Monday, August 6, 2012

My East Cleveland Neighborhood

How We Lived And What We Did

As I stated in my introduction to East Cleveland, our neighborhoods were generally centered around the Elementary Schools.  My Plymouth Place neighborhood was a subset of the Prospect Elementary School neighborhood.  An exception to that rule is the fact that some kids, who lived on the other side of the tracks from us, were a part of our neighborhood even though they went to Chambers School.  The City park and playground were also a part of our neighborhood even though they were next to Chambers School.  With these exceptions, our neighborhood was thought of as Plymouth by those living in it and most others, who knew us. 

The entire Plymouth Place street contained only thirty-six households in eighteen two family houses.  There were an additional twelve households on Shaw between Welton Drive and the railroad and a few houses on Taylor Road, whose children played in the field at the end of Plymouth Place.  Most of those families lived in two bedroom houses.  At least half of the families were renting their homes, if you assume the second unit in each house was occupied by the owner.  It would take further investigation to find out if that was true.  I will be checking the property ownership records and the City Directory to verify that.  Some home owners lived in one unit and had relatives living in the second unit.    Some also used the finished attic above the second floor unit as an extra bedroom area.  As I stated earlier, East Cleveland was very strict about renting out space in these houses.  My dad had to get city approval to convert his third floor space to a rented apartment.  He also had to renew a Rooming House Permit regularly.  I think we were the only ones in the neighborhood, who did that. 

Plymouth Place was developed right after World War I.  When we moved there in 1940, our house was about 20 years old.  At first we lived in the third floor suite.  It had two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, kitchen and a bathroom.  That permitted my father to rent out the first and second floor suites.  Each of those had two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom.  There was a shared basement containing laundry tubs furnaces and hot water tanks.  There were also three small storage lockers, one for each suite.  There was also a large open area between the furnaces and the storage lockers, which I used as a hobby area.  At various times I had an electric train table, a workshop or a party center there. 

When my sister was born in 1944, we moved to the first floor and rented out the third floor.  We always seemed to have nice tenants.  They usually stayed for a long time and were always nice to me and my sister.   When we moved to the first floor, we rented the third floor to a lady, who we always called Grandma Hastings.  She lived there with her adult daughter, Grace.  Grandma Hastings worked in the home decorating department of the Higbee Department store on Public Square.  I believe Grace also worked for Higbees.  Grandma Hastings moved away, when she got married late in the 1950s.  Her daughter, Grace, stayed there until 1962.  One of the things I remember about Grandma Hastings is the automobile of one of her men friends, possibly her fiancĂ©e.  It was a 1947 Hudson, a car that looked a little unusual at that time.  I wish I owned one today. 

My dad always told me that we couldn’t afford to live there unless he did all the work.  And he did do all the work, sometimes with assistance from his father and other family members.  Based upon that philosophy, I was required to help him on many of his projects.  I often felt that was an imposition, especially when I would rather be playing with my friends.  Dad did the plumbing, electrical, cement, bricklaying and carpentry work as well as working on the roof and gutters when necessary.  My job was usually to be around in case he needed something, such as handing him the proper tools as he needed them.  I remember one time, when I sat on the peak of the roof with a safety rope tied around my waist and the chimney while he fixed some of the slate shingles.  Dad was fearless when it came to high places.  I had to teach myself to overcome those fears.  After a while, I found I could do many jobs myself.  These skills actually came in handy when we were building forts and soapbox racers, etc. 

When we moved to Shaw Avenue in 1940, the house had two coal furnaces.  We used those furnaces until shortly after the war.  The coal miners, led by their Union boss, John L. Lewis, called a nationwide strike, which made it almost impossible to get coal.  Dad took that opportunity to have gas furnaces installed.  I think many of the neighbors did the same.  Coal furnaces required a lot of work.  The coal was delivered by truck through one of the basement windows.  Under that window was a small room called a coal bin.  When we needed heat, dad would start a fire in the furnace and, as required, shovel coal into the furnace to keep the fire going.  Heat would travel to the upper floors through metal ducts.  The only control we had in the living space was a damper.  That was a handle connected by a chain to the furnace.  That device controlled the amount of air in the fire and therefore gave us limited control over the heat.  Our neighbors, the Probst family, made an improvement to their coal furnace that may have been an alternative to gas furnaces at the time.  They had an automatic stoker attachment.  I’m not sure how effective it was, however I suspect they wished they had gotten a gas furnace instead.  Some of the work related to the coal furnace included shoveling the coal from the coal bin into the furnace and removing the ashes and clinkers, which fell to the bottom of the furnace.  Ashes were sometimes used in the winter on icy streets and sidewalks.  Clinkers were large residue from burned coal and were usually hot and heavy.  All in all, coal furnaces were a pain.  Even so, I sometimes get a nostalgic whiff of burning coal in my imagination.  A similar memory relates to the smell of coal burning steam engines on the railroad. 

