Erika Reale of Beachwood has been a member of the Village Garden Club since the early 1970s. She describes spending a semester of college in Hawaii around 1960, volunteering through the garden club at the VA Hospital, her tenure as the club’s president in the late 1980s, and how the club’s activities have evolved.
Reale, Erika (interviewee)
Cameron, Caitlen (interviewer)
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:00] Alright, today is Wednesday, August 20th. It is still kind of rainy outside, it's been off an on all day...
Erika Reale [00:00:09] 4:30.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:10] And we are in Beachwood. My name is Caitlen Cameron with the Shaker Historical Society. And I am with...
Erika Reale [00:00:17] Erica Real. You want me to spell it now?
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:20] Yes, please.
Erika Reale [00:00:21] Erika, E-R-I-K-A, Reale, R-E-A-L-E.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:24] Alright, Erika. Thank you for your time. And do you consent to be recorded?
Erika Reale [00:00:32] Oh, sure.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:33] Alright. So I guess we're just going to start out with the basics. And when and where were you born?
Erika Reale [00:00:39] Oh, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Ohio, part of Cleveland, Brooklyn Heights maybe, in 1940, [...] 1940.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:53] Okay.
Erika Reale [00:00:54] And my parents were always interested in gardening.
Caitlen Cameron [00:00:59] Really?
Erika Reale [00:01:00] Yeah. So I used to sit and watch them and then go walk through the little rows and pick things and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:01:09] Did they have like a big garden? Was it vegetables or what type of garden was it?
Erika Reale [00:01:14] I think it was all mostly vegetables. It was, it was probably... I heard them talk about a Victory Garden.
Caitlen Cameron [00:01:24] Victory Garden?
Erika Reale [00:01:24] That was during the war.
Caitlen Cameron [00:01:29] Yeah. Was that was that where they would grow, I'm trying to remember, I think things for the public? I can't remember, but...
Erika Reale [00:01:37] I really don't know. I was too young to understand a lot of it, but maybe they were just... Maybe the grocery stores didn't have much produce because I remember my parents and the people up the street, they had Victory Gardens.
Caitlen Cameron [00:01:54] Yeah. That's cool. So what do you remember about your childhood? Like, what are some things that were big in your mind back then?
Erika Reale [00:02:03] From my parents?
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:04] Yeah. From your childhood and your parents and growing up.
Erika Reale [00:02:06] Oh, well, they were always gardening and they canned things.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:15] Mmm.
Erika Reale [00:02:15] And it was a big deal. And when we would go to visit different relatives' homes, we would just go down to the fruit cellar and see how many jars of green beans they had.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:26] Really?
Erika Reale [00:02:27] [laughs] Yeah. And that was kind of fun. And then one of my cousins, he got in trouble. He was in a band and he played, high school, and he played the drums and he popped the lids from the canned goods.
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:42] Cans. Oh my gosh! So they were probably so mad about that.
Erika Reale [00:02:47] Yeah. [laughs] I don't know if they moved his placement or what. Then he moved on and joined the football team at [St.] Ignatius, so...
Caitlen Cameron [00:02:55] Cool. So where did you go to school?
Erika Reale [00:02:58] Lakewood High. Lakewood High, and before that it was a Catholic school called St. James that's now closed. It was supposed to be a copy of a basilica in Italy, which I'd always love to know more about.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:14] Huh. So did you... And you went to high school there and everything and...
Erika Reale [00:03:19] Yeah, and then I went to Bowling Green, then where else? And then I talked my parents into a semester in Hawaii.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:30] What? Really?
Erika Reale [00:03:31] That that was cool.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:33] So what did you do there? What did you study?
Erika Reale [00:03:36] It was just business. I wasn't very clever.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:40] Oh, I highly doubt that. You made it to Hawaii. That's very cool.
Erika Reale [00:03:41] Yeah. [laughs] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:03:43] So what was that like being there?
