There Are So Many Doorstops To Make. I Am Impatient To Begin.

Ohio Village portrait, September 1974

Ohio Village has everything I need to live a very contented life. I’d reside in the house at the end of the boardwalk, across from the schoolhouse. There’s a study club where I could participate in book discussions, a newspaper I could write for, an emporium for shopping, and a place to keep my bicycle in good working order. I’d frequent the pharmacy, the bank and the church, all conveniently located around the village square, where I’d listen to concerts on summer evenings. I’d treat myself to a meal at the American House Hotel. And I could sit for another photographic portrait to feature on my Christmas card.

Since 1974, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached every time I’ve visited the Ohio History Connection’s Ohio Village. Recently, I’ve added something to my very clear vision of what life would be like there.

In my spare time, I’d make doorstops.

The doors to many of Ohio Village’s homes and businesses are propped open with a spectacular lineup of textile-covered brick doorstops handmade by volunteers. Here are a few of my favorites.

Murphy’s Lodging House celebrates the Irish heritage of its owner with cross-stitched shamrocks.

At the Burton House, where I’d live, there’s one with needlepoint butterflies.

Find this crewel one at the Taylor House, where I also tried some tasty hand-cranked ice cream during the village’s July 4 celebration.

There are two at the Schmidt House and Garden: a quilted one at the door leading from the bedroom to the side yard…

and one with cross-stitched roses at the front door.

Best of all is this bicycle-themed one at Barrington Bicycles.

There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin,” Daniel Keyes wrote in Flowers for Algernon. In my case, there are so many doorstops to make, I’m impatient to begin.

If, like me, you’re interested in creating your own Ohio Village doorstop, volunteer Joby Easley says they’re really easy to make. First, she covers the brick with something thick, like leftover quilt batting or an old mattress pad. To make small, even stitches when sewing, use a curved needle and a regular hem stitch. Make the first seam along the long bottom side of the brick at the edge so there isn’t a bump running down the center of the bottom of the stop. Then sew up the ends like you’re wrapping a package. You might have to cut off extra material at the ends to make them less bulky. The cover fabric is put on the same way, only you can put that first seam in the middle if you want; it’s thin enough, so it won’t leave a bump.

This summer, it’s a whole new era at Ohio Village, as it portrays what life might have been like in Ohio during the 1890s. This is the decade that saw Ohioan William McKinley defeat his rival, William Jennings Bryan, in becoming president of the United States, and the University of Michigan defeat the Ohio State University with a humiliating 34-0 in the first football game between the schools.

Visit Ohio Village to try “fairy floss” and ride in a replica 1903 Ford Model A, but I’d suggest keeping an eye out for “Columbia.” Inspired by this image from the June 15, 1898 issue of Puck, this symbolic character representing the United States was most often portrayed as wearing a classically draped garment decorated with stars, red and white stripes and topped off with a headdress.

The next time I dress up for Halloween, it will be as Columbia.

Visit Ohio Village for some 1890s family fun all summer long. Try on 1890s fashion on July 22; indulge your sweet tooth on August 12; and experience Ohio’s military history on August 26. Hear live music, explore the village, play games on the green, and bring a picnic or enjoy dinner from a local food vendor for two Thursday-evening concerts at Ohio Village: Irish folk music with The Drowsy Lads on July 20 and folk music with Bohemian Highway on August 17. Ohio Village is open on weekends until Labor Day.

If you go, pick up a copy of the Ohio Village scavenger hunt at the Ohio History Center’s welcome desk and let me know if you can answer these two questions. What animal can you find in The American House Hotel? If you found the Ohio State Fair poster from 1895, what days will the fair be in Columbus?

Posted in Columbus, Crafts & Hobbies, History, Needlework, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) | Leave a comment

Pick Pinks And Blues, Shells And Peacocks For The Bertie Look

Do you have a special place to picnic? Beman Dawes and his family did.

The Dawes family packed their picnic basket for excursions to a favorite wooded spot near Newark, Ohio. When they noticed lumbermen preparing to cut down some large trees there one day in 1917, Mr. Dawes approached the Brumback family, owners of the land, to purchase 140 acres of their “Woodland.”

Born and raised in Marietta, Ohio in 1870, Dawes served two terms in Congress, then returned to Ohio to become a leader in the gas and petroleum industry. He presided over Pure Oil Company, known for its blue-and-white English-cottage gas stations. He, his wife, Bertie, and their five children lived on East Broad Street in Columbus, but also spent time at their homes on Jupiter Island, Florida and in Canada. “Daweswood” was their family retreat where they pursued their horticultural interests.

In the years that followed, the Dawes family planted over 50,000 trees on the grounds that they christened “Daweswood” and acquired additional neighboring farmland. In 1929, they established an arboretum for public pleasure and education that would preserve trees native to central Ohio, collect and study trees from all over the world, and inspire people to plant trees.

