Carlyle Garner Interview, 30 April 2013

Carlyle Garner shares his memories of growing up in Central and talks about the types of businesses and places of entertainment he used to patronize while living in the neighborhood. He discusses the popularity of gambling and playing “the policy” in the neighborhood and attitudes of older African Americans toward Black nationalism.

Participants: Garner, Carlyle (interviewee) / Downer, Nick (interviewer)
Collection: Cedar Central
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Nick Downer [00:00:00] [recording starts abruptly] Central because you were saying that you used to live in Central or you always lived in Central, right?

Carlyle Garner [00:00:04] Yeah, I used to live on Central, 73rd.

Nick Downer [00:00:08] So I guess for the record, first of all, we're gonna- Can you say your name, how old you are and where you're from?

Carlyle Garner [00:00:15] Mm hmm. My name is Carlos Garner. I was born ... [19]53. I was born and raised on 22, was it 93, Central? East 73rd. Went to Central Junior High School and East Tech. And Giddings was on, matter of fact, went to Giddings Elementary School, which is located on 71st and Central. Mm hmm.

Nick Downer [00:00:48] And what do you remember about Central when you were growing up?

Carlyle Garner [00:00:52] Oh, it was- It was like the highlight of the inner city, actually. When I was coming up, it was like the highlights of the inner city. Everything was there, from chicken shacks to policy. You know? It was always there. And when I grew up on Central, I was a member of the YMCA. Yeah. I went from- Which was located on 73rd and Cedar, 74th and Cedar, 77th and Cedar. Right next to Robert's Bike Shop. Right. And from there, I won a scholarship. Went to Northwood, Canada, for the swimming team. That's what I really remember about Central, other than growing up, playing every day with guys over there in Central. But as an adult, I think I moved from Central to 89th and Capital with Diane Preston. That was my girl. Yeah, Diane Preston. And we had a ball. What else you'd like to know about central?

Nick Downer [00:01:56] Do you remember, like, what you used to do for fun, like music venues and stuff?

Carlyle Garner [00:02:01] Back then?

Nick Downer [00:02:01] Yeah.

Carlyle Garner [00:02:02] Oh, back then, as far as music venues, everybody played music. They had a- They had a- What was that? That was at the Chicken Shack, though. They used to play music out loud. The Chicken Shack and laundrymat. As far as the jazz venue or something to that effect, they didn't offer that. You know, it just wasn't no standout place for that. I think the closest place where they used to play a lot of jazz was- What's the name of the place on 89th and Quincy? The Karamu House.

Nick Downer [00:02:36] Oh, yeah.

Carlyle Garner [00:02:37] The Karamu House. That's where we used to go and listen to a lot of music. But other than that, you know, we played music in our homes. You know.

Nick Downer [00:02:44] What kind of stuff did you listen to when you're growing up?

Carlyle Garner [00:02:46] When I was growing up, I think the Whispers and O'Jays and the Dramatics was really, like, in. Them records like that was in then, 45s, you know, were in, 8-track tape players. And we had a ball with them, Sly and the Family Stone. You know, them were like popular groups then, when I was coming out. And Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, that was Ray Charles. That was for the older group then, you know. But I was in that younger group with the Dramatics, I imagine.

Nick Downer [00:03:23] What was the Chicken Shack, you were saying? Is that- Was that a place to go?

Carlyle Garner [00:03:27] Yeah, they sold chicken there. They sold wings there, right there on 73rd and Central, you know. And Miss Oney's was on 71st, and then across the street from her was Sonny's, the barbershop. And Central only went to like 84 if, you know, the bus turned around right there at 83rd, somewhere up there, and turned around and came right back down. I didn't- As far as with guys my age, we used to come down to this outpost here on 30th. It's an outpost on 30th and Central. We used to go in there for dances, carrying on, things like that. Or either to the YMCA on 22nd, you know. Other than that, was it.

Nick Downer [00:04:13] I heard about- Another guy was telling me about pool halls being the thing when you were-

Carlyle Garner [00:04:16] Yeah, Lucky's. Yeah, Lucky's was a pool hall. And one was on- Richard had one on 71st and Cedar. That was on Cedar. But see, all that was in the vicinity, though. Well, that was in the vicinity of Central.

Nick Downer [00:04:38] So what was your like- What was your family like when you were growing up?

Carlyle Garner [00:04:42] My family? My family was brilliant. My dad worked and my mom took care of the home. My mom. Yeah.

