Friday, October 08, 1999

Special tie binds all of Elder-kind

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Joe Elder's going to the Moeller game tonight. Where else would he go?

        Joe's bringing his wife, Jane. He met her after a game, at the LaRosa's on Boudinot, when she was a sophomore at Seton. They're bringing their two kids. Their son will go to Elder. Their daughter will go to Seton.

        Joe will have his Elder letter sweater on tonight, Class of '79. The big E is fraying on the pocket, but the panther on the shoulder still looks good. Everyone will wear purple.

        The Elder family will tailgate in the Elder parking lot, then watch the top-ranked Panthers smoke the Crusaders in the world-famous Pit. Then they'll cram into Price Hill Chili for some coneys.

        It's just the thing to do. When hasn't it been?

You never really leave
        Joe moved from Price Hill to Bridgetown a while back, a major shift. But Joe still lives within a zip code or two of where he grew up. His cousin lives next door, his sisters down the block, his mom and dad on the corner.

        Joe still has every friend he had in high school. Every Elder graduate does.

        Joe already has made his daughter promise him two things: (1) She won't date any motorcycle riders, and (2) she won't marry a St. X grad. Joe's teaching his 4-year-old son how to protect the football.

        When you say to Joe, “Joe, why don't you broaden your horizons?” Joe says, “What, you want me to move to North Bend?”

        Joe's friend Dan, an Elder grad, moved to Montgomery a few years ago. Cardinal sin.

        Dan agreed to that traumatic shift to please his wife. His wife is an East sider. Oh, god. Dan made one demand before he agreed to the move: If he and his wife had sons, they would move back to the Elder district.

        Dan likes the East side all right, but the people aren't the same. “East side people are friendly, but they don't get too close,” Dan says. “On the East side, it's, "Hi, howya doin'?' On the West side, it's, "Hi, howya doin', let's have a beer.'”

        Dan says if he ever left Cincinnati, which he won't, “The one thing I'd miss would be Elder football games.”

        Moving out of the zip code is barely an option for Elder grads. Moving out of state is no option at all.

        Joe Elder says: “I've had job offers elsewhere. I'd never leave.” Joe's boss is an Elder grad. He bowls on Wednesday nights with Elder grads. He's in an Elder softball league.

        “Three of my sisters married Elder grads,” Joe says. “The one that married a La Salle guy is divorced. They live within a stone's throw from me. It beats talking long distance. Talk to everybody here. They'll say the same thing.”

        I did. They do.

An eternal connection
        I'm in the Elder cafeteria Tuesday night, with the Dads Club, a loose confederation of some 200 Elder grads who gather weekly to watch game film and drink beer. They've been doing it for 15 years at least.

        Joe Elder is, of course, a composite. He is every guy in the room Tuesday, sitting silently, religiously almost, watching one of six 19-inch TVs bolted to the side wall.

        In suburban Washington, where I went to high school, the faces changed every four years. Presidential administrations came and went, and so did your friends. Great masses of them, flushed out with the Carter Years.

        If I returned to Winston Churchill High today — go, you mighty Bulldogs — I'd need a private detective to sniff out even one of the 600 kids in my class. If I'd gone to Elder, I'd simply show up at the Frisch's on Glenway.

        I hope the Elder guys know what a good and rare thing they've got in this eternal tie of theirs. Communities fray, families fall apart. Suburbs are sterile places without porches or sidewalks.

        The Elder connection throbs on, vital as ever. Two hundred guys in a cafeteria every Tuesday night, watching football and celebrating a glad and ancient tie that binds. Outstanding.

        Elder's the kind of place I wished I'd known when I was a kid.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.


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