Gloria Ferris interview, 20 July 2017

Gloria Ferris is an active member of Brooklyn Centre. She relates the rewards and challenges of community activism in the twenty-first century. After coming back into the realm of community engagement, Ferris cultivated a group of individuals to form the Brooklyn Centre Naturalists. From the efforts of this group, Ferris and others were able to create an action-oriented backyard habitat community initiative. Ferris goes into great detail of how the community has benefited from active engagement from residents.

Participants: Ferris, Gloria (interviewee) / Nemeth, Sarah (interviewer)
Collection: Metro West
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:00] All right. Hi, my name is Sarah Nemeth. I'm here today with Gloria Ferris. It is July 20, 2017. We are at the Metro West Community Development offices. This is for the Cleveland Regional Oral History Project. And could you please state your name for the record?

Gloria Ferris [00:00:16] Hi. My name is Gloria Ferris.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:19] And where and when were you born?

Gloria Ferris [00:00:22] I was born in Wooster, Ohio, on August... 1950, and I grew up in a little town south of there called Shreve, Ohio. It is the last town between Wayne County and Holmes County.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:40] Okay. Familiar with the area. I usually go down south a lot. And when did you move?

Gloria Ferris [00:00:49] I moved to the Cleveland area in August of 1973. I was in English. I had just graduated from Bowling Green State University as an English major and a library science minor in education in the College of Education. And at that time, English teachers were a dime a dozen. [laughs] They still are, I think, maybe. Anyway, I had no interviews or no application or no, you know, callbacks or anything for five applications I had put out. And August 1, Cleveland called me and said, can you be here by the time school starts? And so here I am.

Sarah Nemeth [00:01:49] When did school used to start?

Gloria Ferris [00:01:52] It usually started right around Labor Day. It was about two to three weeks later than it is now.

Sarah Nemeth [00:01:59] Okay. And what school were you?

Gloria Ferris [00:02:03] I was at the old West High school. That was at 65th and Franklin, just west of it. And it then they built the new school, made it a junior high school, and it was still called West Junior High. And then it was renamed Joseph M. Gallagher, and the old West High became Lincoln West. So at that point, two high schools merged and became Lincoln West. And then the school sites where the old high schools were became junior high.

Sarah Nemeth [00:02:48] And you stayed? Did you move with the high school or did you stay with the junior high?

Gloria Ferris [00:02:55] The high school had been formed a few years before I started, and I only stayed with the Cleveland school system for five years. I left in 1978 because I decided that with the redistricting of things and seniority was becoming a huge issue and that the probability of me being switched from my Gallagher School to another school, not that I cared. That wasn't my point. It was the seniority. I would always be the low person on the totem pole, and I would be switching around from school to school year after year. And when eventually they started downsizing, I would be one of the first to go. And that was what came to pass because I had friends that I was, that year, 1973, and that's what happened to them.

Sarah Nemeth [00:04:02] So you just took the initiative and did your research and got out.

Gloria Ferris [00:04:07] Well, I decided that I was going to not have someone else decide my destiny, that I would do it. [laughs]

Sarah Nemeth [00:04:22] And could you describe maybe what your, do you remember your first day walking in? What was the- What did the school look like?

Gloria Ferris [00:04:32] Well, you have to remember that I came from a small, country-based school that was three townships brought into one called Triway. And I had all of my student teaching experiences and educational, education-based statistics, all of that was done in Toledo. So I had worked in urban schools, and those schools were very huge. So I got a taste of it before I came. But that first day, I walked in, there was a security guard that greeted everybody, and he was not dressed in uniform, did not have a gun. He was in a tan blazer with navy blue pants, and was a very nice man. And he was more of an official greeter than anything else. But just the number of people, there were, I think there were 1500 kids in that school, and it was huge. And it was like, I just thought, oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into? [laughs] So that was my first day.

Sarah Nemeth [00:05:54] But you soon were able to adjust.

