Sally Cantor is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, and a member of the Village Garden Club in Shaker Heights. She discusses growing up in Georgia, her research and career in social work, time spent living in Wilmington, Delaware, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, before turning to her experience in the garden club. She shares stories about her night-blooming cereus parties, the garden club's Cherry Tree Grove, how the club continued to meet virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Horseshoe Lake dam controversy.
Cantor, Sally (interviewee)
Cameron, Caitlen (interviewer)
Shaker Heights Historical Society
"Sally Cantor interview, 20 July 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 918003.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:01] Hello, my name is Caitlen Cameron. It is Wednesday, July 20, about 3:00 p.m. It is a beautiful day outside, a little toasty. We are in... Cleveland Heights now?
Sally Cantor [00:00:15] No, Shaker.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:15] Shaker Heights. Okay, everybody has been in Shaker Heights so far. Or in Cleveland Heights. But I'm with...
Sally Cantor [00:00:23] Sally Cantor. [Spells name]
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:31] And she is one of the members of the Village Garden Club, and I am excited to hear your story today. Sally, do you consent to be recorded right now?
Sally Cantor [00:00:41] Yes, I do.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:42] Alright, then let's get started. I guess I just kind of want to start out with where you were born.
Sally Cantor [00:00:49] Okay. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and my family had been in Georgia, I think about three generations and were... And I often wish I had asked more questions because they were Jewish, they came over after the Civil War, my great—what was it, my great or my great-great— are buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, which is a real old historic cemetery, and [I] would've liked to have heard more about their experiences as Jews there, because I know my mother was born in 1920 and I think it was in 1920 [sic—1913] that a Jewish man [Leo Frank] was accused of raping a woman [Mary Phagan] he worked with, was convicted on very false information, was jailed in the jail and then taken out and lynched by a mob. And I think that had a pretty profound effect on my mother's generation growing up.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:24] That's kind of crazy how things were back then and how we really treated people that we saw as different even though it was just a religion, you know.
Sally Cantor [00:02:34] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:35] So do you still practice a lot of Jewish traditions today?
Sally Cantor [00:02:40] Yes. I'm not a member of a synagogue, but we observe the the major Jewish holidays and try to be ethical and treat people ethically.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:57] Mhm. So, okay, so growing up, so your mom was Jewish too, right?
Sally Cantor [00:03:01] Yes, both of my parents were.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:03] Okay. So, what was it like growing up at home in Atlanta?
Sally Cantor [00:03:06] It was... I'm trying... What I'm laying out is what do I want to share and what to...
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:20] It's okay.
Sally Cantor [00:03:20] We were, you know, I think we were a family that became very close-knit because of traumas that happened. I think my parents were happily married. And when I was four, my father, who was a pharmacist, was locking up his store, and someone came by and asked for, I think, wanted to buy cigarettes and shot him in the head. And my sister was under ten days old, I don't remember right now. And my mother had not left the house and my father was not expected to live, but he did live and was extremely mentally impaired as a result. Initially, he was highly suicidal. And I think it really had to do with where the bullets lodged in his brain. And then he had periods where he had extreme mania and other periods of depression and he had horrible judgment. And I think we sort of became more isolated because you didn't... The message we got growing up, you don't talk about this and you never knew, like if you were somewhere and you ran into one of my parents' friends and they say, oh, how's your family doing? And you'd give the "Oh, they're doing fine." And it's "Oh, well I thought your father was still in the psych hospital." You know, and so you never knew who knew what.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:23] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:05:23] And, and it... And I think my mother made some really bad mistakes in terms of her children by staying with him. And she finally divorced him. I was in graduate school and that was... [laughs] That was a little late for it to have really helped us. And she cared for him his whole life. And he died about thirty-four years ago.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:00] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:06:00] Yeah. But I, at my healthiest, realized if I wanted a healthier life, I couldn't... I couldn't stay in Atlanta. I needed to get away. And so I went to college outside of Chicago and then graduate school in New York.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:25] What schools did you go to?
Sally Cantor [00:06:27] Well, I graduated from high school. I haven't thought much about high school till recently, but I graduated from Henry Grady High School and I thought of Henry Grady... I was the editor of the paper, which was called the Southerner, and as someone who really supported a more civilized Reconstruction and got newspapers going, the journalism school at University of Georgia is named after him. But he was also a well-known racist.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:10] Oh!
Sally Cantor [00:07:10] And the sheer... The school name was changed from Henry Grady to I think it's Boulevard High School. I think that's right. I could be wrong, but something that, you know, just sort of a neutral street.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:28] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:07:29] And I just don't keep up with many kids from high school. But there seemed to be a lot of real mixed feelings about it. But it's certainly the way things are going right now.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:44] Yeah, oh my goodness. Well at least that's something historic. You were part of that, even though it was something partially negative, it was...
Sally Cantor [00:07:54] Well, we also... And I went to segregated schools, although this was after Brown v. Board of Education and Martin Luther King [Jr.]'s older two children went to my high school.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:13] Really?
Sally Cantor [00:08:14] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:16] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:08:16] And one of my... I think when, and I may... When he was assassinated and, you know, the whole country was shutting down, the high school had some dance that evening and here it has... They're students. His children go there. The whole country is shutting down to honor him. And my mother called the principal and said, you've got to shut the school. You've got to cancel the dance. And I can't remember if it was prom or homecoming. And he did. And he left. He later thanked her profusely for telling him to do that, because I think you... I don't think he realized the magnitude of this.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:13] Yeah, that really shook the nation.
Sally Cantor [00:09:15] Yes. Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:19] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:09:20] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:20] So you after you... So, you left high school and you went to college, you said in Chicago?
