Lisa Hunt Interview, 10 September 2012

Lisa Hunt describes what it was like growing up in Cleveland Heights. She recalls her experiences in the Taylor Hill neighborhood from going to a neighbor's house for Bible Study to the memorable teachers she had. She also touches upon the shopping she did at Severance Mall and Lerner's Fashion Store. In this interview, she also discusses the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, and how everyone seemed to get along in Cleveland Heights.

Participants: Hunt, Lisa (interviewee) / Rotman, Michael (interviewer)
Collection: Cleveland Heights
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Michael Rotman [00:00:00] Okay, excellent. It is September 10, 2012, we're at Future Heights.

Lisa Hunt [00:00:08] Oh.

Michael Rotman [00:00:10] This is Reaching Heights.

Lisa Hunt [00:00:11] Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:00:12] I apologize. We're at Reaching Heights on Lee Road. My name is Michael Rotman and we are talking to Lisa Hunt. So, Lisa, why don't you tell us when you were born and where you grew up?

Lisa Hunt [00:00:27] I was born in 1970. After a short stint in Akron, my family located to Cleveland Heights. And we lived, I would say, on the cusp. I call it East Cleveland Heights, which is probably weird, but it sits right at the top of Taylor Hill.

Michael Rotman [00:00:43] Okay, and what was that like?

Lisa Hunt [00:00:46] Was that right?

Michael Rotman [00:00:46] No? Is that?

Lisa Hunt [00:00:48] That's not right?

Michael Rotman [00:00:48] That's not right. Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:00:50] Well, let me say this. We started off there up until I was about eight.

Michael Rotman [00:00:55] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:00:56] And then we moved to another section of Cleveland Heights, which would be Lee Road, located right next door to Boulevard Magnet School.

Michael Rotman [00:01:02] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:01:02] So 1715 Lee Road.

Michael Rotman [00:01:04] 1715 Lee Road. So, what do you remember about either neighborhood growing up say or maybe a first?

Lisa Hunt [00:01:12] The second neighborhood would probably...

Michael Rotman [00:01:14] The second?

Lisa Hunt [00:01:14] ... be more relevant.

Michael Rotman [00:01:14] Sure.

Lisa Hunt [00:01:14] I remember a lot of wonderful things growing up in that house. For one, I'm a Christian and the... Two streets over, there was a neighbor who had a Bible study for kids and it was open and we could go there once a week, she would give us instructional information. It was just the warmest, most wonderful thing. It taught me the first the, the books of the Bible. We would sit for these wonderful felt illustrated lessons and get a snack immediately after. And it was my first introduction to someone opening up their home in the community that was an adult, older adult who was giving beautiful opportunities for kids to come together in a wonderful environment.

Michael Rotman [00:02:05] Yeah, that's really nice. How many kids were there?

Lisa Hunt [00:02:08] It was a great number of us. At least 25 would treck their way from Boulevard Magnet School on Wednesdays down to Mrs. Ross's house and sit for Bible study, which took about 30 minutes. And I remember sitting on the floor cross-legged, listening to stories of the Bible come to life.

Michael Rotman [00:02:28] And so you went to Boulevard Elementary School, right?

Lisa Hunt [00:02:31] Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:02:31] Okay. Can you tell me a bit about your experiences there?

Lisa Hunt [00:02:35] Boulevard was a great elementary school. I loved it. I remember fondly several teachers who foster my love for learning and, you know, could name them. It's like Mrs. Jones, who I know is still in the community somewhere, teaching Jazzercise. She's also still active in, from my understanding, connected. I also had my first male teacher, Mr. Chapman, and it was a husband and wife team there. And then Ms. Cleggett, who was my first African American teacher, who gave me a fond appreciation for math.

Michael Rotman [00:03:14] What was so, because I'm? I guess my own personal interest too but I mean, what do you remember what made these teachers so good, I guess? What made them so memorable to you?

Lisa Hunt [00:03:22] Ms. Jones was very firm, but very friendly. Mr. Chapman being the first male teacher that I had just seen to be taller than, than average. And with his boisterous voice and gregarious and funny nature, he just stuck out. It was just like a really good time to go to school. It was. I enjoyed every moment of it. Ms. Cleggett was very firm and staunch. And each one, I guess for me, what made them so memorable is their strength and their caring nature on top of that. And I also remember my gym teacher, Ms. Taylor, who gave us the opportunity to perform Michael Jackson's "I Want to Rock with You" for one of the school events, which then I'm sure was one of the seeds that planted was planted for me to love dance, because getting up and performing for our parents and community members for something that was physical and giving gave me a fond love or a love for for the arts.

Michael Rotman [00:04:21] So this was like a after school. This was like a nighttime program or something like that?

