Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Two Northside Families" by Rose Lucas

One of the great joys of living in closely built neighborhoods is the opportunity to get to know neighbors.  My memories of two families, one who lived in our neighborhood for more than sixty years, and one who lived here for more than twenty years, are the focus of this entry.  These families have made a huge impact on our neighborhood and elsewhere.

I grew up next door to the Kloeckers.  That begins a story that crosses many generations.  I look out my back door to the arbor graced with a lovely antique pink rose.  It has aged gracefully since it was planted by Grandma Kloecker, whose husband John H. Kloecker, Sr. moved to 628 Elsmere Park in 1918.  I only have anecdotal memories of Grandma because she went back to Cincinnati after her husband died.  But I will never walk away from my memories of her son, John, and his wife, Esther, and their children JoAnn, Phyllis and Jack.

I was prompted to write this when Phyllis died this spring.  She was a gifted athlete, played tennis and golf with the best, and was a respected tennis coach.  Her teaching and coaching took her after graduation from UK to University High in Lexington and then to Valencia College in Florida.  Phyllis married Ed Shemelya who was a strong athlete as well and played at Eastern Kentucky University.  I have lots of memories of the Kloeckers, but those of Phyllis that stick in my mind is seeing her laying out in the sun in the backyard and playing (after dark) baseball (with a tennis ball) with all of the “kids” on the park.  Although she as older than most of us, she was as much into the games as anyone.

JoAnn was one of my babysitters – there are wonderful pictures of her sitting on the ground with me and a few others playing jacks.  JoAnn married Bill Griffin of London, KY, and together they made a huge impact on, first, the economy in London, and then later the economy in Lexington/Wilmore through their ownership of Highbridge Spring Water and Kentucky Underground Storage.  Their business enterprises and their entrepreneurial spirit passed to their five daughters.  But most of all my memories of JoAnn are of a soft spoken beautiful woman who never passed up a chance to visit with her mother and my mother, and by extension with me, and who always made those she met feel really good when she left.

Jack was closer in age to me, and I lost track of him as we went through high school and college.  I do remember he hung around with the “kids” on the park a lot and played with us.  Like most of us he was not a fan of the overpopulation of garter snakes with which we suffered.  Power mowers later did help to control those critters!

But John Kloecker, Jr. was a man way ahead of his time.  As I researched the family for this writing, I learned Mr. Kloecker famously chaired the Greater Lexington Committee that unanimously recommended the annexation of the suburban area surrounding the city. At the time, Mr. Kloecker was president of Dixie Ice Cream Company (remember Dixie Cups?) and Ashland Dairy.  The dairy followed the Lexington Brewing Company, which John H. Kloecker, Sr., together with several others including Lexington Mayor Tom Bradley, bought in 1919.  Lots of interesting information about the brewery surfaced as I researched this family’s influence, and much of it was centered around activities during Prohibition, including a tale about seizures of bottles of beer by federal agents who then poured the beer down city drains!  Mr. Kloecker, Sr. established Dixie Ice Cream company in 1920 to replace beer business lost from Prohibition, and the firm used the refrigeration plant from the brewery for production. The company produced ice cream and ices, and the daily capacity could produce up to 1,600 gallons with twenty five employees.

Mr. Kloecker, Sr. died in a tragic fall from the upper floor of the plant in 1931, and his son, John Kloecker, Jr., took over the business, later adding the dairy.  The firm was located in a building at Rose and Main, and the dairy later occupied the building now housing Awesome, Inc. and others on Main Street east of Rose Street.

My fondest memories of John and Esther Kloecker center around watching them rock in huge wicker rockers on the front porch which was replete with a green and white striped awning to ward off the afternoon sun and welcoming me and other neighborhood children to sit a while and talk with them. 

This family has had a huge impact on our city and our state, and it is a pleasure to say they were members of the Northside Neighborhood Association and neighbors to us all.

The second family has been called the “new” Putnams by many of the Elsmere Park neighbors – because there were two other Putnam families (not related to them) on our 28 house street when Don and Nora Lee Putnam became out neighbors.  Don died in early April, and his legacy is one of great compassion and service. Don and Nora owned Greentree Applied Systems, located on North Broadway, and moved to Elsmere Park more than 20 years ago.  I always enjoyed talking and spending time with them, and I was so impressed with the breadth of Don’s knowledge about legislative matters, particularly with relation to working for intellectually challenged persons.  He was a leader at the local, state and federal level for people with intellectual disabilities.   I often remember Don and Nora leaving for a weekend to be substitute house parents at Bluegrass Oakwood where their son, David, was a resident.  Don was a champion for racial and cultural reconciliation and a leader with BUILD, the interfaith organization working for community justice, and Nora was always by his side.  As I would leave for church on Sunday morning, Don and Nora would be leaving, too.  He was a Deacon and Sunday school teacher at Trinity Baptist Church.