Gloria Ferris [00:05:56] You know what? I had a lot of mentors. It was a great community of teachers, and the assistant principals were very, very good as well, making you feel at home, helping you with discipline, giving you little tips of how to, you know, get things done efficiently. I think one of my best memories was that a former nun, Notre Dame nun, Adeline Zimmerman, was an English teacher. And they used to have study halls in the auditorium, which seated like, I don't know, they usually had about 250 kids in there. She would open the doors, and she always kind of made sure that it kind of slammed against the wall. And then she would slowly walk down towards the stage. Never said a word, looking one way, then the other way, nodding at a few of the kind of troublemakers. And then she would go down in front of the stage. She would cross her hands with her clothes board, and she would just smile. Never said a word, never banged for- And by the time she got down there, it was totally quiet. Kids were putting out their books. They were actually studying. It was amazing. And I guess what she told, what she taught me was it's sometimes saying nothing more effective than, you know, kind of blabbing off at your- [laughs] I have always had trouble with that. I like to hear myself speak, I guess, but I have learned to use it when I speak in front of groups that, you know, I just don't talk until they quiet down. And a lot of people will start trying to talk over people. Well, first of all, I think it's very rude that people don't settle down for a speaker. But the other thing, I always think that's a real mistake because you've lost control from before you've ever said a word, you know. So.

Sarah Nemeth [00:08:23] What were maybe the demographics of the school, of the kids that came in?

Gloria Ferris [00:08:30] Well, at that point, that part of Detroit Shoreway, it would have been Detroit Shoreway. Well, it wasn't Detroit Shoreway. Detroit Shoreway was formed at the same time I was there. Anyway, it was probably, I would say, 70% White, maybe 30% Puerto Rican and Black. I can't do that in a thing. And we had several places that the juvenile court system had made. They're not called halfway houses for kids, but they don't send them to the court, you know, to the prison system. They keep them in their communities, or at least in the same city. And we had a good number of those kids. And it was a real socioeconomic mix. I mean, we had kids that parents had very good jobs. They were iron workers, they were steel workers. They worked for the city. We had people who were kind of coming up from the South, from West Virginia, and they were using the welfare system at that point. But many of them during my time, their parents were able to transition from that system and find good paying jobs. So.

Sarah Nemeth [00:10:11] So the community makeup, did they get along with each other? Were there a lot of issues since there was-

Gloria Ferris [00:10:19] No, there was. I don't really think there were any issues that way because the mix was such that it wasn't a 50-50 mix. It wasn't. It was. If there was a fight, it usually was white on white, black on black, Puerto Rican on- It did not carry over. That's kind of interesting you should ask that, but I don't remember that. I really don't.

Sarah Nemeth [00:10:54] I'm just wondering, since anticipating that you leave in '78. And then busings going to start in '79, and then it starts to become-.

Gloria Ferris [00:11:07] More of an issue. Yeah, well, and I think a lot of it has to do with breaking up the neighborhood school concept. Well, I would say this to anybody. I really believe the board of education at that time, the superintendent of schools, Paul Briggs, and the city council and the mayors before the seventies set that up to become a real issue because at that point, there's lots of money and the construction trades were doing well, and there, you know, was a lot of building going on. So instead, instead of doing the hard thing and putting the new school at kind of transitional places, they built one in the old site and a new one in the, you know, other old site. And then right here in the middle, the kids went to the same schools. Whereas if they had been masters of their own fate and done the hard thing, which would have been explaining to people that, look, we need to do this or it's going to be done for us. And given, I mean, the parents and the students were very appreciative of the new schools and the computers that we got in and the labs that they had and the atriums in the middle with the growing plants. So I think it could have been done, but I think they took the easy way out. And what it did then contributed to white flight. It contributed to a lot of things because it would have happened more organically. And if anything grows organically, it's better.

Sarah Nemeth [00:13:18] Definitely. In '78, when you're getting ready to leave and taking your fate in your own hands, your destiny, did you, were the professional staff, did you know that that was going to be happening in '79?

