When I told my wife I was leaving at 3:00 AM Friday morning for my trip to Fairborn, Ohio, she said "Why are you leaving so early?" I replied, "To beat the traffic out of New York." There were historical reasons for doing this.
My family was from Glenshaw and Etna, Pennsylvania, towns right outside of Pittsburgh. When I was young, when we visited my grandparents and my Uncle Elmer and Aunt Syl, we often left very early in the morning, around 3 or 4 AM for that eight hour drive to Pittsburgh. We still did that as we got older. Years ago, we rented a van to drive to Pittsburgh for my cousin Ron's wedding. We left around the same time. It was always the same reason. Avoid the traffic in New York.
The last family trip I took to Pittsburgh was the summer of 2008 when my mom went with my wife, my kids and me on vacation. It was the last trip my mom would ever take to Pittsburgh. When I saw the familiar signs off I-81 for I-76/Penn Turnpike, I thought about all the vacations I took with my siblings and parents. And then I thought about the last trip to Pittsburgh I took with my mom with my own family. My mom always loved the trip. I couldn't keep my eyes from watering up.
If you can't tell from the picture, Wright State is named after the famous Wright Brothers, who moved to Dayton from Indiana in the late 1800s. The University of Dayton's mascot name, Flyers, comes from the first Wright Brothers engine powered plane, "The Wright Flyer". It's also home to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which contains the magnificent National Museum of the United States Air Force.
click here for a virtual tour.
Since I only got to my hotel at 2:00 PM, I didn't get to the Air Force museum till 3:00 PM. I basically rushed through the galleries in about two hours since the museum closes at 5:00 PM. As I headed back to the gift shop entrance, I saw one of the museum attendants. Figuring he worked for the Air Force, I casually stated "You have a great museum here."
click here. I plan to become a member when I get back to Long Island.
Finally Jeffery talked to me about the concerns the museum community and people in Dayton in general have about Dayton's economic fortunes. He talked about how Delco, NCR, Frigidaire and many other companies left Dayton. He also talked about the GM Truck plant that closed not too long ago. Apparently many museum officials and Dayton civic leaders are concerned that Dayton will become "unpopulated" as he put it. They are hoping that another company will come in to beef up employment and that events like the NCAA First Four will help tourism and increase interest in the museum.
As Jeffery talked about Dayton's woes, it reminded me of the manufacturer of a lot of the planes in the museum, Northrop Grumman, or as I knew it growing up, simply Grumman. As many people know, Grumman was a major manufacturer of airplanes for the United States Armed Forces over the years. Grumman was based in Bethpage, where I lived much of my life. During the 70's and 80's, many people were employed by Grumman, including several of my brother's friends. When the Cold War ended, the military aerospace industry basically went into the tank. Grumman no longer had a lot of government contracts and basically left the island, leaving many people unemployed or finding other jobs.
We have been trying to sell my mom's house for the last several months with few people interested. From what I hear from my sister, the people that have looked at it are turned off that it is on such a main street with a lot of traffic. When I heard that, I had to laugh. If they only knew what it was like in 1980.
I got back to my hotel, rested for a few minutes, then went into downtown Dayton for dinner. I drove around a little bit and noticed that a lot of downtown was vacant on Friday night. It reminded me of downtown Richmond and Jeffery's comments about Dayton's now lack of industry hit home.
But I made sure to have dinner at the South Park Pizza Tavern that has been made so famous by the Mid Majority's PIG party which he has in honor of the Play in Game annually held in Dayton. Dayton is now a host site for the "First Four", so it will have two games there, not one, since there are now 68 teams in the tournament. It's a cozy place that has great unique beers on tap (had the Kolsch last night) and very good pizza. I recommend the Cheeseburger deluxe. Very good. The South Park Tavern also has the U.S vs U.S.S.R hockey game which I played many a night at the Ground Round during the late 80's when watching the NCAA Tournament.