Friday, September 7, 2012

LIFE IN EAST CLEVELAND 1940 - 1962




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

INTRODUCTION
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.

Government
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.

Conclusion
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. 

13 comments:

  1. Sarah Hudson MurphyMarch 3, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    I am so impressesed with your blog which I just happened on While looking for a picture of John Murphy's home on Plymouth. I am currently writing short stories about the Murphy Melia Families for my children. I was married to Robert A Murphy and while we have been divorced for 25 years I am the one who keeps the records and is interested in not allowing the names to become JUST a name on a page or a piece of stone. I Attended Caledoneia Elementary and Kirk Junior High and graduated from Shaw HIgh school in 1965 and am proud to say that I lived in East Cleveland. I hope you will not be to disappointed when I tell you that I lived in Forest Hills section of East Cleveland. Any info you might share would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. John and Roger Murphy were good friends of mine. There is a picture of a party in my basement posted, which includes John. John was born about 1941 and Roger was born a year or two later. There brother Bob was born the day that the men of the neighborhood cleared a path in the street after the big snow of 1950. There are some pictures of that in my blog. I moved to Nela View in 1953 and had many wonderful experiences there as well. I hope to write more about them soon.

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  2. You don't think blacks themselves are responsible for this decline, as in all other cities in which they become majorities?

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    1. Your comment is a simplistic analysis of a very complex issue. I don't believe that African Americans cause decline in every city in which they become majorities. Many aspects of East Cleveland's decline would have occurred even if other ethnic groups had settled in the town. The economic issues of job decline and aging housing stock would have prevailed no matter who lived in the town. Many of the African Americans, who moved to East Cleveland were victims of these economic factors. Furthermore, the predominantly African American population of East Cleveland today did not cause the decline. For most of them, this is the best they can hope for. The cycle of poverty and physical decline can not be stopped by those, who are suffering from it. Outside forces will have to start investing in the area to turn the City around. Perhaps recent developments resulting from the expansion of University Circle institutions into East Cleveland will start the recovery of East Cleveland.

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    2. " I don't believe that African Americans cause decline in every city in which they become majorities." -- Name one where they haven't.

      #1) I live over on West 19th St. & Denison Ave. This area has suffered *all* of the same problems as East Cleveland. However there is one notable oddity: During the 'boom' of the last decade, when many African Americans moved out (15yrs ago to about 10 yrs. ago) -- Whites moved in, and began rebuilding some of the housing stock. Even in apartments they didn't own, you would reguarly see relatively young, white guys around the neighborhood making small improvements -- painting, nailing in new lattices, ect;. I know, I was one of them. This process came to a halt with the decline of housing values around the area 3-4-5 years ago. Many packed up, and found cheaper housing in the suburbs. (Less taxes, better schools, fewer regulations). Now we're back to square one again.

      #2) African-Americans as a whole, do not seem to invest where they live. Whether it's because they are poor, or because they don't care -- is irrelevant. They simply do not seem to regard housing the same way Caucasians (Irish, German, Italian, ect;) do. I could tell horror stories -- just on my street.

      #3) "furthermore, how do you do that and still promote racial equity and social justice..." Racial equality is ephemeral, abstract concept. Every time you attempt to measure it, the African-American leadership seems to be moving back the goalposts. Are we talking about legal rights? AA's 100% of the rights of Caucasians. Are we talking about money? AA's are expected to achieve parity with whites, while doing nothing similar culturally? Good luck. Are we talking about values? Are AA's responsible for turning in "bad sheep" to the police? For helping clean up their own neighborhoods?

      #5) "Racial Justice" and "Social Justice" are nothing more than left-wing buzzwords, akin to "Environmental Justice". They are nothing more than yardsticks leftist use to measure progress in adopting socialistic policies, aimed at empowering government, at the expense of the people. There were AA communities in the 40's & 50's that thrived all around the country -- during a time they didn't even get LEGAL Justice. The problem is a Caucasian, left-wing bloc w/in the democratic party, in power for the last 50 years in Cuyahoga couny... they tolerate poverty, as an alternative to a thriving (possibly conservative-leaning) business community that might rise to challenge them.

      A great website all-in-all, I've enjoyed reading your stories about life 50 years ago in our region. Perhaps in another 50 years, we'll finally start talking about the dead elephant in the room: AA Culture, and it's negative impact on the community. Who knows, maybe we'll even have college-level courses (haha)

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    3. Rich: Thanks for your comments. There is some truth in what you say. However I believe it is too simplistic to say that the current state of East Cleveland is due entirely to the fact that it is an African/American community. I can't speak to your comparison with West Side neighborhoods. I have lived my whole life on the East Side. I have first hand experience living in East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, and Shaker Heights over a period of 55 years. For 30 of those years my next door neighbors were African American. Those neighbors did not result in the decline of my neighborhood. The racial change or integration which took place in those East Side communities was different for each community. The success of any community going through racial change is based upon many factors which effect community viability. Also the process of racial change in each of those East Side communities was different. Socioeconomic status and other economic factors are more important than race. The first racial change to occur in East Cleveland involved middle class African Americans replacing middle class whites. It was primarily a case of failure of integration due to "white flight". That racial change did not create the East Cleveland we see today. It was the later flight of the middle class African Americans, which turned East Cleveland into a poverty stricken community, which happens to also be African American. This is also complicated by the fact that East Cleveland is isolated geographically and politically without the resources to deal with its problems. The City of Cleveland has neighborhoods which have gone through cycles of urban decay, and revival. Hough is an example. Perhaps East Cleveland would benefit from being a part of the larger economic base they could access by merging with the City of Cleveland.

