Springfield roofs provide lessons, fun for family

Jan. 22—Our daughter, Chris, called the idea weird, but interesting.

I prefer "unusual" over "weird."

And that's only in part because the idea came from person in whose company I spend most of my time, my wife, Ann.

Admittedly, had I chosen "weird," I would have exposed myself to the withering look of disapproval known in our family as "the hairy eyeball."

Still, my honest judgment is that her idea for teaching our 10-year-old grandson about different kinds of roofs in Springfield during a recent visit was a hands-down winner.

Because, as much as the hairy eyeball is to be avoided, facts are facts: Nobody knows Atticus' mind or connects with him better than she does.

Now, for a little background.

Ann is a project fiend, a legacy of uncounted treasured hours spent doing projects with her Daddy while growing up on a farm between Celina and Coldwater.

I picture the two of them at the same outbuilding workbench at which they cracked hickory nuts and he straightened and then sorted into coffee cans the nails he collected while tearing down the home at the old family place.

Ann's love for those hours lives in her voice when she talks about them. Her love and regard for our grandchildren and their childhoods shines in as she recreates for them the same experience.

In the days before the kids are coming to spend a day or night with us, her scheming starts, always with the same goals in mind: to occupy, teach and spend time with them while fending off the curvature of their upper spines being caused by the amount of time they spend with their noses aimed at the screen of some digital device.

The first sign of a burgeoning idea is an increase in her own screen time, as she surveys the entire online world for ideas and materials. As the awareness of her surroundings dims, I get my domestic self into gear to keep the pile of dishes from reaching the ceiling and the laundry from getting to the point that our home no longer has a single pair of clean boxers or briefs.

While it rankles me slightly that she guards her project ideas more closely than presidents do national secrets, I've come to trust that something worthwhile is on the way.

True to form, last weekend's research created yet another new entry in our family's Whoda Thunkit File. She found 30 fundamental kinds of roofs — plus illustrations and photos, which led to my assignment to scrounge up a three-ring notebook. No three-hole punching had to be done, because the special documents were being slipped into protective plastic sleeves.

There was, in truth, some anxiety over whether Atticus would bite on the idea. But as soon as he gulped it down hook, line and sinker, I transferred another load into the drier and assumed my rightful position as the project's clerical support intern.

While the project manager got me typing out the table of contents, Atticus advised me as to the correct spellings off the roof types. Barrel-Vaulted and Cross-Hipped roofs required hyphens, the Dome Vaulted and Dutch Gabel roofs did not.

And while a semi-hairy eyeball was cast at me when I suggested the table of contents might be kept one page by putting the roof names in two columns, Atticus sided with me, thus shielding me from the slings and arrows of outrageous upper management.

The eyeball again darted my way when I wandered above my pay grade and typed in capital letters at the top of the table of contents page Roof-Roofs. I confess it was in a desperate attempt to slip a grandpa joke in the official record book of the project as proof of my slender participation.

All the time, I observed in awe the way Ann quizzed Atticus about minute differences between the types of roofs. That, of course, required him to analyze how to distinguish a gambrel roof from a gable roof and notice that a skillion roof is essentially the product of shoving two differently sized buildings with shed roofs together.

He proved to be what she was teaching him to be: a quick study.

Her gift as a motivator shone when we got in the car and started our drive around Springfield. Miss Daisy went into the back seat, I took Hoke's spot as chauffeur, and Atticus had the front passenger seat. There, he served as the official project photographer, eagle-eyed in collecting images of all kinds of roofs in our visual scavenger hunt.

We found two butterfly roofs, one on the west side of Plum Street just north of McCreight, the other at Garrigan's on Yellow Springs Street. At the latter, I slid into a parking spot at of Klosterman's Bakery, and, at Ann's suggestion, Atticus went up a short flight of stairs to get a better angle for his photo.

We made the required stops for photo-ops at the grand white dome of the former Springfield and South High School and the gleaming copper dome of the Common Pleas Courthouse.

Our heightened alertness actually began before getting into the car, when we noticed the white double across the street from us had three jerkin-head roofs, one above each porch, one at the roof's crest. Along the way, we learned how to correctly pronounce the ManSARD roof, kept our eyes peeled for hip and valley roofs, and in the South Fountain Neighborhood, debated whether we were looking at conical or hexagonal roofs, then took in the decorate bell roofs, none, of course, as large as the one on the big red church on the east side of Limestone Street across the street from Long John Silver's.

Perhaps no single stop was more instructive than at the Clark County Library, whose features recreated the architectural styles of so many buildings in Springfield, including the Heritage Center and the many old factories.

Despite waning attention spans, I insisted on chipping in with a lesson on how many of those structures, built in a time before the light bulb, had roofs designed to usher as much sunlight as possible into the buildings beneath them.

In the old industrial area east of the YWCA, we found sawtooth roofs, slanted southward toward the sun just like the solar panels of today day, though primarily to capture the sun's light rather than heat.

Atticus came up with the prize winner in that category when he noticed the O.S. Kelly Foundry at the northeast corner of North Street and Limestone. Although most of the south facing windows have been blocked off to conserve heat, it was a gleaming example of roof design that lets the sun shine in.

That name of that roof provided Atticus and his grandparents with another history lesson.

Because clerestory (the name) has an ecclesiastical sound to it, I pulled out my I-phone for a check. While I was right in associating it with the cathedrals of Europe, my timeline was way too short.

The Homenish website says the roofs were "used in Egyptian temples, where slits were made into high stone bricks to create a source of light."

And that's what the day felt like for all of us.

And I not only was happy to be along for the ride but pleased that, on the ride back to Springboro with Atticus, our daughter heard him saying the names of the roofs under his breath.