In our series of guest posts of Daytonian’s that have moved away, Jill Bishop shares her memories of Dayton. A 1975 graduate from Vandalia Butler High School, Jill got a Communications/English Lit degree from Wright State in 2001 and a Masters in Public Admin from UD in 2006. She worked for Artemis Center for Alternatives to Domestic Violence as well as Dayton Public Radio/Classical 88.1 before moving to Arizona in 2010.
Even the spectacular butterscotch/fuchsia colored skies featured in the sunsets over the Tucson Mountains aren’t enough to make me forget my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still picture myself driving down Wayne Avenue, a major thoroughfare I traveled daily for years and years. It always felt like Wayne Ave was one of the main arteries that delivered me into the heartbeat of downtown Dayton where I worked and played for 35 years. I still vividly recall the major landmarks along the way….that awkward intersection at Wayne and Wilmington, Tanks, ‘scary’ Krogers, then on down to the lovely South Park and Oregon District neighborhoods where many of my friends have lived, or still do. Coco’s Bistro is another major anchor on that journey, and a place I spent many wonderful lunches and happy hours with friends.
Then there is The Oregon District…and Fifth Street. I could write an entire book about my adventures there over the years, but one place MUST be mentioned: The Oregon Express. Back in about 1990, a small group of passionate individuals (passionate about Friday happy hours) began what is still known as The Oregon Express Beer and Pizza Club. Countless happy hours were spent there, lifelong friendships forged, tons of free pizza consumed. We celebrated birthdays, held memorials, laughed, cried, and chewed on the major topics of the day along with their delicious free pizza.
I traded the aging, industrial Midwest grittiness and deciduous tree-lined streets for the desert, saguaros and adobe houses in October 2010 when I packed my cats into my Prius and left my lifelong home to settle into a new life in Tucson, Arizona. Dayton has a sweet, soulful, funky vibe of its own, including a rich history of innovation, invention, industry, aviation, and creativity. Think chili, burning leaves, aging railroad overpasses, Orville and Wilbur, Ohio Players. Now that I am away, I can more fully appreciate the nuances of Dayton. Joni had it right when she wrote “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” I now fondly think of Dayton as a green space filled with friendly, sincere, hard-working, creative people, much like I have found in Tucson. Green spaces are abundant thanks to MetroParks and water is abundant thanks to the major aquifer. There are the fun, must-attend classic annual events such as the Greek Festival, DAI’s Oktoberfest, Cityfolk Festival, the music festivals at Dave Hall Plaza, and many great events at Riverscape. I miss seeing the Dayton’s great Philharmonic Orchestra and Operas at the beautiful and acoustically perfect Schuster Center. I miss those wonderful Saturday mornings at 2nd Street Market wandering among the vendors, steaming coffee in hand, waving to folks I knew. I miss it all.
Then there are the sensory, memory experiences such as Canal Street Tavern on a bitterly cold winter night crowded into its cozy space listening to an amazing musical performance, waiting in line at Flying Pizza downtown, soaking in some steamy jazz at Gilly’s, earnestly pursuing through CD’s at Gem City Records (now Omega Records), helping my friends with shows on WYSO-FM with pledge drives, and working with the great staff at Classical 88.1 FM in the Metropolitan Arts Center where I could walk around and dial up a creative, energetic conversation with someone from another arts organization. I spent countless hours walking the beautiful gardens at Wegerzyn, riding the bike paths all around Dayton, and enjoying hikes in Yellow Springs.
While I am happily settled into my new home in Tucson, I miss many people, places, and things about Dayton. I miss the fall color, the music scene, downtown, and coffee shops, family and friends. I sometimes even miss the humidity. Dayton is “the funk capital” and I miss that soulful, Five Oaks feeling. Sometimes I even miss those blustery, overcast days where you just want to curl up and read a good book. But really, it’s the people I miss the most – because it’s the people who really make up a community. I miss seeing friends and acquaintances everywhere I go. I miss people around me who know my story. However, I have embarked on a new chapter and am writing a new story…..but Dayton and the people who live there will always be my heart home and I will look forward to visiting when I can. And… who knows, perhaps someday my Dayton roots will tug hard enough to pull me back.
Read the first entry in this series from Audrey Buckman