We had electricity in the house.  I point that out, because we also had gas light fixtures in a couple of rooms.  I suppose they were meant as backup to the electric lights.  That could have been common in houses built right after World War I.  We usually had the most recent electrical appliances and devices, due to the fact that my grandfather worked for General Electric and could sometimes get an employee discount on those things.  We had a GE refrigerator that my parents got in 1938, when they were living in an apartment on Hayden Road.  They still had that refrigerator, when my dad passed away in 1996.  The rear hallway of the house had a little nook on each floor where an icebox could be kept.  We never used that, however one of our second floor tenants had an ice box for quite a while.  I would enjoy watching the man from City Ice and Fuel pull up in his big truck and deliver the large blocks of ice to the icebox in the hall.  He would chip off a block of various sizes depending on what was ordered.  He usually had a group of kids hanging around for whom he chipped off slivers of ice.  What a treat.

We usually had the most recent laundry devices.  First it was a wringer washer.  You would wash the clothes in a tub, which contained an agitator.  You would have to fill and empty the washer for cleaning and rinsing cycles.  After that the clothes were put through a wringer attachment to remove a lot of the water.  The final task was to hang the clothes on a clothes line.  In the summer that line would be outside in the back yard.  In the winter the wet clothes were hung on clothes lines in the basement.  I believe we had an automatic washing machine and drier by the early 1950s.  We certainly had them by the time we moved to Nela View in 1953.

In addition to the gas furnaces, we had a gas cook stove.  The development of small electric household devices did not occur until after the war.  As GE and other companies geared up for the post war economy more and more appliance were made for specialized functions.  A good example of the lack of those devices is the way we made popcorn.  That was in a large pot on top of the gas stove.  Microwave popcorn is so much easier. 

Robert Dreifort and Radio 1942

We usually had the latest entertainment devices.  By that I mean we had a large radio/phonograph unit that included short wave radio.  Listening to those radio programs and phonograph records was an important part of my life.  My parents had a good collection of records, many of which I still own.  Mom says I loved to stand by the Radio/phonograph and listen to that music almost from the day I was born.  I was fascinated by the concept of radio at an early age.  I would listen to the short wave broadcasts with great interest and later became an amateur radio operator.  The radio was an important part of all of our lives in those days.  Most kids had their favorite radio programs around which they scheduled their lives.  Those included Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Lone Ranger, Jack Armstrong All American Boy, and my particular favorite Bobby Benson of the B Bar B Ranch.  On Saturday morning there was Let’s Pretend with Nila Mack.  One of the characters on that show was Froggy the Gremlin.  “Plunk your magic twanger Froggy.  Hi ya kids, hi ya, hi ya, hi ya.“  I also listened to a program that was on at lunch time during the week.  Walt Kay had a program called Kousin Kay.  I would listen while at home for lunch before returning to Prospect School for the afternoon session.   We also listened to family programs in the evening, if they weren’t on too late.  Those included shows like Blondie, Our Miss Brooks, and Gene Autry at the Melody Ranch.  By the way, there was always a debate as to who was the best cowboy, Gene Autry or Roy Rogers.  I was a Gene Autry man myself.  The radio was essential to follow our favorite sports teams.  In the summer you could walk down the street and not miss a play of the Indians game, because all the neighbors were listening and their windows were open.  I remember lying on the living room floor in anxiety listening to the Browns before Lou Groza finally kicked the winning field goal in the 1950 championship game. 

To hear some of the radio shows from those days, click on this link:

Television came late in my time on Plymouth Place.  We were actually among the first in the neighborhood to get a TV.  My dad got it from a friend, who had just gotten into the new business.  The man came on a Sunday evening in December, 1948 to set up the TV.  It was a 12 inch Tele Tone model.  As the set warmed up we saw the start of the Toast Of The Town show with Ed Sullivan.  What a thrill.  That was early in TV history. Many people gathered at neighbor’s houses to watch baseball and other programs.  Other places to watch TV were bars and the windows of appliance stores, which left the TVs running after business hours.   At the time there were only two Cleveland stations.  NBC was on Channel 4 and ABC was on channel 5.  Latter WXEN began broadcasting on Chanel 9 as a Dumont network station.  There wasn’t much programming in the early days.  A lot of the time the stations only ran a test pattern.  The major kid’s program was Uncle Jake’s House on WEWS channel 5.  Uncle Jake was Gene Carroll.  He was a veteran national radio star, who settled in Cleveland.  In addition to his children’s program at 5 PM every weekday, he hosted the Gene Carroll amateur hour on Sunday afternoon.  Uncle Jake would have kids on the set of his show.  One of the gimmicks he used involved a trip to his basement to do a dog food commercial.  That involved a supposed elevator.  The camera would show him getting in the elevator and coming out in the basement.  One of my friends got to be on the show. He was sure disappointed, when he found out that elevator was a fraud.  By the way, I still have that old Tele Tone TV.  I hope, if I turn it on, I’ll still be able to see Uncle Jake.  Just as with the radio, we were able to watch many TV programs in the evening with our parents.  Those included, Arthur Godfrey, Your Show Of Shows, Perry Como, Milton Berle, and Red Skelton.  All of those were available in glorious black White.  Color TV didn’t come in until late in the 1950s. 

