Lorna Mierke of Shaker Heights has been a member of the Village Garden Club since 1964. She recounts memories of growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, where she lived through college. Mierke describes her mother-in-law Prudence Mierke’s role in fighting the Clark and Lee Freeways that were planned to slice through the Shaker Lakes in the 1960s, as well as her opinions about the Horseshoe Lake dam controversy. She discusses the origin of the garden club’s Cherry Tree Grove, her experience with Ikebana flower-arranging techniques, and advice for effective flower arranging.
Mierke, Lorna (interviewee)
Cameron, Caitlen (interviewer)
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:00] Hello, my name is Caitlin Cameron with the Shaker Historical Society, and I'm here with...
Lorna Mierke [00:00:06] Lorna Mierke, Lorna. L-O-R-N-A.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:08] Okay, and we are here to kind of know some information about the Village Garden Club and all of Lorna's history. Are you ready, Lorna?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:21] Yes, I am.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:23] Alright, and do you consent to be recorded?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:25] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:25] Okay, let's get started then.
Lorna Mierke [00:00:27] Okay.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:27] Alright, so when were you born?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:30] 1934.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:30] Okay. And where was that?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:30] In New Haven, Connecticut.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:35] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:36] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:37] So...
Lorna Mierke [00:00:37] I grew up in New Haven.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:39] In New Haven?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:39] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:39] Did you have any siblings?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:43] Yes. A sister who is now deceased and an older brother who is now deceased.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:53] Cool. So, what did you do growing up and how did you get to where you are now?
Lorna Mierke [00:00:58] What?
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:58] So, in, like, when you were in Connecticut, what did your parents do and what was it like living there?
Lorna Mierke [00:01:08] I had a great childhood. I thought about that the other day, actually, unlike today, people, our mothers don't let their children play outdoors alone. I mean, I was free. [laughs] I could play anywhere, anywhere. As I grew up, roller skated down to the Yale Bowl to get lacrosse balls. Yeah. When they bounced over the fence, they were great rubber balls. [laughs] Yeah. With a friend. And I went to elementary school there. And high school and college.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:01] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:02:01] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:02] What college did you go to?
Lorna Mierke [00:02:03] New Haven State Teachers College. I was an art teacher for many years, but that changed to a state university which is now in existence in New Haven but started out as a teacher's college. Oh, you know, women... At that time, the only thing you could do is nursing or teacher.
Lorna Mierke [00:02:39] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:02:40] Yeah, my brother went to Yale and my parents were just coming out of the depression, of course. And so they couldn't afford a lot of tuitions. And my sister was a nurse and I had a great childhood growing up in New Haven. I met my husband Harvey, who was a Clevelander in South Dakota, at an Indian Reservation.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:15] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:03:15] Yes, at a work camp.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:18] How did you meet at South Dakota?
Lorna Mierke [00:03:20] Well, it was a Rural Council of Churches work camp, and he wanted to go to Alaska and I wanted to go to Germany. But those work camps were filled out. So, the second choice was South Dakota. [laughs] That's how we met.
Lorna Mierke [00:03:43] Wow. How old were you?
Lorna Mierke [00:03:45] Oh, twenty-three. Twenty-four at that time. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:52] Was it an instant connection or...
Lorna Mierke [00:03:55] Oh, it grew a little bit [laughs] but we fell in love out there and he was at Amherst College at that time. I was teaching at that time a year and a half older than he, but he skipped a year in school because of meningitis and he's lucky to be alive these days. A very active person.
Caitlen Cameron [00:04:28] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:04:29] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:04:29] So how did you get to Cleveland? And you guys were inseparable.
Lorna Mierke [00:04:34] We married and went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Well, he was a graduate in law school there, in Ann Arbor. And we lived there for three years and then moved here because it's a great lawyers’ town.
Caitlen Cameron [00:04:57] So did you still teach when you moved here?
Lorna Mierke [00:04:59] Uh, no. I had a child by that time and then, you know, became a housewife.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:08] Oh.
