Last Sunday's column about Cadillac Hill, the legendary Akron street with a whopping 28 percent slope, brought some fun responses.
“I LOVED your article on Cadillac Hill,” wrote Sue Dale. “I've wondered several times over the years what had happened to it.
“And it was interesting to learn the backstory to the nickname, and about the bumpiness of it (yes, I've driven it in the past).
“But I wonder how you missed mentioning Oak Hill Road [in Boston Township]. It is short, but its grade seems greater than that of the Smith Road hill [which is 14 percent].
“I've bicycled both of those. Is the Smith hill really steeper than the section of Oak Hill Road near Everett Road? My bike legs think otherwise!
“But then again, if I think that my legs can think, what do I know?”
Your legs don't lie, Sue. And they must be well-tuned, because the competition was extremely close.
Heidi Swindell, spokeswoman for the Summit County Engineer's Office, says the 1,000-foot stretch of Oak Hill Road that runs north from Everett to the conservancy area in Boston Township has a slope of 15 percent, 1 percent more than Smith. But mixed into that is a 100-foot stretch that checks in at 20 percent.
So you win. Your prize: two free bike rides up Oak Hill.
“Thanks for the story on Cadillac Hill," wrote Bill Roach. “I was especially interested because the street was [officially] named after my great-great grandfather, George Bates, mayor of Akron [in 1864]. No one ever mentions old George, but there's a little family pride involved.
“I remember walking the hill several times when I went to St. Vincent. Hope they clean it up and open it soon.”
“I enjoyed your story about Cadillac Hill,” wrote Steve Dubetz. “If you get a chance to walk down the sidewalk near the bottom, it is made of one or more tombstones.
“I don’t know why and would like to think they were never used as tombstones.”
Rest easy, Steve. They weren't.
I didn't know the history, but Dave Lieberth did. Little wonder. Lieberth probably knows more about Akron's history than anyone else alive.
The former deputy mayor directed us to a story that said the marble gravestone currently ensconced at the foot of the hill was originally scrapped because of a carving mistake. Someone flipped it over and turned it into a unique, ground-level, engraved street sign reading "Bates Hill."
This one comes from the chief of security for the Soap Box Derby, Scott Tiffan.
“Now, I will not even try to claim the steepest hill,” he begins, which is entirely correct.
The first 54 feet at Derby Downs carry a 16 percent grade, but for the next 530 feet it's only 6 percent and then a mere 2 percent for the remaining 406 feet.
“But,” he continues, “I can say that we have a unique collection of vehicles that people have ridden, or tried to ride, down the hill over the last 85 years.
“People have tried bicycles, skateboards, skates, sleds and wagons. One guy even brought his unicycle! But still my fav were the Big Wheel boys just out to settle that lasting question: Betcha can't.
“The only thing longer than our current configuration of sheer-pleasure downhill gravity run are the stories and legends that were spawned from teenage hooliganism and summertime fun.”
Is it just me or does he sound a bit too enthusiastic for a guy who is in charge of security?
John Olesky, a long-retired Beacon Journal editor, has firsthand experience with a world-class slope.
“I walked to the top of Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, which in 2013 was listed by Guinness as the steepest residential street in the world, at 35 percent [surpassed recently by a street in Wales that is 35.45 percent].
“By the way, at 80, I was the oldest person on the SmarTours bus to get to the top of Baldwin Street. I got a standing ovation when I returned to the bus with [wife] Paula, who is 15 years younger than me.
“So Cadillac Hill would be piece of cake for me to climb compared to Baldwin Street. Hell, I could do Cadillac Hill backward, and I'm 86 now."
OK, but will you be able to climb to the seventh floor of the AES Building when the Beacon Journal moves its offices there later this year?
No, because our security will be better than the Soap Box Derby's.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31