Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Momentum toward a merger of East Cleveland and Cleveland has increased.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that two prominent Cleveland City Councilmen have suggested that serious efforts to study the possibility of a merger be undertaken.  At this time the Mayors of both cities have spoken in favor of a merger but spokesmen for the East Cleveland City Council have spoken out against it.  Cleveland City Council President, Kevin Kelley and Cleveland Mayor, Frank Jackson have asked the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University to assist in their study of a possible merger of the two cities.

This blog first suggested the need for a merger back in September 2012.  The issue heated up in November 2013 when former Cleveland City Council President spoke in favor of merger.  Reaction to my initial suggestion and my recent posting about the issue has been mixed.  One of the readers of this blog states, "I don't see the advantages of being the bottom of Cleveland".  Most readers of this blog remember the East Cleveland, which existed during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  We remember a well managed community with great economic resources.  Unfortunately that situation does not exist today.  East Cleveland needs help from its larger neighbor to maintain the remaining assets and develop more assets in the future.  If handled correctly, a merger would be a win win proposition for both community s.

Here is a link to the Plain Dealer article:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


 This posting is a bit of a digression from the history of East Cleveland during the 1940s and 1950s with which I am more familiar.  However, I believe those who follow this blog would also like to stay current on issues affecting East Cleveland today.  In previous postings I tried to avoid much discussion of current issues, because for the most part I only know what I read in the papers.   My current knowledge of East Cleveland has been gained through research I have done at the East Cleveland Public Library and occasional visits to my old neighborhoods.

Like many of you who grew up in East Cleveland and then returned to visit, I am shocked by the physical deterioration of the town.  Whole blocks of houses and apartments have been abandoned or burned out and boarded up.  Those housing units, which are still occupied, tend to be in marginal states of maintenance.  Most housing is not owner occupied.  The population is the poorest of the poor.  Many of you have commented on my blog about how depressing it is to see what has happened to our old home town.

There are those who will blame the current state of affairs in East Cleveland on the racial change, which occurred starting in the 1960s.  I have received comments to that effect on this site.  I lived in East Cleveland during the early 1960s while attending Western Reserve University.  I studied sections of the City as part of an Urban Sociology class project in 1962.  Later in the decade, I walked all the streets of East Cleveland meeting people as a candidate for State Representative.  I met many of the new African-American citizens and found them to have similar values, hopes and dreams as I and my long time East Cleveland friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, White flight, encouraged by real estate block busting tactics, moved too fast to allow the development of a stable integrated community.

East Cleveland became a stable majority African-American community by the 1980s.  It was still a community of middle class values, which encouraged strong families, home ownership and property maintenance. Unfortunately, the transformation of East Cleveland into a majority African-American community coincided with the major economic decline of the Cleveland region resulting in what we know as the rust belt.  This combined with the flight of the middle class (both White and African-American) from the inner ring suburbs left East Cleveland with a different population.  The difference was not African-American or White.  The difference was economic class. 

Merger of East Cleveland with Cleveland

Back in 2011 I started this site with the following comment: “An argument could be made that East Cleveland had no clear identity of its own.  Each part of East Cleveland is like the community it borders.  On the North it borders the Collinwood section of Cleveland.  On the West it is adjacent to The Glenville section as well as University Circle and Little Italy.  Finally, on the South and East is Cleveland Heights.  In many ways the socio-economic groups, housing etc. in East Cleveland were quite similar to those in adjacent communities.”  I went on to argue that East Cleveland did, in fact, have an identity of its own and went on to describe that identity in detail.

In September 2012 I made the following comment in my presentation to an urban history class at Case Western Reserve University:  “As much as it pains me to say it, there may not be a reason for the City of East Cleveland today.  In fact the very existence of the City of East Cleveland may be a barrier to solving the problems of the area known as East Cleveland.  I already pointed out the similarities of sections of East Cleveland with the neighboring cities.  The problems of the economically depressed population of East Cleveland are more appropriately the problems of the entire Cleveland metropolitan area.  If the area of East Cleveland were a part of Cleveland and/or Cleveland Heights, the current concentration of economically depressed people could be absorbed by the larger tax base of those communities or Cuyahoga County.  The barriers to land development within the current boundaries of East Cleveland would be lowered.  I even believe that East Cleveland as it exists today is no longer a viable power base for the African-American political establishment, if it ever was in the first place.”

Since my presentation in September 2012, there has been considerable discussion in the media and the community of East Cleveland about the possible merger of East Cleveland with the City of Cleveland. 

In fact, the mayors of the two cities have come out in favor of that merger.  Former Cleveland Council President and former head of the NAACP, George Forbes seemed to initiate this discussion.  There have already been examples of mergers of some city services with those of Cleveland including the Water Department.  A strong movement to merge the East Cleveland Public Library with the Cuyahoga County Public Library failed due to opposition from a small but vocal group of citizens even though the Library Board had recommended the merger.  It now seems as if the greatest impediment to the final merger will be the East Cleveland City Council.  It will take a vote of the people to finally decide the future of the community. 

