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09/23/17 03:15 PM #697    

William L Kahrl

I will be in California for the mini-reunion on Sunday, doubtless feeling a little sad at missing out. But I have just finished reading through Joe Blake's slide set and supporting commentary. What a treat all of you attending his presentation will enjoy. I just want to express my gratitude and deep respect for all the effort he's put into this work. And his enthusiasm certainly illuminates the insights he's sharing with us all.  The presentation does an especially effective job of drawing out the intricate relationship between the development of Shaker and the operation of the railroads -- a central fact of life I never grasped while living there.  Joe, you have every reason to bask in the acclaim and applause that will surely be coming your way on Sunday. But if you're ever looking for something else to do... I can think of some additional areas that would make for several more of your fascinating presentations. For example, at a few points in this survey you draw attention to some of the architectural details that make the residences of Shaker so much fun -- brickwork, windows, driveways, doors, roofing tiles. A study of those signature elements and the architects who indulged in them would be delightful. On a related topic, Cleveland recently welcomed the annual gathering of Art Deco enthusiasts from all over the country. Apart from the cinema in Shaker Square, I'm unaware of any other monuments to Art Deco within Shaker's sphere. Are there some or was all that excitement in the 1920s and 30s just too foreign to the Vans' aesthetic and ambience? Finally, is there any chance that you're thinking of extending the narrative beyond 1970? Since I only get back to Shaker for reunions, two things really startled me about the look of the place. The first thing is that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- seemed to have changed in the area I lived in near the high school. The houses had all been maintained, none had burned down or been replaced, even the landscaping was the same. How is that possible over the span of half a century? When one thinks about the significant economic and demographic changes that have buffeted northern Ohio, how is it that Shaker remains largely shielded and immutable? On the other hand, I was surprised to see the dramatic physical decline of the areas behind Shaker Square. What's been happening at the margins since we were kids? Again, many thanks for a brilliant exploration of a community I love. 

09/25/17 01:34 PM #698    


Larry L Nudelman

It was interesting hearing all the stories about the different areas that our classmates were involved in.  My father was also a home builder, and when I was two we moved into a house he built at the corner of Lomond and Winchel.  For those of you that lived in the area, there is still a four foot lion in front of the house.  Back then the codes limited the color of the house, copper gutters, slate shingeled roof, window wells for basement windows, and many more that have changed over the years.  From the time I was 12, I worked at the Lynfield Drug, and Bordenaro's grocery.  I would deliver Groceries and Prescriptions to neighbors on my bike for a couple miles around.  I did a lot for a quarter tip.  Eventually I reached the "position" of soda Jerk.  I knew the names of most of the customers of both stores, along with the last names of the buisness men that would either take the Rapid home, or drive home but stop at the Drugstore for their cup of Bromo-Seltzer, to settle their stomach before seeing their old lady, they would say.  Too bad there isn't the corner drug store any more.  Maybe it was replaced with the corner bar.  But I degress. 

In about 1998-99  I worked on a large project to renovate Shaker Square.  They sand blasted the outside of the buildings and renovated the Theater, many exsisting stores, added a Daves Grocery, added outside lighting.  While working in many of the stores basements I found many barried treasures.  I found a couple Brass medallions that commerated Shaker Squares 65th  annavisery from 1994.  I use one them for the keys of my 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster.   It seems even then people didn't want to throw things away, I would find old barber chairs, broken stools, carts with broken wheels pushed behind a false wall, out of sight and out of mind.  Maybe some of you young ladied remember Hellen Milner Inc Hairdressers at Shaker Square.  On a book of matches they advertised "complete air conditioned shop" ,  which was unheard of in the 30's and 40's, but not for the ladies of Shaker Heights.  This was right next to the Stofers at Shaker Square.  I could see why a company could go under building Shaker Square, because they were trying to build something to last, and it has. 

09/25/17 10:04 PM #699    

Joseph G Blake


Thanks for your very kind words. I will let Evie grade me. She was there with several others.