Lisa Hunt [00:04:25] It was a gym class, and we were able to use the gym class to come up with this choreography. And then we presented it at probably like a school concert or something. And I was also in a play at Boulevard again, probably the early seeds of me loving theater and dance. I was Baloo the bear in Jungle Book. And so that was really, really great. And and too, I can't remember her name, but my Spanish teacher at Boulevard, I remember taking Spanish for a number of years. But the only thing that stuck was something that we worked on at Boulevard, which was the Pledge of Allegiance. So we would come in, sit down and begin the Pledge of Allegiance. Yo juro, a fidelidad a la bandera de los Estados Unidos de America, y a la Republica que representa, una Nacion, bajo Dios, indivisible, con liberdad... I could go on, but the fact that I still know it.

Michael Rotman [00:05:17] Yeah.

Lisa Hunt [00:05:17] Is a great testament to her teaching. And I really wish I can remember. Senora. I don't know.

Michael Rotman [00:05:25] It sounds like you had some really good memories of that. That's really nice.

Lisa Hunt [00:05:29] It was great and I lived right next door.

Michael Rotman [00:05:31] Oh, wow.

Lisa Hunt [00:05:31] So I remember walking to school, remembering my number, remembering my address and walking to school.

Michael Rotman [00:05:36] So you were? Oh, wow. So then wait, Boulevard is Lee and Warrensville?

Lisa Hunt [00:05:41] Nope. It's Lee and Euclid Heights Boulevard.

Michael Rotman [00:05:44] Yeah. That's right. Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:05:45] Yes. And I lived at 1715 Lee Road, which is right at the corner of Oak and Lee, which is the next street over.

Michael Rotman [00:05:51] Is that building still standing?

Lisa Hunt [00:05:53] The house is still there.

Michael Rotman [00:05:54] And the house?

Lisa Hunt [00:05:55] Yes, yes. Boulevard is still there. And the house.

Michael Rotman [00:05:57] Your house.

Lisa Hunt [00:05:57] Is still. Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:05:58] Do you ever go back there?

Lisa Hunt [00:05:59] Oh, I passed by and I let my children know, who are now part of the Cleveland Heights fabric in the schools, that's where Mom used to live, and...

Michael Rotman [00:06:06] That's nice. Do they go to Boulevard too now?

Lisa Hunt [00:06:09] No, but it's funny because Boulevard has this very open... I don't know if it was built in the like the... Obviously it was a newly constructed building at that time. But the open classrooms, with the ramps that straddle the first and second floors with the bright colors and the beams, is the same construction for the school, which is Fairfax located further up Lee Road where my son goes now.

Michael Rotman [00:06:31] Okay, what did you think about that whole? I was going to ask you if you remember anything about the physical layout of the school or if you had any memory of any, any particular classrooms or areas of the school that you liked or didn't like?

Lisa Hunt [00:06:44] The open classrooms. And like I said, Fairfax and Boulevard are still there. So those classrooms are still there. As an administrator at this nonprofit, we go into the school. So I'm flooded with memories going in there because it is exactly the same. So the bright colors and the brick and the, you know, kind of being able to look from one floor to the next and hear the activities going on within the building is still very present now.

Michael Rotman [00:07:10] That's not a school they're thinking about closing is it?

Lisa Hunt [00:07:13] Well, everything's, everything's up for consideration.

Michael Rotman [00:07:16] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:07:17] Because of the changes.

Michael Rotman [00:07:18] Sure.

Lisa Hunt [00:07:18] And then, you know, new kids will get a newer building with, you know, better materials. And so we're enjoying it now. But everything is subject to change.

Michael Rotman [00:07:28] Well that's nice you get to go back there. It's part of your job now to visit.

Lisa Hunt [00:07:31] It's great.

Michael Rotman [00:07:31] Those little memories going again.

Lisa Hunt [00:07:33] I'm very fortunate.

Michael Rotman [00:07:34] Are they still doing those music, those assemblys?

Lisa Hunt [00:07:36] Yes. And I encourage my children and my children have participated in them. And, you know, we have a really great teacher who teaches dance and music at Fairfax. So my son is getting those same opportunities. My oldest son, who's now his starting his freshman year at the high school, is, you know, a bit of an actor. So he gets to participate in some of the things, too. And I just know that those things continue to be present in your mind and helping you to be communicative and present in life.

Michael Rotman [00:08:07] That's really nice. What did you do after school, did you ever hang out on Cedar and Lee or I know the Wednesdays was the Bible study, but was there anywhere else that you guys hung out as kids?

Lisa Hunt [00:08:21] Well, because I lived next door, you know, a lot of my friends lived on those parallel streets, Whitethorn, Sycamore, Ivydale. And so Boulevard was that playground and, you know, the kickball sessions that those battles that took place being, you know, king and queens of the monkey bars and having access to the playgrounds was great. It was definitely a meeting place for us. There was also like a donut shop and some some little small mom and pop stores that sat on Lee Road. So we would always, you know, be able to go there. Cain Park. I remember going sled riding and, you know, sneaking up there and hanging out at Cain Park. So the area was it lent itself for us to make, you know, Boulevard and the adjacent places, part of our hangout places.

Michael Rotman [00:09:09] Did you ever do any of the theater at Cain Park?

Lisa Hunt [00:09:12] Not until I was grown.

