Donalene Poduska Interview, 18 July 2012

Donalene Poduska discusses Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art. She talks about her personal experiences in dealing with WPA art at Oxford Elementary School in Cleveland Heights. She begins by saying that she had stumbled upon the pieces and later on identified them as WPA art. She mentions names like Edris Eckhardt and Viktor Schreckengost and their contributions to WPA art. She also discusses the struggle to preserve the pieces at Oxford Elementary School.

Participants: Poduska, Donalene (interviewee) / Halligan-Taylor, Gabrielle (Interviewer)
Collection: Cleveland Heights
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:00:00] Let's go ahead and start.

Donalene Poduska [00:00:02] And you said you did a little bit of background and research kind of thing. What did you look at?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:00:07] I looked at just the federal art in schools.

Donalene Poduska [00:00:10] Okay, did you look at... see this catalog at all? Because this is the catalog from when there was the federal art exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library in 1974. And that says all of the stuff. And that's where some of the things from, from Oxford were on exhibit there, but... And plus the library and elsewhere. So that, that is a very good resource on WPA art because the catalog, it was, I should say, the exhibit was curated in the catalog written by Dr. Karal Ann Marling. Now, did you come across that name in your research?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:00:46] I didn't, no.

Donalene Poduska [00:00:46] Okay, she was very well known for her expertise in WPA art, and that's who I got in touch with because she was at Case Western Reserve at that time. She's now up in Minnesota, Wisconsin. I always forget which one of those two she's at, that she's at up there and has been for some, for some time. But that is... That's an excellent research. Let's see. And even when you go, when you Google her, you'll find that particular one mentioned and University of Minnesota is where she is. And, then Mazie Adams. Did you... Have you met her?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:01:37] Uh-uh.

Donalene Poduska [00:01:38] Okay, because she's the one that called me about the possibility of doing an interview.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:01:43] Oh.

Donalene Poduska [00:01:43] She lives here in Cleveland Heights and at the time, she was the... with the Lakewood Historical Society, which she is no longer. But she, she is a resident of Cleveland Heights. She came and interviewed me and did a nice article for the history society here in Cleveland Heights. And that has the nice bit about the WPA up at Oxford. And that also you can get on the web when you go on the, if you go on the web, it will come out like this so that you actually get some of the things.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:02:19] Okay.

Donalene Poduska [00:02:19] In color. And so that's, that's a website that you can, can check out and see. So those are some sources that, that are there. I have no idea if Cleveland State has this catalog or not.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:02:35] I'll have to check.

Donalene Poduska [00:02:35] You can check.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:02:37] We've got a lot of the Cleveland stuff, so we probably do.

Donalene Poduska [00:02:40] You probably, you, you should have it if you don't and you want to borrow this with your life on the line, then you can. That's what Mazie did. Mazie borrowed all of my stuff. She called my private papers, everything she borrowed it with her life on the line and she copied what what was critical that she needed to have. But as I said, this is really quite good because it does cover it throughout Cleveland.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:08] Right.

Donalene Poduska [00:03:08] I mean, she's got the essay New Deal Art in Cleveland, you know, 60 pages of it there. So that that, this is the best thing, I think that you could read to come up with what it is. And then the pictures in here, that are there are just, you know, really terrific and save you from having to travel to all the places necessarily.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:30] Right.

Donalene Poduska [00:03:30] To get the pictures that she has.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:35] Is the, is the Ferro mural part of...

Donalene Poduska [00:03:37] Which, which mural?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:39] The Ferro mural at Tower City?

Donalene Poduska [00:03:42] At Tower, where about city?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:43] [At] Tower City.

Donalene Poduska [00:03:46] At Tower City, they're from, you know?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:03:49] Because it has, it just has the same kind of style?

Donalene Poduska [00:03:50] Yes, that it very well may be. I don't remember if that was mentioned in here or not. She's got several and it, it very well. These all seem to be from Cleveland and from the high schools. I don't see anything in here from Tower City and I don't remember that being mentioned.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:04:18] I was just curious.

Donalene Poduska [00:04:18] But I agree with you. It's, it's and I'm trying to think and I'm drawing a blank as to even when Terminal Tower was built.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:04:26] It was completed in 1928, I believe.

Donalene Poduska [00:04:29] Well, see that was before.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:04:33] Right, but I'm not sure when the transit center was completed. I'm not sure if it was completed when the tower was completed or if it was done later. I am not sure.

Donalene Poduska [00:04:40] I know there is a history of the Tower City, some place of Tower Terminal someplace, so that would probably be able to tell you very definitely. But you're right, it does have the same kind of feel to it. So it very well, you know, very well could be from that time, from that time period. And I have no idea who would have done it.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:05:00] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:05:00] Because there were a lot of muralists.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:05:02] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:05:02] Yeah.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:05:03] Just for the recording's sakes, do you want to just go over kind of the whole process of how?

Donalene Poduska [00:05:12] How I got into it?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:05:13] Started with the WPA and then kind of?