There are plans afoot to do it again within the year with a larger venue. 

You raise some interesting issues. The areas where you will notice major chaanges are Chagrin Lee Avalon which has been virtually rebuilt and Van Aken Center which iis undergoing major rebuilding now. In the mid 70s before we moved to the UK there was a  lot of talk about the need to do this in order to avoid a negative image. CLA was tackled first using Heinen's and Shaker Hardware as the anchors of a new center. It was largley accomplished by 1990. Now its Van Aken Center that is changing dramatically. 

The standards are deeply imbedded in the city in terms of its commitment to planning and architecture. In many ways the standards of the Van are deeply part of the character of the city. If we compare Shaker and Cleveland Heights there are may differences but the biggest difference is that Shaker in its first 30 years was under the control of two people. That could not happen today for many reasons notably the financial commitment. I think it fair to say the then mayor knew the people elected him but the Vans were his boss. And in those days the residents were fully with the Vans. 

Cleveland Heights had may players and therefore there is less uniformity.I often think Severance Center was a terrible use of the former Severance estate. It was a very large parcel. Many thought then there were much more creative ways to use it and possibly find a better use for the Severance mansion than tearing it down for a sterile modern shopping mall.

In Shaker perceived departures are quickly challeneged. I recall back in the 70s many wanted condo development to be allowed on South Park when a large parcel became available when a house was taken down. Yes it does happen. The attempt failed and later a very substantial residence was built. 

The city has generally been very tough on housing inspections. The city now has housing with a median age of nearly 85 years and many century houses. The rapid has been operating on Shaker Blvd since 1913. It is also true that more than half the city was built when the Van Sweringen Company controlled all the archtectural standards. In those days you bought a lot, got an architect and the pans were then submitted to the company for approval. After 1936 the company becomes a shell coming out of bankruptcy.

Art Deco is so rarely found in anything the Vans did. The tastes were very tradtional and restrained. Compare the Terminal Tower to the Chrysler Building in NYC. I would add that yes it does refelct the difference in tastes between the Vans and Walter Chrysler but I would add it reflects the difference between NYC and the Midwest. New York is flashy. Its the big apple. Likewise, Newport always seems too oppulent. In the Midwest in my experience if you want to make a statement you do it subtlely. There is no Newport.

In terms of Art Deco the old Colony Theatre and the Vogue had eleements of that. There were some signs of it at the Terminal in Higbee's. If you recall the Silver Grille it had art deco features and the store did as well. The exterior has none of it. The architects for the exterior were Anderson Graham Probst and White who also designed the Union Trust Building at 9th and Euclid (the Huntington Bank Building today). The banking hall is five stories high and the largest banking lobby in the world. If you recall it the style is pure Greek Temple with murals of commerce in the ceiling. No art deco. 

Larry's comments reminded me that nothing is done by half. The Vans may well have over built in some ways. The Terminal complex may well be a good  example of more than the city needed. But again that is easy to say now but not so obvious to the people who lived there when it was the 5th largest city in the country.

The Vans set down markers of excellence that no one else can replicate in terms of scale and control.And they are still part of the city 100 years later.

09/30/17 07:29 PM #700    

William L Kahrl

Joe, As always you provide an informative and well-reasoned response to my earlier fan letter.  I must quibble, however, at one margin. It must surely be wrong to suggest the the Midwest had no truck with Art Deco froofaraw. You're writing after all from a city that houses Severeance Hall. And that's just one monument to that movement. Anyone interested in seeing more examples around town could do worse than simply reetracing the steps outlined in the program for the World Congress on Art Deco which was held in Cleveland last May. You can find it at Detroit, moreover, was pretty much art deco central in the first half of the last century and many of the most spectacular buildings from that era still exist, albeit often in pretty dicey neighborhoods.

