Emily Peck Interview, 2 April 2008
Emily Peck, retired school principal, born and raised in Memphis, came to Cleveland in 1950. She relates her experiences as an African-American woman living in Cleveland in the 1950's. Race relations in the 1950's were not overtly troubled, but Peck describes the rise of resentment as African-Americans attempted to move into immigrant neighborhoods. Peck notes lack of opportunity for African-Americans, the emphasis on education amongst middle-class blacks, and their perseverance to create and sustain businesses. Peck was able to attend local colleges and universities as an adult. The quality of that education enabled her to obtain work in the public schools as teacher and administrator. As a resident of Glenville, Peck describes the racial tension and riots of the late 1960's in her area, the resistance to school integration, and the relocation of many educated blacks to the inner-ring suburbs. She hopes the city will realize the importance of vital neighborhoods, avoid freeway construction in neighborhoods, and support local talent and entrepreneurs.
Emily Peck [00:00:04] Okay. I can keep looking.
David Urban [00:00:06] My name is David Urban. I'll be interviewing Emily Peck. It is April 2, 2008. And first question I'd like to start out asking was if you can describe your move from the South to the North. Curious about being at such a pivotal point in your life, the young age of 17, leaving the place you're familiar with and moving from the South to the North, were you comfortable in Memphis? Did you want to move?
Emily Peck [00:00:38] Well, I loved Memphis. I still love Memphis. I have a sister and lots of relatives and very close friends who still reside in Memphis. So, to me, Memphis is home. However, I graduated from high school in May of 1950 and my... I was bent on going to college. However, it wasn't as easy to graduate from high school and go directly to college. Some of my friends were going. They were... In fact, my closest friend was going to Tennessee State, and I just thought that was marvelous. Another close friend was going to go to school there in Memphis. But the opportunity financially was not afforded me. And I had applied for a nursing scholarship in Saint Louis, Missouri. The answer to my request had come while I was away during the summer, and when I got home, it was too late to respond. And I was livid. So I told my mother, I think I'll go to Cleveland. I called my sister. My oldest sister and her husband lived in Cleveland. I had visited in Cleveland before, and I thought it was this side of heaven. And she said, Yes, I don't mind. And I had been working at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina for the summer. We worked at a Methodist conference grounds in the Smoky Mountains. That was the furthest I had been from Memphis ever. And we were there all summer from the Sunday after graduation until my return, the 15th of August, we had been at Lake Junaluska. That's why I missed informing the School of Nursing that I would accept the scholarship they were offering. But, livid as I was, I'm getting away from Memphis. I will not stay here while all my friends were going to college. And that was how I arrived in Cleveland. The oh, somewhere around the 30th of August, maybe the latter part of August, I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. And, love was in the air. Streetcars, everything about Cleveland, I loved. We lived on East 111th Street. That was near the East Cleveland border near Lakeview Road. And. I might say at this point, I lived happily ever after. Cleveland was a great place, and that was a part of Glenville. East 111th Street, Lakeview, that area.
David Urban [00:03:58] I see. Two things that I heard in there. One was you, you said Cleveland was a great place, but I want to get back to that. What I actually wanted to ask you was, you talked about the streetcars. What were some of the differences you noticed in Cleveland from Memphis? In society, the economy, just different things like that.
Emily Peck [00:04:19] Everything was different to me. I didn't notice any adversities. I really didn't. I did not mind... The neighborhood where we lived was basically a Black neighborhood. But, I really didn't notice that because coming from Memphis, I lived in a Black neighborhood. And, coming from Memphis, I had gone to a parochial school and grew up Catholic. In essence, because we went to a Catholic school and joined the Catholic Church. However, Memphis being a city of churches, our friends went to the Methodist Church or the Church of God in Christ or the Baptist Church. And my great grandmother lived with us, and it was her rule of thumb. My father, my mother, all. It was her rule of thumb, you did not associate with people who did not go to church. If we didn't go to church, somebody's church, on Sunday, you couldn't go anywhere else. You couldn't visit anybody. You couldn't go to the movies. That was just a rule of thumb in our neighborhood there. So in moving to Cleveland, when the... There were Catholics in the neighborhood, there were Jewish people, there were Baptist people, Methodist people, all kinds of people with different religious affiliations. And so I didn't find that at odds with where I had come from. It was-. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. And at that time I joined St Thomas Aquinas Church. And it was different from the church I'd come from.