Erika Reale [00:03:45] I had one adventure after anothe. The cutest one was there was a boy, not a boyfriend, in my... In one of my classes. Somehow we became friends and I think his parents wanted him to know or talk to, they call 'em howley, a white girl. So I came with a couple of my friends. They wanted to know all about what was life on the mainland, because there if you got in the car, you go around and in an hour and that was a big deal. So this boy, the son of these people, one of them, he got a scholarship, so he was going to the University of Portland. So they arranged, I think, right in with tuition, they had to buy him a car and the car was waiting for him. And then somehow they had us over and they read the letter and he said, you won't believe how big everything is. And I drove straight for four hours or more and, in my new car.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:03] Mmm. Oh my gosh.
Erika Reale [00:05:05] That was cute.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:07] Yeah. Did you... Did you go to a lot of places and see all the sights when you were there?
Erika Reale [00:05:13] Yes, I had a very nice boyfriend. And, well, one of the things he did, we weren't motorcycle people, but he bought a motorcycle from somebody and we rode round and round the volcano and we were looking inside.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:32] Really?
Erika Reale [00:05:34] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:05:34] That sounds like a dream! Like... Wow.
Erika Reale [00:05:37] And then he had a friend, an older couple, and they were down this side street that was near Diamond Head. And that's where, oh golly, was it Mitchener? And my point in going there was at the end of the street, which is really at the end of Diamond Head, there was a pool, but they didn't need any plumbing because the ocean kept coming over and refreshing it. It was really fascinating. I'm sure there's a lot more, but I can't think of it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:13] That's okay. So what year were you there?
Erika Reale [00:06:22] Probably something like 1960 or thereabouts.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:26] Gosh.
Erika Reale [00:06:26] I'm not sure anymore.
Caitlen Cameron [00:06:27] That's okay. No worries.
Erika Reale [00:06:30] Yeah. And part of my deal, the tuition... It was... The whole package was three thousand dollars, and that included flying over there. And then there was a little hotel motel that was our dormitory. And then I had planned to take a cruise ship back. But I stayed too long.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:01] Really?
Erika Reale [00:07:02] Of course. And then I called called the office of whatever that was. And I said, I would like that one thousand dollar refund. I said, I'm going home for Christmas and I could use it. They said, sorry, you missed the deadline.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:22] Really?
Erika Reale [00:07:23] So then there was a man—my boyfriend and I, he had friends in a certain restaurant bar—and the man overheard me, and nobody was suspicious, and he says, I can get it for you. So I gave him, I don't know what it was, a voucher and a certain amount of time went by. And then he gave me a check, which was good. I thought.
Caitlen Cameron [00:07:58] Yeah, you thought.
Erika Reale [00:07:58] And my boyfriend, he wasn't looking out for me or paying attention. And then I went to the bank and all of a sudden all these security people were surrounding me.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:12] What?!
Erika Reale [00:08:12] And then I had to go into this president's office and he said, Tell us about this. And I said, I explained. And they said he had no right writing that check. He doesn't have an account and it's some kind of big offense.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:30] Yeah. That's weird.
Erika Reale [00:08:32] And so, so then I don't know how it all came about. They arranged a meeting in a coffee shop with this guy and he did finally show up with some money. I don't remember what form it was in. But later on I read it in the paper that he had taken advantage of other young girls.
Caitlen Cameron [00:08:56] Oh my gosh. Well, you're lucky that you didn't get hurt or anything.
Erika Reale [00:08:58] Yeah. Oh, I was so afraid when there were all these security people all around.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:03] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:09:05] I could have gone to jail.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:06] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:09:07] I mean, I shouldn't have had a check like that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:11] Mhm. Did you you end up getting enough money though to go back?
Erika Reale [00:09:14] Yeah, I got... I got what I was hoping for.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:20] Wow.
Erika Reale [00:09:21] So I sidetracked you.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:23] No, it's okay. That's... It's a crazy story.
Erika Reale [00:09:27] It is. I had one adventure after another with, you know, the volcano and so on.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:34] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:09:34] Oh. And there was... Oh gosh. How did that go? It was at a Halloween party. And then word came that there was a tidal wave coming and everybody was afraid to go outside. So there were about twenty people sleeping on the floor. [laughs] I haven't done that either.