Today, Dawes Arboretum is the place to go to admire conifers, beeches, oaks, buckeyes, redwoods, magnolias and more. Its collection includes nearly 5,000 different kinds of woody plants. It keeps records on more than 30,000 individual plants, occasionally selecting, naming and introducing new cultivars of plants like “Dawes Emerald Tiger,” an ornamental tree with green-and-white-striped bark and yellow flowers, and “Silver Ghost,” an evergreen conifer. It works with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ohio State University on tree trials and identifying tree species and diseases. Its attractions include a Japanese garden, woodlands, a 12-acre freshwater lake, a cypress swamp, a log cabin where maple syrup is made in the spring, and an heirloom apple orchard planted on the spot where Mrs. Dawes planted her orchard in 1926. Its most noteworthy feature is a 2,660-foot-long planting of American arborvitae spelling out “DAWES ARBORETUM.” Designed by Mr. Dawes, each individual letter measures up to 147 feet wide and 186 feet high.

I’ve been visiting Dawes Arboretum for decades, but by far my best visit there was for “100 Years in Bertie’s Garden,” a recent program honoring the 100th anniversary of the garden Mrs. Dawes planted at Daweswood House.

When the Dawes family purchased the farm, they also acquired its circa-1867 Italianate-style brick farmhouse. 

In 1928, they added a Colonial Revival-style porch and a first-floor bedroom and studio for Mrs. Dawes.

The home’s most unique feature may be the “Rathskeller.” Its ceiling bears the initials or signatures of over 100 notable people who have planted trees honoring them at the arboretum. The tradition began in 1927 with Ohio Governor James M. Cox; others include Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens (1973), John Glenn (1968), The Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Billy Ireland (1928) and explorer-author Osa Johnson (1940).

But everywhere else, the home is a showplace for the interests of Mrs. Dawes, a self-taught naturalist who collected shells, peacock representations and butterfly specimens. A hummingbird nest she found on the Daweswood grounds is displayed under a glass cloche. Bedspreads she crocheted cover the beds. Pink and blue, her favorite colors, are featured in the home’s decor.

Gardening was another favorite hobby. In 1917, Mrs. Dawes designed a garden northwest of the house, featuring her favorite annual and perennial flowers. Other features of the garden include a decorative well and retaining wall, both made of stone.

Mrs. Dawes documented in journals what she planted in her garden, how much it cost, how well the plants did, and other anecdotes about their progress. She described planting roses in circular patterns, tulips by the stone retaining wall, and hollyhocks by the Brumbaughs’ smokehouse that she used as a gardening shed. She also recorded some of her gardening rules, such as letting things grow where they want to, not where you want them to, and that you should be able to enjoy your garden from every room in your house.

Those journals, together with archival photographs of the garden, informed landscape architect Laura Burchfield’s renovation of the “Bertie-inspired” garden in 2014. Burchfield’s creation includes tulips, roses, hyacinths, peonies, daisies and lilies.

The east entrance to the garden features a pergola that complements the pergola in front of the house.

There are even an herb garden and a Victory Garden, which provided fresh produce for families during wartime, when the majority of commercially grown fruits and vegetables were shipped overseas to troops. Signage gives the plants’ common and scientific names.

Bertie’s Garden is reminiscent of a “grandmother’s garden,” a Victorian-era garden in which plants cherished for their fragrance and beauty — such as peonies, lilies and roses — were selected for their picturesque effect and sentimental associations.

After Leslie Wagner, the arboretum’s historian, shared archival photographs and journal entries about the garden, we snacked on floral-decorated cupcakes and lemonade, then toured the garden with Dawes granddaughters Mary Jane Dawes Bolon and Debby Dawes Fortkamp.

If you’d like to create your own version of a Bertie-inspired garden, check out American Home Landscapes: A Design Guide to Creating Period Garden Styles, by Denise Wiles Adams and Laura L.S. Burchfield. From architecture styles and landscape design to case studies and plant lists, it describes how to plan an authentic landscape for a house of any age.

Special events like weddings and teas are proving to be popular at Bertie’s Garden, but you can also stop by during regular visits to Dawes Arboretum. Guided tours of Daweswood House and its adjacent museum, are available on weekends from 12:00-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-3:00 p.m., March through October, for a nominal fee. Take a tour of the house on Saturday, July 29 and my fellow gym-goer Brian Gregory will be your guide.

Posted in Gardens, History, Ohio | 1 Comment

A Clover Nook Evokes Memories of Two Sisters

In 2003, Ohio celebrated 200 years of statehood by casting bronze bells and painting a colorful bicentennial logo on barns in each of the state’s 88 counties. Vehicles with a redesigned license plate traveled the state’s highways and byways, passing over 500 new historical markers that sprouted along the side of the road. Pioneer re-enactors crossed the state during a 24-day wagon train.

All these commemorative activities found an appreciative audience in me, but the one bicentennial memento I coveted most of all was a poster.

Preserve Ohio’s Book Heritage” was the Ohio Preservation Council’s contribution to the Ohio Bicentennial. It celebrated both the significant contributions that 19th- and early 20th-century Ohio authors made to literature, as well as the aesthetic legacy of the cloth bookbindings of the era. Over 30 books either published in Ohio or written by an Ohioan, each preserved in its original bindings by Ohio Preservation Council member libraries, were pictured.

