If you have ever driven out onto Fruit Ridge Road you immediately acknowledge that you are in the country. As a matter of fact Fruit Ridge could be the definition of out in the boon docks! Now I was born and grew up on this road and as much as I would never change that good fortune I can attest to the fact that my parents never had to worry about heavy traffic that I could be hit by. No as a matter of fact our road was an easy going quiet place to grow up and live on.
I guess that is why when I tell you of the connection between the Cincinnati Reds and the farm next door to ours it does seem a bit hard to understand. But there was a connection for sure. The farm next to ours was owned by my cousin Walt Houser’s’ mom and dad. Walt’s mom Lydia was raised on Montgomery Road in Pleasant Ridge Cincinnati and only came to the farm for brief visits and to stay in the summer months. Her parents also came from the city and in many ways handled their selves and dealt with the world in a much different way than we did. It is very obvious to see the ways of the country and the city are some what different..
No it must be said that Lydia had been raised a city girl in the social ways as in the city. The thing was when Lydia wanted to impress folks she certainly knew how and could do so with the best of them. But on the other hand if there was something needed being done or a goal she wanted or needed accomplished she had no problems with getting down and working hard like the rest of the folks. She was one of the folks in my life I have always thought very highly of for so many reasons.
Lydia was a person that had the knack of meeting and becoming friends with people we maybe had only heard of or felt there was no way we could make friends with people on that level of society. But Lydia did and did it quite often. With all this said it now brings me to the late 60’s. Lydia had a cousin Dorothy Salt who had become a good friend to Ronnie Dale. Ronnie was a very accomplished organist. So much so he was the organist for the Cincinnati Reds for many years when the team played at Crosley Field. Along with playing every home game for the team he would perform at the Golden Rooster Supper Club and would also appear at Sunlight Pool at old Coney. He is the person who created the charge tune played for a Reds rally. This is still played today. At a ball game during the quiet moments Ronnie entertained the crowds. Of course today it is all done by computer and really there is no personal feelings attached to it. It has pretty much become a lost art.
When the Reds closed Crossly Field and moved to Riverfront Stadium the franchise put the equipment up for sale at an auction. Ronnie Dale purchased the Hammond Organ he had manned for 14 years and ask Lydia if she would refinish it as it was in need from the years of ball park life. Naturally she said of course and it was delivered to the farm where she did a total refinish that was truly a professional job. Lydia was excellent at working on wood and furniture. This is one place where the polish on her approach stepped aside and elbow grease took over. (Like I said she could do the hardest of tasks if it was needed or wanted.)
When she was done she invited Ronnie to the farm and they held a cook out and gathering that had a well-planned meal and after he looked over the work on the organ he told her how awesome of a job she had done. This is when she told Mr. Dale that she had been thinking while she was refinishing the organ that her daughter needed a good organ to learn on and would he please consider selling it to her. By the time the evening was over the organ had a new owner and she got it for a good price. Lydia had laid out the entire evening and meal to help set the atmosphere for her sales pitch. Truth is she had him so buttered up there wasn’t a way he could tell her no. He knew it was going to a good home and he knew he would be visiting it from time to time.
Lydia took special care of that organ and loved to put it on display for company. This was when she would mention the fact that it came from Crossly Field and she bought it from Ronnie Dale. In 1988 Tom and Lydia celebrated their 40th anniversary at the fam. Along with a caricature artist doing drawings and jugglers and tons of food and the huge crowd they had invited to celebrate their day there was Ronnie Dale seated at the organ and for an entire afternoon he played and played. To have a professional organist play for over four hours and with his credentials would be very costly. Not that day. It was his gift to Lydia and Tom. He and Lydia had become good friends and stayed that way for life. Like I said she knew how to charm if she felt you deserved it and in his case I guess she did.
Ronnie Dale was voted by professional baseball the best ballpark organist of his era. The crowds loved him. At one reds game he played the charge tune so much it agitated the umpire and he told him to stop or suffer the consequences. Well he didn’t and the umpire ejected him from the ballgame and the crowd cheered their approval for Ronnie! He knew what the audience wanted and gave it to them. In a way my cousin knew the what and when to deliver talent also. This is probably why they got along so well.
To my knowledge I understand the organ was sold to a man who was also a fan of the Reds and he gave it to the reds. These days it is on display at the Reds museum at the Great American Ballpark.
So just picture if you will when an evening was nearing dark on Fruit Ridge Road and the melodies from familiar songs with such a rich tone to them are drifting across the countryside on Fruit Ridge. But as you are listening to the tunes you suddenly hear ta da da da da da! Charge! For the moment you almost think you are in Crossly Field. It is safe to say this only happened on Fruit Ridge Road!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.