Joan Komic is a lifelong resident of Cleveland. Her family started out on the east side near Slavic Village, but moved to the Near West Side while she and her sister were still young. Komic describes growing up, maturing, and entering adulthood while living in the neighborhoods of Clark-Fulton, Old Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Center. Today she engages with her community through being active at a local church and the Jones Home Neighborhood Association.


Media is loading


Komic, Joan (interviewee)


Nemeth, Sarah (interviewer)


Metro West



Document Type

Oral History


63 minutes


Sarah Nemeth [00:00:01] Hi, my name is Sarah Nemeth. I’m here today with Joan Komic. Today is August 4, 2017. We are at the Cleveland Public Library Digital Public Library on the third floor of the main building. And this is for the Cleveland Regional Oral History Project. Could you please state your name for the record?

Joan Komic [00:00:20] Joan Komic.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:22] Thank you for being here today.

Joan Komic [00:00:23] You’re welcome.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:25] And where were you born and when?

Joan Komic [00:00:27] I was born in Cleveland on September… 1952.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:34] Well, early Happy birthday.

Joan Komic [00:00:35] Thank you. 65 this year. Oh, my God. I’m officially a senior.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:42] So you get the card?

Joan Komic [00:00:43] I got the Medicare card and everything.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:46] Good. Do you also get a Buckeye card?

Joan Komic [00:00:48] Yeah. So that. That came earlier. So I was a senior before this, actually.

Sarah Nemeth [00:00:54] And what side of town did you live on?

Joan Komic [00:00:57] When I was born, my parents lived on the east side of Cleveland on East 66th in the old Slovenian neighborhood around St. Vitus. But before we were two, I think probably when I was, my sister and I, twins, were one or two, we moved to the near west side on West 48th Street off of Clark, and we lived there until we were nine years old, and then we moved to the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. So I’ve always been in Cleveland. So then the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. So from age two to ten, the St. Procop’s area in the near west side by Clark, and then Corpus Christi area, you know, Catholic Church, Old Brooklyn from ten. And actually, my sister is still there, and now I’m in the Brooklyn Centre neighborhood.

Sarah Nemeth [00:01:56] Okay. So did your family have an ethnic background? Is that why they lived in-?

Joan Komic [00:02:04] Yes. My mother’s Slovenian family was all there on the East 66th Street in that St. Vitus neighborhood. My father, Polish, he came from Pennsylvania, but his brothers had moved to Cleveland also to get jobs. You know, they moved from the coal mines in the Pennsylvania area and came to Cleveland and got better jobs, you know, TRW and, you know, in machine, blue-collar. Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:02:38] Okay. Did they ever tell you, I know you probably don’t really remember since you were two, but did they ever tell you anything about how that neighborhood, what was it centered around? Was it centered around the church?

Joan Komic [00:02:51] Well, I think St. Vitus, the Slovenian neighborhood, pretty much closely was by the time. But since that was, even though I was. Spent a lot of time there because my grandparents and everybody was there on the west side, I don’t know if you could say that it was church oriented. Our neighborhoods were definitely- We seemed to have a tight community. The neighbors all knew each other. We were close to a little playground, and the parents kind of watched each other’s kids. I don’t think. I went to St. Procop’s with a lot of my neighbors, though. I think a lot of my neighbors were in public schools. So. Does that answer your question? It wasn’t really. Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:03:41] Can you maybe describe what your street looked like growing up?

Joan Komic [00:03:47] You’re talking now on the-

Sarah Nemeth [00:03:48] From two to ten.

Joan Komic [00:03:49] From two to ten, yeah. Which, that’s a very interesting question because now it seems it just, it’s so deteriorated since, since we were there. Everybody took care of their yards and things were neat and tidy and people knew each other. And when I would go back there later, after we, after, well, actually much after when I was adult, I mean, our house, my house was demolished. I mean, it had deteriorated so much. And really, it was kind of a little bit of a shacky type home anyway. But we made it, you know, kind of homey and interesting. Our neighbor down the street had chickens, you know, in their yard. And when we were, when I was a little girl, I remember that. So it was a neat and tidy neighborhood, and the neighbors knew each other, and then it deteriorated. And now there’s, I’m hoping there’s like a resurgence coming back because I know the Cleveland, Clark neighborhood, there’s a lot of people who are trying to do that, and I totally support them.

Sarah Nemeth [00:05:09] Do you remember what it was demographically? Do you remember the types of people that you lived around?

Joan Komic [00:05:19] It was White. It was pretty much all White. I don’t recall anyone in our school, in our neighborhood that was Black or Hispanic, which is very interesting, too, because right now, I mean, it’s totally diverse. And where I live now, on Daisy Avenue in the Metro West neighborhood, we have everybody, my neighbors are Spanish, they speak Spanish, and they’re wonderful. Some of them, my particular neighbors, I really like. And some of them are, you know, you know how that some neighbors, you get upset, they don’t keep up their property. They have loud music, you know, the youth.

Sarah Nemeth [00:06:12] Just as in any neighborhood- [inaudible]

Joan Komic [00:06:15] Yeah, certain. Yeah. We also have Middle East people on our street now in the Daisy area. So that’s a little bit more south than where I was from ten to two.

Sarah Nemeth [00:06:31] Were there any restaurants or anything that you guys went to when you were in the Clark neighborhood growing up?

Joan Komic [00:06:43] I don’t recall local restaurants, but I do recall us taking the bus downtown to the Silver Grill in the old Higbee’s building. So that was a big, that was the big, you know, lunch-type outing for mothers and their kids. You know, during the summer. My parents were not, you know, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t do a lot of going out to eat, so I can’t say.