Sally Cantor [00:09:26] In Chicago.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:26] What college did you go o?
Sally Cantor [00:09:27] Lake Forest College.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:28] Lake Forest?
Sally Cantor [00:09:28] It's a small, coed, liberal arts school. And I had never really dealt with snow. [laughs] And it was overwhelming at times. And, you know, I felt like I got... I majored in American Studies and I thought I got a really good education there and then... But knew I was I wanted to get to a place with less wind and less snow and for graduate school went to Columbia in New York City, and my brother was finishing up his senior year of college there. So it was fun being, you know, in the same city.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:23] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:10:24] Yeah. And then after graduate school, I got my first apartment. I lived in, you know, graduate student housing and got my first apartment and lived in New York, really enjoyed being single there and knew if I wanted any money [laughs]...
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:51] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:10:51] That I think it was like I got paid twice a month. I was working as a social worker and I remember my first salary. Master's level, it was ten thousand four hundred dollars.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:08] Oh my goodness.
Sally Cantor [00:11:08] And we went on strike and it went up to ten eight. [laughs] But it was enough. My I think I was paid twice a month. The first check was rent and the check, second check was everything else. And I managed fine, but there was not much left over, you know, like if you wanted to save for any sort of future.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:33] So what do you get your... What was your master's in?
Sally Cantor [00:11:37] In social work.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:38] In social work?
Sally Cantor [00:11:38] Yes, and I worked at a child welfare agency. Very well thought of agency, agency that's gotten just horrible press over the year. When I started there, they were still doing some baby adoptions. But as became acceptable, people were kee[ping]... young women were keeping their babies. They also had a maternity shelter for young women and were doing a lot of adoptions of older children, children who were in foster homes and, you know, freed for adoption. They were very good at trying to help someone who had lost their children to foster care to rehabilitate and be able to make a home. But if it didn't work, they were very good in terminating the rights so the children could be placed for adoption. And I did some of placing older children for adoption... And also working with some young women giving up babies. And, but one of the things they had done before I was there was their policy was if you... If someone was giving birth to twins or triplets, they split them up.
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:23] What?!
Sally Cantor [00:13:24] And I'm reacting... And the theory was—and this was an agency that seemed to carefully research things—that it was so overwhelming to mothers who could not have their own children to adopt that this was best to do. And I see your reactions. And there's been a film made—and I don't remember the name of it—about three brothers who discovered each other. You know, they were... It started happening where one was aware. Well, everybody calls me about another, by another name. Why is that? And when I was there, that was certainly not going on. And they were sharing extensively with parents and adoptive parents about children. For example, I placed an infant for adoption whose parents were a 14-year-old girl and her 15-year-old brother. So, you know, this was a baby as a result of incest who appeared to be very healthy. But we shared this totally with the adoptive family. And I know probably that was new for them to do, you know, and shared extensive medical and, you know, made provisions that if a birth parent wanted to connect with their child and the adoptive parents and the adoptee was interested, we would facilitate that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:15:11] Wow. That's... See, I can't believe that type of stuff happened and still happens, you know, like...
Sally Cantor [00:15:19] Well, and then from... I mean, it is shocking. And I felt... But I felt, you know, their motivations were very, very positive. You know, they thought they were doing, following science. They also... My work there, I was part of a research project through the Child Welfare League of America to study whether at the time of the major crisis in a family where children were unsafe at home and where the normal... The standard was you would remove them into foster care if you poured in services, would that make... Could you keep them out of foster care? And I worked... You know, we care... There was a control group who got the traditional treatment and then our... And then we got the cases of this very small caseload. And you had tremendous resources to offer a family, including a residence where a young mother could live with her child and the child would be cared for during the day while she went to school. And there'd be people there to help her learn to better care for her child and help with bonding. And it was sort of very exciting to see some of these young parents move out—and, you know, where they had almost no parental support themselves—but move out and be able to get apartments, get them furnished, and have a way of, you know, raising their children.
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:16] Did all those... The experiments you did and the tests, did they succeed?
Sally Cantor [00:17:21] It was shown to be very effective. And it's why most... You know, today in child welfare, there's tremendous effort in keeping the children in their own home by putting in more services there. And then when you talk... And then I moved to Delaware, and—you were reacting to, you know, children, twins being separated—well, I worked, went to work with another very good agency who the practice at the time had been if for children who were severely cognitively impaired that the female children were sterilized because if it made it possible for them to be adopted. You know, that was one worry parents didn't have. And I remember sitting in a meeting and hearing that and being totally stunned. And this, I think every case where there was sterilization was approved by a family court judge. And I think around the time I was there, they stopped doing this. This was probably thirty-eight years ago, something like that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:02] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:19:03] So, I mean, that's not that long ago.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:05] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:19:06] Right. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:07] Oh, my gosh.
Sally Cantor [00:19:08] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:08] I can't even imagine if that... Like you say, like you say, if that were a thing today, like if they were like, Oh, sorry, we don't want you to bring on this bloodline or anything, so we're going to ster[ilize you].
Sally Cantor [00:19:22] Well, I think some of it is these were children who it was felt would never be able to raise a child.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:32] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [00:19:33] And so it... You know, this was a way, you know, if doing this ensured that they had loving parents who would raise them, that was seen as the lesser evil. And then I think it stopped.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:55] Oh, that's crazy.
Sally Cantor [00:19:57] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:58] So, okay, so you were in Delaware.
Sally Cantor [00:20:00] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:01] So how did you finally get to the Cleveland area? Because you've been everywhere!