David Urban [00:06:24] Was it, like the southern style of church different...
Emily Peck [00:06:27] Mmm...
David Urban [00:06:29] ... from the northern style because you hear about...
Emily Peck [00:06:30] Yes, the....
David Urban [00:06:32] ...the Southern Baptist churches and stuff like that.
Emily Peck [00:06:34] You have Southern Baptist. We had southern Catholics. [laughs] Southern, period. There was hospitality and warmth in the southern neighborhoods that did not permeate all areas here in Cleveland or Saint Thomas was, um, I don't know what ethnicity it was. I didn't hang around long enough there. And the next church I affiliated with was St. Aloysius. It was a warmer church, much friendlier than was St. Thomas. And St. Thomas was on Superior, St. Aloysius was on St. Clair. If you know about the area anyway, I that wasn't my main focus. My main focus was in finding a college to attend. And in the meantime, to get a job. So my first job was at Franklin's Ice Cream Store, and that was a lot of fun. But I worked there afternoons in the- I got a job at Cleveland Clinic. I was the first black nurse's aide they hired at Cleveland Clinic. That was heaven sent. And they hired me as a nurse's aide in the children's ward. That was wonderful. In the meantime, uh, friends at Franklin's, at the store where I worked part time, the ice cream store, they were mostly students from John Carroll University. And they told me about Notre Dame College. They said, "Notre Dame is offering an exam there. You might be able to get a scholarship or something." And I said "Oh." So, I followed through on that, and sure enough, I ended up with a partial scholarship going to Notre Dame College in South Euclid. And that was wonderful. However, my mind was stayed on nursing, so I stayed at Notre Dame for... Two years. But I continued working part time at Cleveland Clinic. And after that, I met my husband.
David Urban [00:09:15] Prior to getting hired at Cleveland Clinic, did you have any previous nursing experience?
Emily Peck [00:09:20] No, you didn't need any experience. I was a nurse's aide. And the-. That was just... That was in... I arrived in 1950. That was in 1951. That I started working at Cleveland Clinic and. Later on that year when I went to I got into Notre Dame College and stayed there until '52, maybe 1953.
David Urban [00:09:56] And correct me if I'm wrong, but did you go to Cleveland State after that for your Master's degree?
Emily Peck [00:10:00] Cleveland State came after I was married and had... five children. I entered Cleveland State on a part-time basis, and that too became the love of my life. Just... It was... [laughs] I mentioned another love, didn't I? Cleveland? [laughs]
David Urban [00:10:25] Now, can you tell me a little bit about how you met your husband and...?
Emily Peck [00:10:30] Well, my husband... I was working... I was going to Notre Dame College and working part time, at the Clinic, at that time. And a friend who was a senior at Notre Dame, I was a freshman, and her friend drove the number 45 bus to the campus. 45 would... I rode the 45 bus to school, mornings, and I had met him and he would drive us right up to the campus on Green Road. The... And Naomi lived on my street and the uh... She lived on Parkgate. My husband lived on Parkgate. My husband, Nelson Peck, had graduated from Ohio University, this, in June of 1950. I had graduated from high school in May of 1950. There was a little difference in our ages, but it was all good. And Naomi and her friend introduced me to him. It was a blind date on a Sunday afternoon, when I happened to be off from the, from Franklin's, the ice cream place. And we went out to dinner... And, the rest is history. We, we were married 25 years. Just before our 25th anniversary, he passed away. But, again, after giving birth to five children, when my youngest child was so getting ready to go to school, I decided to go back to school myself. With the years I had at Notre Dame, and I had a couple of part time stints with Kent, you know, between children, and those credits accumulated. You know how they accumulate. [laughs] And I got in, really. And after that I started in... Started part-time at Cleveland State, taking a few courses at Tri-C. I just loved going to school, while my husband was home evenings and I went to school. And it worked out that way, you know? A lot of people, I didn't see anything strange in taking care of the kids during the day and going to school in the evening. I thought that was the next best thing to do. And he agreed with that. My husband was an engineer, so he worked during the day and I went to school in the evening.
David Urban [00:13:31] Now, can you kind of explain the atmosphere of Cleveland State during that time, especially that Cleveland State prides itself on diversity? And was it was it like that back then? Was it...?
