Barbara Ayres, via email:
Thanks so much for your efforts to preserve the memory, if not the vision, of Norwood. Sometimes I think I only dreamed it. Among us we must find photos of this wonderful place. My grandparents lived on Wilson Avenue just off Livingston. Gramps had a penny store, The Ayres Variety Store, immediately next door to Reeb's very fine restaurant. (The family archive contains no photos of the store, either, and we would treasure some.)
Anyway, my two younger sisters and I spent much of our youth with Grandma and Grampa and they frequently took us to Norwood. I remember a little train ride by a stream. The coaster I was never tall enough to get on. Endless rides on the carrousel with its wonderful music, the bumper cars, the bowling games for, mostly, grown-ups, those great get-the-ball-in-the-concentric-wooden-circle games. The cotton candy which was almost solely responsible for my adolescent girlish figure.
Most of all I remember clearly as any other image of my youth, riding the Ferris wheel with Grampa, up so high, twilight just beginning to twinkle all over the city, that deep, wonderful green of the trees about to disappear in the dark (I later recognized that same green in George Bellows' park pictures), and my ever-gentlemanly Grampa in his recreational three-piece-suit, rocking us ever so slightly at the very top of the wheel, at the very end of the day, when we were just that kind of perfect tired, relaxed, a little burn on our faces--feeling peaceful, loved, and placid.
Placid, that is, except for...the glamorous celluloid carnival kewpies-on-a-stick that Gramps would win for each of the three of us! Presented ceremoniously at the end of the day, we'd give them their first examination as he and Gram would guide us staggering back to his '49 seafoam green Packard with the curb feelers. The feeling of awestruck thrill we got from these delicate chorus girls-cum playmates is indescribable, it was so deep as to be organic! Each of us was rendered literally speechless as we examined this staggeringly beautiful artifact that might have come from the vaults of prehistory, for all we knew. It was such a fine piece of the sulptor's art. And so visually advanced for our ages!
Those dolls were bliss! We examined the minutest of minutia over and over again. They were little white girls with dimpled chins, eyes blue as cloudless skies, cheeks like strawberries and lips bee-stung and bright, as though they'd been in a box for about twenty years to preserve their fresh beauty--just to be ready for US. Their hair was so gold it shone like gold leaf. Daring, sort of Josephine Baker costumes of bright, colored feathers--and absolutely no sparing of the glitter! When we stayed awake long enough to give them back-stories, they were pretty purple. Chorus girls, usually. Ginger Rogers before the Code.
Tragically, none survived to our adulthood. In fact, they were lucky to survive their way back to 800 Wilson Avenue, since we had a tendency to fall asleep in the car. They were SO very fragile. And SO glamorous.
We all remember Norwood and its joys as enchanted, seen through a gossamer web.
If time, as I sometimes like to think, is composed of layer-upon layer of the thinnest, barely microscopic membrane, thinner by far than clumsy onionskin, having almost no matter, I can sometimes, just at twilight, forget this contemporary world of worry and peel back the membranes and know we're still there, innocence is still in my genes, still a part of my character, despite all. And I'm ever so grateful for it.
I'd give anything to be able to give just one of those nights to the generations behind me.
P.S. I'm looking for some of those carnival dolls, but one will simply not do. It's three or nothing.
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.