Last night I watched a 40 minute program, which describes the heartbreak and despair felt by current and former citizens of East Cleveland.  That heartbreak and despair is similar to that which many readers of my blog expressed, when seeing what has become of East Cleveland.  The difference is that most of my readers have been White former citizens, who lived in East Cleveland, when I was there too.  The people you meet and hear on this program lived there during the 1990s and later.  They are all African-American.  The hopes, values and sorrow they express are the same as mine and those of most of my readers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Caledonia - My second East Cleveland neighborhood

My Second East Cleveland Neighborhood

My family moved from our home on Shaw Avenue to a new home at 1021 Nela View Road in June of 1953.  I had just completed my first year at Kirk Junior High School after graduating from Prospect in June of 1952.  I had mixed emotions about that move.  After all, I had spent my entire life in the Shaw/Plymouth neighborhood.  I was leaving my close friends and the home and neighborhood I loved.  The last day before the move I spent time in each room of the old house remembering the things that had happened.  I wanted to imprint the place and those events firmly in my mind.  I hope this blog is evidence that I was able to do that. 

Our move was necessary, because we just didn’t have enough space in the old house.  The new house was a single family with three bedrooms and a finished attic on the third floor.  To us, it seemed huge.  It was quite a change to have the home all to ourselves without other families living above us.  Not only did I have a bedroom of my own; but I also appropriated the room on the third floor.  I used it to enjoy my hobbies including amateur radio and as a kind of club house for me and my friends. 

Speaking of friends, I was able to make a whole new group of friends quite quickly.  It turned out that David Reynard, who had been in my homeroom at Kirk, lived just down the street.  When I ventured out the day we arrived, I walked down the street to find David and a bunch of kids playing catch in front of his house.  We recognized each other and he introduced me to the group.  It turned out the test for new members of the gang was to find out how good you were at baseball. The best guy at baseball was a kid named Domenic Argento.  He threw me a few and pronounced me to be OK.  My early acceptance by that new group of kids made the loss of my old friends less traumatic.  I still saw some of the old group in school and occasionally went back to the old neighborhood on my bicycle. As I adapted to my new neighborhood, I made that trip less frequently.

I spent a lot of time exploring the new neighborhood on my bicycle.  Many of my trips were to one of the two shopping areas, one at Taylor and Nela View and the other at Noble and Nela View.  Those areas had everything we had at Taylor and Euclid and more.  The main attraction for me at Noble Road was the Franklin Ice Cream store.  At Taylor Road, which was closer and within easy walking distance, there was a drug store with great cherry sundaes for only 35 cents. 

Noble and Nela View had the most shopping opportunities.  That included Fisher Foods, Woolworths, Fred’s Bakery, a barber shop, a record store, a florist, and a great drug store.  That drug store was Stonebreaker’s.  Mr. Stonebreaker was the president of the East Cleveland School Board and much loved in the community.  He is the one who signed my diploma, when I graduated from Shaw High School in 1958. He was known as “Stoney” to the neighborhood and he and his store filled the same niche as the Tobin Brothers did at Tobin Drug at Taylor and Euclid. 

Other destinations in my exploration of the neighborhood included Caledonia School and the great playground behind it.  Those of us, who lived on Nela View, also had a vacant lot at the corner of Taylor and Nela View in which to play baseball.  That lot is now occupied by two houses.  It filled the purpose previously filled by the field at the end of Plymouth Place.  It was adequate but not quite as good as that Plymouth Place field.  Therefore, when we wanted to play some serious ball, we went to the playground behind the school.  There we were able to play with a larger group of kids from the neighborhood around the school.

Other destinations around the school were the East Cleveland Public Library branch and the Warner and Swayze Observatory.  I spent a lot of time at that library.  My usual reading was about electricity and electronics.  It got to the point where I had read all the books in the 538 Dewey decimal range and had to go to other libraries to find some new stuff.  I also read extensively in the history section.  My reading said something about my future life.  When I had to say for the yearbook what I would study at college, I said electrical engineering.  It was truly one of my great interests.  Remember that was 1958 and we were under the impact of sputnik.  A career in science or engineering was greatly prized.  Once I went to college I followed my other interest and studied history and political science, got a master’s degree in Public Administration and spent a career in government, healthcare and university administration.  It all started in that branch library.  By the way, I had to take some science courses at Western Reserve University.  I chose geology and astronomy.  The astronomy class was held at night at the Warner and Swayze Observatory to which I could walk from my home on Nela View.

