Larry Rivers Interview, 04 March 2008

Larry Rivers, lifelong resident of Glenville, discusses growing up in Glenville during the 1950's and 1960's. He describes the self-contained nature of Glenville and the importance of churches to the community. Rivers relates the change in racial make-up of the neighborhood, the gradual shift towards an all African-American population and the decline of neighborhood businesses. He notes the change in African-American attitudes following the Hough and Glenville riots. This change contributed towards the shift away from the methods and outlook of the Civil Rights movement and towards the more militant stance of the Black Power Movement. During the racial conflicts of the era, many of the entertainment venues in the area of 105th and Euclid allowed people to transcend color barriers. The enlargement of the Cleveland Clinic consumed most of the business establishments near 105th and encroached on residential neighborhoods.

Participants: Rivers, Larry (interviewee) / Tebeau, Mark (interviewer) / Calder, James (interviewer)
Collection: University Circle
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Mark Tebeau [00:00:01] No? Okay. Are we recording? [inaudible] Larry, I'm going to ask you to do that again, because these things happen when we're doing interviews. So for the record, tell us your name, your birthdate, and where you were born.

Larry Rivers [00:00:19] Larry Rivers. August 25, 1950. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, at Mt. Sinai Hospital, which is no longer here.

Mark Tebeau [00:00:29] Where was Mount Sinai?

Larry Rivers [00:00:30] That was right on 105. Right on... Right off of... The old... It's between... Is diagonal from the VA Hospital, which is about, is between Chester and Wade Oval. We'll put it in that perspective.

Mark Tebeau [00:01:00] So tell us about your family.

Larry Rivers [00:01:04] I have...

Mark Tebeau [00:01:06] Your family. Your... When, you know, growing up. Your mother and father and that sort of thing.

Larry Rivers [00:01:11] I, it's... I have five members of my family: father, mother, a brother, and a sister. My sister's deceased. My father's deceased. I'm currently working on my bachelor's degree at Cleveland State, so I'm a senior here at Cleveland State. My brother lives in Sacramento, California, and my mother is retired from TRW, where she was an inspector.

Mark Tebeau [00:01:42] Now, you... What neighborhood did you grow up in and what street or address do you remember?

Larry Rivers [00:01:46] I grew up in the Glenville area. I grew up there all my life, except when I left to go into the military. So I grew up in the '50s. '50s, '60s. So I saw the Glenville riots. I saw the, I saw the Hough riots. You know, when we moved from... I grew up off of 105 and Austin, and we moved over to Lakeview and Durant. And when we moved over into that house in the late, the early '60s, there were still the old drugstore, stores where you had the, the pharmacies where they had the like you see on Happy Days, where they had the fountains with the phosphate sodas. And, you know, we had the bakeries. You know, it was, it was a mixture. It was a diverse neighborhood where we, you still had, the white flight [hadn't taken] place at that time. So it was, it was a nice neighborhood. You know, we still had a... Matter of fact, when we bought our home, we still had a... Our neighbor at that time was white. So the school I went to was, it was still 60/40. 60% white. 40% black.

Mark Tebeau [00:03:32] What school was that?

Larry Rivers [00:03:35] It was Chesterfield.

Mark Tebeau [00:03:37] Where was Chesterfield?

Larry Rivers [00:03:37] That was right on 123rd and right between Superior and St. Clair.

Mark Tebeau [00:03:46] You were talking about drugstores a minute ago. Do you have one drugstore that you remembered in particular?

Larry Rivers [00:03:56] Trotters. It was Trotters because you could walk across the street. They had the in-house pharmacists, you know, they had little seats where you could sit on the seats, you know, get your little sodas and, you know, you know, a little mixed drinks. You know, they had the bike shop right there. A dry cleaners. Everything was right there. It, whatever you needed was right there in that neighborhood, you know. The drugstore, I mean, the grocery store was right there. You didn't have any, you didn't have to go anywhere. Everything was right in the neighborhood. You know, now the neighborhood is all shut down, you know, it's all boarded up. You know, you... The white flight has taken over the, there are no major grocery stores in the neighborhood. You know, the housing in the neighborhood is you know, you see a lot of boarded-up homes in the neighborhood. So you could see a tremendous change in that neighborhood.

Mark Tebeau [00:05:11] You said your grandmother lived nearby.

Larry Rivers [00:05:14] My grandmother was originally, bought that house and we...

Mark Tebeau [00:05:18] What, which house?

Larry Rivers [00:05:20] The house where we, where I grew up in. It was... We grew up in, it was, oh my... It was a two-family house. Okay? We stayed on one side and our neighbors stayed in the other side. And after the original family moved out, that was the white family on the other side, they moved out. We had another family that moved in there and they still in that same side today, you know. So we've only had two families. One family. Two families that stayed in that house. My, after my grandmother passed, my mother is still in that house. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:06:02] What's, what's the address on that?

Larry Rivers [00:06:03] 11308 Durant Avenue.

Mark Tebeau [00:06:05] And where exactly is that?

Larry Rivers [00:06:06] Right on... Right off of Lakeview. Okay? Cause Stephen E. Howe was right where the Lakeview riots broke out. That's where that pastor got killed at that school when they built Stephen E. Howe School. That's when you had the Lakeview riots broke out and the Black Nationalists came in. And the whole neighborhood went... It went... It... Cause right above Superior and Lakeview, you had a Black Nationalist... It was like a cult that was right up there. It was a Black Nationalist... That it was a whole compound. That was...

Mark Tebeau [00:07:04] When was this?

Larry Rivers [00:07:05] Right in the early '60s, '60s all the way up to the '70s. They was right up there. It was, it was red, black, and green. And all the way through, you know, and it was real militant. It was real militant.

Mark Tebeau [00:07:22] How do you respond to the... I'm gonna jump ahead...