It was a terrific teaching tool for publishers’ bookbindings, illustrating decorative hallmarks like pictorial designs stamped in black and gold, blind-stamped and patterned borders, inset vignettes, asymmetric designs, ornate lettering, beveled-edge boards, and architecturally inspired ornamentation.

It was a tribute to well-known books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whose author moved to Cincinnati when she was 21; accomplished writers like William Dean Howells, who traded his reporting talents for storytelling; and Paul Laurence Dunbar of Dayton, whose poetic gifts were cut short by his untimely death.

It also introduced me to writers like Lafcadio Hearn, a Cincinnati journalist who became entranced with Japan; Hamilton Lanphere Smith, a Kenyon College philosophy teacher who invented tintype photography and wrote The World, one of the first science textbooks written in America; and two sisters from Cincinnati named Alice and Phoebe Cary, who were mentioned in the poster in three separate entries.

Frontispiece, Clovernook; or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West, 1852 (Ohio History Connection)

When I landed at Miami University Libraries and started working with its special collections, I recognized one of the books pictured in the poster: the 1884 edition of Alice Cary’s Clovernook, a collection of fictional stories based on her life in Ohio that was first published in 1851. The binding’s elaborate design was classic-1880s style, depicting images from the stories within, but with a unique twist: The author’s last name was misspelled “Carey.”

So began my interest in discovering more about the inseparable pair of poets who died within six months of each other and whose work remained popular for decades after their deaths.

In 1814, Robert Cary bought 27 acres of woodland about eight miles north of downtown Cincinnati, in a neighborhood known as Mount Pleasant, later called Mount Healthy because its clean air helped it to avoid the cholera outbreaks that plagued the city. Naming his property Clovernook Farm, he built a three-room cottage there, where his nine children were born, including Alice (1820) and Phoebe (1824), were born. In 1832, he replaced the cottage with a two-story brick house with a frame porch.

Cary Cottage, courtesy of Jessica Salyers, Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

When Alice and Phoebe were teenagers, they started secretly writing poetry after the rest of the family had gone to bed, hiding their work in a cupboard under the stairs. By the late 1830s, their poems started to be published in Cincinnati newspapers and church publications. “I did not care any more if I were poor, or my clothes plain,” Phoebe said. “Somebody cared enough for my verses to print them, and I was happy…but I kept my joy and triumph to myself.” Alice’s “Pictures of Memory” was published in an 1848 anthology, Female Poets of America; in his review for the Southern Literary Messenger, Edgar Allan Poe praised it as “the noblest poem in the collection” and “one of the most musically perfect lyrics in the English language.”

The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary (Ohio History Connection)

After Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary was published in 1849, Horace Greeley visited the sisters in their “tidy cottage” on a trip to Cincinnati. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote them an appreciative, encouraging letter. Later, they visited him at his Amesbury, Massachusetts home.

Recalling their visit years later in “The Singer,” Whittier wrote of the “two song-birds wandering from their nest,/A gray old farm-house in the West.” About “timid” Alice, he wrote: “…A memory haunted all her words/Of clover-fields and singing-birds./…Her speech dropped prairie flowers; the gold/Of harvest wheat about her rolled.”

The sisters moved to New York City in 1850 to make a name for themselves. From their home on 20th Street near 4th Avenue, they wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and abolitionist and women’s suffrage publications. Alice was president of Sorosis, the first women’s club in the United States. Besides publishing her own poems in Poems and Parodies and Poems of Faith, Hope and Love, Phoebe wrote lyrics for church hymnals.

Frontispiece, Ballads, Lyrics and Hymns (1874), by Alice Cary (Ohio History Connection)

On Sunday evenings, the sisters hosted salons, discussing literature and current events with well-known figures like P. T. Barnum, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Mapes Dodge, and their old friends Greeley and Whittier. Phoebe often wore to these salons a necklace that was nearly four feet long, made from dozens of things her friends had given her, such as a marble, a piece of amber, and a ball of malachite.

The Carys might have left Clovernook, but their childhood home didn’t leave them. It appeared in both sisters’ poems, such as Alice’s “Of Home” (1887): “My heart made pictures all to-day/Of the old homestead far away…I hear the old clock tick and tick/In the small parlor…”

Alice died from tuberculosis in 1871; Phoebe died five months later of hepatitis. They are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. A Memorial of Alice and Phoebe Cary by Mary Clemmer, and The Poetical Works of Alice and Phoebe Cary, published in 1891, both were pictured on the Ohio Preservation Council’s poster.

Detail, letter from Alice Cary, May 24, 1860 (Ohio History Connection, VFM 899)

In 1903, a Cincinnatian named Florence Trader saw an advertisement that the Carys’ cottage was for sale. Thinking that it would be a perfect home for her blind sister, Georgia, and other visually impaired women, she approached William Procter, head of The Procter & Gamble Company, about the possibility of purchasing the cottage and some surrounding land. With Procter’s help, the Clovernook Center became the first home for visually impaired women in the state of Ohio. These women were trained in weaving, crocheting, knitting, beading and basketry, and the money they earned from selling the items gave them feelings of independence and self-esteem. They also operated a printing press that was one of the country’s largest producers of Braille publications.