Sally Cantor [00:20:06] Well, I've lived... Well, from Delaware, I got to Delaware with my first husband, who was a psychologist, took a position down there and we decided we were going to make the relationship permanent. And I moved down there and we married. And the relationship was not permanent. [laughs].
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:29] Really? Oh.
Sally Cantor [00:20:30] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:30] How long did it [inaudible; crosstalk].
Sally Cantor [00:20:32] We were... If we hadn't had a child, I think it would have lasted. But he was... He could not handle being a parent. And so I think we were together—it's funny, it doesn't stick in my mind—under ten years.
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:54] Okay.
Sally Cantor [00:20:54] And then I met my second husband there, and he... I met him when my daughter was 17 months old, and it was just sort of a chance meeting and we hit it off and, you know, it was not to be anything serious, but pretty early on, we knew it was. But we didn't get married. We dated for over two years before we married. And I think part of that was just I didn't want to make another mistake.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:34] Yeah, I can understand. But I mean, that's part of your life that you want to have... But you had a child with your first one, right? So.
Sally Cantor [00:21:41] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:41] So, I mean, if that didn't happen, you wouldn't have one of your kids, so...
Sally Cantor [00:21:44] Yes. Yes. Well, and they are... My older daughter, Becky, and my husband are devoted to each other and have a very solid, close, close relationship. And then we had one child... We have one child together, Liz, who lives here. I mean, not in this house, but she lives in Shaker in an apartment.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:14] Oh wow.
Sally Cantor [00:22:14] And we lived... We went from Delaware—we had two homes in Delaware that were both older—and then we moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He had been... He was with Merck, the pharmaceutical company, and with Merck in Delaware he ran their holding company. Don't ask me to explain that one.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:41] That's okay. No worries!
Sally Cantor [00:22:42] And then was transferred to their corporate headquarters. And it was a major move in terms of financial rewards for us and promotion for him. And, when we moved, our oldest daughter was in fourth grade. We were going to move after she finished fourth grade. The younger one was, I guess, in preschool. And when we told Becky, you know, she told us we'd ruined her life forever and she would never forgive us. But we moved anyway. And our joke about that is she's now married, has two children and has chosen to live in Bethlehem, which is where we moved to. She lives within maybe at most two miles from where she grew up. And we laugh about that. You know, she returned to the place that we've ruined her life.
Caitlen Cameron [00:23:51] Yeah. Oh my gosh. Do you still see her sometimes?
Sally Cantor [00:23:56] Who, Becky? Oh, we see a great deal of them. Unless there's Covid.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:01] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:24:02] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:02] I know that puts a burden on you.
Sally Cantor [00:24:03] No, but we do see them... When it's not Covid, it's 400 miles away and not any way you can fly. But we see them very regularly and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:18] That's nice.
Sally Cantor [00:24:19] Very close to our grandchildren.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:22] So, okay, so now to Bethlehem and then to Cleveland?
Sally Cantor [00:24:27] And then he... Yes, and then from there to Cleveland.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:32] Oh my goodness!
Sally Cantor [00:24:33] But I have one Delaware story that should be preserved.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:38] Okay, go ahead.
Sally Cantor [00:24:38] So we were we were moving. Merck was, you know, it was the good old days of working for corporations where they handled everything. So they were packing up the house, paying for the move, all of that. And Roger was already started his job and was living in corporate housing in New Jersey. And all I had to do was supervise two nervous children, two dogs, a turtle and a fish and get them ready. And the last night, my best friend, who was the mother of Becky's best friend, took us to dinner at a little neighborhood Italian place. We were... Lived near Little Italy in Wilmington, Delaware. And we're eating and we're reminiscing and we're, you know, a lot of different emotions, and Liz was tired of sitting, and there was very little activity in the restaurant, and I let her get up and walk around. And then I realized I couldn't see her and I didn't know where she was. So I get up to look, and in a corner distance from us, there was, there were two men sitting there eating. And as I'm approaching, I realized one of them had his arm around her. She's sitting in his lap and he's feeding her pasta.
Caitlen Cameron [00:26:20] What?!
Sally Cantor [00:26:21] Yes, that! What is... And as I approached, I realized it was Joe Biden.
Caitlen Cameron [00:26:28] What?!
Sally Cantor [00:26:29] Yes, it was Joe Biden. Senator Biden then. And he just... He just had this warmth about him and this love of children. And he was feeding her. And, you know, I said hello and she was covered... It's summer. It's June. She's a four year old. She's sweating. She's covered with pasta sauce. And he was fine with it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:26:57] [Laughs]
Sally Cantor [00:26:58] And if only there were cell phones and there was pre-cell phone.
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:02] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:27:03] And...
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:04] So what did you say?
Sally Cantor [00:27:05] Well, you know... And he said... I think I was a little in shock. And, you know, I said, you know, Oh, Senator Biden, and my friend knew him. And we talked for a minute. He wished me well with our move. And that was that. And if, you know, you said identify smells. Well, I wish I could tell you over the years, my young... Liz claims at various times she knows it was ravioli and she'll describe the smell or pasta, and I have... All I know was it was red and it coated her face. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:42] Oh my gosh, that's insane!
Sally Cantor [00:27:45] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:46] But also an amazing story.
Sally Cantor [00:27:48] It is. And I keep saying and maybe I'll do it now that I was going to write him a letter and remind him of our favorite last memory of living in Delaware.
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:59] Yeah. I'm sure he would love that.
Sally Cantor [00:28:01] Yes. If it would get to him.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:04] Yeah that's true.
Sally Cantor [00:28:04] Yeah, but Delaware was so small. You did run into your political leaders.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:11] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [00:28:13] Like my husband recently—and we've been together, it'll be thirty-six years and I think we've known each other about thirty-eight—but he recently pulled out an autographed playbill that he got Biden to sign for him when he was 16, and Biden wrote on it, "Thanks for asking." And then signed his name! [laughs].
