Mid-century Reading Road (Cincinnati, Canton, Hamilton: sale, apartments, amusement park)
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This will probably only be of interest to a limited number of readers.
It contains my recollections of businesses and landmarks along Reading
Road dating back to the late 1950's. Memories fade and sometimes play
tricks, but perhaps other readers will offer additions and amendments.
Be warned, though, that what follows is quite a memory dump.
Heading north from Walnut Hills, with diversions up to a mile in
The Alms Hotel, near William Howard Taft, now gone. The place
aged gracefully, shutting down one building at a time. Probably
rivaled the old Vernon Manor in splendor, at one time.
The Cabana Club, on one of the cross-streets off of Reading, possibly
William Howard Taft. This was an outdoor swimming pool, completely
shielded from the street and city noise by what seemed to have been
some large wooden balconies and a storefront entrance.
The Mandarin, Chinese restaurant, between Dana and Paddock. The food
was Cantonese style. Moved to Section Rd. in the late 1970's. Name
later changed to Ahn's Mandarin Gardens.
Next door, to the north, was an auto repair business, possibly named
Across from the Mandarin was Loretta's restaurant. Cannot recall what
they served. Probably closed in the mid-1960's.
Daisy Donuts, just north of Victory Pkwy. The name was later changed
to Daily Donuts, ca. 1962, although the Daisy trademark remained.
Branches appeared around town - no idea whether this was the original.
The chain disappeared around 1980, I think.
A tad south, on Victory Pkwy, a high-rise apartment building opened
around 1970. There was a restaurant on the first floor which closed
several years later.
Just north of Daisy Donuts was Natorp Nursery. Natorp's may have had
several branches around town.
Sugar n' Spice, more or less across from the nursery. Now a breakfast
place but, as a child, I can recall having dinner there. Parents of
some friends claim - and I have no evidence to back this up - that
Sugar n' Spice was also once a trendy after-hours meeting place,
frequented by radio personalities from WLW's Crosley studios.
Howdy Car Wash, east side. One family owned this business for many
Next door to the car wash was the Smorgasteria, billed as a cross
between a smorgasboard and a cafeteria. Basically a large salad bar,
in business during the mid-1960's.
Capri Pizza, adjoining the fruit market at the southeast corner with
Tennessee. Capri moved to Norwood in the late 1970's, probably
closed down a few years later. The pizza was very much in the New York
style; the sauce had a unique flavor I have yet to experience anywhere
Across from Capri to the west was a drycleaner. To the north was
a paint store with a large orange sign - very 1950's.
Just south of the Norwood Lateral exit, west side, was a Frisch's
Big Boy. This particular branch was known by employees as the
"Mt. Vernon" store - no idea why.
Across from the Frisch's was Richard's (?) electronic supply company.
The Norwood Lateral opened in 1960, and originally extended from
Reading Road to the Mill Creek Expressway. The overpass was completed
in the early 1970's, when the road was extended to Norwood and Oakley.
Construction of the overpass necessitated a traffic revision in which
the west end of Catalina Avenue was cut off from Reading.
The Twin Drive-In, just north of the Norwood Lateral. Replaced by
indoor theaters in the 1980's. Residents of Lawn Avenue could see
the two-sided screen from their backyards.
St. Aloysius orphanage, across from the Twin and north. Held a carnival
White Castle hamburgers, northwest corner with California.
Just to the west of the White Castle was a small building with an old
cannon in front. Possibly a VFW hall.
West of the White Castle, along California, were several businesses and
the Bond Hill Elementary School. The Tom House offered Chinese carry-
out, and may have had seating. At the northeast corner with Paddock
was a butcher shop and a stamp dealer. Around the corner, on Paddock,
was a Pure Oil filling station (slogan: "Fire up, with Firebird").
There may also have been a Bonded station on that block.
Across from the White Castle were a collection of businesses and a
synagogue. Lowenthal's pharmacy was there for many years. Alber's
supermarket also had a store there in the early 1960's. Just south
of the synagogue was the original Chili Time - late 1960's.
About a mile north of California was Swifton shopping center, already
well described in a previous posting.
To the west of Swifton was Woodward High School. Small prefab buildings
were set up around 1970 to accomodate student overflow, during the peak
of the Baby Boom highschool years.
On the northwest corner with Seymour was the Red Barn, an early
McDonald's-like fastfood place. Probably in business for about ten
years, beginning mid-1960's. McDonald's really did not expand heavily
into Cincinnati until around 1972 - before that, all I can recall were
the Kenwood and Westwood stores.