Emily Peck [00:13:42] Yes, it was. It was good. In fact, I encouraged a lot of students to transfer from the day classes to the evening classes. In the evening, it was more of an adult atmosphere. You- they really focused on your program, what you wanted to do. I had chosen education. And, the instructors, were... They were counselors, teachers, the whole potpourri of college trainers. And they looked upon us as adults. We didn't have to delve into the more frivolous things in college, you know, the clubs and the this and the that. We didn't have to focus on that. And if we chose, sports was a big part of our curriculum there. I played volleyball and pining to do tennis, except that it interfered with what my children were doing at home. I almost forgot I had five kids at home when I was on the campus. And it they had people like Dr. Lillian Hines and Dr. Boehnlein in the College of Education, and they empathized with the adult students. It was really great. But we focused on our our program rather than any... Extracurricular activities. Even though we got those in, you know, in the summer.
David Urban [00:15:39] After Cleveland State, you went on to become a teacher?
Emily Peck [00:15:43] Yes, I did. I in fact, I became a teacher. I taught... For... Almost ten years before I got my Masters degree, because I started in the early childhood department. Head Start had been a big factor, during the Lyndon Johnson era? And Head Start, with all of the children I had at home, I really took an interest in children in the neighborhood. And in Cleveland, they didn't have a lot of nursery schools in our community. And the... My husband lived in Glenville. I lived in Glenville. And when we got married, we resided with his parents on Parkgate, still in the Glenville community. And when my first two children were born, they were like 18 months apart, I wanted them to go to a nursery school so I could go to school at that time. However, there was only one nursery school in our neighborhood, and it's still there on East 105 near Wade Park. The... But Headstart had come into play, and I became interested in that as a volunteer. I volunteered at the Y and we were trying to get a program there and that didn't pan out. People, small groups of people tried several times to get the Head Start program in our neighborhood or to get another nursery school, and that didn't quite pan out. Anyway, that's why I wanted to become a teacher. And in the meantime, after Debbie, the fifth child, was born, I took a job outside of the home and I worked at Huron Road Hospital, and- as- in the evening, as an Emergency Room secretary. Then I, when the children were in school full time, I took a job at Metro Hospital in the admitting office, and that worked out pretty good. But anyway, I was still interested in getting the Head Start program started. Cleveland, in the meantime, started a program, called the "Child Development Program" at Glenville High School. And my youngest daughter was... I enrolled her there and I really liked the program. It was called Child Development, rather than Head Start. And I took a few days off from work. She told me her teacher was out sick and so I said, "Well, I'll come over and help." Volunteering had always been my forte at the Y or-... It was just wonderful to get that outside activity. And so I chose to volunteer places where they were working with children. Anyway, I told them I would come and help at the school and the Child Development program. I had read a lot about it, heard a lot about it, my youngest child was in there. And when I got there I found that they really needed my help [laughs] as an experienced parent. And the supervisor offered me a job after I had stayed there four or five days, volunteering, I had to go back to work and she asked if I would like a job as a teacher. And I said "I only have two years of college." And she said, "Well, you don't need a degree to teach in child development." And. I said, "Okay?" [laughs] And that's how I started with the Child Development program. They hired me as a teacher that summer in June. And I just thought it was it was fantastic. And the- my husband said, he cautioned me, he said, "If they're going to hire you as a teacher for four year olds, you will- you must go back to school and get your degree. Because they pay too well, keep a non certified person in that position." And I heeded his advice and that's how I became a full time evening student at Cleveland State. And I stayed until... I received my Master's degree.
David Urban [00:20:38] Can you explain your transition into becoming a principal after teaching?
