Sam Awad Interview, 17 July 2006

Sam Awad discusses his life here in Cleveland after moving here from Egypt as a teenager. He discusses his work history and how he purchased several businesses in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood. Among his concerns for the future of the area are a need for more police, a desire to see more home owners in the area, and a return to hard working mentality among Americans.

Participants: Awad, Sam (interviewee) / Overman, Mary-Kay (interviewer)
Collection: Academy of American History
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Mary-Kay Overman [00:00:00] Okay. Um, if I could just get you to, um, say a sentence, I can just get a.

Sam Awad [00:00:06] Introduce myself.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:00:07] Yeah, that sounds good.

Sam Awad [00:00:08] Well, I'm Sam Awad of the St. Clair Superior area. I've been part of it for the last 34 years. I love the neighborhood. I got off the plane. I came to a street called Bayless off of Addison, and I've been in the area since. I have not moved on. I love Cleveland. I love the area that I was dropped off at. And I'm not thinking about moving. I'm thinking about helping the neighborhood out. I'm helping. I'm thinking about investing in the neighborhood and just. I love this area.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:00:45] Okay, I'm going to ask you to back up.

Sam Awad [00:00:46] Okay.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:00:47] First of all, every story has a beginning. And when you say when you got off the plane, where were you before that? You needed to take a plane. So if you can go back to your childhood and discuss, give us a background, that would be wonderful.

Sam Awad [00:00:59] Well, I came from Egypt, Cairo. I came from Egypt, Cairo, my city was Giza. That's the city of the pyramids. And sooner or later, I'm going to make up my mind. I'm going to go on vacation, go visit the pyramid. I haven't visited since I left. So sooner or later, I'm going to go back and visit. Then I got off the plane.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:01:23] How old were you?

Sam Awad [00:01:24] I was 13 years old, September 13. No, we all moved, the whole family, me and my brother, my mother and my father, God bless their soul. And it's only me and my brother right now. We came here in 1973, September 13, and we've been here since. It's a beautiful city, and I'd like to bring it back up.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:01:48] Why did you leave?

Sam Awad [00:01:50] Why did we leave Egypt? Oh, everybody feel like the United States would be a better place to live, and there is a better place to live.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:01:59] Can you just put me in the background? In Egypt, like you said, God bless religious. Any of those issues, was that an issue in Egypt? Were they an issue when you came here? Were you christian?

Sam Awad [00:02:12] Religion does make a difference. Like here you got racial profile with colors. Over there you got religions, you got Muslims and Christians. And the Christians are mostly the educated one. The Muslims is more like in poverty. They don't, you know, they make more kids than the Christians. Christians just, you know, they come down to making one or two, three kids. That's it. They don't go there. They don't go higher in that, and they educate their kids. But that's only two different people that we got in Egypt. There was two different religions. That makes us different, but.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:02:47] So you were Christian?

Sam Awad [00:02:48] I'm Christian. I'm Coptic Orthodox.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:02:51] Were you educated in Cleveland at 13? How was that like? Did you know English when you attended? What school did you go to?

Sam Awad [00:02:59] Well, first school, there's no longer there. All right. Is East Madison okay? I didn't speak one word of English. I even got lost on my first day. Walked to one door. They let me out of the other door, and here go. I was lost because I couldn't read English, write English, or speak English. So I was lost on my first day. That was the first school I went to was East Madison. My second school was Wilson, and that's closed, too. Then I transferred from Wilson. I graduated out of Wilson. I went to East High for about two, three classes a day. Then I went to Aviation High School. That's where I graduated from. So I think most of the schools are. The only one that's open right now is East High. East Madison's closed down. Wilson's closed down and Aviation. They closed that down. The only one is open is East High. That's the three. The four schools that I went to.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:04:00] Now, it's interesting to listen to you, is there must be a huge discrepancy. One of the, our goals is to have people's memories of Cleveland. So when you first landed and you looked at Cleveland from a 13 year old eye, what did you see? I mean, what was impressive? What did you.

Sam Awad [00:04:18] From the plane? Oh, God, that was a beautiful sight. We never seen that many buildings, lights, houses. You know, there's so many houses so close together. It was a beautiful sight. It was like a dream that came true. We're not used to having that many houses close together, not that many houses lit, because in Egypt, there's a lot of poverty still where their houses don't have electricity. And when you're looking down from a plane, that's the prettiest sight you ever want to see in your life. It's a great thing. That's memory forever. And from a young kid I read looking at dad, I said, oh, okay. This isn't going to be a beautiful country to live in. Yeah. Cause lights, it just lights just makes everything bright, makes everything better, and make you all excited to come down and look around and see what you can experience.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:05:15] When we started this, you said something about, you want to invest in the neighborhood, you want to stay in the neighborhood. Do you live in the neighborhood?