Michael Rotman [00:09:14] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:09:14] So I was able to do The Wiz a couple of years ago, but not when I was grown. I mean, when I was younger, no, I wasn't involved. I wish I would have been, but I've been able to.

Michael Rotman [00:09:24] How's that, how's that? How's it feel to be able to do that there? I mean, it's a beautiful theater.

Lisa Hunt [00:09:28] It's amazing. I believe when we did the, The Wiz in 2008 that was going to be the last large scale production, I think it's in the Alma Theater, that they were able to do because of budget constraints. So I was able to be in that very open, wonderful theater for one of the last huge upscale productions, I should say, large-scale productions. And so it was amazing.

Michael Rotman [00:09:52] Cool. So after Boulevard, you went to Monticello Junior High, right?

Lisa Hunt [00:10:01] Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:10:01] I had that in my files here.

Lisa Hunt [00:10:03] Yes, that's awesome. You know that. And so at that point we were cardinals. And so, as you know, communities change. We're now tiger nation. But there was, you know, a very strong affinity for identifying ourselves kind of separately and Monticello was my first introduction to cheerleading and doing talent shows. I remember a couple of really great teachers that stick out in my mind. And it was the wonderful home economics teacher. Her name was Mrs. Day. And we used to kind of laugh at everything that she said she ended with. And I have to tell you why. So, you know, it was sort of sifting flour or looking at a recipe. It was, you know, and I have to tell you why. So it's very, very funny for her but to be in her class. And Mr. Dinzler, who was an amazing math teacher, which I hope this won't be offensive, we called him socks and sandals, Mr. Dinzler. But he was very, very passionate and very, very supportive of us and firm. And also Mrs. Collier, who was my social studies teacher, who was one of the first people who kind of had given me this world view of things. So I have a fond remembrance of her and my English teacher Mr. Kaufman. What I think my social constructs were changing at that time. And I was able to look at, like, how I could be involved in the school outside of just the regular commitments. So I started doing cheerleading and talent shows and that was a really, really fun time for me.

Michael Rotman [00:11:38] Do you have any fond memories or special memories of those times of either cheerleading or maybe other performances that you want to share?

Lisa Hunt [00:11:47] I just really remember cheerleading being very tough and I think it gets a bad rap like it is a sport. And it is something that I was committed to for years that show me how to do physical activity in a way that wasn't just running or it wasn't being in a very specific sport. It was a way to support all sports and be involved in the school spirit. So cheerleading was a very, very fond memory for me. And then the talent shows, my gosh, those were great. We were able to, you know, present our own sort of music. And lip sync and, you know, I think Cleveland Heights is really good for fostering individual talent, whether it's instrumental or vocal. And those times were really, really great for me.

Michael Rotman [00:12:32] So what song did you do at the talent show?

Lisa Hunt [00:12:33] Oh, my gosh. I think we did Klymaxx, "The Men All Pause," or I think it was because I kept doing talent shows. I was I have to say, once I got bit by the bug, I kept going all the way up to Heights High. But it was I think it was "The Men All Pause." I'm not sure. That's a good question.

Michael Rotman [00:12:50] Is there anything particular about the building again or, you know, the area around there that you remember?

Lisa Hunt [00:13:01] I remember the building has and still, you know, had the social room, which is this kind of, I guess, outdated gym that they stopped using. So much for gym classes, but more of like a place where the kids could, you know, split between study halls and lunch. And that being a place where we could kind of like kick back and, and dance [and] talk. And I don't know if they still do that as much, but the way the building is, you kind of come in through the back door, go, you know, before you go down the ramp, which is where their cafeteria is. And you're right there. So I guess it's this open classroom sort of being in one place and you can still kind of see what's going on and others that that's very present for me that I remember.

Michael Rotman [00:13:43] And when you started, were you able to walk to that school or did you take the bus?

Lisa Hunt [00:13:48] My mom or my dad picked me up because now, you know, there's, there's lipgloss and you're a little bit older. And so Dad was very protective. So I was definitely given a ride home because there was Severance, which was the mall.

Michael Rotman [00:14:01] Yes.

Lisa Hunt [00:14:01] Which is right there. And so if there was an opportunity to walk home, it would take me probably an hour to two hours longer because we would cut through Severance where there was a bowling alley and there was an arcade. And so because I lived, you know, across that sort of Mayfield–Lee Road area, I had to go through the mall. I mean, I had to shop. I had, you know, to take advantage of those things. So whenever we could walk home, as I got older in junior high school, it was good to be able to have that kind of walk home. I remember that.

Michael Rotman [00:14:33] What was that, because that probably opened, what, in the '60s Severance?

Lisa Hunt [00:14:38] Severance Mall, yeah.

Michael Rotman [00:14:38] That was one of the first malls that was here.

Lisa Hunt [00:14:40] Woolworth was there. The food was at the five and dime with... It had... I remember it having like a cafe or you could go and actually get like a sandwich and lunch and stuff, but yeah. And it had the big fountain in the middle of it. It was a really nice mall, including the bowling alley which was, you know, in the basement. And it's still kind of hard because it's still there to kind of see how it used to be. But it was definitely a meeting place. And that was that was our mall. That was our hangout.

