Improve through History's Lessons

It’s cool to reflect on things from our past, but it’s important to remember that change is usually in the name of progress.

I took a couple of days off of work last month to spend some extra time with my son and daughter, touring some well-known hometown attractions. Both of my children are in college now, but I realized that there were far too many things around the city that they had not yet seen. Don’t get me wrong; they’ve had their share of vacations and are not deprived or sheltered any more than the next person. But people often overlook the beauty of what’s nearest to them, believing that it will still be there tomorrow for them to appreciate.

With the kids home for the summer, all of us living under one roof possibly for the last extended period of time, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce them to some Cincinnati history. We rode across the Ohio River on the Anderson Ferry (now an auto ferry), which has been in continuous operation since 1817 and was originally used as a main mode of transportation for Kentucky farmers bringing their products to Cincinnati. We took the elevator to the observation deck at the top of the Carew Tower. Completed in downtown Cincinnati in 1931, this building stood as the tallest structure in the area until the Great American Tower was completed in 2011 just a few blocks away. We drove across the Roebling Suspension Bridge, which when completed in 1866, was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge served as a model for the Brooklyn Bridge, which was designed by the same architect and opened about 20 years later.

We included several other sights and activities in our short “staycation.” Not only did we have a lot of fun, but my kids found the visits very informative, and they really seemed to appreciate what they learned. I’m not sure if I misjudged them in the past or if they have a new-found interest in history, but they surprised me with their enthusiasm and expressed a desire to return to these locations in the future.

I do regret waiting so long to share such community lore with them. I believe that learning about my own background and the history of my surroundings was a significant part of my development, and as a parent, I think it’s important that I encourage the same for my kids. But the way they seemed to absorb the knowledge I shared and showed a desire to learn more assures me that they appreciate their upbringing and are proud of their home town.

We are all products of our surroundings, learning and developing tendencies based on what we see and how we are guided. We are influenced by how things were done in the past by those around us and those who were around them. It affects our personalities as well as how we behave in situations including professional environments. Most things in life are developed over time based on what is learned from previous experience. If something worked in the past, it’s likely to be repeated. If not, it’s changed until it does. This process is the basis for continuous improvement.

Technology advances in the same way. Developments are constantly being made to make machines more productive or to add convenience or efficiency. Before such developments exist, people don’t know what they’re missing, but once they’re in place, it’s hard to look back and remember how we got along without them.

It’s cool to reflect on things from our past, but it’s important to remember that change is usually in the name of progress. One other interesting landmark my kids and I visited was the site of Crosley Field, the home stadium of the Cincinnati Reds from 1912 to 1970. The only indication of its existence on the site today is a home plate painted in its original position, which is now in the middle of a parking lot of a janitorial supply company.

For those of us who enjoy nostalgia, the stadium appears in old photos as such a wonderful place for a ballgame. The truth is, the stadium held too few fans, it had become run down, and it was in a crowded area of town where businesses and the construction of Interstate 75 created substantial parking complications. The city’s then new stadium was built, not because people didn’t care about the past, but because they did care about the future. While it’s fun to look back at how things used to be, I’m happy to have the improvements that have come with time.