Larry Rivers [00:07:26] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:07:26] To the Black Nationalists being right around the corner. What did you think?

Larry Rivers [00:07:32] Well, you know, it was... That was when you felt... It was all about pride. You know, you've, you've felt that some unity, you know, because you went from... It was about feeling, you know, some involvement, some pride in your neighborhood, some pride in yourself. You know, it was you know, it was about getting some identity, some self-involvement. You know, 'cause I graduated from Glenville in '69, so it was about getting that some pride, you know. Cause right after I came out of school. I came out. Mike White came out of school right after I did. So it was... [telephone rings]

Mark Tebeau [00:08:32] Keep going. No, don't stop. This is a lesson which is turn off your phones.

Larry Rivers [00:08:43] So it was, you know, that was the time. It was the Coventry days where it was the hippie movement, it was the, the Black Power movement, you know, it was student union days. You know, where, you know, it was a lot of different, different things going on at that time, you know. You know, everybody was searching for who, where they needed to fit in, where they wanted to get in. You know, so you had to search where you was at, you know, so you wanted to fit into a different where, where your group was. Your own niche. So, you know, so I just was, I fit in. I just searched for my own identity, you know?

Mark Tebeau [00:09:33] Did they help you find your identity?

Larry Rivers [00:09:35] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:09:36] How?

Larry Rivers [00:09:37] I just wanted to... Well, I knew that hey, I was... I knew that I was a Black person, and I just, you know, I just had to be identified with my own group, you know? And I just...Yeah. I was in the Glenville neighborhood. So I just said, hey, I'm part of this group. This is my belonging, you know? So.

Mark Tebeau [00:09:59] I'm going to ask you another question about that later. I want to go back to the '50s though.

Larry Rivers [00:10:03] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:10:03] Before we lose the '50s, do you have a single memory of growing up on your street? Something that just, every time you think about those days, comes to mind.

Larry Rivers [00:10:19] Yeah. It was like... It was more like before Hillary Clinton came out or they came out with it took a village to raise the child, we had... It was all about that because everybody on that street raised you. You know, because if you did wrong, everybody in the neighborhood could say something to you, you know? So your parents raised you. Your neighbors said something to you. So you couldn't get too far. You couldn't go too far to the left without you getting some, some type of interaction. So you had some focus so you couldn't wander too far. So that was some good times, you know, and it, it kept you grounded. And I liked that.

Mark Tebeau [00:11:10] Do you remember one particular incident or that, that really, you know, captures that? Did you ever get too far out in the left and reined back in?

Larry Rivers [00:11:19] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. My... When I would wander, go too far down the street, they would, like I would wander down the street, they would put me back in a wagon and pull me back up the street in my little wagon. And, hey, you know, this is where you belong. You don't go that far down the street without some type of adult figure, you know. So, they, they kept me focused, so it was good, you know. And I liked that, you know. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:11:51] You described the neighborhood as integrated.

Larry Rivers [00:11:53] It was very integrated.

Mark Tebeau [00:11:55] When did it stop being integrated?

Larry Rivers [00:11:57] In the... middle... You could see it started really changing in the '60s. Middle '60s.

Mark Tebeau [00:12:15] Did it happen all at once or was it...

Larry Rivers [00:12:16] No, it was gradual. You know, it wasn't a real rapid, you know, white flight. You know, it was like it was a few Black families moved in and then a few more. And the whites started moving out. And you could see the gradual changes because the stores were still, the white storefronts were still there. The white store owners were still staying in the neighborhood. But then, you know, once the the robberies or the burglaries would start coming in, then they, they started selling out. And after the the riots came, you know, they really sold out, you know. So that was after the '60s, you know, after the Hough riots they really sold out and they just moved out. So the little the mom and pop stores, they that started changing hands, you know. So that, that just that went away.

Mark Tebeau [00:13:19] What... Do you recall anything you did with friends in the neighborhood? What did you do for fun?

Larry Rivers [00:13:25] We had neighborhood... All the streets in the neighborhood, we had street football games. We had rivalries every, all of the streets. You know, we had rivalry football, baseball, basketball. Every street, we had our own basketball team, football teams, and we played each other.

Mark Tebeau [00:13:44] Where'd you play?

Larry Rivers [00:13:47] Patrick Henry was right up the street. So we played at, at Patrick Henry. We played down at, at the junior high school. We played at the elementary schools. Then we had the Junior Olympics, you know, so we played. We ran track. You know, they had a lot of different little activities for us. So it was a lot of summer, summer events for us, you know, doing the summer sports.

Mark Tebeau [00:14:14] And the schools. Were the schools integrated as well?

Larry Rivers [00:14:19] They were. Then they, after, you know, in the middle, in the late '60s, they were pretty much like almost pretty much... There was very little integration going on. It was pretty much segregated, you know. So you didn't see too many white people in the inner city schools. So that was gone.

Mark Tebeau [00:14:46] One of the things that I've read is that in the early sixties, say in '63, '64, the schools in that area had gone predominantly, had become predominantly black.

Larry Rivers [00:14:59] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:14:59] And that there was an attempt to segregate, to integrate the schools. Do you recall that at all?

Larry Rivers [00:15:04] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:15:06] What do you recall of that time?

Larry Rivers [00:15:10] Let's see. That would put me... Let's see... In junior high school. So... Junior high school... Pretty much, junior high school was pretty much Black. So, I didn't see that.

Mark Tebeau [00:15:38] Okay. I'm going to shift the questions. Just a little bit. University Circle, do you remember University and ever going to University Circle?

Larry Rivers [00:15:49] Oh, yeah. I used to go up there to the museums. You know, we'll go to the museums. Art museum. We'll go up there tomorrow with my brother and my sister. You know, my parents would take us up there. So we did we did do museums. You know, that was... Then field trips through the schools. You know, we would do that.

