in the 1970’s and have been held most years since then.   All this in celebration of one of Lexington’s earliest subdivisions.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"Elsmere Park" by Rose Lucas


Elsmere Park is celebrating 125 years since it was accepted into the city of Lexington as a subdivision.   Among the best aspects of Elsmere Park is the history of the people who have lived on the street.  However, rather than detail the lives of former residents, I am taking advantage of this forum to tell a more personal story. 

There is an ongoing rivalry between Joe Binford and me about who has lived on the street the longest.  Joe takes the record for continuous occupation.  He and Anne moved to the Park in September, 1963, thus they have 53 years in residence at 657.  Jack and I had moved to 612 in June, 1963, and I fondly remember the Binford and Lucas children playing together before Jack’s work took us to Ohio for 14 years.   I came home to 638 Elsmere Park as a newborn, lived here for much of the 1960’s, and I have lived at 612 or 638 for a total of 61 years.  So I claim the longevity prize from Joe.

I love parties – and one of my first memories of a boy-girl party was a dance my parents had when I was in the sixth grade.  My dad, who always had a surprise up his sleeve, rented a jukebox for the party, and one of the songs on the machine was The Tennessee Waltz, sung by Patti Page (it is available on line with a great video of her singing the sweet tune).  My cousin from Versailles brought his friend, Joe Binford (an older boy!!!) to the party, and Joe and I danced to The Tennessee Waltz.  What an impression I had of this guy – and then we lost contact until the Binfords came to live on the Park just after Jack and I did in 1963. Today, I count myself lucky to have such good friends as Joe and Anne just across the street! Elsmere Park circles are pretty overlapping! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Gardening by Squirrel" by Rose Lucas

At the invitation of the NNA Board of Directors, I have returned to write about Northside memories and challenges. My challenge this spring is a BIG one – gardening by squirrel. Reflecting on the beautiful gardens of the Northside, both front and back yards, and remembering such spots as the one in Lydia and Maurice Clay’s back yard, which was begun by Bliss McDowell, and Loris and Phil Points’s current idyllic space gives me great pleasure. I love my backyard garden beds, replete with heritage plants and…squirrels!

This spring, I have noticed some of my red tulips moved next door to the Prewitt’s yard, and I had a mixed bag of unplanned colors appearing in my beds. I wish I could catch those four legged critters in the act! My last Boxer reacted to the word squirrel with fierce dedication, but the two I have now do not seem to understand the vocabulary! I have even gone so far as to abandon my late husband’s bird feeders in order to lessen the population of the furry creatures, but to no avail. So, I will accept their landscaping talents and try to be amused…even as a baby squirrel woke me one summer night a couple of years ago as it jumped on me while I slept. He apparently found his way in, and thankfully I found no others with him. He quickly left, slipping out on his own four feet!

As this early spring gave us the most glorious red bud blossoms and the richest forsythia in years, I am so excited about the summer gardens generated by the early warm weather – though not necessarily thriving with the later rain. As I mentioned, heritage plants are an important part of my flower beds, and I enjoy the single ruby red and fragrant double white peonies which came to our yard more than eighty years ago from my father’s family home on East Third at Deweese. Likewise, the tiny blossomed fever few (which I do not see in any garden catalogs) from my maternal grandfather’s greenhouses in Woodford County and Louisville are prolific. The lovely towering purple phlox migrated from next door when Clara Curran had a massive supply, and I so enjoy the lush white hostas from a friend in Woodford County. I even have some day lilies and tiger lilies which we moved from Ohio in 1983. Part of the charm of gardening in the Northside is to be able to receive gift plants from others and to share what we can…even liriope, even though sharing might make someone dislike us later! Do share, though, and enjoy! Maybe the squirrels will love you, too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Northside Memories: Rose Lucas

Please enjoy and relish Rose's final blog to Northsidelex's website. Recruiting Rose for the launch of our site was a unanimous decision of our committee and worth the persuasion it required of the author. But a unanimous decision did not by any means make Rose agreeable. However, growing up in the Northside, rearing her family here, starting her successful business here and serving on the Board made her an irresistible candidate and she melted. Rose added to her schedule this commitment to share with us for a year the description of the evolution of our neighborhood before we arrived and that explains why there is this resurgence of interest and migration to her neighborhood. Thank you, Rose. We hope this will be a sabbatical.