Today, the Clovernook Center continues to provide resources for the education, occupation and recreation of the blind and visually impaired. Cary Cottage remains as part of the campus.


 

Posted in Books, Cincinnati, History | Leave a comment

A Philadelphia Shopping Trip Helped A Governor Check Out Ramona

“This day the first stone for the foundation of the new State House was dropped in the Public Square; from the Waggens.”

So noted Zechariah Mills, State Librarian of Ohio, in his weather log for May 16, 1838, a day that was “fair and warm – appearance of rain.”

From January 1838 to June 1844, Mills diligently logged the morning, noon and nighttime temperature and weather conditions in Columbus each day, adding notes about events that interested him.  

This is just one of the rare items the State Library of Ohio has chosen to share in an online interactive exhibit and a display as it celebrates its bicentennial this year.

During the early years of Ohio’s statehood, state legislators soon discovered that they had no way to preserve sets of state laws, journals, documents and maps, let alone those from other states.  On December 2, 1816, the legislature appropriated $3,500 as a contingency fund for Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington to purchase books that would form the beginning of a state library.

While on a trip to Pennsylvania to investigate management practices for penitentiaries and other state institutions, Worthington stopped by Philadelphia bookseller Mathew Carey and Son and bought 509 books. When he returned, he placed them in a room over the state auditor’s office on High Street, in front of the west grounds of the current Statehouse.

Presenting the books to the legislature on December 1, 1817, Worthington described them as a “small but valuable collection of books which are intended as the commencement of a library for the state. In the performance of this act I was guided by what I conceived the best interest of the state, by placing with in the reach of the representatives of the people, such information as will aid them in the discharge of the important duties they are delegated to perform,” The Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio, 15th General Assembly of the State of Ohio reported.  On December 25, Thomas Harper, the first State Librarian of Ohio, entered the books in an accession register that is also on display in the exhibition.

So began the State Library of Ohio’s commitment to serving the information needs of Ohio’s state legislators, elected officials and government employees.

At first, the time limit for materials to be checked out depended on the size of the book. To request a book, patrons filled out a form known as a call tag. For example, William McKinley, Jr., a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1877-91; governor of Ohio, 1892-1896; and president of the United States, 1897-1901, filled out a call tag for the State Library’s copy of Barrett’s Life of Lincoln.

State Library staff kept track of book lending in a circulation register. An entry in a circa 1885-6 register indicates that Ohio Governor Joseph B. Foraker checked out a copy of the popular 1884 book, Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson.

New legislation in the spring of 1896 significantly changed the library’s mission. The Garfield Library Law, named for Ohio Senator James R. Garfield, son of the late president, who proposed the legislation, opened the library to all Ohioans. As a result, the State Library started purchasing general fiction books, which became very popular. It also created the Traveling Library System.

Modeled after the New York State Library’s program, the Traveling Library System was designed to provide good literature to reading clubs, boards of education, schools, religious organizations, farmers’ associations known as granges, and citizens of small towns that did not have a library. It was also intended to strengthen small libraries and create interest in establishing new libraries in a community. Residents of the Ohio School for the Deaf built the boxes, each of which contained 25 to 30 books. For the next 77 years, Traveling Library books were delivered across the state, eventually becoming the largest traveling library program in the country.

In 1906, the State Library started working with public libraries throughout the state, supporting them on everything from securing adequate government funding to strategic planning. Today, it helps public libraries enhance their services through programs like Choose to Read Ohio, which encourages sharing books by Ohio authors, and Connecting to Collections, which initiates grants for collaborative planning partnerships. It also helps public libraries digitize materials in their collections, coordinates a summer reading program, gives digital literacy training in rural libraries, and provides statistical data on Ohio public libraries.  Additionally, the State Library provides Ohioans with access to eBooks and other digital resources. Its Talking Book Program provides free recorded books, magazines and playback equipment to blind, visually impaired, and both physically disabled and reading-disabled Ohioans.

To assist in preparing and formulating bills, a Legislative Reference and Information Department was established in 1909 to collect, classify and index books, manuscripts and other materials on current and pending legislation. As the only regional federal depository of government documents in Ohio, the State Library is also a depository for state government information.

Special Collections materials at the State Library include rare books and other unique materials, such as medieval manuscripts and modern oral history narratives. Also on display is a letter from George Washington thanking a friend for a barrel of barley seeds.

For more on the State Library of Ohio’s bicentennial, read The State Library at 200: A Celebration of Library Services to Ohio, by Cynthia G. McLaughlin, the former Deputy Director for Library Services at the State Library. The State Library will hold an open house celebration at its headquarters on August 4, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The exhibition at the State Library’s headquarters continues through February 5, 2018. Another exhibit celebrating the State Library’s Bicentennial will be at the Ohio Statehouse in the Map Room during the month of August.