Another great destination across the street from the library was the Methodist church.  Somehow we discovered a coke machine in the basement of the church.  That machine was still giving coke for 5 cents a bottle when most other machines were charging a dime.  That was a refreshing stop on the way to or from the playground or library.  Much later in life, when I was Operations Director for the Cuyahoga County Mental Health Board, I got to know Rev. Douglas Denton, the pastor of that church and a member of the Mental Health Board.  Once, when I was meeting with him at the church, I revealed the secret of the coke machine.  He assured me that they had raised their price.

To the southeast of Nela View we explored as far as Mayfield Road.  The Severance estate was still there on the Southeast corner of Mayfield and Taylor.  It was later torn down and redeveloped as the Severance Shopping Center.  On the northeast corner of Mayfield and Taylor was the Prentice estate.  At that time the Prentice mansion had been torn down but the foundation and basement were still there.  We discovered a way to get into that basement by climbing through a narrow hole in the rubble.  That was quite an adventure.  I remember a walk-in safe with a door as big as house entrance door.  That door was locked so we never saw what that safe contained.  I thought of that again, when Geraldo Rivera made a big deal of opening a similar safe, which had belonged to Al Capone.  There was nothing in that one and there was probably nothing in the Prentice safe either. 

Our neighborhood contained two ravines, which we explored often. These were sections of creeks, which had not been culverted.  They had large storm sewer pipes about five or six feet in diameter at each end.  The storm water would flow through the sewer pipes, enter the open ravine and exit farther downstream into another sewer pipe. Most streets, which go from the Hill to the lower part of East Cleveland, have waterways under them which are flowing through large culverts.  Noble Road, Taylor Road, Forest Hill Boulevard and Superior Road are examples. The open ravines were left over, because a street was not needed there and/or there was no need or ability to develop the land.  The ravines usually ran behind houses.  One started at Nela View and Northvale and extended down to Terrace Road and Shaw Avenue.  I wrote about that ravine in my Plymouth Place article.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I lived at the other end of the ravine in which I had spent so much time in my old neighborhood.  The other ravine was behind the playground of Caledonia School.  It was later culverted and redeveloped for a city park and houses on Ravine Drive.       

Description of the Caledonia Neighborhood

Caledonia is the name of a street located in the portion of East Cleveland commonly called “The Hill”.  I discussed the geography and geology of East Cleveland in an earlier article.  The City of East Cleveland includes portions located northwest of the glacial ridge created by Terrace Road.  Those portions were the first to be developed.  The other section of town is located at the top of a hill which starts at Terrace Road and can be reached by several streets, which follow old waterways.  Those streets are Noble Road, Taylor Road, Stanwood Road, Forest Hills Boulevard and Superior Road. The area at the top of the hill is named Caledonia as is the elementary school located on Caledonia road.

The first major development in the Caledonia area occurred in 1913, when the General Electric Company built its large research facility at Nela Park.  That facility is located at the top of Noble Road hill and in the Northeast corner of East Cleveland.  The map below shows the relationship of the Caledonia area to the rest of East Cleveland.

It is important to note that much of the Caledonia neighborhood is actually located in the City of Cleveland Heights.  An examination of the above map illustrates that a rectangular portion of the City of Cleveland Heights is included in the East Cleveland School District.  I know that I and perhaps most others, who lived in the Caledonia area considered ourselves to be East Clevelanders.  Most city services including police, fire and garbage collection were provided by Cleveland Heights.  However we all went to East Cleveland schools and used the East Cleveland Library.  Most of us read the East Cleveland Leader as well as the Sun Press. 

The Caledonia neighborhood was developed in several stages.  The first stage of development was in the area around Nela Park.  That included most of the housing between Noble Road and Taylor Road.  There was always a large group of Nela Park employees and their families living in the area.  One of my Nela View friends was a boy named Jimmy Casteronis, whose father worked at Nela Park.  He was able to get his friends into the camp and swimming pool at Nela Park each summer.  I had several relatives and friends, who worked there, which helped me get a job setting pins at the company bowling alley.  That was one of the toughest physical labor jobs I ever had.

The second and third stages of development in the Caledonia area involved the farm land southwest of Taylor Road, most of which belonged to John D. Rockefeller and a few other large landowners.  Rockefeller’s large summer estate, Forest Hill, occupied large portions of East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights.  It included a golf course and much wooded area later donated to the Cities of East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights as Forest Hill Park.  Kirk Junior High School was built on park land on Terrace Road at the base of the hill.  We would climb to the top of that hill to use the baseball diamonds in Forest Hill Park. Rockefeller’s front yard also became our winter sledding hill.

The portion of Rockefeller’s estate, which was not included in the park, was designated for development of high end housing.  That development was done in two stages.  The first stage was the area between Lee Avenue and Taylor Road primarily on the streets Glynn and Brewster.  That area was developed during the 1920s with primarily French Norman style brick houses.  Those streets and their homes have been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  You can read more about this at

The development of the rest of Forest Hill was delayed by the great depression and then by World War II.  Most of the area included streets, sidewalks and even some landscaping before development was halted.  Development didn’t start again until after the war.    