To the west of the Red Barn was the Seymour Lanes, bowling alley.
Around 1970 Zayre's, a discount retailer, opened a store to the north of
the bowling alley.
To the north of Swifton was the Crest Hills Country Club, which moved
to Amberly in the 1970's. The site was razed and replaced with a small
shopping center and a middle school.
About one mile east, on Losantaville, there was a small plaza with a
delicatessen, Stanley's. The plaza also contained the Bucheim Bakery
and the Plotnick pharmacy. All are long gone, although I think that
the family owning the bakery now owns Maya's restaurant in Blue Ash.
On the north side of Losantaville, west of the plaza, was the Vernor-
Wagner bottling company. They supplied several obscure soft drinks,
including Luv Ya cherry cola and Kickapoo Joy Juice. They may have
also been the local supplier for Vernor's ginger ale - not sure.
At Section and Reading, on the southeast corner, was a shopping plaza
with a large drugstore, possibly a Rexall. The drugstore had a soda
fountain and a newsstand. Also in the plaza were a tailor, Garson's
clothing store, Brenner's grocery and various offices and shops. A
Baskin-Robbins opened there around 1970.
On the northeast corner with Section was a gas station, probably Citgo.
Around 1970, the gas station was torn down and Chili Time opened its
main store on the site. This store survived until a few years ago.
Only the St. Bernard branch remains.
Further north was an Empress Chili. This branch opened in the late
1960's and did not survive long. At one time, Empress was the premier
brand of Cincinnati chili.
Adjoining or near to the site of the Empress was a furrier, Stanley
In the early 1960's, somewhere north of Section on the east side, was a
business, probably a bar. The business was advertised by an ornate
display of some sort in front, possibly a large copper pot. The place
may have been called "The Gypsy". I could use some help with this one.
The Valley Shopping Center, on the west side of the street, had about
twenty businesses. The big draw was the Valley Theater, one of the
few theaters besides the RKO affiliates (Albee, Keith and Grand -
all downtown) to show first-run movies. There was a supermarket
toward the western edge of the center, probably a Kroger's.
Just north of the Valley was the Fortune Cookie Chinese restaurant,
also called Wing and Hing's. They stayed in business from around
1970 to 1990.
On the east side of Reading, across from the Valley, was the Essex
House apartments, built in the mid-1960's. I cannot recall what
Just south of the Essex house was the Blue Fox night club, circa
To the north of the Essex House was a pair of grocery stores sharing
a parking lot, Bilker's on the north and the A&P on the south. The
A&P is long gone and Bilker's has moved to Blue Ash.
North of Bilker's, somewhere, was a carryout seafood place. I think
the name was The Fish Fry. They served deep-fried shrimp and smelt,
among others. No one I know can remember this store, but I can
place it in the late 1950's to early 1960's. I believe that it lay
on or near the sites where Old Town ice cream and Squire Jack's
fish-and-chips later appeared.
Across from Bilker's, on the west side of the street and somewhat to
the north, was Sand's restaurant. Sand's probably closed in the
mid-1960's. Decorative baskets hung from the ceiling.
Somewhere near the site of the old Sands, in the late 1960's, a jazz
club opened. It may have been part of a hotel.
On the southwest corner with Summit was a building with offices and
Lenhardt's restaurant. There were two Lenhardt brothers who opened
Hungarian restaurants in Cincinnati. One brother opened across from
the U.C. campus; his store is currently operated by a descendant.
The other brother, Kristof, owned this Roselawn store. When Kristof
Lenhardt sold the business in the mid-1970's, Len Berke, the new
owner, kept the name. The business closed in the late 1970's and was
replaced by Cheng Du just as Sichuan food was becoming popular.
On the northwest corner was a Parkmoor drive-in. Parkmoor, a St. Louis
chain, also had a store at Daly and Galbraith. These drive-ins were
popular in the early 1960's, but both folded. Perhaps the fare was
too similar to Frisch's.
The lot housing the Parkmoor eventually became a strip mall with a
United Dairy Farmers store.
Across the street from this lot, on the east side, was a Denny's. The
Denny's probably came in during the mid-1970's. It did not last that
long: in the 1980's one of Cincinnati's first Thai restaurants took
Near the Denny's was a Perkins Cake and Steak restaurant. Perkins began
as a pancake house in College Hill before becoming a large chain. The
Cake and Steak trademark came after the pancake houses were already well
This part of Roselawn was part residential, part light industry. There
was a Pepsi Cola bottling plant just off Summit, and plenty of small
businesses nearby. Somewhere in the mix was a Putt Putt miniature golf
To the north of the Parkmoor was a motel, Schuler's. It had a swimming
pool in front, and may have had a small restaurant.