Lorna Mierke [00:05:09] We lived in Shaker Heights for twenty-eight years.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:13] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:05:13] Yeah. Warrensville Heights first in a little house there, and then in 1964 I joined Village Garden Club because my mother-in-law belonged to the club and she introduced me to that group of women and became interested, interesting to me. Because it was an active group at that time, and it still is. Yeah, yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:47] So when you joined and talked to your mother-in-law, what did she, how did she describe the club to you?
Lorna Mierke [00:05:57] She said it's an active group of women and very involved with the community. So, and the main reason for the club to be in existence was that the grove of cherry trees at Shaker Lakes. So that's the reason I joined.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:21] Before you joined, did you have any experience in gardening?
Lorna Mierke [00:06:26] Oh, yes, my mother was a great gardener.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:30] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:06:31] Yeah, I helped her dig a lot.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:35] What type of stuff did she grow?
Lorna Mierke [00:06:37] Oh, vegetables at that time and then flowers, etc.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:42] Flowers?
Lorna Mierke [00:06:43] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:44] That's nice. Did you have any favorite things that she planted?
Lorna Mierke [00:06:46] Oh, no. Just everything. Behind our house in New Haven, there was an empty lot which we called the tennis court and at some time or another people played tennis there. But as a kid, we played baseball and soccer and everything.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:13] That's cool.
Lorna Mierke [00:07:14] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:16] So, okay, so you were, you learned from your mother about gardening?
Lorna Mierke [00:07:21] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:21] How did you, so when you moved to Cleveland, did you immediately start your own garden?
Lorna Mierke [00:07:30] No. in Warrensville Heights, it's a small yard and small children.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:44] Okay, well that's cool. I understand that I know my family never has time to garden anymore. I had to start my own.
Lorna Mierke [00:07:52] Yeah, yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:54] And try to do it myself, but it's a lot of work and a lot of love.
Lorna Mierke [00:07:56] Oh, it is. Yes. And as I joined the club, part of the reason was they would teach a lot about gardening, about what worked and what didn't. My mother-in-law had a great garden, wonderful garden. So, I learned a lot from her. And eventually we bought the house next door to my mother-in-law and father-in-law and moved in there. And our children grew up with their grandmother there because the grandfather, Harvey's dad, died shortly after we moved there. And so it was a great association. I loved her a lot, and she was great.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:47] So can I ask you more questions about her?
Lorna Mierke [00:08:50] Sure!
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:52] So what was her name? And then just kind of, just any information about her.
Lorna Mierke [00:08:59] Okay, so Prudence Mierke. Yeah. And she was part of the committee that helped to prevent the highway going through the communities, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights. Can you imagine a highway going through? No. Well, imagine that. It would have broken up the communities totally and it was fortunate that the women were involved with that. Mary Elizabeth Croxton was a member of Village Garden Club and she headed up the community that was against the highway being built. So she got everyone involved, and not only the Village Garden Club, but other clubs around the neighborhood and the community, and she went to Washington herself and petitioned the government to prevent this from happening. And people became wise about that. She knew all the facts and so did my mother-in-law.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:18] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:10:18] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:19] Did she ever go to Washington herself?
Lorna Mierke [00:10:23] No, she never did. I don't know why, but she never talked about that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:32] Did she... so was she involved before? So before you joined the club, she was involved in this fight, right?
Lorna Mierke [00:10:40] Yes, yes, yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:42] So what did she, what did she tell you about this? What was she...
Lorna Mierke [00:10:45] Oh, she said it was an exciting time and pushed for a conclusion about the highway to prevent it from happening. And she said something about how important it was for the communities involved, Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights in particular, what it would do to the community as a whole. And it would have been devastating. It would have really been devastating.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:28] Thank you to your mother-in-law for being there to help with the fight and you know, making Shaker this beautiful place that it is today, and preserve it.
Lorna Mierke [00:11:37] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:38] They made a really huge impact. And I know women at that time we weren't able to do a lot.
Lorna Mierke [00:11:45] Yeah, but, you know, citizens can make a big difference about something when they get on their high horse about it and know the rules and the facts involved. Anything could happen. Citizens can make a difference in the world. Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:11] That's a good PSA for everyone right now because I feel like that activism is really rising up again.