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  3. I have really enjoyed your blog. I hope to see more entries. Thank you for sharing your memories.

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  4. Robert, I have really appreciated your blog. Very informative. You gave the city the bright light it needed for a era gone by. I want to ask if you remember the time capsule that was buried in the 60's. I remember it, but not where it was placed. Do you remember? Please let me know. thanks for the historical tour of life in what was a great city. I grew up there in the 60's and 70's. jay-bird2@sbcglobal.net

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    1. I spoke with someone at East Cleveland City Hall about the time capsule. Unfortunately nobody has been able to find it. I remember the event, which was a celebration of East Cleveland's first 50 years. My friend, Rachel Probst, was voted the Queen of East Cleveland as a part of the celebration. She took me on a tour of city hall, including a visit to a jail cell. They did not lock us in. I have lost contact with Rachel and would love to see her again.

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  5. I grew up in East Cleveland (1935-1953). Attended Chambers, Kirk, Shaw. Played football. (the whole town came to "Shaw Stadium" for the HS football games). Later went to Purdue (BSEE) and Michigan (MSNE, PhD). Now a retired professor in Seattle. Parents left East Cleveland in 1965 at the beginning of the "exodus" and retired in Seattle.

    East Cleveland seems to have undergone a more severe decline than the "rust belt" in general. It is very sad!

    The town had great civic pride in my day. There was a division between the "up the hill" folks and the rest but it did not seem to cause any trouble.

    Bob Albrecht

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    1. Bob: Thanks for reading this and for your comment. You are correct in everything you said. East Cleveland could not survive the economic and social changes of the 70s and later years. It wasn't all due to racial change. The racial change was exacerbated by the economic changes that were impacting the entire Cleveland area. East Cleveland became economically insupportable. This also happened to other inner ring suburbs; but most of them were able to adjust their tax base and survive. You can read in my new post my opinion concerning the future of East Cleveland. There is a significant movement to have Cleveland annex the town. The only hope for East Cleveland's future is to take advantage of the expected developments in the University Circle area, which should spill over into East Cleveland. East Cleveland as it is currently constituted doesn't have the financial base and administrative structure to take advantage of those developments.

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  6. My parents moved to East Cleveland in 1947 because East Cleveland had just about everything: Excellent Police Department, nice houses, Excellent School System, shopping, employment (it was close to where my Father worked on E.152nd Street). Transportation, was still the old fashioned Street Car. It was a neighborhood where you could walk down the street and sit on your front porch without being afraid. They moved from Superior Ave. at E.108th. That neighborhood was changing and they wanted me to go to a good school in a good neighborhood. I graduated in 1953 and there were no black people in my graduating class.
    The racial change started around 1963. By the time my Mother passed, black people were moving onto our street. They were people like we were and in 1967 they cared
    enough about their houses and neighborhood to form a Neighborhood Block Club (not a Block Watch). Problem was the Realtors came in and wanted us to sell our houses and my Neighbors started to sell their homes. (I have been speaking about the area I lived, from Euclid Ave. to Hayden, E.133rd and Shaw Ave. to where Krogers was, going toward the Rapid Station.
    Lee Terrace Drive, where Kirk Jr. High is had Mansions and fairly wealthy people. This stretched up the hill to before you got to Nela Park.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. You are about five years older than me. It seems as if our families moved to East Cleveland at about the same time for the same reasons: safe neighborhoods, close to work, good public transportation and good schools. You also confirm my belief that the first African American families, who moved to East Cleveland during the 1960s came for the same reasons as our families did. You also note that the sudden and fast racial change which occurred was largely caused by block busting practices of unscrupulous Real Estate agents. This practice was not new in East Cleveland. It had been going on in Cleveland neighborhoods such as Glenville and Hough for a long time. Those practices led to white panic and flight. Integration never had a chance in East Cleveland.

      I moved to Cleveland Heights and later to Shaker Heights during the 1960s and later. I lived in those communities for 30 years. After learning the lessons of East Cleveland, we were able to maintain viable cities, which remained racially integrated. Most of my time in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights I had African American next door neighbors. They were fine people and good neighbors. My white neighbors and I did not panic and move just because some Black families had moved into the community. The result was a stable and racially integrated community. East Cleveland never had the chance to experience that.

      I noted in another posting that African Americans are not responsible for the current state of despair in East Cleveland. The middle class Black families, who came to East Cleveland during the 1960s have left long ago. They moved to other suburbs for some of the same reasons as the white families. The current state of affairs in East Cleveland is due to social economic factors, not race. The community is also unable to deal with its problems due to poor leadership. The leaders seem to be more interested in their own political and power base than the true interests of the community. In my opinion East Cleveland can no longer survive as a separate city. However the proposed merger with Cleveland is being blocked by self serving politicians.

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