From Prince to King: A Historic Visit to the Cleveland History Center

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D.
Krieger Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History CWRU. Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society
This photo was taken on October 20, 1977 when Prince Charles came to Cleveland.   The picture shows him coming to the front door of the Crawford where he would attend a dinner.   After dinner he attended a concert at Severance Hall.
My wife Diane and I were engaged to be married at that time and we came to see Prince Charles enter the Crawford and later we went to the concert at Severance which he attended and which, if I recall correctly, was conducted by Sir Michael Tilson Thomas.  Our companion during the evening was Anthony Phelps — Tony was British and an expert on heraldry and worked in the WRHS library.  Tony was a dear friend and groomsman at our wedding the following May.
The picture was given to me afterwards and for many years, hung on the wall of my office in the library.
Here’s a synopsis of the entire visit:

The 28-year-old Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and the future King Charles III, and Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, spent a full day touring Cleveland as a guest of E. Mandell de Windt, Chairman of Eaton Corporation. They stayed the night at Eaton House, 282 Corning Drive, on October 20, 1977. The stay incurred a high level of security, including boats on Lake Erie.

The eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II arrived at Burke Lakefront Airport at 10:30 a.m. He then visited the Republic Steel Corporation district plant and the Cleveland Clinic. President Walter B. Waetjen and the trustees of Cleveland State University gave a luncheon for the Prince. Following the luncheon, the prince participated in the dedication of the university’s new Cleveland Marshall Law Building at Euclid Avenue and East 18th Street.

A group of major northeastern Ohio industrialists with interests in the United Kingdom hosted a dinner for the prince at the Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Following dinner, the prince attended a Cleveland Orchestra concert at Severance Hall with a reception following. The prince departed Cleveland from Burke Lakefront airport the next morning at 8:45 a.m.

What Would the Automotive World Have Missed If Porsche Had Killed the 911?

This 1988 Porsche 959 is one of just 292 road-going cars built. With a top speed of 199 mph, it was the fastest production car in the world at the time.

 

By Dan Davis

 

The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum will answer that question with a new exhibit–Porsche 911: The Evolution of an Icon— that opens November 17, 2022.

Porsche has had a strong presence in Northeast Ohio since 1957, when Charles A. Stoddard, a former automotive engineer at Thompson Products (where Crawford Museum namesake Frederick C. Crawford was president), opened Stoddard Imported Cars (SIC) in nearby Willoughby, Ohio.

As one of the first Porsche dealers in the country, SIC grew rapidly as people discovered the pleasures of driving the small German sportscars. The introduction of the 911 in 1963 further bolstered the success of Porsche and dealers like SIC, yet that success was threatened when Porsche decided to cease production of the 911 in 1981.

Fortunately for cars enthusiasts around the world, then-new Porsche CEO Peter Schutz–the first American to run the company–stepped in to save the day. In 2013, Schutz wrote in Road & Track magazine about how he saved the 911.

As far as the company was concerned, the 911 was history. But I overturned the board’s decision in my third week on the job. I remember the day quite well: I went down to the office of our lead engineer, Professor Helmuth Bott, to discuss plans for our upcoming model. I noticed a chart hanging on his wall that depicted the ongoing development trends of our top three lines: 911, 928, and 944. With the latter options, the graph showed a steady rise in production for years to come. But for the 911, the line stopped in 1981. I grabbed a marker off Professor Bott’s desk and extended the 911 line across the page, onto the wall, and out the door. When I came back, Bott stood there, grinning.

“Do we understand each other?” I asked. And with a nod, we did.

Porsche has built nearly 800,000 911s since 1981, and the Crawford Museum’s exhibit will feature several variants of the model that would never have seen the light of day if Porsche had killed the car in 1981. All of the cars in the exhibit come from private collectors in Northeast Ohio, including the two rare cars pictured here: a 1988 Porsche 959, and a 1991 Carrera Cup Car.

The 959, one of just 292 road-going cars built, was Porsche’s first supercar. With a race-derived twin-turbo flat-six engine, all-wheel drive, adjustable suspension and a six-speed gearbox, the 959’s top speed of 199 mph made it the fastest production car in the world at the time.

The 1991 Carrera Cup Car is one of just 120 built and has significant competition history. It raced successfully in the Porsche Carrera Cup series in France from 1991-1994, and scored class wins in 1993 and 1994 at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans.

This 1991 Porsche Carrera Cup Car is one of just 120 built, and scored class wins in 1993 and 1994 at the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans.

Porsche 911: The Evolution of an Icon will offer Crawford Museum visitors a look at what would not have been had Porsche killed the iconic 911 41 years ago. This collection of rare and beautiful Porsches will put a smile on the faces of Porschephiles and casual observers alike. We hope you’ll join us between November 17, 2022, and April 2, 2023, to view this exhilarating exhibit.

Ohio’s Rich Amusement Park History

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center

 

The Euclid Beach Park Company was incorporated on October 23, 1894, by John Flynn, John Irwin, Albert E. Thompson, Jerome B. Burrows, and Hylas B. Gladwish. Their business prospectus stated: “The lncorporators are convinced that a Summer Resort within easy reach of Cleveland properly appointed and conducted, will be both popular and profitable.” It goes on to state that estimates of admissions for a day’s outing in Cleveland proper and the surrounding communities were made. The estimated total spent by patrons annually was $455,000.00. The owners reasoned that a park like Euclid Beach, with its great lakeside location and superior amenities would garner a large share of that total.

 

When Euclid Beach first opened to the public on June 22, 1895, approximately 30 amusement parks were operating in Ohio, with even more opening after the Park’s inaugural year. Keeping in mind how much more difficult travel was 125 years ago, the vast majority of these parks posed no direct competition, but it is surprising to see how many amusement parks dotted Ohio’s landscape so early in the development of the amusement park industry. What makes the list even more impressive is that it does not include a large number of picnic groves/resorts that were also in operation.

 

Euclid Beach’s life span of 74 years pales in comparison to a number of other parks in the Cleveland area.  Chippewa Lake in Medina opened in 1878 and operated until 1978 hanging on to celebrate the park’s bittersweet centennial year.

 

Geauga Lake in Aurora also got an earlier start than Euclid Beach.  Opening in 1888, Clevelander’s enjoyed the thrills of its many rides and attractions until 2007.  One of the notable differences between Euclid Beach and Geauga Lake had to do with management.  Euclid Beach was owned and operated by the Humphrey Family 69 of its 74 operational years and the family’s management style did not change very much over the years.  A trip to Euclid Beach was like visiting an old friend.  There might be some new rides or attractions, but the park had a familiar “feel”.   Geauga Lake was owned by a number of groups during its lifetime.  Differing management styles resulted in changes that made the experience of visiting the park quite different over the years.

 

Idora Park, which operated in Youngstown, had a life span similar to Euclid Beach, operating from 1899 to 1984.  Puritas Springs Park located on Cleveland’s west side operated a few years fewer than the Beach.  The fun times and thrill of the Cyclone delighted park goers for 60 years until its closure in 1958.

 

Of all the amusement parks that operated during Euclid Beach’s lifetime, Luna Park located at East 110 Street and Woodland Avenue provided the stiffest competition to the Beach.  Glitz and glamour was the keynote for all of the rides and attractions.  Luna was more of an “adult” place for Clevelander’s to enjoy with risqué side shows and alcohol available for sale.  The park opened with much fanfare in 1905 and closed its doors in 1929 the victim of the economic hard times. Euclid Beach struggled during this period of time, but was in a better position to survive because it was not impacted by Prohibition and the loss alcohol sales.

 

Other parks came and went so quickly that they are mere footnotes in history.  White City was located a mere one mile east of Euclid Beach on Lake Shore Boulevard.  The two parks even shared the same street car line.  Unlike Euclid Beach with its free gate, White City charged an admission fee.  The park opened in 1902 and a short five years later closed its doors forever in 1927 due to a devastating fire.

 

Only two amusement parks that opened their doors in the Cleveland area are still operating today.  The first season at Cedar point was in 1870.  It opened twenty five years before Euclid Beach.   Unlike all of its contemporaries, it has not only survived but thrived over the years.  A small part of Euclid Beach lives on among the myriad of roller coasters that operate there.  It is not a”high ride” but an attraction some have described as a “carousel on steroids”.  Derby Downs (formerly The Great American Racing Derby at Euclid Beach) is a classic carousel that riders can race four abreast on hand carved wooden horses.