Nick Downer [00:04:51] Where'd your dad work at?

Carlyle Garner [00:04:53] My dad worked at Ford Motor Company. I think many guys that come from the South worked at Ford Motor Company when they come up. And that's what my father did. He worked for Ford Motor Company up until he was deceased. And we just played on 73rd. You know, we had a group. They had the Black Nationalists on 71st and Central. They had a place upstairs over Miss Oney's store.

Nick Downer [00:05:24] The Black Nationalists did?

Carlyle Garner [00:05:25] Mm hmm. The Black Nationalists operated in a spot right there called the Six Tray. You know, I wanted to join at one point in time, but my mom told me, if you join, you won't get nothing but a pair of black boots and black pants, because that's all they wearing. So I never did join. And but Central, just- It was a spot inhabited by a lot of folks that come from the South, you know. From 83rd and Central all the way down, all the way down to the projects, really, you know. Central, that's how Central was. It was just a meeting place and we enjoyed it. I know I did. And they had the bath house to offer over here on- Matter of fact, it's still on Central, if I'm not mistaken. They got a bath house down here on about 20, about 23rd, right through that cut over there is the bath house. Yeah, I remember that. I remember YMCA because I was into sports. I played for the Cipadas and I played for Banaway Renfroes, and I played baseball and football and ran track for Central, Central junior high. That's when they had the 7B, 7A. You know, Central come a long way since then. It's dead now. You know, you can ride them down Central now and it's just empty. But now only they have new houses. It looks good. It looks good again. They gonna take down all the old houses and put up new houses, you know, I imagine that's part of the housing projects, but that looks good on Central. It really do. I know a lot of places that I went to that's tore down. Even the schools, like John Burroughs used to sit on the corner of 65th, I believe, and Central, you know, even. And then going to the bridge, it was Giddings Elementary School. Other than that, just about everything that's tore down on Central from when I was a child.

Nick Downer [00:07:31] What do you think happened?

Carlyle Garner [00:07:34] Change, you know, evolution, you know, everything changed. You know, the city got a little bit wiser and a little bit more polished and they got rid of all the old homes and put in new ones. Matter of fact, the street I used to live on, I go down there, all new houses on the street. All new houses. Not one house what I knew it to be. Yeah.

Nick Downer [00:07:59] What do you remember about your old house, what it looked like?

Carlyle Garner [00:08:02] My old house? Yeah, my house was white and blue. Yeah, I remember. It was 2193 East 73rd. I definitely remember my home, 73rd between Cedar and Central. And we had a ball on the street. I just told you what I did. I grew up playing ball and swimming and, you know, used to go to Friendly Town and camps. Matter of fact, I used to attend church right down here on St. Philip's. I attended St. Philip's Church. They used to send us off to Friendly Town when we was young. But you got to consider, I'm 60 years old, so we talking about something like 40 years ago. You know? I'm talking a little longer than that, 45 years ago. Cause then I was hustling at the markets down here on 40th and Woodland. That's how guys used to make money. We used to go pick up, you know, fruit and deliver it and sell it. That was our thing. What else you need to know?

Nick Downer [00:09:04] Do you remember when they put up the projects or the college? Do you remember anything about that?

Carlyle Garner [00:09:11] For the college, for Tri-C and projects right across from it? Oh, they was always down there. They closed now, but they just closed them recently. But I think, I don't know what they gonna do with them. Tear them down or whatever. But the ones on 30th and Cedar, I know they won't never tear them down, because them the first project in the state of Ohio. When I grew up, half of the projects weren't even there. You know, they just built the projects when I got older, they built them. Projects wasn't there. The ones on 30th were, but the ones on 55 wasn't there. And the ones on 55 and Central wasn't there. Matter of fact, it was Majestic Hotel on 55 and Central. It was a real big hotel where all players used to be and people that was into that life used to be. But I used to go up there and shine shoes at the Majestic, Ellis Bar on the weekends, I did. That's how I made my little hustle. I was. You taking me way back, way back. So I don't know what Central like now. You know, it's just central, you know, now. Cause half the things that's on Central wasn't even there when I was here.

Nick Downer [00:10:39] What are you, like, the kids you grew up with and stuff? You know where they are now? They all leave? Are they still here?

