When life was one giant picnic

By Regina Villiers. Originally published August 14, 1996 in The Suburban Life, added August 14, 2015.

Elizabeth and Henry Wehrmann owned and operated a German-styled picnic grounds in Madeira in the early part of this century.

Elizabeth and Henry Wehrmann owned and operated a German-styled picnic grounds in Madeira in the early part of this century.


An area from Kenwood Road and Shawnee Run to Camargo Road, now a rather quiet and sedate residential area was once a swinging, fun filled place known as the Valley View Picnic Grounds.

It was owned and run by Henry Wehrmann and his wife, Elizabeth, according to their granddaughter, Evelyn Joyce Krimmer.

Henry Wehrmann, born in Germany in 1866, came to this country when he was about 14 years old.  He grew up and married Elizabeth, born in 1870, whose family had also come here from Germany.

They bought property in the Kenwood Road area where they had many greenhouses and fruit orchards.  These extended back to truck farms where the Wehrmanns grew lots of vegetables.

Mr. Wehrmann had fond memories of the picnic areas back in Germany where the people enjoyed good food, music and dancing.  So, he decided to start one of his own in Madeira.

The Valley View Picnic Grounds ran along Camargo Road and became a prosperous business for the Wehrmanns.  It was open to customers, and they rented it out to churches, businesses and various groups for events.

There was a parking lot in front, with an entrance gate that charged a fee.  Then came the concession stands with soft drinks, popcorn beer and food.

Evelyn says the huge dance hall had the first nickelodeon she had ever seen.  The popular song of the time was “The Beer Barrel Polka.”

The area contained a pony track where the kids could ride ponies.  This was located so as to be visible upon entrance to the park, to catch the eye of the kids.

On the lower level, near the creek on Camargo Road, was a flat area of land where baseball games, three-legged races, sack races and potato races took place.

“There were always good prizes to the winners,” Evelyn said.

Evelyn did not live in Madeira, but between the ages of 3 and 13, she lived every summer with her Aunt Minnie Oser in Madeira.

Her aunt and uncle lived on Shawnee Run, across from the park, in the old schoolhouse, which had been converted to a dwelling.  The house still stands.  She remembers her aunt’s beautiful flowers. In front, pansies bloomed around white and purple lilac bushes, with snow-on-the-mountain in front of the door.  The backyard overflowed with hollyhocks, roses, and ferns.

“The main entertainment for my cousins and me,” Evelyn said, was to listen for the passenger trains coming over the Shawnee Run intersection.   We’d run down the hill at top speed to wave at all the people.  We were thrilled when they waved back.  We always wondered where they were headed, and we liked to imagine faraway places.”

Evelyn and her cousins worked around the park when they were children.  The day after events and parties, they would find money and trinkets.  This made the work seem worthwhile to them.

The Wehrmanns were hardworking people.  Evelyn recalls how her grandmother would go to the Sixth Street Market in downtown Cincinnati to sell produce and whatever was in season at the time.  She would travel through Madisonville at dusk, going down Madison Road.  She would spend all day Saturday selling the produce and would then return home in the wagon “And she did all this while having 12 children,” Evelyn said.

Many of the Wehrmanns, after they grew up, worked at Kenwood Country Club “My Aunt Lizzie Wehrmann was the chicken fryer there,” Evelyn said.”

And Evelyn, herself, worked at Kenwood Country Club on the buffet table, serving butter or salad.  By then, she lived on the other side of Cincinnati, and she’d spend two hours on the streetcar to get to her job.  But she enjoyed it.  “Lots of young people worked there,” she said.  “Pitching in to wash the many dishes and clean the kitchen was a fun afternoon.”

Evelyn waxes nostalgic about the summers of her youth in Madeira, and the fun she had with her cousins.  She remembers the street carnivals and the thrill of winning pretty dishes, Carnival glass.

And she wonders now if other people still remember the park, and she wonders how many people go married there.

She has cousins who still live in Madeira.  One of them is June Schricten, who says she was born at the corner of Kenwood Road and Navajo Trail.

June also remembers the picnic grounds and the good times, but as well as Evelyn.  “It was a long time ago, “ she said.  “It had to be.  My grandfather brought in slot machines.  Can you imagine slot machines in Madeira now?”

No, I can’t.  The uproar would be heard all the way to Baden-Baden, Germany.

But back then, it obviously was fun.  Everyone danced to the  “Beer Barrel Polka” and had a swinging good time at the picnic grounds along Camargo Road.