Mary Jane Yuhas interview, 2007

Longtime resident, Mary Jane Yuhas, describes changes in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.

Interview Transcript

Transcription sponsored by Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization

James Calder [00:00:02] OK. Can I ask you to just introduce yourself?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:00:05] My name is Mary Jane Yuhas.

James Calder [00:00:09] Excellent.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:00:09] I lived in this neighborhood for 74 years in the same house.

James Calder [00:00:15] I guess we'll just start off with, how did you get to this neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:00:20] Well, I was born on West 69th [Street] when my parents came here. My dad lived on 69th and married my mother and that's where I was born and that's where I'm going to die.

James Calder [00:00:32] So do you know why parents came here, to this neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:00:36] Well, I guess they got tired of living in Italy and being poor.

James Calder [00:00:40] And your family said this is... Well, there are actually a lot of ethnicities that live in this neighborhood, right? But Italian is the prominent ethnicity.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:00:46] It was originally all Italians, Italian and Romanian. Then it dwindled down into Italian now and dwindled down to the ghetto.

James Calder [00:00:57] Was the Italian neighborhood sitauted around Mount Carmel?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:01:03] Mount Carmel, yes. Mount Carmel originally started on 69th down beyond Herman [Avenue], and it was a beautiful little house that they had rented and had the parish there. And then they moved on Detroit Street where Berry's [Funeral Home] is at. And they had a house there that they converted into the original church. Then they built the church on 70th.

James Calder [00:01:24] Did you want to talk about this neighborhood as sort of ethnic italian neighborhood? You could talk about the other ethnicities too.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:01:31] Well, it's not the same. I mean, let's face it, when I say I want to move after I've been here 74 years, you know something must be wrong. And I guess everybody got and... everybody got together and everything was well, I had every older person on my streets keys because they didn't trust their children. They gave me the keys to watch their houses and take care of them, make doctor's appointment, make these appointments. In fact, when Ray Pianka first started Detroit Shoreway, his phone calls were transferred to my house. And when I called him for a complaint within an hour, two hours, three hours at most, he was back on the phone to give me a reason. Yep they can or they couldn't do whatever the person asked for him. Ray was very highly respected and he still is.

James Calder [00:02:21] How was it different when you were growing up as an Italian neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:02:26] Everybody, they, like I said, they started out poor. And then we got a class of Italian people that had been here for 30 years. When they came here, they didn't have nothing. Now they have a few dollars. They buy up all the houses on my street rent to collect Section 8. Don't worry about it. Music blasting. Now the house down the street from me. I guess the one woman does help you at Detroit Shoreway here. Three hours they've been arguing in their house. Three, arguing for three hours and hasn't stopped since. And one neighbor come to complain to me. I said, but you live across the street. Call the police. We don't have to put up with this. You tell the landlord. Oh, I wasn't aware. But he doesn't do anything.

James Calder [00:03:13] But it wasn't, it wasn't like that a long time ago.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:03:16] No. Within the last maybe 10, 15 years. It's like I said, it's like, you don't know what to do. You're afraid to go out. And I just sit in my yard and everybody comes to me to complain and I go but I'm not the mayor. You know, I'm just Mary Jane. You know, I'll see what I could do and I would call Ray. Now I don't bother him because he's judge now. I've called you people to try to help. I called our Councilman Zone. I waited, it was three weeks Monday that I called to make a report. I haven't heard. And finally, you got to talk to his secretary, Wednesday. The police are always there fighting, beating one another up, dragging one another. I'm not prejudiced because I have black in my family, but like I said, I can't take anymore of it.

James Calder [00:04:01] When did this sort of change occur?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:04:03] Well, since all the houses the Italians that came here 25, 30 years ago, got rich, moved to the suburbs and just rent to anybody.

James Calder [00:04:11] So you think it's the renters?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:04:13] Well, it's the landlord's responsibility to worry about his renters because they're living in the suburbs. I have to put up with. Now, last Saturday afternoon, maybe about 1 or 2 o'clock, five police cars with their guns drawn on the man across the street because he drew a gun on one of the people who lived upstairs. They arrested him and put him in jail. A week ago Friday up the street, they're beating one another up with a baseball bat, three police guys. Now, is this all police had time to do? I mean, they have other things to do. They come to see people to draw guns and beat one another up. And the same one house that I'm trying to find who the landlord is the people are living there. They're not paying rent. They're not paying the water bill. They're not doing anything. I can't get a hold of the landlord and the police are there constantly. Two months ago, he's out there beating one another up, beating up his wife, beating up the grandson, bled all over my car. I had to go clean the street, the blood off of my car, and nothing is done. I mean, now would you like to live like that? Now, the same thing last Saturday. They're out there again with the guns.

James Calder [00:05:15] When did, now did this happen in let's see, well the neighborhood has changed a lot since...

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:05:26] Yes.