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:41] [crosstalk] Aw! Oh my gosh.
Sally Cantor [00:28:44] I said where have... I feel like I've gone... I've... There is nothing that I don't know where it is in this house. Never seen it before. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:55] Urban legend, but also probably real.
Sally Cantor [00:28:57] Yes. Right. And so we moved here. Roger took an early retirement from Merck, which was the type of offer you'd be a fool not to take. And that was he retired twelve, thirteen years ago, the Friday before Memorial Day and was retired, I guess Saturday and Sunday. And then Monday was Memorial Day, and Tuesday he started his session with another company here, and that's how we got out here.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:33] Okay.
Sally Cantor [00:29:34] And we looked for... he had been here a year before our home moved... Before I moved because our home was not selling. It was in '09. If we put it on the market a month earlier, it would have sold very quickly. And we were determined to make sure that we got a good price for the house. And it took a year to do that. But he was... His housing was being paid for here. And in those days you could fly from Bethlehem here. So we saw a lot of each other. Now it can take as long to fly—you'd fly to Philadelphia, change planes or rent a car, and it's crazy.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:27] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:30:28] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:29] Things are so, like the amount of layovers and changes...
Sally Cantor [00:30:33] It's horrible. Yeah. So, came here and I did... And one of the... We really felt very comfortable with the people we bought from. He was a partner in one of the major law firms here, and they were just very friendly. And she left us... She left me a list of people to use for different services and said, I've given your name to this very lovely woman who's very involved with the Welcome Wagon and she'll call you and it'll help you to make friends. And I realized that I knew no one here. If I waited for Roger to introduce me to people, it would be never.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:28] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:31:28] And, you know, it took me a month or so. You know, you've line up the dry cleaner. You realize standing in the middle of the yard that you have a sprinkler system when it goes on and you... And you think, oh, that's what the irrigation system is.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:46] Oh my goodness.
Sally Cantor [00:31:47] And so I met Pat Pogue, who's this lovely woman now in her 80s, who's married to Dick Pogue. And they're both very active in the community. And through her, I connected with the East Side Welcome Club, which is a club for new newcomers, newcomers, but no one ever leaves it. And from there, I met Dozie Herbruck and Pat Agatisa. Pat was probably one of the first people I met here. And they have now moved on to the Village Garden Club. Dozie's the one who suggested I join by not telling me how hard I would have to work. And... But that's how I ended up in the garden club. And I initially was not sure if I was going to work or not, but I did work and I've stopped work about a year ago and I'm licensed till February and I'm trying to decide if I'm going [crosstalk] back to work or not.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:09] Wow. So when you came here, did you still do social work?
Sally Cantor [00:33:15] What I've been doing starting in the late '80s was really working with incest, and in Delaware really help being very involved in setting up incest treatment families. And sort of prior to that, nothing was really done. You know, there was just real inconsistent... There was no treatment. I know I saw cases of sexual abuse in New York and also in... And then in Delaware. But there was just no one... There was not any sort of approach. In New York I remember someone giving me an article from New York Magazine about incest. And there was not a lot in the literature. And, but we worked and came up with a really good approach involving law enforcement, the courts, therapists, and have continued to specialize in sexual trauma treatment and treatment of perpetrators. And so that's what I did here till I stopped.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:43] Really?
Sally Cantor [00:34:44] And I'm still doing some consulting, mainly on perpetrators.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:50] That's powerful stuff, Sally. Very, very amazing because that's a huge thing that needs to be addressed, and a lot of people dismiss it like it's...
Sally Cantor [00:35:01] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:01] Nothing, you know? I watched twelve seasons of SVU [Law & Order: Special Victims Unit]...
Sally Cantor [00:35:06] [Laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:06] So everything is like, no, you did not do that!
Sally Cantor [00:35:10] Yes. Right. No, and when we started in Delaware, there were areas of the state where sort of the philosophy is that a man's home is his castle. You don't interfere with anything going on there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:30] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [00:35:30] And yeah, [crosstalk] and then here working in a county that we do sexual aggression assessments on offenders. I mean, and this was these were not people who were going to be locked up forever. So really what you're faced with is if you don't try to help them to rehabilitate, then they're going to serve prison sentences or jail sentences and be right back out there and not have resources to stop doing it. So I felt it was really important work, but it was not... I was not gratified, by the way, working with survivors and seeing them change and, you know, adults becoming protective parents or having safe relationships. That was much more powerful. And I also, for a number of years, ran a group that was made up of women who were sexually abused as children, who had children who were perpetrators. You know, not a coincidence that if, you know, that their children were perpetrators.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:03] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:37:03] And then when Dozie asked me to join the Garden Club, I thought, oh, it'll be a meeting, sit around, talk about flowers, nothing to do with abuse. And [crosstalk] ... lighter side, and there is some of that. But, you know, and I always... I had noticed the cherry grove and read the plaque there about these, the Village Garden Club and how they fought this freeway, and I thought that was remarkable. So it became something that I really admired. And I think Dozie knew we had this plant, which I'll show you before you leave, called a night blooming cereus that only blooms at night. And I realized one of the good things for me is I can have night blooming cereus parties. They don't start till like 9:00 at night. And so no one can see what my garden looks like! [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:06] Oh, there you go!
Sally Cantor [00:38:07] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:07] Yeah, that's when you can have midnight margaritas, right?
Sally Cantor [00:38:13] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:14] Once it blooms?