Life Was Not All Play

Growing up in East Cleveland included a lot of play.  School usually ended at about 3:00 PM.  That gave me time to round up some friends and have some fun until Supper time.  That was usually about 6:00 PM, after my father got home from work.  I don’t remember a lot of homework being expected by my Prospect teachers.  Most evenings were spent listening to the radio and later the TV, or other indoor activities until bed time.  In the winter it was usually dark outside after supper.

There was also a culture of work in my family and in the neighborhood.  As I said above, I was expected to help my dad on various projects around the house.  I also had some regular chores.  The main one I remember was cleaning the kitchen floor every Saturday morning.  That included sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor and the back hallway including the stairs to the basement.  To make that chore more pleasant, I would listen to a regular radio show called the Old Timer Show.  That show was on WDOK and was hosted by a disc jockey named Bill Reid.  Later the show was taken over by Howie Lund.  The music he featured was big band music from the 1930s and World War II.  It now seems funny that music of that era was considered “Old Time”.  After all, that was only five or six years after the end of World War II.  Anyway, I considered that music to be my music and I still do today. 

There was also a tradition of working outside the home in my family and in the neighborhood.  These work opportunities were often handed down from your older peers.  For example, I would help my good friend Ralph Earl Pratt, known as Earl, deliver his Cleveland Press papers.  I also remember substituting for him and friends, who delivered the Plain Dealer and the Shopping News.  My friend, Earl, got another job, when I was about 10 years old.  He passed his Press route on to me just as one of the older boys had passed it on to him.  Starting in 1950, my after school time was occupied with delivering the Cleveland Press to my neighborhood.  My route included Shaw Avenue from the railroad to Euclid Avenue, Euclid Avenue from Shaw to Taylor, Welton Drive, Richmond Road, and Plymouth Place.  In addition to the homes in that area, I delivered to the Abel Funeral Home, where the owner, Mr. William Abel lived in one of the two housed.  I also delivered to Owen’s Plantation on Euclid Avenue. 

The Press treated us paperboys as small businessmen or entrepreneurs.  We essentially bought our routes.  The Cleveland Press had adult circulation managers, who signed up the paperboys and delivered our papers to us.  We delivered papers Monday through Saturday.  My manager was a man named Mr. Engle.  He drove an old Pontiac with the rear seat removed and full of papers.  He would deliver our papers to us at the corner of Shaw and Manhattan just north of the Shaw Avenue Bridge.  I usually picked up the papers with a wagon or my bicycle.  My route included about fifty customers.  That was quite a load especially on Thursdays when the paper had a lot of advertising.  At that time the paper cost 5 cents a day or 30 cents a week.  I made about a penny a paper.  That was about 50 cents a day, big money for a ten year old in those days.

The tools of my trade included a large metal ring upon which hung cards with the names and addresses of my customers.  I needed a paper punch to punch out the date on each card every time a customer paid me for that week.  I carried a coin changer to hold the many coins I collected.  In addition to my wagon and bicycle, I had a Cleveland Press newspaper bag.  This was made of a strong canvas material and was big enough to hold a lot of papers.  It had a strap to hang on my shoulder or on the handlebars of my bicycle.  There were various ways to deliver the papers.  Most people just wanted it on the porch in front of the door.  Some of those on second floors would want the paper thrown up to the second floor porch.  There were various ways to fold the papers so they could be thrown.  The hardest thing was folding the large Thursday edition.  It was sometimes a challenge to get the paper onto the top porch without putting it onto the roof.  If you put it on the roof, you lost 5 cents. 