Lorna Mierke [00:12:18] I think so, too. After the pandemic, I think people had time to think it over and get involved with things that matter. You read about it every day.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:33] It's a good thing. It's a good thing that people are paying attention.
Lorna Mierke [00:12:38] Yeah, right.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:44] Okay so, so you were related to the mother-in-law. Do you remember anybody else that was prominent, that you got to talk to that was involved?
Lorna Mierke [00:13:03] Oh, well, people are now dead. I can't remember. Who was involved, but, oh, Fran Bayless was one of them. She's still a member. She's not as old as I am, but almost! [laughing] And people are still interested in what happened then, and it's kind of a shame in a way that Shaker Lake, the upper lake, is becoming in the news again because of a dam that Shaker's built. And it's deteriorating condition now. And they're talking about making the lake into the stream again, which kind of too bad in a way. I haven't made up my mind about that. But you asked who else was involved. Mary Elizabeth Croxton. Oh. You know, I can't remember at this point...
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:48] That's okay.
Lorna Mierke [00:14:49] If I think about that, who else was involved at that time.
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:59] That's no worries at all. So you said you were talking about the upper lake, right, and how they're changing it, and how do you, what was your first impression when you heard about it?
Lorna Mierke [00:15:12] I thought it was a shame that it was no longer going to be a lake. I think that they should put the money into dredging so that it becomes a lake again. I've read that in some press that, one portion of the lake was only two feet deep, which means that dredging could make it deeper, would make sense and repair the dam, put the money where the dam was.
Caitlen Cameron [00:15:59] Yeah.
Lorna Mierke [00:15:59] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:16:00] No, they said it was a safety, like a big safety issue because if the dam broke it could...
Lorna Mierke [00:16:06] Flood.
Caitlen Cameron [00:16:09] Yeah.
Lorna Mierke [00:16:09] Flood lower than that. Well, there's ways to amend that to make it work. I think it should be workable if it's kind of a shame not to look at that and see a lake. I would think the people who lived across the street there would have an input, too. And Shaker Historical Society could push for that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:16:48] Yeah, I know we've had some discussions about it, I don’t know what their plans are yet. But I know that there's been a discussion recently.
Lorna Mierke [00:16:58] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:00] So hopefully, hopefully things will be preserved and especially for all the plants in the Grove area. So speaking of the Grove, can you tell me what it is, from your prespective?
Lorna Mierke [00:17:14] The what?
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:16] The Cherry Tree Grove. What...
Lorna Mierke [00:17:21] Oh, the Grove. Oh, our tree. Oh, well, it was started by original members because one of the members, one of the members went to Washington at the time and saw the Japanese maple trees that were donated there. And she thought "Oh! The Cleveland along the lake there could, we could do that, too." So we've done it for years and years, planted trees in memory of deceased members, and it's grown like crazy. That's the purpose of the club, really. Really. But we have all kinds of programs here. Freeway City, a Brad Masi film. Here. That's his name.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:30] Oh, yeah. So I know you have a lot of meetings with master gardeners, I see that in there. And so what are some of the events that you remember that you participated in or have cherished?
Lorna Mierke [00:18:45] Oh, I was program chairman, president at one time. Every year we have had the annual meeting, a planned exchange, people dig up things that they don't want in their garden, and anybody can pick up a plant and put it in their own garden. So that's very nice to do because it means sharing.
Caitlen Cameron [00:19:20] Yeah.
Lorna Mierke [00:19:20] And that's a good thing. Oh, we have had an annual Christmas party. It used to be held in somebody's house. But now it’s at the Skating Club, mostly. Before that, it was at St. Paul's Church community room for a long time. Oh, about three or four years. And it was an exciting time. We've had, as you see a Cherry Tree luncheon. Yeah, we've had different kinds of programs through the years. I mean, what can I say? I've learned a lot and that one thing that influenced me a great deal was a member Betty Lee was a member of Ikebana International [I.I.] And she gave a demonstration at the club meetings. And I said, I'm going to do that. So I joined I.I. I was invited to join and I became very involved with that. And I've been teaching Ikebana, up until this past year for all these years.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:04] So tell me what Ikebana is, and I want to know everything because I know nothing about it.