Donalene Poduska [00:05:14] Well, I'm not as familiar with that, because when you were talking about your history course you're taking, when I was in history, our history almost ended with 1900 because then I really didn't take anything, have anything that took after that, even when I would have, say, American history. It would seem to, we always get to about 1900 and maybe touch on World, World War a bit and then after that we had nothing. And so anything I picked up, I would have picked up through conversation. And so it was only, you know, I was aware that there was something like that. And my husband was, was a history minor in college, and that was, he liked to read American history. And so he would talk about that, and so I would pick up a little bit of feel on it. But then as we always tease him, you know, he was born a couple of years before me, so he was earlier in the 1930s. So he lived in the Depression. I always told him I was 1936 and that was ending it, so I didn't know about the Depression. And so he would talk a little bit about that, but I really didn't. WPA was just a couple of initials to me that I knew that there was some art connected to it and that's all I knew. I'll be very honest to say that's all I knew. And when our children started, our daughter started up here at Oxford, and I was fascinated with the two murals in the hall. I thought they were absolutely delightful little pieces and saw there was the WPA and I thought, oh, that was interesting that we've got a piece here from that time period. Still didn't know anything much about it. And there were a couple of ceramics sitting around the school, but didn't know anything about that. So the own I, I didn't learn anything about WPA art then until when Oxford was going to have some worked done on it as a result of our bond issue and there was rennovation to take place and the architect was, laid out his plans, and he was proposing a door that would have gone through the mural of Cinderella. And I thought, well, that's pretty terrible because that's a nice piece. I don't want that torn, you know, ruined. And so the people, other people commented about it. The teachers commented about it, aren't you going to stop this? And I didn't know anything about doing it. And so I called a friend who is an art historian, was at John Carroll. And said, do you know anybody that knows anything about WPA art that I can call because we want to save this mural? Well Donalene, you just happened to ask itat the right time, because Dr. Marling is at Case Western Reserve, she's an expert on WPA art. I'm sure she'd be glad to help you. So I called her and she was in the process of inventorying pieces and she hadn't read anything about Oxford's yet. And I, she said, what else? I told her we had the two murals. And I said, and there are some, some ceramics sitting around also. Oh, you have some ceramics? I said, yes. Well, I'd like to come out with some students and get the list and we'll see what we can come up with in the inventory. So she came out and so the principal had everybody collect them because some of the ceramics were sitting around in classrooms and stuff. And then we had this one thing that was sitting on the counter as you came into the office that we didn't know who it was. We always called him Moses because he had a nice long beard and he was just a nice-looking piece that was sitting there right on, you know, you came around the counter and you went around here. And if you did your hand just right, you could have knocked him over. So we pulled that. Oh, no, we didn't pull that. And she saw it and she said, oh, I need to have that. Okay, well, that was Johnny Appleseed and it was WPA art. Well, he did not go back up on the counter and she could not believe how many ceramics we still had. She was absolutely thrilled with the murals. So she gave us information. She then told us that the murals were supposed to have been done on canvas and then mounted on the walls. But back then, as we do a lot of times, they took a shortcut and they painted directly onto the walls so that therefore they could not be removed easily and have been put on permanent loan someplace. They had to stay on the walls. But she gave us the reference that with the government, the government loaned them to us for 99 years that for if we were supposed to take good care of them. Now, we did not tell the architect that if he took the whole building down, they could go down. But if it weren't then, you know, we were supposed to take good care of them. And then she categorized all of the ceramics and found how many we had. And she was just thrilled with us, so she gave us, I have all the paper she gave us to show what all she found. So then I went to make a statement before the school board. And as I sit, I still all I knew was I liked them. And everybody who then since because I served on the school board later, I said, I couldn't believe that when I went to make my statement at school board, I said I was for, I don't know why the board room was full that night for something or another, but it was doubled, capacity opened up and it was really full. And I'm toward the back and I'm reading this paper and I'm standing there at my paper shaking like this because I, it's the first time I'd ever spoken to the school board. I was scared to death. It doesn't seem possible. And talked about the fact that, I mean, she had her degree in New Deal art so that's why, you know, she's the expert, talked about what she had given us and also what had been planned and why it was a concern that we wanted to do it. And at that time, it was 1974, so that was the fortieth anniversary of the government support of art programs. So that was very key. And then also, I pointed out that this was for the district, we were preparing to do the bicentennial and that this was the Year of Arts within our district. And I didn't think destroying a mural such as this in the Year of the Arts was a very good idea. So, I mean, I still when I read this letter, think about how did I do that letter? It's a very well, one of the best letters I ever wrote. And so we saved Cinderella. And in the process of getting to know Dr. Marling then. She borrowed some of our ceramics to take down for this show. The hydrocal panels, which had been in our original entrance as you came in our school originally, which now the media center is in front. You went up the stairs and as you entered, there was this beautiful globe light that was just a globe light. It had nothing to do with WPA but had been there since school started. But on either side of the entrance on the wall, were hydrocal panels and they were ones that, let's see, I am trying to think. One was our, one was architecture, agriculture and the other I think was transportation. And she said they were the best extinct hydrocal panels there were. They were a few little nicks and stuff, so they fixed those up. Those now are on a wall in the media center that you go down and they borrow those for this exhibit down here. And then everything was packed away carefully during the renovation so that we kept it. And but in keeping that, when we met with the superintendent, and the architect, and a couple of members of the board to talk about what could be done to save Cinderella. The architect made a comment about, well, that's really not art. And from what I had been reading a little bit, I had read, I found that WPA art was a recognized period of art, that the people involved in it were truly artists, American artists definitely. And therefore it truly was art, even if he didn't like it. And I happen to know that he liked modern art, which I don't care for personally, except for a few things. And so I just looked at him and I said, well, you know, not everybody likes the same kind of art. I said myself, I liked the classics. I loved the Roman and Greek work. We had just come back from Italy a couple of years ago after spending nine months there and going to Greece, so I'd seen things. I really love all that. And I really don't care for modern art. I said we could just do without that as far as I'm concerned, but I said it's recognized by people. And I said, and I've got news for you, the WPA art, the federal art is a recognized period of art, whether you like it or not, it is. They are truly artists that are involved, whether you know who they are or not, they are. He didn't like that at all, and off the record, I can tell who the architect was, but I won't put it on the record. Although if I say that they can go look in the history of Cleveland Heights and know who it is. But they then decided then that they would not put the door there. And that's, we have a very strange arrangement down the hallway there where there's a wall that makes this little space where you can use for tutoring, etc. But they had to get out the storage. So, again, I truly. Did not understand until I started reading more about how it was that, you know, that Roosevelt, in order to give people work, paid for the artist to do work that would benefit public buildings. I mean, the Cleveland Public Library, I'm sure you've been inside there and you seen the murals that they have. And if you've been up on whatever floor it is now, wherever they have them now, I don't know where now that they have their ceramics that they have in their building. And there are other buildings throughout Cleveland that have the works of art. I mean, there's some in public housing which, you know, you think might be, seem like a strange kind of place and, you know. Have you, are you familiar with the name Viktor Schreckengost?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:16:03] Oh, yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:16:03] Okay, he's from that period. He's out of that time period. And so you then see, you know, Edris Eckhardt, of course, is the one that we know. And she actually lived in the Oxford community up here on Monticello, just right there at the bend. And so that these were names that were familiar to all of us and came out of the art world here, but you just didn't think about.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:16:28] Yes.