As I said, we were treated as small businessmen by the Press.  We were constantly encouraged to get new customers and the Press even had frequent contests with prizes for getting new customers.  We were sometimes invited downtown to the Press Offices to hear marketing pep talks.  My first such trip included a tour of the entire facility including the printing plant.  It made us feel a part of something big.  That first tour included a movie presentation on the newspaper business.  The narrator must have been an old newspaper guy.  There were several times when he talked about extra profits.  Every time he used the word extra, he pronounced it extry.  When I told my friend, Earl, that I had been down to the Press, he said “Did you see that movie where the guy said extry all the time.”

I was required to collect from my customers each week.  That required more than one trip to some people if they weren’t home the first time.  I made about six cents per week from each customer. 
Some of them gave me a little more as a tip.  I really cleaned up at Christmas time when most of the customers gave an especially good Christmas tip.  There was one lady on Welton Drive, who gave me a one pound box of butter cream chocolates each year.  I can almost taste them now.  I settled up with Mr. Engle each week.  I believe I paid him in advance for the papers I would deliver the following week.  Therefore I had an incentive to collect from my customers regularly.  I kept that route until we moved to Nela View in 1953.  I passed it on to one of my friends, just as Earl had passed it on to me. 

Plymouth Place – A real Community

The People Who Lived There

Our Plymouth neighborhood was a very close knit community.  That was true for the adults as well as the children.  I don’t know if that reflects the times or the mix of people living there.  I suspect it was a little of each.  There were a lot of families with children.  Of course those are the ones I knew the best.  I also got to know those who didn’t have kids or whose kids were grown and away from home through my paper route.  There were so many families with young children that Joe Tobin, the owner of Tobin Drug Store at Taylor and Euclid used to refer to our street as “Pregnant Alley”. 

Not only did the children establish close friendships; the adults were very community oriented as well.  The neighborhood women would get together for coffee klatches or whatever they were called at that time.  They would organize pot luck dinners at various houses as well as regular canasta games and a game called bunko.  I don’t know much about the game; except that it involved a lot of bell ringing and shouting.  I often was trying to get to sleep while the neighborhood adults were playing bunko in the rest of the house.  Those games and other activities were rotated among the houses on the street.

Most years the adults on the street would organize a street picnic or street dance.  A permit was obtained to close the street to traffic.  All the neighbors would get together to decorate the street and prepare for the event.  These always included unlimited quantities of food and pop for the kids.  One year I ate so much that I ended up tossing my cookies, literally.  I still think it was worth it.  That year the food area was set up in our garage.  Other times the activities were at the field end of the street.  The teenagers and some of the adults would enjoy dancing to the latest records while the younger kids just ran around and ate a lot.  There were organized games including the annual softball game between the married and unmarried men. 

1950 Shoveling Out

Dad, Normie, Rudy, Bud - Clubhouse in Rear

 Another time this sense of community was demonstrated was the big snow storm of 1950.  That was a real disaster for the entire Cleveland Community.  The entire area was paralyzed for days.  Businesses closed and people couldn’t get to work.  It wasn’t long before the men of the street began shoveling a path from one end to the other wide enough for cars to pass through.  The City of East Cleveland snow plows were busy with the main streets.  The men got the path completed just in time for an ambulance to come down the street to pick up Mrs. Murphy, who was about to deliver a child.  I’m not sure if that effort was organized or spontaneous.  I think it was just the kind of thing you did back in those days.

The Big Snow Storm of 1950 - Mom, Bob and Janet Dreifort

I had many friends in the neighborhood.  Some of the families I knew best include the MacMillans, and the Schaefers.  They lived in the first house on the south side of Plymouth.  The Schaefers owned the house and the MacMillans rented the second floor.  Bruce MacMillan was one of my best friends.  He was a year or two younger than me and had a younger sister and brother.  His parents were Jack and Helen MacMillan.  I’m not sure what his father did for a living.  His mom at one point became a working mother, when she got a job as hostess at Karl Brown’s Colonial Inn at Shaw and Euclid.  It was unusual to have a mother working outside the home in those days.  I think that was night shift work so Jack was available to care for the kids.  We had some great parties in the attic above Bruce’s home.  He also had the great garage with the second floor club house.  They left the neighborhood before me.  Bruce’s dad got a job in Florida.  That must have been quite a change for them.  I lost contact with Bruce then but would love to see him again. 

The Schaeffers had a son named Rudy.  He was named after his dad.  Dad was named Rudy pronounced like Trudy.  His son was Rudy as in buddy.  Rudy was younger than me.  One sad memory I have of him occurred on Halloween night.  I was out with a group of my older friends and Rudy was with a younger group.  I was there when Rudy ran across Shaw Avenue and got hit by a car.  My friends and I ran to tell his father.  Rudy was in the hospital for quite a while.  However, I think he recovered well from the injuries.  His dad later was a successful businessman.  He was part owner of Faraghers bar on Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights.  It was a very popular venue for folk music in the 1960s.