October, 2013
As I end my year of Northside Memories, I think of all the stories I did not tell. My work and my lack of time really got in the way this summer and early fall. But, I have some reflections with which to end my stint as the inaugural writer of this series. As I have traveled around and seen all the hardscape improvements recently, I note the care given to installing sidewalks on Tates Creek Road, and I bemoan, again, the issue of cars parking in the utility strips and on the sidewalks of North Broadway (not to mention in yards!). Efforts are underway to stripe a parking lane on the east side of Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Street as was done when the Fourth to Fifth block was paved. The center line and the lane marks have already been moved to the west. I hope this is completed soon, and once again people are able to use the sidewalks along Broadway as sidewalks. I am particularly concerned about our neighbors in wheelchairs traveling in that area. The summer slipped away before I recounted the great fun of walking to Castlewood Park to swim when we were pre-teen and teenage. Collecting a crowd of people from all over the Northside (from Short to Delcamp), we would traipse to the park and spend the day, and then we each would pay a nickel for a flat box of pretzels to eat on the walk home. Sadly, no more nickel pretzels, nor the corner store where the pretzels were purchased. Many might not be aware that Elsmere Park is the oldest concrete street still in existence in Kentucky. Built in 1926, it has seen its share of patch paving, and it is in need again. Legend says the owners of the houses on Elsmere Park pitched in to pour concrete over the brick street, raising the level but preserving the limestone curbs on one of the first subdivisions taken into the city. The residents are lobbying to have repairs done in the immediate future. The recent spate of damage to cars and outbuildings is troublesome. Just within the last week, an attempt was made to set a house on fire on Elsmere Park – and a day or two later the playground near the old Russell School was a victim of arson. Over the decades I have lived here, we have seen these types of vandalism and crime rise and fall. The police have certainly been responsive this time (at least from what I have observed), and I hope they are able to stop these recent episodes. Vigilance on all our parts is essential. Keep an eye out and call the authorities if anything seems amiss. I appreciate the opportunity to leave my thoughts with those who wish to read them. Thank you, Northside Neighborhood Association, for your efforts on the behalf of all us who live, work and play in our wonderful neighborhood!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Tours, Picnics and One Way Streets

 Sitting on my front porch during the 2013 Northside tour, I was able to talk to so many people I had not seen in a while and quite a few who had never seen Elsmere Park. Get that a lot – people just do not know where our street is, or that it even exists. The tour really helps lots of folks understand more about the Northside. Congratulations to the organizers for a most successful day – we served a lot of lemonade and cookies on Elsmere Park. I was reminded, too, of the tour in the early 1990’s when we had more than 40 sites lined up…the crowds were huge, but my most fond memory was seeing journalist Al Smith visiting with a homeowner in the 400 block of North Upper who was telling Mr. Smith all about her family and tracing her ancestors back for more than 100 years and relating their wondrous stories. I had a hard time moving on to the next site and leaving the storytelling that was so unique. Elsmere Park celebrated another annual picnic this month, and memories of the early picnics were shared…including stories from Joe Binford about singing and playing his banjo, of Clara Curran who would bring her stereo (this was the 70’s) out onto her porch for the neighbors to enjoy music, of Maurice Clay who would organize games for adults which consisted of trying to sweep magnolia leaves down the street, of later generation neighbors who would lead the children’s games of egg toss and water balloon toss (some adults really enjoyed those, too). Neighborhood celebrations all, and creators of wonderful memories. And one way streets…a question I pose: given the long range planning to remove the viaduct at Jefferson Street and potentially the viaduct at Martin Luther King (on the plan to memorialize the Town Branch through downtown), if Upper and Lime become two way, and Transylvania is in session, how does one move a vehicle from north to south in an emergency, since most of the hospitals are south of Main Street? And, if that run on sentence is not enough, what about delivery trucks and Lextran buses on two way, one lane each way streets? Andres Duany, a great urban planner, once said, (mostly with regard to parking) that a two block walk to a destination is a good thing, but the walk must be interesting. I would be curious to know how (my anticipated, I admit) gridlock would be interesting. Granted, the perception is we do not have much traffic on the north side of Main Street, but I would like for the current traffic consultants to make the almost daily trips to doctors and hospitals that I make and tell me it is all going to be fine. One of the advantages of living here all my life is that I remember what it was like when Short, Second, Lime and Upper were two way streets. Short and Second were paired as one way in the 1950’s, while I was still in high school. Lime and Upper came later. Traffic moved pretty well before one way streets, but the population was 50,000. Today is different in so many ways.

-By Rose Lucas 
June 16, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ahh, Spring!

April 2013, By Rose Lucas There is no place as pretty as our neighborhood in the spring – old growth trees sporting lime green leaves, pink and white flowering trees and shrubs, and the reawakening of green yards (hard to have lawns in the urban core, right?). I love the idea of a front yard with its lush grass, the shrubs at the foundations of lovely old houses, and the sidewalks welcoming walkers. Living in town gives so many pleasures and provides such interesting sites for us as we wander our neighborhood, and front and back yards contribute lots of character to our homes. This spring the fickle weather has robbed us of most of the pear blossoms (and saved a lot of us serious allergy reactions), and I have missed the avenue of Broadway in front of Transylvania being a luscious white with the Aristocrat pears. On the other hand, the late spring has given forsythia a really strong start and has it blooming along with many other perennial colorful contributors. Not often do we see the bright yellow of forsythia combined with purples and pinks of azaleas. Growing up in the Northside, I was always so glad to see spring come…being able to walk more places was part of the joy, but spring always meant school would be out soon, and we could stay out later at night to play our version of baseball (with John Irvin’s car headlights allowing an even later end to our game). This baseball game, using a tennis ball but a real bat, would without fail be played with someone’s porch as a backstop; base paths were short and generally ended at a big water maple tree (more often than not we could stop without running into it), and there was no sliding home since we would be running into steps to a porch. Our games included mostly young people ages 9 to 15, but occasionally an older neighbor would join in – such as a high school student who already had a driver’s license (but nothing better to do right then) or even a college student. All of us who were younger thought we were pretty big stuff when we got the college kids to play! As to the water maple trees – they were property line markers for a lot of the early developments in the Northside. Very few are left, and they are not the first generation ones, but I sure can remember them as bases for our baseball games, as finishes for “Red Rover” games and as providers of the most wonderful shade, even while they were sending their roots into every crevice they could find in the water and sewer pipes. A love/hate relationship if there ever was one!