 

What is often referred to as a hidden gem here in Cleveland is the Memphis Kiddie Park.  Stuart Wintner opened the five acre park in 1852 on Memphis Avenue in Brooklyn on Cleveland’s west side.  He never envisioned Memphis Kiddie Park as being in direct competition with the other much larger amusement parks in the area, but felt a children’s park would be successful.   His vision was correct.  Over the years the little park has not only survived but thrived delighting generations of Clevelanders. Like Euclid Beach there has never been a charge for admission or parking.

 

There is not just one reason to the question for the closure of all of these amusement parks.  The answer is multifaceted with fire, storm damage, competition, Great Depression, World Wars, Prohibition, and changing social times all playing a role.

 

 

  • Avon Park-Girard, OH – (1897 – 1920s)
  • Brady Lake Park-Ravenna, OH – (1891 – 1944)
  • Casino Park – Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Cedar Point, OH-(1870 – Still operating)
  • Chippewa Lake, Saville, OH – (1878 – 1978)
  • Cleveland Zoo Kiddie Park- Cleveland, OH-(1950’s)
  • Crystal Beach Park – Vermillion, OH – (1884 – 1965)
  • Crystal Lake Park – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Euclid Beach – Cleveland, OH – (1895 – 1969)
  • Forest City Park – Cleveland, OH – (1883 – mid 1920s)
  • Geauga Lake – OH – (I 888 – 2007)
  • Gordon Gardens-Cleveland, OH – (1922 – 1927)
  • High Bridge Glens – Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1882 – 1920s)
  • Kiddie Playland-North Randall, – (1950’s)
  • Idora Park-Youngstown, OH – (1899-1984)
  • Johnson’s Island – Sandusky, OH – (1894 – 1897 & 1904 – 1907)
  • Lake Erie Park-Toledo, OH – (1895 -1910)
  • Lakeside Park -Akron, OH – (1912? – 1917)
  • Lincoln Park- Rocky River, OH – (1906 – 1920’s)
  • Luna Park-Cleveland, OH – (1905-1929)
  • Merrimack Park – Aurora, OH (Dates??)
  • Mentor Beach Playland – Mentor, OH (Dates??)
  • Memphis Kiddie Park1 – Brooklyn, OH – (1952 – Still operating)
  • Meyer’s Lake Park- Canton, OH – (1902 – 1974)
  • Mother Goose Land – Canton, OH (Dates??)
  • Old Orchard Park- between Cleveland & Akron, OH – (1927 – 1933)
  • Pera’s / Erieview Park- Geneva on the Lake, OH – (1946 – 2006)
  • Playland Park – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Presque Isle – Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Puritas Springs Park-Cleveland, OH – (1898 – 1958)
  • Riverside Park- Findley, OH – (1930s – mid 1970s)
  • Riverview Park-Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1921 – 1932)
  • Riverview Park – Akron, OH – (1919 – ?)
  • Sandy Beach – Akron, OH (Dates??)
  • Sea World Ohio – Aurora, OH – (1970-2000)
  • Scenic Park – Rocky River, OH – (1900 -1906)
  • Shady Lake Park – Streetsboro, OH – (1978 – 1982)
  • Silver Lake Park – Akron / Cuyahoga Falls, OH – (1876 – 1917)
  • Springfield Lake Park – Akron, OH – (1914 – 1920s)
  • Summit Beach Park-Akron, OH – (1917 – 1958)
  • Toledo Beach-Toledo, OH – (1907 – 1930 & 1962 – 1970)
  • Vollmar’s Park- Bowling Green, OH – (1900- 1948 & 1963 – 2001)
  • Walbridge Park-Toledo, OH- ( 1888 – late 1950s)
  • White City- Cleveland, OH – (1897-1907)
  • White City-Toledo, OH – (1907 – ?)
  • Wildwater Kingdom – Aurora, OH – (2005-2016)
  • Willow Beach Amusements – Toledo, OH – (1929 – 1947)
  • Willough Beach Park – Willoughby, OH – (1907 – 1926)
  • Wonderland -Toledo, OH (Dates??)
  • Woodland Beach Park-Ashtabula, OH – (1884 – 1952)

Opening Day: First Roller Coaster in the USA June 16, 1884

By John Frato, Carousel Operations Coordinator, Cleveland History Center

What is recognized as America’s first roller coaster type ride is the Gravity Railway located in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.  In the 1950’s, the town’s name was officially changed to Jim Thorpe after the famous Olympic athlete. Then In 1827, the Mauch Chunk and Summit Railroad was constructed to carry coal out of the mountain mines located there down a nine mile stretch of rugged mountain area.  The rail line was not only carried coal down the mountainside, but also miners returning to their homes.  A more efficient rail line was built in 1872 and the line was purchased by the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) in 1874.  Seeing the commercial value of offering rides to the general public, Theodore and H.L. Mumford leased the line from the CNJ and operated the railway as a tourist attraction until the Great Depression forced their closure in 1932.  America’s first roller coaster “thrill” ride began taking on passengers in 1874 and was an immediate success.  A young talented inventor rode the ride and his life path changed. That young man’s name was LaMarcus Adna Thompson. He was born in Licking County, Ohio on March 1, 1848 and is often referred to

as “the Father of the Modern American Roller Coaster”. Throughout his lifetime, he held over thirty patents relating to roller coaster technology. The original Switchback Railway built at Coney Island in 1884 was designed by Thompson working off of another inventor’s patent that was filed in 1878. Richard Knudson called his version of a gravity roller coaster the “Inclined Plane Railway” and it is strikingly similar to Thompson’s final design. The Switchback Railway that debuted at Coney Island on June 16, 1884 holds the distinction of being the first roller coaster type ride designed and built for the purpose of amusement rather than an existing rail line converted for that purpose. The ride consisted of two sets of parallel tracks descending in opposite directions from elevated towers. To complete their round trip riders had to get out of their cars after they came to a stop and ascend a second fifty foot tower to board cars to head back. The novelty of the new ride far surpassed any problems riders had with exiting their cars, re-boarding, or climbing the second set of stairs to the top of the tower to return.  Initially riders were not seated directly in front of one another as they are on modern roller coasters, but were seated in benches parallel with the track facing outward.  Even with all of its shortcomings, the ride was immensely popular and reportedly paid for itself during its first month of operation.

The original cost for the heart pounding six mile per hour ride that lasted one minute was five cents.  Thompson’s later rides were often referred to as Scenic Railways since they gave riders a panoramic view of the landscape as they traversed the tracks from one end to the other. His later designs had elaborate backgrounds of exotic foreign locales painted along the length of the tracks. The immense popularity of the new ride led to the formation of the L. A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company that oversaw the construction of rides across the country. It should come as no surprise that when rides were first added to Euclid Beach in 1896 a LaMarcus Thompson Gravity Roller Coaster was built. The Switchback Railway at Euclid Beach had a little over one thousand feet of track. Riders climbed stairs to the top of the tower where they boarded a car that was manually pushed out of the loading platform and hopefully gravity took the passengers to the opposite end of the tracks where the other tower was located. There they would disembark and the ride operators would push the car up to the loading platform in that tower. Once they were again seated, they would be pushed out onto the track for the return trip to the first tower…a truly exhausting amount of labor for a six mile per hour trip. The ride was dismantled and removed from the Park when the Figure Eight was installed in 1904.

The big question…can you still ride a Switchback Railway today? The answer is sort of…a modern version of the ride with a lift hill opened at a small amusement park located between San Antonio and Austin Texas in the small town of Seguin in 2015.

The Famous Switchback Railway was designed by the Ohio based Gravity Group for ZDT’s Amusement Park and is the first new wooden “shuttle coaster” built anywhere in the world in more than a century. Like the old Switchback at Euclid Beach it reverses course mid-way. Unlike the ride at the Beach it retraces its way back to the loading station backwards rather than forward. The “new” Switchback begins with a sixty three foot tall lift hill rather than a friendly push by Park employees, reaches speeds up to forty five miles per hour, and ascends a sixty four foot tower before rocketing back to the station along 1,980 feet of track (actually only about 1,000 feet of track but you travel it twice). A brake run at the bottom of the lift hill along with a section of switch track allows the coaster to safely operate two trains.