Michael Rotman [00:15:11] So, kids would hang out at the mall, okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:15:12] Absolutely. Severance Mall, Severance Center.

Michael Rotman [00:15:15] Did you have a favorite store or a favorite place to eat?

Lisa Hunt [00:15:17] Oh, my gosh. Of course, fashion Lerner's used to have like the, the hottest trends. And, you know, you could get your accessories and you know, who kind of was up on the latest fashion based on their Lerner's dress. But, yeah, it was it was you know, there was even Woolworth's. I think they had things that you could buy little kitschy things that the kids could buy. So we were able to purchase things, too.

Michael Rotman [00:15:41] So it's funny because we talk to a lot of, you know, people of older generations. They hung out like they hung out on the streets. They were at Cedar and Lee. They were at Coventry.

Lisa Hunt [00:15:52] Wow.

Michael Rotman [00:15:52] But I guess as you get younger and that mall opens up that maybe become sort of more of a pull for kids to hang out at.

Lisa Hunt [00:15:58] Absolutely.

Michael Rotman [00:15:59] It's cool. I went, I grew up in Beachwood, so.

Lisa Hunt [00:16:01] Oh, see.

Michael Rotman [00:16:02] I know all about hanging out at the mall.

Lisa Hunt [00:16:03] Right.

Michael Rotman [00:16:05] So. Anything else about that time in middle school that you didn't hit on there?

Lisa Hunt [00:16:19] Monticello was I think, because as you, I guess, you get older, the geographic reasons, regions change. So it wasn't just the same kids. I believe at that time we had the opportunity to participate in something called All-City Chorus, and I could be blurring it with Boulevard or Monticello. But it was also an opportunity to meet other kids from Roxboro and Wiley. So you have the three middle schools in Cleveland Heights coming together for arts. And so that was like a really exciting time because we were, you know, given a bus ride to Heights High and we were able to, you know, mix with the other schools, you know, and put on a musical production, which, you know, it was the elites. You had to audition. You had to be able to carry a tune, which I obviously can't do very well now. But the opportunity to to sing very well constructed music with different, you know, kids from different area neighborhoods or from the adjacent high school or middle schools was great.

Michael Rotman [00:17:16] What was it like, why was it so, was it, just the singing or what was it like meeting people from different neighborhoods in Cleveland Heights?

Lisa Hunt [00:17:25] Probably not unlike any other persons collection of people through the course of their school years. Some of my best friends that I still keep up with are still were people that I collected from like being introduced to them in the middle schools, not from Monticello, but from the adjacent schools, from Wiley or from Roxboro. And when we got to the high school, we had already had some introduction to each other. And so I think that's part of it. But also the music was amazing. I loved singing a song that was just a little bit above what you would have normally gotten at your school and being in a choir. That kind of and we still do it. We still have those opportunities called, I think, the challenge choir. So they still do that where they collect the kids from all of the elementary schools or middle schools and they get the opportunity to perform with either a high school musical or and on their own as an entity. So being part of that, I still remember those songs. I'm not going to try and sing them, though.

Michael Rotman [00:18:26] You could if you wanted to.

Lisa Hunt [00:18:27] I don't want to mess you up.

Michael Rotman [00:18:29] Okay, you can change your mind.

Lisa Hunt [00:18:29] You'll edit it.

Michael Rotman [00:18:33] Yeah, right. What makes it, why was it a challenge? What makes it hard? It's just songs. Different pitches? I've never been in a choir.

Lisa Hunt [00:18:39] Oh, it was great because you had to, you know, stay pure to your alto or stay pure to your soprano. So it it was in itself a challenge because you're singing harder music because of the I guess, the layering of it and. Oh, just to hear it, I, I think that's why it's such a fond memory, because the songs were difficult. But just to be able to sing and hear the beauty of those different, you know, the tenors and, and the alto and soprano and being part of that whole chorus was just invaluable.

Michael Rotman [00:19:12] Okay, so you went to, you started at Heights High in 1984?

Lisa Hunt [00:19:18] I think it was '84 because at that point we were doing ninth grade was still in the junior high school.

Michael Rotman [00:19:26] Oh, okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:19:26] So we didn't. So tenth, eleventh, and twelfth, which I guess that would be '80s, '85. I came there '85, '86. Is that right? '86, '87, '88.

Michael Rotman [00:19:36] You graduated in '88.

Lisa Hunt [00:19:37] And I came out in '88.

Michael Rotman [00:19:38] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:19:39] So I think it was '85.

Michael Rotman [00:19:41] Yeah.

Lisa Hunt [00:19:41] When I got to Heights High. Yeah, what was the question, Mike?

Michael Rotman [00:19:46] Oh, well, what was that like going to Heights High? [crosstalk]

Lisa Hunt [00:19:52] Oh it was so. Thank you. I was like. I was so excited, I was so excited to get to the high school. I have an older sister...

