Ruby and Jim Metts moved to Kennedy Heights on Red Bank Rd. in 1958, an area of the community that blacks had historically lived. Some of the neighbors’ names were Haney, Wesley, Murdoch, Tilford, and McCreary.
Later, they moved to Beech View Circle, Crestview Ave. and in 1992, moved to Roselawn. Jim was active in the neighborhood and President of the Community Council in 1968-69; he died in 1997.
Beech View was a welcoming street; Mrs. Metts has favorable memories of their life on that street. A very close neighbor and friend was Mary Eleanor O’Neil, their children were best friends, too. Mrs. O’Neil recently died. Neighbors on the street often had cookouts a couple of times a year. That tradition still continues on Beech View and Roger’s Park Pl.
Mrs. Metts wanted her boys to have an opportunity to be involved in sports and other activities. Little League, Boy Scouts and the after school program at Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church were not available to blacks. She initiated the effort to look for possibilities. Marie Campbell, Alice and Bob Davis, who lived on Iberis, and her husband, Jim, worked on finding a solution. They formed a team that was the forerunner of Ken-Sil sports. They organized a Boy Scout troop. Ruby has a picture of their Little League Team with 16 boys and their coaches. Carl Williams was one of the coaches.
Mrs. Metts organized cultural tours on Saturdays, with Mary Eleanor O’Neil joining in, to take children on outings, so they could learn about the history, culture and arts of the community. Some of the destinations were the Rankin House in Ripley, Point Pleasant, Grants’ birthplace, Mendenhall Dam, Dayton St., Isaac M. Wise temple, and Serpent Mound.
Ruby and Jim were involved in organizing the Kennedy Heights Community Council (KHCC) and hosted many meetings in their home as did many others. She remembers Jim and Mary Wolfe, Bob and Louise Helmick, Paul and Bobbi Freshwater, Ev and Sue Kitchen, Stan and Dot Lambert, along with others.
When asked if there were problems they experienced buying a house, she remembered that Jim received a call early one Sunday morning after they purchased their Beech View home. It was the inspector who said he had a guilty conscience and felt he must inform them that they had termites in the basement. The realtor had not revealed this information and bribed him to ok the inspection.
Mrs. Metts said the community had parades with a picnic. It was a well-attended event with much excitement. Jim was involved with that event. She believed it occurred on Memorial Day.
One Sunday morning they got a late start to their Walnut Hills church and decided they would attend Kennedy Heights Presbyterian church. They stayed and became involved. When they first moved into the community, the church was not a welcoming place for blacks but with the arrival of the new pastor, Wilbur Hasselbrock, from Iowa, the church became an inclusive place of worship. Some of the members had difficulty accepting the new reality but changed their attitudes in time. Others left the congregation. Mr. and Mrs. Metts were the first black members.
Ruby has fond memories of Ann Magorian who mentored her in joining the church community. Others who attended at that time were Fred and Marie Wise, Joe and Goldie Myer, Stan and Dot Lambert, and D.D. and Bob Starr.
An ancestor of Ruby’s is John Rankin. He was her great grandfather, 5 generations removed. She worked with GE for 35 years, beginning in 1955 as a stenographer, the only opening available to women, with or without a college degree. In time, she worked her way up to an engineer’s assistant. She was also involved in the wider community; she was a member of the Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus and worked in the community Fine Arts Fund for Kennedy Heights.
Mrs. Metts is glad that Kennedy Heights became stable; people no longer moved because blacks were residents. Neighbors were living together and getting along. It is a wonderful, inclusive place with caring people. Her hope is that the community continues to be inclusive and the homes are well maintained.
Interviewed by Christine Schumacher
April 20, 2016
Presented to KHCC, August 16, 2016