Across from the Macmillan’s was an Italian family named Sharabba.  This was a case where an extended family lived in the two family house.  The family patriarch, Joe Sharabba, his wife and young children lived on the first floor.  His married daughter, her husband Bud Beck and their two daughters lived on the second floor.  Joe Sharabba had one of those gardens behind his house, which occupied a strip of railroad property.  I remember getting my first rhubarb from him.  Bud Beck was Scottish.  During the summer of 1949 he had some relatives visiting from Scotland.  The daughter of those visitors was a girl named Rena.  I was nine years old and she was about six.  She was my first girl friend.  We were a real item that summer.  She spent a lot of time at my house and we played together with all the other kids.  I took her on my first date that year.  We went to the Shaw Hayden Theater kiddy matinee and saw Ray Milland in “It Happens Every Spring”.  She returned to Scotland at the end of the summer and I never saw her again.  I think of her every time they show that movie on Turner Classic Movies. 

At the far end of Plymouth next to the field were two houses in which some of my friends lived.  The house on the railroad side included the Morris family.  I already wrote about Grandpa Morris and his victory garden.  He lived on the first floor of that house with his wife and some of his children.  The older of those kids was a boy who was a lot older than me and my friends.  He was either in high school or just graduated when I knew him.  He always seemed to be working on interesting cars, mostly what we then called jalopies.  His youngest brother, David, was a little younger than me.  We always called him Davey.  Davey had a congenital heart problem known as “blue baby syndrome”, which restricted his activity somewhat.  His participation in our games was limited for that reason.  He also went to Sunbeam School, an alternative for kids with medical problems.  Later in life, I met David while I was working at the Cleveland Clinic.  He was an important member of the Clinic Audio Visual Staff.  It turned out that my Boss at the time, Dr. Douglas Moodie, a pediatric cardiologist, had cured the problem with which he was born.  I also ran into David frequently at the Dobama Theater in Cleveland Heights with which he was very active.  David had an older sister, who was married to Dick Barton, our next door neighbor on Shaw Avenue.  Dick’s son Ken was a good friend of mine and I will talk more about him later.  We always thought it interesting that David was Ken’s uncle, even though they were the same age. 

Above the Morris family was a family named Opitz.  They represent a sad memory for me.  Their son, Artie, died of leukemia when I was about eight years old.  Artie was a little older than me so I didn’t get to know him very well.  Still he was the first person I knew, who died when he was about my age.  His mother gave me one of Artie’s books.  It was a book about magic and I still treasure it today.

Tony and Sue Gildone - 1950

Across the street from the Morris family and also next to the field was the Grahling family.  They had two daughters.  The oldest daughter was a teen ager, when I was only nine or ten.  I remember that she was enthused about a certain singer, who I thought sounded strange.  It turns out she was correct.  That singer was Johnny Ray.  I later came to appreciate her taste in music.  The youngest daughter was a girl named Margaret, who we all called Midge.  Midge was a year or two younger than me.  I will always be grateful for the fact that Midge was the first girl, who tried to teach me to dance.  If Midge is reading this I want her to know that I finally took ballroom dancing lessons late in life and became a passably good dancer.  I will never forget her. 

Next to the Morris family was a house occupied by one of my best friends, Tony Gildone.  His parents, Tony and Sue Gildone, were good friends with my parents.  Tony and I were inseparable.  Unfortunately he, like several others of my friends did not go to Prospect School.  Several kids from our neighborhood were from Catholic families and went to Christ The King Church and School.  That meant that I didn’t see those kids during school hours.  Tony’s dad worked at King Instruments in Eastlake.  They moved to Euclid shortly before we moved to Nela View.  I was sorry to see him go.  Some of us from Plymouth visited him in Euclid.  We eventually lost touch with him.  I heard that he and his parents have all passed away.  His younger brother, Robert, may still be alive.   I think the Gildone family moved away from Plymouth for the same reason that we did.  They had a growing family and a two bedroom house was just too small.  Also Euclid was closer to his dad’s work.

When Tony moved to Euclid, a family named Richter moved in.  They had a daughter named Virginia.  She was a little younger than me and I didn’t get to know her well before I moved away myself.  She went on to graduate from Shaw High School where she was a Majorette.  It would be nice to hear from her about her Plymouth Place memories. 