James Calder [00:05:26] There's all sorts of things with the industry leaving, bussing, the highways coming through. Those are all things other people have talked about to us.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:05:36] Right. Now, years ago, they used to cut through my yard before they built that high rise for the elderly. They used to cut through my yard to go to National Carbon [Co.], Tropical Paint [& Oil Company], all the factories would...

James Calder [00:05:46] Who is this? Who is they?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:05:48] The people that lived in the neighborhood at that time. I was young then. They cut through our yard. I mean, you keep your piggy bank on the porch and they wouldn't touch it. Now, they'll come in your house and take it. Never noticed it before. They went to my yard. It was. Good morning. Good evening. Thank you. And that was it, nothing was said. Don't go on my property, don't go on their property. They went through. They went to work. Everything was fine. Now you're afraid to sit outside.

James Calder [00:06:12] What type of people are you afraid of in the neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:06:19] Well, number one man across the street is not playing with a full deck that I told last week, they were with the guns. Now they let him out of jail. He came over to my house flashing these papers that he's bipolar and this is that. Then why doesn't the city do something about it? Yes, he's got a mental problem, put him away. Take care of him, instead of him roaming around.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:06:43] Can we go back to some memories, of your childhood memories back in the good old days?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:06:51] Everything was beautiful. You know where the nursery school was at Herman Avenue? OK. That used to be a nice lemonade place. The woman that ran that she had the penny candy when my dad would give me a nickel to go down there to buy candy. It was beautiful. You didn't have to worry about anything. I mean, you could walk the street in the middle of the night. Nothing would happen to you. Now you're afraid to go in daylight. I mean, that was a beautiful place. We had all kinds of stores on our street, little delicatessen that the Italian people ran and beautiful. I mean, you go in there and you watch them slice baloney and spiced ham with a knife, not a slicer, a knife, because they didn't have slicers. Everything was beautiful. We had this one old lady who went to the streets selling lemon ice. Beautiful. We have other people going through street. We had one man that used to come around with bundles like when you're gonna run away and tie your clothes up. He had clothes that he was selling, brand new clothes. We had another one that came with suitcases. He came from Fairville. Everything was beautiful. Everybody knew one another. Everybody helped one another. They all came over to my house to wheel and deal with this man because he'd start with fifteen dollars. And by the time he left, the people wanted to pay two dollars. Well, that's what he wanted to begin with, you know. So they come to me. Well, you do it. You know how to do it. And that was it. So he got his two bucks. He went back to Fairville and that was it. Then my husband said, well aren't you embarrassed. I said, but that's what he wanted to begin with, his name was Jack. I said but that's what he wanted to begin with. So he wanted it argued a little bit. We argued.

James Calder [00:08:08] I have a note here that there were all sorts of Italian businesses around?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:08:14] Well, my cousin had Fiocca Bakery. Then there was Isabella Bakery. The one man that owned it. He lived on 65th or 65th and Herman. Beautiful people. I mean, you can go into the bakery and buy bread and if you didn't have the, what was it, 30 cents or whatever it was, then you didn't have it and you were going to pay him on a Friday. You'd go in and he'd write it down that you own him the 30 cents and you go back in and pay. Everything was fine and beautiful.

James Calder [00:08:39] There was something else about during '20s, there was wine making going on.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:08:46] Well, my relatives see I was a Zatella and they were bootleggers. They had a bank. They embezzled the money went to Italy. Okay? And all the Zatellas were bootleggers. Now, my dad didn't make wine. He worked at the Hill Agony [?] And he worked with black people. They knew he was Italian. They figured he made wine. My dad would come home, ask my mother for a couple of dollars, go buy a gallon of wine, had the black person come and gave it to him because he didn't wanna admit that he wasn't making wine. But he satisfied the black man by giving him a gallon of wine. And that was it.

James Calder [00:09:20] Was that a common practice around this neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:09:23] Like I said, they were bootleggers, they were wheelers and dealers and like I said, my dad and one of the other men... I don't know if he's still alive or not. I don't know if you've heard of Peter Zatella or Peter Rosetell? Okay. Now their dad... His, well, it would be Peter's grandfather, he worked... And my father were the only Zatellas that worked for a living. The other ones were bootleggers and wheelers and dealers with the property.

James Calder [00:09:51] Some other people have talked about Italian, or like the youth gangs or something. We hear about that. Is there any truth to that?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:10:01] No, no, no. The Italian kids all thought that they were hot shot, you know, and that was it. My brothers were the same way, you know, because, you know, our parents were Italian. They were afraid of their own shadow. You know, we had a couple hoodlums. I mean, they wound up in jail. And I mean, it was still as far back as I know, they're still in and out of jail. As always they are, but that was it, it was petty stuff. It was petty stuff. It wasn't big stuff.

James Calder [00:10:26] Another thing about the Italian community is that there were nicknames.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:10:31] I wanted to bring that I have a list of everybody in the neighborhood, what their real name was and what their nickname is. And that's it. You don't know who they are. They say, well, you know John Smith. I don't know. Do you know this? Then, you know them by the nickname you know, and I mean, it was it's really something if you hear some of the nicknames, if you want to stop by, you know, you can have it. I meant to bring it and I forgot.

