Growing up Dayton

“You can take the girl out of Dayton, but you can’t take Dayton out of the girl.”
Here is a list of experiences I had while growing up in Dayton, Kentucky in the 1960s:

  • Wading in the muddy water of the Ohio River, allowing the frothy waves churned by a passing barge, to slap against my thighs and wet my shorts.
  • Poking a dead cat with a stick on the river bank, wondering how it died.
  • Force feeding a bald baby bird who fell from its nest and now lives in a shoe box.
  • Having a funeral for ‘said baby bird’ the next day; his shoe-box home, now his coffin.
  • A black Cocker Spaniel locking his jaws onto my calf as I try to break up a dog fight in our kitchen between the visiting spaniel and our mangy cur named Bozo.
  • Watching helplessly as Daisy Mae, our beautiful beagle puppy, writhes in agony as something poisoness that she ate slowly takes her life.
  • Seeing the lady next door, who has six children, cut her grass with a manual reel-mower, while sporting a black eye and swollen lip.
  • Hiding on the roof of our garage on a hot summer night, while playing hide-n-seek ‘till way past dark with a plethora of siblings and neighborhood kids.
  • Lying flat on same garage roof a few years later, hiding from an angry 15 year-old boy who wants revenge for a prank perpetuated on him by myself and my best friend D.
  • Walking along the railroad tracks following an older brother, younger sister tagging behind, waiting for just one more train before rushing home to watch ‘Outer Limits’ on a black & white Philco TV with rabbit ears.
  • Nuns teaching me to read and write, how to pray, what sin is, and how to feel guilty.
  • Nuns showing concern, being kind and imparting to me a life-long love of Jesus.
  • Enduring a paddling administered by Sister J for failing to complete my homework assignments after multiple warnings.
  • Being woke by the sounds of domestic violence taking place in the kitchen of D’s house on my first sleepover.
  • Walking to Muehlenkamp Funeral Home to see a 12 year old dead girl who was playing hopscotch with us just a week ago.
  • Learning to ride a bike on the only available bicycle in the neighborhood. It belonged to the “retarded girl with crooked legs.”
  • Walking to Klingenberg’s Hardware to purchase a pair of shiny ball-bearing roller skates with the five dollar bill I got for my 12th birthday.
  • Sitting in a corner chair at Bill’s Shoe Shop, while Bill replaces the soles on my black and white saddle shoes, which, according to Daddy, were torn loose by the heavy roller skates that I kept tightened with a skate-key I wore on a string around my neck.
  • Myself and several siblings lying on the linoleum floor in front of an electric fan, trying to blow the heat off our brunt skin which was fried after swimming at Tacoma Pool from ten that morning until closing time, breaking only long enough to walk the 12 blocks home, eat a sandwich and walk back to the pool.
  • Engaging in yelling matches with the ‘Protestant kids’ who attended Lincoln Elementary as we walked on the other side of Fourth Street on our way home from Saint Bernard’s.
  • Walking two blocks to Rebushe’s Café at 1 am to buy a 16 oz. Coke and some Husman’s potato chips with babysitting money I just earned.
  • Forcing myself to inhale the menthol smoke from the Salem cigarette I was puffing the weekend I turned 14.
  • Feeling the room spin around me after I drank several gulps of Wild Turkey from a pint bottle that D’s mom purchased for us [also happened when I was 14].
  • Ducking into an alley to avoid the cruising cop car at four in the morning, having been out walking the streets of Dayton with D all night, while we were supposed to be asleep in the tent in our backyard.
  • Riding the 12 Dayton Greenline bus to Dixie Terminal downtown Cincinnati with a sister and D to meet boys who were too young to drive, to attend a birthday party with them in a third floor apartment on 13th and Vine Street.
  • Walking across the L&N bridge at 12:30 am after we missed the last 12 Dayton out of Dixie Terminal.
  • Crazed neighbor lady going ‘Jerry Springer’ on me over an altercation I had with her 7 year old son.
  • Carrying a roach to school in my note book.
  • My friends’ older siblings dropping out of school as soon as they reach age 16.
  • Attending the wedding of D’s older sister; a 16 year old bride and 18 year old groom.
  • Learning what lesbians are and who they were when a woman who looked like a man moved in two doors down.
  • Listening to D when she was only 10 years old, tell me about her sexual experiences with Mr. A.
  • Feeling confused and scared when D told me about her sexual experiences with the neighborhood pedophile.
  • Crying as I said good bye to D and my sister, leaving Dayton at age 17 with my new husband and soon to be baby.
  • Crying out of sadness and regret when I heard about the death of my ‘used to be best friend’ D 40 years later. She was only 53, confined to a wheelchair and suffering with brain damage for the last ten years of her life from the physical abuse she endured at the hands for her 4thhusband.


2 thoughts on “Growing up Dayton

  1. Ginger. This blog touches my heart & mind. It is stirring me to the core. Your dialogue stirs joy & pain in my memories. I had some amazing experiences in Dayton. Would I be able to share my experience about the day they found Linda Pearson’s body on the riverbank? As a guest “writer’ .You of course can review & tweek it. I love your stories. i am proud of your accomplishments. I am proud to be your sister. Helen


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