Sam Awad [00:05:22] Oh, no, I own property in the neighborhood. I live in North Olmstead. Okay. I lived in north Olmstead, because it was really. The kids was growing up. We didn't have no backyard. You know, I sent them to the good schools in here, all right? But the [inaudible] moves, all right, they were growing up, and they needed to make friends, but I didn't have no backyard, and it was right on top of the business. It was too close, so I needed to get away, all right? So I bought a house, all right, for the kids to, you know, make new friends, have a backyard, a front yard, so they'd be able to ride their bike. Because they couldn't ride their bike, all right? We didn't have no yard, and they were growing up, and I sent. That's when Samir. We made the first choice of sending them to St. Eds. That's when we made the choice of moving out of Cleveland. It was really my wife's decision. Whatever. You know, if she requests something. All right, well, I'm willing to vouch for it. I'm willing to follow up, because she got say so, too. Okay. She said, we don't have no yard. Okay, well, we'll start shopping. And we did shop. We got what we could afford at that time. You know, it's a beautiful house. I still own it. Now both of the kids are, you know, out of high school. My son is. He started in Cleveland State. He ended up in Tri-C. Now my daughter's gonna start in Cleveland State, and I hope she goes through with her career. She sounds very serious, and she always. She always been a serious person. She. She's not with. For fun and laughs, all right? She's always been a serious. She's like me. She's like me. The son, already, he just, like, easy gone, like her mother. You know, like he needs somebody to guide him at all. Tag. No, she don't need nobody to guide her. My daughter, she just got her away set, and she gets it done her way, and it's a beautiful thing. That's why I don't bother her so much. I used to argue with the son more than I argue with the daughter, but that's a father son kind of thing.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:07:26] Okay, I'm going to bring you back to the neighborhood. I'm going to ask you about your business. How long have you had it? What are some of the good things about it and some of the problems you may have? Because it's in the. Where is it located? That kind of thing?

Sam Awad [00:07:40] It's located on East 67 on St. Clair. 6632 St. Clair. To tell you the truth, it was like. It was heaven when we first moved in the area, all right, because we always lived on top of the store. You know, me and the family. That's my mother and father and my brother at the start. And that was, like, in the early seventies and, like, early seventies, mid seventies. That's when we bought that business. Oh, the business was mostly Croatians, Slovenians, Slovaks, and it was a great neighborhood. We started out, we sold roast lamb, roast pork. We sold them fresh meat. We sold Croatian product. It was a hard business because we didn't know the business. So we had to learn, all right, from having the clientele that we had. So we worked with our clientele, and we've been working with our clientele since. Every time the clientele changed, we just changed the store around and work with the clientele that we get.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:08:39] Can you tell me about the changes? Because this is a history interview. So, like you said, early seventies, it was Croatian, Slovenian. If you can just give me, like, a date and a progression of what you changes have been.

Sam Awad [00:08:52] The seventies, it stayed all the way to, like, to the mid eighties with a lot of Croatians. And Slovenia was in the area. Spanish started moving around. It was pretty good. I started selling, you know, Spanish products, Goya and a lot of their vegetables, their fruits and vegetables. So I was still holding to a lot of Croatian product, too. And then Blacks moved in. All right. Then we had, like, one, two, three, four, ten percent. It was all right. It was a great neighborhood. All right. Then the Croatians started moving out, like, after the mid eighties. And they, they just, they really, they rented their places out. Back in the days, it was mostly owned, lived and owned. Now it was like, about 80% lived and owned. Now it's about 10% lived and owned. And that's what makes the neighborhood people that just moved out and neighborhood, you got to have people that live and own their houses. When they live in their own houses, they keep up with their houses. They keep riffraff away because you're always there. You know, you stop riffraff before it starts. And that helped the neighborhood back then, but now you got people that is not, they don't care about the neighborhood, and all they're doing is renting to others, and it's bothering the area.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:10:18] Okay, now, you said, like, you mentioned that you had, like, roast lamb when you had the Croatians, and then you had the Goya and vegetables for the Spanish. When you have the new population, the African American or black population coming in, how do your products change?

Sam Awad [00:10:33] Oh, well, it did change. It did change what I did just in the last two to three years, I put a kitchen in there. Well, I sell most of the products that African American eats. Look, I cook for them, the polish boy, the ribs, the chicken, and I make them pizza. I make them the Philly chicken, the Philly steak. I make them a lot of product that they like, but everybody likes that product anyway. So I get more than African American to come and buy my product. We still get a lot of Croatians that come and visit the neighborhood because I still sell them Turkish coffee. So I grind it myself. I order it for them, specially for them. And. But the Spanish clientele, no, they don't come around that much. They just come and buy beer every now and then. Okay. But it's still a beautiful neighborhood and need to come up and need somebody to come in there and care for the neighborhood. It need more house owned people, not people that just rent. It's the greatest neighborhood in the world. You can't go wrong around. When you live on the street and you don't need a car. You could just walk and distance to the bus. You should have that safety to walk to the bus to be able to go to a baseball game, football game. You should be able to go to the clubs if you want to go downtown. Oh, you know, we got Tower City. You could go over there and shop. We got, you can't get any better than this. This is the best neighborhood to be in. But we just need people to care for the neighborhood to be in it. All right. The problem is not having people living in the neighborhood. It's just you need people to care for it. We need people that own their own houses back in the neighborhood, and this will be just as good a suburb. It would be a great area to be in.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:12:17] Did you ever have any experiences with crime yourself as a business owner in the neighborhood?

