Bebe Chase interview, 02 November 2011

Bebe Chase is a long time resident of Cleveland, mentioning moving into a house on Scottsdale Blvd. in 1928. An avid gardener, Bebe talks about the gardening that she continues to do even in her old age. Bebe also relates many of the aspects that she likes about living in Shaker Tower, the diversity of the residents, and the security that tower provides. Of particular interest at the end of the interview, Bebe describes her early years living in the Cleveland area.

Participants: Chase, Bebe (interviewee) / Gibans, Nina (interviewer)
Collection: Shaker Towers
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Nina Gibans [00:00:00] One of them said, I am happy and she's a very public figure. She said, I'm here to preserve [abrupt end]

Unknown speaker [00:00:10] OK.

Nina Gibans [00:00:11] This is Bebe Chase who came to this apartment building in what year?

Bebe Chase [00:00:20] I bought the apartment in '79. But I didn't move in it until '81.

Nina Gibans [00:00:30] OK, so you bought it as an apartment or as a condominium?

Bebe Chase [00:00:35] As it... when it turned over. I bought it when it turned over to a condominium.

Nina Gibans [00:00:39] OK. Let's go back in your history, which is very rich in talking about Cleveland's history and particularly our neighbors, Shaker Heights, because we're.

Bebe Chase [00:00:51] [cross-talk] Oh, yeah. Oh, my yes.

Nina Gibans [00:00:52] Really important to that. So tell me where in Shaker you first lived.

Bebe Chase [00:00:58] We were the first house on Scottsdale Boulevard in nineteen. We moved there in 1928. We built a house there in the woods. There were all woods around there. Cause when I was a little girl, my sister and I used to go back in the woods and nobody was worried about ever little girls going back in the woods and catching frogs.

Nina Gibans [00:01:31] And where did you go to school?

Bebe Chase [00:01:33] Sussex.

Nina Gibans [00:01:35] Sussex was a school then?

Bebe Chase [00:01:37] Oh, my yes. Oh, my. Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:01:39] Right. And so how old were you when you move from there?

Bebe Chase [00:01:47] I think we moved into the house on West Park in 1951.

Nina Gibans [00:01:56] Westpark?

Bebe Chase [00:01:58] Boulevard right here.

Nina Gibans [00:01:58] Right here.

Bebe Chase [00:01:59] Right about what? Five streets up here or four.

Nina Gibans [00:02:02] So you've lived in three places in Shaker?

Bebe Chase [00:02:06] Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Nina Gibans [00:02:09] West Park is on the other side of South Park and one of those...

Bebe Chase [00:02:15] Right between Shaker Boulevard and it's a park, the West Park. And we lived between there and South Woodland.

Nina Gibans [00:02:26] Right. And so did you know like the Friedbergs?

Bebe Chase [00:02:32] No.

Nina Gibans [00:02:33] Did you know the Hayses?

Bebe Chase [00:02:37] No.

Nina Gibans [00:02:38] No. Did you know the Josephs?

Bebe Chase [00:02:39] Yes. Very well.

Nina Gibans [00:02:42] OK.

Bebe Chase [00:02:42] They lived right next door to us.

Nina Gibans [00:02:45] OK. The son is living here now. We just passed him in the elevator. Bill Joseph is living in this building.

Bebe Chase [00:02:56] Really?

Nina Gibans [00:02:56] William Joseph is living in this building.

Bebe Chase [00:02:59] The same? Oh, my goodness. I didn't know that.

Nina Gibans [00:03:02] The same Josephs.

Bebe Chase [00:03:02] Oh, my.

Nina Gibans [00:03:02] They were very good friends. Old friends.

Bebe Chase [00:03:04] Oh, my.

Nina Gibans [00:03:05] And the house that he lived in.

Bebe Chase [00:03:08] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:03:09] That Martha lived in was sold to the new director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, David Franklin, just a few months ago. So you'd be excited by that.

Bebe Chase [00:03:22] Oh my goodness. Yes. That's interesting.

Nina Gibans [00:03:24] You must have known Jim Wood on your street?