Caitlen Cameron [00:09:53] So you had a boyfriend there. When you went back, did he come with you or did you?
Erika Reale [00:10:00] No, I'm afraid I wasn't very nice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:03] Oh.
Erika Reale [00:10:03] I didn't break up as nice as I should've. Yeah, he talked about a family and he said the nice thing about raising somebody in Hawaii, you don't have to buy shoes for your children. And every morning we would go past the school bus, would go past Punahou Elementary School where Obama went.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:29] Mhm.
Erika Reale [00:10:29] It was so cute. They were all barefoot and in uniform.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:36] Gosh. And then but you were like, no, I'm sorry, I don't want to be on the island for the rest of my life.
Erika Reale [00:10:42] Yeah, I got kind of like shoes. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:44] Yeah. So once you... So what did you get your degree in? Was it...
Erika Reale [00:10:52] Business.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:52] Business?
Erika Reale [00:10:52] It was wasted. I shouldn't have... Should have focused better.
Caitlen Cameron [00:10:58] So once you came back, what did you do after?
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:02] I took some more courses and I got a business job. I was a secretary at a public relations firm, and then I met my husband right away and I told him that my friends back there that they all want to meet up in, where was it, Australia. And I'm so glad my husband did this. He says that's fine, but I don't write. [laughs]
Erika Reale [00:11:33] Are you serious? He said that? Yeah. That slowed me down on everything. And my parents adored him and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:39] Really?
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:41] So what made you... What made you slow down for him? What what made him so special, I guess?
Erika Reale [00:11:47] Well, I adored him.
Caitlen Cameron [00:11:48] Really?
Erika Reale [00:11:49] And I told him, I think. But after he proposed, I said, I think I have to marry you, you're the smartest man—he was the top of his law class—smartest man I ever met.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:02] Well, that's nice. I'm glad that...
Erika Reale [00:12:04] And because I have two really smart kids. [laughs] They got his brains.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:10] You're smart too. Don't worry. Did they get your wild side because you seem like you have this wild side with Hawaii and everything?
Erika Reale [00:12:18] I did. I'm not too wild.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:21] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:12:23] Adventuresome. That's why I thought I was gonna go meet my friends in Australia.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:30] Yeah. Gosh.
Erika Reale [00:12:31] Thank goodness.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:32] Did you ever go there afterwards?
Erika Reale [00:12:34] No.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:36] You need to go still.
Erika Reale [00:12:38] [laughs] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:39] Okay.
Erika Reale [00:12:40] Have you?
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:41] Never. I've been to Italy and...
Erika Reale [00:12:45] Oh that's beautiful. My son's there and he's sending me pictures.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:50] Really? Yeah. It's a beautiful place, but, there's a lot of places I still want to go.
Erika Reale [00:12:56] Oh, sure.
Caitlen Cameron [00:12:57] So once you met your husband, how did you get to Cleveland? Did you live do you live in Cleveland with him?
Erika Reale [00:13:05] How did I get to see him?
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:06] No, Cleveland. How did you get to Cleveland?
Erika Reale [00:13:09] Oh, I flew back there to my family for Christmas.
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:12] And then you lived there.
Erika Reale [00:13:13] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:14] Okay, and then did you guys live in Shaker or did you...
Erika Reale [00:13:18] We lived in Lakewood, where I grew up for a year. And then he was with this law firm and he was very athletic and he was going over to Shaker to play tennis during the day and then coming back. And then we'd have a dinner date. And it seemed like he was going twice. And he said, this doesn't make any sense. And he said, What do you think? And I said, I could still call my mother every day. That's what's important to me.
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:50] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:13:51] Yeah. So that...
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:53] So you moved to Shaker. That's great.
Erika Reale [00:13:56] I'm glad of it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:13:58] Yeah. It's a beautiful area.
Erika Reale [00:14:01] Mhm. And the schools were good and we had this fabulous house and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:08] Mhm. Yeah, so, okay, so tell me about your house first and we'll go on...
Erika Reale [00:14:11] I have a picture somewhere. This is a picture over here.