Sam Awad [00:12:22] Well, right now, with the help of the St. Clair Superior Development, all right, we worked out a plan of safer shopper, the safer shopper, where we got camera program, and I was the first one to go for it, and I pushed it and they helped me push it. And we got the safer shopper cameras so you could walk around, you know, and kids, you know, because the last incident that happened that really hurt my feeling was with Shakira. It's a young African American, young girl I read that got kidnapped, raped, decomposed. The young girl, I think she was from nine to 13 years old. I forgot the exact age. And the last place she was at was in a store.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:13:08] Your store?

Sam Awad [00:13:09] No, no, not my store. Okay. It was in a store, and I felt great about having the camera system because we gotta look out for the young ones and the grown ones. People that is our age, they can handle themselves. They could scream, they could fight, they could scratch, you know, they could do what they can, you know, to get away to safety. But the young ones and the older ones, we gotta look out for them. We gotta give them respect. We gotta show em love. We gotta open doors for the grown ones. We, you know, we gotta spoil the young ones, and we gotta look out for their safety, because they are the future, you know? Like, I want to make something out of my kids right now, but I want them to live, to be grown. So I love to see other people's kids to live and grow up and, you know, have their own destiny in their own end.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:13:58] Is the neighborhood violent? I mean, have you experienced.

Sam Awad [00:13:59] The neighborhood? The neighborhood? I. I'm a nasty person. I'm a nice person, okay? Depending what clientele I get, I get people coming there with a smile, quiet. They beautiful ladies and gentlemen. I treat them like beautiful ladies and gentlemen. But then we got newcomers. The newcomers already, the kids that I've been fighting for the last at least 36 months to four years already. It's about 48 months. Where we have, what they call them. They're not even real dope dealers. They peddlers, all right? They nickel and dime dope dealers. But what they do, they chase after the client. Where you have two, three dope dealers chase after one client. And they on bikes, they on foot, they got. They got their own phones where they communicate one another over $10 items, like $10 drugs, $20 drugs. And what they do, they keep the neighborhood just busy at all time. You cannot keep them away from your store. I gotta stay on them at all time. Sometimes I have to stay outside my store, like an hour or two out of the whole day, but I gotta split my hour or two, you know, I gotta make sure I leave what I'm doing just to go outside and see, make sure nobody's bothering the customer, nobody's peddling drugs for the safety of my customers. And really, it hurts the clientele that comes into my business. When they have dope deals out there, when they have overpopulation of kids out there or have overpopulation of teenagers, that they peddlers, it scares grown folks. Even if their own folks, all right, if they African American, they scare of their own young folks, and it's not fair, all right? These grown Black people, all right, they are beautiful folks, all right, they stole books to get educated while these young folks are not giving them respect. And it's not fair. It's not fair. Then you doing that in front of the young kids, all right, that people that's growing up to be, you know, from eight to nine years old, that's, I think when you, that's when you get started getting observant from nine to about 14, 15, you're observing all these drug dealers and all of a sudden you look up to them. You want to be like them. Because your father, if he goes out, you look up to dope dealers more than you look up to your father. For what reason? Because your father gonna buy you a $20 pair of shoes while a dope dealer is wearing $100 pair of shoes. So they don't look up to their father. Because their father, all he could do is afford to get them a $20 pair of shoes while a dope deal is walking around with a clean pair of shoes at all time. Clean shirt, clean pants. And that's the reason they look up for him. That's a wrong way to look at person. All right? You gotta look up to the America. That's what made America number one. That's why American is losing track right now. Because they not looking up to the hard worker no more. Everybody wanted easy going. No, they gotta go back to the old fashioned way of hard work. Putting in your hours like everybody else. I remember when my father first came to the states, alright, he worked at Cleveland Twist Drill. I think it's around here like around 50 and Hamilton. And he did piecework. He provided a lot for the family by doing piecework. But it took a lot of ethnic people in the United States of America to make this country go, all right. Because really there is no American. The only American is the American Indians. All of us, our DP's are displaced. We came to the United States because this is the best country in the world. But America is losing track of keeping the work in the United States because everybody's getting lazier now. We need to get the working people going again. All right? The way I feel, I think you should, these people in jail already cost $177 a day. I think maybe they should start working on some of the clothes that we wear, all right? The American wear Nike, all right? They should have them make Nikes, all right? The American wear Levi, they should have a make Levi's. All right? Maybe you should spoil them every now and then. Whether you give them jail food, you give them a steak twice a week, all right? Separate them separate the. The bad jail people from, you know, to the good jail people, separate both of them. There's always been a, you know, people always split each other apart. The good, the evil. So the good one. Hey, all right. If you're gonna do 20, 30 years in jail, I don't think you mind making pants or shoes, all right? It'll make this country better. You can make small car parts. You could make nuts and bolts. It'll make this country a lot better. People on welfare. Right. I feel like if they. If they get paid, all right, once a month, they went on a once a month basis, all right, to get a check, I think they should give them 20 hours a week of work. I think once you get people off their butt and give them 20 hours a week, then they find out that, like, I'm getting a welfare check for $800, $600, that, and I'm putting in 80 hours a month. They're going to see, well, if you get them off their butt, right, by working them 80 hours a month, it would probably turn around. They said, no, why don't you just let me work 40 hours a week? Because I could make a lot more money. All you gotta do, just take the horse to the water.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:19:10] Okay. Um, 34 years. You mentioned your wife. I know about your children. Tell me about the romance. Where did you meet your wife?