Bebe Chase [00:03:29] No.

Nina Gibans [00:03:29] No. OK. Jim Woods lived on West Park. OK, so that's your background in Shaker. So you've been here the whole time?

Bebe Chase [00:03:39] No, I. I lived in California for a few years. And I have a house out in Chardon right now where I lived there for a long time. And I also lived for a long time in Mentor.

Nina Gibans [00:03:53] Here?

Bebe Chase [00:03:54] After I was married.

Nina Gibans [00:03:56] Right. And you lived in California?

Bebe Chase [00:03:59] I lived the first two years of my marriage in California. Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:04:03] Where in California?

Bebe Chase [00:04:05] Right at the University of California at Davis. Right after the war.

Nina Gibans [00:04:13] All right, so now we have a history that's a little more complicated. But you came back, though, to the West Park house.

Bebe Chase [00:04:22] Came back to the West Park house.

Nina Gibans [00:04:24] And then moved here because it was too big? Because you wanted something smaller when you moved here?

Bebe Chase [00:04:36] Well, that was one reason, but. And I would just as soon not get into a few of the other reasons because, you know, I was separated for thirty five years.

Nina Gibans [00:04:44] I see.

Bebe Chase [00:04:45] So that was one reason I was here as long as I was on West Park.

Nina Gibans [00:04:51] Right. Well, Bebe, as far as Shaker Towers is concerned, you are known as THE gardener. So talk about.

Bebe Chase [00:05:03] The resident gardener right?

Nina Gibans [00:05:06] Yes it's aweseome. But you are such a wonderful, wonderful looking out your window.

Bebe Chase [00:05:13] Oh, it's nice to look out my window at my garden. I love that.

Nina Gibans [00:05:17] Right.

Bebe Chase [00:05:18] That's the one reason that I came here, really, because I cannot be without a garden. And my mother on West Park was such a gardener. And I think I picked it all up from [her] by osmosis. And people used to come from all over Cleveland to see her garden. She had such a beautiful old English gardens, four or five of them with hedges between them as in England.

Nina Gibans [00:05:49] This is on Scottsdale?

Bebe Chase [00:05:51] No, this is on West Park.

Nina Gibans [00:05:53] West Park. I'm sure.

Bebe Chase [00:05:56] And I'm afraid to go back there and look, because the lady that bought the house from me hated the gardens and hated the house. Her husband bought it for her. And I think she took a lot of stuff down the greenhouse and everything. We had a greenhouse.

Nina Gibans [00:06:16] My goodness.

Bebe Chase [00:06:16] So I'm afraid to go back and look. So I don't ever go back in the back. I drive by it sometimes, but I don't like the way it looks anymore.

Nina Gibans [00:06:26] It's hard to go back to old houses I think.

Bebe Chase [00:06:29] Yes, I think it's been sold four or five times. But that leads me to believe that it isn't much the same as it used to be. The gardens were so beautiful that people would come from all over to see them.

Nina Gibans [00:06:46] And they know about these gardens to now. More and more our secret gardens are no longer a secret.

Bebe Chase [00:06:53] Oh, yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:06:54] So what is in your garden that is special?

Bebe Chase [00:06:59] No, not really special. I have what I like to think of as an old English cottage garden. So that does not make it special. I don't grow any of the really new new plants, particularly because I don't like the way a lot of them are. I like the old plants, like I like the old tomatoes because they have much more flavor than the new ones. And I like the new flocks. I think that's lovely. Some of the new colors and they come back every year. So they're fine. But I have a perennial garden, not an annual garden. I don't put much in it. Just a little bit in the front.

Nina Gibans [00:07:55] And does that reflect what you had on West Park or is this your?