Sarah Nemeth [00:07:20] Okay. Were- You said it was mostly White in the neighborhood. Do you remember if everyone was also like a blue-collar worker or were they Appalachian at all? Appalachian, like from that region, West Virginia?

Joan Komic [00:07:42] I don’t recall that. I think we were mostly all blue-collar, that’s pretty much for sure. There was an Italian family on our street, and people used to either joke or spread rumors about them being in the mafia. I do not know if that was true, but I made my first communion with the girl, and we went to each other’s parties. All I can think of is, Appalachia, that’s interesting, because I worked in the Wheeling area after college, so a little unfamiliar with that area. There probably were. I would think that. I don’t know. So sorry.

Sarah Nemeth [00:08:30] No, that’s fine. I was just wondering if there’s a lot of talk about the fact that it was like, hillbilly haven area.

Joan Komic [00:08:39] Yeah, on the near west side? That could be because my father’s brother and he both located there, and they were from Pennsylvania, and he would probably- I mean, the hills of Pennsylvania. I mean, he was like one of the original Little Rascals. I mean, he could have been like, you know, that could have been that kind of. But they were Polish, you know, so. And I don’t know how the associate, maybe an association would work, but, yeah, that would be kind of similar, I think.

Sarah Nemeth [00:09:19] That’s just maybe one of the ways that someone has described it before, the good old boys.

Joan Komic [00:09:26] Yeah. I could see my father and his brothers talking that way. Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:09:32] Okay. What did you do for fun in the neighborhood?

Joan Komic [00:09:37] Well, there was a playground right across the street from our house, and so that was very convenient. We just played there every day. And at the time, the city had what was called Coaches and Teaches, a male coach and a female teach, two instructors, probably college age, like you. You’re college age. I mean, you work at Cleveland State, right?

Sarah Nemeth [00:10:07] Yeah, I’m going to graduate school.

Joan Komic [00:10:08] Graduate school, yeah. So who would, who would be, who would come to the playgrounds and they would organize us kids and do arts and crafts, and we would enter the Junior Olympics and we would place, we would play sports. So we had that in that near west side area off of Clark and West 48th street. And then when I moved to Old Brooklyn, the same thing in the neighborhood. We were close to a playground, Archmere playground. Same thing, Coach and Teach organized us into. I was on the junior Pigtail League, and then the junior Pigtail League and then the Pigtail League, which was like the seniors, and I was in the junior Olympics. And it was very. And so I think it was like a built in babysitter for the parents, you know, where the city stepped up and took care of the kids on summer vacations. It was real, and it was really a great experience. I mean, we’d have dance. We do Indian- I remember doing an Indian play or dances or something, and it was really fun. It was very fun.

Sarah Nemeth [00:11:21] So having a fun childhood, but it was supported by the city?

Joan Komic [00:11:26] Yes, definitely.

Sarah Nemeth [00:11:30] What did you- What sport did you play?

Joan Komic [00:11:32] Softball.

Sarah Nemeth [00:11:34] Okay.

Joan Komic [00:11:34] Softball.

Sarah Nemeth [00:11:35] What position?

Joan Komic [00:11:37] That’s a good question. Now, let me think. I seem to remember just being in the outfield. I wasn’t like a, you know, really great player. I wasn’t first base. I think I played shortstop a few times, but mainly I was in the outfield.

Sarah Nemeth [00:11:51] Okay. And then do you know why you moved, why your family moved up when you were ten to the Old Brooklyn?

Joan Komic [00:12:01] Old Brooklyn? I really think that my parents felt that the neighborhood was going to pot. They said, this is turning into a bad neighborhood. And one of the reasons they felt that way was because gangs started hanging out in the playground. Gangs of teenage boys, punks, as my father would call them, who would smoke and drink beer and become rowdy, and you weren’t safe. And then there was an incident where- And I don’t know if this had much to do with it or if it was just tip of the iceberg, but no I think that happened much earlier than ten. But one time my sister and I were out on the swings in the playground. There wasn’t anybody else around. And then some guy, some adult guy came and asked if we wanted him to push us. And he was pushing us on this swing. And my mother, of course, is looking out the window, because everybody, I think maybe her neighbor was looking out the window, called my mother, and some strange man is pushing your girls. And my mother, of course, runs out. You know, who are you? What are you doing? And he just, like, went away. And she, I think, reported to the police. And it turns out that there was, like. He matched a description for some- A guy who was- He didn’t try to kidnap, but he molested a child in the bathhouse. That was another thing. There was a bathhouse on Clark Avenue, a bathhouse that we went swimming at, the kids. So there were these rec centers, too, that we would go to. And so that connection with this guy, she thinks they’re going to get kidnapped or molested. Let’s get out of here. And then the punk kids. So it was really a move to improve, and we moved to Old Brooklyn. My father had a sister in Parma, so I think he was moving towards the suburbs, but he was too cheap to make that break over the border and pay those higher taxes, you know. So he got to old Brooklyn, but not past old Brook Park.

Sarah Nemeth [00:14:19] You mentioned the back houses. So was that just kind of like a public pool area?

Joan Komic [00:14:23] Yes, and we took swimming lessons there. So that was another thing that the kids had available for them at the time.

Sarah Nemeth [00:14:32] But you called it the bathhouse?

Joan Komic [00:14:33] Yeah, I think. I think maybe it’s a historic building or something. And it was. I don’t know, but I think they still use that place for a rec center. I think. I went to a couple meetings there, but I’m not sure.

Sarah Nemeth [00:14:50] it’s on Clark?

Joan Komic [00:14:51] Yeah.

Sarah Nemeth [00:14:52] Near- Do you know what it’s near? Like, what other street, cross street?