Sam Awad [00:19:19] Oh, now that's a great story. All right. That was a great story. I was. I met her. I was 22. I just turned 22, and I met her. My father used to go out to eat all the time, him and his buddy, and they went out to eat in a place in Westlake. It was a place called On The Terrace. And my father and his buddy went there, ate, and my father met her, met her sister, met her husband, and met her. He said, oh, you gotta meet this beautiful lady. She's hyped, she's energetic. She's very good looking. She's intelligent. I said, you gotta meet her. And at that time, you know, nobody's looking forward to getting married at that age, 22, okay? So he said he did everything but probably twist my arm to take me there. I said, okay, I go out to eat. I went there for the meal. I said, okay, I go to eat with you. So I went in to eat with him, and she was around. I love the way she looked. I loved her energy level. She loved to dance. I love to dance. I love music. She loved music. And she was a loving lady. All right? She was a loving girl. She. She turned me on. And no more than two, three months after I met her, I asked for her hand. And we've been married since 1983. And we had our first son in 84. We had our daughter in 87, both born at Thanksgiving. I thank God for that giving. Okay. It doesn't happen any better than that. And this year, we were both proud of ourselves. Ourselves, me and her, because we took care of our kids to be 18 and 21, and it was hard on us. It was hard. We had a lot of downs. We had a lot of ups. We had more downs than ups, but now we having more ups and downs, and it's a great thing. It's great to have her. It's great to have her. She is a supporter all the way. She's like, Jim told me, said, hey, he said he got a backbone. That's my backbone. That is my backbone. She's a beautiful person.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:21:39] Is she also Egyptian?

Sam Awad [00:21:40] I mean, culture? No, I'm the last 100% Egyptian in the family. Okay? She's Syrian in there. The culture just met. She speaks Arabic. She writes Arabic. She's, you know, she's [inaudible]. And they look up to our music. We look up to their country. Their country is beautiful. It's, like, beautiful green. Egypt is not beautiful green, all right? Their country is beautiful green. We're, like. We have to buy our fruits and vegetables. They got it growing on trees. They could get it for free. That's all. I'm jealous of them. So we bet they love our music. We're mostly Hollywood. And they like the way we dance, we sing. All right? And we got along since day one. I never thought I would marry somebody out of my own nationality. I thought I would marry American before I married, you know, an Egyptian. But it turned out to be a Syrian. It turned out even greater.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:22:46] Now, your kids keep the culture. Can they speak Arabic? Can they read Arabic?

Sam Awad [00:22:51] Yes, they do. Yes, they do. My mother in law still live with us. She's 84 years old. She's still more active than anybody in the world.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:23:00] Well, criminal justice. And Stephanie, that she learns Arabic, she'll be.

Sam Awad [00:23:03] Oh, well, that'd be two languages. And one, you know, would not hurt.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:23:11] What do you see the future for your business on Sinclair?

Sam Awad [00:23:18] The future for my business. Oh, God, I would love to have more police support. I would love to have more people, people that own their own houses back in the neighborhood. Police support is the most important people.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:23:40] On the property on Sinclair.

Sam Awad [00:23:42] Yeah. Police support is the most important. I stay in touch with them. But lately, there have been a change of commanders and detectives, so I gotta get better oriented with them. I was more oriented with the last commander and the last, you know, last vice squad because we, you know, I feel like for me to get help from them, I gotta complain. I gotta stay in touch with them for me to keep the neighborhood better. I did help the neighborhood a lot better. A lot in the last, in the last year. I've been fighting it for the last four years. It helped out a lot in the last year. I've still got problem in the area, but it's getting a little better. But I still need more help from the police.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:24:29] I went to your store. It was very, very busy. Yes, like a 02:00 on a Friday.