Donalene Poduska [00:16:28] About that what it was. So I have to say, I'm not as. Ingrained about what all was involved, but except to know that that was a very important part as far as artists were concerned, of their being able to continue to do their work and get paid for it.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:16:50] I believe Viktor Schreckengost did the mastodon sculpture at the zoo during that period, right?

Donalene Poduska [00:16:57] Yeah, yeah, he did.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:16:59] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:17:00] Yeah, yeah. I just, I had heard his name. I had not realized what all he had done, until there, I started to, you know, until he started to be aging and I thought, my gosh, I can remember those toys. He did those toys. He did that truck kind of thing. He was, he was absolutely phenomenal. He was a he was truly a genius. And I went with friends when out at Kirtland, they had the exhibit on the toys. And we're all out there looking, oh yeah, we remember that. Oh yeah, we had that toy. Oh, my son had, had a car like that. Oh my goodness gracious. And just, you know, and then you look at what he did and, you know, in ceramics and plates and even things like that. Oh, I didn't know he did that. It was some. And yet he was so humble because we honored him in Cleveland Heights and he was, it was over and he was in his wheelchair and it was just after I had been out to the exhibit. And our mayor called me over to meet him. And I said, oh, what a gentleman he was, kissed my hand. Oh, just such a sweet gentleman. And I told him I had gone out to see the exhibit and how much I had enjoyed it. And he said, Oh, those were fun to do, you know, do the toys and that kind of thing. And his stepson was there. And I said, just, just phenomenal. So, I hope they do get that museum up because that would just be a wonderful museum to go. And then I saw him again later when another group was honoring him. And I had been honored by the group before. And I went over to welcome him into the group and he again was smiling. But he was, he was just absolutely. He, well, he came out of that, Edris Eckhardt came out who was known for the sculpture. And although she did ceramics and stuff, she then her later sculpturing bit and the catalog that's at the far end there is the one from over at Lakewood and has a lot of her other kinds of sculpturing that she did later on, because, I mean, she was for here in charge of ceramics and, and was the head of the group that came up with and mentored many people. And so when you look through that and you see just what she expanded to. I mean, she I asked the gentleman that I just went to a talk by him, Mr. Babis, Bassett, rather, and ask if they had found out at all how Edris managed to get her red in ceramics. How she what her chemical was for that paint that made it stay red, because that was what Dr. Marling commented. Her red stayed pure and he said no. But he said in an interview with the person who did her glazing. She commented that it was her glazing that she put on there that managed to keep that red, red, but he never got the formula out of her because she passed away. And but actually, the her reds are just. Yeah, well, that's that's actually a later thing that you, that you see there may be and let's see, there are a couple of the ceramics in here, but, but that's a later one. It's on these kind of ceramics where. See that blue is, is still so blue?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:20:26] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:20:26] And blue will pretty much stay.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:20:29] But the reds.

Donalene Poduska [00:20:29] But the red is something that usually fades. I mean, red fades.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:20:33] Right.

Donalene Poduska [00:20:34] And I mean, I know we had.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:20:37] Yeah, for just a few decades.

Donalene Poduska [00:20:37] Barn red on our house before we had shingles, but and it was, you know, it faded. And but hers was was still that really vivid red as, as vivid as her blues were. And so, as I said, she, she apparently was quite a chemist as far as getting it for paints to be used in ceramics was concerned. Very, very brilliant lady. And but as I said, this other gentleman said her, you know, glazer person said in that could be true. That it would you know, the glaze would be important to be on there, to hold the red and to hold that color to what it was.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:20] It's just a shame how it's kind of lost, you know?

Donalene Poduska [00:21:21] Because she didn't pass it on.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:22] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:21:22] Apparently.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:23] I love these Alice in Wonderland figures.

Donalene Poduska [00:21:25] Oh, those are more, we have a couple of those.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:27] Do you?

Donalene Poduska [00:21:27] Up in Oxford. Yeah. We have the. A nice group in Oxford.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:37] Are these in the Museum of Art by chance?