James Calder [00:10:51] Do you remember any of them, any good ones?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:10:55] Well, it was Scarpelliage and he's now been dead for a hundred years. That was Lightfoot. Yeah. And the man who lives next door to me. They called him Popcorn because he had some kind of pool hall up here and they called him Popcorn. They called my father the bad man. My father was an angel, you know, but they... Because he was always mean looking like me, you know, I took after him. They called him the bad man in Italian. When you should see the list of the names that they have, it's unbelievable where they get these nicknames, you know, and some of them are just, you know, they thought that they were, you know, big shots here. And like when they come to my house and they start talking, I go now, before you go any further. I was under investigation by Carl Monday. And they just look at me. I go, yeah. They thought I was a drug dealer because I worked for the doctor. He got hooked, you know, he got called in for drugs. So I was under investigation. So what does that make me? You know, here I am with Carmen Zagaria. You heard him. Kevin McTaggart. All these three, three of them that really were the cream of the crop with, what would you call them, not gangsters, but what are they? You know, I slammed the phone down in Carman Zagaria. And Kevin McTaggart's face. I didn't know who the heck they were. And then after they left, I found out who they were and they came to the doctor's office. I said, oh, god, here goes Al Capone, that I could have been shot. You know, but who cares? I mean, he walked out. He was scaring me because I told him to get the hell out. That door is locked, get out and he left. But, you know, he's supposed to be a big time gangster. Give me a break.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:12:22] Can we go back to your childhood? Do your friends wheret they all from the Italian community?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:12:36] I wasn't allowed to go out the gate because I would get dirty. My mother would buy me toys. I had a cellular phone when I got bag. And then behind my back, she gave them to somebody else that didn't have any. But these other kids would come to play with me. And that would be it. But there was like the candy store there was one on 67th. It was Nick Vellony. He had a bar there and then he had a candy store. And we would go there to buy penny candy, too. But I mean everything was nice when I did get to go out. Now there was Mazzarella's on the corner of 69th. He had a grocery store there. You talk about a man. He was the best man you could ever talk to. I would go in there and go, Robert. I don't have enough money. I'll be right back. Don't worry about it. You take it. You bring it to me. I was the only one my kids could go in the store, take candy. Nobody else could do it. Now on Detroit Street, like I said, it was beautiful. This is Gordon Square on all of 69th here. Beautiful. Where Isabella's was, the bakery, they had a dry goods store in the front. Mr. Mazzarella's I think it was his sister, his wife's sister had it there. Then there was a dry goods store next to Mazzarella's store. Then there was a dry cleaner. There was a dress shop, ladies dress shop, a men's shop in the Gordon Square here there was a jewelry store, the liquor store to begin with. The corner here where the bank is at it was a pet store. And when I went to Watterson School, there was all homes across the street and they were set way back. Well, to me, that was a mansion because we didn't have a tree along. We don't have any grass. I got to sit in a drive[way] and we always thought that they were rich people. Her name was Summers. And I could remember her name that she had the pet store. Then from the pet store, I went to an appliance store. Galena owned it. And then he had the big liquor store here. And I'm so happy when I turned of age to go buy a bottle of liquor and I went in there like I was really hot shot. That I was 21 going to go buy my first bottle of booze I never had. I did two shots of booze in 74 years, but everything was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. Where the doctor's offices at now? It was a men's shop. A lady shop. Like I said, a dime store. He had one here, Mr. Meyers. [And where I think where you no, it's where on the other side when you are coming in the main entrance here on this side.] He had one on Detroit and across the street from Watterson School. That was all stores there. Down to what, 74th or whatever. Everything was so beautiful. And now you just go around it and you can't believe. This was like the heights to me. And I just can't believe it I just cannot believe it. And upstairs here, all the doctors that were there, it was beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:15:08] Where did you go to school?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:15:10] Watterson and then I went to Lake School down on Lake Avenue. There is doctors building there now, I used to take the street car and the bus trackless trolley and then the bus and we would come home for lunch, then go back. And everything was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. I was a brownnose at Watterson School where went to pick with the nail on it, picking up stuff in the area. But everything was fine. Everything was beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:15:34] And when did you get married?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:15:35] I've been married 51 years. 51 years in September.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:15:39] Was it someone that you met around here?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:15:43] Well, I worked at Fairview Hospital when I was on Franklin. And I used to take the bus home every night, trackless trolley. And I would talk to the driver every night. And he asked me if I was married, said no. And he said, well, I have a son and the one night he opens up the door and he says, my son's behind. He slams the door in my face. Well, the next reckless driving that came was my husband to be. So we got to 65th and I said, Are you Richard? And he said, Yeah, are you Mary? I said, yes, goodbye. And got off on 69th. Then he went back to the service and someone had told me it was Fries and Schuele's on West 25th with my sister. She said, you know who was here? She says, this man came in. She says and I met him. He says, his name is Richard. And I said, yeah. He says, well, he's in the service. And he was talking about you. So I tried to get hold of him. And I called his mother and his mother said, oh, he's getting married. I says, Tough, I want to talk to him. So that was it. So he came down that night and I says, well, I said, I heard you got a girlfriend. I says, it's either me or her. Which do you want? I said, you've got 48 hours to make your mind. 24 hours later, he was back at my house with the engagement ring. So that was it.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:16:54] And then you lived in...