Lorna Mierke [00:21:10] Oh, Ikebana? It's a Japanese way of, method of flower arranging. There are many, many schools. Ikebana, Ikanobbo is the oldest school. It goes back five hundred years plus and out of that grew, Contemporary Schools. Ohara School is one of them. And by the way, at the end of September, the current headmaster, Hiroki Ohara, is coming to Cleveland at the museum to demonstrate...
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:53] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:21:54] For our fortieth anniversary.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:58] Wow.
Lorna Mierke [00:21:58] Yeah. So that'll be a fun event.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:02] Do you think you're better than the headmaster?
Lorna Mierke [00:22:06] No [laughs], no, I'm not better! I'm pretty good, but not better.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:12] So if you were to tell me how to do, create a piece, an Ikebana piece, how would you... Like where would you start and how would you create it?
Lorna Mierke [00:22:27] It depends on the container you're using. Moribana means a low, flat, open container. Hekka is a tall vase, baskets and ceramic containers of various kinds. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:50] Alright. We had a brief moment of recess but now we are back. And if you could continue Lorna, with how to do the Ikebana?
Lorna Mierke [00:23:00] Oh, that's right. Well, it depends. You can do Ohara School with anything you have available, dried material as well as fresh material. For instance, last week when I used my studio. I offered it to Sogetsu school person who has a number of students. And she came into my studio and she went out and picked that bush and made a beautiful arrangement for students. Yeah. So it can be used anywhere, any time. People think that it's so esoteric that you'll have to follow the rules. Well, there are rules. There are ways to do an arrangement with a branch. Depends on whether it's going up or if it's slanting. There are ways to arrange those, that material, however, once you get to a certain beyond a certain point, you can do anything. And for instance, I became a judge through Garden Club of America, a flower arranging judge. Now, that includes a lot of mass arrangement. Typical British or American style arrangements that you can do anything based on Japanese way.
Caitlen Cameron [00:25:04] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:25:04] Yeah, yeah, you can develop that into a blockage of blocking colors or textures or branch material, which is the line, and you can apply that to any kind of a rendering, which is a fun thing to do. To see developed in people. I loved it. And I know that stemmed from my love of nature. Anything, in those trees out there. I look at them every day and you can see anything to do with arranging there. One thing about Ikebana, is that you become aware of how things grow. Much more aware. You drive down the street and you see things and you say, I could do something with that. People have said that to me many, many times, said, I have become, since studying Ikebana, I've become more aware of nature, which is the point. Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk] And love of nature. How things grow, today we need that more than ever. When I read about the devastation of forests, I gag because people don't understand that a forest today means a lot in our well-being on this planet.
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:13] So do you look at things, from how, were when you were born to now like the amount of trees and the amount of wildlife [inaudible] and compared to the things how they are now?
Lorna Mierke [00:27:25] Oh, yes, a lot of difference. That's why this community, this neighborhood is so nice, it's really inspiring. It's a great neighborhood because there are many, many trees and everybody is concerned about their garden and they're planning around it, whereas some parts of the city are devastated and barren. And if you look around and you drive around, you'll find that true.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:08] Yeah, I noticed Cleveland Heights and Shaker are so proud of the trees. Like, the trees are huge. I mean, in my hometown, they're miniscule.
Lorna Mierke [00:28:20] Oh, really? Yeah. Eventually they'll grow bigger. But, you know, it takes a long time.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:30] It does take a long time.
Lorna Mierke [00:28:30] A couple of lifetimes. I mean, there are around this neighborhood, there are trees that are over a hundred years old. I mean, that tree out there, I'm sure it's a hundred years old or more, and it creates shade and coolness and cleans the air, and helps us breathe better.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:00] So how many trees do you've think you planted?