Gloria Ferris [00:13:36] Yes.

Sarah Nemeth [00:13:37] Did they let you know that?

Gloria Ferris [00:13:38] Well, they didn't have to tell us. I mean, we knew that that would have to happen, that because they not only wanted to integrate the schools, they wanted to integrate the staffs, which nobody, none of the staff members, they realized that. And I think they were all prepared for, yeah, that's the way to go. I mean, integrate us, get us in the area, and then, you know, people are going to shift where they live in a city, they do that. I mean, if you look at the migration on the east side, and I say this because my husband always, Tim always cites this, that his family started out on Woodland Avenue and owned a bar, and they moved up the hill to Cleveland Heights, and then they moved out. And then many of them moved out of Cleveland Heights into South Euclid, and his parents went to Bedford. And so it's a natural progression to continue to move. But when you put the meteorite in the middle of something, you make it happen quicker for different reasons, for fear. I think fear in this city is one of the undocumented, unrealistic, it just shouldn't happen kind of fear in cities and countries causes people to make bad decisions. Bad decisions. The other thing that I think, it was not only the desegregation suit that changed the makeup of the city before that. And I- And I'm not sure that that wasn't even more of an issue was urban renewal, urban renewal and the interstate system. If you look at 71, well, 71, we probably should get to Brooklyn Centre. Brooklyn Centre is divided by I-71. The north part of it does not connect to the south part of it. In fact, there was a woman - Oh, I wish you could have met her. I wish you could have interviewed her. But I guess I'll have to be your surrogate - Ruth Ketteringham. She lived in a home on Metro Health campus that since has been torn down when the expansion back quite some time ago was started. Anyway, she said people called it a scar, she said, it's not a scar. She says it is an open, gaping wound that will not heal. And I always thought, I thought, well, wow, that's kind of over the top. But when I think about it, it is because even though we're connected by history, we are no longer connected by proximity. And that is- And you, you can also see that in Tremont they have two bridges, pedestrian bridges. Where else is there another one? I thought I just saw another one the other day. I think that our- Oh, out on Lorain Avenue, that's connected. Our neighborhood is the only one that has no pedestrian connection. And it's like, why?

Sarah Nemeth [00:17:27] When you moved here then, did you move directly to Brooklyn, or were you somewhere else first?

Gloria Ferris [00:17:33] No, no, I didn't. Because I had to be here and ready to work in three weeks, I actually moved to Maple Heights and stayed with my college roommate's parents. And then I wanted to be close to where I worked. And there was an apartment building just two blocks down. And so I moved to the Detroit Shoreway area and I walked to work, which I loved. Oh, that was so much fun. Was luck. And so then, then I did some suburb stuff. I went to Lakewood for a little bit. I went to Cleveland Heights for a while, and then I thought, you know what? I really miss the city. So I miss- I moved back to Ohio City on 28th, and Bridge at the West Virginia. But my apartment was on the top floor and it was a five story walkup. And I decided, no, no, no. So a friend of mine, Jim Rokakis, who was the council person, was going, bought a house, and his apartment in Brooklyn Centre was open. And so in 1981, I moved to Brooklyn Centre, and I've been there ever since and happy as a clam.

Sarah Nemeth [00:18:59] Could you describe the community that you live in when you first got there in '80?

