Monday, July 14, 2003

Radel: West End more than what makes the news


Summer Tour hits West End

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In the West End, people like to live in peace, work hard and proudly claim this storied neighborhood as their home.

You wouldn't know that from the headlines about West End shootouts and crack houses.

No one knows this better than Dale Mallory.

He's lived his entire life in this historic neighborhood that's been wracked by misguided attempts at urban renewal. After spending 25 years at General Electric, he's helping the West End as its community council president.

"We've suffered enough," Mallory says. "People need to know how the community feels."

So, he invited the Summer Tour to take a ride through the place he knows best.

"Experience with me," he offers, "the sights and sounds and smells of summer in the West End."

Playing tour guide, he slips behind the wheel of his blue PT Cruiser. He plans to show off the West End, warts and all.

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Dale Mallory stopped by the ball field in the Park Town part of the West End.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
The tour embarks from historic Dayton Street, where Mallory is taking pains to restore a home and its yard to their original 1867 glory.

Just two days before, the police raided a house one block from his home. Nine arrests were made. Two guns, $12,000 and crack cocaine were found.

"Before the police came, cars raced up and down the street at all hours," Mallory says. "It was crazy. Now it's as it should be: Quiet."

Neighbors, he says, cheered the police action. "I don't know where this stuff came from that we are content with crime," he says. "We aren't. Period."

He drives for a few blocks in silence. Then, he pulls into the parking lot of Park Town, a '60s-style apartment complex.

"This is where I grew up."

He knowingly threads his way along the sidewalks, passing tidy gardens in front of neatly kept apartments. Nearby are an on-ramp to Interstate 75 and the back lot of the shuttered Washburn Elementary School.

Pausing in Washburn's lot, he recalls "the carnival they used to hold here every summer. That's when this was a strong neighborhood."

That's when the West End had a Kroger store, a Walgreens, "a record shop where James Brown once visited and so many people showed up they broke out the front window."

And, hundreds of houses had yet to be demolished for apartments.

Back in the cruiser, Mallory drives to a part of the West End that's nearly a century older than Park Town.

Paulene Moore stands on the front porch of a house with wooden gingerbread trim that would be right at home in her native Alabama. She is "catching the nice breeze."

The scents of vinegar and pickling spices mingle in the air. Moore's neighbor, Kaiser Foods, produces pickles.

She's lived in the West End for 24 years.

"Sometimes, there's trouble down here," she says. "But I can't leave. This is home."

map On the neighborhood's north side, the West End Reds are packing up. Practice is over for another day at Dyer Field.

Andrew Carr, the Reds' "coach, manager, owner and CEO," stands behind the batting cage. There's no pitching mound. The infield's all dirt.

"This old field may be rough," he says. "But it has history. Fenway Park in Boston has the Green Monster. We have the Orange Monster."

He points to an old factory building just beyond the left center field fence. Its orange bricks have called to many hitters. Carr included.

"I first hit it when I was 13," he says, hitching up his uniform pants and sticking out his chest.

David Carnes is 14. The West End Reds' third baseman has been tempted by the Orange Monster.

"I haven't hit it," he says, quickly adding, "yet."

This has been a busy summer for David. When he isn't practicing or playing baseball, he's umpiring games between attending workouts for Taft High School's football team.

He keeps busy because "summer is kind of crazy in the West End. Too many kids running around with nothing to do."

David has plenty to do. And someone to thank.

"My dad," he says, "keeps me focused."

After leaving the baseball coach and his third baseman, Mallory drives to Linn Street. The enticing aroma of ribs on a grill slips past the filters of the Cruiser's air-conditioner. Mallory pulls into the parking lot of Junebug's Bar-B-Que & Steakhouse.

Howard Beatty stands in the shade and tends a grill the size of a picnic table's top. Ribs and meaty baby back ribs sizzle and hiss above the charcoal.

Beatty's brother, George L. Beatty III, Junebug's co-owner, is burned up over "developers nibbling away at this neighborhood. They want to gentrify this whole community. So they wreck the old houses. I say fix up the old stuff. It'll last another 100 years."

Junebug's has been open since April. The restaurant is a whippersnapper of a business compared to Eugene Briers' barbershop.

Briers has been cutting hair for 50 years in the West End. His shop has four chairs. And few customers.

"Since they tore down all those houses in the West End," he says, "that ran off most of my customers."

Behind him, a portrait of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gazes down from the wall. In front of the barber, the Reds are on TV. Losing. As usual.

From his shop window, Briers can see new homes being built. Kids practicing on the field at Stargel Stadium. People looking ahead. Making plans.

"Those are signs of hope," he says. Signs that the old neighborhood just might hang in there.

5 facts about the West End

Population: 8,115.

West End's mini-neighborhoods: Park Town, Ezzard Charles Apartments, Laurel Homes, Lincoln Park, Stanley Rowe Apartments, Queensgate, Dayton Street Historic District, Betts-Longworth, City West.

Number of houses in Dayton Street Historic District: 413 (includes Dayton, Linn, Bank and Findlay streets and Winchell Avenue).

Chestnut Street Jewish Cemetery: Established in 1821 at Chestnut Street and Central Avenue, it is the oldest Jewish Cemetery west of the Alleghenies.

Famous West End natives: Theodore M. Berry, Ken Blackwell, Ezzard Charles, George B. "Boss" Cox, Phil Cox, William F. Doepke, James Gamble, John Hauck, DeHart Hubbard, Dave Parker, the Rev. Maurice McCracken, the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, the Rev. George Washington Williams, Jimmy Wynn, Gilbert Young.

What defines summer in your neighborhood?

Kids setting up a lemonade stand? Reds fans sitting on a porch and listening to Marty and Joe on the radio? A street party?

Send suggestions to: Cliff Radel's Summer Tour, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; fax (513) 768-8340; e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.

• Next week: Oxford




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