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:20] You have to come over. So... And you showed me this picture, this painting. So who made that painting?
Erika Reale [00:14:35] Stephen Seward. I don't know much about him anymore.
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:42] Yeah. It's beautiful, but that was in your... That was right in your...
Erika Reale [00:14:44] Yeah. Oh, that has a story to it was to be a fortieth anniversary surprise, so... [Dog comes into the room] Oh, my goodness! Push him away.
Caitlen Cameron [00:14:57] Well, I don't...
Erika Reale [00:15:00] [laughs] He's very cute. Do you have an animal?
Caitlen Cameron [00:15:04] Not at home. [laughs]
Erika Reale [00:15:08] Now where was I?
Caitlen Cameron [00:15:09] Oh, the story about the painting.
Erika Reale [00:15:12] Oh. So I found... Discovered this manuscript with the Art Institute, Steven Seward. And then it was to be the 40th anniversary. And I wanted to surprise him. Until... I never... I never, never did tell him. And then the picture appeared in the newspaper. He said it was his favorite picture. And so I called my husband's secretary and I said, if you see anybody dashing down the hall with this paper clipping and take it away from him [laughs]...
Caitlen Cameron [00:15:52] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:15:53] And try to help me keep this secret. So I think, I'm pretty sure I did, and then the night of our anniversary, we went, whatever time we went to bed, his job [was to] turn off all the lights, and he came upstairs. He says, I'm seeing something unusual in the living room. Yes. And I said, yes, happy anniversary. And then I wanted to do my son. And he said he couldn't sit still that long.
Caitlen Cameron [00:16:26] Oh, geez! I'm a painter, but I would never do that good, I can tell you that.
Erika Reale [00:16:35] His whole family... His... There was a showing with the Intown Club, his mother and his brother, and I don't know 'em real well. He's a nice kid, in between times he would play chess with my daughter.
Caitlen Cameron [00:16:51] Huh. That's interesting. So, okay, we'll go back. So at your house in Shaker, what did you... What was your garden like?
Erika Reale [00:17:03] Oh, I had almost an acre and I...
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:05] Wow.
Erika Reale [00:17:08] I can't even describe what I like to do. It was large and people occasionally would ask me to be part of a show or walkthrough, and I just didn't want that. I didn't want anybody looking in my windows or...
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:27] Really? Was it more judgment or was it more just you wanted to keep your life private?
Erika Reale [00:17:37] I wanted to keep it private.
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:38] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:17:42] Yeah. Cool. That's okay. That's a... I've heard some things that you have a beautiful garden and...
Erika Reale [00:17:47] Yeah, and we backed up to the Shaker golf course and we were very close to... Not Horseshoe. What do they call it? Lower Lake? The duck pond lake. And it was kind of fun, different... There was a fox that would come through. And then once there was a turkey.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:16] A turkey!
Erika Reale [00:18:17] Yeah. And it would pace back and forth and then walk about two houses away. And then I'd find it down at the golf course, down at the duck pond. I love the wildlife.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:28] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:18:29] And we had wild turtles. What else? Oh, an owl, a wonderful owl.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:35] Oh, I have one of those right now.
Erika Reale [00:18:37] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:37] And I love them.
Erika Reale [00:18:38] I used to know what kind. Anyway, I loved hearing him at night.
Caitlen Cameron [00:18:44] Mhm. I think I have a barn owl, I think. A barn owl... Yeah, that's cool. So how did you get involved with the Village Garden Club?
Erika Reale [00:18:57] There was a lady who lives sort of near us and she didn't have any children and she more or less adopted me and would drive me around, show me the gardens or parks. And then she got me involved in this program, that for the longest time I thought we were just doing it on our own. And then later on, Barb Shockey said it was a program through Village Garden Club. But we had this job. From the Botanic[al] Garden, I got a list of affiliate clubs. Fifty-five. And I would call them and most of them were pretty cooperative, but some certain times of year, and they would arrange flowers down at the VA Hospital. And people were real nice. They'd give me their discarded faces and everything. And I did that for about four years. And then somebody committed suicide and I decided I didn't need to go to the VA Hospital for a while.