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:16:57] I was born in the house I live in and I'm going to die in that house. But I did have my house up for sale a couple of weeks ago because like I said, I just can't take what's going on in the neighborhood.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:17:07] Can you tell us about, you had how many kids?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:17:10] I have two boys.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:17:12] Did they live in the area?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:17:13] My one son lives with me. He worked at Metro. He worked in pathology and he lost his job there. When they cut off the shift, my other son moved away and he's coming back. He works for Kufner Towing and he's going to come back. And he was married to a black woman and he got a divorce and he's got a little girl. But it was hers, not his, but he's got legal custody of her. She stays with me. She's six years old.

James Calder [00:17:42] The neighborhood also after the... When did the neighborhood start to go into what people call like a decline, originally?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:17:50] I'd say a good 20 or 25 years that they started going away because like I said, they started moving away because they're making bucks, and then like I said, this one Italian man that's a big neighborhood tycoon. Now is buying the houses and just rents for Section 8.

James Calder [00:18:06] There's been throughout these periods of decline, like I said, there's been a lot of efforts to keep the neighborhood together. For a while I believe it was Mount Carmel...

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:18:15] Yes. Yes, it was fine. But see, now they're all gone. The older people are all gone. Now there's 25 years to 30 years with the new Italians that came to this country. They still stayed. Someone did go to suburbs because they got a few bucks. They went to the suburbs. There's a few of them left.

James Calder [00:18:31] Can you describe that period, though? What did Mount Carmel... As things started to happen in this neighborhood, what were the people involved in?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:18:41] Everybody was involved when Father Vincent was there and everybody got along. Everybody helped one another. I mean, the church was there to everybody help one another. But now I really don't know. I don't go to the church anymore. I really don't know what's going on there. But like I said, it was a beautiful neighborhood because everybody went there and everybody got along. I worked at St. Helena's. I was a cook there. I was a cook at Mount Carmel. Saint Helena's was a beautiful parish. Now those people are all gone, too. There's just a couple moral people that are there. And I don't know what this priest is like. I mean, the other one was a fantastic man. But everybody got along. Like I said, everybody came to me like you'd think I was Matt Zone, like they would come to me and I work fast to get stuff done, you know? And I'll keep doing it till I can, you know, can keep doing it. But other than that, like I said, it's just... I just don't know. There's now the woman next door to me. She's in her 80s. She still owns the property. And that's it we're the only ones. Then my cousins, well, she's going to be going to a nursing home. She's sick now. The one that had the bakery we're the only three old people on the street beside Isabella. But they were always quiet people, the Isabellas. So you don't know anything.

James Calder [00:20:06] There has been over the past maybe five years, something like that, there's been a lot of investment in business around Detroit and 65th.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:20:18] Well see, that's what they say. They going to open up this. They are going to open up that. Then you never see anything. Now the people used to try to cut one another's throats to have a building over here, to have some kind of business. Now they're all empy. We had everything up here, everything. And we didn't have to worry about going anywhere. You didn't have to worry about going Lakewood to Giant Eagle or whatever everything was up here. And then from what I understand, the man that lived across the street from me. He's black and he was a tattoo artist. He wanted to rent a building, but they didn't want to rent it to him because number one he had tattoos. Now, what's he going to do? Pull the kids from Mount Carmel to go in there? Where are the kids from Mount Carmel going to get the money to get a tattoo? But yet they wanted to put up a wine store across the street right next door to St. Helena's. Now you tell me what's right.

James Calder [00:21:07] So you think they've been discouraging some businesses or?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:21:10] Well, they're afraid to come here. They're afraid to come in the neighboorhood. Like I said, I would never say drive to go to the restaurant here. Number one, I don't drive my husband dropped me off. I wouldn't go to the restaurant here. I'd be afraid to come out my car would be gone!

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:21:27] Do you remember what it was like when they wanted to put the highways in? What was that neighboorhood like then was their reaction to it?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:21:37] Well, nobody liked it. They wanted everything left the way it was. You know, like I said years ago, you could leave the keys in your car. You could leave the car running. And you'd find it there. Now, you locked the car. I have security. You're afraid because they'll even take the security with them. And that's it. But everything was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. But I'm sorry to say this. I still say in your Detroit Shoreway you people through the neighborhood out.