Gloria Ferris [00:19:05] Well, I lived beside Mrs. Ivey, who owned this beautiful three-story home at West 33rd and Archwood on the north side. And she had migrated with her husband in the early twenties to Cleveland. And she was just a stitch. She was 78, 80 years old. She would see me come, she would hear me on the steps, and she would open her door because her back door kind of was at the same landing that mine was. And she goes, oh, honey, do you have a time for a cup of tea? And I would always say, oh, certainly do. So I would put my things down and go back and have tea with her. So she connected me to a lot of the history. It was amazing to me when I came to that neighborhood or to my neighborhood, that there were people who owned- They were the third generation that owned the homes that their grandparents had built. It was just kind of amazing. During that time when I lived there as a renter, I saw she had to leave her home because of her age, and she moved to Pennsylvania with her daughter, who had been transplanted to Pennsylvania by ALOCA because her husband was an executive for ALCOA. But they had lived in the neighborhood for some years, and then they moved out to Brecksville, and then they, of course, moved to Pennsylvania. So I'm telling you that the outward migration. Well, of course, then that house came up for sale, and that house has just turned over. I think there finally has been somebody who's lived there ten years, which is good. But that transition from those third generation owners to children, adult children, who already had their own lives in the suburbs and different states, it started to change the fabric of our neighborhood. I bought a house on Denison Avenue in the eighties. I bought at the top of the market, or not at the top of the selling market, but the interest rate, it was like 13%. You know, I was one of the first people to take advantage of first-time homeowner, homeowners. And they were looking for women as homeowners. So that that was my little niche, and that's how I bought my house. My husband always jokes that he doesn't live- He was a real estate agent at the time and had. And he goes, I live in a house that I didn't sell, but he did sell quite a few, and he was into rehab and in renovation and preservation. And I think that one that he cites is like, that he loves very much is that he sold the three houses at the south side of Denison, right by Fulton, to two young men who were also oriented that way. And so that was kind of a cool thing that we did. But so over the years, we went from probably 65, 70% homeowner, to now we're 60-40 the other way, we're 60% renters, and we are 40% homeowners. The other problem with that was the, I don't know, the children of these people went to a lot of real estate selling seminars about, be a landlord, make a million bucks, you know, you can do it. Well, they found out that they didn't do well as landlords because it takes a special kind of person to be a good landlord and someone with a bit of capital so that they do not need every cent from their rentals to be used for consumption, you know, or paying off mortgages and making sure that there's insurance. There has to be money set aside for improvements because many of these houses had not been updated, their electrical systems, they needed new roofs. But, hey, inherited this, gonna make some money. I can do this. I don't live that far away, whatever. So that caused a few problems. And then there was the crash of 2008, which I truly believe ours probably started in 2005, because a lot of those inherited properties turned over to landlords that bought multiples. And so the landscape from when I came and now is truly different. What I will say is we still have this base of very vocal, very committed people to city living. And the bright spot in all this is that the younger people that are moving in and owning their own homes who realize that Ohio City and Tremont are kind of priced out of their market, and if they buy there, they have no lives, they can't travel, they can't buy, they're, you know, limping along in a car that's, you know, not exactly, or have a huge payment. So although we're not considered a trendy neighborhood, we're nestled inside of, you know, Old Brooklyn and Tremont, Detroit Shoreway. And, you know, we've got Westtown to the west of us. So basically it's a great place to be because you have easy access to the freeways, to downtown, to the zoo, to the Metroparks, everything. We've got really great amenities and, oh, God, how could I forget Metro Health? [laughs] So I think that that's starting. I see that kind of percolating and it does my heart good because I'm getting a little old to still be the one that's, you know, vocal. [laughs]

Sarah Nemeth [00:26:29] Do you, do you think that that is in one of the next communities to maybe pop like you have, you're circled by them. Like, is the impending gentrification - There's positives and there's negatives - do you think that that's pushing into your community now?