Mark Tebeau [00:16:14] What do you have any strong memories of the, of the museums? An exhibit? An activity? A festival?

Larry Rivers [00:16:22] We'd just like. I liked going to the history museum because the I liked the, the dinosaurs and whatnot. So that was my favorite museum. You know, didn't care too much for the art museum, you know.

Mark Tebeau [00:16:42] Have the exhibits changed?

Larry Rivers [00:16:43] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:16:45] At the Natural History Museum?

Larry Rivers [00:16:46] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:16:46] Are they different now? They look like they haven't.

Larry Rivers [00:16:49] Yeah. Well, they have changed. They're more diversified now. You know, as far as, you know, what they have inside the because they go, they have more... They, they have more Afrocentric pieces in them. They go, they have a broader base in them. You know, as far as going from as a worldly standpoint. So which is better for, you know, if you have a family, you know, you can broaden your base on them. So that's intellect. It's better for, for your family, you know, in giving them a broader base to enlighten them.

Mark Tebeau [00:17:42] Do you recall your church? Did you attend church growing up?

Larry Rivers [00:17:50] Oh, yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:17:51] And what church did you attend?

Larry Rivers [00:17:52] I grew up in a Baptist church. Yeah, Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, right on 105. And we used to go to... Every summer, you had to go to Vacation Bible School. And that was good 'cause, you know, you used to learn the Bible, you know, and then, you know, it gave you a base, you know? So that was good because it gave you something to do, you know. Then after you do, you go to Bible... After you go to do this Bible study and then you go swimming. You know, so that was, that was your summer. You know, then after that, then you go to the park and then you do your athletics. So it gave you something to do. So, mine was competition because I used to stay in competition with my brother since he was the oldest. So I would try to keep in competition with him because I tried to, you know, be better than him.

Mark Tebeau [00:18:56] Was... How much older is he?

Larry Rivers [00:18:57] He's two years older than me. And that was pretty much the norm because it was two years between my brother and two years between my sisters. So and now, you know, I mean, this class, you know, that was pretty much what it says in the book, you know, the two year base, you know, so.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:16] So where did you swim?

Larry Rivers [00:19:20] Forest Hills. Forest Hills swimming pool. That was the swimming pool, you know, so I was a lifeguard up there. I learned how to swim at, at Cory Methodist Church because they had an indoor pool. So I would swim in the winter, you know, learn how to... I got my lifeguard certificate. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:42] What kind of work did your father do?

Larry Rivers [00:19:44] He was a machinist, but you would never knew it by looking at his hands because his hands were always well manicured, you know? And.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:55] Where did he work?

Larry Rivers [00:19:56] At Fisher Body. Right off of Coit Road. That's no longer there now.

Mark Tebeau [00:20:02] Yeah. Do you recall how your father would have gone to work?

Larry Rivers [00:20:05] Oh. Oh, my mother... Oh, he would drive himself to work because my mother, she worked at TRW. So he was, he and his brother, they, they were I guess they were middle-class workers because they were those Cadillac drivers, you know. So they, he always had the best, you know?

Mark Tebeau [00:20:31] And how about your mother? How did she get to work? And where, where... Which TRW?

Larry Rivers [00:20:36] She worked at the, she was an inspector at TRW, so she had her own car. So I guess we were, I guess we were a little bit different than the rest. So we had our own. We were a little bit of step above. So, you know, I guess we're middle-class, so they say.

Mark Tebeau [00:20:59] Now, how did the neighborhood? I want to go back to church real quick. Do you have a memory of what the church looked like inside? Have you been there recently?

Larry Rivers [00:21:06] Oh, yes. It was, it had pillars inside. It had the... The ceiling looks like, you know, if you look at the, it has sort of like the Michelangelo type ceiling, you know, with the, the artistry inside. The, the ceiling with the stars and the gold, the stars, and the moon. And it had a lot of artistry inside of there. The baptismal pool in the right above the pulpit. You know, the organist. The organ, the piano, the, the... It had the... The pulpit was... The pews were on the lower level. The, the pulpit was the step up in the preacher's, the pastor's chair, and all his little subordinate chairs were surrounded on, on each side of him. You know, the choir stand was on each side. So it was, it was a nice church.

Mark Tebeau [00:22:25] Now, one of the questions I'm going to shift gears a little bit again. About the Cultural Gardens, do you remember the Cultural Gardens?

Larry Rivers [00:22:32] Oh, yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:22:33] Tell me your memories of the Cultural Gardens.

Larry Rivers [00:22:41] Cultural Gardens were... Those were... We used to go and walk through those Cultural Gardens. Those were... Because that was not too far from where my grandmother, that was where my father's mother lived. We used to go walk through those because that was off of East Boulevard. So we would walk all day long to those, you know, on Sundays and on the weekends. We would walk a lot along through those, you know, from St. Clair all the way up to Superior. We would walk through the Cultural Gardens, you know, and then ride our bikes through the Cultural Gardens, you know. And just, just hang out, you know, because that would be like a, like a Sunday outing for us.

Mark Tebeau [00:23:29] For the family?

Larry Rivers [00:23:29] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:23:30] Now, do you remember any particular feelings about... I mean, did you connect to any of the cultural figures, for example, in the gardens?

Larry Rivers [00:23:39] No, because we never did see... There wasn't an African American Cultural Gardens there. So we just hung out at all of them, you know, and just did, did the statues. And just hung out, you know, at the fountains and you know, because they had the fountains. So we just hung out and just, you know, we'd, we'd wait. Put our feet in the water. So that was just a... Those are just fun times.

Mark Tebeau [00:24:12] And how safe did you feel growing up?

Larry Rivers [00:24:15] It was safe. We felt very safe.

Mark Tebeau [00:24:18] When did that change? Or did it change?