Carlyle Garner [00:10:46] No. I see a few of them, like the Rashids, you know, Farouk and Abdul. They still here. Their parents are on 79th and Central, matter of fact. You know, to be exact, they are on 79th and Central around the corner. I remember the stores up there. I remember the guy got killed in the store when they robbed the store. Barber shops. As matter of fact, Geraldine Butler, she works for the fifth district, and she used to stay right there on 83rd and Central. Her and Christine. Other than that, ain't too much more you can tell about Central, really.

Nick Downer [00:11:26] What was the Black Nationalist like? What do you remember about that? Was that a big thing in the neighborhood?

Carlyle Garner [00:11:30] Yeah. Then it was, you know, it was a big thing to them, but to other people that wasn't involved, I guess it didn't really matter. I looked at it at one point in time, thought about it, but like my mom said, it wasn't for me, you know, and I went on to school. You know, they had their little organization right there on 71st, upstairs over Miss Omie's. But other than that, you know, they were causing more problems than anything else, you know? The Black Nationalists. I guess they had problems about people becoming members, you know? They used to drag in members from wherever, I don't know, but not in my neighborhood. Too many guys didn't join, you know, but even though they were posted up in our neighborhood, but too many guys didn't join it. You know, our parents didn't really, like, you know, support them. They didn't really support them back then. You know, they thought they were just radical groups and shit, looking for something to do. That's it.

Nick Downer [00:12:36] So it was mostly like the young guys who were interested and the older people were not with it?

Carlyle Garner [00:12:41] Yeah, that's true. Yeah. And they tried to recruit all the young people they could. You know, how successful they were with that, I don't know. I really don't. You know, I didn't see any other big things that occurred on Central.

Nick Downer [00:12:57] Were you during the riots? The Hough riots?

Carlyle Garner [00:13:00] I was living on Central during the riots. Riots was over on Hough, on 69th, 65th, all the way up Belvidere. But I didn't ever participate in the riots. But it was close. It was like a couple blocks over Cedar, Carnegie, Euclid, Chester, then Hough. Yeah, it was over that way. I didn't ever participate in the riots, though. But in '69, '67, '68, that's when they really, really was rioting, tearing up stores. If you was a White store owner living in the city at that time, they probably wrecked your store, you know, at that particular time. Cause they was on some kind of Black power trip. I could never understand it. Why would you tell the candy store, but it was all about the owners. It wasn't about, you know, the store they wanted. I don't know what they wanted. I don't even know if they was protesting for, you know, other than independence, you know? I can't think of nothing else over on Central that might interest you.

Nick Downer [00:14:06] Yeah, I think it's- I mean, that's pretty good. Where did your parents come from? Because you said they were. Your dad was from the South, right?

Carlyle Garner [00:14:13] Yeah, Louisiana. They come from Louisiana and Montgomery, you know, mostly all the- Quite a few Blacks migrated up to the north, you know. Cause it was good jobs. They worked well, my dad's brothers went to Detroit, and he came to Cleveland 'cause of my mom. That's why I ended up in Cleveland. I probably would end up in Detroit with him. His brother Sonny moved to Detroit, lived in Detroit. Excuse me. Lived in Detroit, you know, so that's basically all I remember about Central.

Nick Downer [00:14:50] Cool. So, yeah, I mean, we did music, restaurants, there was the places up and down Central, right, you were talking about?

Carlyle Garner [00:14:58] Yeah, like Majestic and chicken wing shacks. Yeah, they was jumping then. They was really jumping. It was owned by, like, mom and pops type individuals, you know, but it was somewhere for the people, everybody in that neighborhood to go to, they sold barbecue, they sold chicken wings, pig feet dinners and shit like that. All that type of stuff. You know, when we was coming up. It was more lively than what it is now, because now they got boundaries, you know, certain things you're not allowed to do, like, I don't even think you're allowed to, like, sell ribs outside no more unless you got a vending license. But when I was coming up, you know, like, everything goes, you know, it was just the neighborhood. If you get in trouble on 71st, it'd get back to your mama, you know. Cause everybody was closely knitted then, but now, you know, it's just a different crew, you know, young generation, they just tear up the neighborhoods, and they live in the neighborhoods that are tear up. Back then, when I was coming up, they didn't do that, you know, they had little street block dances and parties. Everybody knew everybody. But that all changed so tremendously now, you know, people scared to even come out now, really. If you want to compare it to the present day, you know, which it was entirely different and safer then, you know. But when you come with new laws, you come with new activities and things of that nature. And Central just a drive-through now. People just pass by Central now. You know, matter of fact, Central, ain't nothing on Central no more but the bath house. Nothing else I can remember. You know, you can ride from 22nd and Central all the way up to 83rd, as far as it go and it ain't nothing too much, nothing happening no more on Central or Cedar, you know? So that's it.