Sam Awad [00:24:33] That's when they take advantage. All right? Like a lot of the dope peddlers, they notice that I'm busy. That's how they get there. They try to make their money through me having business. And, you know, you cannot be hanging outside, you know, trying to chase them away while you're busy or you can't just, you know, you can't spend all your profit on workers because, you know, you get a couple of hours busy right here, a couple hours busy right there. You cannot just keep on hiring folks just so you'll be able to hang outside, chase them away. I need more support from the police. All right? It was a, it was a mistake. When they laid off a lot of the Cleveland police, that was a big mistake. We need younger, stricter, nastier, all right? People will be able to cope with people they negative or positive. We need them back. We need, all right. It was a great idea that I heard about. They're gonna change. They're gonna cut down a couple of the districts, all right? When you cut down a couple of districts, that's really good for the people. It's not bad for the people because all you're doing is cutting the higher up. You come to sergeants out, you come to lieutenants out, you come to captains out. And they are the most high paid people, okay? So when you cut them out for every lieutenant, sergeant and captain and commanders, you could afford to put 20 more cops on the street for every district. So if you cut the districts out, you gonna have about 150 more cops. That would be good. It would not be hard. It would not hurt to cut the district down because you're gonna have more cops on your hand. Then you have less people in command. You're just gonna have more cops. One sergeant could tell 100 people what to do. One lieutenant could tell 100 people what to do. Why you need a lieutenant, a captain, a sergeant for 30 officers, well, you could have them per hundred officers. So we need more police. Police would help if they try. They want Cleveland to come up. Cleveland is the prettiest city, the best city. I love Cleveland, and I keep pictures from my old Cleveland to the new Cleveland. I love what they doing with Euclid. I love what they doing with the Cleveland Clinic. We already got the number one. We got the cavalry, we got LeBron, okay? The Indians not doing too good. The brown's gonna do good. It's a great city to live in, but the only way you could live in it, you're gonna have a safe city. Cops is more important than anything. Bring people that want to buy houses back to the area. It's a great thing. So the only way people going to move back in the neighborhood, you got to have more police, you got to have more safety, you got to have more security. Put more of these cameras than when I got in front of my store. Everywhere in the city, it would not hurt. Cut a lot of these neighborhood bars out. You don't need neighborhood bars if you want to go out partying. Hey, it'd be a great area to live in Cleveland. All right? You could get on the bus, go get drunk, come back on the bus. You would never get a DUI. Can't get any better than that. This is the best area to be in. It's a great city. I'm glad they bringing up Euclid. I'm glad they bringing up Superior and St. Clair. I'm glad they doing what they doing. It would not hurt your city. And I love what they doing with that Case Western Reserve area. Oh, God. They rebuilding the whole area. They taking over a lot of the ghetto, and they making it into condos. They took old buildings, revamped them, and made them brand beautiful building. I said, whoa. Rather we tear these old buildings down, maybe we should have somebody to care for these old historical building and bring it up. Look at that. East Bolivar is Bolivar. You know, if you want a house like that, you cannot afford it. For you to build it. Cost $2 million to build one of them houses. Don't let them houses go down. Bring this area back up. Bring security and safety to the area. Once you bring security and safety to the area, people gonna want to move back to it. And there's gonna be a beautiful Cleveland all over again. I promise I'll move back to it. I would love to. Look how much gas costs. Gas costs $3 a gallon. You could get a bus ticket, and you could be on the bus all day long. For $3, you could start up in the morning, go to work, still keep the same pass, come back home, make up your mind. You showered up. You want to go out, you want to go to. You want to go to Jacob Field, you want to go to the Browns, you want to go to the Cavaliers, you got one bus ticket. It takes you all day from day in to day out. You can't get any better than that. And RTA is the safest. We don't need that many cars. I remember when we were growing up, all right, we only had one car in the family. That one car, when we sold it, only had 12,000 miles on it. The car never was, never used. Everybody, it was a Sunday car. We went to church with it. That's why we went to church that day. My father might have got mad at us and not took us, but it's all right. He was a hard worker.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:29:50] I was given your name, obviously. Is there. Did you ever consider not staying in the neighborhood?

Sam Awad [00:29:57] Oh, you back on that question again? I didn't answer it right the first time. Okay.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:30:02] No, no, no. I just want more elaboration.

Sam Awad [00:30:03] The neighborhood, you're doing a wonderful job. The neighborhood. The neighborhood is great, okay? I love the neighborhood. I've. I thought about it, you know, I thought about it so many times because of the threats that I get from the kids, all right? Because they feel they got more rights than us. All right? The people that sell drugs, they feel they better than us. All right? What rights do we have to tell them not to sell drugs? They. We're the wrongdoer for asking them not to sell drugs. Why are you doing this when I don't see. All right. If it's. If it's a Black person, you're serving other Black people. It's not like you're helping your own people. You're bringing us back down to slavery again. What is it isn't addiction to slavery. So it really. It's not like you leave the neighborhood, you serve other people. No, you're serving your own. That's wrong. They got so many Black on Black crimes, so many people killing one another. They serving each other. You know, crack cocaine is more. You know, is. Is addictive, all right? I think they should. They should try to help this city by trying to keep all the drug addicts out of there. And. But you. The only way you could start it is getting rid of the dope dealers and prostitution, too. That adds up to that. So, really, all you got to do is follow the prostitute to wherever they get their drugs, all right? Now here you got a prostitute, all right, in a drug house, all right? That's how you're gonna catch them all.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:31:30] The business. You're staying on 67.

Sam Awad [00:31:32] I'm gonna stay till.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:31:34] Because the history. Because of the 34 years.

Sam Awad [00:31:36] Yeah, the history is important. The history is important. It's, it's, it got a little smoother. It got a little smoother. Alright. Usually be. It was hard. It was hard on the body for a minute, okay? But in the last, in the last six months, I cleared it up a little bit. But I need to get back in touch with a lot of the police, all right? I get, I gotta get in touch with a lot of the detectives, all right? Because I want them to come back and show up. When they show up, they keep drug dealers out. They keep. Because drug dealers, you know, bring in the drug users, they go to sleep. They don't never go to sleep. They got us time from the time we leave our house to go to work till we came back so they could break in our houses.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:32:23] Have you been robbed before?

Sam Awad [00:32:25] I got my place. I got my place with shutters. I got all brand new doors. I got cameras on the inside, I got cameras on the outside. I got it. You know, I'm prepared, but we shouldn't have to go all that. We shouldn't have to go through all that.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:32:44] Is your insurance high?