 

 

Celebratory Noise: Seeking a Safe and Sane Fourth of July

In August 1905, William P. Palmer, a resident on the “Overlook” in Cleveland Heights sent a letter to Mayor Tom L. Johnson complaining about the fireworks being set off during the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy, located just below his house.  Johnson sent the letter to his police chief, Fred Kohler.   Kohler investigated the situation and replied to Palmer, noting that nothing could be done as the fireworks were set off just beyond the city limits.  He promised, however, to work with the community to try to quiet things down.

Interestingly, Palmer was the head of American Steel and Wire in Cleveland and also would become the president of the Western Reserve Historical Society to which he left an outstanding collection of material relating to the Civil War and the abolitionist movement.

Palmer’s issue with fireworks reflected a larger concern in Cleveland and other urban areas during the early Twentieth Century.   It was not only the noise, but the danger posed by fireworks.  The “Safe and Sane Fourth of July” movement began in Cleveland in 1908.   It followed on several major local firework related disasters.  In 1903 a fireworks manufacturing company located on Orange Avenue (near today’s main Cuyahoga Community Campus) suffered a massive explosion.  It destroyed twelve buildings and resulted in three deaths.   Later a display of fireworks for sale at a local Kresge store exploded when a spark from a sparkler set fire to a flag and then the counter.   Many people were burned and five were trampled to death as shoppers fled the inferno.    That resulted in the movement to ban fireworks and, indeed, in 1908 Cleveland prohibited fireworks in the city.  It was the first community in the nation to do so.

Nevertheless, the Safe and Sane ordinance allowed for professional displays and banned powerful or dangerous devices from sale.  Local noise or nuisance ordinances also impinged on the personal use of fireworks, but busy police departments had little time to enforce the laws.  One local policeman who did enforce the ordinance ended up shooting off the confiscated fireworks in his own back yard (which was adjacent to the author’s childhood home).  The cacophony of explosions were to continue on the Fourth of July with little interruption  — and, indeed, it accelerated in the past several decades with the appearance of fireworks “wholesale” sites alongside many state highways.  The only caveat was that the buyer had to sign a paper indicating that the devices would be used outside the state.

With so many loopholes, the state has just passed a law this year allowing for the legal use of certain fireworks – provided that local ordinances do not prohibit their use, and that they be used on specific holidays, including New Year’s Eve and Day, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, on and around the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and for the Hindu Festival of Diwali.

The new law reflects not only the difficulty of banning fireworks, but also our desire to celebrate heritage and history with noise, color and light – a propensity that has expanded with the growing diversity of the nation.   It’s hard to imagine what Mr. Palmer would think if he were living on Overlook Road today — the Feast of the Assumption continues, as does the Fourth of July — and on the Lunar New Year and Diwali, Case Western Reserve University joins in the celebration with professional fireworks displays that honor the heritage and holidays of many of its students.

Local History and Global Connections: Members of the WRHS Staff and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association Support CCWA’s Seminar for Visiting Fulbright

By Regennia N. Williams, PhD

(Left to right) Dr. Yusrah Schweikn, Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Dr. Medha Bhattacharyya, and Dr. Richard Feinberg are pictured above at the opening reception and networking event for the May 2022 seminar. (Emanuel Wallace, Photographer)

 

Members of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association joined the Cleveland Council on
World Affairs (CCWA) in welcoming more than 80 visiting Fulbright scholars to “Preparing for and
Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change.” This May 2022 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar was held at the
Global Center for Health Innovation in Downtown Cleveland.

According to the organizers, the participants hailed from more than 40 different countries, and
the seminar offered “an introduction to climate change issues in Cleveland, Ohio, and provided a local
perspective on this topic of global importance.” Beyond the basic introduction, the seminar also
explored “climate change and environmental issues through a lens of environmental justice” while
examining “the impact of climate on public health, natural resources, and infrastructure.” In keeping
with information in the seminar packet, “Multi-disciplinary keynotes, panel discussions, breakout
sessions, and site visits [focused on] Cleveland’s unique environmental history, present day challenges
related to the impact on underserved communities, and efforts to ensure a sustainable and resilient
community for decades to come.”

Dr. Regennia N. Williams, the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Distinguished Scholar of
African American History and Culture and president of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright
Association, offered words of welcome during the seminar’s opening reception and networking event.
For Williams, “The seminar provided local Fulbright alumni with invaluable opportunities to network
with scholars from around the world, exchange information about common research interests, consider
the possibility of future collaborations, and find out more about local tourist attractions—including
“Open Road: The Lure of Motorcycling in Ohio,” a special exhibit that is on view at WRHS through
September 2022.”

“Interestingly enough,” said Williams, “it was during my 2010 Fulbright Fellowship in Nigeria
that I rode a motorcycle for the first time in my life and came to appreciate the beauty of many rural
areas that were most easily, affordably, and quickly accessed by motorcycle.” This statement sparked
several interesting discussions with other Fulbrighters about motorcycles as the preferred mode of
transportation in many Asian and African countries.
Northeast Ohio Chapter members Dr. Edward Sivak and Dr. Suzanne Ondrus, who held Fulbright
appointments in Finland and Burkina Faso, respectively, spoke during the seminar’s closing session. Like
their visiting colleagues, local Fulbrighters found the seminar be both engaging and enlightening.
This seminar was newly re-activated Northeast Ohio Chapter’s second major event of the
current program year, and quarterly meetings and the spring 2022 elections have also taken place. For
more information on past and upcoming events, please visit the Chapter’s website.

About the Host Organization

(Left to right) Attorney Carter E. Strang, Board Chair for the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA), is pictured here with Kelly Falcone-Hall, President and CEO of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) and member of the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Fulbright Association; and Carina Van Vliet, CCWA’s Chief Executive Officer. (Emanuel Wallace, Photographer)

“The Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1923 to
promote dialogue on world peace. Since then, CCWA has evolved to offer an array of programs that
inspire engagement in international affairs and world cultures. CCWA engages with our community
through our Speaker Series, Model United Nations, Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy Center for Global
Understanding, and Exchange Programs. In 2020-2021, CCWA hosted over 300 international visitors
through in person and virtual programming, organized 25 public speaker programs, and engaged with
877 students through our Model United Nations program.” (Source: Seminar Information Packet)

WRHS Celebrates the Life of Edward Jay Pershey, PhD

Tribute to Edward Jay Pershey, PhD

by John Grabowski, PhD

Photo: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey at his retirement party, 2020

In the late 1990s a group of WRHS staff led by Dr. Edward Jay Pershey toured museums around the country to get a sense of “best practices”. A highlight was a children’s exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society – it was highly interactive and featured a tall slide with a series of child-sized tunnels. Ed tried it out! He squeezed through the tunnels! He was probably the first, and perhaps the last adult to give it a test run.

That story epitomizes the verve, imagination and enthusiasm of Ed Pershey, who died on May 17. He was an historian, a consummate museum professional, and a beloved colleague who brought boundless energy, incredible ideas, and an infectious joy of life to the Western Reserve Historical Society.

A native of Joliet, Illinois (and immensely proud of his Slovenian family roots) Ed earned his Ph.D. in the history of technology at Case Western Reserve University writing a doctoral dissertation on the history of Warner and Swasey telescopes. He would go on to work briefly at the Dittrick Museum and then move to New Jersey to serve as curator of the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange. Later he founded and directed the Tsongas Industrial History Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. Sponsored by the National Park Service and the University of Massachusetts, Ed helped develop the site (centered on the Boott Cotton Mills) into an accessible, interactive interpretation of the early American textile industry.


Photos above: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey and Monica Gordon Pershey, Ed.D., CCC-SLP having fun at WRHS events
Top: Dressed in 1960s Theme, 2012;
Bottom: Dr. Pershey dressed as Thomas A. Edison with Dr. Gordon Pershey also in costume, 2013

 

Ed’s career at WRHS began in February 1995 when he became head of its educational program. As he had done in Lowell, he worked to make that program more interactive and engaging. He would remain at WRHS until his retirement in January 2020, assuming a variety of leadership positions. Given his wide interests as an historian and experience at major national museums – and his exuberant enthusiasm – he was capable of almost anything. He oversaw exhibits in every department and location of WRHS, was central to planning new galleries and museum ventures, and was always focused on creating new, attractive and well-grounded historical experiences. It is not an overstatement to say that Ed was central to making WRHS a more enjoyable, interactive, and historically “conscious” institution.