Across from Schuler's were the Summit Lanes, a large bowling alley.
To the north of the Lanes was a Howard Johnson's soda fountain. It
probably closed in the late 1960's.
Thriftway, a local supermarket chain, had a branch in this area, on
the east side of Reading. The only other Thriftway I can remember in
town was in Norwood.
On the west side of Reading, close to Galbraith, was the Carousel motel.
It was actually a complex of buildings that grew around a much smaller
motel. At one time the complex included a restaurant, La Ronde, which
may have featured fine dining. Maybe there just isn't the demand any
longer for accomodations in north-central Cincinnati, but the place
has definitely seen better days.
Across the street from the Carousel was a professional building, a
health club and a movie theater. All opened in the late 1960's.
North of the professional tower was Stillpass Motors, a used car
North of Stillpass was the Upper Krust, a delicatessen. The restaurant
opened in the mid-1960's and probably was in business for ten years.
Took a major hit from the 1969 tornado but reopened. They mainly served
sandwiches, and were quite popular. Al Morse's Ribs King later opened
on the site.
At the southeast corner with Galbraith was the Wishing Well, an Italian
restaurant and Cincinnati landmark. Closed maybe in the late 1970's.
Across the street, to the north, was the Rocket drycleaners. The store
had a rocket-shaped entrance. Their slogan was something like "Cleaning
that's out of this world."
The corner of Galbraith and Reading also had a Sinclair station. Their
logo was a large green brontosaurus. Rumor had it that the dino was
once stolen and placed atop Woodward High School. Closed in mid-1960's.
Nowadays, you only see Sinclair stations in the central and western U.S.
To the west, on Galbraith, was MacIntosh's, a family restaurant. They
featured a sort of sloppy-joe sandwich called the "Highland Dandy".
MacIntosh's opened a larger, more upscale, store across the street
around 1970. Cannot recall when they closed.
Just west of the original MacIntosh's was the photography studio of
The Glass Barn was located near Benson St. on the east side of Reading.
They featured the odd china or porcelain close-out at popular prices.
On the west side, near Cooper, was Peewee Valley, an amusement park
for smaller children. The park featured rides and had a small pinball
arcade and snack bar. A popular birthday spot, probably closed in the
Jo Jo's, an Italian restaurant, was located on the east side of the
street beyond Cooper, not too far from Bypass 50.
Also near Bypass 50 was Rink's, a discount retailer. Rink's was like
K-Mart, but preceded the latter by a few years. There were other large
discount stores in Cincinnati at the time, for example Arlen's and
King Kong. The memorable thing about Rink's, besides the devastating
fire in the late 1960's, was their weekly advertising spot on the local
Big Time Wrestling broadcast. Impressario Willy Thal (one-time host of
the old Midwestern Hayride) and another actor, dressed as a law man,
would pick up sale products, call out their prices and then hurl them
off the set.
I grew up on Paddock near Reading, so my most vivid memories are there.
At the corner of Paddock and Reading...Loretta's served mostly Jewish influenced food. I remember having Matzo Ball soup there. Also at that shopping area: Lee's HObby shop, where I took classes to learn how to put together plastic models. Earl Shieb Auto Painting, also.
Loved the Mandarin Restaurant across the street. There was some sort of Auto repair shop next to it.
At Clinton Springs and Reading was the Belvedere Apartment Building, a beautiful place.
The Frisch's in Bond Hill, was my hang out through high school, not the least because the Twin Drive in was across the street. The Frisch's "Mainliner", in Roselawn, across from the Carousel, was a large drive-in, and a favorite place for teenagers to hang out (and pick up girls). The Carousel had a mini golf course I used to play on a lot, along with tennis courts and swimming pools that were easy to sneak into.
A the corner of Section and reading, across the street from the Chili Time, there was the older strip mall, mentioned by MIddleCincy, as containing Brenners. My mother owned a Realty there..Franklin Realty, which had previously been located in Bond Hill. There was also a dry cleaner in that little mall. There was a post office across section road.
I have not lived in Cincy since 1970. Is the Carousel Inn still there? I have so many memories of that place, I could start a whole thread. Crashed a bunch of weddings and bar mitzvahs there.
