Hamilton woman's book focuses on military namesBy Jim Blount
Pfc. Dominic V. Spinella's heroism and sacrifice haven't been forgotten. The U. S. Army's Spinella Barracks in Mannheim, Germany, honor the Hamilton native killed in combat April 14, 1945, less than a month before World War II in Europe ended. The 21-year-old medic, a 1940 graduate of Hamilton Catholic High School at age 16, died as he tried to reach four wounded soldiers at Willsbach, Germany.
The details of Spinella's training and the
circumstances that earned him a Silver Star are explained in a new book
by a Hamilton woman. Spinella is one of the 524 men profiled in Linda D.
Swink's recently-published In Their Honor, The Men Behind the Names of Our Military Installations.
Other local connections include Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis and Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana. The Indiana post is a tribute to the Miami University graduate, Civil War general and Indiana senator who became the 23rd U. S. president. The Montana base honors his grandfather -- the ninth president -- who resided and is buried in nearby North Bend, Ohio, in Hamilton County. He claimed credit for raising the first U. S. flag over Fort Hamilton in 1791.
The brief biographies include some interesting surprises. An example is the Army National Guard's Camp Gruber at Braggs, Okla., named for a Cincinnati native, Brig. Gen. Edmund Louis Gruber. Swink writes that Gruber "is best remembered as the author of the 5th Artillery Regimental song titled 'The Caissons Go Rolling Along,' which was adopted by all regiments of the artillery, first becoming the field artillery song, and later the U. S. Army's official song."
Gruber was a West Point graduate and later an instructor at the academy who commanded artillery units during World War I. He performed various training and command assignments before dying of natural causes in 1941. His Distinguished Service citation highlights Gruber's "exceptional ability in planning the organization of field artillery brigade centers," including establishment of Fort Sill, Okla.
An Ohio Air National Guard base is named after "the nation's leading ace pilot during World War I" who also served in World War II. Rickenbacker Air Force in Columbus honors Eddie Rickenbacker, whose varied career included driving in the Indianapolis 500 three times and setting a land speed record of 134 mph at Daytona Beach, Fla.
Camp Perry at Port Clinton, Ohio, is familiar as an army training center, but it bears the name of a naval leader, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. The Army National Guard camp is named for the commander of an underdog U. S. flotilla that defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Perry is noted for his battle flag, which said "Don't Give Up the Ship," and his victory message, "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
O'Hare International Airport in Chicago is more
familiar than O'Hare Field in the Gilbert Islands, but both are named in
honor of Edward H. (Butch) O'Hare, a Missouri native and Annapolis
graduate who vanished on an air mission in the Pacific in 1943.
Ohio 129 link to I-75 completed 10 years ago
By Jim Blount
Sunday, Dec. 13, will be the 10th anniversary of the opening of the 10.7-mile section of Ohio 129 east from Ohio 4 in Hamilton to I-75 in southeastern Butler County. The $164.94 million highway overcame several legal obstacles and delays before work started May 15, 1998. Construction was completed eight months early under the direction of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District..
What is today a major economic asset for Hamilton and three townships (Fairfield, Liberty and West Chester) seemed an unrealistic dream for more than three decades.
The road faced determined opposition in the townships while Hamilton leaders reminded state and federal leaders of a 1956 promise -- that the interstate highway system would connect every city with a population of 50,000 or more. Hamilton had 57,951 people in the 1950 census and 72,354 in 1960.
April 29, 1970, Gov. James A. Rhodes promised the state would build a 15.7-mile highway from Hamilton east to I-75 and I-71 within two and a half years. In 1974, with Rhodes running for governor again, he renewed the promise. In 1983, when his two terms ended, nothing had been done.
By 1990, it was renamed the Butler County Regional Highway, and had new advocates. After 30 years of development along I-75 in Liberty and West Chester townships, it was evident Hamilton wouldn't be the only beneficiary of improved east-west traffic movement.
Legislation introduced by State Rep. Mike Fox led to formation of the Butler County TID Dec. 7, 1993. The 11-member TID board -- representing the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield; Liberty, Fairfield and West Chester townships; and the county at large -- held its first meeting in January 1994. TID assumed responsibility for building the new Ohio 129 in 1995.