Posted in Books, History, Libraries, Ohio | Leave a comment

Sweet Leilani Would Love The Paradise I Found On North Grant Avenue

Have you been to Walt Disney World’s “Enchanted Tiki Room,” where scores of exotic birds talk, warble and whistle; carved pagan gods beat drums and chant; totems sing; and orchids croon? How about the Polynesian Village Resort and its “Spirit of Aloha” luau, where hula dancers, drummers and fire-knife throwers perform?

If so, you’ve experienced Tiki style, a popular phenomenon celebrating Polynesian culture, personified by a “tiki,” or a carved image of a man. This kitschy style developed in the 1930s, reached its height in the 1960s, and continues to tide people over until they can experience wearing an aloha shirt that matches the tablecloths at a real-live luau, like my dad did when he and my mother honeymooned in Hawaii.

Here in Columbus, Tiki style was synonymous with the Kahiki Supper Club, which once stood at 3583 East Broad Street near Whitehall.

Modeled after a New Guinea meetinghouse, the fabulous Kahiki (meaning “sail to Tahiti”) was a five-story A-frame structure with a roof patterned after a war canoe. The ridge on the top of the roof was topped by a plywood pelican skeleton symbolizing good fishing and plenty of food, followed by fish the entire length of the roof. To see what the Kahiki’s exterior and its iconic sign on bamboo poles looked like, click here and here.

Kahiki floor plan as seen on the reverse of the Kahiki cocktail menu, Archives/Library, Ohio History Connection (PA Box 748 4)

The restaurant opened in 1961. First, diners passed two towering 16-foot-tall concrete moai guarding a moat-spanning bamboo bridge, fire spewing from their tops. Opening a pair of giant bronze doors, you entered a passageway with waterfalls on either side and passed passed a wishing-well fountain known as “George the Monkey,” with iridescent water that glowed as it spilled over coral cliffs. You entered the faux-palm tree-lined main dining room, walking on an exposed aggregate floor strewn with shells and sand, passing aquariums filled with tropical fish. Some dining huts had rattan peacock chairs. Other booths overlooked a rainforest of exotic plants where a thunderstorm would strike or a shower would fall as live tropical birds flew. Watching you from the end of the room was a fierce-looking 28-foot-tall moai with glowing green eyes and a flaming fireplace mouth.

Postcard of Kalua, the Kahiki Mystery Girl, Archives/Library, Ohio History Connection (SC 5846)

Next came the Outrigger Bar, where bartenders served exotic drinks under a full-size outrigger canoe as live musical performers played steel guitars and ukuleles. When the bartender struck a large brass gong, the beautiful Mystery Girl named Kalua would appear, carrying a brandy-and-rum concoction in a large ceramic bowl that had a smoking volcano in the center. She would go up to the huge tiki, bow, and deliver the drink to the four diners who ordered it. Other classic Kahiki drinks included The Backscratcher, The Headhunter, The Mai-Tai, The Scorpion, Blue Hurricane and Fog Cutter.

The Kahiki’s chefs practiced Polynesian-style cooking, known for its French broiling and English roasting techniques, Portuguese use of spices, and Oriental dip-boiling. Diners chose from traditional stir-frys and Asian dishes to island-inspired entrees like Malagasy garlic chicken, from the island of Madagascar; Samoan flaming chicken; mahi mahi; Hawaiian barbecue ribs; and broiled ham steak served with sauteed pineapple and banana. For dessert, they finished their meal with Sinful Wahine, an orange creamsicle cake; banana fritters; and even a crowd-pleaser called Big Fat Mamasan.

Kahiki dinner menu showing the fireplace moai, Archives/Library, Ohio History Connection (PA Box 748 3)

Trips to the restrooms were a must, so you could turn the cowrie-shell faucet knobs and watch the water flow from the mouth of a tiki into the conch-shell sinks.

Even the Kahiki’s billboards were cool. They featured the face of a Polynesian woman who would “wink” at passers-by. My great-aunt Mary took me on several trips around town to see “the lady who blinks.”

The restaurant even inspired Columbus Coated Fabrics, manufacturer of Wall-Tex, to create a “Kahiki” wallcovering pattern.  

Boy, that place was neat.

Although the Kahiki was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, it closed in 2000. The iconic building was razed to make way for a Walgreen’s.

To keep Tiki style from fizzling out in Columbus, the Kahiki lives on. In 2010, the Hills Market held a Kahiki tribute day with food samples, cooking demonstrations and a special three-course dinner. A “Kahiki” line of Asian-inspired frozen foods is produced locally and available in several grocery stores. And in 2011, local restaurateur Elizabeth Lessner and her Columbus Food League converted a small brick building on North Grant Avenue near East Long Street and opened a kitschy little place that’s becoming one of my lunchtime hangouts of choice.

Wahines, slip on your muu muus and leis; kanes, pull out your aloha shirts and Tiki talismans. At long last, let’s finally set sail for the Grass Skirt Tiki Room.

The Grass Skirt Tiki Room

With “Sweet Leilani,” the Academy Award-winning song Bing Crosby sung in the 1937 film, Waikiki Wedding, playing in my head, I arrived for my first visit. With just one glimpse of the sign, I liked what I saw.

