Yes, you read that right. Cleveland. The Republicans aren’t the first to be there!
Cleveland has been a part of my entire life. My mother was born there and her parents lived there until they died. My father is a born Ohioan, not Cleveland, but came to Cleveland for college where he met my mother, a student at an all-girls college near his own campus.
So from the very earliest days, I remember the 8 hour drive to Cleveland from Wilmington, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Ohio Turnpike, the PA portion with a million tunnels that my sister and I would count and remember.
Many of the tunnels are now long abandoned but clear as it was yesterday, I remember their names. The double tunnel was always our favorite. And I guess I’m not the only tunnel junkie – Robert Martens even posted his grandfather’s video. The music is classic too! Great video!
When my mother was young, my grandparents lived in Shaker Heights but for all the years I can remember, and that’s a lot because my grandmother lived to be 101, they lived on Lake Erie in Euclid. A simple house on a simple street with wonderful neighbors who, along with my Italian grandparents, were Polish, Slovenian, Armenian and Irish – families that were on that street for decades.
On their street a cement tunnel of steps down to the beach, steps that each and every time we’d run up and down, and that was a million times, we’d have to count the number of steps as loud as we could because the tunnel echoed, crazily too, the sound bouncing off the cement walls of the tunnel.
I learned to swim on this very stretch of Lake Erie, my grandmother came from the school of learn to swim or else sink – we were literally thrown out into the lake by older boy cousins and told to get back to shore. We did! And I can remember the lake being crystal clear -like a Swiss lake – sparkling!
I learned to fish there with my grandfather and my aunt. We’d go down there after dinner and watch the cargo ships far out in the water. It was really awesome.
Up the road from my grandparent’s home was Euclid Beach Park. We ADORED the roller coaster but my favorite, especially as a little kid, was the Great American Racing Derby carousel.
The horses not only went up and down but slid in a groove back and forth so it was always a race with my sister to see whose horse would come in first. I swear we rode that thing a jillion times, my grandfather always had a bag of jumbo peanuts and he’d spit out the shell right at his feet.
The roller coaster was scary and my sister didn’t care for it much, nor did my grandparents, so I’d get my adventurous aunt to go on with me.
My aunt was a real estate investor, buying up properties and land, so as a teen, I’d champ at the bit to drive around with her to town halls for permits and banks to close the deals. I most definitely inherited my love of real estate from her!
She volunteered at the long-gone Front Row Theater, a classic theater in the round that got every top billed star of the day – Sammy Davis, and top Broadway plays came to Front Row too. It was a huge deal to go there and we’d get ice cream afterwards.
Then there’s Higbee’s, Halle’s, and The May Company, huge department stores downtown that I used to love to go into. If I were a betting woman, I’d guess not one of those three companies exist today.
But mostly I remember Cleveland’s Little Italy where in the summers my grandparents would take us to the Feast of San Gennero – Cleveland had a large Italian population then so this was a big deal. Mostly my grandparents spoke Italian to their friends – my sister, cousins and I would walk around and eat – mamma mia, what food.
I don’t have much family left in Cleveland so I don’t get there like I used to and I’m certainly not going to rectify that lapse by going Convention week, but I do think I’m overdue for a walk down memory lane. Alas, the problem with so many old memories is that you get this is where such and so USED to be! Oh well.