When I moved to Nela View in 1953, the area just southwest of Taylor had been under development for a little over five years.  Most of the homes were quite new.  The style of home was predominantly single story ranch homes.  They were quite expensive and we considered the people, who lived there to be quite wealthy.  One demonstration of that wealth was the annual competition to see who could have the most elaborate Christmas lighting display.  They were a wonder to see; but they could never compete with the other large Christmas lighting at Nela Park.  I was lucky.  I could go either direction from my house and see some great Christmas light displays.

What Is To Become Of East Cleveland ?

Merger with Cleveland

As of this writing there has been considerable discussion about the future of East Cleveland as a separate city.  Many are making the case that it should be annexed to the City of Cleveland.  I have pointed out several times in this blog that there is no geographic factor, which can explain why East Cleveland has existed all these years.  However, for a variety of reasons the community survived and thrived as a group of varied social and economic sectors.  I have also made the case that portions of East Cleveland northwest of Terrace Road are more like Glenville or Collinwood than the neighborhood on the Hill.  Those areas at the top of the hill have more in common with Cleveland Heights than Cleveland. East Cleveland exists partially because it is what was left over after all the areas around it incorporated as parts of Cleveland or Cleveland Heights. 

One area of East Cleveland, which I have not addressed, is not included in the Caledonia area even though it is on the hill.  That area between Superior Road and the City of Cleveland Heights has always had more in common with its neighbors in Cleveland Heights.  It is part of the Superior Elementary School neighborhood; but culturally it has always been a part of the Coventry neighborhood in Cleveland Heights.

Most of the Caledonia area is located in the City of Cleveland Heights. As I said earlier, we always felt like East Clevelanders, because we were a part of the East Cleveland School District. Now I think the future of that area would be more secure as a part of Cleveland Heights. 

As I said in my lecture at Case Western Reserve University (see earlier post), there may no longer be a rationale for keeping East Cleveland as a separate municipality.  I believe its future could be secured by making it a part of Cleveland and taking advantage of the development opportunities which are occurring around University Circle.  The manufacturing base, which made East Cleveland successful in the past, has disappeared.  The old ties, which kept the community together, have eroded.  However, I still believe that the areas at the top of the hill would be better served by being annexed by Cleveland Heights. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


My lecture at Case Western Reserve University

I was recently invited to discuss my life in East Cleveland with the students of a course being taught at Case Western Reserve University.  The course title is HSTY 381/481 : City As Classroom: Inner cities, racial equity and social justice.  Professor: Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams.  I made my presentation on Thursday, September 6, 2012.  The class consisted of approximately fifteen students.  Most of those students were not from the Cleveland area.  The group included undergraduates and graduate students.  All the students were told to read my blog prior to my presentation.  My talk was intended to introduce the students to East Cleveland and tell them something about the historical background of the community.  For the rest of the semester they will be working with the professor and community agencies in East Cleveland on community development projects in East Cleveland

My first question, when Professor Williams asked me to talk to you about my life in East Cleveland, was “what are the philosophy and objectives for the course and its students.  The answer to that question is contained in your course syllabus.  I saw immediately that I can only speak to some of those objectives.  The portion of the course philosophy to which I will direct my remarks is historical.  As stated in your syllabus on page 2, I will try to address the following issues:
            1.   Historical development of cities and inner ring suburbs.
            2.  Daily living conditions.
            3.  Race and economics.
Although my blog has not yet addressed the topic, I will also talk about some of the issues of racial change, which first arose in East Cleveland during the 1960s.  During that decade I lived in East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights.  My work in city and county government during that period provided an opportunity to study issues of racial and economic change throughout Cuyahoga County. 
After I have told you how things were during my life in East Cleveland, you will quickly turn to issues of life in East Cleveland today and tomorrow.  I hope my blog and some of the things I tell you here today help you deal with the challenges for the East Cleveland of the future. 

Historical Background
As I stated in the title of my blog, I remember East Cleveland as a fine place to live, learn and enjoy my youth.  My parents remembered it that way too.  Evidence of that is the fact that they chose to stay in the East Cleveland School District, when we needed to move to a larger house in 1953. 

Another local author, George Havens, feels the same way although he is about 15 years older than me and writes about East Cleveland during the 1920s and 1930s.  His book, which I cite in my blog, is titled “A Special Time, A Special Place: East Cleveland Remembered.  My discussions with George Havens and others of his generation have convinced me that East Cleveland was indeed special during the entire period from its founding in the early part of the Twentieth Century through the middle of that century.  I also believe that the things, which made it special, were built into the fabric of that community.

