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Friday, January 5, 2018

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Generations

They Were the Change They Wished to See: Joanna and Mike Hock
By Cynthia Smith
Generations of the Hock family reside in Wyoming today, left to right: Joanne, Rocko, Mike, and Mary Beth.   
When Mike Hock’s parents came to visit him and wife Joanna in their just-purchased Grove Avenue home in 1976, they saw Mike tearing off the rotted front porch steps and asked, “WHAT have you DONE?”
The house, built in 1886, cost them $43,500 with taxes of $250. It needed work, but like a few other families on the street, the couple was determined to bring the home back to its former glory. At the time, their end of Grove was zoned two-family. Half or more of the houses were rentals. Four houses (including theirs) had been identified for demolition so the adjacent Medical Center could add parking. “Grove was on the way to becoming what happens to so many old neighborhoods,” remembers Mike.
They were the youngest family on the block. As others moved in and converted homes back to one-families, everyone lobbied to change the zoning, so their homes could never be multi-family rentals again. “We had learned it doesn’t take much for a neighborhood to go in the wrong direction,” Mike says.
Later, he was appointed to the Board of Building and Zoning Appeals (BBZA), on which he served for 23 years, many as chair. In this capacity, he was able to help ensure that vintage houses were improved with respect for their historical integrity.

A Great Place to Raise a Child
Today, Mike and Joanna are the oldest people on a totally transformed block. Their daughter, Mary Beth Fischer, graduated from Wyoming in 1995, and lives on Worthington Avenue with her nine-year-old son, Rocco.
“They lived in Hyde Park for a while where they bought an old house,” shares Joanna. “We gave them a light fixture from here that went back to the beginning of electrification in our house.” Mary Beth returned to Wyoming when Rocco was four. “She had gone to Miami and gotten her masters at Xavier, so she still had a lot of friends here.”
Mary Beth felt Wyoming would be a great place to raise a child, just as her parents had before her.
Mike moved a lot when he was young; his father worked for a railroad. As a P&G engineer, Mike also traveled frequently when Mary Beth was small. But he was determined that she go all the way through the Wyoming school system. Twice, that meant having a second residence elsewhere, only coming home weekends.

Four “Sister” Houses
Mike and Joanna were high school sweethearts in Virginia. After college, he got a job with P&G in very rural Mehoopany, Pennsylvania, and Joanna began teaching art and operating as a decorator. When Mike got transferred to Cincinnati, Wyoming seemed “like Paris compared to Mehoopany,” laughs Joanna. While they rented at the Williamsburg Apartments, Joanna found the Grove house, which reminded her of her grandfather’s old house.
According to a Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper article from the 1980s, the land became very desirable when the railroad was built a century before. The company Farrin, Stoddad, and Schuberth purchased the entire block for $10,000 in 1884. They considered a boarding house before building four “sister” houses (including the Hocks’) for four of their daughters, in the Queen Anne Stick style.
Before the Hocks, several generations of the Crary family lived in the house for over 60 years. St. James Catholic Church was located behind them (it later burned down and the current church was built on Springfield Pike).
A young Miss Crary in 1910 with a very large bicycle in front of the Grove Avenue home.  
Changed and the Same
When asked what has changed and not changed in Wyoming since their arrival, Mike and Joanna say that in the 70s, the place to live was The Hill. “Our block was not far from being red-lined; you could have difficulty getting a mortgage to buy here,” shares Mike. “Then in the 80s, real estate boomed, particularly on the east coast, and when people moved here, Victorian treasures were very affordable. Realtor Jenni McCauley was and is a community thought leader getting The Village recognized as a precious place."
“The Meat Market was a centerpiece of downtown,” remembers Joanna, “and the Pastry Shop. But downtown was not as vital as it is now. Where Gabby’s is today was Sanders’ Pharmacy, where I worked as a pharmacy tech for several years. There was no Village Green, no gazebo; shops would come and go. At that time, Lockland had the more bustling downtown."
“But our street was close-knit from Day One. We still have friends who go back to the beginning. The only difference,” she laughs, “is that the organizers of the block parties, Octoberfest and Fourth of July floats are now the younger people. We’ve become the oldest!”
One thing that has not changed is the hordes of children visiting on Halloween. “I think we had 450 kids this year,” estimates Joanna. “We give out 50 pounds of candy every year,” Mike adds. “We often sit by the fire pit to hand out treats.”

Building Community
Once settled in Wyoming, Joanna joined neighbor Kathy Smiley in cooking for seniors with the Junior Women’s Club. “We also volunteered at Drake Hospital.”
“I helped with Mary Beth’s Girl Scout troop, and joined the Trowel and Error Garden Club. I later served as President. Our big project was revitalizing Centennial Park: getting the City to provide additional support. Lynn Tetley (City Manager) was a big help.”
“We did cookbooks for Junior Women’s Club; Kathy Smiley was and is the foodie of the century. When her kids were growing up (two girls, two boys), she did all the sports banquets.”

A 20-Year Renovation
Altogether, the Hocks’ labor of love took 20 years. They did most of the work themselves. Joanna’s grandparents handed down antiques that fit the period. “It was fun,” recalls Joanna. “The women would get together to pick out paint colors and curtain fabrics. We became forever friends while restoring our homes.”
To help promote the neighborhood, the Hocks volunteered to showcase their home on two of the first Wyoming Historic Home tours in the 1980s; then they were on a formal garden tour. Getting ready involved “finishing some projects we had put off,” notes Mike.
“An old home is a lifestyle. When you get older you can’t do as much yourself. We hire people more now. But if someone wants to borrow a tool or get help on renovating, many still come here.”

Keeping The Village Strong
“You can’t duplicate what we have,” explains Mike. “A restored house of this vintage in a great neighborhood; it doesn’t exist very often.”
What keeps The Village strong is new people with the same enduring attitude, Mike says, citing examples: “Grove Avenue Alum Melissa Kennedy, Margee Moore, Anne McCarthy, Tim Norbut and many others have each championed projects to keep the block dynamic. No fanfare; just get the job done.”
To those considering Wyoming, the Hocks say: Come here. It feels like home. You are safe walking, even at night. It’s full of justifiable pride. The schools are small and special; your children have a good chance of becoming the adults you want them to be.
Mike tells a story that encapsulates how he and Joanna feel: “A new neighbor moved in last year from a more modern development. There was a big rain. I told him to call the Fire Department to pump out his basement. He couldn’t believe they actually came.”
“I delight in what he notices as a Wyoming newbie: the special houses; the big trees; the joy of walking his dog; the closeness of the neighborhood - simple unchanging things.”

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