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:10] Yeah. So, who was the woman that got you involved?
Erika Reale [00:20:16] Kay Gehring. She must be in here. Wait, but... I've looked. I don't think she was the president. But she, you know, befriended me and I felt like she was my mother and we did these things, and I like I said, I did that for years. And then afterwards I branched out to hortotherapy.
Caitlen Cameron [00:20:47] Ooh, what is that?
Erika Reale [00:20:49] Oh, you just take plant cuttings and try to grow them. And they gave me, the Botanic[al] Garden gave me a light cart. And I did that for a long time, too. And then, again, but all that time I thought it was just a program between Kay Gehring and me. And then Barb Shockey gave this history and mentioned it, and it was the first time I knew that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:15] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:21:16] And of course it was the old... The old VA Hospital was about half the size. And, oh, that got me some recognition then. The Botanic[al] Garden had just opened, and they kind of didn't know what kind of path to take. So they got me involved and wanted to know what young people wanted. And I said, oh, flower arranging and... And I wound up on the board. I was the youngest person on the board, which was really nice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:21:54] Really?
Erika Reale [00:21:54] And then I also got, because of that, I was on the board for a short time at the Nature Center.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:06] What year did you join the Garden Club?
Erika Reale [00:22:09] I think it's '72.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:12] '72?
Erika Reale [00:22:13] And before the Nature Center came to be, we were in Shaker then and I knew nothing about volunteer work, you know. And I remember reading to my husband, I said, there's several ladies and they think they're going to stop a highway. Can volunteers do that? And sure enough, they did.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:38] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:22:39] And so I can even remember one person I knew, her father, I think his last name was Sears, he put up a little log cabin. They said almost overnight and that was instrumental in stopping the highway.
Caitlen Cameron [00:22:59] Really?
Erika Reale [00:23:00] That's what people say.
Caitlen Cameron [00:23:01] Yeah. Did you know anybody that was part of a fight like that was involved?
Erika Reale [00:23:06] Yeah, there were a couple of people from the Garden Club.
Caitlen Cameron [00:23:10] Did you ever know any of them personally?
Erika Reale [00:23:13] Yeah, there was a Kay Fuller and there was a Croxton. Yeah, I wonder if her name's in here. Meg Croxton. And then there are some people from... I belonged to two clubs eventually. There were some people from from Shaker Lakes Garden Club. You know, I don't see either one. Now, what do you want to ask me?
Caitlen Cameron [00:23:52] I guess what... So when you joined the club, I know you did the VA stuff and the flower arranging. What did you, I guess, what did you enjoy about the Village Garden Club? What are some memories that you loved?
Erika Reale [00:24:08] Well, everybody was really friendly and, you know, there was no being shy or anything and, you know, meeting every month and... People were very friendly. And then I started some programs that they enjoyed. I started the plant exchange.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:30] Oh really?
Erika Reale [00:24:31] Yeah, I hadn't even thought of it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:33] Tell me about that because a couple of people mentioned it, but they haven't gone into it, so...
Erika Reale [00:24:39] Well, the idea was you were supposed to bring some, bring something and take something and you were supposed to label it. Not many people did. People were happy just to get something.
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:51] Yeah. What do... What did you used to bring for the exchange?
Erika Reale [00:24:56] What did I used to bring?
Caitlen Cameron [00:24:57] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:24:57] Oh, golly. Well, there was... There was something called gooseneck, and then there was something called El Camela, which is a small yellow... No, I can't even explain it. And daisies. Nothing too exciting. And then I learned something exciting from them. Irish rose and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:25:43] Huh. That's nice.
Erika Reale [00:25:45] And so I started programs. I saved the cost of two meetings because one January... Oh, I did the programs for a long time, from... One year there was a blizzard and the Garden Club wound up paying about three hundred dollars for a canceled meeting, so I said, well, that's just not good anyway. So I canceled that. And I can't remember what my budget... I had a certain budget to work within. And then I thought they should save money, or I was copying with another garden club did to have an annual meeting, each committee report out at their June meeting. So I did that. Oh, and I started the horticulture program and then they had something that I don't think it is any longer. It's called Save the Eagle program. The eagle was an endangered species.