My friend Ralph Earl Pratt, known to us as Earl, lived across the street from Tony Gildone.  Earl’s dad, Ralph Pratt and his wife both worked.  Therefore Earl, who was a little older than me lived a more independent life than I did.  Since he was not as old as most of the older boys on the street, he tended to relate more to the younger group including me and kids younger than me.  Because Earl was a little older than the rest of us, he was somewhat of a leader.  Much of what I learned on the street, I learned from Earl.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Older boys are a major influence on younger boys.  I was fortunate to have Earl as a role model.  I saw him shortly after graduating from Shaw.  At the time he was married and living on Welton Drive.  I haven’t seen him since and would enjoy renewing our friendship. 

Next door to Tony Gildone and across from Earl lived a girl named Margie O’Hair.  Margie was the same age as me.  The main thing I remember about Margie is the endless games of Sorry we played on her porch.  I think there were also card games, as well as a lot of great conversation.  Margie also went to Christ The King School.  I was sorry to hear that Margie passed away in 1985 at the age of 45.

Across from Margie lived the Murphy boys, two brothers named John and Roger.  John was the same age as me and Roger was a year or two younger.  Their younger brother was born during the great snow storm of 1950 (more details in another post).  John and Roger were both active and imaginative members of our group.  In many ways they were leaders.  That is another way of saying that they occasionally got into trouble, nothing serious, just mischief.  We did a lot of building in their basement workshop.  Many of our projects were inspired by the Murphy boys.  I remember sleeping over at their house on occasion.  I can remember their mother reciting the Rosary, when we all went to bed.  I heard that both John and Roger have passed away.  They are missed.

It was the Murphy boy’s, who made the soapbox racer, which we ran on the long steep driveway leading up to the Owl’s Nest.   That driveway was at the South end of Shaw Avenue on Terrace Road.  It was a continuation of Shaw Avenue, which ended at Terrace Road.  The driveway continued south to a point about 100 feet from Terrace Road, then made a 90 degree right turn and proceeded up another 100 feet or so.  It was uphill the whole way.  We would start out at the top of the driveway and gradually pick up speed before the 90 degree turn and the home stretch down the driveway to Terrace Road.  After Terrace Road we could keep going downhill, picking up more speed until we reached Euclid Avenue.  There was at least one major flaw in this plan.  The soapbox racer could go pretty fast, but it’s brakes were not very good.   For that reason, we did all our racing as late at night as possible when the streets had less traffic.  The driver and one other kid, who would give him a push start, went up the driveway.  Other kids were stationed at the curve in the Driveway and at Terrace Road.  It was their job to watch for traffic on Terrace.  If the coast was clear, they would signal the racer to start.  There was a row of thick hedges along the right side of the driveway between the curve and Terrace Road.  If the lookouts saw traffic on Terrace, they had to determine whether the racer could make it across Terrace without being hit by a car.  If the answer was no, they would signal the driver to ditch the racer into the hedge.  We made several runs in an evening so that everyone got a chance to drive.  It was a great thrill to make it across Terrace.  We then had plenty of room to stop before reaching Euclid Avenue.  It was an even bigger thrill to ditch it in the hedges.

Several of my close friends lived on Shaw Avenue.  There are three houses on Shaw between Plymouth Place and the railroad.  Our house was on the corner.  Next door to me lived the Barton family.  Ken Barton was one of my best friends.  He was involved in most of our games and activities.  Some of those activities took place in his back yard and garage.  As I said above, he was related to the Morris family at the end of Plymouth.  Grandpa Morris was actually his grandfather.  I lost touch with Ken after moving to Nela View.  I did talk with him recently and discovered that he lives in Orange, Village.  He retired from a job as Physical Education teacher in the East Cleveland schools. 

The house next to Ken Barton was a side by side two family.  That gave the feeling of a single family house to each unit.  The unit closest to Plymouth was occupied by Mrs. Jeremiah and her three granddaughters.  The girl’s last names were Patterson.  All three of them were older than me.  I do remember that one or more of them baby sat for me, when I was quite young.
Robert Dreifort and the Patterson Girls 1946

Next to the Patterson girls and the last house before the railroad was the Probst family.  They had three children, Michael, Rachel and Jared.  Michael was older than me.  However, he sometimes participated in our baseball games.  Rachel, who we all called Ricky, was an important member of our group.  So was her younger brother, Jered, who we all called Jerry.  Many of our games were played on their front porch, including the reenacting of Tom Corbett Space Cadet.  Ricky and Jerry came to all of our parties and other activities.  I was very sorry to lose contact with them after moving to Nela View.  As a matter of fact, they later moved to the Caledonia area as well.  The last time I saw Ricky was at the dedication of the New City Hall in about 1961.  Ricky had been crowned the Queen of East Cleveland and we met each other at the event.  I even got a guided tour of the City Hall with her, including a brief stay in one of the jail cells.  I understand that Ricky married a policeman and lived in Wickliffe for a while.  I have not been able to contact her recently.  I would love to hear from her and share her memories of our life in East Cleveland. 

