All the recent news about the fires in the Marietta area (the fire at Marietta Wine Cellars has been ruled arson) made me think–as my mind makes its usual illogical leaps–of Cisler bricks, and late this afternoon I posted a Craigslist ad saying I wanted to buy a Cisler brick. (I wasn’t even 100% sure what category this matched, so I chose "Antiques," for lack of anything better.)
The Cisler Brick Works provided many of the bricks for buildings at Marietta College, the post office, the public library, and what was Marietta Junior High School when I was there (it had been the high school, and is now Marietta Middle School). When I lived on Seventh Street, there were several sections of the sidewalk that were paved with Cisler bricks, laid in a herringbone-type pattern, especially the stretch between Ephraim Cutler St. and Tupper St.
The Brick Works themselves were in what is now Frontier Shopping Center, and it was destroyed in a tornado at the turn of the (20th) century. Even though the facility never reopened, and the disaster was 60-some years before I was born, I felt its influence.
Looming over Big Bear (now Giant Eagle), the first store in the strip of buildings that is Frontier Shopping Center, was the Cisler residence. Even in the daytime it seemed a little forbidding, and if I was coming out of Big Bear at night, I hesitated a little before taking the shortcut–i.e., going up an embankment that would put me behind the house, and allow me to walk more diagonally toward our house.
At the bottom of the entry, I’ve posted a picture of the house. It has been gentrified and restored quite a bit since I lived in Marietta, because at the time it was one of those houses you and your buddies would swear up and down was haunted. At night, even when lights were on inside, the house was one to avoid.
But, it was not the house you’d sneak into after dark on a dare. It was haunted, but by flesh and blood, not by a ghost.
Its sole resident when I lived in Marietta was Lillian Cisler, the daughter of founder Thomas Cisler. She was a familiar sight in Marietta, walking very slowly, bent over slightly, and clad head to toe in black, from her hat down to her shoes. Miss Cisler, I was told, was in mourning for her father, who had died in 1950. (Her mother died in 1905, and Mr. Cisler apparently remained a widower the remaining 45 years of his life.) There was another sister, Grace, who was born in 1905, and I’m wondering if the mother, Lillie Weiss Cisler, died in childbirth.
I don’t know if I ever spoke with Miss Cisler, but I heard stories about her. One friend of mine claimed to have done some work for her (the idea of this particular person working made me doubt the veracity of his account) and claimed that she still set a place for him at the dinner table. (The only place where I’ve ever seen that happen was at some Passover Seders I’ve attended, when they pour the cup for Elijah.) He embellished the tale with hearing her play wall-shaking music on a pipe organ in the house. I half expected to hear stories about meeting Lurch and Uncle Fester there.
Yet, another kid I knew was sympathetic, and piously quoted the lyrics to Johnny Cash’s "Man in Black" to understand why she dressed that way.
She finally died at the age of 91, in 1993. I was living in Cincinnati and working for the post office there, and Dad sent me the obituary. Her father’s birthday was April 29, he told me (as is mine). He said I should have told her that, because she would have willed the house to me. (My understanding is that she willed it to her church, St. Luke’s Lutheran.)
I went to http://www.findagrave.com and looked for their graves. They are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, and I was hoping their final resting place would be brick, but it isn’t.
Also included is a picture of a Cisler brick.