Caitlen Cameron [00:26:58] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:26:59] And people were supposed to bring... They didn't want common stamps, and they even liked hunting stamps. And then they would send them in to the Florida Audubon Society.
Caitlen Cameron [00:27:14] Huh. Really?
Erika Reale [00:27:16] Yeah. And then I got the guy from the Audubon Society to come and talk to us once. I don't think I've mentioned this. When I first joined, Carol Mock, I don't know if you... Oh, she's deceased now. She gave me prunings. People were pruning all over it. But she took... She took only me over to the Cleveland Heights side. And then they gave that up after a while. So I did... So I did programs for about twenty years. I got really good at it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:09] Really? Were you ever president at any point?
Erika Reale [00:28:11] Yeah, mhm. I think it was in the '80s. I think it was '89 because my daughter graduated from high school then.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:21] What was it like to be president?
Erika Reale [00:28:22] Hmm?
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:23] What was it like to be president?
Erika Reale [00:28:26] Oh everybody was so nice and cooperative. No, no problem.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:31] Did you remember anything from like a big event you did while you were president or...
Erika Reale [00:28:39] I'm sorry.
Caitlen Cameron [00:28:40] No, it's okay.
Erika Reale [00:28:44] Oh, we used to take... We used to have a better budget, too. We used to take bus trips. There was a nursery in Wooster and one in Mansfield. I'm sure there were others, but we...
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:04] To go get new plants and stuff?
Erika Reale [00:29:06] Mhm. Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:07] Oh wow. Cool. Did you remember any events that happened in Shaker besides the freeway fight that were like memorable or anything that happened?
Erika Reale [00:29:26] Oh, I'm going to disappoint you.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:29] Don't worry. You're okay.
Erika Reale [00:29:35] No. Once the Nature Center got going...
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:39] Mhm.
Erika Reale [00:29:44] I don't really remember any significant disagreements.
Caitlen Cameron [00:29:51] Just events, anything that...
Erika Reale [00:29:53] I can't think of anything.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:03] It's okay. Okay. What about community involvement? Do you guys remember volunteering or donating anything to...
Erika Reale [00:30:12] About my volunteer experience?
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:16] Mhm.
Erika Reale [00:30:16] Well, yeah, you know, up until... Till we were married and moved to the East Side, I don't think I had ever done any volunteer work.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:28] Oh, really?
Erika Reale [00:30:29] I don't think so.
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:32] What did you do after?
Erika Reale [00:30:35] After? Well, I was always involved. We were always worried about those damn cherry trees. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:30:46] Yeah, how is... How do you think the Grove has changed since the beginning?
Erika Reale [00:30:53] I don't know. There's been involvement from different groups, and I'm pleased with that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:08] Have you have you seen it recently? Have you been over there at all?
Erika Reale [00:31:12] No, I read something somewhere that, about the stone and I didn't understand it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:19] Oh.
Erika Reale [00:31:20] Did you?
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:21] I haven't seen that. I've heard...
Erika Reale [00:31:22] I don't know if they're going to put another one down or what that was all about.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:28] Oh. Did you see the bench?
Erika Reale [00:31:29] Yeah. [crosstalk] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:30] That's... It looks wonderful. But I know a lot of members are concerned about the Horseshoe, like the lake draining and stuff. I know...
Erika Reale [00:31:41] The city used to be able to duplicate the other benches, set up... That bench is new. I mean, it's not the same. I guess it doesn't matter. I see people sitting on it, so people are enjoying it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:31:57] I know lots of people love the Grove. I know...
Erika Reale [00:32:00] Mhm. Yeah. And I remember the cherry tree meetings and dedicating a tree and different members' names, one of which was my dearest friend, Marjorie Schwartzel. And she designed... She was an artist. She designed this tree. And then we used to have stationery...
Caitlen Cameron [00:32:22] Huh. Really?