Joan Komic [00:14:57] Well, we lived on 48th, and it was in the higher numbers, so, on Clark, further down. And I don’t. I don’t think it was much further down on Clark ’cause I don’t think Clark is that long. So maybe in the sixties. I’m not sure. [crosstalk] Yeah. The bathhouse where we went swimming, and some kid was molested shortly before that guy came to our playground and pushed me and my sister on the swing. So I think my mother freaked out.

Sarah Nemeth [00:15:35] Sorry about that. And so, what was your neighborhood in Old Brooklyn?

Joan Komic [00:15:43] Okay, now, that was a little bit nicer neighborhood. Old Brooklyn is very nice still. It’s an amazing neighborhood. And my sister is still there, like I said. And we also had the playground, like I said, to hang out at. And so managed then to hook up with other kids in the neighborhood. And then we became this neighborhood group kids, you know, and hung out. And all of them, again, were. Most of them were public schools instead of Catholic. My parents were pretty much fiercely Catholic, so we were still in catholic school, Corpus Christi. But I think they were very relieved when I, After, at 8th grade, you had to trans- You know, you had to go on. I think they were very relieved that I didn’t want to go to Catholic high school because it’s so much more expensive. I wanted to be with my friends in public school. So then I went to Mooney public junior high and then to James Ford Rhodes and pretty much the kids that I grew up with in that neighborhood. In fact, we just had a little reunion this past weekend. We try to get together at least once a year, but we missed last year at least all of us together. Some of them are still more close than the rest of us. I’m kind of more on the outside because I was the only one in that group to go to college, even though I waited longer. I waited three years to go to college, but I think that move kind of split me from the core group. But we do get together regularly, you know, the old neighborhood, and reminisce.

Sarah Nemeth [00:17:30] What’s something that you might have reminisced about this past weekend?

Joan Komic [00:17:36] Well, everybody talks about the playground that we. That had the coach and teach. There was a creek that went around the playground, and we used to play on the- We had a cable that we would put up in the trees and swing across the creek. There was a swinging cable. And then one time we put two cables across the creek, and then you put your feet on one and your hands on the other and cross. And so we were always following in the creek and getting soakers. And that section of the playground by the creek we called Shangri-La because it was, you know, a nice little, you know, verdant little place. And as we got older, you know, that’s where you went to make out. And, you know, so we talk about that.

Sarah Nemeth [00:18:26] Okay.

Joan Komic [00:18:28] Our boyfriends and our, you know.

Sarah Nemeth [00:18:30] Right. And so you move there when you’re ten. So this is like the sixties?

Joan Komic [00:18:38] Yes.

Sarah Nemeth [00:18:39] Do you remember when I-71 was built?

Joan Komic [00:18:43] I-71 or I-480? Because 480 kind of. I don’t remember I-71, but because we were a little more south. But I do remember I-480 because where I-480 was, which is the southern border of Cleveland and where Old Brooklyn is, it was all woods. And we loved to go to the woods. And I was a big tree climber. I loved to climb trees, but we also loved Nancy Drew books, you know, the mystery stories, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden. So my girlfriend Meg, and another girlfriend, Susan, you know, she would be Nancy, and she would be Beth, and I would be George ’cause I was the big tomboy, you know, and we would go and pretend that we were detectives and we were into the woods. So when those woods left because of the freeway, that was a sad thing. And I remember when they were ripping that up. But I don’t remember 71. But I would have if I had been in Old Brooklyn, where I am now, I certainly would have remembered because my neighbors now talk about how 71 coming in totally split the neighborhoods up and, you know, pretty much destroyed a lot of things that were going, you know, the church and everything else. So I hear about that a lot in my present neighborhood.

Sarah Nemeth [00:20:12] All right. When did. How old were you when they started putting in 480?

Joan Komic [00:20:21] I don’t know. After 50 years, I really don’t know when that was. I just remember that the woods are gone. I wonder if it was even a matter of after the fact, after I was already gone. But I don’t know. No, I just don’t remember.

Sarah Nemeth [00:20:46] That’s okay. That was a really nice description of what you used to do there, though. And you went to, what was it, demographically in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood?

Joan Komic [00:21:02] The same. The same, yeah, it was. It was also, I thought, I think, blue collar. I don’t think any of us had professional-level parents. They were all in the machine, maybe, maybe proprietors. Like, I think one of us had- Her father ran a meat market or something like that. So not. So not machines like my dad, but, you know, in the- Owning a store, things like that, but nothing higher, like teaching in politics or anything like that.

Sarah Nemeth [00:21:49] What were some of the- Were there corner stores? Where did you go to a grocery store? At.

Joan Komic [00:21:57] Grocery stores. I guess we would go to the local croakers, but I didn’t do a lot of grocery shopping then, but we did have a lot of corner stores. In fact, corner stores were kind of a hangout. And there was, in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood between my house and high school, James Ford Rhodes, there was a place called. Well, there was one place called Snacks, and we would go there and hang out, but I think that was on State. And the other one was, shoot, it’s missing me. But it would be a place where we would go and sit and have milkshakes, you know, just like Happy Days, you know, like that kind. And in fact, there was a big boy Happy Days type place that’s still there out. When we finally got cars and were able to go and, you know, that would go where they would come out to the car and wait on you. When we got cars, we would do that, but we’d hang out at Snacks and this other little place for milkshakes before and during, after school, usually, or maybe for lunch. And the proprietors were really, really cool, really friendly, you know, they loved us, you know, the kids. And there was one proprietor that would even let us run the cash register and everything. You know, he was- He just trusted us so much. So it was very- Everything was much more neighborly, I think, than things are now. Although we do have this big effort with block clubs and things trying to bring all of that back.