In June 2000, six months after it opened, Ohio 129
average daily traffic (ADT) counts were 25,303 vehicles west of I-75;
24,292 east of Ohio 747; 21,248 west of Ohio 747; and 18,957 west of
Ohio 4 Bypass.
Traffic statistics are only part of the story. Caroline McKinney, Liberty Twp. director of economic development, said Ohio 129 produced "a flurry of commercial development at Cincinnati-Dayton Road soon after its opening. Two large retail centers came to fruition as a result of the new infrastructure."
"Ohio 129 brought increased access and convenience to a community primarily served by county and local roadways," McKinney said. Liberty Twp. had 9,249 residents in the 1990 census and 22,819 in 2000. McKinney said a recent population estimate is about 33,000.
She said "about 150 businesses are located near Ohio 129 at Cincinnati-Dayton and Princeton roads, employing nearly 2,500 people. The Liberty Commons retail center (Kroger Marketplace) and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Liberty campus alone employ nearly 1,000 workers."
There has been similar development in neighboring Fairfield Twp. north of the Ohio 4 interchange, highlighted by the 2004 opening of the 66-acre Bridgewater Falls mall.
Medical facilities also have emerged along the road
-- the 75-acre University Pointe medical campus (opened in 2002) and the
West Chester Medical Center (2008), both on Cox Road in West Chester
Twp.; the Butler County Medical Center and related facilities (2004) on
Hamilton-Mason Road in Hamilton; and Cincinnati Children's Hospital in
Liberty Twp. (2008).
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What are your memories of Great Depression?(This column is the last column in a 39-part series on the Great Depression in the Hamilton area.)
By Jim Blount
What are your memories of the Great Depression, or
stories from the 1930s handed down in your family? Two recollections
head the list of an unscientific count of comments received by this
writer during publication of the 37 columns in this series and
A stranger knocking on your back door today would prompt a 911 call, not an act of kindness. From the early 1930s into the World War II years, in Hamilton unknown men asked for food, usually during daylight hours. The routine response was to prepare a sandwich or share leftovers, a piece of cake or pie or fresh fruit, plus a glass of water, milk or lemonade.
The same person seldom returned. It was assumed the men were jobless and homeless. No questions were asked, and they offered no personal information. It was believed the beggars were more numerous in neighborhoods close to railroad tracks or a busy road. A few people called them hoboes, but most considered them victims of "bad times."
Previously, this writer has heard of door-to-door junk collectors -- seeking paper, metals, rags or worn out clothes -- hauling donated items in either pushcarts, bicycles with large baskets or old trucks.
The expectation of eating everything on your plate
carried over into the World War II years, 1941-45, when many foods were
rationed or scarce. Another Depression memory is that leftovers were
expected to be eaten, not wasted. Food was a precious commodity.
Clothes and shoes were patched when necessary and
worn until beyond repair. Then clothes were torn into rags and used for
numerous household tasks. Some pieces were salvaged as patches when
newer garments required reinforcing. Outgrown children's clothes were
handed down to a younger brother or sister or passed along to a neighbor
Also frequently mentioned is that families and neighbors helped each other, as much as possible -- ranging from sharing food and cooperating on a garden to caring for children when necessary. Another recollection is one or more families moving into a relative's single-family residence, and families with an empty bedroom taking in a boarder.
A Hamilton resident -- interviewed several years ago -- said he experienced guilt because his father had a job at Champion Papers. He was well fed and properly clothed while his neighborhood playmates were lacking both. Their fathers were at home, hoping to quality for at least some part time work on a WPA project. He recalled his parents having a small garden and giving most of their vegetables to neighbors.
Adding to the misery during the 1930s were unusually hot and dry summers -- establishing records that still stand.
A pleasant childhood memory of Hamilton in the late '30s and early '40s is hot summer days when firemen opened fire hydrants. Kids enjoyed the cooling spray for 20 to 30 minutes before the firemen closed the hydrant and moved to another neighborhood and repeated the process.
Family cool off strategies -- before residential air
conditioning -- included taking a late evening bus ride to the end of
the line and back to the stop near your house. It was customary to open
as many bus windows as possible and sit in the back of an uncrowded bus
to take full advantage of the breeze.
In those hard times, people did without luxuries and frills and made do with what they had. As several Depression survivors have observed, "you didn't miss it, if you never had it."