Lorna Mierke [00:29:05] [laughs] Oh, how many trees. Oh, a dozen, maybe. I haven't had to plant any trees here. Oh, in the courtyard. We just had that redone because a couple of trees out there, a Japanese maple and a crabapple died. Yeah. Twenty-plus years old. Wasn't planted right to begin with. I was very involved with building that house and everything that I was doing, including the Art Museum. Flower Fun. That's another thing now. And we do the arrangements on the pedestal in the lobby all the time.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:57] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:29:57] Yeah, I was part of that group originally. Yeah, it was partly my idea. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:07] Really? Could you tell me more about that?
Lorna Mierke [00:30:08] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:08] Because I see that. I see the arrangements.
Lorna Mierke [00:30:10] Oh yes. Now we are a group of people who are members of the Women's Council who signed up to do that arrangement and with an assistant, usually. And one time we thought, well, Sherman Lee, who was the director at that time, gave approval to put arrangements on the pedestal and the pedestal wasn't in existence until we formed this group of Flower Fun people. And there was an outpouring of enthusiasm for now every time we do it once a week. People the public stops by as you're doing it and ask questions and they admire it and they think, oh, it's great. This is the first thing I look at, people tell me, yeah, when I enter the museum.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:32] So why did you start that? Just...
Lorna Mierke [00:31:34] What?
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:34] Did you just started for fun or why did you push for that to be added to the art museum?
Lorna Mierke [00:31:42] Because it needed some color in the lobby. It was a dead lobby for a long time. Now it's much more lively, and I think, just because there was talent laying there among the women's committee and it was an outlet for people to become involved with the art museum, now we do it every week, every week. I'm no longer doing it, but. Oh, no, I gave it up. Oh, I miss it terribly. [laughs] Oh, but, you know, there comes a time when as you get older, you realize that you can't do it anymore. Just, you can't. It takes a lot of energy, a lot of planning and going to get the flowers wholesale into wholesale outfits, companies around town and take it to the art museum, condition it and make an arrangement on Monday or Tuesday. And it just takes a lot of time, a lot of effort.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:12] So I had I had flowers in vase before, maybe like, just a simple, simple step. But how do you preserve and make that arrangement lasts for at least a week?
Lorna Mierke [00:33:27] A week? You cut the stems underwater. Oh, because if you cut the air, air gets up the stem. It prevents the water from going up to the flower in the leaves. So you cut it underwater. [phone rings] It makes... [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:56] It's okay.
Lorna Mierke [00:33:56] Oh. It prevents the air from getting up the stem. So you cut it underwater all the time, every time.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:08] Okay. Do you do it every day? That's on the... [crosstalk]
Lorna Mierke [00:34:12] No, once, but you clean the water at least once in between. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:19] Do you have any tips for adding things to the water? I know some people add those little packets...
Lorna Mierke [00:34:25] Oh, you can use it. Yes, that's a good idea. But I don't usually because timing is of the essence, but. It's, you don't have to do it, but it's wise to do it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:56] Okay.
Lorna Mierke [00:34:57] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:58] And then I have one more question about it because it's a myth or maybe it’s not a myth some people say you can't have any leaves in the water.
Lorna Mierke [00:35:05] That's right. You take the leaves off the stem. If it's going into the water because it will rot quickly. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:17] That's helpful.
Lorna Mierke [00:35:19] Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:19] I have left them before and the water has gotten so stinky that I have to take them out and then reevaluate.
Lorna Mierke [00:35:26] Yeah. Yeah. Well, take the leaves off before you arrange, and always cut the stems because you buy it in the grocery store or wherever florist. They've been sitting around for a long time and, you know, a day or two and always, always cut it beforehand. And put it…
Caitlen Cameron [00:35:56] And cut at a diagonal right?
Lorna Mierke [00:35:56] And you can cut it in diagonal. Yes. Because if you figure it out, you know that a diagonal makes the water come up to stem a lot faster.
Caitlen Cameron [00:36:14] Really? Well, I guess that makes sense.
Lorna Mierke [00:36:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:36:19] That's helpful. Yes, thank you. [crosstalk]. And I appreciate that a lot.
Lorna Mierke [00:36:23] You're welcome. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:36:25] So, is there anything different that you would do for Ikebana than a regular regular display?
