Coming for the Coneys – Gettin’ My 52 On in South Cumminsville

Mr Gene’s Hot Dogs was the only reference point noted as I searched for South Cumminsville in Google Maps.

“Ok then,” I said to myself. “That’s where I’ll start my walk. For sure, I’ll be hungry if nothing else.”

South Cumminsville used to be part of the larger Cumminsville. But the northern half was assimilated into Northside, while the southern portion remained on its own.

I took the Viaduct (is that really a name?) to Beekman Street and continued north until I found the coveted hot dog stand. From there, I parked down a side street and began my walk at St. Pius Church and school, erected in 1925 and now existing as an Episcopal Retirement Community-sponsored apartment.

I walked north on Beekman, struck by the murals below the walkway which connects the east and west sidewalks of Beekman, allowing one to traverse Beekman to get to school, or what once was called a school and is now apartments.

At the base of the parkway was a set of colorful murals depicting life in this little community that ran along the Mill Creek. From atop of the pedestrian overpass, I gazed around the small neighborhood bounded by I-74, Mill Creek, and West Fork offshoot of the creek which circles around the western border of the neighborhood.

Before long, I had found Elmore Café, which I plan to frequent because I KNOW they will card this 51-year-old that could, technically, pass for a thirty-year-old. They also have a newer looking outdoor space that could be a great place to meet some new patrons. Their last FB post was in August, 2016, but I believe they are still operating and I want to, you know, flaunt my ID.

I circled through the hushed neighborhood and found an interesting church denomination of Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo. For the record, Eritrea is an African nation in the horn and is currently rejecting any international aid to eliminate the famine happening there.

Returning to Mr. Gene’s as my touchstone, I proceeded south on Beekman but landed in Millvale, so I quietly stepped back out, knowing I would revisit that patch of sidewalk again.

Along my route, I encountered several affordable housing tracts developed through CMHA, Millvale Apartments, and to get in my steps, I turned up a residential hill and found a breath-taking, albeit distant view of Christ Hospital, Cincinnati State, and of course, the trains. Nothing ever seemed far away from South Cumminsville, unless one has to consider crossing the criss-cross of interstates to get there.

I headed back north and “found the funny” in a restaurant on the Mill Creek West Fork, Ocean Breeze. There wasn’t much water running through the creek now to create a breeze, but I like the images evoked.

As I stood to take a photo, a man walked past. “Hey, how are you?” I asked.

“Good, honey, how you be?”

“I’m great today and how ‘bout you?”(I sounded a bit like a former cheerleader, “Yes, yes, yes we do, we’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”).

“Honey. I’m good and I’m glad you asked.”

I was prepared for a lengthier conversation, but he skidaddled away and left me with a smile on my face, as I anticipated lunch.

For 50 years, Mr. Gene’s had sold chili dogs and coneys to passersby and anyone washing their car next door. I searched my wallet and only found $2.40, so I was happy to see the credit card sign welcoming my plastic. I was hungry, had covered about four miles, and the time was long past noon. I stepped up to order a coney and Sierra Mist.

The clerk attempted several times to run my credit card. “Oh, honey, its not you, its our system.” She located the manager. The manager couldn’t run the card through either. Finally, an employee handed me my coney and drink.

“But I haven’t paid yet, did I?” I wasn’t certain the card had gone through. “But what about paying?”

“Oh, we’ll figure it out.”

I was happy to walk away with what might be a bonus dog and sat on a nearby step in front of an empty building, eating my dog in the sun, thinking this was how coneys should have been eaten for the last 50 years.

Working in Neighborhoods and the Cincinnati Reds teamed together a few years ago to renovate a playground and ballfields. I know well the attraction to wanting only the basics – safety and something for kids to do. After all, that’s what I remember my parents wanting for us.

The neighborhood has an active community council, an updated Facebook page and community garden produce offered at various events. Even the Cincinnati Enquirer recently covered the neighborhood and its resilient residents.

I wish I would have met just one of the residents in this ever-evolving community, but the temperatures kept most inside.

There is a tight-knit, quiet resolve about this neighborhood unmatched in others I have walked. On these walks, I ask myself, Would I, could I live here? What part of me would do so? There is the writer-me that says, “No, you would always be misspelling or abbreviating the name of the neighborhood.” And there is an inner-me, the part that likes simplicity accompanied by coneys, that answers,”Yes.”

(Read more here about the Artworks murals)

This is the ninth in a series of #GettinMy52on. I plan to walk Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods during the year leading up to the city’s 2017 election, to find what has made Cincinnati relevant to me. Sometimes, I’ll coerce my husband to join me.



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