Sarah Nemeth [00:23:40] Yeah, I think there’s a resurgence in people missing that connection from their place. Makes a lot of things better, just safer.

Joan Komic [00:23:51] I was the one who started the block club on my Daisy Street now. I started it in 2009. It was actually after an attack on my neighbor diagonally across the street, somebody broke into his house, bound and gagged him and stole something. And when I came home from work that day, my neighbor was waiting for me to tell me because I was living alone. I have a housemate, and he’s very sick, and he’s in and out of the nursing home. And he was in the hospital, in the nursing home, and he was in a nursing home for an extended period of time. So I was alone in the house when this attack happened. So my neighbors kind of watched out for me. So there you go. Even though you think, it’s not the same. There is. The neighbors waited for me. My Spanish neighborhood waited for me when I got home. And she said, Joan, you gotta know what happened across the street this morning or yesterday. And I go, that does it. We need to start a block club. So I started the block club, and now we’re like a neighborhood association. And we actually grew. We became a neighborhood association because we got people from other streets to join our group, or they wanted to join our group. So we had to expand, and then we got this big push from, there’s a little core group in our neighborhood that’s really into the historic architecture that’s in our neighborhood. And so getting a historic designation for our neighborhood, so they were the ones that kind of pushed for the change of the name and made it so we’re the Jones Home Historic District, and so now we’re the Jones Home Neighborhood Association, and the Jones Home Historic District is in the process of getting these historic signs for our neighborhood. So I’m really proud that my little block club kind of gave fruit to this. Although this historic group was probably on its own and we just got together because my block club also started a community garden in the neighborhood on one of the vacant lots. And it’s, you know, and so we’re. We. We have a little group. We have a little core group in our neighborhood that gets together every month since 2009.

Sarah Nemeth [00:26:17] So you’ve started a community garden?

Joan Komic [00:26:20] Right, now I should say that I personally was not involved in the garden, but when my group was interested in building a garden, I’m like, I support you guys, but I’m not a green-thumb person. I don’t want to be digging in the dirt, but I totally support you. So I helped with getting the grant money, and we applied for grant funds, and so I helped with all that paperwork.

Sarah Nemeth [00:26:44] Where did you go through to get the grant to start the garden?

Joan Komic [00:26:48] Neighborhood Connections. And then there’s this thing called the Summer Sprout program that’s, I think, through Ohio University or. I don’t know, something like that. But the. My neighbor Eric, who is the point person for the garden, he’s the one that has that connection, the Summer Sprout connection. I help mainly with the Neighborhood Connections grant stuff.

Sarah Nemeth [00:27:14] Okay, so do you, did your block club ever purchase the land, or did you just redevelop a vacant lot?

Joan Komic [00:27:25] The person who owns the lot is actually a worker in our community development office. And because he lives on, he owned a lot on Daisy, he started to attend our block club meetings. And when he heard that they were interested in doing a community garden, he goes, you could do it on my land. So he donated my lot. Yeah. So we kind of share the lot with him. He stores his firewood there and other things, and then we have the garden. It’s kind of like he’s letting us use it. We don’t own it. He still owns it, but. So it’s like partnership kind of.

Sarah Nemeth [00:28:06] Okay. I was just making sure that maybe because your neighborhood is kind of a neighborhood that could, like, pop. The next one. I mean, all around you, you have these trendy neighborhoods. Investors are kind of pushing.

Joan Komic [00:28:23] Right.

Sarah Nemeth [00:28:23] Knocking on your door.

Joan Komic [00:28:25] Exactly. Tremont, Ohio City, Metro Health is doing their expansion. Brooklyn center. Even though part of us is considered part of Brooklyn Centre, they’re a little bit separated from us by the freeway. So, yeah, we’re there. We’re hoping, and we keep praying that it will.

Sarah Nemeth [00:28:49] You would like it to pop?

Joan Komic [00:28:50] Yeah, there’s big- Yeah, they would like us to be like those other neighborhoods. There’s some groups that worry about, they don’t want to- They don’t want total gentrification. You know, they, you know, so they’re worried about, you know, they want to keep the culture and the diversity and just, you know, just improve. You know, just have more commercial stuff going on. You know, like, we lost Aldi, so we don’t have a grocery store. My church, which is in the heart of Brooklyn Centre, is doing a produce sale twice a month to try to fill in that grocery gap that we have now. Actually, one of the things I’m preoccupied with right now, I was really thinking, I’m going to do so bad because I’m so preoccupied with. I volunteered at my church to do the next two Sundays leading the service. So I’m actually going to do the sermons.

Sarah Nemeth [00:29:54] Oh, wow.

Joan Komic [00:29:54] I know. And I’m like, why do I volunteer to do things that I’m so unqualified for? I mean, it’s like, why do I do that? But our church is struggling. Like, all the churches are struggling, and we’re right now trying to run the church ourselves. We don’t have a full-time pastor. We just lost our part-time pastor. So until we get another part-time, we’re stepping up and trying to. And our worship committee was so burned out. And I’m like, okay, so I’m on the governing body, you know, so I do some building and administrative stuff, but I’m not a worship person. But I’m like, oh, help the worship committee out. And I’m like, oh, no. But we do these book studies at our group. We’re very progressive Christian, and we do these progressive books, Christian book studies. And I thought, I’ll just regurgitate the stuff I learned in the, in the book studies. And hopefully it’ll go well, but I am preoccupied with it.

Sarah Nemeth [00:30:48] Which church do you go to?

Joan Komic [00:30:49] It’s Archwood UCC.

Sarah Nemeth [00:30:51] Okay. Speaking of Archwood, is, do you still have the Archwood Fair?