Nick Downer [00:16:59] Yeah. Yeah. I think the last question I have is the other guys I've been talking to, some of them said they don't remember ever seeing White people living here, and some people do-

Carlyle Garner [00:17:07] In Central?

Nick Downer [00:17:08] Do you remember in, like, the neighborhood?

Carlyle Garner [00:17:10] Yeah, I stayed across the street from some Indian. I stayed across the street, right across the street from some Indian folks. It wasn't like it is now. It's more White people now in them housing development projects. That's probably why. But then when I grew up. When I grew up, mostly all the Whites, they were store owners or be in that gambling joint up there on Cedar, but it used to be a strip up there on Cedar. Matter of fact, Don King, I used to run numbers for his brother Roscoe. I used to run the policy. The Clan House, the Jet and Gold Eagle, and the Billing Bill. Yeah.

Nick Downer [00:17:54] Can you explain that a little bit, just for the background, like what that is?

Carlyle Garner [00:17:58] What, the policy? Everybody played the policy. It was like you put ten cent on a number, you know, and get $10, you know, if the number hit in the drawings, you know, if you're hitting that order, you know, basically, just like the lottery. The lottery wasn't out then. They didn't have no lottery. But Black folks always had policy, you know, it was a way of like making a few extra dollars and spending a few extra dollars, you know. And no, you didn't have too many White folks in the vicinity because it was the inner city. It was, you know, built up. It was just there. Blacks from the South. Everybody stopped up there in Central and that was it.

Nick Downer [00:18:41] Where's that gambling strip from on Central?

Carlyle Garner [00:18:44] On

Nick Downer [00:18:45] On Cedar from where to where?

Carlyle Garner [00:18:46] On 87th. Cedar used to have gambling houses all up through there where you can go in and really, you know, play crap and play the numbers and just gamble, you know, like the casino they got down there, they had a gambling house on 87th and Cedar, and big rollers used to go up in there, high rollers would go in there and gamble. But I used to go in there and I was just, you know, just a fly guy, you know, had a nice car. I used to just go up in there and hang out. But you didn't see too many White guys up there, though. If you did, they owned the joint, Chinese owned the Chinese restaurants so I know it was like, it was Whites around. They worked in the YMCA out there.

Nick Downer [00:19:39] You used to run the numbers for one of the guys who worked up there?

Carlyle Garner [00:19:42] Mm-mm. They don't run numbers no more. They play lottery now. They don't run numbers no more. They play lottery.

Nick Downer [00:19:49] You remember when that ended? Like, you know, when it started to die out?

Carlyle Garner [00:19:53] Shit, it died out when the lottery came into effect. Yeah, soon as the lottery came in, you know, why play illegal, you know, policy and shit, where you can play the lottery legit? Matter of fact, I think that's probably why the government legalized lottery, because the numbers was, you know, picking up so much money, man, and seeing people was playing so constantly, you know, that's all Black folks used to do, is play the number. And I'm going to play the dead and shop over them boys. I'm going to play new car 'cause the people across the street got a new car, or I'm going to play graduation. They had dream books. Whatever you dream about, you can play it, you know? Yeah, shit like that. And that's how they rolled. That's how they rolled years and years ago. It's entirely different from how they rollin' now because of the values and the norms and everything done shifted, you know, people become more independent and responsible, you know? I guess that's it.

Nick Downer [00:20:54] What do you think about that?

Carlyle Garner [00:20:56] What I think about? I think it's evolution. It's progress. You know? You can't take the p out of progress. You know? Things change, you know, constantly they change. That's called, like, uniformitarialism. Things are the way they are because of continuous operation. We're constantly moving. You know, we went from plastic to, you know, from crayons to plastic. Yeah. Excuse me, I'm tired. Okay. So that good for you?

Nick Downer [00:21:31] That's good, man. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

Carlyle Garner [300:21:33] All right. What's your name again?

Nick Downer [00:21:34] My's name's Nick.

Cedar Central

The interviews in this series resulted from an initiative spearheaded by Campus District Inc. to document stories in conjunction with the planned closure of the high-rise building in the Cedar Estates housing project. Jane Addams High School students learned oral history techniques alongside CSU interviewers.