Larry Rivers [00:24:25] And I didn't feel that it changed for us. Not for me, anyway. You know, I always felt safe, you know?

Mark Tebeau [00:24:35] So in thinking, in thinking about the Glenville neighborhood. You described it. Their burglaries started, you know, change started to happen in the '60s.

Larry Rivers [00:24:51] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:24:52] How would you define that change? I mean, what? You know, what and what changed? I mean, I've asked you this already once, but, you know, I'd like to ask again.

Larry Rivers [00:25:05] Well. I guess second generation, you know, people's attitudes started changing after the Hough riot. You know, people started looking at, looking at things through a different light, you know. And then you had the... The Muslim faith started coming in and they started... I went, I attended some of the preachings up at the, the mosque. And they, yeah, I was hearing some of, some of those preachings and they was talking, you know, some of the negativisms of that and I was hearing what they were saying. And I was saying, well, that's not right. You know, and I was always, I was always taught that a person, you know, look at a person for who they are, you know, and not to take into consideration by the color of their skin. So they was trying to say, you know, hey, you know what? A devil is a devil, you know? And but I didn't like it like... I didn't like some of the teachings, so I shunned away from that, you know. So that was, that was their teaching. And so I didn't like the beliefs that they were saying. But.

Mark Tebeau [00:26:44] Were there other currents in the community that you like what people were saying? I mean, the Black Panthers, were they in the community?

Larry Rivers [00:26:49] They were in the community and they was talking, you know, they, they had a lot of hate in them, too, you know. And I didn't like some of what they were saying, so I just shunned away from them, too, you know, because I was going to community at the time and I signed a... Going to, going to class and I just signed my name to a piece of paper going to class. And next thing I know, FBI come to my house. And I come home, and all of a sudden, I see a car pull up. You know what I'm seeing? Those look like detectives. Next thing I know, you know, they come to the door. My mom, and I told my mom. I said, mom. That look like detectives coming to the house, you know. And they came to the door, they said, hey, you signed this paper, you know. They were just trying to see if I was one of those militant radicals. So they had, were just trying to see where I was at. So they said, Well, you didn't fit that profile. So they were just trying to profile me. So I didn't fit their profile. So that was just, you know, it was just they were just trying to figure out if I was going to be on their list of, you know, do they need to investigate me further or anybody else? So they was investigating everybody because that was part of that time. You know, they was investigating anybody at Tri-C or any colleges, you know, that was going through that type of militancy.

Mark Tebeau [00:28:27] When was this?

Larry Rivers [00:28:31] '70. In the late '60s. Early '70s.

Mark Tebeau [00:28:34] So did you? What? Did it change your behavior at all?

Larry Rivers [00:28:36] No. No, because it didn't bother me. It just sort of gave me an awakening, I got to watch what I sign from that point on, you know? So I just... That just gave me an eye-opener. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:28:50] Tell me about the civil rights movement in your neighborhood.

Larry Rivers [00:28:56] I, it was a lot of, of people were doing a lot of things at that time. You know, the, the Pinckneys. They were doing a lot of things. A lot of the preachers, they were doing a lot of civil rights movement. A lot of the Black pastors in the churches, they were involved in the civil rights, the NAACP. They were very much involved in a lot of the civil rights movements. They were doing very active. And...

Mark Tebeau [00:29:42] What about your preacher at Abyssinia?

Larry Rivers [00:29:46] He was involved in it. You know, Reverend Caviness. He was involved in it, you know. He's still involved in it, you know, but I'm not at that church anymore. So but he's still involved. You know, the, there's what they call today United Pastors in Ministry [United Pastors in Mission]. That's the new involvement in, in the civil rights movement. You know, so that's where they're going.

Mark Tebeau [00:30:20] What? Do you recall how it would have affected your life at all, or was it something merely you saw at church and on TV?

Larry Rivers [00:30:30] It was something that I saw in church and on TV, you know. And it just opened my eyes, you know, just made me more aware, you know, as to what I needed to be more cognizant of my culture. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:31:00] Coming back to sort of, to the neighborhood in this moment in the '60s, you talked about experiencing the Hough riots and the Glenville riots. Could you tell us about your experience of both of those events? Starting perhaps with Hough?

Larry Rivers [00:31:16] When?

Mark Tebeau [00:31:18] Where were you when it started?

Larry Rivers [00:31:20] In the '60s. The Hough riots. I was... Right. I was living right... I was still living in Glenville. And to see that neighborhood, just to... A lot of the destruction that was going on. You didn't want to do a lot of traveling. You didn't hardly go out, you know, because it wasn't safe. You know, you didn't go outside of your area, you know. Because, for one, the National Guard had you at bay. They had the curfew laws. So you pretty much were, you know, the only thing you could do was go either you were going to school and or to your job. Then, you came back home. So that was all that you could do. So it was... It was a stressful time.

Mark Tebeau [00:32:22] Was it exciting?

Larry Rivers [00:32:23] Yeah, it was exciting, but it was scary, too. You know, so... But... It was a lot of... You know, a lot of people got hurt. There was a lot of destruction that was going on and... You know, and it was all inside your own neighborhood. There was a lot of destruction that was going on, you know. So, you know, was it good? You say to some extent. But to the other extent, no, it wasn't good. You know, because it was hurting more. It hurt more to your own neighborhood than it did good. You know, 'cause some of the living conditions, you know, they were, they were bad, you know. But it had to you had to tear down something in order to get something built back up. So it did help to some degree.

Mark Tebeau [00:33:28] What about the Glenville riots? What was that about? When, when did it occur?

Larry Rivers [00:33:39] That was, that was like three blocks from my mother's house. So that was to see that preacher getting run over by that bulldozer was no, it was no joke. That was ugly.

Mark Tebeau [00:33:57] What happened?