Joan Komic [00:30:57] Well, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a street sale. Yeah, it’s the whole street. Archwood does, still does it every twice a year, the first weekend in June and the first weekend in September. And the church has normally participated in it, did rummage sales each year, but now we don’t even have the volunteers to do anything like that. So our property often just gets taken over by the people from outside that just take over our property and set up shop. So I’m sure there will be people on our lawn in this coming September, because I don’t think we have anything else planned. The girl that was doing, doing our rummage sale, I mean, when you have so few members, when one person leaves for everything that she did, you know, it’s just kind of like falls. Mary Beth was the one who did, you know, the rummage sale, and Cathy does the bake sale. And Cathy still- She still does bake sale stuff, but. So, yes, to answer your question, Archwood does. But the church is so small now that we haven’t been able to participate the last few times.

Sarah Nemeth [00:32:12] Could you maybe describe what it is, the Archwood sale, for someone that may not know that could be listening to this?

Joan Komic [00:32:19] This, what it is, it’s like a street-long garage sale. You know, it’s like somebody decides to have a yard sale. But on Archwood, a long time ago, the Archwood Neighbors said, let’s do it every year. Let’s do it twice a year. It’s such a big thing. And so they do, and it’s such a tradition that it goes on and on, I would think. I know that the people who started it, some of the houses have turned over and things so different houses will be setting up, but it’s so well ingrained now in the Archwood culture that it goes on.

Sarah Nemeth [00:33:06] Okay. I wanted to go back to when you’re moving out of Old Brooklyn. So did you move out when you graduated from high school? You said you waited before you went to college.

Joan Komic [00:33:23] Right, now, so I was in old Brooklyn that whole time until I went to college. And then I moved to Kent. Well, yeah, I moved to Kent when I was at Kent State and then after Kent State. So this was, so I graduated from high school, from James Ford Rhodes in 1970. I worked in downtown Cleveland and still lived in Old Brooklyn. For three years, I worked at a coffee company. And interestingly, I should say, I also built a coffee house in Brooklyn Centre, in that shopping center that’s at the corner of Archwood and Pearl, there was a Phoenix Coffee house there. When that shopping center opened. That was my child. That was. I did that. And we were open from 2000, open from 1995 to 2002. It was a total nightmare financially, but it was one of those things that, well, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I think, yeah, so I was also a business owner in the neighborhood. So I worked for, for three years after high school, lived in Old Brooklyn, worked downtown, and then I decided to go to college. You know why I decided? Because in the office, I knew how to do everything in that office. And when we needed a new office manager, they hired somebody from outside who had a college education, who I had to train. And I’m like, there’s something wrong with this picture. I’m going to college, you know? And like, it was like, I don’t know if it was a female thing, like people said, oh, Joan, they probably thought, oh, you’re going to get married and you’re not going to sit there, you’re not going to stay there. That’s why they hire these guys, you know, so back. But I’m like, that just sucked. You know, I thought, why didn’t they promote me? So then I went to college, and so after college, and then I was a journalist for a little bit. So I, because I was a journalism major, and right after college I got an internship on the Wheeling Intelligencer. And when that was up, the small news, smaller newspaper, competing newspaper across the river gave me an offer when they heard that I was leaving. So then I went back, you know, I went back to Cleveland. I’m like, I gotta find a job, you know. But then the Martins Ferry Times leader. So just for a couple years after college, I did that. I was not really a big. Are you a journalism major?

Sarah Nemeth [00:36:13] No, I’m history.

Joan Komic [00:36:15] History. I wasn’t like. I wasn’t like the big Woodward Bernstein person that everybody was at the time, you know, with Watergate and all of that. But I love to read. And I like, what do you do if you love to read? You know, what do you major in? And, like, they’re going, oh, you should major in English. I’m like, I don’t want to teach. You know, so I thought journalism would be interesting. So. And I loved- I did love doing journalism. It’s just that I wasn’t a passionate person at that. When my boyfriend from home wanted to get married, then I came back and couldn’t find a job because the press was folding and so then my career went into another direction.

Sarah Nemeth [00:37:00] Why did you choose Kent?

Joan Komic [00:37:05] When I was talking about going to college when I wanted to- Because that young kid came in and talking to people about what I would like to do, and we settled on journalism, one of my friends had gone to Kent and he said, Kent has a very good journalism school, so you should go there. So I said, okay. So I applied and got in.

Sarah Nemeth [00:37:31] Okay. And so what year did you?

Joan Komic [00:37:35] Yeah, I graduated from high school in seventies. So that’s when the shootings were. I got to Kent in 1973 as a freshman. And May 4 was still a very strong legacy. In fact, I’m mentioning May 4 in my sermon for next Sunday because I’m doing this thing on the politics of compassion, you know, of Jesus, you know, and Jesus was a radical. And so we were talking. He was a protesting radical. Let’s, you know, let’s own that and talk about what we’re doing radically today and what’s happening today with protests and things like that.

Sarah Nemeth [00:38:16] Sounds like a good one.

Joan Komic [00:38:17] Yeah. So I mentioned Kent State because I interviewed one of the kids that were shot. Was shot in Kent State. And so it was a really, really good experience for a journalism major to be at Kent State at the time with May 4 still being so fresh and the May 4 Task Force being such a powerhouse on the campus, and the Black United Students and the Kent Gay Liberation Front, you know, all of them being such powerhouses on the campus. It was just a really good time you know, I was there for a big protest against the May 4- Well, they were building a gym, and they were worried about the gym being desecrating the site of the shootings, and so there was a big protest, and I got to cover that on the school newspaper, so-

Sarah Nemeth [00:39:07] That’s exciting.

