My first real job was as an account executive for a national trade association management called Bell PubliCom. It was a wonderful place to work, with the exterior offices having floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the entire Arcade. One day, several of us were looking down and saw the country group Alabama eating lunch and made some signs that we held up in the window that said ‘COME UP AND VISIT US!’ — and sure enough they did, touring our offices, shaking hands, signing autographs, telling stories of life on the road and posing for pictures. Even if you weren’t a country music fan, it was a great experience for all of us. I became a big Alabama fan, and I still am to this day!
Unlike my near-derelict hometown of Schenectady, New York, downtown Dayton at the time had much to explore: skyscrapers; the Oregon District; the Spaghetti Warehouse with vintage furnishings, including a trolley; a bikeable riverfront; two downtown department stores; and most important of all, the Arcade. Then newly restored, Arcade Square was a fabulous turn-of-the-century structure with a wrought-iron and glass dome, skylights, marble interiors, a few restaurants, a food court, and a neighboring McCrory’s dime store that, for both better or worse, had clung to decades-old decor. There at the Arcade, I admired Titanic-era architecture; I people-watched; I pretended to study; and I killed time until my evening shift on the Dayton Journal-Herald copy desk.
I was a child in the ’50s and a teen in the ’60s when downtown Dayton was a bustling place and suburban shopping malls were merely a twinkle in a developer’s eye. The stores were open on Monday nights, so Mom and I would catch the bus for an evening of shopping. I always thought the Arcade was one of the most interesting and beautiful buildings in downtown and, with all of the food vendors, it kind of made me feel like I was in a foreign country. While waiting for the bus to go home, we could see the big clock perched atop the Gem City Savings building. With the help of that big clock, Mom taught me to tell time.
My first recollection of the Arcade was in 1951, when I was 5 years old, and my grandmother took me there to buy fruits and vegetables. She picked some grapes from the displays and stuffed them in my mouth to ‘taste test.’ In more recent years I was involved with a committee to save the Arcade when it looked like it was going to be torn down. I have been mailing the good news articles to the lady who chaired that effort. She was more than a little excited to learn that UD was going to play a big role in the rebirth of the Arcade.