Donalene Poduska [00:21:40] There are some at the Museum of Art. Yes.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:21:43] Because I recognized some of them, that's why.

Donalene Poduska [00:21:45] Yes, she. And they think I had not, I had forgotten about is that a number of her pieces she entered in the May Show. And, you know, and, and took awards in the May Show.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:22:00] Is she related to Amelia Eckhardt?

Donalene Poduska [00:22:05] Are their names spelled the same?

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:22:06] I don't know.

Donalene Poduska [00:22:07] No, I don't think Amelia is her. Amelia. Amelia Earhart, Earhart.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:22:12] Amelia Earhart. That's it.

Donalene Poduska [00:22:12] No Earhart, not Eckhardt. [Eckhardt]. You're trying to catch me there. Amelia Earhart. And.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:22:18] I knew there's something, I guess we were talking about it the other day the meaning with our, with our group and somebody said something about Amelia Earhart and having like a granddaughter or something that was involved in Cleveland and that's why I was wondering.

Donalene Poduska [00:22:36] Well, she did have a connection with Cleveland cause she did come through Cleveland.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:22:39] Right.

Donalene Poduska [00:22:40] Yeah, but I don't remember that. Yeah. See, of, of the ceramics we have at Oxford, we have there is this, Little Red Riding Hood. We have Mad [Hatter] Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland, The Walrus and the Carpenter. We have the Turtle Race from Uncle Remus, and we have How the Leopard Got His Spots from the Kipling stories, although that they consider politically incorrect now. So they don't put it out on display.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:23:05] Which one was that one?

Donalene Poduska [00:23:05] How the Leopard Got His Spots. Now, there are other ones by Kipling, there are other places are, still will display them. Our school has decided... I'm told it's in storage, locked. Then we have some lovely ones, Grace Luse was mentored by Edris Eckhardt and we have Hiawatha, colonial families, Civil War families, these families. And then Elizabeth Seaver, three of her families are absolutely wonderful because you have, you have the family here. And then it turns around, it's on the back because, for instance, on the Eskimo family behind, you have one of the little kids and their dog hiding back there. And then on the Indian family, the, the headdress back there is absolutely wonderful. And that was why when with money that was leftover from my PTA years, we bought for the school a display case with a mirrored back. And that could be locked for displaying the WPA art. And they're trying to replace it now, and somebody has told me recently that they haven't been out on display for a couple of years. So I have to find out about that. But as I said, our piecesthat we had, we had good representation from, from a lot of the artists that there were involved. And our murals, Dr. Marling informed us, were quite different from other murals that were in, were in various schools because that was one thing a lot of the schools got because the murals were supposed to represent the neighborhood. And so if you're in a neighborhood where you had a lot of Hungarians living, you would find that they had Hungarian type dress on. Ours are just plain ordinary people, they have no, no relation because at that time our area was, was white, was a mixed bag of, of whites. And so they don't have any special dresses on they're just, just very plain. And but still, they're still so gorgeous. Theyre still absolutely beautiful. This is not a very good, these pictures or what I didn't remember I had those. This is a hydrocal panels. It's kind of like a concrete cement. And so it's you really have to look close. In fact, when you went in the original entrance, you just saw these piece out there. You didn't see what all was on there because it's, it's almost like, you know, white on white kind of a thing. So it's better seen in the library now. But these pictures are.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:25:48] Oh, it's like, is it like carved?

Donalene Poduska [00:25:50] Yeah. [Yeah.] The person that did this, I know he's in here. He also did.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:26:06] It must just be heavy work to move, you know?

Donalene Poduska [00:26:09] Oh, see Will McVey is another one that's in that time period that's out of Cleveland. Okay. Leroy Flint did the hydrocals, but he did the ceramic map that said ask [had] him to do. He designed that.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:26:40] And is most of this still there or did some of it?

Donalene Poduska [00:26:43] A lot of it is still there. We have one of the best pieces to his pieces. Nils, oh, he's the one that did Johnny Appleseed and we are. The two of them are so different. The Johnny Appleseed is it's almost like a wood, looks like a wood and very tall. And the woman reading is a ceramic. They were just they're totally different kinds. And they also comment about that even when you had people who did the same series that depend on who was doing it, that the painting would differ. I'm saying here is Edris's, I mean, she wasn't a lot of different things also.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:27:23] She didn't just do one medium?

Donalene Poduska [00:27:24] Just the one, right? Yeah, she was in, into a lot to do. But, you know, Cleveland really just you know, it was all over the United States. But, you know, Cleveland just lucked out and having a lot of it throughout Cleveland. And, and we're fortunate to have a restoration group here, because that was when we were going to when they were working on the, the building the '74. Dr. Marling's suggested how we protect the murals, which we did, and then, you know, took everything down. And over the years, we wanted to get him cleaned up a bit because you could tell they were kind of dingy looking. I mean, as I said, they were getting old. They were my age and because I had born in 1936. And then I was called because they were going to be doing some renovation back up at Oxford again around 2000, 2001, I think it was. Somewhere in there and had been up at the school. And the custodian said, Mrs. Poduska, I don't think they've made any plans about how they're going to protect those murals when they're doing working here this summer. I go, oh, gosh. So I stopped by the office to see if they had any names or whatever, and they had names of some people they had contacted before about how to restore them or work on them. So I called some of those people and got one who was with the group out in Oberlin at that time. He lived in Shaker, so he was willing to come by and take a look. It was, come back and take a look at it on his way out from Shaker to Oberlin one day, and it was Albert Albano. And so he did. And he called me and he says, I'm writing the letter because he said, yes, it definitely is worth doing. I can tell them how to protect it and see what we can do about it afterwards. So then and then came about what it would cost. And so I talked to the school and the person at the school that would write, as he said he found them charming in relatively good condition. And the discoloring is there and that it would be clear when they restored it and felt they did need to be protected and worked that summer. Gave an estimate of five hundred dollars. So the person who was on, she was communications at that time, contacted one of the foundations and asked for it from the art place instead of from education. And she got just this is wonderful. It's absolutely terrific. No problems at all. You can have the money. And so they did. And when the renovation was done, they did do the restoring of it. And you went up there and went, oh, my gosh, because you've seen what they did with the Sistine Chapel, you know how they took all that and it had it's just absolutely glorious and bright and stuff, which I haven't been able to see because they didn't finish it the last time I was there in Rome. That's what these were.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:30:42] How they just took the grime off and stuff.

