My Life-Long Love Affair with Cleveland

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.


8 thoughts on “My Life-Long Love Affair with Cleveland

  1. My only Cleveland frame of reference is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We stopped there on a drive further west.

    Didn’t Lake Erie catch on fire at some point in the 70s from plants on the lake?

    Love your walks down memory lane.

    1. Ya know, I’ve never been to the hall of fame!!!! Why not I’m not sure but it’s on my bucket list.

      Yes, the lake became incredibly polluted. I remember a time when the lake shore stunk from dead fish lined up. Not pretty. I think the lake is clean again.

    2. The Cuyahoga river caught on fire in summer of 1969. I was living in Shaker Heights walk-up at the time while attending Case Western Reserve MBA program at night while working as a mechanic at a foreign car garage at Coventry and Mayfield by day. At the time, that intersection was a stone’s throw from Hough, which was a decidedly dicey area. After a couple of years, I escaped back home to Greenwich.

      1. Ha, it wouldn’t surprise me if what you rented was owned by either my grandparents or my aunt. They bought up tons of apartments and houses around Case and rented them out – mostly professors, but students too. My dad went to Case, my mom Western Reserve, which was separate in those days. In your day likely there was not yet the Crawford Auto exhibit either – worth seeing if you ever find yourself back in Cleveland (which, from your comment, is never, but hey, you never know!)

        I know Mayfield Road well…it’s one of those roads that never ends… and good luck getting from one side to the other.

  2. I went back and reread the story of your grandmother’s arrival in NY. Still a beautiful story made even better with today’s tie-in to Cleveland.

    Dark and almost stormy here. Very still outside. I hear thunder. Can rain be far behind? Wind has picked up but the thunder is further away.

  3. The Federal Clean Water Act from the Nixon era was a direct result of the river fire.

    I am in travel mode starting tomorrow.

    Lunch in El Salvador, dinner in Lima, Peru.

    Then Wednesday, breakfast in La Paz and lunch/siesta at Earth Image HQ in the mountains of Bolivia.

    Note to Donald Trump – U S $$ no longer welcome. Drug war fought and lost.

    Pictures to follow. My fishing guide says monster salmon are now invasive.

    EOSr – please post.

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