Larry Rivers [00:34:00] That was about the excavation of that elementary school. And now that elementary school is, now that school is a junior high school that was about a. ... That was a... I guess it was necessary to some degree, but the hurt that it caused wasn't necessary.

Mark Tebeau [00:34:48] Did the... Were the businesses destroyed?

Larry Rivers [00:34:50] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:34:51] Which ones? Are there any that you remember?

Larry Rivers [00:34:53] Yeah. A lot of them are. A lot of the storefronts right there were, were destroyed. It was a lot of storefronts right near... They came all the way down right across the street from where my mother lived. Those were destroyed... That was. They came all the way.

Mark Tebeau [00:35:19] Who was doing the destroying?

Larry Rivers [00:35:22] People right in the neighborhood. A lot of the Blacks that lived right there.

Mark Tebeau [00:35:27] So what were you doing? What was your family doing during the riots?

Larry Rivers [00:35:30] Just trying to keep everything away. Keep everybody away from right where we lived. We were protecting our own. Yeah. So, you know, everybody that lived right there, we were protecting everybody was like being. We were all on guard. That's what we were. We were trying to protect our own. We were sheltering our own selves.

Mark Tebeau [00:35:54] What about Trotters?

Larry Rivers [00:35:58] We're... You know, those are [inaudible]... He had... You know, we didn't want to see him get hurt at the time. He was gone. But, hey. They... It was... He had the little accordion fence around his building, but he couldn't do nothing about it because they had little Molotov cocktails and, you know, they were doing those and, you know, firebombing those. You know, throwing those up there. Burning the buildings down. So nothing you could do.

Mark Tebeau [00:36:29] And so his business was lost?

Larry Rivers [00:36:30] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:36:31] Did you ever see him again?

Larry Rivers [00:36:33] No. Only when he came back. Just to, you know, just to try to see what he could salvage, which was hardly nothing. It was just... Luckily, the building was brick because all... It was like five buildings all together, just storefronts. And it was just everything inthere was pretty much gone, you know, just a shell. You know, so.

Mark Tebeau [00:36:57] So what happened after that? When did you go? You went to the service?

Larry Rivers [00:37:03] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:37:04] When did you go into the service?

Larry Rivers [00:37:05] I went into the service in '76.

Mark Tebeau [00:37:11] And why did you go into the service?

Larry Rivers [00:37:20] Wanted to, wanted to go to school. Wanted to finish going to school. So I was trying to help pay for my education. Start help pay for my education.

Mark Tebeau [00:37:33] Now what changed from let's say mid-'60s into the say when you came back after the service in Glenville?

Larry Rivers [00:37:43] Saw a lot of change. The whole neighborhood had changed. You know, the whole neighborhood wasn't the same, you know. So... It was just... Looking at it. It was a whole different environment, you know. So that, that was... It was an eye-opener. You know, I don't think it was the same. It was just seeing some of the houses, you know. A lot of the apartment buildings that were there, they were gone, torn down, dilapidated, boarded up. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:38:44] You described the Cleveland Clinic as being like a cancer.

Larry Rivers [00:38:47] Oh, it was because they had, they had consumed the whole neighborhoods, you know, because Cleveland Clinic had... I worked there at one point, and they had... I had heard that they were going to be Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Mount Sinai at one time were just going to... They were, those were gonna be the big three. They were gonna have their own like underground railroad system, like a tunnel system so that they can... That was going to be like a hub going to the cultural center, going to University Circle, to the art to, to the history museum, the art museum to all the underground. It was going to just go underground to all of those so that they could network. And, they were going to... So that way they can just so they didn't have to go above ground. So whatever they needed to go from one building to the other, they can just... It'd be like a, like a train system. They can go underground, you know, and just do whatever they had to do. And they were buying up all the houses in the neighborhood, you know, and as you can see like today, all the, you see all the parking lots that they have because those are the biggest employers in the neighborhood. You know what? Cleveland Clinic employee is the number one employer in this, in the city. But they have something like 70, 80,000 employees. University Hospital is the next largest employee, employer. And Mount Sinai has closed down. So they were fighting over as to who was going to buy that hospital. So since they couldn't get it, so they ended up tearing that hospital down and they used that... And they are using that parking lot as... They were using with the shell of that parking lot as the parking lot for the VA. So VA was shoveling, still shoveling that parking lot from, for the VA and... University Circle, and Mount, and Cleveland Clinic. And all of those buildings going along 107th, that's part of Cleveland Clinic. So as you can see, Cleveland Clinic has, go along from Cedar all the way over to 89th or 87th, and it comes along down along all the way down to past Carnegie, Chester. And it's come along to Wade Park and then University... And then University Hospital has it coming along from it, picks it up past University Circle, taking it all the way over to Lakeview up to 115th. So between those two, those two hospitals have encompassed everything. So that's, that's bigger than cancer. So if you look at it, that's what it is.

Mark Tebeau [00:42:30] So my... So a question would be, do you remember losing anything like places you went that were and frequented regularly that were bought up by the hospitals or replaced by hospital land?

Larry Rivers [00:42:44] Oh, oh.

Mark Tebeau [00:42:46] Night club, dance club, or something. You know...