Inside, I saw walls decorated both with glowing lava and with stenciled torches and tikis with sparkling eyes.  Vintage Hawaiian album covers are pasted on restroom walls and behind the bar.  Fake skulls hang from a ship’s wheel that has been converted into a chandelier. Tiki statues and Kahiki souvenirs are everywhere.  Wow, is it swanky!

I took a seat on the patio, amid lush tropical plants, next to “George the Monkey.” The Kahiki’s fountain was rescued from extinction by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai, which loaned it to the Grass Skirt Tiki Room. In tiki-style custom, you can even order a drink in a souvenir “George the Kahiki Fountain” mug. Besides Spanish, English and French-style rum, the bar serves its version of the Kahiki’s Port Light cocktail, a blend of Maker’s Mark, lemon juice, passionfruit syrup and house grenadine. There are plenty of other tropical concoctions with nifty names, too. 

You are my paradise completed, you are my dream come true,” I hummed, as I wondered how Sweet Leilani would have handled the dilemma that was before me on the menu. Should I start with house-made crab rangoon, or save room for fried pineapple with honey syrup? How about a handheld sandwich, like the Grass Skirt Grilled Cheese (Spam, swiss and grilled pineapple, on King’s Hawaiian bread, served with red pepper coconut bisque); a pulled pork, melted swiss and pineapple hoagie; or my standard hamburger, fancied up with a Hawaiian twist? Or should I choose one of the six entrees, such as crab cakes with yellow rice and steamed broccoli, or coconut shrimp and grits.  The sesame barbecue chicken salad sounded pretty tasty too.

On that visit, I decided on the crispy fish with sweet potato wedges and hush puppies.  Today I chose the pulled pork tacos, topped with roasted red pepper slaw and fresh cilantro and served with spicy black beans and saffron rice. Both times, I was a clean-plater.

I’m sure I’ll be back before then, but when October 1 rolls around, guess where I’ll be going for my birthday lunch with my coworkers?  

For more on Tiki culture and the Kahiki, check out The Book of Tiki: The Cult of Polynesian Pop in Fifties America and Tiki Style: A Pocket Bible Version of The Book of Tiki, both by Sven A. Kirsten. Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus, by David Meyers, Elise Meyers Walker, Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz, includes some authentic Kahiki recipes, like the “Tahitian Mermaid,” beef tenderloin stuffed with crabmeat and cream cheese. The Ohio History Connection’s archival collection also includes a postcard of Kamaainas (old-timers) and Malihinis (new-friends) dining “Island-style” at the Kahiki. Other Kahiki artifacts like a matchbox, cup, wall hanging of a tiki mask and tiki charm bracelet are in the History object collection.

To explore how Tiki culture is represented in literature, film and music, see Marlon Brando portray real-life 18th-century mutineer Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty, the 1962 film based on the novel of the same name by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. Thor Heyerdahl’s best-selling Kon-Tiki, the true story of six men’s adventures on a raft across the Pacific Ocean to Polynesia, inspired a 1951 Academy Award-winning documentary and was followed by Aku-Aku, Heyerdahl’s 1955 book about his expedition to Easter Island. James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific won him the 1948 Pulitzer Prize and inspired the Broadway musical South Pacific. Other Michener works with Polynesian settings are Return to Paradise, Rascals in Paradise and Hawaii. Pippi in the South Seas, the children’s classic by Astrid Lindgren, inspired a film by the same name. Earlier classics include Herman Melville’s Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life; Mark Twain’s “Letters From Hawaii” and Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands; Robert Louis Stevenson’s In the South Seas, Jack London’s South Sea Tales; and W. Somerset Maugham’s fictional biography of Paul Gaugin, The Moon and Sixpence. Catch reruns of classic tiki-culture television shows like Gilligan’s Island, Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I.  Hear “Sweet Leilani” on Ray Conniff’s Hawaiian Album from 1967; Ports of Pleasure, recorded by Les Baxter and his chorus and orchestra in 1957, is another classic.  Both are played to death here at home.

Posted in Columbus, Food, History, Travel | Leave a comment

How Well Do You Know The Blonde Bomber From Scioto?

Did you know that I’m a golfer? I didn’t think so.

This well-kept secret got its start in the summer of 1984, when this rising high-school sophomore took golf during two sessions of summer school at Columbus School for Girls. I learned the basics from Sharon Salzer, the now-retired CSG legend who taught physical education there for 39 years, was its athletics director for 29 years, and coached several sports.

Day after day, we played 18 holes of golf at the Columbus Country Club. I surprised myself by getting better and better, and Miss Salzer announced that I had found my sport. I developed a taste for lunch at the Ohio State University Golf Club and bought my golf glove, putter and clubs from its pro shop. I brought home golf balls as vacation souvenirs from the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Virginia and the Sea Island Golf Club at Sea Island, Georgia. And then I scored my first hole in one. At a Laura Ashley boutique in Scotland, I met Jack Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, who were in town for the British Open.

Locals know the “Golden Bear” as a fellow Columbus native, Upper Arlington High School and Ohio State University graduate, and the founder of the challenging course at Muirfield Village Golf Club and its Memorial Tournament. But did you know that Buckeye football coach Woody Hayes was one of his biggest supporters?