James Calder [00:22:05] You can talk about that.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:22:06] We don't work for them. [cross-talk]

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:22:08] Because like I said, when Ray Pianka first started this Detroit Shoreway, he's a man of men. Like I said, people would call me, "Mary Jane, this is wrong. This is wrong." Then I call Ray, "You know, so-and-so." So, Mary Jane, get right back to you. And like I said, within two hours, three hours at most, "Mary Jane, they could be done, it can't be done, whatever." I've called Detroit Shoreway several times, they don't return my phone call. Ray went to. He said, you have 20 some people working here and you don't return Mary Jane's phone calls. And they denied it. They said, I didn't call. I said call me a bitch before you call me liar. And like I said, I still say I was gonna call Carl Monday and I want them investigated. I want to know where they got all the money, but they can't take care of the neighboorhood. But they were supposed to help the poor people.

James Calder [00:22:59] Detroit Shoreway?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:23:00] Right. That's what Ray... When Ray started he wanted to help the poor people that were in the neighborhood. Ray is a man that, like I said, if I were to choose a son, he would be one that I would choose. He helps people. He's very considerate of his wife, too. I mean, he's always smiley, bubbly, happy people. You call Zone, he doesn't call you back. His wife doesn't say hello, drop dead. They go right past you, don't say nothing. Now, in fact, I don't even know if I have the letters that I'd gotten from the mayor's office when I called the mayor's office. And we had a light out, a street light out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Our church had a festival. People walked by. The light was out. Nobody did anything. I called his office. Nothing was done. I called the mayor's office. I told her what happened. I said there's been a streetlight. I said when our councilman went by. I said he had to go by at night. I said and the line is, in fact, here's the response that he did.

James Calder [00:24:13] What did it say?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:24:13] They did what I asked for the light was fixed. OK. I watched the man go on the cherry picker go up there. Well, I was on for a while, it went off. The next day called the woman again. In the meantime, I got one letter. I told her Honey, I said, you know, I called you. I watched them change the light bulb. It's not working again. I don't think it was three hours. CPP was out there. Fixed it. I got another letter. You know, thanking me for being concerned. Like I said, I'm just going to go to the top man. I was in the paper 10 years ago, with White when O'Malley called me from the Plain Dealer wanted me to talk about black people because White was black and he wasn't doing his job. I have it on my refrigerator I was 64 years old at the time. I said Jesus could come now and try to help this man. How is he supposed to rectify everything? There's still Mayor Celebrezze stuff when Mayor Celebrezze was supposed to be doing stuff. Still not rectified what you expect this man to do? So they quoted well we'll come to one of your Detroit Shoreway meetings. I said and what are you going to talk about the prostitutes and dog poop/ They quoted me like that in the paper. Now, is that right? Like I said, I've got a mouth. I may be short, fat, bald, and toothless. No, but like I said, Detroit, this neighborhood, was beautiful. There was down 67th here. There was a little story I told about the woman cutting the bologna with the knife. Down further there was Nick Velloney. On 65th there was the same thing stores where the old ladies would be cutting bologna with a knife. Across the street from me, the same thing. Everything was beautiful.

James Calder [00:25:50] Did you want to talk about the Capitol Theater?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:25:51] Well what can I say about the Capitol Theater? I worked there. What? There was five people that come and watch a movie. Fifty-five years ago, Sam Geraci was a hell of a nice man. He was a manager. And then Fallsaround [?], he was assistant manager. And I don't know if they're still alive now because they were older than me. But it was beautiful still. Now they've got to spend all that money for what? Who's going to come here and worry about like I said, when you come out with your car being there. We need a theater like we need a hole in the head.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:26:29] Can you talk? So when you were younger, you went to Mount Carmel?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:26:36] No, I went to Watterson Lake, Watterson Lake was a public school. But I belonged to the church.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:26:41] That's what I meant. I'm sorry.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:26:42] I made my communion there. My confirmation, I made it out in Lakewood. But I mean, it was a beautiful little church. But now who the nuns are at the school? I don't know. My boys went there, grade school there, I says, but I won't send my granddaughter there. But that was it. It was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. And when I say beautiful, I mean just, you know. I never cried as much as I've been crying as an old lady than I did when I was little just looking at the neighborhood.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:27:14] Now, being Italian. We just had a gentleman here who was Albanian. And he talked about how the different ethnicities got along together. Do you remember growing up, you know, the different neighborhoods or the different ethnicities playing ball against each other?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:27:35] No. Because see because everybody was Italian. Everybody was Italian. And if you weren't Italian, you didn't, they didn't talk to one another. There was nobody else. And then like I said then everybody else, you know, moving in. Like I said, there was Romanians. And then they all moved away. But now like I said we just have.