Lorna Mierke [00:36:33] Oh, yes. As I said, you follow the rules. I should show you the book that I have. Let me show you before you leave. Okay? There is a Ohara School curriculum that you follow. As I say, you learn the basics and you can do anything after that. It takes quite a number of years to learn everything there is to do in Ohara School of Ikebana, or any school, Sogetsu School, Ikenobo School. Ikenobo School is more classic arrangement. Ohara School is more naturalistic, recreating that which you would see ordinarily in your garden. But there's a method for that and a combination of materials is important. You know, if you mix a daisy with something that looks like a daisy, it's not conducive to an exciting arrangement. You choose textures and texture versus line versus. Smooth texture, a leaf, a flower, a lime, a branch, whatever, you learn a lot by doing that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:33] That's really interesting too because I looked into them just a little bit. I think I wanted to know what makes it significant. But that's interesting that you want to put the same, the same you want it that different flow?
Lorna Mierke [00:38:50] Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, and color blocking is important, too, as I said earlier. Color, texture, movement, line, all of that is involved with that. And once you're aware of that, you become more proficient in arranging. So it takes a while to learn all of that sometimes for some people, it takes years. You know, that's why I continue I go to workshops for Ikebana International and Ohara School of Ikebana and Sogetsu School. Because you learn something every time. You think you know it, but you really don't, [laughs] because everything changes everything, every combination is different, every combination.
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:57] So have you directed a lot of classes for the Garden Club on Ikebana?
Lorna Mierke [00:40:01] Yes, I have demonstrated for the Village Garden Club maybe half a dozen times or more than that really many, many years I've done it at least every other year since I've belonged to the Village Garden Club, but I haven't done it recently.
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:28] So when you teach it, does everybody understand?
Lorna Mierke [00:40:32] No, you explain it as best you can and people will say, 'oh, that was fun'. [laughs] That was a good exercise.
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:45] Do you have anybody that followed you that wanted to do more?
Lorna Mierke [00:40:49] Yes. Yes. A couple of members have joined Ikebana International or Ohara School. Yeah. Which is nice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:03] That's cool.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:03] I try to persuade a number of other people too, but their lives are busy too. Barbara Shockey is one. She came to a couple of classes and she said, "Oh, that's not for me." You know, some people get hooked, and some people don't.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:24] She's an amazing woman and so I'm sure she would do great at it. But, it is it does seem like it takes a lot of dedication and time and practice.
Lorna Mierke [00:41:34] And practice yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:40] Well that's good. So, you also mentioned before the president when was that?
Lorna Mierke [00:41:44] Yes, oh, here. 19... Look how many presidents over. Oh, here we are, 1973, '75 to '75 then I was oh I don't have my glasses. I was president twice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:42:40] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:42:41] Yeah. I was President once and Vice-President once, yeah, they don't list the Vice-President.
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:01] So what was it like to be President of the Club?
Lorna Mierke [00:43:04] Oh, busy, because you have to keep everybody involved in and interested. And so the committees were very interesting to be involved in. Cherry Tree was one of the most important ones of which we call a Cherry Tree. Of that is the Grove at Shaker Lakes. And that's an important part of the club and, that's what it is, it's keeping people involved, appointing people who, you know, will do a good job.
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:54] So I obviously don't know a lot about '73, but what can you describe some things in that year that kind of changed the Garden Club? Or things that went on? It's like 1973 and it's definitely a different time than now.
Lorna Mierke [00:44:12] Oh, yeah. Well. What was involved then? It was mainly the Cherry Tree, keeping that growth going because there was a lot of people who lived across the street were against a lot of expanding of that Cherry Grove. They don't want trees blocking their view, which is. Yeah, which is strange, but true, nevertheless. So at that time, one fought against that a little bit.
Caitlen Cameron [00:45:04] Really? So you had a mini fight against neighbors essentially. So how did you argue with them to tell them your point and why these matter and why?
Lorna Mierke [00:45:15] Well. It's a point of beauty, of enhancing the lake and involving people in the community, when people walk by, they admire that, particularly when it's in bloom. And that's only a short time in May or April or May. It depends on the weather and it's a year-round endeavor because it's well, I can see what their point is, but if it wasn't there, they'd miss it. A lot, yeah. The Shaker Historical Society is across the street. We used to meet there quite often in May for the Cherry Tree meeting, but now that the museum is expanded and there's a lot in that meeting room, a lot of display we quit meeting there because here they didn't want us anymore.