What is a community?  In my blog I talk about my several block neighborhood near Shaw and Plymouth as my community.  I also state that East Cleveland had several communities based upon the elementary school districts.  Some communities are based upon geography as well.  The area on the hill is divided by that geological separation from the rest of East Cleveland.  My second East Cleveland community was the Caledonia area.  I lived on Nela View only a mile from Shaw High School and my old Plymouth Place neighborhood.  But it was in many ways quite different.  I will be writing more about that period of my life in future blog postings.  Sometimes we refer to our churches and other organizations as a community. 

East Cleveland itself can be viewed as a community.  Back in my time we had the annual East Cleveland Community Picnic at Euclid Beach Park.  Yes there were things, which united all those smaller communities I just mentioned.  They were the things, which made East Cleveland a true community and not just a batch of fiefdoms and power centers.  We were all proud to be East Clevelanders.

Why East Cleveland?
In many ways East Cleveland is an historical accident.  It is what was left of East Cleveland and Euclid Townships when Cleveland stopped annexing other communities on the East Side.  The annexed communities of Glenville and Collinwood and the City of Cleveland Heights are on the borders of East Cleveland.  Geographic logic might say that those parts of East Cleveland on top of the hill are more appropriately a part of Cleveland Heights.  There is very little difference between East Cleveland and its City of Cleveland communities of Glenville and Collinwood.  However, don’t try to tell that to anyone at the Shaw football game with Glenville, Collinwood or Heights. 

A major factor in the formation of East Cleveland was the municipal home rule movement at the beginning of the 20th century.   In Ohio, that movement led to a 1912 Home Rule amendment to the State Constitution.  As a result Cleveland lost the ability to annex communities and those areas, which were still unincorporated, were encouraged to become municipalities.  East Cleveland actually incorporated as a village in 1895 and adopted a home rule charter in 1918.   By that time the population had reached 27,000 and continued to grow to about 40,000 by 1930.  That was the stable population level of the city for the rest of the period in which I lived there.  It was a fortunate combination of the form of government adopted in that City Charter and other social and economic factors, which made East Cleveland a special place.

East Cleveland was a product of the progressive era of government reform.  The progressives believed that government should be run as a business by professional managers.  Those managers would hire other professionals to manage the various departments of government in order to provide services to the citizens of their community.  Government would be selected on a non partisan basis, the theory being that there is no Democrat or Republican way to clean the streets or collect garbage.  In the case of East Cleveland, voters elected a five member City Commission.  Those five people would select a professional City Manager, who would manage the affairs of the City.  A strong civil service system protected the rights of city employees and eliminated the partisan patronage, which was prominent in most municipal governments of the day.  City services were provided by the following departments: health, welfare, recreation, law, police, fire, water, engineering and building, parks, service waste disposal and electrical.  The City Commission also appointed a professional Finance Director and various boards and commissions.  Service was efficient and the needs of the citizens were met. 
There was also an elected five member School Board.  That board set policy and hired a professional educator to run the schools.  The School Board also appointed a seven member Library Board.  During my time in East Cleveland there were only two City Managers.  The first was Charles Carran and the second was Grant Apthorp.  Mr. Apthorp served as Finance Director while Mr. Carran was City Manager. 

Finally, the voters selected a Judge of the East Cleveland Municipal Court.  During my life in East Cleveland, there was only one Judge.  His name was Stanton Adams.  He was still there long after I left town.  He had the reputation of being quite strict but fair in enforcing the law. 
The tradition of a well run, nonpartisan, government was embodied in the original City Charter and carried out by dedicated professional managers resulting in a sound and stable government that served the citizens well.  I don’t remember any major political issues or political battles.  The citizens were basically happy with their community and its services and the form of government. 

The Business Community
There were close links among the East Cleveland business community, the citizens and the government.  East Cleveland citizens were highly dependent upon local merchants for the daily needs of their families.  Those merchants were equally dependent upon the citizens for their livelihoods.  Both the citizens and the merchants needed good government and schools.  Merchants were some of the best known people in the neighborhood and often took an interest in serving their community. They served in appointed or elected community jobs such as Library Board, Selective Service Board, PTA groups, etc.  They also organized the annual East Cleveland Community Picnic at Euclid Beach Park.  Their direct contact with customers made them extremely visible to the community.    They also appeared in patron advertisements in School Yearbooks, football programs and in the weekly community newspaper, The East Cleveland Leader.   My blog gives several examples of business leaders, who served the community. 

Living Conditions and Economics
You can think of this issue in relation to my parent’s decision to purchase their first house and raise a family in East Cleveland.  Those reasons may be similar to those of most families in East Cleveland at that time and perhaps to today’s families as well.  To put that in perspective, I will tell you a little about my family. 

I and most of my contemporaries are products of the Great Depression and World War II.  We are not baby boomers.  That group was born after 1946.  We experienced the depression and the war through our parents’ lives and the hardships they faced.   When dad graduated from high school in 1932, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression and it was difficult to find work.  He did whatever he could to help support the family.  By 1936 he had found a job at National Acme Company located at E 131 and Coit.  That was also the year that he met my mother, whom he married in 1938.  They moved to a small apartment on Hayden Avenue just on the Collinwood side of the border with East Cleveland.