James Calder [00:27:54] Was there ever any connection between the different Italian communities, like, let's say, between this community and Little Italy or the Italian community [inaudible]?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:28:04] Well, it was different dialects, you know. Like Little Italy they're different than the people from my neighborhood. You know, like now the people from my neighborhood. I could say where my parents were from. They would call them like the hillbilly Italians where we're from. But still, they're human beings. They're Italian, whatever, you know, their way of living, the way people came from, you know, my mother's town. Now, even when I was there, I had gone on a vacation there. I couldn't believe the difference. It was just like here between your Wes t Virginian people and you know what I mean? That's just how it is.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:28:46] Just out of curiosity.

James Calder [00:28:47] Go ahead.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:28:47] Is your husband Italian?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:28:48] No he's Hungarian.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:28:50] OK. Just didn't know if you, I heard the story about [inaudbile]. It is really important to marry an Italian.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:28:58] No, I would never marry an Italian. No, never. I would rather be an old maid and whatever. The Italian men, you know, that come from Italy, my father was the only pussycat, are all demanding. I mean, they say and you say, how much were in how much, you know, this, how they treat their wives. And it's always what you know. And my dad wasn't like that.

James Calder [00:29:24] With all the neighborhood's problems over the years, how come you decide to stay?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:29:30] Decided to stay because with my parents house number one and how hard my dad worked for the house, that he did have on the street and then sold. In fact, Detroit Shoreway bought one of the houses that we did on in '67. When my dad passed we had sold it and Detroit Shoreway bought it, but then I heard that they sold it too because the man next door keeps complaining. But like I said, everything was beautiful. You were proud. You were proud of your neighborhood. And like when I would go someplace, they go. You still live in that neighborhood? I said, yeah, I can go on and enjoy myself. You know, I don't have to worry. I said yes. I still live in that neighborhood. It's beautiful. But now one, two o'clock in the morning, it's F this F that, music blasting. And I had called the landlord one day and I said, hey, I knew you when you were poor. I said, God bless you for what you have now. I said, but listen to this. And I put the phone up. And he said I wasn't aware. But you're never aware of anything as many times as I called about the property you own, you're never aware. And then they come over they're bleeding, the boyfriend punched them in the nose, and punched them here and punch them there. And then one day the ladys always accusing me, which she is a beautiful woman. But when she's drunk. Get out of way. She's always accusing me of calling the police so she comes in my yard the one night she had a busted nose and she starts swearing at me like I busted her nose. And she says, now call police. I just hope you got it, lady. I had the cordless phone and I called in no time. They know who's calling. I mean, when I call you it will say private. But I called. I said, this is Yuhas. I said tell them I have and they were there in no time at all. I said now will you tell this bitch. She's always accuse me of calling. I said now I called. He says, we know you don't call us because my husband's brother was retired commander there. So they know the name right away. Right. So he gave her a tongue lashing. And then, like I said, everything is fine. Can you call police for them beating one another? Let them beat one another maybe they'll kill one another . But she accused me, I said, well I call your bluff, lady.

James Calder [00:31:36] You know, things like this we've talked to people about the neighbor and stuff, and they said, you know, Fred, thinks, like, you know, a long time ago people would call the police, yet less. They were so violent sometimes to solve disputes. How is it different now?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:31:54] But it's just that there it's mixed, you know, and they drink. And this was what starts everything. They're fine people, fine neighbors until they start drinking. And then you get out of their way because out come the guns.

James Calder [00:32:11] Do you think the weapons is a big different part of it. It's not..

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:32:16] Yeah. And like I said, they don't want to work. And they'll do anything to get money somewhere and somehow to get the booze. Like this man across the street. He said his house was robbed. It was robbed by themselves to sell the stuff so they could buy booze. Now I have a doll in my front window. My front door a doll standing there now. That doll amuses everybody. They say what you got that doll there for? I said it's got a camera in it. Oh, really? So now last week when the guns came out, they said you better watch, better watch. It's a good thing that truck's in the way because she's got a camera. I don't. My son had our pickup [truck] parked in front of our house so they couldn't see. But then the next thing I knew. Like I said, I went to go outside. Here's five police cars with their guns drawn. They just looked at me and they said, Lady, call your councilman. I said, no, you call him.

James Calder [00:33:13] What's the relationship between the police and the neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:33:20] Well, I think they're fantastic, man. I mean, like I said, I feel sorry for them that they have to come out for baloney. They're doing their job. Yes, it's a dangerous job, but they chose that job. Their life is in jeopardy. That's what they chose. But I mean, to me, it's ridiculous for them to come out because you're beating him up with a baseball bat and he's beat you up with a baseball. I mean, to me, that's idiotic to call the police, beat one another up. Then you don't have to worry anymore, right?

James Calder [00:33:48] What do you see as what needs to happen in this neighborhood?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:33:52] Well, I think they should have a meeting and get these landlords and talk to them and see how they would like it in their neighborhood, how they would like to sit outside and hear F this F that F this F that. When I knew them when they were poor that they came to my house for stuff and make them aware of it. Come back to our own neighborhood to be proud of again. I mean, it was it was beautiful. It was beautiful. Like I said, when I look up on Detroit. Right. I just like get sick. The corner here on 65th going east was Joel Boyle that had the shoe store, Leo Stein that had a dress shop there. Then there was Connie the dry cleaner across the city grove was there. Then there was a Edgewater Chevrolet where the church has a front now, the building. It was beautiful. That old lady lives on the corner of 64th. She's been there all her life. She's 80 some years old she's a beautiful woman. She's in that house all by herself. When Craciun was up there everything was nice.