Larry Rivers [00:42:46] I used to go to the shows up on 105 and Euclid because 105 in Euclid used to be a lot of the shows on 105 and Euclid. There used to be the, the Keith, the Allen. It was about four or five shows right there on 105 and Euclid. And then you had all kinds of stores right there. You had drugstores all along, all along 105 and Euclid, you know, you had stores right in through there. And all of those are gone. The only thing left there is that one church right there. And they, and they haven't taken that up. So Cleveland Clinic has taken all of that up, has bought all of that up. The only thing left there that they have Ronald McDonald House that's left right there. W. O. Walker is right there. You know that's all Cleveland Clinic, you know. The hospice they, that was, that was there, you know. At one point, W. O. Walker there... Everything is new right there. Everything, all the stores, everything that was there is, is all gone. All the storefronts are gone because we used to catch the bus from our house and go up to 105 and Euclid just to go to the, to the shows on Sundays. That was, used to be our Sunday outing, you know, just to catch the bus up and go to the shows on Sundays. And my brother used to spend his money and we used to have to walk home because he would spend his money. And had to walk home because he, he didn't know how to save his money. And I used to get mad at him. I said, man, you know why do you have to spend your money? Now, I got to walk home with you because you don't have the money to get home? I just get mad with him. But that's okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:44:48] So tell me about the shows. What shows do you remember seeing?

Larry Rivers [00:44:51] Oh, we used to...All kind of... We used to go see... I used to like the westerns, you know, the old John Wayne movies, you know, all kinds of shows right up there, you know, action movies. You know, it was all the latest movies and it was all going to be right there, right there at 105.

Mark Tebeau [00:45:12] And one more question about entertainment. What about music or dance clubs? Were there any dance clubs or music clubs you went to? Which ones?

Larry Rivers [00:45:20] Yeah. They had a right there on 107th and Cedar. They used to have a club right there. Now that's a big old parking lot that used to be a club right there. And now it's just a big old parking lot.

Mark Tebeau [00:45:37] What was the club?

Larry Rivers [00:45:37] It was called Vel's, Vel's Party Lounge. And now it's a parking lot.

Mark Tebeau [00:45:43] Tell us about an evening event.

Larry Rivers [00:45:46] Oh, there used to be this... Everybody used to go up there on Fridays and Saturday nights and that was, it was on 105. Then they moved and bought and made a brand-new facility. And that used to be a big spot. You know, everybody would go up there on Fridays, Saturday nights and party there. And then it used to be another spot in back of, it was on 105. It was called Goldie's. That was another spot. And we used to go up there when I first came back home and that was like an after-hours place. That was Winston's. And you could go up there and party in there until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. And they, they shut that down, you know. So that was a, that was a nice, nice club. You could go there and they, they had eateries up there, you know. Everything was right there, you know, because on 105 the, you had 105 used to be the Gold Coast because they had... When my father was growing up that, that was the Gold Coast because you could have all the entertainers used to come to Cleveland. They'd be all up and down 105. You know, all the top entertainers used to come to Cleveland, you know. Then on... Right at, they had another club used to be called, it was called Leo's Casino. That was another club where all the acts used to come. Marvin Gaye, you name it. All the... Tina Turner.

Mark Tebeau [00:47:38] Do you ever recall seeing any of those?

Larry Rivers [00:47:40] Yeah. Yeah. I used to go up there and see some of those acts, you know, but they're all gone, you know? Wes Montgomery. You know, you name it. You know, all the musicians would come to Cleveland. They would come to Cleveland, will come through Leo's Casino, you know. And all of those places were gone and now they are just part of... That was due to Cleveland Clinic.

Mark Tebeau [00:48:25] One final question and then I will ask and see if anybody else has questions. You said your father grew up in Cleveland just now.

Larry Rivers [00:48:32] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:48:33] So did he grow up in the same neighborhood?

Larry Rivers [00:48:35] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:48:37] And how did he come to be in Cleveland? Tell us about your mother, as well.

Larry Rivers [00:48:41] He was born in Alabama and he came to Cleveland when he was young. And so did my mother because she graduated from Glenville and my father graduated from John Hay.

Mark Tebeau [00:49:02] And your... To just go back. Your mother grew up where?

Larry Rivers [00:49:06] She.

Mark Tebeau [00:49:07] Was born where?

Larry Rivers [00:49:08] She, she graduated from Glenville. She was born in, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Mark Tebeau [00:49:16] And what did your grandparents then do? Why? How did they come?

Larry Rivers [00:49:20] They migrated. They, they both came to Ohio, to Cleveland. They came from Birmingham. In the '30s.

Mark Tebeau [00:49:38] Do you ever recall asking them why or finding out why?

Larry Rivers [00:49:42] No. No, I guess they were looking because my, my grandfather was the, was the first male nurse in Birmingham, black male nurse in Birmingham. And my grandmother, she just was, she wanted to move because she wanted to get a... She wanted to come to Ohio because she just was tired of the South and she was tired of the... She wanted a change, you know, to the segregation. She just wanted to move north. So her and my grandfather had gotten divorced, so she moved north.

Mark Tebeau [00:50:34] And that's your mother's or father's?

Larry Rivers [00:50:35] That's my mother. That's my mother's parents. Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:50:40] What about your father's parents? Do you know their story at all?

Larry Rivers [00:50:43] Yeah. Yeah. I have traced their tree because they.... He was my great grand, my great-grandfather was a carpenter. Okay. I traced their tree. They, he was a carpenter in the... They were both... They were free. They weren't slave owned. They weren't slaves. They were, they were free, free Blacks from ... Thomaston, Alabama. That's how they both came from. Okay. So.

Mark Tebeau [00:51:25] And they, and they came here in the '30s as well.

Larry Rivers [00:51:28] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:51:31] Anybody have any questions? Stan and then Jim.

Stan [00:51:36] Okay. When you were in the Glenville neighborhood and they said it was, you know they had white flight.

Larry Rivers [00:51:42] Yes.

Stan [00:51:43] During that period, what were the relations between the black and the white population? Was it friendly?

Larry Rivers [00:51:49] It was friendly. It was friendly. You know, it wasn't... Because our neighbors were, you know, we had no problems, you know. I mean, everybody in the neighborhood seemed to, seem to get along. You know, so I didn't see any discrimination at that time. So.