Gloria Ferris [00:26:51] You know, I'll tell you what, I hope that we don't pop. I hope that we can continue to build our authentic community. We were an authentic community. We still have the bones for an authentic community. Do I want people from outside our area to come to the business in our area? Of course I do. Do, when they go to the zoo, do I wish that they would come to a restaurant in our area? Of course I do. But you know what? I'm not sure how much zoo visitors do beyond going to the zoo. I mean, the zoo is an incredible experience that takes all day. So I, you know, and I love the fact that we have Metroparks. I mean, we finally have bike lanes on Denison Avenue, and there's still a little pushback. There are many of my neighbors who do not like them because there's no parking on Denison, and so therefore, there's a little bit of a parking issue of where you park your cars on the side streets. But I'll tell you, it has slowed down the traffic because it has made people understand that it wasn't a four lane, it was a two lane that was a little too fat, is what it was. And it does my heart good when I sit and look out my front bay window and see these bicyclers on Saturday zipping down in a group. And we always had a few commuters. I always remember the guy, and I haven't seen him lately, so he's probably changed jobs or something, but he used to roller skate by every morning and every afternoon, and that was before bike lanes. So my husband and I are very happy that at every public meeting we ever went to about resurfacing Denison or changing the traffic patterns, we would always say, what about bike lanes? So I want in a community that feels safe, where people want to come home and spend their leisure time and that they want to stay. And I think one of the biggest problems for any neighborhood in the city of Cleveland is you get young people, you get empty nesters, and you get people who have children up to five years old. And then. And then reality hits and you sweat out getting into one of the breakthrough schools or one of those, you know, the schools in the CMSD that are seen as quality, or you send your child to private school, which that was one reason we stayed in the city. And our house payment was such that we could afford to send our girls to the suburbs for high school and to grade school. And we were Catholic, so we wanted them to have that upbringing as well. So it was an easy thing that we could do. It's not that easy anymore with the cost of private education. It's, you know, and I think the education choices for our community are huge. We are on slot, I think we're phase eight, the next one, for a new school in our neighborhood. So that will be good. But other than that, there is a gap. And I think that's the gap is the education piece. On the other hand, we do get medical students from Metro who rent for the time. We do have a lot of young people who go to Cleveland State, and that works well. But I worry about that K through 12, not so much the 12th K through 8, because nine through twelve now is dispersed throughout the city in a little bit better way. You've got School of the Arts, you got STEM, you've got Max Hayes. And that I'm okay with, because that's kind of a networking kind of. You pull from all the city for what, the kids? That's all right. But that K through 8, losing that neighborhood connection is hard, and that makes a big difference in a community.

Sarah Nemeth [00:32:29] Yeah, I couldn't imagine not going to-

Gloria Ferris [00:32:30] A neighborhood school that young.

Sarah Nemeth [00:32:35] Yeah, I liked going there, but then again, I don't know anything different, so I guess I can't necessarily comment all the way on that. What are your thoughts on a community member's relation to their, and their environment, their area? You might have kind of answered that with the school like having their children go to a neighborhood school, perhaps, or how does, how do people in Brooklyn Centre relate to their community? How are they involved? How do they engage with each other?

Gloria Ferris [00:33:14] Hmm.

Sarah Nemeth [00:33:14] Has that changed over time?

