Wednesday, June 21st
We experienced our first sight-seeing day in Dayton! While Ohio is known as the ‘Birthplace of Aviation’ it seems to me that Dayton should have that title as this is where Orville and Wilbur Wright did the majority of the planning and designing of their first ‘airplanes’.
Our first stop today was at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. We spent about an hour and a half roaming through the museum at the visitors center as well as the parachute museum, the print shop on the second floor and the bicycle shop next door. These two buildings were the actual locations of the Wright Brothers printing business and bicycle shops at one time. Pretty cool to walk on the actual floors that these two men once stood on.
In between visiting the two buildings we enjoyed lunch at Kelly’s Kitchen out behind the bicycle shop underneath a cluster of trees. It had been a while since we’d dined at Kelly’s Kitchen and it was relaxing and enjoyable…we’ll have to do it again soon!
After leaving the National Historic Site we had a couple of Roadside America stops to make…both of which were nearby.
The first was an eight foot tall apple made of flatware. The apple was located at an area food bank (how appropriate!) and it was fun to see all what utensils were used…forks, spoons and knives mostly. But if you looked hard enough you found vegetable peelers, apple corers, cheese graters, measuring spoons & cups and even a single hole punch…not quite sure how that fell into an apple made of kitchen utensils…but fun nonetheless!
Then it was down the road a bit to find a replica of the 1905 Wright Flyer. Appropriately located next to the Engineers Club in downtown Dayton, it’s a pretty cool piece of art. Across the street is Van Cleeve Park…a small park overlooking the Miami River.
It was hot while we were there and there was a passel of kids playing at the splash pad…all huddled in the middle and when the fountains would turn on they’d all scream with delight. It was fun just watching them.
While we were at the National Historic Park we were told about Wilbear Wright and the Aviation Trail. A program designed to get people to visit all of the various aviation sites in the area. There are a total of 16 sites and if you visit at least 7 of them you get a cute little Wilbear. You are given a brochure and you need to get it stamped by the various sites. We already had plans to visit many of the sites before we knew about the program so we were ‘in it to win it’!
One place we didn’t know about was Woodland Cemetery. The ranger explained that this was where the Wright Brothers (and most of their family), Paul Laurence Dunbar (poet laureate) and a Gypsy Queen (among other notables) were buried. Well…you know us and our cemeteries…plus if we stopped in the office we could get another stamp on quest for Wilbear!
We stopped at the office and the very helpful receptionist gave us a map and highlighted the interesting spots for us to stop. And of course…she stamped our Wilbear brochure.
Our first stop was the ‘grave’ of Erma Bombeck which is not marked in the conventional way. When Erma lived in Arizona there was a BIG boulder in her neighbors back yard that she’d go sit on and right. When she died her husband had the boulder moved to the cemetery as her grave marker. There is no plaque, no name written anywhere…just the rock. Kinda neat.
From there we wound our way through the cemetery and up to the top of a hill where we came upon a pretty rock gazebo-like structure that overlooks Dayton. What a gorgeous view…wow! Surrounded by trees and gravesites littering the hillside you would never expect this site. A treat in its own.
From there we moseyed over to the grave of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was a poet, novelist and playwright. Much of his writing was done in a ‘Negro Dialect’ associated with the south and highly acclaimed. He was the first African-American writers to reach international fame. Unfortunately, his life was cut short due to tuberculosis at the age of 33.
His grave is marked by a small boulder with a plaque embedded in it. The cemetery has also added a tall flag to help visitors find the grave easier. Alongside his grave is another small grave marker for Elizabeth Florence Dunbar who was born a year after Paul and died just 2 1/2 years after she was born…a sister, I’m assuming.
Just a short distance from Dunbar’s grave you can see three tall flags that denote the gravesite of the Wright Brothers. Wilbur and Orville along with their sister Katherine were laid to rest at the foot of their parents graves. In between the parents is a small gravestone for twin sons that died shortly after birth. Wilbur & Orville’s two oldest brothers weren’t laid to rest here with the rest of the family, it seems…why? Who knows.
Before departing we hunted (and found!) the gravesite of Matilda Stanley, Queen of the Gypsies in the United States. Our source at the office had told us Matilda’s story and we couldn’t resist visiting.
Matilda died in February 1878 in Vicksburg, Mississippi and her husband had her body shipped back to Dayton for burial. Her body was kept in a vault until her burial in September. Why the long wait? They had to wait until all the various Gypsy tribes from around the country & world could arrive to attend the last rites. It’s estimated that 25,000 people converged on Dayton for the funeral with many being turned away at the cemetery as there was no room.
While Woodland Cemetery was an impromptu stop for the day…Dayton Memorial Park was a planned stop. Remember Endora from the old ‘Bewitched’ TV show? Agnes Moorehead was the actress who brought her to life and Dayton is where she’s buried.
Agnes is buried in the Abbey Mausoleum at Dayton Memorial Park alongside her younger sister and her parents. While I enjoy roaming around a cemetery…I’m not a fan of roaming the halls of a mausoleum. I think they smell funny and just find them plain creepy. Of course, we finally found Agnes on the last row we entered. I found it amusing that a feather boa adorned her vault…quite Endora-like.
We ended our day at Skyline Chili. We’d heard so much about this dish that we had to try it for ourselves…you know…the whole ‘when in Rome’ thing.
We both ordered the ‘typical 1st timers’ order…without even knowing it. We each ordered a Coney (tiny hot dog with mustard, onions & shredded cheese on a bun). I ordered a 3-Way (spaghetti, Skyline Chili, topped with a gallon of shredded cheese) and Michael ordered the 5-Way (same as mine but also with small red beans and diced onions).
We both tried our ‘Ways’ first and the first thing I tasted was cinnamon and then some other spices I didn’t care much for. Michael, too, wasn’t fond of something…but couldn’t really put his finger on it.
We tried the Coneys and they weren’t too bad…better than the ‘Ways’ but still not something I would have to have again. The chili just isn’t chili that we’re used to…I guess we prefer Texas-style chili over Cincinnati-style chili. Oh well.