Photo: Dr. Edward Jay Pershey driving baseball Hall of Famer, Bob Feller at Jacobs Field, 2004
Courtesy of Ken Hall

His work and reputation also resounded beyond WRHS. He oversaw a major project related to the Austin Company’s “design-build” work in 1930s Soviet Russia. It would result in a trip to Russia for Ed and several WRHS staff to see the “Workers City” that Austin had built and to meet with their Russian counterparts. He also traveled frequently in the US on behalf of the American Alliance of Museums to assist other museums in strategic planning and collection assessment. And just prior his retirement he was the central researcher for the Cozad-Bates Underground Railroad Interpretive Center in University Circle. His expertise was highly valued and the experience and insights he garnered beyond the Western Reserve Historical Society helped WRHS and its staff gain new viewpoints for its own operations.

Yet, above all, it was Ed’s personality that really resonated with the staff who worked with him. He had an infectious “can do” attitude and a deep humanity that encompassed family, friends, and his beloved four-legged companions. He took adversity in stride and despite any difficulties, he saw beyond them.

Ed Pershey had a true joie de vivre. He will be missed, but his legacy will endure.

Dr. Edward Jay Pershey celebrates the opening of the 2014 exhibition “1964: When Browns Town Was Title Town”

Preserving Pride in Cleveland

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society

When the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (ECH) was published in 1987 it was a landmark publication in a number of ways.  It was the first modern encyclopedia of a city and it was the first major work to include a history of Cleveland’s LGBT community and a number of the institutions within that community.   It was a small step, but an important one.

Equally, if not more important, was the formal establishment of a program to collect archival records and publications relating to Greater Cleveland’s LGBTQ community at the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1991.  It was created in partnership with the LGBT Community Center.  Aubrey Wertheim, who at that time directed the Center, played a pivotal role in getting the archives started.

Now over thirty years after these initiatives began we can measure their growth and, indeed, their success.   The number of collections relating to the LGBTQ+ community held at WRHS has grown immensely.    In 2014, the collections were central to the creation of an exhibit at the Cleveland History Center on the local LGBTQ community which ran during the Gay Games held in Cleveland that year.  Most importantly, the collections continue to serve the needs of researchers in the WRHS Library.

At the same time the Encyclopedia also continued to grow.  A second edition was published in 1996 to honor the city’s Bicentennial, but most importantly, the ECH went online in May 1998, making it the first urban encyclopedia accessible on the World Wide Web.   Moving online also made it possible for staff to quickly update the ECH.  The number of entries relating to the LGBTQ+ community has grown thanks to a number of authors including CWRU student interns and members of the community, most particularly John Nosek and Leon Stevens.   This summer, WRHS will host a CWRU student intern, Sidney Negron, who will process and catalog archival materials from the LGBTQ+ collections and write new articles for the Encyclopedia.   It’s an ideal combination, one that brings together these two important aspects of preserving Pride in Cleveland and one which also elicits a great deal of pride among those of us who have long worked on the Encyclopedia and at WRHS.

Cleveland Changes Baseball History

By Mary Manning, Ph.D., PK-12 Education Coordinator & Youth Entrepreneurship Education (YEE) Project Director (Interim)

In 1946, the Cleveland Indians gained a new owner – Bill Veeck, an enthusiastic promoter committed to making the team the best in baseball at nearly any cost.

In 1947, the team stopped splitting time between their historic stadium, League Park in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, and moved into Municipal Stadium full-time. Where League Park’s capacity numbered 22,500, Municipal Stadium could accommodate three times as many fans, and Veeck employed imaginative tactics and stadium promotions to fill as many of those seats as he could.

In July of 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby from the Newark Eagles of the Negro American League and brought him straight to the majors, believing Doby could handle the transition and that a stint in the minor leagues to warm him up would limit the media impact of the signing. With Doby’s arrival in Cleveland, Major League Baseball’s American League was officially integrated—mere months after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

Then, in 1948, the Indians fielded a roster that included Doby, along with famed former Negro League pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige, and won the World Series.

This photograph from WRHS collections shows Doby and Paige at a moment of rest during a game that must be in either the 1948 season or the 1949 season – the only two years Paige played with the Indians. To some degree, it reflects the personalities of the two men. Doby, a known introvert, surveys the scene before him, while Paige, a charismatic, confident man, seems in the middle of speaking.

These two men also represent the kinds of players who made up the first two waves of the integration of Major League Baseball. Doby was 23 years old when he arrived in Cleveland, an extraordinarily gifted young multi-sport athlete who would eventually put together a 13-year MLB career on top of the four seasons he had played in the Negro Leagues. In 1978, he would become the second Black manager in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox (second to the Indians’ Frank Robinson, hired as a player-manager in 1975).

In contrast, Paige remains the oldest player to debut in Major League Baseball—he was 42 years old when he made his first start with the Indians in July of 1948. Yet he had been pitching professionally since 1927 when he began his career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro National League. In between Negro League seasons, he would barnstorm throughout the Midwest and other parts of the country, including a tour beginning in the fall of 1946 that pitted him against Indians great Bob Feller on a near daily basis. Paige had an uncommonly high number of pitches in his arsenal and accumulated new tricks that helped him maintain his dominant form on the mound as he grew older.

Together, these two very different men would help lead the Indians to first the American League pennant and then to the most recent World Series victory in Cleveland. Both would eventually be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Doby would be honored in 2015 with a statue in front of Progressive Field. Though Jackie Robinson was the first and most famous player to begin the integration of Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians played a crucial role in how baseball would receive players from the Negro Leagues, especially ones as experienced and talented as Paige.

Y Hoops?!

Photo: Buildings YMCA Old Central Building 1900s, Photo courtesy of the WRHS Archives.

 

By John J. Grabowski, Ph.D., Historian/Senior Vice President for Research and Publications, Western Reserve Historical Society

The NBA All Star Game’s arrival in Cleveland in February provides a good reason for looking at the history of basketball – and, that history is remarkable.  Today the game is played around the world.  Its global reach is reflected in the NBA.  Currently, 39 countries are represented by 109 players.  With 30 teams and a roster limit of 15 for each team, there are 450 – so the international representation is just a bit over 24%

That’s pretty amazing for a sport that was invented in the United States by James Naismith (1861-1939) who, by the way, was born in Canada.  Many, if not most people, know the story of Naismith using a peach basket and a soccer ball to create the game.  His thirteen original rules for the game still, in most ways, echo on today’s courts although the style and speed of the game are far different from what he envisioned.  However, the place (the YMCA) where he created the game is central to the internationalization of basketball.

Educated at McGill University (where he played football, lacrosse, soccer, and rugby – and also was a gymnast) he moved to the United States in 1890 to study at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.  It was there that he invented basketball.  The impetus for its creation was the need to provide bored and boisterous young men with a vigorous indoor athletic activity during the winter months.  The first game was played on March 12, 1892.

Perhaps at this point it is important to emphasize that the YMCA is the Young Men’s Christian Association.   The YMCA movement began in the mid-1840s in London and quickly spread well beyond England.  Cleveland’s branch of the movement began in 1854.  The common thread that bound all the early Y’s together was helping the many young men coming into cities lead a good, pure Christian life and thus avoid the temptations – bars, brothels, and bad company – that characterized growing urban areas.  The Cleveland YMCA stated its purpose as to prevent “the ruin, physical and spiritual, which overtakes so large a proportion of the multitude of young men constantly arriving in our city.”

It did not take long for the organization to realize that the best way to attract young men to membership and participation was through vigorous physical activity – it built teamwork, fellowship and also burned off energies that could have been directed to the dissipations of city life.   It was the leader in the national movement known as “Muscular Christianity” which ran against older notions that physical exercise, and sport where antithetical to a good religious life.  By the 1880s “muscular Christianity’ helped power a burgeoning sports culture in the United States.  It provided a good basis for what would become gym programs in schools, it buttressed a growing collegiate sports movement, and fit neatly into the life and politics of men such as Theodore Roosevelt.

That’s why basketball’s birth was in the confines of a Christian organization.  Indeed, by the late nineteenth century, the YMCA was one of the pre-eminent sports “powers” in the United States.  It fielded its own football team, captained by Amos Alonzo Stagg.  The team was known as “Stagg’s Stubby Christians”.  Of course the Y inherited a developing football culture, but it also invented another sport – volleyball.  And as a Christian, global organization linked to a strong missionary movement the sports the “Y” created reached a wide audience.