Sam Awad [00:32:45] My insurance? You know what? In the Cleveland area, maybe you could get insurance now. But if you have not kept the same insurance company for a long period of time, I don't think you could ever be able to purchase insurance. If somebody tell you they got insurance, I think they lying to you, all right? Because they working on history, all right? Like, if your history was good, you've been dealing with them for a long period of time. You have not had many breaking and entry. And some of the breaking entry, I ate it. I ate it because I don't have no choice. There's one time they broken into my business already. And that's when I didn't close down my books, my instant books, that's lottery. And I thought my bond will cover it. I thought my insurance will cover it. But they said by me not closing my books, we don't know what sold, we don't know what didn't sell. We don't know what they sold. We don't know what they did steal. We really. I was $60,000 in the hole. I ate that. I ate it. I ate it good. It was hard. That's one year. You know, they're like, one year, one year and a half, where you just worked for free, all right? Because, you know, you cannot afford to make mistakes. You run a straight line, and you got to keep that straight line, and you got to think about everything you do. You got to think twice about everything.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:34:02] Did your father open the store? You talked about him doing piecework. Did you open the store originally?

Sam Awad [00:34:06] Yes. All right. I was the first one. All right. I was the first one in the business I worked on. It was a store called Flo's Food. It was a little short Lebanese lady. We moved on top of her daughter's restaurant, the place called Landmark right now, the restaurant we lived around, Tavern. I was working for her. I learned the business from her in 1973, and she taught me well. Then I moved across the street. It's on East 55th and Superior. I moved across the street when I got a job at McDonald with Mister Narlie Roberts, God bless his soul. He was a great black man. Great black man. He died in his sleep at the age of 57. He owned the most McDonald's back in the early seventies. Black owned that. Many McDonalds. It was. It was a great thing. He never was too good, you know, for anybody. He sat right there and hold the conversation with him, with me, all right? And he taught me a lot, and he was a great person. He was never too good for anybody. He'll grab a broom. He'll grab a mop. He'll help flip burger. He'll. And he owned, like, seven McDonald's back then. He owned. He. He was the greatest. He was the greatest. God bless us all. Great man. I look up to him, and I thought my, you know, my father wanted to get in the business. I think it was in the 74, 75. That's when I got to be a hustler. I was [inaudible]. I learned it from somebody that I went to school with. He was from the Salti family. All right? I don't know if you ever heard of the Salti family. They were part of the food stamp fraud. All right? Okay. So they were part of the food stamp fraud, and I learned the business from the original. His name was Frank. He goes about the American. Name is Frank. His real name is Faiz. He taught us the business, me and his son, because we went to East Madison together, he taught us the business of hustling. All right? We. What we did, we went from 1 bar to another. We sold custom jewelry, purses, chains, watches, wallets. And I just get on a bike, and me and my little brother, and we used to go to these bars and sell rings, watches. You remember the mood ring? I don't know if you remember the mood. Right. That was one of my best seller. Okay. So working in the, you know, let. Just hustling these bars, I made enough money to buy my father his first store, and that was behind St. Vitus. Remember the little store was back there? No, no, the little store behind St. Vitus. They tore it down right behind the church and build a little lot in the back. Right now it's right between the restaurant in the church. It was a little store in the back. That was our first store. I bought it from my father for $5,400. I think it was in 74. Okay. And we stayed there for a couple of years. Then we, you know, we wanted to move on up. That's when we bought Sam's Food Market.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:37:06] What was it before you bought it?

Sam Awad [00:37:10] Ooh, what was it? I can't remember after talking about it. It was Zenon, something like that. It was a Croatian name, but they were great folks. And he was, you know, working his hand, but he never had anybody. I was always the worker. All right. I always made the money. So here we come again. Like, about the mid seventies, almost, at like, like 75, 76. Here we go. I was still hustling. I was up and down St. Clair. I kept a job working for McDonald’s, and I was still up and down St. Clair selling jewelry and in purses, so. And at that time, I started working at Sifco. Sifco. It was a. It was. They. We made landing gears for airplanes, and I was making good money for a young, young person, and I bought him his second store, Sam's Food Market, the one I'm in right now, I bought it from. And I think it was 70, 76, 77, okay. And how old were you? I was about 17. I was 17. I was. I was a hard worker. We didn't have no choice. We didn't have many relatives. We didn't have many friends. So we're all to ourself. So all we did is work. And I bought him Sam's Food Market and bought it from him. I bought it from a 76, 77. I bought it from him in 87. Okay, so in 87, I gave him $100,000 for that store. And I was 27 years old, and I've been in it since September 1. 1987 is gonna be 19 years this year. But we've been on that corner for about 30 years, so it's a great area. I was raising children. No, no, I don't want them to.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:39:03] Are they working?

Sam Awad [00:39:05] Oh, my son, he's in the phone business right now. I'm thinking about bringing the phone business into the area, like Verizon, Alltel and Revol. I'm thinking about bringing it up, and I'm thinking. I'm taking the consideration real high, because everybody uses phone. Even little kids walk around with phones now. So most of the time, they usually have to travel to malls. They have to travel to different places to get the best deal. But if I bring up, like, two, three different companies into the area, and you don't need that much space for it, I think it will be successful, and we could get closer, me and my son, again, because the last couple of years, we, you know, 21. I don't know, I probably was nuts, too, at 21. So we got to get our relationship back together. So I'm gonna. You know, I'm not. I'm gonna. I'm not gonna have him set me up for failure. I'm gonna have him. I'm gonna put everything in his name. I'm gonna have him do it. Okay? So if anything go wrong, it'd be his fault. I want to make sure he just depend on himself and himself only. And, hey, he's gonna do good, but I'm gonna put my two cent in. I'm gonna put my two cent now. But. But, you know, I hope he go back to school and, you know, I. He said he's going to school all right. I really. You know, I like to see it on paper, black and white. That's the only way.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:40:17] Cleveland State. So I'll give her pictures, and she can look out for both of them.