Stan [00:52:11] [Inaudible]

Larry Rivers [00:52:13] They... I guess they saw [their] parents or whatever, you know, they just saw that maybe the price in the [neighborhood], in the homes might be a devaluation. So they decided that they would move before the price of their homes would go down. So they decided to move.

Mark Tebeau [00:52:33] What was... I'm going to expand on that last question, which was what was the relations, race relations like, you know, as white flight was going on? I'm going to ask two different questions.

Larry Rivers [00:52:45] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:52:46] One is. What about Black flight? Did any African American families leave the community at that time?

Larry Rivers [00:52:56] Well. In the late '60s, once they started moving out of the inner city, they started moving out to the outskirts of the inner city. They started moving out to the southeast side of the city, into the Kennedy neighborhood, you know, to the southeast side. Because I guess there was the, the new inner city. They were moving up. They moved from the inner city, from the Glenville area to the Mt. Pleasant area to the outskirts, because that was the next neighborhood to move to.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:44] And your family, though, is strikingly I mean, as you've described it, strikingly middle class, you know, two, two parents who were both earning good wages and...

Larry Rivers [00:53:53] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:54] In industrial variance in industrial work here. But did they ever think about moving?

Larry Rivers [00:54:00] They just stayed, they stayed right there.

Mark Tebeau [00:54:02] Why do you think they stayed?

Larry Rivers [00:54:04] I don't know. They, I guess they didn't... Because they had... I guess if you called them grassroots. They just stayed. They just dug in and stayed there. You know, they didn't... I don't know. You know, they didn't. After my mother and father divorced, then my father finally moved out.

Mark Tebeau [00:54:30] When was that?

Larry Rivers [00:54:32] He moved out of the inner city in the... After I graduated from high school. So that was in the '70s. So then he moved out to Shaker.

James Calder [00:54:52] It's funny because I was going to ask about kind of the same thing. But I ask a second question though about Leo's Casino.

Larry Rivers [00:54:57] Yeah.

James Calder [00:54:58] Because we hear about all these great stories about it. We can't find a picture of it anywhere.

Mark Tebeau [00:55:02] They tore it... They, they tore that down.

Stan [00:55:06] There are pictures. There are pictures available in newspapers.

Larry Rivers [00:55:08] Yeah.

Stan [00:55:09] From the '60s. There's two big lions in the front of it. On the front.

Larry Rivers [00:55:12] Yeah. No, that was the, that was the Carlton House. [cross talk] That was the Carlton House where the Lions were at.

James Calder [00:55:20] [inaudible]

Larry Rivers [00:55:20] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:55:22] So the [Carlton]. Okay. Let's go back to Leo's Casino. Then, I want to hear about...

Stan [00:55:24] They were, we used to call them the black and tan clubs. And if you were a white individual you, you used to go there. No one asked you.

Larry Rivers [00:55:31] Yeah.

unknown speaker [00:55:32] You'd walk in. As long as you had money in your pocket. They're happy to see you. Nothing changed until about or after the, the riots in the '60s. And then it became everybody. Before then up 55th and Woodland was that club. It was this great, great entertainment. And you were safer there than in your own house.

Larry Rivers [00:55:54] Yeah. George Benson, you name it. All the entertainers would, would be at... Would, would...

unknown speaker [00:56:00] [inaudible]

Larry Rivers [00:56:00] Yeah.

unknown speaker [00:56:03] He knew everything. [Inaudible]

Mark Tebeau [00:56:03] So we're going to go. I'm going to come back to Leo's Casino. Was Leo's, your memories of Leo's Casino as an integrated place?

Larry Rivers [00:56:10] Yes, because you name it. Entertainers, the audience has no boundaries for entertainers because you wanted to go see entertainment. So the boundary lines, there was no color barrier because you are going to get... Everybody would come there and you would mix. So there was no, no color barriers.

Mark Tebeau [00:56:38] Now, Jim, just called them the black and tan clubs. Did you ever hear that name?

Larry Rivers [00:56:44] I never heard that. Never heard that name.

Mark Tebeau [00:56:46] We're going to ask you on Thursday where you think that name comes from, but you're just going to have to hold that until Thursday. Let, let me ask also about the Carlton Club. Tell us about the Carlton Club.

Larry Rivers [00:56:58] That was a great big house. When I got married, that's where my reception was at.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:06] Is it still there?

Larry Rivers [00:57:07] They just tore it down.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:09] It was, it was like in the '60s?

Larry Rivers [00:57:11] It was the, the Leo's Casino was right here. And a couple doors down was the Carlton House.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:18] You know what block of...?

Larry Rivers [00:57:19] The same block.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:20] Of what street?

Larry Rivers [00:57:21] Euclid Avenue.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:23] Of Euclid Avenue.

James Calder [00:57:24] Was there a place called the Coliseum?

Larry Rivers [00:57:26] No, I got married at the Coliseum. That's, that's the Coliseum with the lions.

Stan [00:57:32] With the lions. Okay.

Larry Rivers [00:57:32] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:32] The Coliseum has lions. And the Coliseum was just torn down. That was... And the Carlton has those. That was another club.

Larry Rivers [00:57:39] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [00:57:41] So what was your favorite club? And why? If you had a place that you went over and over again? I can tell you, back when I was living in Chicago, when I was in college, where I'd go hang out. So if there's a place that you, that comes to mind, you know, that really was the place you hung out. What would it be and why?

Larry Rivers [00:57:56] I liked the, the Agora because I used to go there for...

Mark Tebeau [00:58:01] Just a second. I want to hear this memory. You like the Agora.

Larry Rivers [00:58:09] I liked the Agora because I used to go there to hear concerts because the acoustics was in there was unbelievable. Because I used to go there and hear... I mean, you know, Al Jarreau, you name it, Buddy Miles. I mean, all kind of musicians would be there. And just to go in there is, you know, they're in the front room, you know. Because well, I guess I would say The Front Row because no seat there was a bad seat because the front row. It was like it spun around and you was always right there.