Within a decade of basketball’s invention, it was not only being played at the YMCA but at public schools, colleges, and social settlements.   Cleveland’s Hiram House Settlement was fielding basketball teams in the early 1900s and those teams reflected the immigrant communities that Hiram House served – some teams were largely Jewish and others Italian – and their battles on the court sometimes moved out into the street.

The game also quickly attracted women and also resulted in restrictive women’s rules for many collegiate women.  Interestingly the rules were written by a woman, Senda Berenson, who oversaw the physical education program at Smith College.  Yet, women, including the multi-sport star Babe Didrikson, would play by the general rules or some other modification of them.

Basketball also moved quickly beyond Protestant Christianity.   Played in the settlement houses of New York City it became “the” game of the children of Jewish immigrants and at one time was known as the “Jewish” game.  Soon, traveling teams of adult players were attracting audiences.  Among them were the Philadelphia SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) which dominated the game at the exhibition, semi-pro, and pro level.   Cleveland’s first basketball “impresario” in the 1920s was Max Rosenblum who also promoted amateur baseball, soccer, football, and bowling.

Basketball’s origins were in an increasingly segregated societyand that too was reflected in the YMCA.  The first Black YMCA was established in Washington D.C. in 1853, and other branches followed.   In Cleveland, the Cedar Avenue Branch became the Black YMCA, although there was contention in the community about accepting a segregated facility.  Eventually, in 1946, the YMCA established a policy to end segregation.

It was in this and other milieus that the sport spread into the African American community.  Indeed, even in settlement houses, such as Hiram House, there were Black teams and ethnic white teams.   The sport spread throughout the playgrounds in Black areas of the cities and also in schools, which even though not “officially” segregated, became predominantly Black.  The East Tech “Scarabs” in Cleveland became one of the city’s basketball powerhouses during the 1930s.  Nationally, Black teams, such as the New York Renaissance (the“Rens”) played and beat many of the best white teams.  One of the best early basketball players to come out of Cleveland, “Wee” Willie Smith, (who started playing at Hiram House)  played for the Rens and is now a member of the NBA Hall of Fame. Professional basketball, however, remained segregated until 1950 when the NBA would break the color barrier.

It took some time for professional basketball to evolve into the “mega” sport it is today.   The real base of the game for many years was in high school, college, and company teams.  In Cleveland amateur basketball predominated until the founding of the Cavaliers, Cleveland’s first NBA team in 1970.  Prior to that, the city had fielded several pro teams, including the Rosenblums, the Allman Transfers, the Cleveland Rebels, and the Cleveland Pipers.  The Pipers made history by hiring the first Black coach in pro-basketball, John McLendon in 1962.

Yet, to focus only on the pro-game is to ignore what began at the YMCA 130 years ago.  Today, hoops abound – on urban playgrounds, in backyards, on suburban garages, and on barns in the countryside.

An estimated 450 million people participate in basketball around the globe which ranks it fifth among all sports, and its global audience ranks third with an estimated 2.2 billion fans!  Given this, it should come as no surprise that the NBA’s roster reflects the world.   So, on February 20th, Cleveland will, in essence, host the world  — thanks in large part to the YMCA!

Do You Believe in Miracles?

By Robyn Marcs, Grants Manager at the Western Reserve Historical Society

Most Clevelanders can tell you where they were when our beloved Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals. For me, my family and I had just come back from a Father’s Days barbecue. My mom and I watched the final minutes of the game and then jumped around our living room hugging each other crying while my Pittsburgher father mumbled something about not being able to make fun of Cleveland not having a championship since 1964 anymore. However, forty years before the 2016 championship, there was another miracle in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were a new team in 1976, having only been established six years prior. The team didn’t even have a set place to play until 1974 when the Richfield Coliseum opened with the hope that its convenient location halfway between Akron and Cleveland would draw more fans. The 1976 Cavs were led by Austin Carr, Dick Snyder, Jim Chones, veteran player Nate Thurmond, and Robert “Bingo” Smith.

It’s every sports players’ dream to have a game’s final moments fall on them, and Dick Snyder was no exception. The Cavs had finally made it to the first round of the playoffs, and the seven game series was tied at 3-3 (sound familiar?) on April 29, 1976. The final seconds of the game saw the score tied at 85-85. With four seconds left, Dick Snyder made a crucial two-point basket that put the Cavs in the lead, and when the Bullets tried unsuccessfully to close the gap, the Richfield Coliseum erupted into cheers for the home team. The late Cavs announcer Joe Tait emotionally shouted, “The Cavaliers win! The Cavaliers win! 87-85!” Fans flooded the court, and even tried to tear down the baskets!

While unfortunately the Cavs fell to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals 3-2 after star player Jim Chones broke his ankle, the legacy of the Miracle of Richfield lives on. It was the first time that the Cleveland Cavaliers showed themselves to be more than just an expansion team, and today Bingo Smith, Austin Carr, and Nate Thurmond have had their numbers retired by the team. And forty years later the Cavs brought the championship home in one of the greatest games of the NBA Finals. It just goes to show that you can’t spell “Miracle” without “CLE.”

Remembering Siegfried F. Buerling, Director of Properties Emeritus, Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS)

Message by Kelly Falcone-Hall, President and CEO, WRHS

Dear WRHS family and friends:

 

Today, I am writing to share sad news. Our friend, Siegfried F. Buerling, Director of Properties Emeritus for the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS), passed away December 30, 2021.  While there are no words to do justice to his memory and life’s work, I’ll do my best on behalf of WRHS, and as Siegfried’s friend, to remember and honor this singular individual who contributed so much to Hale Farm & Village and WRHS.

Siegfried F. Buerling was the first, longest serving and most beloved Director of Hale Farm & Village until his retirement in 1998. He began his career as an apprentice cabinetmaker in Buerling’s Cabinet Shop in post World War II Germany. He worked as a journeyman in cabinet shops in Germany and Switzerland, and later as a furniture restorer in Montreal, Canada.

In 1959, Siegfried took the position of Carpenter-Cabinetmaker at WRHS and before he joined The Hale Farm, as it was known then, he worked on a variety of special projects at WRHS’s headquarters in University Circle. Notably, he led the construction of the Museum Galleries built in the late 1950s that connect the Hanna and Hay Mansions – Western Reserve Galleries I, II, the Central Addition and the Norton Gallery. Soon after, he transferred to Hale Farm and worked on special projects during the farm’s earliest days as a museum. In no time, he rose to lead Hale Farm & Village as its longest and most accomplished Director, retiring in 1998 as the Director of Properties and Special Projects for WRHS.

Siegfried in ABJ April 1985_clip.jpg

Image from feature in Akron Beacon Journal April 21, 1985

No other person is more important to the history and trajectory of Hale Farm & Village than Siegfried Buerling. His leadership contributed to Hale’s success and popularity during its first decade of operations, so much so that he convinced leadership to create a master plan to expand the farm museum into an expansive outdoor living history experience. During the 1960s, Siegfried and his colleagues visited places like the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Michigan, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. They studied New England and old Western Reserve towns and villages and conducted extensive research in the WRHS Archives toward a vision for a 19th century Western Reserve village at Hale Farm.

 

To create the village, Siegfried established a ‘Preservation through Relocation Program’ that saved certain 19th century Western Reserve buildings threatened by development. These buildings, including the Mary Ann Sears Swetland Memorial Meetinghouse, Goldsmith House, Ephraim Brown Land Office, Benjamin Franklin Wade Law Office, Saltbox House, Jagger House, Jonathan E. Herrick House and others were relocated to Hale Farm and restored to their original beauty and charm around a recreated village green. Siegfried was responsible for identifying and restoring more than half of the museum’s historic structures, the foundation for the Hale Farm & Village experience today. This vision would come to define the experience and put Hale Farm & Village on the map as one of the finest outdoor living history museums in the United States.

 

During his long tenure, Siegfried worked tirelessly and masterfully with philanthropic, business and community leaders, chief among them the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR), which he founded, to further develop The Hale Farm into an expansive outdoor living history museum with 34 historic structures, an agriculture and horticulture program, a calendar of popular programs and special events, and establish the museum as a destination for unique, high quality curriculum-based school programming that continues today.