James Calder [00:34:55] What time do we have? I'm not sure we'll keep you through [inaudible].

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:34:58] No, I don't care it doesn't make any difference to me. This is peaceful.

James Calder [00:35:03] No, it's not that.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:35:04] No. But like I said, it was it was everybody had compassion for one another. You know, like I said, if you were dying of thirst or you just were choking right away, somebody would come with a glass of water. Now they'll watch you choke. But that's it. You know, I had people come to my house, I'm hungry, OK? What do you want? So I give them stuff to eat. But yet they have money to go buy booze.

James Calder [00:35:42] I'm trying to think what else to ask. I'll let you pick the direction of it. What else would you like to add about the history of this neighborhood?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:35:50] Get back to doing something with these empty buildings on Detroit. Make it the way it was years ago. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful.

James Calder [00:36:01] Another thing that's happened in Cleveland, since all this time is the population has really shrunk. How do you feel about, like how do you feel like the way to revitalize an urban neighborhood would be when they don't live there as much, you know, they're built for a lot of people who lived there. But that's not the case. I mean, how do you think you bring people or?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:36:26] Well, you have to publicize something to say about the neighborhood. Like I said, it was great. It was great. Everything was beautiful when Barbarino's was here. I mean, you see the whole people coming and going at, like I said, the dime store. We don't even have a dime store, well five and ten pardon me. You know, stuff like that. Instead of going way out to what, about 65th now up there to the dollar stores. We have a dollar store over here, if you go in there, they don't speak English. Number one if there was someone there speaking English because the one day I went up to the security guard. I said, is this the United States of America? And he looks at me, he gives me this look like duh. You're pretty good security guard then, right? That you know, but they get [mouth noise]. Speak English. Think of the other people in this store, you know. And like I said, it was beautiful. It was beautiful. Everybody knew one other, everybody respected one another, you know. But now, like I said, it's just dull.

James Calder [00:37:27] Is there anything you wanted to ask, Emma?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:37:28] Are there any stories like cute stories or funny stories of how wonderful it was around here that you would like to say, you know, maybe like an interaction between one of the shop keepers or whatever that you remember?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:37:44] Well, they were all such beautiful people that had their shop. They were like, you know, they treated me like I was their daughter, you know, because I brought them all kinds of customers and all that when that Mills men's shop was here. And then the man that worked for him, he bought it over and it was Maurice. And he used to send me a note every once in a while. This is going back what? 30 years, right? Thanking me for sending him customers. The same thing with Mr. Meyers when he was here, you know. And then his son used call me up to go out. I couldn't think what his name was but I know his last name was Meyers. They had one on seventy fifth there. And then the one here. And they had one on Lorain and his son was shot and killed in the other store they had. But this is it. Let's have some of those kinds of shops around here. Try to go back to the dress shops and men's shops instead of going way out, you know, make it easy for some of the old people in the neighborhood.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:38:35] The first one you really mentioned was this building. Can you describe how it used to look?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:38:40] This building here where you're at now it was [Haas &] Barzy's. You walk down the ramp here and on this side here was where you had your meat and I used to go in there with the little tokens from the war, you know, with the little stamps on them. In the middle he had produce. Then on the other side, was were you bought lunch meats and canned stuff. That was [Haas &] Barzy's. Then he moved on Memphis. I think he's gotta be dead now because like I said, I'm 74. Beautiful. You come in here and it was a shoe repair. Anabel. She was the most wonderful person. I would have chopped her husband's head off if he would have been my husband. He would deformed. Mean man that you would not believe and the way he would abuser her around there. I go gee Anabel [inaudible] you know. And nowadays they probably would. Then there was DeVito. He had a dry cleaner. Then there was a beauty shop that moved there. And her name was Alice Armstrong. And then, like I said, there was a dime store. There was a dress store. There was a John, the jewelers. And then there was another store and I don't know if it was Anne Peter's or Fisher and I remember when I went they had a little pad. Now they have you know, they had a little pad where they would write stuff down and there was like three sections to where the meat was, produce, and then the canned stuff and write everything down. And she'd add down and give the little receipt. It was beautiful. It was beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:39:54] Can you describe what things actually looked like? .

