Window on Main Street - An ironic story of the effort to save Grove Hill

Barbara Christian
Feb 27, 2020

Ever since I read my first O. Henry story, I have been hooked on irony and all things ironic. But how do you describe irony?

The dictionary definitions failed to capture the quirk of fate that is the essence of the word. The jaw-dropping, shock and awe or the “surprise endings,” as the 12-year-old me once called O. Henry stories.

And who but a pre-adolescent finds irony in O. Henry’s initials? O.H.spells the exclamation of surprise – “OH”!

Others confuse stories with ironic circumstances with “shaggy dog stories.” They are not the same. Shaggy dogs are drawn out jokes with an unexpected pun for the punch line. The response to these is not “OH” but “Argh.”

The old “Twilight Zone” TV series stories were often tales of the ironic kind. Deadpan comedian Stephen Wright deals exclusively one-line ironies and delivered machine gun style, like the following:

“If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.”

“If a person with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?”

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’ so I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.”

The best definition of the word irony is the one given in 1964 by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart when the high court was considering an obscenity case involving director Louis Malle’s film “The Lovers.”

One of the issues before the justices was the difference between an obscenity, hard-core pornography and what was shown in the film.

Judge Stewart said the U.S. Constitution protects all obscenity except hard-core pornography. But how do you tell? The film was not hard core, he said, “but I know it when I see it.”

When he passed away in 1981, his epitaph read “I know it when I see it.” Irony, too, is difficult to define, but we know it when we see it.

How about a Chagrin-centric story of irony? Some details have been changed, but the irony remains the same.

Last week’s Save Grove Hill gathering at the Chagrin Falls Historical Society meeting featured a presentation by a young man who told the audience he was there to guide their efforts.

He was employed by a conservation organization, grew up in the Chagrin Valley and had a deep and abiding connection to Grove Hill. No, it was not the pumpkin roll. This one had destiny written all over it.

The story begins in a big southern state and the love story of a boy from Ohio and girl who was not from the Buckeye State nor did she envision living there. Ever!

Of course, she loved him and mentioned this several times along with her distaste for a place known as “the North Coast.”

But the boy was homesick for family and the cold and bracing temperatures back in his hometown. He also knew his girl would never accept his proposal of marriage if the threshold, over which he would carry her, was in Ohio. Snowy, bracing northeast Ohio.

And so he devised “Operation love at first sight.” He would bring her home to meet the family, but not during winter.

Everything was planned, right down to the way she would meet Chagrin Falls…from the town’s “best side”─ the top of Grove Hill with its view of the village stretched out before her. Who could resist such a place as this?

It worked. The girl fell in love with the town and said “yes” to the boy and the town in the snowy and bracing place called northeast Ohio.

They married, and in time the couple had a family including a little boy who, like his father, loved the town and its hills, dales, natural lands and historic places.

That boy is now grown and working as a conservationist. He revealed he not only owes his existence to his once-reluctant mother and formerly-homesick father, but to a place called Grove Hill “from its best side.”

Perhaps now was his chance to return the favor it did for him. After all, he wouldn’t be here if not for its view of the town stretching out before those two young lovers. How ironic is that?

"Window on Main Street - An ironic story of the effort to save Grove Hill". Chagrin Valley Times. Retrieved February 29, 2020.

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