Joan Komic [00:39:08] Yeah. [crosstalk] Yeah, it was exciting times. So that was good to get my feet wet as a journalist and because, and we would win awards, things. So that’s fortunate. I think that’s how I was able to get hired so quickly out of college. Cause that’s very hard to get into and it’s even harder Today, I think, because, you know, well, my job, my big job turned out to be lexicography. I got into dictionaries. I’m like, wow, there really is a job where you can read, you read for a living. And so I was in lexicography for 22 years. So what made me say that there was something, there was a connection.

Sarah Nemeth [00:39:57] It was difficult for you to find a job in journalism?

Joan Komic [00:40:00] Oh, yeah, yeah. More difficult today. Well, you should see how difficult it is to be in lexicography for 22 years. Lose your job and not be ready to retire and try to find a job. It’s like, oh, my God. And that’s what happened to me in 2011. I lost the dictionary- Oh, I was, I know what it was. The digital age has, you know, pushed away the print age, and so the dict- I worked on a college dictionary, I worked on a print newspaper, and now everything was, everything is now digital. So they don’t need us, you know, they don’t need this print, you know, this college dictionary anymore. They maybe need a digital presence only and they don’t need that staff. So there I was in 2011, 22 years in lexicography and looking for a job at 59, I guess it was. So I’m like, okay, so I was applying to all these things that I used to do. I used to be a journalist, I used to be a legal secretary when I couldn’t find a journalism job. And so I was applying for all that. I actually got a little temporary job at Channel Five in 2011. Freaked me out. It’s like, oh, my God, I’m actually on Channel Five, you know, but I was, you know, I wouldn’t be, you know, it was just kind of a clerical job. And even though I could have tried to push myself to get into, you know, back into my journalism, I just want to retire, you know, so it was a temporary job, and then at the same time, I had applied for legal secretary. So now I’m a legal secretary in the city for the city law department. So this is fine for getting me into retirement, you know.

Sarah Nemeth [00:41:50] You’re inching closer.

Joan Komic [00:41:52] Yeah. But I was in total terror at 59 to be out of a job, and I, and my girlfriend, one of my best friends from college who was a city editor at the Akron Beacon Journal, she talked to me about how the cuts and cuts and cuts at the Beacon and friends of hers all over in print, and her husband trying to get a journalism job and not being able to. So I totally am sympathetic to journalism majors now. Although maybe that might change now with, with this whole digital communications. They just have, it’s just new skills. Like, I was taking a lot of those classes, too, like videography and learning all these new computer skills. But I’m so old. It’s so hard to learn these new things.

Sarah Nemeth [00:42:45] Understandably, when it changes in, I don’t know, 40 years from now, and it’s on to something else. Who knows what’s gonna happen? History is the same boat. Like, I’m straddling that line of who knows what’s gonna happen right now. No one wants to read a 600 page historiography on- They just want a quick reference moving on.

Joan Komic [00:43:12] Right? Yeah. The digital age has did something to our attention span. Right?

Sarah Nemeth [00:43:18] Yeah. I don’t know. It’s unfortunate, but everyone, you cope with it. You moved on. You’re able to figure it out. It takes drive, though. It takes courage, especially at 59. It’s courage. You have to go out and find something new.

Joan Komic [00:43:37] Yeah, I was at the library here a lot, taking classes to refresh my computer skills because I wasn’t that much on Word and PowerPoint and Excel, and that’s what all these people want. And then to go into journalism, you have to know this video kind of stuff and. Oh, my God, I went to the Akron Beacon Journal for classes for that. Or they have this, they have this thing over there, citizen journalism thing. Very interesting. So, yeah, that was an odyssey, that year.

Sarah Nemeth [00:44:13] How did you get into writing for- writing? Did you write dictionary entries?

Joan Komic [00:44:20] No, I don’t know if I would be qualified for that. Although maybe they would have looked at my journalism background for that. What they were looking for at the time was a citation reader, and that’s what I did. And the reason that the n was my sister in law worked as their science citator. She read - she was a physics major and she read science magazines and books. A citation reader reads, looking for new words and new usages of words that are not yet covered in the dictionary. So, Pat, my sister in law, was doing the science words for Webster’s New World, and their general citator was retiring, and so they were looking for someone new. And at the time, I was a legal secretary, not really wanting to be a legal secretary, although it was fun, too, to be working with the attorneys, blah, blah, blah. I felt kind of, you know, wanted something different, something better. It turns out it was a pay cut to go to the dictionary. Citation readers don’t make any money, so it was a pay cut from legal secretary to dictionary. But it was such a cool job. I mean, I’m like. I’m like, oh, my God, this is my dream job. This is what I would have gone into had I known there was such a thing when I was looking at college, and it was so cool. So that’s what I did. I read for 22 years and recorded the new words and new terminologies as they were emerging in the English language. Yeah, it was really cool.

Sarah Nemeth [00:46:04] Was it located- Did you go to an office?

Joan Komic [00:46:06] Our editorial- Well, I started out working out of my home. The citation readers were working out of their homes, and they would just go into the office to turn in their citations. So we would type up, yype up on the typewriter, our citations. I mean, it was on all these cards, these little cards, and we’d have to cut out the newspaper article and everything, and we would turn in our citations at the office. Well, then they became more digital, and they wanted us to come in and start entering the stuff in the computer because we had a database. So I learned this database for the dictionary. So, yeah, our offices were in downtown Cleveland on Euclid and East 9th in the City Club Building. Yeah, yeah. The offices for our dictionary were there. The editorial offices. Publishers were elsewhere.

Sarah Nemeth [00:46:58] That’s really cool. I never knew that that job existed.

Joan Komic [00:47:02] It was way cool.

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:03] So what do they- I wonder what they do now for a citation reader. Do they just maybe do find and go on the Internet?