Sam Awad [00:40:20] Okay? That'd be great. Well, at least keep up with Stephanie right now. You know, Samir. Just a lost cause right now.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:40:26] Okay.

Sam Awad [00:40:27] But, hey, I think he's gonna. He's gonna do all right. He's gonna do great.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:40:31] All right. This is the history. Emma, I'll let you take the last couple questions, but I'm just curious because of your background, because, you know, your wife's from Syria and because you're from Egypt, and I do appreciate what you'd say about the neighborhood. I want to know about international, like, what's going on. This is just a selfish thing on my part with Lebanon right now and Israel. I mean, and Iraq and Iran. I mean, do you feel affected by that at all, or.

Sam Awad [00:40:57] This is an ongoing story story. It been going for a long time. You know, Bush is not going to be able to help it. Okay? Bush he should take care of his country because his country going down the drain. Okay? The Bush is a selfish person. That's the way I feel. Okay? He's a million, he's a billionaire. You know, I know how he got his money invested and he invested on, you know, they've been oil people for the longest. So if he stopped all that, you know, the communication between us in the middle ease us in this country, others in this country, then he get to use his own oil. So what he does, he get to be from a millionaire to a billionaire. From a billionaire to a zillionaire, all right? And he just keeps on moving. So he's not really thinking about this country at all. He just selfish, just like his father. His father was the same way about war. It's war, shouldn't be part of us. Okay? You know, because like I said, yeah, we, we brought up that, you know, Egypt already they have Muslims and Christians, so they're gonna have that for life. All right? Here they got black and white, so that's gonna be a lifetime thing. But once everybody get together and unite, they're gonna get better, it's gonna get smoother because nobody can look at a person that's black, nobody's gonna look at a person that's white. Everybody's just gonna live together. Like Boston, New York, all, Chicago, they all, everybody living together, okay? So the way I feel, he should sell other people's business. The Middle east, alright? The worst thing they doing, all right? By not uniting, they should unite. If they ever unite, have united Arabs, it would be just like United States. The whole world depends on import and export. This will make America good. But in Arab countries, they just import. They're not exporting. But they the most highly educated people in the world. The Arabs are very educated. They mostly like, if you really look up the hospitals around here, if you look up the Cleveland State, if you look up the schools, if you look up the hospitals, if you look up anything, all right? Arabs run these schools. Arabs run these hospitals. They highly educated. So all we need make our countries unite. Get along. How could people speak the same language, not get along? That is unfair. And we could keep other countries out of our business by getting along. Really, the way I feel. I read with Israel is a great thing. What could go wrong? Israel is very high educated people. They've been hated against, they've been racial profile, they've been just been, again, people been against them for a long time, from Hitler time to this to before that, today, you know, they always had problem all right, with people against them. But there's nothing wrong with them being in the Middle East because God didn't make a country in your name. God made this world for us to live in it. And it's fair for all of us to live anywhere in the country. We need a passport to go from one country to another in the Middle East. That's unfair. Why? I speak the same language. That's like, I need a passport to go from here to Florida. Come on, let me get on this bus, let me get on the plane and go to Florida. Why do we need a passport to go just couple hour drive Egypt to Syria. Yeah, we don't need that. We should work our hands. The Jews is the best thing ever happened to the Middle East. I'm not going to be against it. I'm for it.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:44:27] Because of the democracy. The type of government.

Sam Awad [00:44:29] They couldn't make our countries better. They could have. Rather, we import Fords, all right? We could make our own Ford over there. Whether we import Mercedes Benz. We could make it over there. Whether we import any of these cars, we can make it over there. We can make sand into damn bridges. All that sand we got. I know we got enough sand to make a bunch of bridges to travel anywhere in the United Arab. I would love to have it called that. United Arabs would have been the best thing. I think it will happen sooner or later. It might not happen in our lifetime, but it's going to happen in the next hundred or 200 years because they need to open their eyes. We don't need to leave our countries to make our. To get our. To make our life better. We could make our life better by being in our own country. And there's nothing wrong with Egypt. Yes, I did. [crosstalk] No, no. I've been working hard since and I. Still working hard. And you know, if I ever get on that business I'm in, I probably will go visit. Yeah, I will go visit.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:45:37] I want to, too. Emma, did you have any questions or anything?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:45:44]: Not really. Just. Could you repeat the name of the gentleman who owned all the McDonald's?

Sam Awad [00:45:50] All the McDonald’s was mister Narlie Roberts.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:45:53] Can you spell that?

Sam Awad [00:45:55] Narlie Roberts. I think it'd be easy to spell.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:46:01] Okay, she'll look him up. Emma's our archivist. She's from Cleveland's. She's been listening to all these interviews.

Sam Awad [00:46:06] He was the greatest person, you know. I missed him. You know, I think you're gonna have. Black folks should always be positive because they came from a tight world. Everything was hard for them. Same thing for the Jews. That's why I don't take nothing from the Jews.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:46:25] It was like that for the Irish, too.