Sally Cantor [00:38:14] Yeah. Well, it starts blooming between eight, eight and nine. And then it's usually at its full bloom around 11 or 12. And initially we would stay up and watch it. And there are a lot of times I'll leave people in the yard and go to bed because it doesn't... I mean, it can bloom a workday night where you might not want to stay up, you know, drinking margaritas...
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:38] That's true. Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:38:40] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:42] That's amazing. So I kind of wanted to... So you joined this garden club. So prior to this, did you go any other places?
Sally Cantor [00:38:53] And I feel like I grew up in a family that we always had a garden. My mother was always fussing over some plant or another. My brother's a landscape architect and I, always in New York, I had plants. I had a lot of plants. And in my house we always had gardens. And it's something Roger and I've worked on together, fighting over every limb, every flower, is it a weed or isn't it a weed? Should it be cut down? No. Why? I think it shouldn't be. He thinks it should. And, you know, we... And we still are the ones tending our garden. It used to be that mulch was my annual Mother's Day present.
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:51] Oh gee.
Sally Cantor [00:39:52] You know, just a big truckload dumped in the driveway. And we've graduated to having someone mulch for us.
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:02] Woohoo!
Sally Cantor [00:40:03] Yes! But everything else other than trimming trees because we don't have a cherry picker to get, you know, just don't seem to have what we do. And I keep... I'm ready. I did this summer hire a teenage boy to do some weeding. He did eight hours of weeding for me, and Roger claims it went better when I treated him like an intern, but he would stir up my parental concerns, like I'd look out and I told him, you know, this is what needs weeding. And we talked about what the difference is in a flower in a weed. And I'd look out and it would be lightning and thundering and he's weeding. And I would go out there and say, you can't do this. You know, there's lightning...
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:54] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:40:55] And I'd send him home. And so that's when I was acting like a parent. But he sent him home too.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:01] Oh my gosh. He needs to be safe but...
Sally Cantor [00:41:03] Yes. [crosstalk] Right. Yes. Or when he offered to pull up all our poison ivy, and I thought, I know your mother and I want to stay on good terms with... You know, she's not going to appreciate it if I send you home covered with poison ivy. So leave the poison ivy. Don't go anywhere near it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:25] Are you and your husband allergic?
Sally Cantor [00:41:28] I wouldn't say... Not profoundly. You know, I've never had... When we were leaving Bethlehem it was like right, you know, we had sold the house, were moving out and we had a beautiful yard and I thought, I'm going to weed it one more time. And as I'm weeding, I looked down and I have this little three-leaf thing in my hand and I thought, that's an awful lot like poison ivy. And I've never seen it in the yard before, you know, scrubbed it everything and broke out with it. And I was between coming going back from Cleveland to Bethlehem. And I'm on the phone with my doctor who wants to give me steroids because I had it on my face, and it was not a lot. And she said the normal course when it's on your face is steroids, and she's... It's predisone. And she was telling me I said, well, what are the reactions? And she said, well, it can be increased sleeplessness, anxiety and more urination. And I said, I've got all of that now related to moving. Please give me an ointment. I'll get... I'll use the other if it doesn't work.
Caitlen Cameron [00:42:57] Yeah, you don't need to amp that up.
Sally Cantor [00:42:59] Yes, right! And the ointment fortunately worked, but I thought I'm so anxious about moving. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:07] Yeah. So, yeah, my significant other is extremely allergic to poison ivy, but I am not allergic at all. So he always calls me and he'll say, Caitlen, I need you to get this and go wash your hands and I'm like, okay, but so I'm, I'm on poison ivy duty. So.
Sally Cantor [00:43:28] Well, good. But you can, you can think you're immune and then all of a sudden it socks you. [crosstalk] Yes. But we've always enjoyed gardening. I think this yard has had tremendous weeds and it's been hard to consistently stay on top of it, and particularly with both of us working,
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:59] Mhm. Hey, maybe that's a plus side to you not working.
Sally Cantor [00:44:00] Yeah, indeed.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:01] You can do more gardening.
Sally Cantor [00:44:03] More weeding! [laughs].
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:03] [Laughs].
Sally Cantor [00:44:03] Oh joy! Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:09] Exactly. Okay, well, so you guys are both interested in gardening, right?
Sally Cantor [00:44:13] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:14] And you got involved in the club. What year did you join?
Sally Cantor [00:44:17] You'd have to look in the book. I think I've been in the club five years, but the first three years I just went to meetings. I didn't do anything.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:33] So 2016, I think?
Sally Cantor [00:44:33] 2016, so I've have been... But I was still working till... I think I started cutting back in 2019 and stopped in 2020. And you know, there'd be meetings on days I was working, but it's, it's nice. I enjoy that. There's no trauma issues that I'm dealing with, though, I think people, you know, we're now waiting to see what's going to happen with Horseshoe Lake.
Caitlen Cameron [00:45:15] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:45:16] And I became outreach chairperson—had no idea what that meant—and was trying to figure out what to do with it, and Barb Shockey had done a presentation about the founding members and had a picture of them up. And I learned we had these archives. And from there I got the idea of approaching the historic society about doing an exhibit in honor of the 90th anniversary of the club. And it didn't get going with the first executive director. But Brianna picked up on it and was excited, and I think we came up with something really wonderful. And then that led to applying for a historic plaque for the gar[den]... for the Cherry Grove, which will be installed next May. So those have been exciting. Oh, and then the third thing that came as a result of that was our archives, which had been stored in someone's dining room and were not available, first in her basement and then she realized the basement was wet, then in her dining room, that it meant if she was out of town, if you needed something in the archives, you were out of luck. So they now, as of last week, have been transferred to the reference room of the Shaker Library and they'll be digitized and people can use them if they're researching women's groups or the Clark Freeway. So that feels really good to have been part of that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:17] Way to go, Sally! See, I told you're a monumental person in the Village Garden Club.