As the third round of this year’s Memorial Tournament was under way, I was keeping score of fun facts like these that I was collecting at the Jack Nicklaus Museum.

Sighting the course ahead, I admired a bronze statue of Nicklaus that greets museum visitors. He received it in 1988 when he was named Golfer of the Century. Originally, it depicted him swinging an iron, but he had it switched to a more-appropriate driver.

I teed up my visit in a gallery devoted to the history of golf. The sport as we know it today was first played in the 1400s on the treeless linksland of St. Andrews, Scotland, with its naturally formed grassy dunes, mudflats and deep bunkers made by grazing animals seeking shelter. In 1744, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers established the sport’s first rules. Read these thirteen “Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf” and you’ll recognize those things we golfers now take for granted, like keeping the tee on the ground, not changing the ball which you strike off the tee, and “He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.”

Imagine hitting “featheries” (feather-filled leather balls) with early “play-clubs” (drivers) and “spoons” (fairway woods) made from thorn or fruit wood, with a ram’s horn attached at the side of the head to protect it as it struck the ground and lead added to the back of the club for balance. Over time, featheries and spoons were replaced by rubber-like “Gutta-Percha” balls and iron “cleeks.”  By 1905, dimples were added to balls to make them fly farther and more accurately, while steel club shafts encouraged a more precise, upright swing. Each club had a unique name instead of a number; there were no matched sets of club until the 1930s.

Here, I also admired photographs of golf greats like Harry Vardon, the father of the modern swing who popularized the now-standard overlapping grip; Gene Sarazen, credited with inventing the sand wedge in 1932; Babe Zaharias, whose booming drives matched her outgoing personality; and Sam Snead, whose perfect tempo and rhythm combined to create one of the sweetest golf swings in history.

Taking the first dog leg in the course, I began my decade-by-decade trip through Nicklaus’s life. His January 21, 1940 birth certificate from White Cross Hospital in Columbus is displayed beside his baby bracelet. Family photos and home movie footage of his father, Charlie; mother, Helen; and younger sister, Marilyn document his boyhood.

Jack Nicklaus’s Scioto Country Club juvenile champion trophy, 1950

When Nicklaus was 10, he started caddying for his father, whose doctor prescribed long walks to help an unhealed ankle injury. He also enrolled in a junior golf class at the Scioto Country Club, located blocks from his home, and took home his first trophy as the club’s juvenile champion that year. So began Nicklaus’s close relationship with Jack Grout, who taught the young prodigy not only the fundamentals of the game, but also to believe in himself. Throughout his career, Nicklaus would take a refresher course from Grout at the start of each season and would return for periodic checkups as the season progressed.

As he worked and worked to keep improving, the young Nicklaus couldn’t drag himself away from the golf course. An average summer day began with hitting practice balls at 7:30, playing 18 holes at 8:00, then practicing putting, all before lunch. A lesson with Grout followed, after which he would play 18 more holes, then hit more balls. After a dinner break, he would return to the course to hit more balls until leaving for the day at 8:30. Having mastered the course’s long, narrow fairways and small, raised greens, the “Blonde Bomber from Scioto” became known for his accurate shots that went longer distances than those of most adults. Golf legends like Bobby Jones praised the young man for his talent and composure, as well as his powerful and beautiful swing. He also became known for the interlocking grip his father taught him to use. With his smallish hands and short fingers, this grip gave him more control; it differs from the more common “Vardon” grip in how the little finger of the right hand hooks around the forefinger of the left hand, rather than overlapping the finger.

When Nicklaus enrolled at Ohio State, he planned to major in pre-pharmacy, so he could join his pharmacist father in his drugstore business. As he racked up victories in amateur golf championships, he decided to sell insurance so he could pursue a professional career in golf.

Jack Nicklaus’s circa-1950s 3-wood

At the peak of his strength in the 1960s, he bent — even broke — the shaft of his driver during downswings. Some of the courses he played started adding bunkers to cope with his tremendous power. For all 20 of his major championship victories, he carried a Tommy Armour 3-wood manufactured by MacGregor. Although he got a new set of irons annually, he used that 3-wood from 1958 to 1983, repairing it when it cracked because it was so reliable.

He was also known for his ability to “think” a course as well as play it, approaching each shot as a mental exercise where he made notes of yardages and planned his attack for victory. By the 1970s, he dominated the sport.

As Nicklaus wrote in Golf My Way, his method book first published in 1974: “‘Going to the movies’ before selecting a club from the bag would make golf a less frustrating game for many weekend players. In my case, visualizing the ball’s ultimate resting place forms the opening scene. This is followed by a travelogue in which I imagine how it will get there. The finale in my mind’s eye features the setup and swing I’ll need to effect a happy ending.”

I putted along the museum’s displays, taking in scores of trophies and mementos from Nicklaus’s career, which includes 20 major championships (6 Masters, 5 PGA championships, 4 US Opens, 71 PGA tour wins and 100 professional victories worldwide). Examples are the golf balls he used in 1997 during the last putt of his 150th consecutive major championship and the 10,000th hole he played in major championships; the golf glove he used at the 2005 Masters Tournament; pairs of Rockport and Bostonian golf shoes he wore in the 1990s; and cufflinks and stick pins he received from Presidents Ford and Reagan.