What I did not know about Don Putnam was he was a Navy veteran, having begun his service right out of high school.  He and Nora met in high school and were married while Don was in the Navy.  He served on the USS Yorktown as a navigator, and after he received a good conduct medal and an honorable discharge, he joined RCA as a technician and entered the world of computers.  Transferring later to New Jersey, he earned a degree from Rutgers University and then moved his family to Kentucky in 1976 and to Lexington in 1980. 

Until his last days, Don was carrying out his service and at the time of his death was the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Bluegrass.org.  Always concerned, always solicitous, always kind, Don Putnam was the perfect example of a good neighbor.  He and Nora served on the NNA Board of Directors and took care to be aware of the Northside concerns.  Because of Don’s health, they moved a year ago, but the family still considers Elsmere Park and the Northside home – another family who has impacted our neighborhood, our city, state, and country, and whose patriarch will be missed greatly by many.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Of Northside Sites and the Circus" by Rose Lucas

I try to take different routes when I am going to and from the neighborhood so I can share in the sites.  Some are great, some are funny, and some need to be addressed. 

Two great housing sites:  the house on the corner of Toner and West Sixth Street that recently sold to a family.  I remember the family who lived there when I was growing up and whose son would play with us.  They would be so happy to see the house in its present form and know a family was living there.
In the 300 block of North Martin Luther King, a new house is being built, complete with an attached two car garage.  It is nice to see that construction.

A funny one:  driving north on Jefferson a week or so ago, I saw chickens out pecking on the front sidewalk.  A man sat on the porch watching them, so I guess they are well behaved and will not run into the street!  This reminded me of the rooster that lived on Upper Street behind our house and called us early every morning. 

To be addressed:  the trash all around the neighborhood.  I try to pick up as much as I can around my home and office, but there is a lot of paper and litter all over.  I hope each neighbor can address this issue in her or his own way.

Onto to the circus – some of my best early memories are of going to the big tent circus when it came to town.  It was so much fun to watch the circus unload downtown along Water Street and see the parade to the circus grounds.  I cannot remember the exact locations of the tents for every circus performance except for the last time I saw it in the big tent.  That was located in the field on the east side of the railroad tracks that cross Southland Drive.  The road had not been continued through, and to my eyes the big field (now developed) was completely filled with tents and sideshows.  The one time I saw the circus in Rupp Arena was just not the same.  I understand and sympathize with the concerns for the animal acts, but I still count those yearly shows as wonderful childhood memories unmatched by anything of the like.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"Santa Revealed -- Sorta! And Other Holiday Musings" by Rose Lucas

December, 2016

In the last issue of the Compass, NNA newsletter, there was a picture of Santa leaving the Yeary’s house on Elsmere Park.  Santa had been busy that day and had visited a lot of children on Elsmere Park, including my grandchildren.  Then, so the children would not see where Santa went, Santa went through Spence Alley, south, to the workshop on the Park, but did not have the key to the gate to get into the backyard.  So, Santa began to climb over the 6 foot high chain link fence, and got STUCK!  Along came one of our neighborhood travelers, and ask “Hey, Santa, do you need help?”  Never daunted by any task or challenge, Santa refused help and eventually got over the fence without damaging any clothing.  Santa has never lived down the experience and is frequently reminded by some of us about the adventure.

The holiday season seems shorter this year – I think when Christmas is on Sunday, it just makes everything seem closer to Thanksgiving.  Some of my neighbors have put their candles in the windows, and others are working on it.  I would love to see candles in many windows in the Northside.  The lights are such a welcoming sign for our part of town.

While leaf collection is not a holiday “musing”, it astounds me that we have so many leaves still in the streets, particularly since we are constantly reminded not to put them in the streets so as to not clog up storm sewers.  Of course, many leaves on our street had not fallen when the leaf vacuum truck appeared on a trash collection day…so many leaves were not collected due to Herbies, Rosies and Lennies in the street and such a late fall.  I do not remember a time when we have had so much leaf clutter in all the streets of our neighborhood.  I hope we all can work toward cleaning up this clutter.

No matter how you celebrate the December holidays, I hope all have a wonderful season.  Enjoy!

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!