Michael Rotman [00:20:00] Oh, okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:20:00] Whom is really good about remembering details. I'm gonna have to give you her number. But she was already at the high school, so some of her friends I had inherited and adopted and was very excited to be a part of something called The Sisters and the Brothers, which was a social. It was a chartered organization. And it started in the '70s. And knowing that I was going to get to Heights and be a sister was really, really exciting for me. But aside from that, there was off campus lunches. McDonald's was right around the corner. All of those people who I had met through either the choir or singing in the neighborhood who we weren't going to the same schools, we were going to all culminate into this one school. And so it was very exciting to be a ninth-grader coming to the high school. I was then about to be a tiger.

Michael Rotman [00:20:55] Yes. It's so weird that it's cardinals in the middle school but it's, do they still do that?

Lisa Hunt [00:21:00] Every middle school used to have its own and I didn't know every elementary also wasn't very it wasn't promoted very much in the elementary, but it got a little bit more identifiable in the middle schools. So I think we've melted all of that away. So now that's why we're all tiger nation. And so knowing that I was going to be, you know, going from a cardinal to being an actual Heights High tiger was was very exciting.

Michael Rotman [00:21:25] And did you continue? Well, what activities did you do in high school?

Lisa Hunt [00:21:30] A great deal of them. I mentioned the social network.

Michael Rotman [00:21:34] Oh yeah. So, I'm sorry.

Lisa Hunt [00:21:35] That's okay.

Michael Rotman [00:21:35] So how did you be, what was that? How did you become a sister or a brother?

Lisa Hunt [00:21:40] A sister, you had, there was like an application process. You had to write an essay and then you had to kind of follow a sister around and kind of learn what it was all about. You had to learn the history. You had to volunteer. You had to do grunt work in order to do it. But one of the things that was helpful for me, teenager, teenager's struggle with identification and social networks, and I wouldn't go back if I had a million dollars. But at that time, because I had a group of older girls who wanted to kind of help me pioneer into the high school and how to figure things out, they were it was, you know, had to be academic. You had to be involved. You know, it was important to to know, you know, other people. That was my safe haven. I think it, it helped me to become the woman that I am and those friends I still have. And we still have a scholarship at Heights High. The sisters and brothers academic scholarship still to this day.

Michael Rotman [00:22:41] And what other, so what other activities did you do in high school?

Lisa Hunt [00:22:45] Sure. In ninth grade, I was still cheerleading in ninth grade, still cheerleading, gave to tenth grade, still cheerleading and then doing. What did I do in tenth grade? Oh, I was elected the duchess, which is the homecoming court. Not a big deal, I know for some. But it was it was pretty cool at the time, but went on to do student council. And then for senior year I was the social vice president, go figure. And I was able to plan our homecoming, which I remember hoisting bags of leaves. I feel so bad for the janitorial staff. I don't know how they, I think we cleaned up some, but we, you know, brought bags and bags of leaves from the outside into the social room and spread them all around. And that was it was like fall into fun for the homecoming. But it was very exciting to, to, you know, work on leadership and organizational skills and event planning, things that I use now and to have to campaign for that position. And so being part of student council and social vice president was huge for me. I was very, I'm very proud of that.

Michael Rotman [00:23:54] Yeah, definitely. And you were still doing the choir and singing and all that stuff?

Lisa Hunt [00:23:59] Well, I tried to audition, I think, for Gospel Choir, which was really this amazing entity at Heights. It still, still really is. And I didn't make it or either it was just too much going on where I couldn't do sisters and cheerleading and, you know, student council. But yeah, that was I didn't do as much as I would have liked to. I still would have liked to have been in plays and singing. So that kind of had fallen off. I was more into the social aspect of the school at that point and.

Michael Rotman [00:24:28] Can you describe I mean, do you have any where, I mean, what's the social. I always hear people talk about the social room and we didn't really have that in my school growing up. So, I mean, what went on in the social room?

Lisa Hunt [00:24:38] Well, the social room is like slash cafeteria. It's kind of like the overflow area. And it's this wooden huge space that is still being used by the community today. The way it works is kind of you come in from these upper the upper floor and you can walk down these stairs and it kind of pours you into this huge cavernous room that separates the social room by a ramp from the cafeteria. And that is exactly what it was, a social room. I mean, you figure they still use it and there's several periods that are kind of eating and mixing at one time. And that's the thing that was so wonderful for me in Cleveland Heights. I have friends from all sort of economic, racial and cultural backgrounds. So I was able to mix in and get to know different people, which was, I think, much more I think much more beneficial than living in a homogenous community. I wanted that for my kids. And so we moved back to Cleveland Heights because of that. And even my husband, who grew up in Shaker Heights, knew the value of how Cleveland Heights has been such a wonderful arts and social and active community that that was important for us to bring up our children in that environment. So we made a determination to buy a house in Cleveland Heights and live in Cleveland Heights and our kids to attend the public schools here.

Michael Rotman [00:25:55] So did the racial dynamics change during the years that you were going to school? Was it becoming more integrated?