Our Gang - 1950 Bruce and Ken rear, Bob and Rudy front

Our Gang  1949- Janet Dreifort standing. Bob, Tony, in rear, Bruce, Ken in front

There were some important members of our Plymouth neighborhood, who lived on the other side of the tracks next to Carman Bill’s Golf Range.  The Heron family had just emigrated from Scotland in 1951.  There were three children, Bill, Margaret, and Tom.  Bill was older than me and I didn’t get to know him well.  Margaret and Tom were involved in our group as soon as they arrived.  They spent a lot of time on Plymouth and went to all our parties and activities.  I saw her once or twice after moving to Nela View.  I would pass her house, when walking to the football games at Shaw Stadium.  I have been in touch with Margaret recently.  She lives in The Villages, Florida.  I will try to see her again whenever I get down that way.  Her fondest memory is of playing those games of sorry on Margie O’Hair’s porch.  She and her brother Tom, who now lives in England, were a big part of that Plymouth Place community. 

Norman Reid and Janet Dreifort - 1950

Mr. and Mrs. Hopalong Cassidy

Other families on Plymouth had children a little bit younger than most of my group of friends.  Although they sometimes joined in our games, they were more the age of my sister, who was four years younger than me.  Those kids included Rosalie Ann Howard, Norman Reid, Janice Beck, Joan Beck, Paul Sharabba, and the younger brothers and sisters of my friends.  Rosalie Howard had a younger brother, who we encountered later in life.  When my kids were in grade school, Officer John Howard was the Cleveland Heights policeman in charge of Safety Town.  The Howards actually had the first TV on the street.  I remember going down to their house to watch Cleveland Indians games on their TV in 1948.

Some families did not have children or had older children, with whom we seldom interacted.  One of those families was the Brophy family.  The dad, Michael Brophy had been a very successful professional hockey player.  Whenever we would go down to the Cleveland Arena to see the Cleveland Barons play, I would look up Mr. Brophy in the team pictures posted there.  Mike had a son, Michael Jr., who was called Buddy.  Buddy was older than me and I didn’t relate to his peer group much.  Another family was the Heglaws.  The main thing I remember about them is their older son Chuck.  I think he had graduated from high school, when I was still quite young.  I think he had been involved in sports at Benedictine High School as a player and/or coach.  My main memory of Chuck is his ability to punt a football.  He would join us ocaisionally in our street football sessions.  I never saw anyone punt a football higher or farther than Chuck Heglaw.  Another sports star on our street was George Garland.  George was a couple of years older than me.  He, like me, was a rather small kid.  He was also very fast and agile.  He was a major basketball star at Shaw High School.  I remember going to see him play.  He was always a sports inspiration to me.

Another person I will never forget is Norman Steineke.  He lived in the house next door to the Sharabba family.  We all knew him as Normie.  He was a bachelor the age of my parents or older.  Everyone on the street knew that Normie had every tool known to mankind in his garage workshop.  He was always eager to lend a tool or help you with your project.  He also had a wonderful vegetable garden on the railroad property behind his house.   Normie also had a dog named Smoky.  How he got Smoky is an interesting story in itself.  When I was about eight years old we had a routine, when my dad came home from work.  As he pulled into the drive, I would get on the running board and ride into the garage.  One day my mom told me I couldn’t go out to ride on the running board.  I was devastated and crying.  When dad came in he handed me a little brown ball of fur, which changed my tears to a smile.  It was a little puppy we called Smoky.  Unfortunately, when Smoky grew older, he became very high strung.  After he bit me one day, we had to get rid of him.  He was not a good dog with kids.  Normie took Smoky and from that day forward Smoky would bark at me from the second floor porch and I would yell back at him as I passed his house.  He was my first dog and I was happy that he was still in the neighborhood.     

I’m sure I forgot to mention some important people in the Plymouth Community.  The great thing about a blog is that you can expand and revise it if necessary.  I also hope that others from that time and place will contribute to this blog through their comments.  I would love to meet you all again.  

My friends 1951 Top row Margaret Heron, middle row Tom and Bill Heron and Earl Pratt, Bottom row Mike and Jerry Probst, Margie O'Hair and Virginia Richter



  1. This is very cool! My dad is the Bill Reid who was at WDOK. He passed away May 5 of this year. The family has lots of great photos, stories and memories of that time of his life with his wife, my mom, Mickey Reid. I am printing this for her! Cheers, Peach Reid (Al of the Four Aces nicknamed me Peach!)