Sally Cantor [00:47:21] [Laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:21] You just... Don't argue with me. So that's definitely some great impacts that you've made, I guess, for Shaker and for the garden club.
Sally Cantor [00:47:33] Well, I hope and I think now it's... I sort of see my role as trying to stay informed about what's going to happen with the Northeast Ohio Sewer District's recommendation of removing Horseshoe Lake, removing the dam and let it return to two branches of Doan Creek [Doan Brook] and turning it into a more natural area.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:03] How you feel about what they're doing?
Sally Cantor [00:48:09] Personally, I... I mean, I've always enjoyed walking from here to the lake and walking around it. I've never felt the dam was very attractive. There's this big sort of boulder field. And I also I think, you know, from my understanding is Lower Lake has much more space for expansion and dams have been repaired there. And this returning it, I think as long as the Cherry Grove is maintained and they're telling us it will be, that it will not be destroyed, if they make this into a beautiful natural area and maybe if they're able to keep some of the picnic areas, I think it could be fine. And I know people... I don't have... I mean, I think there are people who've lived in this community their whole lives, who grew up with it, who probably feel very differently. I know that from their Facebook.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:32] I know I've heard some people talking about hos they just want it back to how it used to be.
Sally Cantor [00:49:38] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:40] And it's a possibility, but also not a possible reality. I mean...
Sally Cantor [00:49:45] Well, it's the cost.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:48] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [00:49:49] And, you know, I think, yes, it will change. Maybe... We really love birding. It may change some of the birds who are there. They may go... More of them will go to the Lower Lake, but we may attract different birds.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:11] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [00:50:11] I know there are, you know, there are a lot of turtles. They've managed, it's been more like a marsh for a long time, and they've managed.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:22] I know and right now it says quicksand or something.
Sally Cantor [00:50:26] Well, when they drained it, you get these flat areas that are quicksand. And I happened to be there one day where the fire department, you know, and they've signs placed, do not walk on the... And the fire department was training on how to rescue people because it's like, it was an open invitation to kids...
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:50] Oh yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:50:50] To go out there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:51] Do not do this, a.k.a. Do this.
Sally Cantor [00:50:53] Yes, right!
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:58] Oh gosh. I mean, I hope they make it something beautiful and I'm sure they will.
Sally Cantor [00:51:01] Well, I think, you know, they're... I've been to one meeting and I think it would be beautiful. I think preserving areas for people to have outdoor meetings or family get togethers and parties is really important. But I I also think, you know, we're talking about restoration. This... It was... Originally Doan Brook was a creek running through there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:33] That's true. So you said briefly that you were also involved in birding and gardening, right?
Sally Cantor [00:51:47] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:47] And I just wanted to ask a little tidbit. So do you have a favorite bird?
Sally Cantor [00:51:59] It varies. They've been very entertaining during Covid. And when we were selling the house in Bethlehem, and it was a newer home with the cathedral entrance and a window up top and had this goldfinch that spent every waking moment that there was light crashing into the window. Walking away, doing it over and over. And I thought, who's going to want to come into this house, walk under this bird to see a house where this is going on? And I would consult and birding. People tell me all I had to do was cover the window with newspaper and the bird would stop seeing its reflection—it was trying to mate with the reflection—and would go away. And I thought, well, I don't... It's really, really high up. I don't we don't have a lot of ladder. And who's going to want to buy a house with...
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:04] Newspaper! Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:53:06] So it finally went away. But here, I mean, I'm enjoying the orioles and the hummingbird because they're harder to attract.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:17] Yeah. Oh, with you tell the listeners advice about hummingbirds and what they should do to attract them?
Sally Cantor [00:53:23] I have no idea. I think you're told...
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:28] Oh, finches.
Sally Cantor [00:53:28] Bright flowers that they can go into, a hummingbird feeder. Ours are attracted, I think they like the serviceberry tree that they're in, that the feeder's in.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:47] And then what about for orioles?
Sally Cantor [00:53:49] Well, the orioles, we... I mean, we had our first orioles last year, so we had been in the house eleven years, and they came... We saw them one day, and there were about five of them, all in the serviceberry. And then this year, exactly a year later, 'cause I keep a diary, one bird came, hung around for an hour. I mean, it's not like I'm sitting watching 24/7. And then I had put the feeder away after a month of no activity there. Messy to clean up because of the sugar water.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:34] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:54:35] And then all of a sudden, they came back and I rushed and filled it and got grape jelly. And I've gotten a lot of flack because I bought Smucker's and he supported... He was one of Trump's big supporters.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:55] Oh gosh!
Sally Cantor [00:54:55] And I've since stopped buying Smucker's.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:58] I was going to say Smucker's is local, but at the same time... Yeah.
Sally Cantor [00:55:06] Well, there's Heinen's grape jelly. They don't seem to object to that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:55:13] They're not picking eaters.
Sally Cantor [00:55:14] No.
Caitlen Cameron [00:55:17] Right. So I guess I should ask more questions about the garden club and kind of just some more things about what you've learned and what you've... I guess, I know you haven't been in there very long. It's okay.
Sally Cantor [00:55:33] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:55:34] It's... Still you participated and...
Sally Cantor [00:55:36] Well, I mean, I've learned that they're a very caring group of women who really look after each other and have great opinions about plants and how to care for them. And I've had fun trying to get people to come and see the night blooming cerieus, which has... I mean, it's not... It's like it blooms for one night. And so it's not like you can... You either come that night and you see it bloom or you may not see it for another year.