Now for something really important. I was just reading a review of Celeste Ng's new novel Little Fires Everywhere, which is set in Shaker Heights and reportedly deeply steeped in its history and culture. In it, she makes reference to Shaker's most infamous high school prank, "the legendary Toothpick Day incident." Can anyone recall what that was? It must have been something pretty great to top Stuart Math's adventure up the flagpole.



















































































































































































































10/04/17 01:47 PM #701    

Edward M Kovachy, Jr

Willy and other classmates before him have referenced Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere.

I am reading it right now.  It is wonderful.  A fellow Shaker High grad, she really knows her

Shaker Heights and writes like an angel.   She more than honors the Shaker High tradition of

excellence in teaching writing and in turning out excellent writers.  Willy, Lesley Dormen, Eric Ehrmann,

George Divoky, and Andy Borowitz come to mind.  There are many, many more.


But I have something even more important than that to say. And that is: "Go, Tribe!!!!"

We have a great team, and, if we can stay hot, then, why not, maybe just maybe,

at long last, this is our year.  May it be so!


Love to all,


10/04/17 02:44 PM #702    


Evie Fertman (Braman)

Our Class of '64 Joe Blake made a great presentation at the Shaker Historical Society recently!  He began with the history of the Vans interest in the train transportation business.  They purchased land in Cleveland Heights to create neighborhoods and then moved on to Shaker Heights and established a new rail system, what we all know as the "Rapd" (or, if you are under six years of age, the "Rabbit"!).  They sectioned off land to be neighborhoods, country clubs, shopping areas, churches, government facilities, etc. and from there grew our city of Shaker Heights.  Joe took us through how the Great Depression effected the Vans and their plans for future growth and ended up with a slide show of many houses in Shaker showing different types of architecture and eliciting many comments from the attendees of "That was MY house!" and "I lived next door to that house!" and "My best friend lived in that house!" and even an "I always wanted that house!"  


Joe was extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of the creation of Shaker Heights and of the Van Sweringens business background and delivered his talk with a great sense of humor.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak I urge you to take advantage of it!  Thanks, Joe, for a really fun afternoon.

10/04/17 02:51 PM #703    


Evie Fertman (Braman)





10/05/17 09:34 AM #704    


Betsy Dennis (Frank)

Of 2018? Isn't that a year early?Or am I demented :) Betsy

10/05/17 09:36 AM #705    


Betsy Dennis (Frank)

I am in the process of reading Celeste Ng's book and what trip down memory lane. The house on Winslow she references is an actual house!

10/05/17 12:36 PM #706    

Judi Bachman (Holtze)

glad all who were there enjoyed joe's talk. 

Agree with betsy....14+5=19.... 



10/05/17 04:38 PM #707    

Joseph G Blake

Thanks for all the kind comments about my presentation posted here or sent to me personally.

There may be a repeat of it next year at a date to be determined.

Also, we can always have a command performance at the 55th reunion in 2018 or 2019 as the gods decide.

Joe Blake

10/24/17 07:19 PM #708    

Joseph G Blake

I saw this link about the heart break endured by Cleveland Sports Fans. I am passing it along.

Its tough being a Cleveland fan.

10/25/17 08:31 AM #709    


Phyllis Hammer (Gubanc)

When I was a teenager, I thought that if I never saw Cleveland again, I'd be totally content. Now, every time I return to Cleveland, the sense of "coming home" is overwhelming. And, I admit, along with that "being a Clevelander" thing comes the heartbreak aspect of our sports teams. Ah, well....maybe next year. I live outside "Cowlumbus" now, and I sometimes wonder if my jaded attitude towards the Ohio State Buckeyes might be part of what's cursing the Indians and Browns. I swear, if Ohio State had beaten Michigan on 9/11, *that* story would been above the fold on that day with the events of 9/11 featuring ... maybe ... on page 2. ;) Ok. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration...but not much!