    1. Peach: Thanks for your reply. The Four Aces were one of my favorite groups. Your dad was an important part of my early life. I had already discovered big band music through the 78 rpm records my family had collected. When I discovered your Dad's show, I became a faithful listener. I remember that he used a little known Glenn Miller record, "Boulder Buff" as his theme song. I'm sorry for your loss. I wish I had been able to meet him and let him know the impact he had on my life. There are so many people, who I wish I had reached out to when I was able. I think there is a lesson there. Enjoy reading and I look forward to your comments.

  2. hello Robert Dreifort, do you know of anyone that worked for William able and sons funeral home? or what they did with their records or where they might be archived when they closed I have tried to look the funeral home up but its like they never existed. I have been trying to find their records any imformation would be helpful thank you

    1. Thank you for reading my blog. I also have tried to get information about Abel's and have had the same problem as you did. I will try again to find out through the Funeral Director's organization if any information is available. I have a couple of friends in that business. I will ask them if information is available and post the results on this blog.

  3. hi Robert Dreifort, I to have been trying to find William able and sons funeral home, and it is like it never existed. same as the person above i'm looking for records or where they might be achived or someone that worked there thank you

    1. I'm still trying to locate more information on the Abel funeral home. As soon as I learn more, I will post it on this blog. If you get some information, please let me know. Thanks for reading this blog.

  4. Hello. My name is Lisa and my great uncle was William Abel. My moms name is Mary Jane Arko and it was her uncle that owned the funeral home and also the Abel building where her dads grocery store, Arkos was located. Her and her family grew up in the Abel apartment building.

  5. Lisa: I'm so happy to hear from you and appreciate your comment. I and other readers of this blog have fond memories of your uncle and his funeral home. My involvement with the Abel Funeral Home goes back to my earliest memories of passing it every day on my way to and from Prospect School. I have related several stories in this blog related to Abel;s. There were two houses owned by your Uncle, one on the corner of Shaw and Euclid and the one just to the East of it. Your Uncle lived in the second home and the one on the corner was where the funerals were held. My Grandfather's funeral was held in that house in 1954. I delivered the Cleveland Press to your uncle from about 1950 to 1953. He was a very nice man. I remember that he had a small dog. When I was collecting for the Press, he would sometimes put his eyeglasses on the dog for comic effect. I also remember that your Uncle tipped very well a Christmas time.

    I would love to share more memories of your Uncle and his funeral home as well as the Arko grocery store and the Abel apartment building. You are always welcome to post comments here or you may contact me directly at My phone number is also in the Cleveland directory. Thanks again for your contribution.

    1. I am so sorry I never replied. I'm just now seeing your response. I would LOVE to hear stories about my family and so would my mom.

  6. Lisa, several of my readers have asked about the Abel Funeral Home. We would all like to know more about that family and what happened to them after the funeral home went out of business. I would also like to learn more about the Arco building and the Abel apartment building. I would love to have you post your memories as a comment or contact me directly at My phone number is listed in the Cleveland phone directory or go to White Pages on the internet.

  7. I am relaying this message for my mom. (Mary jane Arko/Barnett ) she grew up in the Abel apartment building at Addison/71st/superior. My mom's uncle, my great-uncle, was William Abel (Bill) and was married to Mae Abel. They also lived in the Abel building. Uncle Bills father was Henry Abel who lived in the house next to the corner house on Euclid. Henry's brother lived in the corner house and his name was also William Abel. I believe that's the William you knew. The funeral home was started by Henry and Williams father, William Abel and also the apartment building and a furniture store. My Aunt and Uncle, Bill and Mae Abel were the last ones to own and run the businesses. Around 1971 they sold the funeral home (both houses)to BP and they were torn down :( The two moved to Florida in 1975 and sometime later they donated the apartmemt building to a Catholic organization run by the nuns. They donated it because the neighborhood was getting bad and they were losing renters.we dont know anything about the records from the funeral home, my mom was her caretaker and the only thing she had from the funeral home was a few pieces of furniture and the notepads that were left in a desk.Aunt Mae Abel outlived uncle Bill, he died in July of 1981 and she moved back up to Ohio. My grandpa was Robert Arko, he and my grandmother Marge Arko ran the store on the ground level of the Abel apartment was called Arkos Delicatessen.

  8. I am so glad to see this blog is still posted. I grew up in East Cleveland in the late 80s through mid 90s. Of course it was a totally different culture than your memories, Mr. Dreifort. However, your memories and pictures of life in "E.C." are fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Thank you for reading my East Cleveland memories. I plan to write about my Shaw High School memories soon. They should be relevant to anyone who attended Shaw HS before the current building replaced the original building. I will also comment upon current developments in East Cleveland from time to time. Keep reading and commenting.