Caitlen Cameron [00:56:15] So what does that look like? Can you describe it?
Sally Cantor [00:56:18] I'll show you before you leave. It's not a particularly pretty plant. It's from Roger's family. And he thinks the original plant goes back at least 90 years.
Caitlen Cameron [00:56:34] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:56:34] Yeah. And I've seen some old home movies of one blooming, you know, an really old movie and we've lugged it around and it takes... It... I think right now we have it sort of stable, but it would fall over and make a mess or we'd put it in our breakfast room and then it limited how many people could eat in there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:05] Oh geez.
Sally Cantor [00:57:05] And it's now... He lugs it up to one of the guest rooms.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:10] Does it only have one bloom then?
Sally Cantor [00:57:14] There are some years it doesn't bloom at all. Since we've been here, we've done better with getting it to bloom. And I think that's because the Botanic Gardens has one and I talked to them and they said use... Put... Feed it heavily with a fertilizer that promotes blooming.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:37] Wow.
Sally Cantor [00:57:38] And so it will sometimes bloom two or three times during the summer.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:44] Have you missed any of the...
Sally Cantor [00:57:46] Oh, regularly, or you think... Like, we... It bloomed probably a month ago on a Thursday night, and I was going to a happy hour and Roger was still working. And we looked at it and we thought, no, it's way it's going to bloom tonight. It'll bloom Friday night. And I thought, oh, great, I'll invite people over. Do we have any wine? Yes, we're set. And about eight o'clock he texted me, definitely not blooming tonight. And at nine o'clock he texted me, it's going to bloom tonight.
Caitlen Cameron [00:58:27] Oh, geez!
Sally Cantor [00:58:28] So we had some people come over and, you know, it was... It's fun sharing it because people don't normally see it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:58:39] Yeah, gosh, it sounds like, like magical. Like it's like a full moon, but it's like a bloom. It's so funny.
Sally Cantor [00:58:46] Well, it's... We started a Facebook page for it and it has far more friends than I do. And it's interesting. People have joined it from all over the world, you know, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:07] Really?
Sally Cantor [00:59:08] Posting pictures and they look alike. And it's very neat.
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:14] That's interesting, too, because it's like when zoo animals have babies, like everybody tunes in.
Sally Cantor [00:59:20] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:20] You need a little live cam...
Sally Cantor [00:59:22] Yes!
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:22] On it.
Sally Cantor [00:59:22] But we should. We have not done that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:26] Just do one of the...They have the Google Homes, and set it up.
Sally Cantor [00:59:30] Right!
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:30] You can just record it and peopke will tune in and...
Sally Cantor [00:59:34] Sit there and watch it for... Yes. All those hours.
Caitlen Cameron [00:59:39] Well, that's amazing, Sally. I guess I kind of want to ask you too, how do you see the future going, I guess, for the garden club, for your garden, for things, and for Shaker. I mean because things are evolving every day, right? We've had Covid, we've had these things, I mean, we've seen impacts and...
Sally Cantor [01:00:03] Well, I think the club stayed together, and we met regularly on Zoom, and I think that was so very important and, you know, I hope... I think you're going to interview Kathleen Tripp and get her to talk about what that was like for her as president, because, you know, it really required a lot. And none of us, I think most of us, you know, we were immigrants to technology versus your generation. You know, where you're natives and, you know, mastering Zoom and all that requires some doing.
Caitlen Cameron [01:00:52] Yeah.
Sally Cantor [01:00:52] Yeah. And I hope we will continue with the Cherry Grove, expanding it when we can, making sure that we maintain it, educating people about it, sharing it.
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:13] I saw it. I walked through there today, actually, on my break and I saw there was like fruit on the trees and stuff. I didn't touch it. I was like...
Sally Cantor [01:01:22] No!
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:23] I don't want to touch it. But, yeah.
Sally Cantor [01:01:25] Some of the crabapples, there are a lot of crabapples and they would have for... You can make crabapple jelly.
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:32] Oh really?
Sally Cantor [01:01:33] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:33] How do you do that?
Sally Cantor [01:01:34] You'd have to Google crabapples. [laughs] I think you peel it and you cook it with, you know, sugar till you get it the sweetness you want.
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:46] And then let it sit or maybe add the...
Sally Cantor [01:01:48] Yeah, I remember my grandmother making it.
Caitlen Cameron [01:01:53] Hmm. Now you're going to have people attacking the grove for crabapples, right? [laughs]
Sally Cantor [01:01:58] Well, I mean, they've been there for many years. I'm sure if people wanted 'em they would have gotten them.
Caitlen Cameron [01:02:05] That's true. Oh, so I heard, okay, well before I say heard, I want to ask your opinion on adding men to the Village Garden Club.
Sally Cantor [01:02:19] We've done it. I think it's, it's fine. I think... I don't know any rational explanation for excluding men.
Caitlen Cameron [01:02:32] Yeah. I heard the news last week. I was like, yeah, I should ask about this because this is history.
Sally Cantor [01:02:41] Right.
Caitlen Cameron [01:02:41] I mean...
Sally Cantor [01:02:43] You know, I think it would be nice to have some, you know, not to stereotype, but if they're young, strong men who can lug water... [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [01:02:52] Yeah, you can use that, right? [laughs]
Sally Cantor [01:02:54] But I mean, I think if the club's going to survive, we need to attract a more diverse group, certainly agewise.
Caitlen Cameron [01:03:06] Mhm. How do you see....
Sally Cantor [01:03:07] And, you know, there's no reason not to have men. I'm sure if my brother lived here, he would want to be a member.