Bebe Chase [00:07:59] Well, the gardens on West Park, were more rigid. They didn't flow like these gardens here. So you can't plant them in quite the same way. It reflects a lot of the plants. Yes. But it doesn't reflect the attitude or the way that it was set up because the other one was set up with a rose garden in the back. That was all roses and nothing else. And in front of that, by the terrace, was a whole perennial garden with no roses in it at all. Just perennials. And in the back. Farther on the right, we had all dahlias, like 100 dahlias, and in front of that we had a greenhouse. So, I mean, it was. And on the other side of that, there was two acres there. And before the Josephs built their house, they took them, they'd take them. Josephs were newly married when they... Their parents, gave them that house and that piece of land for their wedding present. If I remember correctly, it was a long time ago.

Nina Gibans [00:09:25] Martha and Frank built the house.

Bebe Chase [00:09:27] Their parents built it for them as a wedding present. I believe.

Nina Gibans [00:09:30] Interesting.

Bebe Chase [00:09:31] If I remember correctly. I forgot about that. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:09:35] Well, that's fascinating. Your life here. Talk a little bit about [inaudible].

Bebe Chase [00:09:45] Oh, I love it here. Partly because I can. I'm on the second floor and I can when I look out the windows, it doesn't look like you're in any kind of an apartment at all because of this, because of the garden being right here. [Knocking] What was that? Oh, somebody closed the door. That's what it was. Because sometimes that happens.

Nina Gibans [00:10:13] Right.

Bebe Chase [00:10:15] And I've made a lot of nice friends here. And I know most of the gardeners. I know most of them. And I like them. And I always think people that work in the. [Knocking] Oh that is somebody. Is it four o'clock? Oh, it might be [inaudible]. Yes. Yes. Come in. Come in.

Unknown speaker [00:10:40] Has Nina been here?

Bebe Chase [00:10:41] Oh, she's here.

Unknown speaker [00:10:42] OK.

Bebe Chase [00:10:42] She's right here. Come in.

Unknown speaker [00:10:50] [Inaudible] Hi. Oh, Gene was wondering where everybody, where people are. Hi how are you? I said, I thought you were down here.

Nina Gibans [00:11:00] Oh, she should, she should go say hi to the client. And when we are done.

Unknown speaker [00:11:04] She's at the client's.

Nina Gibans [00:11:05] OK. Fine we'll be out. We're finishing. Tell her you are the communicator. Excellent.

Bebe Chase [00:11:14] Oh, OK.

Unknown speaker [00:11:18] Alright. Very good. I will do so.

Bebe Chase [00:11:20] Sometimes that same sound happens when one of the other people close their door then mine goes like this.

Nina Gibans [00:11:27] Alright. That must be the main. The only Dutchman living on the floor. But you have a lot of traffic because it is the only way out.

Bebe Chase [00:11:39] Oh, yes. Mostly coming down this way and out the front. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:11:44] Right. Well, all right. So. The other special things about Shaker Towers, please talk about them. Anything you'd want.

Bebe Chase [00:12:04] Ask me a question that you'd like to know the answer to.

Nina Gibans [00:12:09] Well, do you feel that there is a difference in the population today than it was?

Bebe Chase [00:12:18] Very much so. But it's the diversity that I like. I think that's a plus. But I think that's a plus for everywhere.

Nina Gibans [00:12:27] Right.

Bebe Chase [00:12:28] And I like that. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:12:30] Young and old and.

Bebe Chase [00:12:31] Oh I love that. And that's fine with me. We're having doggies and kitties and children and I like them. I think that makes a nice building and I love it here. I feel very safe. That's very important. I think when you're older to feel safe and everyone's so nice and the people that are here downstairs are very fine. So I have no quarrel with it here at all. I like it here.

Nina Gibans [00:13:03] Anything else you would like us to have on the Web site? If we use it on the Web site, these are the kinds of things that we're likely to use on the Web site.

Bebe Chase [00:13:16] Now, that's for your advertising purposes. I presume.

Nina Gibans [00:13:20] So anything else? Do you use the rapid transit?

Bebe Chase [00:13:25] I don't particularly no, but I would if I was still working. I would. But I'm not working any longer because I quit work a while back.

Nina Gibans [00:13:37] Do you walk around the neighborhood?

Bebe Chase [00:13:39] Oh I often walk around the neighborhood if I can walk that far anymore.

Nina Gibans [00:13:45] You use Shaker Square?