 

As a skilled cabinetmaker, Siegfried had a special interest in early American crafts and industry, and as a result developed a series of working craft shops and demonstrations at Hale Farm & Village including blacksmithing, glass blowing, pottery, basket, broom and candle making, and spinning and weaving. Once again, thanks to Siegfried’s vision and entrepreneurial mindset, Hale Farm’s renowned Craft and Trade Program started in the 1960s stands as the finest of its kind in the Midwest and the inspiration for WRHS’s Youth Entrepreneurship Education Program for schoolchildren.

 

As Director of Properties, Siegfried led WRHS’s work to restore and build experiences at its properties – Shandy Hall in Geneva, Loghurst in Canfield, the Holsey Gates House in Bedford, and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor that was operated by WRHS until 2008.

 

Siegfried’s commitment to WRHS continued long after his retirement. In the 1990s, he managed the restoration of Euclid Beach Park Carousel horses (the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel was restored to operating condition at the Cleveland History Center in 2014). In 2006, WRHS again engaged him as a Preservation Consultant and Project Manager of Hale’s major, multi-year preservation project to restore and stabilize the site’s collection of historic structures, and this work continues today.

 

For Siegfried, Hale Farm & Village was a labor of love and his life’s work. The Buerling family – Siegfried, his late wife Heidi, and his sons Bruce (deceased), Peter and Curt Buerling lived at Hale Farm.  In 2008, to celebrate Hale Farm’s 50th anniversary as a museum, Siegfried was the first person to receive the Hale Farm & Village Legacy Award, and WRHS created a fund at the Akron Community Foundation in his name.

 

Friends, it is not possible to recount or begin to adequately describe Siegfried’s impact on Hale Farm & Village and WRHS in a single communication. To know Siegfried was to love and respect him and recently, I had the privilege of visiting with him, his son Curt Buerling, and Hale Farm & Village Director, Travis Henline. During this special visit, we made plans to host a holiday party with Siegfried, his family and close friends and decided after to celebrate Siegfried’s 90th birthday on January 29, 2022 at Hale. I am ever grateful to Curt for giving us the opportunity to visit with Siegfried, to reminisce and express to him how important he is to Hale Farm, to WRHS, and to so many of us personally.

On behalf of WRHS, I offer our sincerest condolences to Siegfried’s family and friends and pledge to continue his work to preserve and safeguard Hale Farm & Village and his story for the benefit and enrichment of generations to come.

 

Thank you, Siegfried.

Kelly Falcone Hall Full Signature.jpg

Siegfried and Heidi Buerling,

HFV Legacy Award Benefit 2008

Kelly Falcone-Hall, Curt Buerling and Siegfried,

at Hale Farm 2021

Please share your memories, stories, and photos of Siegfried with us using the digital Share Your Story page.

New Costume Acquisition: Dr. Tameka Ellington

Images courtesy of Dr. Tameka Ellington

By Patricia Edmonson, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume & Textiles

The WRHS costume collection is ringing in the new year with an exciting acquisition. Dr. Tameka Ellington, formerly of Kent State University, is taking the next step in her career to write, speak, and share her expertise with others. As part of that process she has made her work in surface and fashion design available and the WRHS will bring in four of Dr. Ellington’s garments.

In her own words, Ellington’s work tells the stories of her ancestors: “Asante Sana (thank you in Swahili) is the name I have chosen to represent my total body of work.” She looks to a number of African regions and countries for inspiration, and has hopes of one day learning more about her own tribe and heritage.

Dr. Ellington works with natural fibers and uses techniques such as wax batik with resist dying, digital textile printing, and non-traditional leather tooling. The four garments coming to WRHS include The Offspring, Royal Mbebana, The Origin of Anansi the Spider, and How the Zebra Got its Stripes. Their arrival is part of a larger initiative to create a more diverse costume collection. Dr. Ellington grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Glenville High School before continuing her education. Today she lives and works in Akron, and WRHS is excited to create an ongoing relationship and make plans to display her garments in the future.

Join our Discussion with the Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

Contributed by the Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, Author, Let the Oppressed Go Free: Exploring Theologies of Liberation

Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1948, Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is a 1970 graduate of Aurora University in Illinois with a B.A. in Philosophy. His alma mater also awarded him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1990. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1973 and did two additional years of graduate study at Columbia University in New York. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey in 1983. He was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1998. He was also awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio in 2010.

 

He was ordained to the Christian ministry in 1973 at Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City where he served on the pastoral staff from 1972-1976. He served as the pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey from 1976-1986. He was pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio from 1987-2011. During that time, he led the church in establishing a ministry for people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. This ministry was the first of its kind in the entire country. The church also instituted a community tithing initiative in which the church tithed out 10% of its annual budget to various community programs and agencies. Dr. McMickle was named Pastor Emeritus in 2018. He became Interim Pastor in May 2020. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of Cleveland State University in Cleveland, OH, president of the Cleveland NAACP and Urban League, and president of the Shaker Heights Board of Education.

 

Dr. McMickle was the Professor of Homiletics at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio from 1996-2011. Upon retiring he was named Professor Emeritus by the Board of Trustee and the faculty. He is the author of 18 books. He has authored dozens of articles that regularly appear in professional journals and magazines. He is a member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. In the winter semester of 2009, he served as a Visiting Professor of Preaching at Yale University Divinity School. He was also an adjunct instructor at Princeton, New Brunswick, and New York theological seminaries.

 

Dr. McMickle served as the 12th President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School from July 2011 to June 2019.

 

He is an active member of the Progressive National Convention and American Baptist Churches (ABCUSA).He is also a Life Member of Kapa Alpha Psi Fraternity and a member of Sigma Pi Phi.

 

Dr. McMickle has been married to Peggy Lorraine Noble since 1975 and they have one son, Aaron who resides in New York City with his wife Pilar and their two daughters Aaliyah and Lola.

The Sole Gift of Comfort and Craftsmanship

By Patricia Edmondson, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costumes & Textiles

For many, the holidays are a time to feel warm and fuzzy. We celebrate, spend time with loved ones, and in Northeast Ohio try to find ways to stay literally warm on snowy, blustery evenings. The WRHS collection contains several pairs of slippers that would help do just that.

Needlepoint Slippers, mid-late 19th century

Gift of the University Circle Development Foundation 65.162.2

 

During the 19th century, young women often learned needlecraft as part of their education, and many women continued to practice the art for pleasure and out of necessity. Handmade gifts are one way to show love, and this pair of needlepoint slippers from the second half of the 19th century would have kept Charles Evarts’ (1847-1911) toes warm through the winter. Evarts worked in the insurance business during Cleveland’s early days. Slippers like these would have been made by purchasing the soles and assembling at home, or by taking the completed needlework to a local shoemaker for construction. The gift giver would use patterns to create the reindeer design, done here on a cheerful red background. Women’s magazines like Godey’s offered patterns for sewing projects including slippers. 

Needlework patterns for slippers, Godey’s Ladies’ Book, 1855 and 1863

Scuffie Slipper, 1890s

H.K. Devereaux Estate, 52.256

 

Another option for cozy toes were fur slippers, in this case rabbit fur. Bedroom slippers without backs are called scuffs, or scuffies, for little ones. As children in the 1890s, Julian and Millie Devereux wore these slippers around the house. The Devereux family lived on Cleveland’s “millionaires’ row,” Euclid Avenue, and could afford luxuries like these during the snowy months.

Child’s Slippers, ca. 1983

 

This writer has her own fond memories of shuffling around the house in various pairs of slippers, and following the Mad for Plaid costume exhibition, donated a pair from the 1980s. Jack Edmonson wore these around Christmastime, and then his younger sister Patty, now WRHS costume curator, inherited them for her own use. These slippers represent the type worn by an average American child in the 20th century, rather than the privileged few. Whether you’re making or buying a cozy gift this winter, slippers are like a warm hug from a loved one, helping make the Ohio snow more bearable.

The Gift of Black Sacred Music: Our Stories, Our Songs, and Our Sources

By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture

 

 

On Sunday, October 24, 2021, hundreds of gospel music fans helped celebrate the 85th anniversary of The Elite Jewels, “The Gospel Songbirds of the North,” at the Sanctuary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Mrs. Willie Mae Reese (pictured here) is the lead singer and current manager for the Elite Jewels. In the summer of 2021, she agreed to be one of the narrators for the Western Reserve Historical Society’s A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History Project. An Arkansas native, Mrs. Reese shared stories about her family life and education in the South, her migration to Cleveland, her love for music, and the people who inspired her to tell the world about the place of the Elite Jewels in the history of Black gospel quartet singing. Excerpts from her July 2021 interview are included in this special “Home for the Holidays” issue of our newsletter.