Caitlen Cameron [01:03:15] He would join too?
Sally Cantor [01:03:16] Yeah. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [01:03:17] How do you see the group evolving in, like, the next, say, let's say, two years?
Sally Cantor [01:03:22] Well, I think if we're going to grow, we have to consider some change, you know, and if we want to attract younger people, we need to have some meetings at night. You know, things that make it possible for them to return or I made the... We have a holiday party every year and I made the radical suggestion that it starts too early, you know, by the time my husband would get home from work and we'd get there, all the hors-d'eouvres would...
Caitlen Cameron [01:04:00] Be gone? Do you think that the garden club will ever change, say, like, their acceptance policy? I know you need a reference and you have to apply?
Sally Cantor [01:04:14] I think that's something that probably will be looked at. I think it's important that people who join know that their expectation shall help out in the grove or you'll do other things that keep the club going.
Caitlen Cameron [01:04:36] I know that was a big topic because some people were intimidated by you strong women doing this club and it's like, like you guys are very esteemed in the area, a lot of people know you, so it was like I think some people are just afraid to apply because they're like, oh, my garden isn't pretty...
Sally Cantor [01:04:57] Well, I... when I was, I think, Dozie and I sort of bonded around the night-blooming cereus. And she has one too. And she invited... Hers had a million buds, so mine's never had so many. And she invited us to come over and watch it bloom and they had... I think they were in Pennsylvania, drove back very fast. And when we got there Roger gave me a look and I knew what the look was they bloomed the night before. And Dozie, at one point we're sitting there watching it, and she said, don't tell me it bloomed the night before.
Caitlen Cameron [01:05:39] Oh no! [laughs]
Sally Cantor [01:05:40] And I think I said, I won't tell you.
Caitlen Cameron [01:05:42] Oh, my goodness.
Sally Cantor [01:05:44] But that was... We've had fun trash talking each other. You know, mine's better than yours!
Caitlen Cameron [01:05:51] Oh yeah!
Sally Cantor [01:05:52] But she's had amazing.... and her plant is prettier than mine. I don't know why. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [01:05:58] I'm sure yours is beautiful too.
Sally Cantor [01:05:59] Oh, wait till... Yeah, but. You know, I think it's maybe moving from garden... And there are people in the club who have, some who have gorgeous gardens, I mean, mine's not bad, you know, but it's not, it's not going to win any awards. [phone rings repeatedly] And there... There's some things that are, when they bloom, more spectacular than other things. But when I was joining, I said to Roger, you know, the final part of getting in is they have to come in and inspect our garden. And he looked at me in horror. [laughs] But I think taking more responsibility for public areas is important... Is the direction we should move.
Caitlen Cameron [01:06:57] Yeah, I think that's definitely going to make an impact for future generations and everything. I mean just the grove now is beautiful.
Sally Cantor [01:07:07] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [01:07:08] Let alone what I know you guys are planning in the future.
Sally Cantor [01:07:11] Well, when you think of the grove, there were so many garden clubs that did things all around the lake.
Caitlen Cameron [01:07:21] Mhm.
Sally Cantor [01:07:21] And we're one of the few that have continued. Like there are other areas, like there was an area where nut trees were planted and the trees have survived. You realize you're in them when in the fall when you're stepping walking on nuts.
Caitlen Cameron [01:07:38] Oh. Why do you think your group has prospered then?
Sally Cantor [01:07:43] I don't know that I can answer that. I would say there have been... There are people in the club who are tremendously committed and keep bringing people in who have interest.
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:00] Yeah, I think...
Sally Cantor [01:08:01] You know, and you see that there are people who it's been generational...
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:05] I know, you're one of the select few I haven't heard that has had like family members...
Sally Cantor [01:08:12] No, and I mean, and I have, you know, my daughter's family, and when she's stayed with us during Covid, it was our way of ensuring she wasn't dating a lot. [laughs].
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:26] Oh gosh!
Sally Cantor [01:08:27] And we certainly... I got her into weeding. That was how she paid for her room and board. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:37] So is there anyone in your family that you could see getting involved in the future?
Sally Cantor [01:08:41] Well, none of them are here, so.
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:44] Yeah. That's true.
Sally Cantor [01:08:44] So no.
Caitlen Cameron [01:08:47] Well, well, fingers crossed. One day.
Sally Cantor [01:08:49] Yeah. And most of my friends work. I have one friend who really loves gardening and she's, you know, I'm monitoring her, but she's too busy.
Caitlen Cameron [01:09:05] That's what I mean, Sally. I don't know if you should go back now. You are making a difference, but your country needs you.
Sally Cantor [01:09:11] Yes! [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [01:09:14] Well, we're getting close to the end of our time. And I just want to know if anything else you'd like to add or any memories you'd like to reminisce on, anything?
Sally Cantor [01:09:25] No. I mean, we love this community. You know, it's really a special place to live and feel fortunate to have had this opportunity.
Caitlen Cameron [01:09:39] Alright, well, thank you so much for everything.
Sally Cantor [01:09:42] Well, thank you.
Caitlen Cameron [01:09:43] Yeah, and your stories are really helpful and immensely... Incredible. Like the stuff you told me, I honestly am honored to listen to you.
Sally Cantor [01:09:55] Oh, well thank you.
Caitlen Cameron [01:09:55] And I hope you guys get lots of new members for the club.
Sally Cantor [01:09:59] Thank you.
Caitlen Cameron [01:10:00] And I'm sure this will help with the history, so.
Sally Cantor [01:10:04] Alright.
Caitlen Cameron [01:10:04] Thank you, Sally.
Sally Cantor [01:10:05] You're welcome. It's interesting... [recording ends]
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