Bebe Chase [00:13:46] Oh, I love Shaker Square. Absolutely. I like the restaurants at Shaker Square. I think that's fun. And I think that was a very good plan, having a lot of restaurants in there. Although I do miss some of the other stores that have gone out. I think that somebody has made a terrible mistake that they didn't leave a five and ten cent store there because you can't even go anywhere on Shaker Square or anywhere else to buy a needle and thread any longer where you could always go to a dime store and buy a needle and thread. And, you know, there's a lot of things a dime store used to have that we don't have anymore. And I wish we did. But I also realize that the parking problem down there until they get that situated. So it's a little different and I don't know how they're going to do it. I'm not sure there's enough room to do it. That's probably been most of the problem. But the restaurants are fine because everyone stays two hours and then leaves ,you know.

Nina Gibans [00:14:57] A lot of people come to use the farmer's market.

Bebe Chase [00:15:02] I don't because the hour is too early for me.

Nina Gibans [00:15:06] Oh, ok.

Bebe Chase [00:15:07] No. Because I can't walk that far and then walk back. So not anymore. But that's cause I'm so old.

Nina Gibans [00:15:18] A lot of people are growing older here.

Bebe Chase [00:15:22] Yes. That's why I'm glad we have a lot of younger people coming in here. I think that's really good. Turn that thing off for a second. You think that would that would be smart idea to talk about that on this.

Nina Gibans [00:15:39] OK. Anything else, Bebe?

Bebe Chase [00:15:44] If I can think of something, I'll let you know.

Nina Gibans [00:15:47] Oh, ok.

Bebe Chase [00:15:47] If I can think of something fun and funny, I'll let you know.

Nina Gibans [00:15:52] Fun and funny. Have you ever had a dog or cat here?

Bebe Chase [00:15:56] Oh, I've had street cats here. I don't have one now here because I spend the winter in California, in Santa Barbara. And my twin sister, whom I see out there, who I might stay out there with is allergic to cats. So I don't have a puddy anymore.

Nina Gibans [00:16:19] OK. I love your story. Your early story. I love your stories.

Bebe Chase [00:16:24] Now, I never thought of that, you know, that never would occur to me that you wanted to go back like that.

Nina Gibans [00:16:29] Oh, my goodness. Yes. You would be one of the few that we could do that with.

Bebe Chase [00:16:35] Yeah, that's interesting, because I've been here so long. On and off. On and off. On and off.

Jim Dubelko [00:16:40] How did your parents happen to come to Shaker Heights?

Bebe Chase [00:16:43] My, my, my, my parents lives in Cleveland. My parents, my grandparents lived on Bellfield in Cleveland. And all the people on Bellfield at that time, they were all the teachers that were at the university then, which was different than it is now. Case was there. But Case was not [cross-talk] And no and the rest of the people on the street were all writers for the Cleveland Press and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. There was a very interesting group and they built a house there. And so when my mother and dad were married when we were two years old, they decided they were going to build a house in Shaker because Shaker was going to be the up-and-coming new. And my dad was a lawyer.

Jim Dubelko [00:17:35] What was his name?

Bebe Chase [00:17:37] Morgan, John Leslie Morgan.

Jim Dubelko [00:17:41] Did you buy from the Van Sweringens?

Bebe Chase [00:17:47] Well, he didn't buy a house because they built it. They might have bought the land, but I don't know. I don't know.

Nina Gibans [00:17:53] That's interesting. That's a good question.

Bebe Chase [00:17:56] I don't have any idea.

Bebe Chase [00:17:59] We were just two years old.

Nina Gibans [00:18:00] What law firm was he with?

Bebe Chase [00:18:01] Oh, he wasn't with a law firm. He had his own small loans company. Like a bank at that time.

Nina Gibans [00:18:08] Bebe I still don't have your signature.

Bebe Chase [00:18:11] Oh, you need a signature.

Shaker Towers

Nina Friedlander Gibans initiated this interview series, which includes interviews with prominent Clevelanders living in Shaker Towers near Shaker Square.