Emily Peck [00:20:43] Yes, I continued taking classes whenever I could. As my children grew, I continued, I could take more classes. And I was often taking, or going to seminars and getting CEUs, you know, accumulating that. And once I got my Master's, I got my certification as a principal. And they finally, of course, I was always active with the union and with teacher groups trying to make things better in the Cleveland public schools. And... Then when Al Tutela became superintendent, I was still on the warpath for the schools. And he appointed me as an assistant principal. And I was... He first appointed me as a principal of my school where I had worked for 20 years, Paul Revere Elementary School. I loved Paul Revere, but I was a child development teacher. But like I said, I was active in trying to get things better for the teachers and for the children in the public school. Things were not really good, you know, during the seventies after deseg came into play and the busing program and all kinds of things were happening in Cleveland public schools. They were not always good, and I didn't think they were always for the benefit of the children. However, since I had been at the school, my longevity forced me into several avenues of activity, shall we say. And anyway, they I applied for and got the... Was appointed as principal, but I did not want the job as principal because I had not had the experience, I had been in the classroom. And I really didn't want to assume that responsibility, I didn't have the background for that. And they appointed me as assistant principal and first they sent me to Paul Revere. Loved it. Parents loved it. Kids loved it. "Hi, Mrs. Wright!" They thought I was back as a child development teacher. [laughs] But, anyway, I stayed there a while, and then they sent me to Gracemount Elementary School as assistant principal. I stayed at administration, but my forte was the classroom. It really was. I still do substitute teaching in the classroom in East Cleveland and even at my age, I don't mind telling you, they just had a big celebration for my 75th birthday and I love going into the classroom. I feel, I still think there's a need for our experienced people in the classroom, regardless of the age.
David Urban [00:24:13] That kind of leads me to my you obviously have a great passion for the classroom and schools and how do you feel about just basically public school funding and the way that the government is kind of taking away assets from public schools. Was it similar back then? As you said, they were having some problems back then as well, or has gotten worse? Has it changed?
Emily Peck [00:24:38] You know, it has they have made just, shall we say, envision a kangaroo taking long leaps and jumps. And a kangaroo is a very graceful, beautiful animal. So you just enjoy watching the leaps that it takes. However, sometimes when it stops, all hell breaks loose because they can be a very dangerous animal. The public schools take great leaps and bounds and then they stop. They're either thrown off track by racial disparities or financial woes, and it... They stop thinking about the children. And that's wherein it falls. The racial issues in Cleveland have brought about enormous problems. It has brought about poverty, where poverty should not exist, it has brought about discord, where discord should not exist. And the bottom line is racism. And it has happened over and over again. Getting back to Glenville. Glenville was an up and coming community. It was a lots of entrepreneurship. They had factories, they had bakeries, they had lots of things that people could do. However, this was afforded to the Jewish population that inhabited Glenville. And when the African Americans came in after the war years, I guess they started coming into Cleveland after World War One, and then more African Americans came into Cleveland after World War Two. So the war years brought diverse groups of people into a thriving industrial setting. However, the inhabitants here, even though they had come into Cleveland under duress or after European upheavals that brought the Jewish people in back in the 1800s or brought in Hungarians in the 1950s. Brought in the Russians, you know. However, they were accepted into Cleveland and afforded opportunities that were not afforded to the African American people that had come in from the southern areas. We were never afforded the same opportunities. However, we prevailed in such areas as education. We haven't quite made it into the medical fields, even though we had doctors come in, well-trained people in the medical field. We couldn't... We just have never made it to those upper echelons the way that you would think we would have.
David Urban [00:28:20] Do you feel that the racism and certain things like that were part of, part of the kind of decline in the, in the Glenville area?
Emily Peck [00:28:29] Definitely. Definitely.
David Urban [00:28:31] Was it the main reason?
Emily Peck [00:28:33] We had people who could. For instance, my husband was an engineer, civil engineer. Because I encouraged him to go on and become a professional engineer, because we'd go to meetings and there were people with "P.E." behind their names. And he said, "Well, that means I'd have to take more classes or take exams". I said "You do what you have to do. Get the "P.E." behind your name." And he did that. And it was not easy because like I said, in the interim, we had five children. And until the youngest child went to school, I was not working, but I managed to work anyway. We had so many things to overcome and by working, as a volunteer, and that's why I encourage my children always do volunteer work because you get into places where you might not otherwise be accepted. But go in as a volunteer and you will learn a lot. And it's all free. But the, uh, he became a professional engineer, which gave him some upward mobility in his job. But in his field he was, became, you know, really well known. And he learned a lot and he could move on. And the, uh, he became the, uh, he was appointed to the Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals based on his knowledge and his ability. And because he was working with a company where he was one of two, maybe three African-Americans in the entire company. But, it enabled him to bring in other African-Americans in the field of engineering, and they banded together and formed a black engineering company. The... This kind of movement takes its toll when racism rear- rears its ugly head. And it did. He worked on the... He went to Washington and worked on the rail system there, that monorail system that they have, because people who met him in the field knew of his abilities. So he was called in as a consultant and he worked on that. When they formed the black engineering company, Polytech, he... It afforded him the opportunity to go to Georgia to work on the monorail system they were building there. I can't think of the name of it now, that was back in the day. But, because of his ability, he was called in to work there then, but his home was still in Cleveland. He was on the Board of Building Standards. That came about when Carl Stokes became mayor and he started to look for Black people who were, who could fulfill some of these jobs that had never been occupied, held by Blacks. And the Board of Building Standards was one of them. A lot of boards still don't seek out African Americans to work on their boards. And this is... This is where the power play comes in. These are the people who really run Cleveland, Glenville, as well as other neighborhoods. And when Carl Stokes came in, he sought to look for qualified Blacks to occupy these [inaudible].
