Our Rich History: 1960’s Dixie Terminal, Cincinnati and fond memories of taking Green Line downtown

Dixie Terminal and ramp. Photo from Tenkotte collection >/em>
A Green line bus heads east on 3rd Street in Cincinnati. Above is the Dixie Terminal and ramp connecting to the Roebling suspension bridge. Photo from Tenkotte collection.

By Paul A. Tenkotte
Special to NKyTribune

This time of year brings back a flood of memories from the 1960s. My mother used to say that after July 4th, stores would run sales on summer clothing and start to stock back-to-school supplies and clothes. Although she regularly drove us to downtown Covington to shop at JCPenney, Sears, and Coppin’s department stores, once a year we were in for a special treat.

We would walk up the hill of our street to the nearby Dixie Highway, where we would catch a Green Line bus to Downtown Cincinnati. My mom didn’t like to drive in Downtown Cincinnati, as it was frequently congested and difficult to find a parking spot in the 1960s. Besides, the bus was inexpensive and very convenient.

Buses (and before then, streetcars) from Kenton County used the upper ramp of the Dixie Terminal which connected directly to the John A. Roebling suspension bridge. Streetcars and buses from Campbell County used the lower entrance on 3rd Street.

The Green Line buses from Northern Kentucky picked up and dropped off passengers at the Dixie Terminal at 4th and Walnut Streets, in the heart of downtown. The terminal was convenient to shopping. Further, it was all indoors, so you didn’t have to wait outside in the sun or rain for a bus.

After disembarking, we would immediately walk into the lower level of the terminal itself to say hello to my cousins, Clyde, Ruth, and Rita Jacob, who owned the Dixie Terminal Food Shop. The Jacob brothers, Clyde, Tony and Paul, also owned the Brothers Three Restaurant on the same level.

Next, we’d proceed up the steps to the main level of the Dixie Terminal, with its beautiful vaulted Rookwood tile ceiling and marble walls. Designed by the architectural firm of Garber and Woodward, the Dixie Terminal opened in 1921.

Exiting onto 4th Street, we would begin our trek to Cincinnati’s major department stores, McAlpin’s and Pogue’s on 4th Street, Shillito’s on 7th Street, and JCPenney in the Terrace Hilton Hotel on 6th Street. We would usually check out Shillito’s bargain basement before proceeding to the many departments upstairs.

Shillito’s was THE major downtown department store. You could buy anything and everything there — from clothes to shoes to domestics to furniture & televisions, pets, books, and baked goods. I was a budding “bookaphile,” so mom had me try on clothes first (not something that I enjoyed), and then she would take me to the book department. Shillito’s had a restaurant too. In fact, McAlpin’s and Pogue’s also had small restaurants.

The 4th Street entrance of Dixie Terminal, early 1900s

Our lunch tradition, however, was to go to Hathaway’s in the Carew Tower Arcade. There, we ordered up a fresh and tasty lunch of a hamburger, French fries, and a fountain drink. In the 1960s, that was a real treat! Families like my own seldom dined at restaurants. We ate nearly all of our meals at home, or packed our lunches and snacks.

Sometimes, if we had time, we would visit my dad, who worked as a CPA in the Ingalls Building at 4th and Vine Streets. Of course, he was often busy meeting with clients, so sometimes we bypassed this and headed for home in the late afternoon. We proceeded back to the Dixie Terminal to catch a Dixie Highway bus for home. Mom let me pull the bus cord right before our bus stop, to let the bus driver know that we wanted to disembark.

Growing up in the 1960s was an interesting experience. It was the end of the post-WWII era and the beginning of a new one, punctuated by the Vietnam War. Perhaps it was fascinating because I was a child, when each and every new experience became something to be remembered and cherished. Perhaps too, as an adult, I have lost something of my ability to live in the moment — to slow down and smell the roses — or at least the smell of the heavy exhausts of the bus terminal (pre-EPA days)!

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Public History at NKU.

2 thoughts on “Our Rich History: 1960’s Dixie Terminal, Cincinnati and fond memories of taking Green Line downtown

  1. I was always amazed at the minimal clearance on each side of the bus when it exited the suspension bridge and entered the ramp going into the Dixie terminal! I’d almost hold my breath; just inches on each side! Those drivers were good!

  2. It was a daring “stunt” to come across the Suspension Bridge and then by “mistake” drive up the ramp to the Dixie Terminaql, make the U-turn and go badk down again. I did it in 1959.

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