There’s one of his legendary Kelly green sportcoats earned by winning the Masters Tournament, as well as his handsome Masters trophy that depicts the famous clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Making my way down a picturesque fairway documenting Nicklaus’s major championship wins, I passed the coveted silver claret jug bestowed upon winners of the British Open…

…as well as a five-pound banknote with his likeness on it, issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland to commemorate his last visit to the Open Championship. About the time I spotted him shopping at Laura Ashley, he received an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews. During the laureation address, Nicklaus was praised for his integrity, his good conduct, his honesty, and his sportsmanship.

Noting the time, I concluded that my visit to this museum was going to come in at a bogey rather than birdie, let alone an eagle. So I took a break in a re-creation of the Nicklaus family living room in Florida and watched a video in which Nicklaus, his wife and some of his children recall their memories.

I hooked into the gallery just beyond. There, I reveled in seeing several advertisements in which the Nicklauses have been featured over the years, from Pontiac and Coca-Cola to cordless phones and lawn fertilizer. Hart, Schaffner & Marx’s “Golden Bear” blazers are a “perfect match for tournament slacks,” while a Lincoln Town Car is “perfect for those really long drives.” Remember Nicklaus’s “Do you know me?” commercials for American Express?

As he played courses around the world, Nicklaus started hankering to design a challenging golf course in his native central Ohio. In 1966, he closed on 180 acres of rolling farmland, meadows and woods near Dublin and began creating a spectacular setting, adding additional acreage during the next few years. He kept the golf-tournament spectator in mind as he created a course with mounds, tiered tees and circular ampitheaters. He named it Muirfield Village, after the Scottish word for “moor,” in tribute to the Muirfield course in Scotland where he won his first British Open and played his first Walker Cup match.

Memorial Tournament trophy

The first unofficial round at Muirfield was played on October 1, 1973 – my fourth birthday – and the course was officially launched on Memorial Day 1974. He has changed the course over the years, reworking the green, raising and reshuffling tees, and moving trees.

Since the mid-1960s, Nicklaus also wanted to create a tournament that would not only honor the great golfers of the past, but also support local charitable organizations. The first Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club took place in May 1976, with Bobby Jones as the first honoree.

Hitting a beautiful drive from this gallery into a long fairway of Nicklaus family portraits, I decided that my favorite parts of the museum weren’t really about the Golden Bear. The best parts were those celebrating the contributions of Barbara Bash Nicklaus, a fellow Columbus native who graduated from North High School, continued her studies at Ohio State, was a member of its 1959 Homecoming court, and married her husband on July 23, 1960 at North Broadway United Methodist Church in Columbus. Many examples of the beautiful jewelry she has received over the years are on display.

There’s her charm bracelet documenting the birth of their five children…

as well as other glistening gold charms commemorating her husband’s wins in the Tournament of Champions, the Ryder Cup, and other championships.

Sean Connery narrates “Jack Nicklaus Beyond the Final Round,” a short film I watched before coming to the museum’s 18th hole, which calls attention to Ohio State’s contributions to improving golfers’ games through turf grass science and research. Buckeyes are advancing the control of pests, weeds and diseases; improving how turf grass grows and absorbs essential nutrients; and discovering better ways to construct new putting greens. Alumnus James B. Beard, a preeminent turf grass scientist, is the author of Turf Management for Golf Courses, known to golf course superintendents as “Beard’s Bible” because of its fine description of how to select, establish and cultivate turfgrass for putting greens, tees, fairways and roughs. Alumnus David R. Mellor is one of the leading creators of the elaborate mowing patterns used on athletic turf grass. His book, Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports, offers techniques to make your lawn both healthy and the talk of your neighborhood.

I left the museum thinking about something Nicklaus said: One of the best things about golf is that it’s a sport that you can play by yourself. It’s a challenge between you and the golf course, and that demands self-reliance.

I think I’ll start taking a few practice swings.

The Jack Nicklaus Museum, located at 2355 Olentangy River Road in Columbus, is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday.

For more on Jack Nicklaus, read Golf My Way, by Jack Nicklaus, with Ken Bowden, foreword by Jack Grout; Jack Nicklaus: My Story, by Jack Nicklaus, with Ken Bowden; Jack Nicklaus: Memories and Mementos from Golf’s Golden Bear, by Jack Nicklaus, with David Shedloski; Jack Grout: A Legacy in Golf: Pioneer Tour Pro and Teacher to Jack Nicklaus, by Dick Grout, with a foreword by Jack Nicklaus; and Well Done!: Life, Love & Food: Recipes and Memories from Barbara and Jack Nicklaus. For more on Muirfield and its Memorial Tournament, track down The Story of Muirfield Village Golf Club and The Memorial Tournament, by Paul Hornung. 

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“Columbia, Gem of the Scioto”

The Butlers, as seen in the July 4, 1974 issue of The Columbus Dispatch.  

“Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!”

Photo by Ken Chamberlain

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