Caitlen Cameron [00:46:37] I'm sure they wanted you. I know they have a lot of materials and things... [crosstalk]
Lorna Mierke [00:46:42] Yeah. Yeah. Which is a good thing because it's expanded. People have become more interested in the history of the community and I think that, and donating items, and that's a good thing, pictures, etc. I've been involved... I observed that the last time we were there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:08] So where are you guys have your meetings now? Is it... [crosstalk]
Lorna Mierke [00:47:09] Shaker, Shaker, either at somebody's house or the Skating Club or a church hall or whatever, wherever we can. I mean, somebody is in charge of that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:29] That's cool. I know Shaker definitely loves you guys.
Lorna Mierke [00:47:33] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:33] And will always be up to holding whatever meetings in the future, especially we have a lot of room outside, so if you guys ever want to move outside...
Lorna Mierke [00:47:42] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:44] But. So I know you exhibit it. Are you a judge in shows, and did you ever win any awards?
Lorna Mierke [00:47:58] Oh, yes, I've won blue ribbons and notices of framed things at my studio National Awards.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:11] Wow.
Lorna Mierke [00:48:11] Yeah, I've exhibited at many, many venues and judged many venues.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:23] Did you ever go to Japan?
Lorna Mierke [00:48:24] Yes. Three times.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:24] Three times? That's so awesome!
Lorna Mierke [00:48:25] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:26] Gosh. What was that like. Did you get to go see some of your gardens?
Lorna Mierke [00:48:31] Oh, the gardens. Yes, yes. All around many, many cities. And one time after a workshop of the week, usually there was a week set aside for this. One woman took us, a group of us, all over Japan and visited gardens. That… It was very, very nice, very exciting.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:03] Do you think they had their own Village Garden Club over there?
Lorna Mierke [00:49:06] No, I don't think so. Oh, no. Oh, it would be hard to persuade people to go. They still think that it's an expensive cit[y], country to be involved in or to visit, which it is, and you could travel around Japan very cheaply by staying in what they call a businessman's hotel. It's very small rooms and it's… They call it that, businessman's hotel, because traveling salesmen stay in them. But you could also eat at McDonald's.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:55] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:49:55] Oh, their tofu milkshakes are fabulous.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:58] Really?
Lorna Mierke [00:49:59] Yes. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:00] I would never have thought to put tofu in a milkshake, but that sounds good.
Lorna Mierke [00:50:03] Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughs] It's good.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:07] Interesting. Wow. I want to go over there so bad, but I just...
Lorna Mierke [00:50:11] Oh.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:12] I haven't had the time yet. I will one day.
Lorna Mierke [00:50:15] Well, one day you will one day, I'm sure you will.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:21] So coming back to Shaker, I guess I just kind of want to know if there's any other major events in or outside the Garden Club that you remember in this area happening, because you, I am sorry to say it, but you are the oldest member.
Lorna Mierke [00:50:37] Yeah, I am.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:38] You see a lot of history in this area. And I just I kind of want to know if there's anything monumental or even [unmonumental] that you experienced.
Lorna Mierke [00:50:46] Well, monumental was the highway, getting that taken care of, preventing it from happening. I think that was the most important thing the Village Garden Club could do.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:01] Was there anything in Cleveland Heights that happened? That they've changed or things that you've seen over the years?
Lorna Mierke [00:51:21] Well, it has to do with Shaker Lakes and the Nature Center. Thank goodness it's there. Now, I'm not sure that I agree with the huge development at the nature center, building walkways and all that kind of thing. It kind of destroys, in a way, the tree canopy there, but it's introducing people to nature itself, which I think is a good idea, too.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:03] When did they make that change?
Lorna Mierke [00:52:06] Oh, in the last five years or so. Yeah, I know a lot. Barbara Shockey, for instance, is a very active at the Nature Center. So are a lot of people who are part of the Village Garden Club, just about everybody here in the last ten years or so have been involved with this Nature Center, which is a good thing, yeah, to get people involved in that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:45] And they'll appreciate it?