Mrs. Willie Mae Reese. (Photo by Regennia N. Williams)

 

The following passages are taken from a July 2021 oral history interview with Mrs. Willie Mae Reese. Dr. Regennia N. Williams and Ms. Kathryn Oleksa conducted the interview.

 

Early Life in Rural Arkansas

I was born in Jericho, Arkansas, and I grew up on a farm that my grandfather [Walter Adams] owned. He had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, and lots of farmland. He just raised everything there on his farm –including cotton. He had sharecroppers who also lived with their families in one of the other eight houses on our farm. The [Black] sharecroppers would plant their crops, and then they would give my grandfather a certain portion of that crop for staying there . . .

. . .There was a funny thing about it, though. White people would sometimes come to our farm. If you wanted a car, for example, they would drive that car all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, and let my grandfather see it. If he didn’t like the car, they would drive it all the way back to Memphis–and bring him another one to look at! The White people wouldn’t call him “Mr. Adam.” They would only call him “Uncle Walter,” because they didn’t want to say mister. That’s just the way that it was.

 

Music, Education, and Migration

sic, so I guess that’s where I got it from. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved gospel singing. I started out singing solos, and I just migrated into quartet singing. When I was a child, we even had a little singing group with our cousins . . .

I never rode a school bus. My sister Myrtle and I walked to school. When we graduated from the grade school in Arkansas, my sister and I moved to Memphis, Tennessee to live with our aunt. In Tennessee, we attended Booker T. Washington High School . . .

When I moved to Cleveland with my parents, I attended Cuyahoga Community College and studied Office Administration. Later, I started taking bass lessons from a professional [union] musician, and I am still taking lessons!

 

Mr. Arthur Turner and the Elite Jewels: Sources of Inspiration and “The Gospel Songbirds of the North”

In Cleveland, I always heard the Elite Jewels on the radio. They had a regular broadcast, and Mr. Arthur Turner was their manager. I thought that the Elite Jewels had the prettiest harmony that I had ever heard. I really, really wanted to sing with them, but I never thought I would get a chance to do that.

By the grace of God, Mr. Turner heard me singing a solo at a Baptist church in Cleveland, and he invited me to come to their rehearsal. I was about 30 years old at the time, and I started singing with the group soon after that. I don’t think anybody in the Elite Jewels had any formal training. It was just a God-given talent. We enjoyed singing, so we just kept doing it.

Mr. Turner made the Elite Jewels, because he had all of the contacts. He handled all of our management-related activities: he booked all of our concerts, he planned all of the programs, he collected the money, he maintained the equipment up. If we needed new equipment, he would go get that equipment. Of course, we paid for it, since he took it out of our money . . .

We performed with all the big groups, including the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Shirley Caesar, and Inez Andrews’ group . . . We recorded for major labels like Savoy, and James Cleveland even invited the Elite Jewels to head the quartet section of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, because he loved the Elite Jewels, but we decided not to do that . . .

It was a traveling group, and we went everywhere. The Elite Jewels had lots of opportunities, because they didn’t just sing for Blacks; they sang for Whites, too. The Whites loved the music as much as the Blacks, so the group performed for both groups. Sometimes, we couldn’t even stay in hotels; we would stay in the homes of Black people along the way . . . You always feel left out when you are not allowed to eat where everybody else eats, when you are not allowed to stay where everybody else stays, because the hotels were for Whites . . . That’s the way that it was in the South. As a matter of fact, it was like that in some of the Northern states, too, but you never let that stop you. If we had let that stop us, I wouldn’t be singing today.

After Mr. Turner retired and I took over as manager, the group was still travelling. We just kept on pushing and kept on singing.

Members of The Elite Jewels are shown performing during the group’s October 24, 2021, 85th anniversary concert. Mrs. Reese is seated on the far left. (Photo courtesy of Regennia N. Williams.)

Toy Exhibit Will Bring Nostalgia for Holidays Past

By Pamela Dorazio Dean, MA, CA

Curator of Italian American History

 

A special exhibit on view at the Cleveland History Center for the Holiday Season features popular toys from the 1960s to the 1980s, which often ended up under the Christmas tree or given as Hanukkah gifts.  For the people who were kids during these decades, many of these toys defined their childhoods and will bring back memories of simpler, fun times.

Among the toys of the 1960s on display are an original Cootie, a Barbie doll, and a Chrissy doll.  The 1970s display would not be complete without some Star Wars action figures and an X-Wing Fighter.  There is also a “Welcome Back Kotter” die cut figure with paper clothes.  Highlights of the 1980s selection include a Cabbage Patch Kid, Rubik’s Cube, and Nintendo Game Console.  A special case features Cleveland toys, particularly those created by American Greetings, including Holly Hobby and Strawberry Shortcake.

WRHS is delighted to partner with STAR POP vintage + modern to bring you these wonderful toys.  STAR POP is located in Cleveland’s Waterloo Arts District at 15813 Waterloo Road.  For more than a decade STAR POP has bought and sold new and old toys, classic video games, records, vintage clothing, trading cards and other pop culture collectibles.  Proprietor Troy Schwartz has been collecting toys since he was a kid.  Collecting toys is part of his DNA as his father, grandparents, and great grandparents have worked in or owned toy stores at some point in their lives.  STAR POP is open by appointment. For more info, visit www.starpopcleveland.com.

On “Track” for the Holidays

By John J. Grabowski Ph.D.

Krieger-Mueller Chief Historian

 

It is the largest object in the Cleveland Starts Here exhibit at the Cleveland History Center.   It is so big that one is tempted to see it as part of the structure.   However, the Ferro Enamel Mural is much more than backdrop.  It is a stunning piece of enamel technology and a wonderful example of modernist art executed by Daniel Boza who studied at the Cleveland School of Art.   It is also reflects on the spectacle that was the New York World’s Fair of 1939-1940 where it first came into public view.    But for many with long memories, it is a symbol of travel, for after New York it came back to Cleveland where it was installed in the main passenger concourse of Cleveland’s Union Terminal in 1941.  For nearly four decades it was seen by hundreds of thousands of passengers who may have “read it” as a piece of art, or more simply seen it as a sign of leaving or arriving at home.   Many of those who viewed it would have been making a December holiday visit – to or away from Cleveland.

It is, essentially a reminder of how Clevelanders traveled during the halcyon years of the American passenger railroad.   Today we still travel during the darker days of December, usually enduring jammed airports and aircraft, or crowded chaotic highways that we often transit in bad weather.    But in the end, it is all worth it – families reunite – yes to exchange gifts and to dine – but more so, simply to be together and to reminisce, exchanging stories that often focus on what the holiday season was like in the past – the gifts, the weather, and perhaps stories of the journeys made in good weather and bad.

Up until the early 1950s many of the holiday travel stories would have referenced the railroad.  Trains were often crowded with collegians going home over winter break as well as with families and relatives “coming home” with presents.  During World War II, servicemen and women lucky enough to get leave during December also crowded the trains that came into Cleveland.  Yet, then and during the long history of rail travel in Cleveland (beginning in 1849) there were other stations that witnessed the hustle and bustle of travel and happy reunions.

Cleveland’s first “union” depot, built in 1853, was situated near the lakefront docks at what is now the end of West 9th Street.   In 1866 it was replaced by a massive stone structure near the same site.  It would be the city’s main station until the Cleveland Union Terminal Complex on Public Square opened in 1930 – and one railroad, the Pennsylvania would continue to use it until September 1953 (only a stone retaining wall remains today as a reminder)   As “union” stations each of these three were built to serve multiple railroads, but not all.   So holiday comings and goings could at, one time, end at the Baltimore and Ohio’s station (which is still standing) at the end of Canal Road at its intersection with Carter Road.    The Wheeling and Lake Erie had a terminal up the slope from Canal Road in an area known as Vinegar Hill, while the Nickel Plate (New York, Chicago and St. Louis) had its original station just to the west of Broadway near East 14th.  And, the Erie Railroad disembarked its passengers at a terminal in the Flats just under the east side of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.   All of these stations would eventually be closed when the various railroads began to use the new, modern Cleveland Union Terminal – although it would take the Erie until 1949 to make the shift.