Joan Komic [00:47:13] Well, I. I really don’t. I think what they’ve done is they’ve eliminated the dictionary staff and use the other editors they have for books and textbooks and writers and stuff- Use those editors to be- To do double duty, because those people also are familiar with the new words that are coming in because they’re reading the text or editing the texts. So I think that’s probably what they did.

Sarah Nemeth [00:47:47] Okay, that makes sense.

Joan Komic [00:47:49] But I don’t really know. They were doing a core- They were doing a small core group after they closed our editorial offices. So some of our top editors stayed in this core group, and then they got fired, you know, a few years later. So.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:07] Interesting how things change. That’s a really interesting job.

Joan Komic [00:48:10] Yeah, it was.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:11] Congratulations on that.

Joan Komic [00:48:13] Yeah, that was cool.

Sarah Nemeth [00:48:16] I do want to go back to your neighborhood now. So you live in Jones?

Joan Komic [00:48:24] The neighborhood I’m in now is the Jones Home neighborhood, which is my block club new name, Jones Home Neighborhood Association, that was formed because of that group that is involved in the historic aspect of our neighborhood, the Jones Home Historic District, and worked so hard to be named a historic district with the National Historic Society. And we are a nationally recognized historic district now. And now we’re getting the signages, signage for that, for our streets and stuff.

Sarah Nemeth [00:49:04] Why is it called that? What is the significance behind your neighborhood?

Joan Komic [00:49:08] The Jones Home is an old- It’s right on the corner of my street. It’s this beautiful old historic building, and it housed a- So it’s like central to our neighborhood, and it housed an old orphanage. And now is the, which then had, I guess, evolved into what it is now, which is the Applewood Centers for Youth. And I think some people think it’s all troubled youth. I’m not sure if it’s all troubled youth. I think it’s, you know, I feel bad that I don’t know more about Applewood Centers, but that historic building, the people who started that orphanage, their families were the ones that, like, built houses around. And so their, the historic homes just kind of spread from that center, I guess you could say. [crosstalk] And the Jones Home is going to get a historic marker in this process, too. So that will be, like, our central showpiece.

Sarah Nemeth [00:50:17] That’s wonderful.

Joan Komic [00:50:18] Yeah, yeah. We are so excited about it. And it’s been such a long process getting through the city to get the signage done. You know, of course, we dragged our- Not dragged, but we were picky about the way the signs looked. And so we. Because we were so we wanted to be really good, you know, we want to really do it right. I go, let’s not screw this up, guys. Although I used a different word.

Sarah Nemeth [00:50:48] Could you maybe just describe what your street looks like, or the neighborhood looks like today, like, what the houses look like, what kind of architectural style they are, what color they are?

Joan Komic [00:51:03] Well, I wish the historic people were here because they are more on top of that, like, what represents Victorian and painted lady and Western Reserve or, you know, all these different styles. So we have, you know, we have various homes that are kind of in those styles. And we have one, a couple showcase places that are just beautiful on our street, the one, Jeff Petranic at 3000 Daisy, it’s just phenomenal because not only did they do a phenomenal job of painting it, getting it or fixed up in the colors of the tradition, he’s the gardener. It’s like this little oasis. And it’s a double lot so he’s got all these flowers around his house. And so that’s like the big showpiece. My house has siding on it, so that’s like taboo, you know, it’s like, it’s supposed to be wood, painted wood. But we bought it. It was, it had siding on it. And there we go, you know, but, but the way, the way the houses look, you know, they have porches, you know, deep porches, you know, where, which kind of implies, well, people were out on the porches and they were out being neighbors to each other, you know. Don’t see that much anymore except for just these little places with the loud music.

Sarah Nemeth [00:52:43] Yeah, people are more oriented to the backyard anymore. It’s interesting to try to, when people revert back to the front porch, that was a trend. And now people are more private, sensitive of the less neighborly atmosphere. So when you get a neighborhood like that with the front porch, it’s different. How, like if you go to a neighborhood without front porches, how quiet it is. It’s very interesting to just observe.

Joan Komic [00:53:14] Right, right. That’s a very good point, the quiet. Well, here’s the big thing that I noticed about the difference between Cleveland neighborhoods and the suburbs, and this is like a real sticking point for me, is the litter. I just cannot stand litter. Our block club, our neighborhood association, tries to do it twice a year, but basically we’re down to once a year doing street cleanup. But it’s like every day I come home and there’s trash on my front lawn. Why are these people throwing their trash out their cars like that on our streets? And why aren’t they doing that in the suburbs? Is it because we don’t have people, we don’t have, I mean, what do they have in the suburbs that they don’t have people going out there cleaning their streets? The people take care of their properties. Why aren’t we, what is it about our people that won’t take care of their property? And I hear people talk about the renters don’t care if they were homeowners. And there’s a big push in our neighborhood for wanting owner-occupied homes to bring all that back rather than renters. But I was a renter. I didn’t take care of my property that way. I took care of all the rental properties I was in when I was a newspaper reporter or I was at college. I didn’t trash the streets or the property. So I don’t get that. That’s like a big- So when you say, describe our neighborhood, one of the things that first comes to mind is, oh, I hate, just hate the litter. We have a little store in our neighborhood on our street. There was a shooting there. It was very sad. The owner got shot and killed, and that was another impetus for our block club. And his brother, now from the Middle East, is running the property. And that corner was often littered because the kids would. Kids or people would go in and buy their candy or whatever, and then they would take. They would just throw their candy wrappers and throw their trash on the ground around that store. So it would be a big area where we would try to clean up. Well, one of our block club people, the lady who lives a few doors down, she’s another gardener, she fixed the garden around the streetlight post in front of that store, made it really nice instead of weeds, all these weeds, she tackled that, and she said since she did that, they don’t litter as much, Joan, she goes, I know how you feel about this, but they don’t when they see you. Sometimes it helps when you start cleaning up your own neighborhood, your own property, others will follow suit. But every day I come home and I still picking up litter on my front yard, which is one that’s always picked up, because every time I come home, I picked it up. Why? You know, is it like, did they do that? Because I know. I hate litter, you know? Or what? I don’t know.