Gloria Ferris [00:33:17] Yes. Yeah, that has. That has. We did have- Now we have one thing on the east side of Brooklyn center that's just, I mean, these people are just an amazing group of people. It's called Southwest, oh, I can remember it, Citizens Association or something like that. Yeah, SWCA might be community. I can't remember. And you'll be talking. That was one of the names on the list that we had. So you'll be talking to the guy who heads that up. And anyway, it's over 70 years old and they still meet just regularly. The one on our side, Brooklyn Centre Community Association. It was started in 1978, I believe, yeah, by Gloria Janos, who was one of the people whose grandfather built the house that she was born in and where she raised her son. And then her son inherited it, and he lived there for quite some time and now has a tenant who is very involved. The community- You know, Tim and I talked about this, and I was quite involved when I wasn't married and helped with Christmas tours and all sorts of things and went to the meetings, did those things. And then we had kids. I got married. We had kids kind of lost touch with that when kids left home, then got back in touch with it. So I think it's very difficult for couples or single parents who have children to find the time to do that community engagement. I mean, they will. I know that Metro West has worked on it, other places as well, for public meetings. We try to make it so that people can bring their children and that there's somebody, you know, in the back of the room that sits with them or whatever, and they do things because it's hard to take that time. Very, very hard. So what I see in community associations or community organizations, you have the ones without family, single, young, or you have empty nesters, children gone and looking for things to become involved with. So you've got that two things. Well, when I had that situation, I was like, the other thing that I think that community associations, it's very hard to continue to come together based on one issue. Usually when the issue is resolved, you break apart. You come together when there's another issue. And we've done that quite effectively. They were going to put the trash to energy, trash to energy station or factory, whatever you want to call it, at the Ridge Road transfer station. Well, that would have gone right down Denison Avenue. You know, there would have been, you know, they said, oh, it's self contained, there's no pollution. It was kind of like, mmm, and one really great thing about the communities around us is the retired community that we have that worked for the Corps of Army Engineers, that drafted the EPA plan that governs the steel mills, that people who were educators, people who were journalists, people, you've got this really great group of people retired that have a wealth of knowledge that I don't think public officials want them in the conversation. So that's why it's so hard to find out where there are public meetings. In fact, the one about the trash for energy, I'm in the line at the bank waiting for my turn, and two women in front of me say, are you going to try to make that meeting tonight for the- I go, what are you talking about? And they said, oh, the one about- And I go, well, I haven't heard anything about this. Well, needless to say, I came home, got on the phone, told people to call everybody they knew. Well, I think they were a little surprised at how huge the crowd was because it was supposed to be one of the public meetings that they just took- So they had to go back to the drawing board. I mean, people had to stand out in the hall for this meeting. So it was, it was pretty huge, and they kind of took it off the table. And then the other one was Brookside Park, when they were going to cut down trees to enhance for a parking lot, to enhance the soapbox derby runway, which is now up by the Shoreway. And we got a lot of people together for that and really came out in great numbers to say, what's the matter with taking a walk with your kids in the woods? Why do we need to have organized sports all the time for children? So that was the other one that I'm kind of proud of, that we all got together. And I think Next Door Neighbors has changed things a lot. People can relate things, show events that they know about to their neighbors, surrounding communities. I think we're in a transition area. I don't believe that online communication or friendship should ever take place face to face, face to face. And when you see, oh, you're, you know, skinny girl or whomever, when you see that and you go online, you're much more measured with what you say to people when you actually know people. The so-called anonymous nature of the Internet makes it difficult for that community engagement. But I think as long as we keep those things, and I think that they can be event type oriented things, that the Brooklyn Centre bicentennial is a good example. I mean, people, churches. I mean, we had a parade. There were floats. There was, there was. The Southwest citizens group took on the piece of having the picnic that they had at W.T., W.C. Reed. I just almost called it W.T. Grant. And I said, no, no, W.C. Reed field. They had a huge party. We had a balloon that our, you know, council person wanted in the worst way, and he got it. And it was just a wonderful, wonderful celebration of our community. And I think a lot, and that was in 2012. I think a lot of people go back to that. Oh, and I started talking about when I got involved again, I decided, well, it wasn't that that made my decision, but somebody had come to our house and said, you know, you should really apply for a national wildlife backyard retreat. And I said, oh. I said, what's that? And she goes, oh, you know, google it. So I googled it. Well, lo and behold, up here in the corner, it says, would your neighborhood make a good or something? Neighborhood life, community. And I thought, oh, what is that? So I click on it and I think, okay, we've got the zoo, we have Riverside Cemetery. We're, you know, less than a mile from the river. We're 2 miles from the lake. We've got Big Creek that runs through, you know, splits Old Brooklyn from Brooklyn Centre. So I'm thinking to myself, hmm. So I tell my good friend Sharon who she and I, and she goes, well, she goes, let's just invite anybody, everybody, for an afternoon. We can have it at my house. I'll put out some little munchies, and we'll talk about it. So we figured out about 15, 20 people that would, might be interested, who would be interested in doing something that like that. And so I presented, this is what it is. This is what it entails. And everybody thought, yeah, that sounds like a really good idea. So we formed the Brooklyn Centre Naturalist. We did some things, and for a while we were very active, and then life got in the way, and I had some really major health issues, and then so did Sharon. And then, and we were the two that kind of pulled people back in. And we didn't do things meeting-oriented. We did action things. So we did a community garden with Reimagining Cleveland, and we got a couple of Neighborhood Connections grants, and we had a kids' program on Saturdays at one of the churches and the kids came and learned about nature and gardening and, you know, recycling and reusing and making art by reusing things. So we've done a lot of that. I'm very, very proud of that. We've gotten awards from the city, from the state, from the county. So I think that, in my mind, if you can do something based around not an issue, but an overall something that you enjoy, that you would want to be active with, and we're getting a lot of that. I mean, La Placita, a lot of people have started getting involved in that, and it's been- That first one was very difficult, I believe, to pull together. But now that it's just like people call them and want to know about it, so those kinds of things, I think that's where community engagement is going, because if you have a finite amount of leisure time, you're not gonna want to sit in meetings. You're not going to want to rehash what you know, you want to say, what can I do? And I think that actions speak louder than words. And by actions is how we show people that this is a great place to live, the access, the amenities, the people, because you're gonna meet those people in different ways. So that, I think, is how community engagement is evolving. Do I think it is still necessary that we do speak up to and speak truth to power? Absolutely. And I think we have to do that more than we do and doing that online to each other to the people that you agree with is not gonna work. We've got to get out there and realize that people who don't agree with us are good people, but they just have a different opinion and view of things. And if we work together and you pull in a diverse group of people, when you put people's souls and bodies and their minds with a face, it's much more important than a bunch of words on a laptop.