By 1940 mom and dad needed to look for a bigger place to live, because I was expected to arrive later that year.  They had to find a place to live and raise their new family.  I’m sure they asked the same questions that home buyers ask today such as:  How much can we afford?  How close to work can I be?  What are the neighborhood amenities?  Is the school system good?
East Cleveland was a logical choice for their house hunting.  It is next door to the community with which they were familiar (Collinwood).  The city had a good reputation for its community resources such as schools, parks, and shopping.  There was also a large supply of available homes that they might be able to afford.  The next decision concerned whether to rent or buy.  Dad came from a tradition of home ownership.  Therefore the main question was how to find a home, which they could afford to buy.  They decided that they should buy a two family home so that the rent from one suite would help them pay the mortgage, taxes and other expense related to home ownership.  They found the home of my childhood on the corner of Shaw and Plymouth Place.  Dad decided to convert the attic to a third living space so that we could live on the third floor and rent out the first and second floor suites.  Since East Cleveland zoning and building codes were very strict about such conversions, Dad had to present his plans to City Hall and obtain a rooming house permit before making the renovations. 

I’m not sure whether our family would have been considered lower middle class or middle class, when we lived in East Cleveland.  Dad had a factory job in the maintenance department of National Acme Company.  According to W2 forms that I have, his annual pay was $1,104.81 in 1936.  That rose to $2,173.78 by 1939.  I don’t know how that compared with other East Cleveland homeowners at that time.  From my perspective, I never felt that we were poor.  I never felt deprived.  I didn’t get everything I asked for; but what I did get always seemed to be adequate.  I never knew how much my dad made and never considered whether that was more or less than the other fathers made.  To me my friends and I seemed to be in the same economic class.  Perhaps our family would have been classified as blue collar based upon Dad’s job and income level. 

Many East Cleveland citizens had an economic profile similar to ours.  The industrial and manufacturing plants within walking or public transit distance were major employers.  In 1950 38% of East Cleveland’s work force was involved in manufacturing.  The total male work force was almost equally divided between white collar and blue collar jobs.  The figures for females were 76% white collar and 24% blue collar. 

Race and Ethnicity
While the East Cleveland population was ethnically diverse during my life there, I don’t remember anyone of African/American descent (or as we called them, Negroes) living there.  I don’t know what the politically correct term is today, but I’ll call them Blacks.  It was a fact of life in those days that different ethnic and/or racial groups lived in ethnic or racially defined sections of town.  For example, the Polish lived at 55th and Fleet, the Slovenians lived at 55th and St. Clair, the Irish lived on the West Side and Blacks lived in the Scovil Avenue area on the east side of Cleveland.  There was no German area, because we Germans had been so thoroughly assimilated by that time.  So with the exception of Blacks, East Cleveland was an ethnically diverse community. 

Shaw High School class lists and yearbook pictures provide a good way to view that diversity.  You will not see any Black faces.  But you will see Italian, Irish and any number of European ethnic last names.  We had a very strong Catholic School system in East Cleveland and many of my friends went to Catholic school, mostly at Christ The King.  The important thing is that I (and I believe most of my friends also) never thought about people as being in an ethnic category.  It only occurred to me after I had left the community that the Probst family was German and the Murphys were Irish.  Italian names were easier to identify.  We had many Italian families in the area of East Cleveland near Little Italy and around Lakeview Cemetery.  There was also a large Italian population in Collinwood, which spilled over into East Cleveland. 

One group, which I didn’t mention above are the Jews.  I have to admit that I never gave a thought to who might be Jewish.  As it turns out, many of my classmates were Jewish and I didn’t know it.  Two of my friends with whom I played baseball in the field at the end of Plymouth Place were named Stu and Jerry.  It was much later that I put two and two together and realized that they were Jewish from their last names (Kaufman and Goldman).  Someone once told me that the Tobin brothers, who ran the Tobin Drug Store, were Jewish.  My response was, “so what?” 

Here I must reluctantly admit that my paternal Grandparents and my father were somewhat prejudiced against Blacks and Jews.  Fortunately, my mother was a paragon of tolerance and I followed her example in life.  I can remember being very young and taking a streetcar ride downtown.  Somewhere west of University Circle some Black passengers got on the car.  It was my first encounter with Black people. Mom told me not to stare, because they were people just like us even though they looked different.  I later learned that Mom’s best girlfriends when she was in high school were a Black girl and a Jewish girl.  After leaving East Cleveland, I became active in the fair housing and racial integration movement in Cleveland Heights.   Sadly, I have to admit that my level of racial tolerance was not practiced by most of my East Cleveland contemporaries.  In 1968 I was a candidate for State Representative from East Cleveland.  I remember meeting a former classmate, who still lived in the Caledonia neighborhood.  He said he only had one question, “How are you going to keep the (N word) out of East Cleveland?”  Too many white East Cleveland citizens had that concern.  For that and other reasons, I believe integration was doomed from the start.