Lisa Hunt [00:26:03] I think it was changing, but what I saw was there was a lot more cultural diversity at that time. And I've even talked to some of my friends from high school who went on to other universities. And we were all surprised that we lived in this, like bubble, that it wasn't just, you know, you had one race of people over here and or you didn't see that we were intermingled and we did, you know, get along and talk. I mean, I'm sure was a little factionalized, but you did see a lot more integration. And so going to another community was kind of shocking, like to just see like people not being comfortable talking with other races or not having friends with people of other races or or ethnic or religious backgrounds.

Michael Rotman [00:26:49] What about the neighborhoods you grew up in? I mean, those were pretty well integrated?

Lisa Hunt [00:26:53] I would say, like I remember having, you know, really good friends that I could walk over and they weren't the same race as me and, you know, being welcomed into their home and the same for them. So I would say, yes, it was, you know, in Cleveland Heights has kind of always have that whether people choose to, you know, continue and let their kids go through the Heights' schools or there's always been, you know, racial or I should say diversity.

Michael Rotman [00:27:18] I mean it's a strength I think.

Lisa Hunt [00:27:20] I think so, too.

Michael Rotman [00:27:22] Okay, what else about high school? I mean, do you have any really fond memories or specific events that happened?

Lisa Hunt [00:27:34] Well, you know, the sisters like I said, the sisters and brothers were a good social organization for me to develop, you know, event planning skills, team building. And so we were able to, like, plan the junior prom. I mean, the prom for for, I think was at Landerhaven.

Michael Rotman [00:27:52] Oh, okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:27:52] We did the Landerhaven and then we did the after prom, I think somewhere, somewhere else. But it was a good opportunity for me to develop skills that I still use today. As far as other memories, I think the the opportunity to be in some of the clubs were strong, whether it was student council or campaigning. Those were the strongest memories, I would say, and the off-campus lunches were great for the short period that that happened. I think it was only for ninth grade. And then they shut it down.

Michael Rotman [00:28:24] Why did they shut, do you know why they shut it down?

Lisa Hunt [00:28:25] I don't know. I think it was too much and it always happened that way. Like my sister would get like all three years of all this freedom. And then I would come along for to soon be taken away from me. But, yeah, I think that it was probably too much to manage. I can't imagine them doing it now either.

Michael Rotman [00:28:40] What did you guys do at student council? Was there any, any, you know, controversy there or you don't remember?

Lisa Hunt [00:28:46] I really wish I could, Mike. I don't remember.

Michael Rotman [00:28:49] I was on student council and I don't remember.

Lisa Hunt [00:28:49] Do you remember any of the issues?

Michael Rotman [00:28:51] I remember we had to plan for prom.

Lisa Hunt [00:28:52] Right.

Michael Rotman [00:28:52] I don't know what else we, I don't know if we did do it.

Lisa Hunt [00:28:53] Maybe that is like the major thing, you know, that's all you do. And then take a picture. But I think with the off-campus lunches, it reminds me that there was there used to be. And I think all my stuff is going to be social and like there used to be a little club right in the you still see it now. There's a courtyard that sits between the Cedar, the I'm sorry, Lee and Cedar Theatre [Cedar Lee], which is Cleveland Cinemas and where McDonald's used to be, which is where the Thai restaurant is. What is that?

Michael Rotman [00:29:27] The Hiroshi or Ayoshi?

Lisa Hunt [00:29:28] That's that's even the new one.

Michael Rotman [00:29:29] Oh, this one is Lemongrass. Yeah.

Lisa Hunt [00:29:29] This one is Lemongrass. So right there there's a courtyard and used to be a club called the Stardust. And that was a huge draw for the teenagers. Like that was our place to go. And they would often open it up for us to have parties. And so it was really good to have that in my community right there in a safe way to to get, you know, get our party on with our with our peers.

Michael Rotman [00:29:53] What went on there? Just dancing?

Lisa Hunt [00:29:55] We'd go dancing, you DJs, you know. Yes, it was it was just a little a little party hall, which is still there. It's kind of a shame that they don't use it, but it's still there.

Michael Rotman [00:30:05] And did you ever, did you guys ever go to Coventry?

Lisa Hunt [00:30:08] Yes. And I was, you know, of that era where the Coventry Street Fair was like an amazing thing every summer, which was I want to say it was like three days, like a Friday, Saturday, Sunday thing, where it's still reminiscent of what it is today, but they split it up. But if you can just imagine three concentrated days of that where there wasn't the fights. And I don't think teams knew how much power they had in mass. They now realized because of social media that if how much more intimidating they look, you know, when they're all together. So they use that. But it was a place where you could sit on the curb and eat ice cream and see your friends and invite your, you know, your family. And it was just a really good time. Coventry Street Fair for me was an amazing memory, not just for being able to shop, but just, you know, to be able to eat and taste local vendors and to hang out in a safe place.

Michael Rotman [00:31:02] So you guys, you would just go up there with your friends or?