David Urban [00:32:41] Was it...? Was it your passion for just the community in general, and your passion for Cleveland, that led you into being kind of a community activist and taking part in community?
Emily Peck [00:32:53] Well, it was basically my love for Cleveland, and my husband loved Cleveland. He was born and reared in Cleveland. And oftentimes we talked about the disparities and he said, "That can all change." And he encouraged our children, "Don't leave Cleveland, don't move away. When you go where you want to, to learn what you need to learn, but come back and help in the city." He always felt that way. That's why we stayed in Glenville when our friends and his college buddies, no way. You know, they were thinking about their children. They wanted a better education for them. And we could see that the schools were in decline by the time our children- when my oldest child, my oldest child was born in 1957 and in '56, the oldest, Darrell. And we lived on Parkgate. At the end of our street was Miles Standish Elementary School, which is now Mike R. White School. At Mile Standish, it had a very good reputation, but we knew the school was overcrowded. The children had, in kindergarten, had to go to school a half day so that another group of 35 children could come in the afternoon. They knew the schools in Glenville were overcrowded. That's when the troubles started, in the early '50s, in Glenville. It started with the educational system. The... We thought maybe if we moved from his parents' home, we could get into a better area, an area that was closer to Collinwood. Collinwood remained kind of stable. However, they did not want Black people moving into Collinwood. The high school accepted children who were in advanced classes like the major work classes. They accepted them. But the... They did not want, shall we say, in colloquial terms, they did not want Collinwood overrun with Black people. So they didn't want them in their elementary schools. They did not want them in their middle schools, such as Margaret Spellacy. We thought otherwise, and other people did too. However, the... In... We knew that Miles Standish was overcrowded, so we had to take our kindergarten child across Superior to Doan Elementary School. It was a smaller school, but it was not as crowded as Miles Standish. Miles Standish sat right in the smack dab in the middle of Glenville. So he went to Doan School. I didn't like that. That meant I had to walk him to school every day and pick him up. He went a half day. When we bought, we bought land on, on Wade Park with the few dollars that we had. There was land available on Wade Park. And Wade Park was the, the new East Boulevard, East Boulevard, where the upper echelon of Black people live, the doctors, the lawyers. They lived on East Boulevard overlooking our... What is now Martin Luther King Drive and the Cultural Gardens. Those were the big, beautiful homes. And we thought about there. But the land that we found in searching was on Wade Park. So we bought the last vacant lot that was owned by [Jeptha] Wade. [Jeptha] is the man who gave all the land. He and Rockefeller gave all the land to what is now University Circle. And we owned this land. I said wonderful. My husband always wanted to build his own home. And it was kind of hilarious, here we are living with my in-laws and we own land on Wade Park. He said, "Well, one day we'll be able to build our own home." Okay, fine. And that was... At that particular time, we only had the four children. And when I became pregnant with my fifth child is when I knew we had to leave Parkgate and find another place. Well we weren't ready to build a home. We really weren't ready to buy a home. However, it came to pass that a home was available on 120th Street and our realtors, it was kind of tricky on my part. But anyway, the... When this home became available, we persuaded my husband to take a look at it, the realtors and myself. And he loved it. It was a single home, and two, two story... Three stories. It had a third floor. And he decided that, "Well, maybe this is the time." So the baby was due in May. We bought the home and moved in in January 1962. Again, that was a small piece of heaven for me, but we had all of the things that I named. I mentioned his going on the Board of Building Standards, Carl Stokes coming in to office and all of that. We moved to East 120th Street, which was close to Collinwood. However, it was... That's when they built a new school on Lakeview because, again, the neighborhood school, Hazeldell, was overcrowded. The building was falling apart, it was terrible. And we got involved in activities in the neighborhood to do something about it. We wanted a new school, but we felt if the children could be spread out more, you know, the school district widened, widened and... But what they did, they decided not to send the children in the Glenville area to Collinwood to go to school. This neighborhood turf business was really something. That's when they started... They didn't call it bussing. They called it "transportation." My second oldest son, my... Darrell was... The oldest son was in... In fact, he passed away because he developed leukemia. So the oldest son, David, was in second grade in the... This had to be '64... 