It is my view that integration failed in East Cleveland, because neither group really wanted it to succeed.  The white population fled the city due to fear and ignorance.  They had been conditioned by the examples of Hough and Glenville.  In those sections of Cleveland white flight led to all Black communities.  I remember classmates, who had moved from Glenville to East Cleveland in order to avoid going to Glenville High School.  Some of them probably used false addresses to get into Shaw instead of Glenville.  These fears were exacerbated by the block busting tactics of the Real Estate profession.  Some of the worst practitioners of block busting were the Black real estate agents.  In a way, who could blame them?  Sales mean money, whether you are Black or White.     Black citizens were simply living the American dream of finding a good home in a good community.  Integration was not their primary goal.  They wanted the same things, which brought my parents to East Cleveland.  I also believe that some in the Black political establishment saw East Cleveland as a future base of power as a Black run City, a first in Cuyahoga County.    

The above are only my opinions, because I have not made a study of the process of racial change subsequent to the 1960s.  I only experienced the beginning of that change.  As students, you will be working with East Cleveland as it is today.  The final part of my presentation will focus on the things that I think were special about East Cleveland and would be important to any community today.

Here I will go back to the reasons my parents chose East Cleveland in 1940.  People looking for a community today would be looking for similar things. 

1.       Access to employment.  This means something different today.  Most people don’t walk to work as my father did.  However, good public transportation is important to those without an automobile.  Good public transportation is an important asset for East Cleveland.  Although there are few opportunities in manufacturing today, one of the Cleveland area’s major centers of employment is University Circle on the border of East Cleveland.  Close ties with that area seem natural to the future development of the community.

2.       An inventory of good and reasonably priced houses and apartments is essential.  The current stock of housing seems to be depleted and in poor condition.  That can be overcome.  The best example of that is the rebuilding of Europe after WWII.  In this country during the 1960s many cities tore down old and dilapidated housing and redevelop the areas.  That was known as urban renewal.  That process doesn’t have to be done by government alone.  Private enterprise will carry that out in cooperation with government as long as there is a market for the product. 

3.       Government.  A community needs a stable and responsive government, which provides essential services in an economical fashion. The City Manager form worked well in my time.  Other forms of government can work too.  This requires an informed and active citizenry to work with the elected officials. 

4.        A strong business community is essential.  In my day the local merchants were more essential to families that they are today.  Our increased mobility today results in trips to regional shopping centers instead of the local businesses?  In spite of that, the economy of the city will be dependent upon a strong and successful business community.  A close partnership among the citizens, business and government helped make East Cleveland special then and it will help now. 

5.       Good schools are essential.  This may be the most important item of all.  Remember that my family stayed in East Cleveland primarily for the school system.  All the school buildings that I knew have been replaced.  I haven’t been in any of them, but I am sure that they are better than the ones I attended.  However, buildings alone do not determine the quality of education.  It takes an informed and active citizenry as well as good school management and faculty to be successful. 

6.       Good community services and facilities.  This topic is very important and is a logical outcome of the first five items.  It takes a stable and involved citizenry, good government and an active and supportive business community to provide the things which citizens want.  Some of these things already exist.  East Cleveland has good parks and recreation facilities.  However, it will take a fully developed and financially stable community to maintain and further develop those assets in the future.

That is the conclusion of my presentation.  Thank you for taking an interest in my writing and listening to my presentation tonight.  I will be happy to answer any questions you have at this time. 

Questions and Answers
During the question period there was some discussion of my experiences with urban renewal during the 1960s.  My first job after graduating from Western Reserve University in 1963 was with the Chicago Regional Office of the federal Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA).  That was the organization, which later became Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  In my capacity as an Urban Renewal Field Representative, I worked with several Ohio cities, which were applying for federal grants to fund urban renewal projects.  That included work with the City of Cleveland on several projects including the University Euclid Project and Erieview.  The former was intended to solve the problems of the Hough area and the latter was a downtown redevelopment project. 

I explained that the concept of Urban Renewal that the federal government and I were promoting at that time was a failure.  That program failed for many reasons, the main reason being that it did not solve the underlying problems of urban blight and the related problems of poverty, crime, drug abuse, etc.  Often by focusing on slum clearance these programs simply moved the problems to another location.  Professor Williams made the point that urban renewal often became Black removal. 

I pointed out that downtown was ultimately redeveloped by private enterprise in cooperation with city government.  The massive infusions of federal money in the 1960s only gave us an ugly office tower at 12th and St.Clair.  The Hough area bordering University Circle is coming back from its period of blight and despair.  That process has been the result of private development in cooperation with City government rather than the process envisioned by the Urban Renewal project of the 1960s.  