Sarah Nemeth [00:46:50] Definitely. Yeah, I did. Well, speaking of laptops, I googled you.

Gloria Ferris [00:46:57] Hey, did you. How long are we here?

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:01] 47 minutes.

Gloria Ferris [00:47:02] Oh, okay. Okay. You googled me. Was the Spanish porn star- My husband got that one. There's what? I guess there's a Spanish porn star? Yes, there is one.

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:17] There's also a mystery novelist, I believe.

Gloria Ferris [00:47:19] Yes, I'd like to meet her. She's from Canada. Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:23] But you. Yeah, we're writing. You write occasionally for the old Brooklyn?

Gloria Ferris [00:47:29] Yes, I do.

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:30] I read some of your little blogs, or whatever you might call them. How did you start writing for them? How did you get involved there?

Gloria Ferris [00:47:39] Through Brooklyn Centre Naturalist. I started writing a column when it was a monthly. They asked me if I would write something, so I started writing about how to build a wildlife habitat, how stormwater management trees are worth a lot. Don't tear them down just because they're dirty and those kinds of things. So I started doing that. And then when they went to the format of quarterly, they kept me on. And I'm excited about that and I enjoy it. I actually think that that's one thing I'm going to kind of try to branch out into and- Right. I used to love to write. I still do.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:28] I just kept reading.

Gloria Ferris [00:48:31] Thank you.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:33] Especially the one about the trees-

Gloria Ferris [00:48:35] Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:35] And the power lines being put underground.

Gloria Ferris [00:48:38] Yes. Yeah. We need to- We need to learn that sometimes we could need to spend money up front for worth. At the back end. Yeah. And we don't do that. So much of our lives are short term. Everything. It's like the next quarter. Did you show a profit? What is your rate of return? Well, you know what? That isn't everything. That isn't everything. Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:49:08] And when you were talking about what you- The wildlife, that was the National Wildlife Federation registered and that was one of the first ones in an urban setting.

