Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Unanswered questions from a five-minute visit

Sometimes in the rush to get from here to there and back again you discover something that makes you want to stop and sit a spell. You want to learn more about what you've found, but you can't.

Such as the case when I was in Racine, Ohio, this week. It's a small incorporated village a few miles up the river from Pomeroy. The state road makes a sharp bend to the left, but I saw something off to the right that needed investigating. Namely, I was looking for a spot directly across the Ohio River from AEP's Philip Sporn power plant. I didn't find that spot, at least the one I remembered with an unobstructed view of the plant, which is built on the river's edge. But in the process of looking for that, I found this.

And more.

The old Cross Grocery is out of business, at least in this building. Racine, like other towns, is a mix of convenience stores and chain stores geared to small towns (think Dollar General). The fact that this building looks so good on the outside intrigued me. And that "Established 1860" didn't hurt either. It's close enough to the river that it must have been visible from the water.

As I looked around in my five minutes in Racine, I saw other old buildings of a like sort. It made me wonder what Racine was like a few generations ago. The town must have faced the river and had some sort of river-based commerce. If only there were a local historian or storyteller who could tell what the town was like a century ago when my grandparents' boats traveled up and down the Ohio.

It will be a while before I can get back to Racine. Now I have many more reasons to.
P.S. This is like an old, long-closed general store I found in Golconda, Illinois, back in 1986. That old store had a couple of antique gas pumps out front. I would have liked to have found the people who ran it, too. But that opportunity is -- more than likely -- long gone.


Granny Sue said...

I'm with you. I am intrigued by buildings like this and am very happy when I see that someone is restoring or at least maintaining them. And I wonder about their history, who built them and what happened to close them down.

tanstaafl said...

A lot of years ago, I worked with a fellow who was, at that time, the Treasurer of Southern Local School District, there in Racine. He made the round trip each day to the Parkersburg area to work at a local plant there in Belpre.

I was only in my early to mid-twenties, and was fascinated by this 'older' guy who knew all the local towns and their respective histories. We spent many hours talking with each other about all the small towns and burgs along the river from Little Hocking down to Pomeroy, from his side, and around the Cabell County area , from my side.

We lost touch with each other after I moved to the Michigan area in the 1980's. I am not even sure he is still alive, he would be about 85 now if he is.

I had a birds eye view of the construction of the Bellville Locks and Dam when it was rebuilt. I was living in Parkersburg and Belpre and Coolville for a spell, during that construction. On the WV side, I could drive around the hill just above Bellville and park with an unobstructed view of the site. I always carried my binoculars with me at that time just so I could keep up with all that was going on.

If I happened to come down or up the Ohio side, there were a couple of different sites I used. I would park along OH 124 and watch for fifteen or twenty minutes each time.

This is only important to me now since I have few pictures left, but my memories are still sharp and clear, and give me a view back in time to my youth.

Thanks for letting me reminisce.

ohio981 said...

Granny Sue, the buildings at Racine demonstrate that if you want to look at what the river has done to and for small towns, you have to stand beside the river with your back to it. It's kind of like photographing a sunset. The fun isn't in the sunset itself; it's in what the light at that time of day and that angle do to things.

Tanstaafl, reminisce any time. I'm sure I drove my younger coworkers at my former employer crazy with stories that happened before they were born, but they needed to know something of the corporate memory of that newsroom. Now, I'll have to go up on the hills near Belleville to see if there's still a good view of the dam.

ohio981 said...

Oh Tanstaafl, if I ever get this book written, it could have a view like that of the Cannelton Locks and Dam (about a hundred miles below Louiisville) in a similar view.