Susan Prendergast interview, 18 June 2011

Susan Predergast discusses being a teenager in University Circle and Coventry during the 1960s. She says that there was a general distrust and fear of youths on the eve and after the Glenville Riots. She says that this contributed to the shift from the University Circle area to Coventry Village.

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

Interview Transcript

Mark Souther [00:00:04] Today is June 18. We're in Coventry Village at the Coventry Library. And I'd like to get you to state your name for the record.

Susan Prendergast [00:00:15] My name is Susan Prendergast.

Mark Souther [00:00:18] And when was your first... What's your first memory of Coventry Village?

Susan Prendergast [00:00:26] Going to Irv's and hanging out on the street corner there in '66 or '67, I can't remember which, but I used to go. There were stores on Coventry and it was on my bus route. I took... I don't drive. And so I went to a store called the Coven Tree and it was, you know, tchotchkes and cheap jewelry and and that kind of thing. And also, 1864 Coventry was a store run by Sandy Leeds and her husband and her son. Do you remember that? 1864? Yeah. And that was. Yeah, it's '67, '68, about the year that I graduated from high school.

Mark Souther [00:01:25] You mentioned [prior to the interview] University Circle and going to Adele's. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how you went from going to the University Circle area and started coming to Coventry more, if you could recount that for me?

Susan Prendergast [00:01:42] Well, there was only, well, you know, I. It shifted. There had been a coffee house and a boutique called Frock U next to Adele's. And I could... I used to go into Adele's a lot, but I didn't try to order liquor, so they didn't bother me, okay? But all my friends were old enough to drink and they did. It just... It shifted. Where people hung out shifted after the Glenville riots. That's what happened. It got... I mean, there was only so much in the way of tanks coming up and down Euclid Avenue that you could really feel at home with. And I had accidentally gotten myself locked into the cemetery the night of the Glenville riots. I did not know it was the night of the Glenville riots. So there I am trying to get out of the cemetery, which we all hung out in the cemetery. And we could hear shots. We could hear gunfire. It was was really weird. Anyway, people started shifting up into the Heights and there was, you know, a delicatessen. The Coffeehouse closed down. The man who owned Frock U, Stanley Heilbrunn, had to leave town because he was involved in contributing to... They were busting people for hanging around with teenagers, basically. d.a. levy, I was the juvenile that d.a. levy was charged with contributing to the delinquency of. Yeah. And all the grownups acted like we were gonna burn the city down. It was just a stupid time in history. Really, really rigid, really fearful people were in charge. No rock concerts within the city limits. At one point, re Mayor Locher. Anyway, it just it got unfriendly and people started coming up and they start drinking. If they were drinkers in Irv's and if they were too young, they hung around in Irv's and acquired a taste for really fatty corned beef, you know. And meanwhile, there's these shops springing up, okay? And all this intolerance of any kind of youth culture really, I mean, when everybody's acting like you're gonna do something unseemly every minute, what do you want to do? I myself chose to do something unseemly every other minute. I mean, really. Okay, so I graduated from high school by the skin of my teeth. I went to Regina High School and then I, but I graduated from Brush because I got arrested. That's what happened with the levy thing, okay? In my Regina uniform with the saddle shoes, taken away to jail was... I'm telling you, these people... Everybody was afraid of the teenagers. Was really stupid. People are still afraid of the teenagers.

Mark Souther [00:05:03] May I interrupt you for a moment?

Susan Prendergast [00:05:05] Yes, please.

Mark Souther [00:05:06] Two questions. One, you mentioned being in the cemetery when the riots occurred. The Glenville riots...

Susan Prendergast [00:05:14] We were walking to Adele's from up here and we thought we'd take the scenic route because there'd been a lot of trouble with the people in Murray Hill not liking hippies, say, although I didn't really think of myself as a hippie. People... other people thought of me as a hippie. So we decided to walk down through the cemetery. It was opened up just practically directly across. And it closed while we were in there. And it was... it was an interesting night. So...

Mark Souther [00:05:51] Where was Irv's located?

Susan Prendergast [00:05:54] Well, there's... Is it a dress shop or something? It's on the corner of Hampshire and Coventry. The... Let's see, the northwest corner, is that?

Mark Souther [00:06:06] So it's where the Utrecht art shop was for a while.

Susan Prendergast [00:06:09] Yes. Yes. Yeah, it's never worked as a restaurant since then because Americans won't walk from the car parking garage to eat unless they're going to the Mint Cafe, which then closed. I am not sure why. So yeah. You know that when there's no parking nearby and the restaurants are always packed, it's a really good restaurant. Well, people won't go to a deli, you know. And Irv's had to close his bars for... His bar caused so much damage in the '80s to the neighborhood that they voted that precinct dry to get rid of him.

Mark Souther [00:06:46] Can you also tell me--I know it doesn't involve Coventry directly but it's so interesting--the incident with d.a. levy and the contributing to your delinquency? Can you explain that a little more?

Susan Prendergast [00:06:59] Yeah. You know what? I have to leave because I have... I want to do it. I live in Musician Towers. Can you come to me there? I don't drive. Not today, but tomorrow or some other time that is a good... I'd really love to get... I've been interviewed a lot for books and movies. That horrible movie that Laura Paglia made that sank like a stone. I was the bartender. I was sort of you know, it was sort of based on me. I never saw it. I have a copy of it, but I've never seen it because I'm afraid to watch it alone. Everybody says it's just the worst. So...

Mark Souther [00:07:41] Well, before you leave, can you sign our permission form?

Susan Prendergast [00:07:45] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Susan Prendergast [00:07:47] And I wanted all this. I have an almost identical memory. And I I know that a lot of this stuff is stuff that other people don't remember. Even Tommy, you know. [An unknown speaker interjects.] What? Didn't...

Unknown speaker [00:08:00] About how things shifted up after the riots and stuff.

Mark Souther [00:08:05] I knew that they had shifted. I didn't realize that the riots played a direct role. I had always thought it was more because University Circle Development Foundation was really pushed to tear down things...

Susan Prendergast [00:08:15] They started tearing down all the housing, which was a bright thing that was on. But then it happened. The shift happened before most because I still lived down there in the early '70s. I lived I lived where the Foley Institute is now. That was St. Barnabas Guild House, and it was a place where retired nurses, but a lot of women students lived there. That was after. That was like '73, '74. I do. I want to get this stuff done before, you know, I stroke out, which is what people, you know...

Mark Souther [00:08:56] I want to do that too. I'll stop the tape. Thank you very much. Yeah, I do. I want to get all this stuff done. And in fact, I look on your websites and stuff like that all the time. And sometimes I notice mistakes.

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.