James Calder [00:39:57] Like what did it smell like even?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:40:01] Beautiful. It smelled beautiful. It smelled like homey. You know what I mean? And you enjoyed coming up, just to say to buy a can of corn just to come in and see the atmosphere and the people. Everybody was beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:40:11] How about the way people dressed?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:40:14] They dressed like it all. What, you know, like old people dressed and know stuff I have. But they all were nice. There wasn't the slacks and the jeans and the shorts like we do now. But I mean, everybody was respectful, respectful and beautiful. And like they knew you, like you were their best friend. [inaudible] But it was beautiful. It was beautiful. Like I said, when I see this building now, I want to cry. You go upstairs. It was Dr. Paley. There was Dr. Purdum. There was Dr. Neagoy. There was Dr. Manco. There was Dr. Schott. All these different places up there, the attorneys office and all that. I used to like to just to come in the building, walk around, look that everything was so nice and clean, and beautiful. And even when my kids were small, like, oh, come on, let's go. Come up, mommy. [inaudible] Oh, Mommy, please. Oh, Mommy, please. No. Then you wanted to bat them right ahead. But everything was so beautiful. On the corner where that leather shop was at it was a dry cleaner, Rand's dry cleaner. Now the one day they were robbing it and my husband was in the car, he pinned them against a wall across the street the people, you know, but then that's it. And then there were the your empty buildings. Oh, here. Now where the furniture store has to be that was Alrad's. So another boyfriend of mine. Beautiful. I mean, you go in there, you buy stuff. You know, they didn't care who you were, what you were, you paid me and that was it. It was everything. Everything was so nice. And then there was that Tower's Candy there I don't know whatever happened to them, they just disappeared. You know. And then there was a flower shop, Robeeries, a parking lot is that because I worked there. It was a flower shop and there was an apartment building in the back a beautiful place. Across the street, there was Fisher's. It was like I said, it was beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:42:05] What other places did you either volunteer or work?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:42:09] Well, I was a welder. I was a nurse. What else did I do? My last job was a welder and I got hurt, I had surgery here three times and surgery here three times from that place on Detroit Street, but a beautiful place. I'd by a welding machine the next thing I knew I'd fall over stuff because I was an older lady at the time [inaudible]. The men would bring me stuff and put it beside me. Well, that's right, we'll do it for her and they would bring me the stuff to weld, you know. But no matter where I went, I was respected. And, you know. And then the people would call me to say, well, thank you for sending so and so. Now you're recommending for the ES. OK, fine. They have a job. So like I said, I didn't know my name really rang that many bells. You know, because my husband tells me I have a big mouth, but I know it's big. But, you know, if he could help somebody. And like I said, people still come to me. Mary Jane, can you do this, Mary Jane, can you do that. And I go oh dear god here we go again. And like this one store I go to, you know, I wheel and deal with them, get stuff cheap and then I'm ashamed afterwards wheeling and dealing with them to get it for the neighbors, you know? But they're that stupid. I shouldn't say stupid but if they say if I say no, I'm going to give you a dollar. Right. Then it must be worth a dollar right. Not two dollars. Right. So there you are. You wouldn't be giving it to me, right? So when I come home, I go here. They charge me a dollar here. I said I just wish before I die that Gordon Square come back the way it was. And you know, Detroit. Yeah. From well, 69th now to 50th, because like I said, it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:43:49] Can you describe maybe how this area was different from other neighborhoods in Cleveland?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:43:55] Well, when you go to other neighborhoods and you'd see and you'd go, oh my God. You know, you'd see this, and you'd go but gee our neighborhood has this our neighborhood has that. Oh, really? So, you know, it was beautiful. Like I said, on 75th there they had a bar. They had dress shop. They had the dime store. They had a dry cleaner down there, we had dry cleaners all over the place. And it was gorgeous. It was good. Then all of a sudden here comes knocking everything down. So what do you got there? You got empty buildings there now. What you got Burger King you got the other one that's for rent. And this other place you just don't want that's going to be for rent in no time at all. That other building that Detroit Shoreway bought. It's empty. All those storefronts. It was Mr. Campbell. That was our other candy store from Watterson School. He had little delicatessen there, but he had the little penny candy place too for all the people, the kids, from Watterson School. There was Cheerio's bar. You know, it was beautiful. It was beautiful, like I said, you didn't have to worry about anything walking up on Detroit. Now you walk up Detroit in daylight and you're afraid.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:44:57] Do you have any other stories you want to add before we finish?

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:45:00] No. Like I said, bring it back the way it was and I'd be happy and I'd die happy. Make everything beautiful the way it was. If I could help you in any way to makeing it beautiful. I'll be more than happy.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:45:09] Awesome. Thank you.

Mary Jane Yuhas [00:45:12] But like I said, there were a lot of places like the kids didn't have a lot of places to go to play, like they had to play around down here on Herman [Avenue]. And the kids weren't allowed to go down there because their parents were afraid because the factory is down there, but the kids got along. They grew up. They got out of school, got on their way. They were all smart kids that were from the neighborhood, you know. But just bring our neighborhood back the way it was. And like I said, Ray Pianka top man. He should run for president. Now he is a fantastic man. Can I use a phone?
Cite This Page: “Mary Jane Yuhas interview, 2007,” Cleveland Voices, accessed March 28, 2023,
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