Donalene Poduska [00:30:43] They took off all of the glue that had not come off from the before, cleaned off the grime, and they are just bright and beautiful and then, you know, coated them to protect them. And actually, over the years, with the number of kids that went through that school, there was only one spot over there in Pied Piper that somebody had started that they picked at, at that time. And now today, had never been anything written on the murals. I mean, the kids were all told about the murals and stuff, never did anything to them, and so they're gorgeous. And then for our fiftieth anniversary, we had an art in residence at Oxford and we did a mural that's on the wall in between the two right there that reflected Oxford at that time then, and put it on the school, had the garden, had the books. Kids said what they wanted to have in their kind of a thing and helped design the mural. So there was an updated Oxford mural put on there that was Oxford and not a fairy tale kind of thing. But, but, yeah, they've, they've been, been protected and. As I said, we didn't have some of the ones that had been asked for and she said she knew, Dr. Marling knew that we may not have gotten all that had been requisitioned because we had a lot requisitioned. But some of them were missing and in checking with people, and as she said, sometimes because they put him in the teacher's classroom so they could use as, as teaching experience that when that teacher retired, that she would take the piece because it had been in her classroom. She thought it was her, so she would take it so there we probably lost a couple of pieces that way. And but, no teacher after 1974 got a chance to take one out of there because we had them, had them all there. But yeah. So that, that's a good reference. For Oxford specifically, as I said, this article that Mazie did that's in the Historical Society page is very good.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:33:01] Is, is this picture in is that little panel and then this panel, part of the same mural or are those separate ones?

Donalene Poduska [00:33:07] Well, that's Pied Piper. This is Cinderella.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:33:11] Oh, okay.

Donalene Poduska [00:33:11] Now we have Cinderella. We had Pied Piper, Pied Piper is down by what was always the kindergarten rooms and Cinderella was down what was once used as the, and they had to be done in panels because for Cinderella, because of that spot, [that the] thing that they put up there. But, but yeah, it was to get a, this is a feel of what's the Cinderella panel.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:33:34] Oh, okay.

Donalene Poduska [00:33:35] Would have been like these are from 1974.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:33:38] Because I have seen pictures of Pied Piper. I haven't seen pictures of Cinderella.

Donalene Poduska [00:33:41] It's hard. You can't get a whole picture now because of the wall that they did put up. The wall is kind of over here. And the door was supposed to have been like about here that they would have done. So, this was what Marian Kelly at that time wrote the article about. She was there at the board meeting when I spoke. And you can tell how far it was because it's Mrs. Donald Poduska, you know. And so. Yeah, so that's...

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:34:15] Is there any like current historical or artistic protection on it or do you just have to kind of keep your eye on it? On the murals, I mean.

Donalene Poduska [00:34:23] You just have to kind of keep kept keep an eye on, because like this year, when they're talking again about doing some stuff in the schools, I went I was at one meeting and they asked, you know, because they're going to do some work up there this summer on the second floor. You know, I said I'm asking again. I said I thought I had already finished with having to protect the art here at Cleveland Heights in Oxford, but I'm asking again. And they said, no, it would be. And so I spoke to one of the people who was involved in the project, who is with the architect firm and, and I said it and so and I told him, I said about the people who had been with this. Well, that group has moved from Oberlin into Cleveland and the architect firm, and that group they share the building. So he knows the person very well. So I said, well, then you know where to go and you know where to get the help and the I expect you to take care of that for us. So I'm trusting that he will be doing that this summer. I haven't, you know, been up there to see that they did that. But I'm trusting that would be protected. But he also recognized that they said that they did have art. And, and I didn't Dr. Marling did not have. And I've looked through all of my sheets that, that she gave us, that had all of the, you know, has everything here about what had had been requisitioned. And as far as, and also about WPA art and that and in none of that, even on the long list, there would be Lakewood there, Shaker Heights. I never saw Noble School listed in Cleveland Heights. And I just went to a talk because Noble School had some also, but they had been in storage. And it's interesting because they did have some of the same families in the same, some of the same titles that we do have. And some of them were the same artist and some were different artist. But in the families and a couple of them, I think ours are a better one and we're painted better. So I don't know who did that. But I see this clear that works of art produced on the auspices of FAP WPA are federal property transferred to the custody of semipublic nonfederal institutions as loans. So naturally a mural is not going to have a card on the back specifying that. But so an allocator on either permanent or a 99 year loan subject to the good conduct of the agency receiving them.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:37:02] As the fact that they are painted directly on the wall. Does that complicate things? I mean obviously, it does complicate things.