Sarah Nemeth [00:56:30] They’re watching to see if you pick it up or not.

Joan Komic [00:56:33] I know.

Sarah Nemeth [00:56:34] Do you have any commercial property around the neighborhood or your street, or is it residential all the way in close proximity?

Joan Komic [00:56:47] It’s closely residential, but we have that little store, like I said, on 35th, which is between the two main streets, 25th and Fulton. And at Fulton, we have the police department, and at Fulton, we have a commercial, I mean, at West 25th, we have. Well, we have on my street, the Jones Home, and then a Subway and then the. And then a coffee house and a catering place. So there’s a commercial strip, and then there’s Metro Hospital.

Sarah Nemeth [00:57:20] Okay. So I’m trying to think of where the litter is all coming from.

Joan Komic [00:57:24] Well, I know the Subway, Subway corner is the same way as Nick’s store. I mean, I’m sure Nick goes crazy on the little store, and I’m sure the Subway owner’s people are going crazy. The people who buy are coming out of the store and they’re just dropping their stuff. I mean, who does that? Why do they do that? I don’t get that.

Sarah Nemeth [00:57:49] I know they are. I live behind a Family Dollar and it’s just ridiculous. Every day I’m in my backyard because they don’t close. They don’t close their dumpsters.

Joan Komic [00:57:59] Oh, no.

Sarah Nemeth [00:58:01] There’s a fence and then it just poofs right over. And I’m constantly out there.

Joan Komic [00:58:08] Guess where I work? I work for the law department now. Guess which department? Code enforcement.

Sarah Nemeth [00:58:14] Oh, really?

Joan Komic [00:58:15] Yeah. So all those citations that people get for trash in their yard is what my prosecutor is my attorney’s process. So.

Sarah Nemeth [00:58:29] Someone has to do it because it’s terrible.

Joan Komic [00:58:32] Oh, my God. And we get hundreds and hundreds of cases and so. And I’m totally into calling and complaining and- But I know that I’m going to get all the cases, too. So there’s a little bit of an ambivalence there.

Sarah Nemeth [00:58:47] Right. Well, I try to just do it myself most of the time. Just go out and clean it. I have to mow anyways so I can’t mow over the trash. I have to clean it up.

Joan Komic [00:58:57] Oh, gosh. Where do you live?

Sarah Nemeth [00:59:00] In Elyria, thankfully. I’m just finally moving to Lakewood, so. Getting closer. We both live in, I mean, both work in Cleveland, so it’s a 45 minutes drive every day.

Joan Komic [00:59:13] Oh, my goodness.

Sarah Nemeth [00:59:14] She’s unfortunate. So it’s about time.

Joan Komic [00:59:16] Yes.

Sarah Nemeth [00:59:18] I just wanted to end with maybe what is your hope for your urban community that you live in for the future? Where do you see it? Or maybe what is your vision? Where do you see it going?

Joan Komic [00:59:33] Well, when I built the coffee house, that was kind of. That was kind of like the vision. The coffee house was beautiful and it was a place for people to come together and have, you know, I said my tagline was “A great place for conversation, contemplation, and a truly great cup of coffee.” And I really wanted it to be a community gathering spot that, you know, people would come and get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere. Because I really think that this, this digital age has made us too crazed and we need to- I think we need to slow down. So, like I said, it was a nightmare for me financially, but I would love to have somebody else come in and do the exact same thing, you know, because when it was open, I mean, nobody. I mean, it was just a great thing. Artists and musicians and, you know, so it was a cultural place, and I would like to see another place like that in our neighborhood and, you know, make it a little more walkable place, too, with the, you know, like they did at, well, I think, like the whole Tremont area and Detroit Shoreway by 65th. I think that what they did out there is great. So that’s my vision for our, you know, I’ve had it since. I’ve actually had it since college because I used to get at college. You’re from Cleveland? Well, what suburb? And I would go, I’m from Cleveland. I’m in Cleveland. And it’s like, they didn’t think anybody lived in Cleveland. They go, oh, how could you stand it? Like, you know, it’s like, how do you. You didn’t live in Cleveland. I’m like, how do people not know? And you can’t, you know that there is a thriving, wonderful residential area in Cleveland, neighborhoods of people. So I said, well, I gotta do something about that, you know. So that was always kind of in the back of my head, even though I was no business person, I just wanted somebody to build a coffee house and nobody would. So I said, I’ll do it myself.

Sarah Nemeth [01:01:46] So that was the reason behind building the coffee shop?

Joan Komic [01:01:49] Yeah, there was a little bit of grief work going on there. I had lost my father, and I had this insurance money, you know, and I was like, I lost my father, you know, in an accident, and- But I’m too busy running around to even really get together with your family. So I thought, oh, people die, you know, and they’re gone. And before you even get to know them, you know, get to know them. So I thought, I’m going to build a place where people get to know each other.

Sarah Nemeth [01:02:22] That’s really wonderful. I’m glad that you did that. I’m sorry that it’s no longer open because that’s such a great vision.

Joan Komic [01:02:28] Oh, thanks.

Sarah Nemeth [01:02:29] To start something. So on that note, very beautiful. Thank you.

Joan Komic [01:02:36] You are welcome.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.