Public, private aid supported needy Civil War families
By Jim Blount
Relief for the poor and disadvantaged was a local responsibility before the Civil War started in 1861, but that changed early in the four-year war. County and local governments answered some of the needs of soldiers' families in Butler County soon after the first volunteers left the area.
By May 2, 1861 -- two and a half weeks after President Abraham Lincoln's first call for volunteers -- the Hamilton Telegraph said families of 75 of about 300 local soldiers "are now being supported by the citizens of Hamilton."
The number of "necessitous soldiers' families" -- the
term used then -- increased as the Union military demanded more
manpower. After a few accidents and battles, those needing assistance
also included widows, orphans and disabled soldiers.
The federal government didn't have a system to deduct part of a private's $13 monthly pay to be sent to support wives and children. At first, soldiers sent money home by mail or express -- and gambled it would arrive.
Some messengers were appointed by a city, village or township; others were trusted volunteers.
Arrival of the messenger and the money was usually advertised in a local newspaper. The spouse or another relative was responsible for collecting the money.
The system was complicated by several factors, including the honesty and ability of the messenger to keep accurate records. Hazards included capture by the enemy, thieves, accidents and weather obstacles.
In December 1861, Congress authorized the president to appoint commissioners in each state to visit armies and collect money. It required several months to establish the system that collected money from soldiers in the field and deposited it in the state treasury. The Ohio treasurer notified 88 county auditors of the amount due each family. The auditor distributed funds to soldiers' families. In its first year of operation, this plan disbursed about $8.4 million to families on the home front.
Ohio lawmakers authorized county commissioners to levy a half-mill property tax for family relief. The law was effective in 1861, but the levy wasn't collectable until 1862. Eventually, it provided $1 to $3 weekly per family, regardless of the family size.
More help came in 1862 with passage of the Volunteers' Families Relief Fund, another property tax increase, that produced about $6.30 a year per soldier family in 1863. Allowing for inflation, that would be about $105 annually in current dollars.
In 1863, Ohio began accepting African-American volunteers. Their families were eligible for Ohio benefits in 1864.
State and federal aid for "necessitous soldiers' families" helped, but much of the burden remained on local private benevolence.
A variety of benefit programs -- fairs, festivals, dances, banquets, plays and musicals -- raised money for local families. A Butler County relief fair in 1863, for example, realized about $9,000.
Local statistics on needy families aren't available, but in 1865, near the end of the war, Ohio reported 44,090 soldiers with families. The state classified 84 percent of that total (37,118 families including 121,923 persons) as "necessitous."
# # #
Lack of firewood threatened soldier families in 1861
By Jim Blount
As the winter of 1861-62 approached, both sides realized the Civil War wouldn't be a short conflict. The bravado of April 1861 had faded. It was going to take more than a few battles to settle North-South differences. By summer, troops were enlisted for three years of service, not three months. The complexities of organizing for a prolonged war were exposed -- including problems on the home front.
At least 300 volunteers left the Hamilton area by the end of April 1861. About another 700 men departed before the end of the year. Not all local soldiers were young, single men. Some left families.
"They are, for the most part, made up of small means
[income], very many of them leaving dependent families without the means
of support," said the Nov. 28, 1861, Hamilton Telegraph in describing
the financial status of local soldiers.
Nov. 17, 1861, a city council resolution noted "that
considerable suffering now exists among the families of our soldiers in
the service of their country from this city, and still more suffering is
apprehended from the rigors of the approaching winter."
After the winter of 1861-62, local residents and
organizations assisting military families gave firewood the same
priority as food, clothing and other necessities.
In the summer of 1863 a Butler County Relief Fair was held in Hamilton, and the Hamilton Telegraph said "the wood procession was a principal feature of the fair." The report said "the appeal to the farmers in the county [for firewood] had been general and the response was glorious and honorable."
Hamilton was hit by rain and sleet that day, making travel over roads and streets difficult for horse-drawn wagons loaded with wood. Despite the conditions, the report said "at 10 o'clock the teams began to struggle in and deposit their contents" in a vacant lot on the south side of High Street between Second and Third streets.
"Soon after 10, a procession from Reily [Twp], not
less than four [city] squares in length, came down High Street, filling
both sides of the street with huge ricks of wood."
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