Donalene Poduska [00:37:07] That does.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:37:08] Does that change the whole protection?

Donalene Poduska [00:37:09] That does, because it does mean that, you know, we know, for instance, if they had taken the whole school down, but if they had taken the whole school down, there were those who said they would have seen if there was some way in which they could have cut it out as a whole piece. And yes, it would weigh a lot, but at least still try to save it because, I mean, even though it weigh a lot, it'd be like a sculpture piece that weighs a ton.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:37:35] Right.

Donalene Poduska [00:37:36] But they could have tried to save it would maybe try to save it that way.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:37:40] Because I know that the.

Donalene Poduska [00:37:42] But I do know there have been buildings that have been torn down that they've lost the murals because they were directly on the wall.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:37:47] Which is a shame.

Donalene Poduska [00:37:49] [It] really is. And as I said, and particularly as I say, as she said, they were supposed to have been on canvas and then put on the wall, which would have meant you could have removed the canvas and rolled it up and done it. And there were some that were done that way, but a lot of others were not.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:38:08] I know that the mastodon sculpture that Schreckengost did that's right on the wall in the building. Well, when they redid that, there's was this big deal about trying to take that sculpture off the wall because they were going to tear down the building. If you, if you search it, there's a, there's a Plain Dealer article, real small like on, you know, that just has like the guy like that guy trying to, like, jackhammer it off the wall to save it. And like, you know, and I didn't know about it last time I went to the zoo, and I think I'll have to go and see where exactly they put it because I remember when.

Donalene Poduska [00:38:40] Because I started, because I started to say, I know they saved it.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:38:42] Because I just don't remember where they put it. I'm assuming probably in the elephant building somewhere.

Donalene Poduska [00:38:43] I thought they were supposed to return it to the area. Of course, they had that elephant crossing now too.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:38:53] Yeah, so I am curious to go back now that I knew because I remember always seeing it, you know, on the background on the elephant [house]...

Donalene Poduska [00:38:59] Well, you know, and it's interesting because I don't know how many were done directly on the wall because, of course, the ones down at the library, at the public library, some of them are so far up that I can't, you know, really see them and know whether or not they are directly on the wall or are not directly on the wall. Yeah, because, see, this is what I found interesting. This was her, this is another one you can kind of look at. And, you know, it's going to be the same artist who did ours because that's it, that's there.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:39:33] Same style.

Donalene Poduska [00:39:33] That look the style she has, but that's one of her is that she created.

Donalene Poduska [00:39:36] And because, for instance, I don't. Now, is John Hay still standing. John Hay is going to come down isn't it or is John Hay, no John Hay is still standing.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:39:53] Where is that?

Donalene Poduska [00:39:53] John Hay High School.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:39:54] Oh.

Donalene Poduska [00:39:56] I get, I get confused about which ones have, they've lost and which ones aren't, but no, John Hay, John Hay is still standing. So that one should still be there.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:40:04] I know there were some high schools have closed in the '70s and '80s and I can't...

Donalene Poduska [00:40:11] But there was... That poor book... The other part, but as I say, the murals that are down at the library are high enough up that I can't tell if they were painted directly on, or if, you know.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:40:34] They were mounted on.

Donalene Poduska [00:40:34] They were mounted on also. They are so clean on there, up there that, you know, it makes me think that they might be mounted on, but I mean, that they were painted on. But I don't know for sure about that at all. An interesting, in fact, I had found that I had a book you tell we love books and we have books all over the place that I actually had a book that I had gotten because it was interesting about food, but that it's a project out of that time period also.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:07] With food?

Donalene Poduska [00:41:08] With food.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:09] Oh, right. Because. Yes.

Donalene Poduska [00:41:11] And I.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:13] Yes.

Donalene Poduska [00:41:13] I only knew about art and roads was all that I knew about. It's a portrait of American food before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional from the lost WPA files and... They use this and they had because then they also had the writers' project.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:43] Oh, it was already... [inaudible]

Donalene Poduska [00:41:43] Yeah.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:43] I think.

Donalene Poduska [00:41:44] And we.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:41:45] Langston Hughes was a part of that too.

Donalene Poduska [00:41:46] He would have been a part of this. We were, my daughter lived in Orlando for a couple of years, and her hometown is just a skip, hop, and a jump from where my daughter lived. So we went to see the town and the little museum that they have there of her. But so this has northeast what they're eating and the south. Of course, I was very glad they had my Louisville, Kentucky, the hot brown is in there.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:42:21] So this is a recipe book, right?

Donalene Poduska [00:42:22] So it's, it's a history.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:42:26] And they have recipes?

Donalene Poduska [00:42:27] And recipes. So it's a combination because there's they talk about the automatic drugstore lunch. You got your New York soda lunch slang and jargon. I mean, it is oh, there's my burgoo thing. I should write that down for my husband. My husband was asking and I was talking about burgoo and talking about the original recipe with the ones that were out in the original one that had squirrel in it, but the modern ones don't. And so this is just I mean, I, I hadn't realized what it was and I didn't realize that the writers were involved with the food because I knew they were involved with writing. But, but not but not here with the, with the food. So.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:43:20] Food of the younger.

Donalene Poduska [00:43:23] Yeah. I think I probably got it through Amazon.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:43:26] I love Amazon.

Donalene Poduska [00:43:33] I know right, I love it.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:43:34] Same. And [inaudible] are so much cheaper.

