Columbus, Ohio USA
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Flytown Folks Plan 23rd Reunion
by Jennifer Hambrick
Flytown residents unite again.
It’s a classic image of American life: a melting-pot neighborhood where people leave their doors unlocked, know each other’s names, and share the ups and downs of life.
In Columbus, that neighborhood was Flytown, the area of mostly blacks and immigrants that once existed between Spruce Street and Buttles Avenue west of Goodale Park and that was razed in the mid-1950s as part of a Columbus urban renewal project.
Friday and Saturday, July 8-9, former Flytown residents will unite again for the annual Flytown Reunion in Goodale Park. The event will feature food, music, dancing and reminiscing, and is free and open to the public.
Reunion organizer Harrison Bundy, 68, was born and raised in Flytown and says the most important thing he remembers about the neighborhood is its sense of community.
“It was like a large, close-knit family. We were in and out of each other’s houses. We did stuff together. To me, it was a beautiful town to be from,” Bundy said.
Although he currently lives in Alabama, Bundy has organized all of the last 22 Flytown reunions. The opportunity to see his former Flytown neighbors inspired him to keep the reunions going.
“You haven’t seen a person for 40 years and here they are. Every reunion someone comes that I haven’t seen in a long time. I felt that God was good to me and I had to give something back.”
Other former Flytown residents remember their earlier home as a neighborhood with a small-town feel and a place where people of all races and nationalities got along.
“It was a neighborhood where everybody knew everybody and everybody understood everybody,” Asbury Wade, 79, said. “You could leave your doors open, you could trust one another. You had all races of people. We all went to school together and everybody got along.”
“It was just like a country town,” said Karl Hairston, 74. “Everybody knew everybody. There wasn’t anything like it.”
Hairston, who currently lives on the north end of Columbus, was born in Flytown and lived there until it was razed.
“I wish I were still there,” Hairston said. “I don’t know anybody up here.
Even though they’re no longer neighbors, many former Flytown residents still live in Columbus and see each other regularly. Hairston is one of a group of men who grew up together in Flytown and who meet every day at the White Castle restaurant on East Fifth Avenue.
“We call ourselves the White Castle Coffee Club,” Hairston said.
The razing of Flytown in the 1950s was perhaps the beginning of the urban renewal for the greater Short North/Italian Village area that exists today.
Hairston remembers the stretch of High Street in the Short North from an earlier era.
“There was a ten-cent store,” Hairston said, “a bowling alley, picture shows, banks, hotels-just about anything you’d want.”
Though he misses his former haunts, Bundy views the changes made to the Short North over the last twenty years as a step in the right direction.
“I love it,” said Bundy. “I love the area there now.”
But as former Flytown residents age, many are asking how long the annual reunions will last.
“As long as we can keep them going,” Hairston said. “A lot of people are dying out, but we try to get the kids to keep it going.”
Hairston’s niece and nephew have helped with past reunions.
Although the area around the Short North isn’t the sleepy small town it once was, and Flytown is long gone, Columbus residents past and present can learn from others who lived what is now history at this year’s Flytown reunion.
For more information, contact Karl Hairston @ 614-291-4094.
© 2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.