A friend of mine stayed at the Carousel a year or two back while passing
through town, so I assume it's still there. Suffice it to say, though, that
they aren't attracting quite the same clientele.
I left Cincinnati in 1976, but am back every so often to visit family and
friends. It's really sad to see how empty the center of town is now. That
area is still very pretty, but it's as if the life has gone out of it.
Section and Reading: The post office is still there, but the building
formerly housing Chili Time has been leveled, and the lot is empty.
Just remembered: by the northwest corner, just north of the Greenstreet
Building, was another building which housed the Avon Bakery. Judging
by the name, it had probably moved north from Avondale, way back when.
It occurred to me that there was also a Carter's just north of the Valley
Shopping Center. It may have been in the building that later became
the Fortune Cookie. Carter's was a chain of short-order restaurants,
very similar in fare to Frisch's. Their menus were so similar, in fact,
it's probably safe to say that Carter's was a clone - assuming that
the Big Boy chains preceded them. Overall the food seemed dull,
inferior to Frisch's. One thing Carter's had going for them, though,
was the fried chicken: Carter's carried the Harlan ("Colonel") Sanders
recipe before the KFC chain got started.
Anyone who remembers Carter's will probably also remember the
Sixty Second Shops. I never ate at one, but these were reputed to be
the bottom of the barrel for local short-order food. There were several
around town. We moved to Wyoming in early 1963; at that time, there
was a Sixty Second Shop on Vine just south of Compton, in Hartwell.
Now Lenhardt's, that you mentioned earlier...their Schnitzel's couldn't be beat. I liked the one in Clifton between than the one on Reading.
Oh. The link below will take you to
a picture of the Avondale Public Library on Reading road just north of Rockdale. I don't know if it is still there, but I used to spend a lot of time at this library
MiddleCincinnati, I've only lived in Ohio since 2000 and my only (fleeting) connection to Reading Road is delivering to the Meijer store in Oakley via the Norwood lateral. I even enjoyed your post and found mysellf wishing I'd seen the area in 'the old days" Thanks!
I never thought of that era as "the old days", Crew Chief, but in
many ways it now is. We did have automobiles, air conditioning
and television (some people even had UHF and color sets). Jets
were already flying out of the Boone County airport and the
"moon race" was well underway. But seriously, I think that most
people who consider themselves Cincinnatians nowadays probably
live in the suburbs. Even my own recollections are from a childhood
spent mostly in Wyoming, a bedroom community just to the north.
Our family moved to Wyoming in the early 1960's, supposedly for
its schools. At that time, migration to the Cincinnati suburbs was
just beginning. It's true that Finneytown and Green Hills were
already significantly well settled but Forest Park, for example, was
nearly empty. Blue Ash was a small community notable only for its
airstrip; Mason was a farming town with a Voice of America outpost;
Milford, Fairfield and Hamilton were towns in the "outlying area". None
of the suburban expansion in Northern Kentucky had begun. Even the
western edge of Wyoming had only recently been reclaimed from
American cities grow, but that's nothing new. What makes this era
the "old days", to me, concerns every-day experience: it was simply
a lot easier to get around. Even as small children, for example, we
could, with some supervision, walk to the corner drugstore to buy a
soda or a comic book. Most of what we did was closer to home and
we were less isolated - for better or worse - from our neighbors. There
was much more mixing of social classes (for lack of a better term) on a
Even as denizens of the suburbs in those days, the city was still very
accessible to us. It was easy to hop a bus to go downtown or to
Clifton - and there were good reasons to do so: stores, soda fountains,
the amazing main library and just plain people-watching. Quite a bit
was still accessible by foot, as well - as a teenager I often made half-
day hikes walking, for example, from upper Wyoming to Roselawn (the
footbridge over I-75 made things much easier) and back. Nowadays,
though, why would anyone want to?
Back then there were middle-aged people who reminisced about their
own old days, too. It was common for people to lament the decline of
Avondale, for example. To us, though, it seemed as though Avondale
had just moved itself north to Bond Hill, Golf Manor and Amberly - after
all, we lived in a mobile society, so why shouldn't people move around?
As young people, we were less aware of the long-term decline of the
city's schools, erosion of its tax base or the demographic changes
taking place in the U.S. overall. If anything, our material wealth was
growing, racial equality was improving and technology was zooming
ahead - it seemed like the best of times.
While it's fun to try to remember the sights and sounds of those days,
it's also quite natural that they are no longer with us. To me what has
been lost, though, was a more civilized and less isolated, less
compartmentalized way of life.
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