Donalene Poduska [00:43:34] Oh, I never thought about that. Yeah.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:43:36] Suggest that to your grandchildren go on Amazon if you get them from the bookstore at the school, it's outrageous.

Donalene Poduska [00:43:42] That's true and interesting. The daughter at Hiram there, you know how they do the freshman reading kind of thing that they go in for the colloquium is a book on food. And then she's taking a course dissecting your dinner, which we'll talk about where food comes from. So I took out to her, I said, I don't know if this is going to be on your reading list for your course or not. And I said, if it's not, maybe you can do it for, you know, extra credit or whatever. But I said this is a very interesting one, was Barbara Kingsolver. She and her family left Arizona and went back to Virginia. Her husband had taught at one time, I think, before they were married at Emory & Henry in southwestern Virginia. And actually, I had been there for a conference back in 1957 and a little small, small college, very neat place. And there was a farm that became available that they bought and they were going to live off the land for a year and she would keep the journal of it and see how they could do. And it was fascinating to see what they could do and what they were living off of and how they would adjust it. And then at the end, I thought, okay, Barbara, you really have gone off. You've been there a year and you've really gone off the wall now because she said, I never thought I'd be writing about this, but, you know, how about turkey sex? And so she describes about that, okay. And never had thought about that. So but in general, how, how it how they managed to do it. And it was, it was fascinating. And in part I was, I was interested because my family, my mother and father grew up in, in western Kentucky down in the country we still call them on farms. And my mother continued even until she was in her late 80s, she could grow magnificent tomatoes in, she grew up in the pots because you need to have it higher up for her to reach and peppers. And I, I didn't have any of that ability to grow any of that anything fruits, vegetables, flowers or whatever. And I remember when our next-door neighbor, whose daughter had a vacant lot back of her and in the '40s and early '50s until we moved, we went up there because we had part of it as a garden and had to go up and tend it. She took care, most of it and I just did the picking of stuff and knew what we would pick and things. And, you know, and Daddy would help friends of ours butcher their hogs and as a result, get some hams that he would cure. And so that was, you know, reading her book, brought a lot of those memories back then along the way. But so that was another, but interesting one, one about food. But I have to also mention this book to her and that, how they would go back that far, but the other one with Kingsolver is recent. So there was a lot that that, you know, I never thought about the writers being involved in, in that sort of thing. And but this is now been a history of the places where you ate before you had the freeways, and before you had the chains and.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:46:55] Based on what was in the area.

Donalene Poduska [00:46:56] What was in the area, because, you know, Howard Johnson was, was the first was, I guess, about the first chain. Colonel Sanders was they considered the first celebrity chef.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:47:07] Yeah, from KFC, right? He's on a staircase.

Donalene Poduska [00:47:10] [He was] a nice man I met him. My Daddy knew him and I met him and.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:47:17] There is a Little House on the Prairie episode where he comes through and its like a cameo with Colonel Sanders.

Donalene Poduska [00:47:22] Yeah, right, yeah, yeah.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:47:25] I don't know if you watch Little House on the Prairie, but.

Donalene Poduska [00:47:27] Yes, we did watch the Little House on the Prairie.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:47:29] About him trying to start a chain.

Donalene Poduska [00:47:30] Yes, we did. We did watch it. We all, we were at his, we were at his original place and he got us. When we stopped therewere going out, we were on our way down to go down, just to touch the Smokies. And he wanted us to go all the way down to Asheville, North Carolina. And Daddy says, that's too far. And the Colonel says no, but there is a, there's a house down there that your children need to see. Your two girls need to see that house. If you don't like it, I'll pay you back your, you stop here on your way back and I'll pay you back for it if you don't, if they don't like it. So he called down there. He had sold his motel in Asheville. So he calleddown there, though, and got us a room. And so Daddy said, okay, so we went down to Asheville, we went to the Biltmore House loved it. And of course, it's, even more, better now than it was then because I haven't been back. That was 1948. And so when we stopped, out on the way back, the Colonel says, okay, what do I owe you? And Daddy says, nothing. You were right. Then, I was just going on and I looked at him. What did you do to your hand? Because he had his hand all bandaged up. Well, the fan wasn't working and he went to check it out. I said, well, then did you turn it off? He said, well, I thought it was off, but it really wasn't. So it got some bruises in there for him, so I remember that about him. Bruising there. And somewhere in my attic among all this stuff, there should be an ashtray that he gave me. So, so yeah, that was, that was the original place that he had. But Daddy sold him meat. My Daddy was a meat salesman.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:49:01] Oh, okay.

Donalene Poduska [00:49:01] So Daddy sold him meat and so yeah. Well what other questions do you have? Because you see, I don't know specifically a lot about that time period and about what was involved. I just know a little bit about it, but I know about my art treasures or as Mazie called them national art treasures in Cleveland Heights, which a lot of people did not realize that Oxford had those treasures.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:49:28] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:49:28] Until Maizie did this article. Maisy did not know we had the ceramics. She knew about the murals because even though she was her family lived here when she was born, they moved over to another part of Cleveland Heights before she started school. But she saw them every year when she came back because her dad and then her older brothers would come back and play in the band that played for Oxford for Father's Nights performance stories at Oxford. So she knew about the murals. And so she was totally surprised about the ceramics.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:49:58] Ceramics.

Donalene Poduska [00:49:58] When I told her about that and, and did that. But, but yeah, so.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:50:05] Oh, I just have a question. I know some of Schreckengost's ceramics was produced by Cowan Pottery. Do you know anything about?