Lorna Mierke [00:52:45] Yeah, yeah. And the Shaker Historical Society, too. I mean, it's a great building that it is in. And is there... Are there any plans to expand that?
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:59] I don't think so. I think they're I think they're going to keep it as they are in terms of building lines, because the historical integrity of the building here is one of the main assets.
Lorna Mierke [00:53:11] That's right. It's an old house.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:13] Yeah. It looks beautiful on the inside.
Lorna Mierke [00:53:15] Oh, it is. Yes.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:21] So, okay, so we've talked about the future, or we talked about the past, and we talked about some of the present. Now, can we go into the future? I know I've heard things about the Village Garden Club trying to be more proactive. How would you feel if there are many in the club?
Lorna Mierke [00:53:41] Oh, oh, I think that's a good idea. Yeah, get people involved. Yeah, there's a lot of talent out there, a lot of people interested in nature and gardens and everything in the community. And I think it would be a good idea.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:03] I know it has historically the Village Garden Club has all been women up to this point.
Lorna Mierke [00:54:09] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:10] It's definitely a time of change. And I really wanted to know like your input because it is different. But it's cool.
Lorna Mierke [00:54:20] Yeah, yeah,
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:21] And how would you, what would you say to somebody that's looking to get involved?
Lorna Mierke [00:54:26] Oh, just apply. Submit or let somebody know that you're interested in joining and people will have to vote on that. It's always a vote by the members who are attending a particular meeting, a membership meeting. And I think everybody can join it, anybody. It's open. Free. Yeah, that's one thing about this country, is you can do anything you want.
Lorna Mierke [00:55:13] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:55:15] Would you suggest anybody starting their own Village Garden Club if they don't have one in their town? Like do you think it would be a good idea to have more of these?
Lorna Mierke [00:55:23] Oh, more of these garden clubs? Oh, yes, definitely, the more the better. And one of the things about it, we've been a member of the Cleveland Botanical Garden for a long time. And I, I don't think The Village Garden Club is now a bona fide member of the Botanical Garden, but I think it's that should be pushed because that's an important venue out here.
Caitlen Cameron [00:55:57] I know that you guys had some events like the I know the 1987 Botanical Garden show, I know that that happened. I know you guys have been involved in mainstream botanical gardens for years.
Lorna Mierke [00:56:10] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:56:13] Do you remember any any events that happened there that you participated in? Or...
Lorna Mierke [00:56:19] Oh, the Botanical Garden? Oh, I've been a member for forty years or so. I've been everything. Yes. Not president, but everything. Friends of mine have been very involved. Yeah. That's where we meet, Ikebana meets there. Yeah. Yeah. Ohara School. Yeah. We meet there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:56:46] And now is that open to the public. Or do you have to apply to get...?
Lorna Mierke [00:56:50] Yeah. No, no, I'm open to the public. We're trying to get new members. It's just a matter of fact. Yeah. Because we're all getting older. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:05] There you go, you can join at the Botanical Gardens and you can know Ikebana too.
Lorna Mierke [00:57:09] Yeah, yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:14] Well that's great. So overall is there anything you would like to add for this discussion, or anything for the listeners that you want to mention?
Lorna Mierke [00:57:26] No, I don't think so.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:29] Well, today is July 28. It's still sunny outside.
Lorna Mierke [00:57:36] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:37] And I just want to thank you, Lorna, for taking the time to meet and tell us your history, and it's been really great. I think you might get some Ikebana specialists out there...
Lorna Mierke [00:57:49] You're welcome.
Caitlen Cameron [00:57:51] Trying to find you and your masterful ways.
Lorna Mierke [00:57:54] Thank you. We built this house mainly. Well, mainly, but we wanted to move anyway. And we looked all over town for a house that was suitable. But I insisted that we have that I have a studio where I could teach Ikebana and flower arranging. Let me show you that room. It's very nice and very common.
Shaker Heights Historical Society
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"Lorna Mierke interview, 28 July 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 918004.