Lisa Hunt [00:31:05] We would go up there. You could walk up there and hang out there. And it was not anything unlike it is today, with the exception of we had three full days to kind of get it out of our system.

Michael Rotman [00:31:18] I've seen the pictures it's yeah, look like it was pretty, pretty cool.

Lisa Hunt [00:31:22] Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:31:24] What about did you go to church at Cleveland Heights Church?

Lisa Hunt [00:31:28] I did not.

Michael Rotman [00:31:30] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:31:30] My family was from the if you go all the way up Lee Road to the Lee in Kinsman, I have grandparents who were pastors, so my grandparents lived right next door to New Sardis Baptist Church. And so that was, that was where we went to church.

Michael Rotman [00:31:43] Oh, okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:31:43] And it was in the Kinsman Chagrin area.

Michael Rotman [00:31:45] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:31:45] And still is there too.

Michael Rotman [00:31:48] Is that, that's where you still go today?

Lisa Hunt [00:31:49] No. And now I'm a member of a community church here.

Michael Rotman [00:31:59] Okay. So, when did you move back? You said you moved back to Cleveland Heights.

Lisa Hunt [00:32:02] Yes, we moved back to Cleveland Heights in 2000, just, you know, searching and looking for homes. This was one of the places that we knew we really wanted to consider. My husband's from Shaker Heights. And so Cleveland Heights won over Shaker Heights, hands down, you know.

Michael Rotman [00:32:18] Of course.

Lisa Hunt [00:32:18] Just because of the, the diversity in the arts.

Michael Rotman [00:32:21] And where, what neighborhood do you live in now?

Lisa Hunt [00:32:23] I'm, I'm right by Severance. I'm right near Monticello. And it's so weird that, you know, I get to see these Monticello kids and you wonder, was I ever that small? Was I ever that loud? You know? Did I behave like that? You know. And I know I did to some degree. And having my son go there was just kind of a, I don't know. It's interesting to kind of make that full circle and for him to have had, you know, three good years, was it three, six at Heights or at Monticello. And he starting his freshman year now at Heights High.

Michael Rotman [00:32:55] You must be very excited for him.

Lisa Hunt [00:32:57] I'm, I'm. He's off to a great start. He's one of the freshmen football players. He's very invested in that. And he still gets to do the theater. And he likes music. So and he likes dancing.

Michael Rotman [00:33:07] He's a renaissance man.

Lisa Hunt [00:33:08] And I have to just say, I was able to help choreograph some of his talent shows with some of his friends. So it's just so weird. You know, obviously, I'm vicariously trying to still live at those moments, but he's had, like, a really good chance to perform at those. And it's been great for him.

Michael Rotman [00:33:25] You get him, get to Michael Jackson and all the oldies?

Lisa Hunt [00:33:28] My youngest loves Michael Jackson, and that was his costume last year. We like, you know, judged up some of mom's old stuff and he had chains and everything and a hat and the glove and so. I'm actually trying to get him to perform in Cabaret. Fairfax does this huge event at the high school where they, you know, either use a social room or the grand auditorium, the Dina Reeves Auditorium, for the kids to put on like this huge show. And so I'm trying to get Jordan to do Michael Jackson. He's special needs and he's just like I let brother perform. And I'm like, no, your time is coming.

Michael Rotman [00:34:01] Yeah.

Lisa Hunt [00:34:01] But he's he's great. They're very outgoing.

Michael Rotman [00:34:04] Cool. Did I? Do you have anything else to say about the high school? Were there any teachers, anything else stood out?

Lisa Hunt [00:34:16] I remember Ms. Russo was our government teacher and she had... See, I really feel like some of my stuff is just so, like, not even important, but she was this really, really kind of unique individual with this raging blond hair and these tiny little red lips who by looking at her, you would not think you could approach her. But getting to know her, she was just the sweetest, most loving teacher who, you know, kind of in some ways you would think it was nosey, but just she looked out. She looked out and knew just like today, these kids come to school with different issues. And it was Ms. Russo who you knew you could go to and she would kind of pick up on like, okay, you're falling asleep too much in class. What's going on with you?

Michael Rotman [00:35:05] Yeah.

Lisa Hunt [00:35:05] She was that teacher you could talk to and it was a lot of teachers who were at Heights that it wasn't just the academics, it was the fact that they extended themselves beyond that to be people and to be caregivers and adult mentors. And it it just made me have the best memories of my years at Heights High. Wasn't because of the grades, it wasn't just because of the diversity, wasn't just because of the arts. It was from those role models and those people who stepped beyond just the teacher role. They showed they cared.

Michael Rotman [00:35:35] Oh, it's really nice. That's how all schools should be, you know?

Lisa Hunt [00:35:37] I think so.

Michael Rotman [00:35:40] Let's see. What? Is there anything else, any other Cleveland Heights memories you might have that you want to share?

Lisa Hunt [00:35:50] This is probably illegal and I probably.

Michael Rotman [00:35:52] Okay.

Lisa Hunt [00:35:52] Shouldn't tell you.

Michael Rotman [00:35:53] Uh, oh.