1964. He was in second grade because the oldest son and the second oldest were close in age. They were like 18 months apart. David was at Hazeldell School and he was in what they called the gifted and talented class, thee major work classes. They took those children, the second graders, they didn't call it bussing. They put them on a bus and moved them to Memorial School. Memorial School was in George Voinovich's neighborhood, 152nd. They just rebuilt Memorial School. However, they contained the children in the classroom. They were not allowed to eat lunch with the other children at Memorial School. They were not allowed to take gym with those children. They were in a self-contained classroom and they were dismissed the- at the- earlier in the day and brought back to Hazeldell where we picked them up, at dismissal time. Another group of children were sent to Murray Hill School and the Italian neighborhood over there definitely did not want the black children from Glenville being bused over there. So again, they called it transportation and they took another group of children from Hazeldell, in order to relieve the overcrowdedness and put them in Murray Hill School. Well, again, it was the same thing. They were in a self-contained classroom and they didn't like that. In the meantime, the Cleveland Board of Education, in all their wisdom, decided to go ahead with building new schools in Glenville so the children would not be shipped out. They built Stephen E. Howe School on Lakeview, and they realized it was too small to accommodate the neighborhood. They built Louis Pasteur School down the street, and when it was called to their attention that you have two new schools on the same street, they more or less turned Louis Pasteur School around on the drawing board so that it was on Lynn Drive and not on Lakeview. So you couldn't look at the map and say you have two new schools on Lakeview. You have, this one is on Linn Drive. Duh. Then Stephen E. Howe School was on Lakeview. The neighborhood was enraged. And those of us who lived on 120th Street who were sending our kids to Hazeldell, we knew what they were trying to do. So the people were up in arms and they marched on the building site. That's when the people from the Church of the Covenant, which is on Euclid, came to help us. And Bruce Klunder was a minister at the Church of the Covenant. And that's when he stood in front of a tractor and was run over. To this day, I don't believe—most people don't believe—the person who was driving the tractor ever saw him. But he was run over by a big tractor on the site of Stephen E. Howe School. And that... is not... what caused the riots in Glenville. That is not what caused them, but these were some of the existing factors, the preexisting factors, that were going on in the neighborhood. Now perhaps people will say, "Why didn't you move? Why didn't you move? Your friends moved to Shaker." That's when they were integrating the Shaker neighborhood, you know, the Ludlow area, the areas now, you know, they, they, what do they? They refer to it as the borderline. You know, there were a few people moving into Cleveland Heights. But Shaker was more or less the targeted area, the better area where people wanted to live. And they were beginning to branch out. But some neighborhoods were still not receptive to black people moving in. The lower... Or the upper Saint Clair area, around 65th. They were not receptive to black people moving in. The upper Superior area, they were not receptive. But we felt we had a better stock of housing in Glenville. Why move to St. Clair area? That wasn't very desirable. Very ethnic neighborhood, very Catholic. And they were not receptive at all. And of course, Slavic Village just became receptive, just recently, you might say, in recent years. Shaker was the desired area because you had people in Glenville who had acquired high school educations, college education, and they didn't want to go backwards. They were moving upward. That's why they... Shaker was the more desirable area. Lee-Harvard, more desirable than was Mount Pleasant, and on and on. Like even today, Beachwood is more desirable to a lot of families in Shaker or Pepper Pike. It goes on and on. But racism is the underlying factor in the decline and the upward mobility of the people of Glenville.