Only the Pennsylvania remained apart from the concourse that housed the Ferro Mural.   After closing its service to the old Union Station in 1953, its station at E. 55th and Euclid became the end of the line for passengers.   And that hints at more places where families likely reunited for the holidays.   Many railroads had subsidiary stations within Greater Cleveland, some of which functioned as commuter stops. The Pennsylvania also maintained a station at Broadway and Harvard near the American Steel and Wire Plant.  It could well have been the site where immigrant workers bound for what is now known as Slavic Village disembarked.   The Erie had a station at East 55th near Bessemer.  It was proximate to a large Czech community.   The Nickel Plate had major station at suburban Rocky River and another in East Cleveland just to the west of the intersection of Superior and Euclid, which it shared with the New York Central.  And one of the major stations on the New York Central’s east-west route was just to the south of Bratenahl and it often saw the coming and goings of some of the city’s wealthiest families, including the Rockefellers.   All told there were dozens of stations in and around Cleveland over the years.

Yet, by the 1940s, the main destination in Cleveland and the place where most journeys started and ended was the Cleveland Union Terminal.  It hosted over 60 trains a day in the 1940s, some, at times, running in multiple sections – particularly during the war and the busy holiday season.  For those who arrived and had forgotten to buy a gift, it was the perfect place to do so with a variety of stores and shops and a department store, Higbees, accessible right from the station.   And there at the end of the main concourse was the mural and a sign, “Welcome to Cleveland”.

Some thirty years later, rail service to the Terminal ended.   Amtrak, created to take over national passenger service, began operation in May 1971 and then left the station in 1972.  Only two through trains a day came to the city at the beginning of Amtrak service.   The last scheduled passenger train to use the station was an Erie-Lackawanna commuter service in 1978.  The concourse that had seen the holiday crowds and so much more was deserted, destined to become a site for indoor tennis courts and eventually the shops of Tower City Center.   The mural was carefully taken down and donated to the Historical Society.   It stayed in storage until 1993, when it was installed in the Society’s new Reinberger Gallery.  The building’s design was literally created around the space needed for its installation.   Today, while it no longer welcomes train travelers, it greets the guests and classes that come to the Cleveland History Center.   As we celebrate the holidays this year, take the time to look at it closely and try to imagine all it has seen over the years.   And if you have guests who have come to Cleveland via Amtrak be certain to have them join you!

 

Photo: Williams, J. Scott. “Huge Ferro Porcelain Enamel Mural Designed by J. Scott Williams.” CardCow.com, Curt Teich & Co., 1938, https://www.cardcow.com/422050/cleveland-ohio-huge-ferro-porcelain-enamel-mural-designed-by-j-scott-williams/.

A Look Back at 2021

By John Frato, Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel Training & Volunteer Coordinator

The midway at Euclid Beach Park featured three noteworthy carousels on opening day in 1921. One hundred years ago, three new rides made their debut at Euclid Beach Park. All but one would still be operating on September 28, 1969 when the Park closed its gates forever.

The Great American Racing Derby took its place next to the Grand Carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and across from the Flying Ponies which were a product of the Herschell-Spillman Company. While both the Derby and Grand Carousel had four rows of horses, the Derby required a much larger footprint. The Derby’s enclosure was 114 feet in diameter while the Carousel was housed in a 90 foot diameter structure. The Great American Racing Derby was a product of the Prior and Church Company of Venice, California. It was a very unique merry-go-round with 64 hand-carved wooden horses that ran four abreast and designed to hold two riders. Unlike a conventional carousel the horses not only went up and down but moved forward and backwards. Another similarity between the Grand Carousel and the Derby was the ability of rider’s to “win” a free ride. In the Grand Carousel’s early years of operation, riders could reach for a brass ring which would entitle them to a free ride. Likewise, riders on the Derby who found themselves in the lead of their row of horses when the bell rang at the end of the ride would also receive a free ride. The ride operator would place a small American Flag in a hole behind the horses left ear and the rider / riders would stay on their horse for the next turn of the Derby. The major difference between the two rides had to do with speed. The much faster speed of the Derby along with the horses’ up and down movement elevated this merry-go-round to a circular “thrill ride”. In 1967, the Derby fell victim to its high maintenance and the need for the Humphrey Company to raise operating capital amid dwindling attendance. It was sold to Cedar Point where it still operates as Cedar Downs.

The two other rides that made their debut in 1921 were the Dodgem and the Mill Chute. Both of these rides were altered significantly during their lifespan at Euclid Beach. The Dodgem building was 143 feet by 90 feet and at the time of its installation was reportedly the largest Dodgem track in the country. The original cars were designed to operate in exactly the opposite direction the driver intended. If for example, the driver steered left the car would go right. With cars that operated in this fashion it was difficult for riders to heed the operator’s instruction of: “Traffic moves one way and one way only, no head-on bumping”. In the 1930’s after more than ten years of mayhem, the ride cars were replaced with cars purchased from the Dodgem Corporation headquartered in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Over the years, the cars acquired a number of different paint schemes, but remained in operation until the park closed.

The Mill Chute was designed and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Riders would board boats and leisurely head toward a darkened “mountain tunnel”. They would travel through a number of scenes painted with luminous paint before ascending the lift hill and plummeting into the “lake” below. As with the Dodgem, the boats on the Mill Chute were also replaced. The renovations went much farther with even the name of the ride changing to Over the Falls. In 1937, the channel was extended, more curves were added, the hill was raised from 30 to 37 feet and the angle was increased from 20 to 50 degrees. The results were a dramatic increase of speed from the top of the lift hill to the bottom.

Making History While Serving a Congregation and the Community

Pastor Richard Gibson of the Elizabeth Baptist Church, a 2019 “Soul of Philanthropy, Cleveland” honoree. (McKinley Wiley, The DarkRoom Company)
Richard Gibson in a 1997 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. program photo. (African American Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society)

 

*Based on an Interview with the Rev. Richard Gibson

By Regennia N. Williams, PhD
Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture

 

Twenty-five years ago, Richard Gibson served as the president of the African American Archives Auxiliary of the Western Reserve Historical Society.  Today, as we approach the end of the 50th anniversary year for the Auxiliary, the Rev. Richard Gibson is pastor of Cleveland’s Elizabeth Baptist Church.  During a telephone interview on October 7, 2021, our most recent for the A. Grace Lee Mims Arts and Culture Oral History Project, Pastor Gibson discussed the importance of history, the current debates regarding the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), his role as a religious leader, and his responsibility as a community leader.  The following excerpt from the transcript was edited for length and clarity. –RNW

 

 

I went to the Cleveland Public Schools and then went to Yale University for my undergraduate degree.  My first job out of college was as a history teacher, and I taught history to high school juniors and seniors.  I’m passionate about history, and I certainly appreciate the value of history –especially for our people during this time.

 

When I came back to Cleveland, I earned my law degree and my MBA from Case Western Reserve University.  I was at Liberty Hill Baptist Church, and that is where I entered the ministry.  I never intended to pastor, but I began pastoring at Elizabeth Baptist Church 18 years ago. Actually, this month [October 2021] I will celebrate my 18th anniversary as pastor.

 

It is critical that we know our history.  I believe that history is foundational for us in that we can build upon it, and it keeps all of us accountable. You talked about Louis Stokes, for example.  I served on a board with him before he transitioned. He chaired the board, actually, and our work focused on getting more youth of color into medical school.  It was a fascinating approach, and he did things that were important not just in his public position in Congress.  He was working on areas that would have an impact for generations.

 

There is a discussion that is taking place now about history and what should be taught in the classroom.  One of the groups that is fighting hard and is really demonizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) is actually part of the Christian community.  I’ve had to take strong positions with some of my colleagues who have looked at the teaching of CRT as a divisive issue, rather than looking at it as an issue that could be inclusive and looking at history broadly.  So, history in this moment is really critical.

 

The position that I hold creates responsibilities for me.  If I am sitting in a position, I should be doing all that I can do to help our people advance in their relationships with God and their relationships with our neighbors.   We can’t really advance in our relationships with their neighbors if we don’t have that relationship with God—and we also need to own property, own businesses, and have opportunities to participate economically.

 

In this position, I have to push in all of those areas.  Some might view that as making history, but I view it as my calling, my responsibility.