Lisa Hunt [00:35:53] But Cain Park was right up the street. We moved from 1715 Lee Road to 2288 S. Taylor, which is sits between Silsby and Meadowbrook into another home in Cleveland Heights. Because we loved Cleveland so much, obviously. But I remember walking up to Cain Park, you know, my cousins would be over, we'd be up and sled riding in the middle of the night. And I know that is probably very illegal, but my cousins still talk about that to this day, like they would come to my house and be able, you know, how wonderful is that? That, you know, they were probably in different inner-city areas to be able to come to our house in Cleveland Heights and we could walk down the street. And whether it was like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and we shouldn't have been there, we were able to go sled riding in the middle of the night. And it was just amazing to have that.

Michael Rotman [00:36:39] This was in high school?

Lisa Hunt [00:36:40] Yes.

Michael Rotman [00:36:41] Okay, it's just in the middle of the night and we just sneak out.

Lisa Hunt [00:36:43] We could walk up there. Yeah. When that's what we were doing, you know, dragging our sleds up the street under, you know, sliding down fresh fallen snow or being able to have that hill that is still a draw. You know, people love to still sled on the Cain Park Hill. It's better when nobody's there though, because you don't wipe out anybody on your way down.

Michael Rotman [00:37:04] I like that. Those kinds of public spaces should probably be open at night.

Lisa Hunt [00:37:08] I think so. It's great. It's magical.

Michael Rotman [00:37:10] So did your, so you had family who lived in Cleveland proper?

Lisa Hunt [00:37:15] Yes. Oh absolutely.

Michael Rotman [00:37:16] What did you go down there? I mean, what was there a big difference between visiting them and living up in Cleveland Heights?

Lisa Hunt [00:37:25] Oh, for sure. Like I said, you know, we had a lot of walking space, I think, and there were places we could walk to as kids where, you know, playground choices, whether it was at the schools or at the parks, there was a safety. You felt a little safer not to say that there wasn't a community present on, you know, 147th and Kinsman, where my mother grew up and my grandparents were pastors and first lady of the church. It was just more storefronts and bricks and mortar and cement and, you know, rocks. It wasn't this kind of green space sort of feel of community. So you, you felt like you needed to stay close to the house, whereas here we could branch out. And I remember riding my bike probably way farther than I should have, like into East Cleveland and feeling that comfort and, you know, feeling the freedom to do it, whether it was valid or not. We did feel, I think, a sense of community and safety.

Michael Rotman [00:38:25] Great. Well, what I mean, can you tell me a little bit about what you do now?

Lisa Hunt [00:38:33] Oh, absolutely.

Michael Rotman [00:38:35] At Reaching Heights?

Lisa Hunt [00:38:36] Sure. I just recently graduated from Cleveland State University with my master's in nonprofit administration and leadership, very proud Viking. And I am now a program manager for a couple of programs here at Reaching Heights that we are a citizen led organization that supports Cleveland Heights, public education, public schools. And so I'm able to orchestrate and manage the tutoring program, which is operational at seven of our elementary schools, where we bring in volunteers. So that, that's really the strongest thing I'm doing now is making sure that the tutoring program is bringing in enough tutors and that we're managing the program so that we're effectively giving volunteers an opportunity to be in the schools.

Michael Rotman [00:39:18] How do you think the schools are doing now?

Lisa Hunt [00:39:19] I think the schools are doing well. I think the leadership shows that they want to change. I think that's important. The new vision probably is not far off from what we're seeing all schools need to do. How do you wrap in the arts and International Baccalaureate programs and science and technology for where these kids are today? And so now we have pathways that are trying to find those conduits. Early on, my son is in the arts school. So for me to be able to say with everything that I've done in Cleveland Heights and knowing what he loves, that he can participate in a school that's going to give him internships or opportunities to learn about the arts, not just from the performance aspect, but how to be an economic viably present entity in that is very, very important.

Michael Rotman [00:40:07] So you think you're, it sounds like your kids are taking full advantage of being in Cleveland Heights and kind of enjoying some of the same things you yourself got to enjoy.

Lisa Hunt [00:40:14] I think it's important, I really do to be, you know, in a school. And if your school has those opportunities to be able to take advantage of them this year, I'm trying to do some different things with Jordan to give him more leadership and independent opportunities with the Boys and Girls Club, which is located right across the street from Heights High. And we're very fortunate at Fairfax to have all of these after-school activities where we have, you know, local dance companies come in and let the way they're doing an after-school program there or this wonderful teacher. I don't even know his name because it's our first year to do tumbling with the kids. And so all of those things are very valid. And who knows how they were fostered, their growth and what they grow up to do by being given the opportunities.

Michael Rotman [00:40:57] Excellent. Well, those are all the questions I have if there's anything else you want to share?

Lisa Hunt [00:41:01] No, but thanks for doing this. This is great.

Michael Rotman [00:41:04] Yes.

Lisa Hunt [00:41:04] And will download the app.

Michael Rotman [00:41:06] Thank you so much.

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.