10/25/17 08:19 PM #710    


William K Dickey

Joe, thanks for the post.  I try to explain this very thing to folks, but no other city can really understand because they have not gone through such a long drought over 5 decades across all major league teams.  I guess you have to experience it to understand.  The Buddhist concept of all life is suffering help!  Bill

10/26/17 05:43 PM #711    

Patricia Ann Richards (Armstrong)


Thanks, Joe!  I remember so clearly chewing bubblegum like crazy, (fortunately Crest toothpaste came on the market just in time) to get Cleveland baseball cards - my favourite was "Early Wynn" - LOVED that name.  And the fact that the gum came in those big rectangles made it even more desirable.  The transcript of your talk is a treat awaiting me this  weekend.

Best wishes as aye...Patty Richards Armstrong







10/27/17 08:19 AM #712    


Phyllis Hammer (Gubanc)

I had such a crush on Rocky Colavito. And Gary Bell. I suppose that I wanted the Indians to win, too, but my crushes were far too important to worry about such trivia and that. ;)

10/27/17 01:55 PM #713    

Christine Adler (Phillips)

Thanks, Joe, for posting your article. Even as a Californian for many years, I still have a sweet spot for the Indians, Browns, and Cavs! Although folks here can't believe that I don't root for the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, or the many iterations of the Rams!!

On another note, I wonder whether we could plan our next reunion - 2019 I hope - for some other month than August, which is not known to be the best Cleveland weather month. ;-D  How about May, June or October? Much better weather then... Just saying....

10/27/17 02:18 PM #714    

Judi Bachman (Holtze)

Agree with chris about august.  Not just cleveland weather but it is the height of the tourist season and plane prices much higher...from europe and across the states.

Not a baseball fan but my father was.  Remember him taking me to meet bob feller. There is a tv series called no place like home..based in cleveland and the early days of baseball. Interesting.

10/27/17 04:54 PM #715    


Betsy Dennis (Frank)

My father traveled with the Cleveland Indians as a radio engineer with Jack Graney and Jimmy Dudley. I remember meeting many of the ball players. When I was a child I met many of the ball players. 

10/28/17 02:01 PM #716    


Patricia (Paige) Fields (Hoebel)

Cleveland is most beautiful in May and October.  Why not take advantage of our home town when it is at it's best?  That's my two cents worth.


11/22/17 08:21 PM #717    


Betsy Dennis (Frank)

Saw this on FB. auction of Shaker street signs.

11/30/17 09:20 AM #718    

Joseph G Blake

IN re Street Auction and Lucille Burkett RIP

1. The Shaker Schools Foundation is auctioning old street signs. If you want to buy your old street name you can go to the web site here.

Its relativley easy. The site wil take you to the auction. You can find your street name and will probably find that there several signs available for each street. Longer streets with more interesections will have more signs.

You can buy yours now for $125 plus shipping if you do not live in Cleveland. You place a bid (minimum $35) and see what happens. Like an ebay auction it also allows you to place a mimimum bid and max bid. 

You can now afford to buy South Park. Or whatever street you thought was your ambition to have.

2. On another note, Lucille Burkett, former Girls Physical Ed instructor at the high school circa 1964 has died. I seem to recall she wore an engagement ring for her former finacee who was killed in WW2 and she therefore never married.

Here is the obituary link:!/Obituary

12/01/17 01:41 PM #719    


Alaina Weisman (Zachary)


Joseph Blake, to the best of my memory, she was engaged to a soldier who died in the Korean War, not WW2.  She wasn't that old!

Health and happy holidays to each and all.  I had my annual hit n run to Cleveland for Thanksgiving and part of the pilgrimage is to Chagrin Falls which never fails to please!


12/02/17 12:15 PM #720    


Dana Shepard (Treister)

' 64 Gristmill - p. 47 - Miss Burkett  looks exactly the same as the person in the obit photo - same smile; same hair style.  Just "a litttle" older.  Looking at that yearbook  page, I mostly remember Mrs. Eichenbaum, our dance teacher ...

12/02/17 01:17 PM #721    

Joseph G Blake

Chagrin Falls really reminds me of a movie set for a Hallmark Movie Channel. I suppose in some ways its the way Shaker was in 1955. 


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