Mark Tebeau [00:58:52] Where, where was the...

Larry Rivers [00:58:53] The Front Row was out in Mayfield Heights. Mayfield Heights.

Stan [00:58:59] And the [inaudible] first indulgence.

Larry Rivers [00:59:00] Yeah.

James Calder [00:59:01] [inaudible]

Larry Rivers [00:59:02] Yeah. And that was like, whew! And the only other place like that was out in, in Oakland, California, they had another place like that where the stage revolved.

Mark Tebeau [00:59:13] When was this?

Larry Rivers [00:59:14] That was.

Stan [00:59:16] '70s.

Larry Rivers [00:59:16] Yeah.

Stan [00:59:18] '70s.

Larry Rivers [00:59:18] Yeah, that was it.

Mark Tebeau [00:59:22] Okay, other questions. Ebony.

Ebony [00:59:26] During the Glenville riots, and you also talked about the Black Nationalists, was there, I guess, like a confrontation or an objection with the Black Nationalists during the Glenville riots, because I know the neighborhood was occupied for a short time by the National Guard. Was there any kind of a standoff or...?

Mark Tebeau [00:59:47] So. I'm gonna repeat your question so we can hear it. So was there during the Glenville riots, was there any confrontation between the National Guard and the Black Nationalist side of the Black Panthers or some other group?

Larry Rivers [00:59:59] Oh, yeah, there was some confrontations because it was that's what it was all about. And that's why the National Guards came, because it was confrontational. I mean, they were, you know, it was... First, it was going to be a standoff and then it was, you know, they... Somebody had to give. So they just... It was one against the other. And nobody wanted to... It was like red for the blood. Green is for the land. You know what the colors stand for? And that was what it was about.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:39] Tell us what the colors stand for, right? I don't know what the colors stand for. You and Ebony seem to know. I don't.

Larry Rivers [01:00:47] Red is for the blood. Green is for the land. And black is for the people, you know.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:53] And whose colors were those?

Larry Rivers [01:00:54] Black Nationalists.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:56] The Black Panthers or the Black Nationalists?

Larry Rivers [01:00:57] Black Nationalists. Yeah. So that was what it was all about, you know. And those were the colors. And the Panthers are pretty much the same, you know, and that was, that was, you know, that's why they... And the Panthers, you know, hey, that's why they had the closed fists.

Mark Tebeau [01:01:18] And you did you feel affinity for this? I mean, you said you signed some paper once, but did you feel like you were a member? And when did you join and how did that work?

Larry Rivers [01:01:28] I just felt, you know, I felt... I felt... My identity, which I knew who I was, and as long as you know who you are. Then I was, I was sure of me. So, I didn't need to say. I didn't need to belong, to stand with them or stand with them. So I was with me. So I identify with me. So, that's how I feel.

Mark Tebeau [01:02:00] And did you ever go to any meetings?

Larry Rivers [01:02:02] No.

Mark Tebeau [01:02:03] Because I was going to ask what was the, what would a Black Nationalist meeting?

Larry Rivers [01:02:07] It was, it was just about, you know, they would just try to hype you up. That was all it was. It was it was, it was a psychological, it was psychological warfare, you know. As and if they can get you psyched up to stand with them, you know, [it was] indoctrination. That's what it was.

Mark Tebeau [01:02:27] To some degree, Black Nationalism is romanticized a bit.

Larry Rivers [01:02:30] Yeah. It's coming back. Because I was reading some of the literature. I read some of the literature and hear some of the speeches. You know, so... It's romanticizing. It's on the come back, you know. So but it's about if you're vulnerable, you know, if you're vulnerable, you go for it. It depends on your mindset, you know. So.

Mark Tebeau [01:03:03] Other questions? You should have one more question before we talk about the [inaudible]. So someone ask one more question.

unknown speaker [01:03:18] You said that you, I mean, you were not a member of the Black Nationalists. Did you have like any friends maybe you were close to that were members of the organization? You know how? [Inaudible].

Larry Rivers [01:03:19] Yeah. I had a professor that was a member of the Panther Party. Did you know Professor Ahmad? Max Stanford?

Mark Tebeau [01:03:31] Yeah, I knew Max.

Larry Rivers [01:03:32] Yeah, yeah. He had to...

Mark Tebeau [01:03:35] I knew he was a member of the Panthers.

Larry Rivers [01:03:36] Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, this was the... I mean, and some a couple of guys I grew up with were members, you know, and but this guy, I went to his house. And to see his books. To talk with him. I mean, he was totally inspiring. I mean, he had a wall that goes like this around in back alphabetized, categorized books. And he got everything from books to videos to you name it, DVDs. And just to talk to him, you know, was just mesmerized. He's mind-boggling, you know, and he's totally down to earth. And I had never met a person like that in my life, and I was just in awe just to be in his presence. And we hung out a lot. You know, I went to his house and I used to go get him on Saturdays and take him to the West Side Market and we'd go hang out. And a beautiful person.

Mark Tebeau [01:04:57] One final question. Do you remember an activist from the '70s named Booker Tall?

Larry Rivers [01:05:02] Yes.

Mark Tebeau [01:05:04] What do you remember about him? Did you ever meet him?

Larry Rivers [01:05:07] I didn't meet him, but I remember him. Yeah, I remember him. I just, vaguely. But I had to, to see him. I remember talking to him on several occasions, but I can't put him in right here.

Mark Tebeau [01:05:39] Well, we're going to end the interview. Thank you so much for talking with us today. I'm sure as I, as we listen, we'll come up with more questions we might want to ask you. But this was fantastic. Thank you so much.

Larry Rivers [01:05:49] Thank you.

University Circle

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.…