Gloria Ferris [00:49:21] Yes, yes. We have not gotten our registration yet because it is very, very difficult to get people to sign on to being a backyard habitat. I don't know why, because so many of them are. But it's kind of that additional step of doing that. So. But we're very, very close. So I'm thinking that very soon, and I need to just bear down and get to that. We've done everything else we need to do. We've had educational programs, we've had community engagement things. We've had many symposiums. One of the best things I think I ever heard. And this is, we do this all pulling together. We work with Big Creek Connects and the zoo, and we did a series of mini symposium. I had a landscape architect come to me after little symposium and say, he said, this is better than many I have paid for. And he says, it is free. And it was just really great. So I really thought that was really kind of an accolade for the group of us. We were all volunteers, did it all on our own time. And Mary Ellen Stasek with Big Creek Connects is great at the Internet promotion and getting the flyers out. So it was really, really good. But as you get older, you get a little tired, and you hope that other people would want to kind of come in. But people have said that Sharon and I are a hard act to follow. Might be. It might be a part of it. It might be our personalities. I don't know, but it would be- And, you know, I think part of it is that people think that we want it to continue with our vision. But you know what? When we step aside, and we'll certainly help with you know who, we know our contacts and everything, but it's yours. If you're, you know, if you stick to the mission and you don't have mission drift, but you decide to do other things, why should we care? The point was, do something, and that's what- And I think that we need to get a better handle on how do we. How do you show that? Or how do you express that so other people get it, I guess?

Sarah Nemeth [00:51:58] We have, like, three minutes before we close. Could you just maybe explain what a wildlife habitat backyard site is like, what it all encompasses?

Gloria Ferris [00:52:08] Oh, sure. And I'll probably take more than three minutes. Don't worry about it. I may not. You need to give them four things. Shelter, water, food, and cover. And then the fifth one that we add is to have organic gardening practices. Because if you don't practice organic gardening practices, you're not going to get the beneficial insects, the pollinators that we need to continue the habitats. So that's that piece. The water can be- If you say we're within, like you backed up to the valley and big creek is down there, that's close enough. You don't have to have a birdbath. You don't have to, you know, but it's very, very easy. You know, you dump it out every three days and you put more water in. A lot of people don't want mosquito larvae. Well, if you have birds coming and taking their little baths in it and things, they're aerating the water. So you're not going to have mosquitoes. So that's one thing. Food. You don't have to have supplemental feeders, although you can, you can simply do native plants. And the reason we say native plants, because native plants for this area attract the beneficial insects, the birds and the wildlife that you want in, in your garden. Toads. We have a huge fat toad that lives in our garden, which he's just so great. Nobody's seen him yet this year. But he's here. He's here. We know he is. We hear him. But then cover. You need to have cover so that if people say, oh, I can't be a backyard habitat because I have cats. Well, yes, you can, as long as where you put your feeder is either out where they can see coming or they can fly into shrubs and bushes that they can get away from. You don't have a huge issue with cats, and we have such a skunk population in our neighborhood this year, I don't think that feral cats are a problem because if you have skunks, you don't have cats. If you have cats, you don't have skunks. And we do not have a lot of cats, feral cats anymore. I think it might be the few coyotes that we see come up from the valley that get that. But place to raise young is the trees. I mean, it's, it's really, you just get places where they can build nests and that, that's what you need. So it's a very easy thing. And it is $20 for the first, you know, to sign up. I've always told people, I'll help you, you know, give me a call. And I also, you can sign up online. And if you- I've had people call me and say, okay, I've got it up. And then we'll read through it and they'll go, oh, I don't have this. Oh, wait, wait, wait. Don't you, you know, don't you kind of have just a little pile of brush where you wait for, you know, the garbage day and stuff? And I said, well, that works because you keep doing that and you have it. And maybe just leave a little one in a place that is inobtrusive and unobtrusive, rather. And so that's what being a backyard habitat is. A community, is a community of all those little habitats and the public spaces and the businesses and the people that live and partner with you to do things.

Sarah Nemeth [00:56:31] Excellent. Wonderful story. Thank you so much for being here.

Metro West

Interviews in this series were conducted by Sarah Nemeth, a graduate student at the Cleveland State University Department of History, in cooperation with the Metro West Community Development Organization, which serves the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton, and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods. The oral histories captured in this series focus primarily on those west side neighborhoods.