James Calder [00:47:10] Do you think I could jump in? We're actually almost finished with the interview time. Would it be alright if I jumped in and asked a couple of questions, and then we'll end with asking you whatever you would like to add?
Emily Peck [00:47:23] [laughs]
James Calder [00:47:23] I guess just, just on what you were saying, do you think that... I have only two questions so we can keep it quick. Do you think that what you said, that the more educated black families wanting to move to places like Shaker to move forward, where other families were, I guess like forced maybe or didn't have the option to move someplace like Shaker and move to the more areas like St Clair or something, as you were saying. Do you think that moment marks sort of, maybe a divide between like black upper-middle class and a black lower class of, sort of splitting out where they weren't even in the same neighborhood or area anymore? Do you see what I'm saying?
Emily Peck [00:48:07] Right. The, the... Oftentimes... Ethnicity has nothing to do with your... Ethnicity is not the deciding factor. It's your, what you view as your prosperity. People who are, have a better education or they have better jobs or they have... They perceive themselves better than other people who do not have a good education or they are they do not have the job skills. That therefore, that's where the dividing line comes. The prosperity that people are seeking. Everybody cannot move upward to the million-dollar realm. Other people see them. If they are, say, strapped with or they have a good education, that's the beginning. A good education brings on higher desires and makes you, one, more marketable. And they're, they're more inclined to move with people of their background or their... What's the word I'm looking for? They want to be with people more like themselves. And education is a balance. It is the balance bar. If you have a law degree and I have a law degree, then we're going to move where there are other lawyers. And if you have, if you are a medical doctor and I'm a medical doctor, we're more inclined to move with like kind. However, as a medical doctor, we're not going to seek to move into a lower-class neighborhood. You're just not going to do it. You're going to go where your money takes you.
James Calder [00:50:56] Mm-hmm. Was, in Glenville before, I guess also what I'm asking is, before Glenville, before there was so much pressure to move out, was the neighborhood more upper-class?
Emily Peck [00:51:09] Yes.
James Calder [00:51:09] Or was it mixed?
Emily Peck [00:51:10] When ...in the beginning, when the Jewish people occupied Glenville, it was a working-class of Jewish people. You didn't find Jewish doctors living in Glenville, or Jewish lawyers, say, living in Glenville. However, as the Jewish people moved out, the people moving in, the black people moving in, were of an upper class. They were upper middle-class people. So the people who lived on East Boulevard were doctors and lawyers. And those who lived on Herrick Lane, Herrick Road, were upper middle-class black people. And the people who lived on Wade Park were upper middle-class black people. They did not encourage... There was no need to encourage the atypical working man. They didn't have people who lived there who worked in the steel mills or in the foundries of the automobile plants, say, in Ford's foundry. You didn't find them living on Wade Park. They were doctors, lawyers, and educators who lived there.
James Calder [00:52:50] One more question I have is... We had talked about it in the pre-interview, but I just would love to get some of your descriptions of the nightlife around when you first moved here. I know it's like completely switching gears, but he talks about, I believe, it's...
Emily Peck [00:53:08] On 105?
James Calder [00:53:10] All of those areas. Could we have description, names, and especially as descriptive as you can be, of what it was like to be there.
Emily Peck [00:53:19] The area, well, Glenville was called the Gold Coast and the nightlife was fantastic. People came from all over to enjoy the musicians at the Tia Juana nightclub. There was the Tia Juana and there was Café Society. And it seemed that after the war years, people had who had afforded... had been afforded the opportunity of traveling around, they brought ideas back to Cleveland. And the Cedar area was thriving at that time. They had wonderful cafes and wonderful restaurants and... Like the Rose Room that was housed in the Majestic Hotel. That was at the corner of East 55th and Central, I believe. I'm not sure, but it was on 55th Street. So 55th and the downtown area, the Rose Room had Duke Jenkins and he was phenomenal. He's still alive and well. The trio probably has changed hands, but Duke Jenkins still plays and his brother plays a beautiful saxophone, Fred Jenkins. And people would just, you know, it would be packed. I was young, but I was dating my husband at that time before we married in 1954. But the year before that, he took me to all these wonderful places. And like I said, there was a little age gap there, but I just enjoyed it. The singers that would come in and on Cedar Avenue, that was a wonderful place to go, if you could get in. They had clubs, the nightlife they brought in, people like Hazel Scott, all these oldtime singers. I say oldtime now, but back in the day they were the thing, and they would be the entertainers. Then, on 105, Cafe Tia Juana, the Cafe Society. The Dearing's restaurant was a fantastic restaurant. And, you know, the linen tablecloths, you couldn't find a better place in town to eat. And I can't think of some of the others now. But between Superior and St Clair, 105th Street was the place, and they referred to it as the Gold Coast, Glenville.