Donalene Poduska [00:50:16] No, and I still, still have been trying and, and our friends, we keep finding someplace else to go, so the Cowan Pottery Museum keeps getting lower on the list because there is the Cowan Pottery over there in Rocky River.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:50:28] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:50:28] And the library that we want to get over and see and but then other shows come on that are there for limited time, so we go to that one instead and we still haven't made it over to Cowan Pottery because we figured one of these days we'll go over there and we'll go to one of the tea rooms over there for lunch but so far we haven't made it. So I, I don't know about that, but I do know that a number of if not maybe, probably not most if all of them that were involved had not Edris Eckhardt was with Cowan Pottery. That's where she got her start. So that a lot of these got their start at Cowan Pottery.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:51:04] Yeah, that's cool.

Donalene Poduska [00:51:06] Yeah, yeah, so the.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:51:10] So do you know any of the Jazz Bowl like it some, was it that line like '40, though, I think that they really loved it.

Donalene Poduska [00:51:14] Right.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:51:17] Viktor's Jazz Bowl.

Donalene Poduska [00:51:17] Yeah, yeah, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted one.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:51:19] Yeah.

Donalene Poduska [00:51:21] And Eleanor Roosevelt wanted something to be from Edris Eckhardt also.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:51:26] And do you know if, I know that Viktor Schreckengost was Cleveland based predominately I know he did international travel, too, but he always came back to Cleveland. Was Edris Eckhardt from Cleveland too?

Donalene Poduska [00:51:37] She stayed. She stayed here. And of course, I know and I believe. Now, I see another important influence in her development was her association with Cowan Pottery. Okay, start her story I just saw that this afternoon, I was looking at something else. Okay.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:52:15] She was probably internationally known.

Donalene Poduska [00:52:16] Well, if they ended up staying here. Now, I know where it is, it's when she goes to interview her. You know, and but that they and that they, you know, they didn't feel that they needed to go away from here in order to.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:52:37] Be successful.

Donalene Poduska [00:52:41] Right. Okay, where is that, your interview starts? I made notes since there's not an index in the back, so I had to go through and find some references. Okay. I thought it was when she? Yeah, she had five thousand art objects that she did.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:53:23] Wow.

Donalene Poduska [00:53:23] From the '30s until when this was written, which was '90, 1990.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:53:31] Wow.

Donalene Poduska [00:53:41] Doesn't say specifically. No. Her mother came to Cleveland from a small village near Canton, Ohio. Her father and grandfather were in the plumbing business. And she said family property on Whittier Avenue. So, yeah, she was Clevelander also, and at eight, she had rheumatic fever. And that was when she learned to take pleasure in drawing pictures, modeling, and clay, and reading books. Well, that's when she got started then when she was eight. Oh. And then started art school. What was later, the Cleveland Institute of Art and went through. So, yeah, so she, so she too. So as I said, there were, you know, again, Cleveland was rich. As far as that, because we had William McVey also, that was here in Cleveland. I don't remember if he was a Clevelander from the start or not, but, you know, we have a lot, we have his works here too. So, really phenomenal.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:55:10] Do you know anything about the Art Deco in Cleveland?

Donalene Poduska [00:55:15] No, I don't. And, you know, I know I've seen some of it around. Of course, we were fortunate enough, we were in Prague. And so I saw some of the, the real Art Deco and there and which is just absolutely phenomenal. And then there's the hotel down in Cincinnati, downtown Cincinnati. That's Art Deco.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:55:40] Yeah, it's, it's all over.

Donalene Poduska [00:55:41] That's it. But, yeah, you know, know, we've, we've got it. And that, again, is a period of art. I'm not sure that architect would like that either. He might like it a little bit more because that does have a little bit more going for it than the children on the murals had. I just don't think he like the children on the murals, you know, he didn't like. But no, I don't know. And I'm trying to think, I think I saw that there was a publication out on the Art Deco though.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:14] I know there is one on, I forget his first name, but it's Aerosmith because he did. All over the country, he did like a lot of the like bus stations. So we have the Greyhound one.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:23] Right.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:24] He did similar styles all over the country and I know that one's out. I don't know if there's an Art Deco in Cleveland specifically, though. Not that I know of, but.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:34] I'm surprised there hasn't been.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:36] We have a lot. Actually, there is a.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:37] Because we got so many that are specialized.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:40] The Cleveland Clinic. I forget, it was on Carnegie something I think? I want to say it was on Carnegie, but they just tore down, it wasn't a big building, but it was an Art Deco building with Art Deco architecture on it.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:52] Yeah, right.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:53] And the Cleveland Clinic bought it out and tore it down. I forget what the name of the building was.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:55] Right. Always, always liked that building.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:56:57] I forget what it was.

Donalene Poduska [00:56:58] Yeah. I don't remember, yeah. I don't remember what the name of it was either, but I always liked it.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:57:02] East 50th I think maybe?

Donalene Poduska [00:57:02] Somewhere around in there. But I always like that building. Yeah.

Gabrielle Taylor-Halligan [00:57:08] I am going to go ahead and stop it because we are at the hour mark.

Donalene Poduska [00:57:09] Okay.

Cleveland Heights

Initial interviews in this series were conducted between 2011 and 2013 at the Coventry Village Reunion in support of Historic Heights App Tours, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture-funded grant project sponsored by FutureHeights, Cleveland Heights Historical Society, and Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission. Additional interviews were collected in 2018 in coordination with the Cleveland Voices podcast.