One student asked me how the process of urban redevelopment could work in East Cleveland now and how East Cleveland differs from the outer suburbs in that regard.  I referenced my experience as a planner with the Cuyahoga County Regional Planning Commission during the 1960s.  In that capacity I was involved in planning for the development of what amounted to new cities.  We worked with cities like Solon, which at that time had a lot of vacant land and was destined to become a large City.  The city officials had an opportunity to plan for a balanced community with the optimum mix of residential, business, industrial and other land uses.  They could plan the number and location of community facilities such as schools, parks and recreation centers.  In the 45 years since we embarked upon that planning effort, Solon has developed into a large well balanced community with excellent community facilities and a strong tax base. 
East Cleveland never had the opportunity to plan the same way that Solon did.  It was from the beginning a small and compact land area surrounded by Cleveland and Cleveland Heights.  It developed quickly in the early part of the 20th century primarily as a bedroom community for the industrial and manufacturing areas nearby.  That worked well for many years.  Two things led to the failure of that community model.

l.   First was the collapse of the manufacturing base of employment.  That process affected the entire Midwest and created what we now call the rustbelt.  The entire Cleveland Area has had to adapt to a new kind of economy.  We have moved from being a center of manufacturing to a post industrial economy.  Economic development and employment are now focused on things like technology, medical and service industries.  Older workers need to be retrained and new workers will need different skills to find employment now and in the future. 

2.  Second the sudden and dramatic racial change, which started in the 1960s created a new type of community.  At first that change didn’t make a lot of difference.  The first Black families in East Cleveland were primarily middle class and had values and life styles similar to the White families, who were fleeing.   Some of the more enlightened White families adapted to the new ethnic mix.  However, the racial change along with the change in the economic base discussed in point one created the conditions, which led to the East Cleveland of today.  Middle class Black families left East Cleveland and now live in suburbs like Beachwood.  That is good news, because it means that our efforts to promote racial equality have been successful.  However, that did not help the poor and powerless Blacks, who are now living in East Cleveland.  The problem was more than white flight.  It was the flight of the entire middle class population, which made East Cleveland what it is today. 

I ended the question period with the following observation.  I think East Cleveland is now in a chicken and egg situation.  In order to become an economically viable community the city will have to attract a large base of taxpaying citizens and businesses.  In order to attract people the way East Cleveland attracted my family, an adequate supply of sound affordable housing must exist.  Good schools and community facilities are also essential.  The dilemma  is that a tax base of 17,000 economically depressed people will not support the development needed to make East Cleveland viable again.  The final question is:  how do you serve the needs of 17,000 poor Black people and still develop a community of 40,000 people with a strong tax base and good amenities?  Furthermore, how do you do that and still promote racial equity and social justice, the main goals of the course.   That, I told the students, is the problem they will be working on for the rest of the semester.  It is a tough problem and I’m not sure I have a good answer.    

Some Final Thoughts 

Consideration of Merger with Cleveland and/or Cleveland Heights

That was the end of my presentation.  In retrospect I have had a few thoughts that I will include here for what they are worth.  I really have to go back to my original question, why East Cleveland.  As much as it pains me to say it, there may not be a reason for the City of East Cleveland today.  In fact the very existence of the City of East Cleveland may be a barrier to solving the problems of the area known as East Cleveland.  I already pointed out the similarities of sections of East Cleveland with the neighboring cities.  The problems of the economically depressed population of East Cleveland are more appropriately the problems of the entire Cleveland metropolitan area.  If the area of East Cleveland were a part of Cleveland and/or Cleveland Heights, the current concentration of economically depressed people could be absorbed by the larger tax base of those communities or Cuyahoga County.  The barriers to land development within the current boundaries of East Cleveland would be lowered.  I even believe that East Cleveland as it exists today is no longer a viable power base for the Black political establishment, if it ever was in the first place. 

 Failure of the East Cleveland Public Library to merge with the Cuyahoga County Library

An example of my above proposal concerns the East Cleveland Library.  That fine institution is currently trying to serve a population in great need of its services.  It must do that with very limited financial resources.  There was a recent effort to have the East Cleveland Public Library absorbed into the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.  That Cuyahoga County system is one of the best in the United States.  It serves my present community of Beachwood quite well.  For reasons I do not understand, a majority of the East Cleveland Library Board turned down the offer of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.  In my opinion the citizens of East Cleveland lost a lot by that decision.  If the county library serves communities like Beachwood well, it could provide equally fine service to East Cleveland with the advantages of the larger county tax base.  The offer was a gamble for the county, because the expense of the East Cleveland system would probably exceed the additional revenue collected from East Cleveland residents.  However, the county would probably have provided better services at a lower cost due to efficiencies and economy of scale.  In any case this was an opportunity lost.