Sam Awad [00:46:27] Yeah. So we need this world to get better. And the only way you're gonna get it better is just live with one another, respect one another, and just.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:46:34] Well, I like what you said earlier about the work ethic. I agree with that. I see that that's no longer a norm. And that's what made, you know, people working hard. That's.

Sam Awad [00:46:46] Well, working hard gotta come back to the United States because it's falling apart. All right? You know, right now, even the cars that I drive, if I look at the car, I'm looking at the contents that is on it. You got 20% made in Canada, 10% made in Mexico, 70% made in the United States. What is it assembled? It assembled North America is assembled in Canada. Is not. It's not. Isn't that we not keeping our own work. We send in our own work away. The only reason we send out our work away, because everybody want higher hourly wages, but they don't want to work for the higher hourly wages. There's no wrong. There's nothing wrong with getting paid for what you. Fair trade has always been fair. All right? If I'm willing to pay you that, if you want that many dollars per hour, I think you should work for that many dollars per hour. Okay? When we give you overtime, that mean when I give you overtime, that mean I need you to do more work. I'm not giving you the hours so you could sit on your butt and waste the money that I'm giving you. That is not fair. You should work them hours. You should work even harder because I'm good for you. So if I'm good for you, you got to be good to me. What's good to you is good for you. What's good for you is good to you. It's been like that. So bring the American way, the hard working people, bring them back. That's why I'm educating my kids, you know?

Mary-Kay Overman [00:48:11] Because you were working, obviously, since you were, like, 14, then started. Okay, when did you. How old were you when you're McDonald's?

Sam Awad [00:48:19] I started with OWA, with Wilson. All right? I took advantage of being at McDonald and being in school at the same time because I used my lunch for OWA. I stand for occupation working adjustment. Right? Occupation, work and adjustment. All right. Well, you could use it for a class where you get, like, two classes. And what I do, I used to take off for lunch, 11:00 that's when East 55 still. I used to go from eleven to one. I used to work my lunch, the lunch that I used to go from school, but I used to use it as a class, too. So I used it as lunch. I use it as a class. I got credit for it, and it was great. It was a learning experience out of this world. I was one of his best workers. I feel like I was one of his best workers because I gave him my heart. I gave him hard work and he gave me the chances. He sent me to other. When. When business was slow in one store, he sent me to other stores to work. He was real. He noticed he died in his sleep at the age of 57. I think he had a heart attack.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:49:23] Did they sell that or.

Sam Awad [00:49:25] No, no. It was passed down to his kids. I think I know him by nickname. His name is Pops. I think he owns a lot of the McDonald's right now. That's his youngest.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:49:35] Like a newscaster that laughed to go work at it, to take on a, you know, I don't know that much. There's a Cleveland newscaster and she inherited McDonald's, so she left being.

Sam Awad [00:49:43] Probably his daughter.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:49:46] American woman, I remember. I think that's interesting.

Sam Awad [00:49:49] Probably. Was his daughter beautiful? It was a beautiful Black lady. I read that it was his daughter. I think she was Dana. Football player or married to a football player, a basketball player. [crosstalk] And he had a. He had a. I don't want to say a slow kid, how would you put it? Autistic kid. And he didn't treat him no different than a regular worker. All right? He know he wasn't going to be able to support the grill work. He wasn't going to be able to support that, you know, dealing with the customers. So he had him doing cleaning, all right? He had him do the yard. He had him do the parking lot. He had him sweep and mop. So he didn't have. He didn't have no shame of giving his son any work like that. He just wanted him active. So he really was open minded. He was a great person. I love the way he maneuvered and worked. It was, you know, like when you use your son, all right, you have autistic kid, and, uh, you bring them to work for you. I don't think it's a negative thing. I think it's a positive thing. All right? You just don't want to hurt him. You don't want to put him on the grill and burn himself. You don't want to put him on the fry and let him burn himself. You don't want him to use knives or anything to, you know, because you know you're going to make mistakes. You might not make mistakes a year or two, but you might hurt yourself hard or bad. But he had, he was the same person. He was a hard worker. I told you. He would grab a broom, he would grab a mop, he would, he would clean tables. He would come and flip burgers with us. He would come and help me with the fryers, all right? He would all around great guy. And when I grow up, I want to be just like him. I've already grown up, so I want to be just like him now. Okay.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:51:31] That's a good legacy to say. That's good. Emma. Did you have anything else, honey? All right.

Sam Awad [00:51:37] She's just much of a listener.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:51:39] She just has to listen. Expert. I'm just taking it from her. I want to thank you so much.

Sam Awad [00:51:46] Pleasure, pleasure for choosing me.

Mary-Kay Overman [00:51:49] And it does not surprise me that Stephanie is going to go right to school. And I totally remember Samir.

Academy of American History

These interviews were conducted between 2004 and 2006 by public school teachers in the Teaching American History (TAH) grant-funded Academy of American History summer institute at Cleveland State University, sponsored by the US Department of Education. The project was a collaboration between CSU, the City Club of Cleveland, Western Reserve Historical Society, and St. Clair-Superior Community Development Corporation. Interviews in this series focus on the Civil Rights movement in Cleveland, Carl…