No, this is not about the Oompa-Loompa coronation ceremony taking place in my old home town, nor of GOP dumpster fire that threatens to engulf the United States. This is about my happy memories of Cleveland going back to my childhood.
No one outside the Chamber of Commerce would think of Cleveland has a happening sort of place. But I did when, as a student at Saint Henry School on the East Side. Back then, the metro area was the seventh largest in the nation, with a population of approximately 900,000. There were huge auto plants, and the city was a major machine tool building center. That’s the industry my Dad worked in, building giant gear-hobbing machines for Lees-Bradner. My Uncle Emil ran a small factory in the Flats of the Cuyahoga River.
The symbol of Cleveland was the Terminal Tower—oh, how unfortunately symbolic!—on downtown’s Public Square. (You can catch glimpses of it in the movie A Christmas Story (1983), many of whose exteriors were shot in the area.) It was during those school years the largest building in the country outside of New York. Underneath was a large concourse and the main rail passenger terminal for Northeastern Ohio.
When I graduated from high school in 1962, I marveled that so many of my classmates were leaving town. And, it turned out, never to return. By then blight had set in, the auto industry was beginning to tank, and many machine-related industries were moving to Asia. Worst of all, people were starting to laugh at Cleveland. The Cuyahoga River caught fire from the pollutants flowing downstream from the factories in the Flats, and one mayor—Ralph Locher—was photographed with his hair on fire when he refused to wear a hard hat when visiting a steel mill. Worst of all was Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) on the “Dobie Gillis” show always going to see a film called The Monster That Devoured Cleveland.
Until the Cavs won the NBA championship this year, the records of local sports teams have been dismal. For a while, we even lost the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise, until they re-formed in 1999.
I wish Cleveland well, and I hope they survive this week’s political onslaught.