John Richmond Interview, 18 June 2011

John Richmond recalls his places of employment and the "hippie culture" of Coventry during the late 1960s.

Participants: Richmond, John (interviewee) / Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Collection: Cleveland Heights
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

John Richmond [00:00:01] OK, my name's John Richmond, and I moved to Coventry in June of 1969 to take a job as a advertising salesman and writer for what I believe was Cleveland's second alternative newspaper called Cleveland After Dark. The office was at Coventry and Mayfield, that building that sweeps around the corner. And I looked for an apartment nearby and found one in the apartment building directly behind the bank at Coventry and Lancashire. Cleveland After Dark, it was very interesting. I was able to write about jazz and what was going on and they were writing about alternative events that were going on. And of course, Coventry was extremely lively at the time. When I rented the apartment and took the job, I had no idea that Coventry was at the heart of what is now known as hippie culture. And I loved it. I mean, I fell right in. I mean, I'd come from Kent, which was calm, at least by. Up until 1969, calm compared to what was going on on Coventry. So I worked at Cleveland After Dark until they went out of business, which occurred within the week after the shootings at Kent State. So much of the advertising revenue was related to the businesses that catered to college students that the advertising revenue just dried up overnight because colleges across the nation were shut down at that point. Well at that point, George Fitzpatrick, who was the city manager for a chain of theaters called Bexley Arts Theaters Inc. They had the Heights, the Continental, and the Westwood. And George hired me. And I ran the Continental for a while. And then that shut down, and I moved up to the Heights Theater and was manager through eight years in the 1970s. And within a short time I moved from Coventry and Lancashire to an apartment above the Heights Theater. Those apartments in front of the... above the storefronts. Now it's a restaurant space. I can remember the first Coventry Street Fairs, and at the time I was just getting back into playing music and I can remember playing solo soprano saxophone on my little balcony in front to all the people who were passing by at the street fair. Street fair was a very peaceful event. Lively with lots of vendors because, you know, we had stores, many of that could be described, I guess, in today's terms as hippie stores. What was it? Bill Jones Leather Shop. You had all kinds of clothing stores and jewelry stores, most of which went out of business sometime in the early to mid 1970s. And the street has been in a constant state of flux in about 1979, 1978, late '78. I met a woman named Jean Epstein, and I moved just a little bit away from Coventry over to Belmar. And we got married and, let's see where the story is at that point... I was still working at the Heights Theater, but then in 1969 or late '68, I left the Heights Theater and started working elsewhere. But I always maintain my connections to Coventry shortly after living on Belmar, we moved to a house on Mayfield Road where I still live. I can walk to Coventry without having to cross the street. So I've kept my connections with Coventry. The people of Coventry are just a good bunch. Tommy Fello, who I remember when he was in his teens was working at Ace Drug, which was a really ramshackle drugstore, and he bought the business and started Tommy's restaurant, and other people on the street that were great. Renee Horrocks, known as Granny. She worked at the theater and lived next door to the theater. She passed away a few years ago from lung cancer. Other people on the street... you had Record Revolution. The original owner died and then it was taken over by several people and now it's owned by Rob Pryor. So many people that I'm forgetting, many of them... George Fitzpatrick was a great guy to work with. The whole team at the Lights Theater was great to work with, but the business is... You never felt like you were going to get ripped off on Coventry. You could always make a deal and everyone tried to be fair to each other. There was people trading things I'll never forget. One time I went to an antique store that somebody ran for a short time and she had a wind-up gramophone that I wanted and I didn't have any money. So she took a table and trade for it. That sort of thing was going on. So that's about it. All I can really relate at this point, and I've gotta go off to work now. I'm working at Pete's on Warrensville Center off Mayfield. Okay.

Mark Souther [00:06:26] Thanks very much.

John Richmond [00:06:27] Thank you.

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.