James Calder [00:56:19] Alrght. Were there, just real quick, one more thing, in some of the other interviews we've heard about, after-hours clubs, places like that, that were very famous and do you know about any of those?
Emily Peck [00:56:30] Well, I was too young, but no. I really didn't know about the after hours, the after...
James Calder [00:56:42] [inaudible]
Emily Peck [00:56:42] The after-hour places, I think they would be more in the Central area, not in Glenville. Glenville was the upper level, upper-class places. They really didn't have what you might refer to as joints.
James Calder [00:57:03] Yeah.
Emily Peck [00:57:03] Or. No. They... That was more in the Central area.
James Calder [00:57:08] On Scovill.
Emily Peck [00:57:08] Down around Scovill and down in those areas.
James Calder [00:57:12] Were any of those just sort of like that on the west side of the University Circle area?
Emily Peck [00:57:19] West of University Circle area, if you look at Cleveland Clinic, there was nothing down there. On Cedar, they had clubs but, and then further on, on Scovill, down closer to the project area, you might find, oh, what is referred to as after-hours places, but not in Glenville.
James Calder [00:57:51] Okay. Well, we're almost done. So I'd like to let you have the last word. Is there anything you would like to add?
Emily Peck [00:57:59] Glenville is a well-situated neighborhood. When Michael White came in as mayor, he focused more on the neighborhoods than anyone since Carl Stokes had focused on the neighborhoods because they grew up in Cleveland and they knew the situation as well as the desperation of the survival of the neighborhoods. As you've found, most mayors focus on the businesses in downtown, you know, such as helping BP to become so phenomenal. And very few mayors... Michael White focused on the schools and the neighborhoods, knowing that that's where the essence of survival would be. Good schools, good neighborhoods will draw people into Cleveland and the... Um... Repeat your question.
James Calder [00:59:14] You have the last word, so I don't have anything to add.
Emily Peck [00:59:16] Oh, I have the last. Okay. The survival of the neighborhood is what I'm looking at. And I think University Circle is the drawing card. However, I don't want to see University Circle confine itself by destroying the neighborhoods around it. They are... They are in a good position to bolster the neighborhoods. Not so much as they were, but look at the strategic setting in Glenville, straight out of 105, you end up in Bratenahl or I-90 and which is wonderful. However, don't destroy everything in the neighborhood in order to have easy access to I-90 or bringing in Opportunity Highway from 490. That 490 highway, that's coming in is going to be, could be very destructive to the Kinsman area. So people have to be really astute as to what can go on that Opportunity Corridor. Don't destroy the existing or the preexisting neighborhoods, build them up. On 105, they are getting ready to put a 2,000-car garage at Wade Park and East Boulevard. How dare the VA think this is conducive to a good neighborhood? We need markets. We need stores. But we don't need to just bring in people to do it. Maybe there are people in the neighborhood who would like to have another neighborhood bakery or neighborhood dry cleaners. Those things are essential to good neighborhoods. We want some of these art institutes, institutions [to] locate on Superior. Superior goes from the Heights area all the way to the West Side of Cleveland. And some people, there are black people who are have highly marketable talent in the field of art and music. Put some of their wares along Superior, not just tearing things down rather than helping the neighborhood to build up. It should still remain a neighborhood, not just for big industry or for heavy traffic.
David Urban [01:02:18] At this point. I would just like to thank you very much. It was an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate it.
Emily Peck [01:02:24] Well, thank you.
David Urban [01:02:25] Thank you, Jim.
University Circle is home to many of the city’s oldest and most respected institutions: Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Case Western Reserve University to name just a few. Since 1970, University Circle Inc. (UCI) has coordinated development in the area. These interviews with UCI staff, community activists, and local residents and workers in the University Circle area, conducted by students as part of a CSU Provost-funded Undergraduate Summer Research Award project led by Drs.…