Erika Reale [00:32:26] With it on it. I don't know what's happened to that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:32:29] So, can you tell me about her? Because I...
Erika Reale [00:32:32] About Margie?
Caitlen Cameron [00:32:34] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:32:34] Oh, well, she was just the dearest, sweetest friend. And then she was a real artist. And sometimes she'd enter things in, what's it called, the May Show?
Caitlen Cameron [00:32:47] Huh.
Erika Reale [00:32:52] And then she... We lost her due to cancer.
Caitlen Cameron [00:32:58] Yeah. Was she, so she was involved in the Garden Club?
Erika Reale [00:33:01] Oh, yeah. Yeah, she used to laugh and say, just think, someday there'll be a tree in my name.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:07] Really? Gosh.
Erika Reale [00:33:09] Margie. I don't think I have anything from her.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:18] What year did she pass? Do you know what year she passed away?
Erika Reale [00:33:26] Well, let's see. My daughter was home. I'm guessing it's something like '89, but I'm not sure.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:40] No, that's okay.
Erika Reale [00:33:40] Not at all sure.
Caitlen Cameron [00:33:46] That's alright. Well, I know that tree on the front, it's still beautiful... For the design and stuff, so her legacy...
Erika Reale [00:33:52] There must be some stationery. I thought I'd seen it, but I don't have occasion to even ask for it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:01] That's okay. Oh, so the meetings have developed over time, right? Tell me about the white gloves. You told me that story.
Erika Reale [00:34:07] Oh, well, oh, that was when I first joined. I can't even tell you her name now. I just thought it was interesting, and she was so fussy. She didn't like their name tags either. She had a special name tag made for her when she was volunteering down at the hospital and she'd wear that too
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:29] Really?
Erika Reale [00:34:29] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:30] But she would wear the white gloves to just the meetings or...
Erika Reale [00:34:33] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:34] Huh. That's weird.
Erika Reale [00:34:36] Maybe that was the time...
Caitlen Cameron [00:34:37] Yeah. How do you think the meetings have developed over time? Like when you first joined, what were meetings like, to now?
Erika Reale [00:34:49] Well, the ladies looked forward to a hot lunch, a catered lunch. They had a wonderful catered lady, Jenna Cutlet. And since then, I don't know, there was one lady, they were all wraps and there was somebody, some other lady... Oh, they look like one of those Chinese boxes. Nobody would eat it. I just wish they would... I'll bet that woman is still around. I wish they would have her. People looked forward to a hot lunch. And I don't know. They've gotten all... Things have been skewed the wrong way. They thought they'd asked for a separate fee for lunches and somehow they never... Back in my day, they only had a balance every year of maybe two thousand dollars. Now, now they don't know what they're doing, asking for money. And it's they have twenty thousand dollars, and they don't know what to do with it. And I've suggested a number of times maybe this would be the year that they just give 'em a Christmas program, a Christmas lunch. All the ladies are very nice. I have no...
Caitlen Cameron [00:36:26] Yeah. I know people have talked about the holiday party.
Erika Reale [00:36:31] Oh, yeah, [crosstalk] that's very nice. The program and music maybe.
Caitlen Cameron [00:36:41] What's your favorite... What's your favorite event that you guys do every year?
Erika Reale [00:36:45] Oh, gee. I don't even know. I think I really like getting introduced to this concept of plant exchange, and you would get things that you didn't even know about.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:06] Oh, yeah, I know Sally once, she said that she'd give me a night-blooming cerius plant.
Erika Reale [00:37:12] She did?
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:13] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:37:14] Oh, she's a good gardener then.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:16] Yeah, she's, she's amazing. She's got a great collection in her back yard.
Erika Reale [00:37:20] Well, and this used to be a bay window, and there were twelve windows. It was sort of a semicircle. And I used to have a lot of plants in there.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:36] Do you still... I see you have a little garden right now.
Erika Reale [00:37:40] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:40] Do you still garden?
Erika Reale [00:37:42] Yeah. I can't stay away from it.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:44] Yeah, I know. I have a garden myself.
Erika Reale [00:37:47] Do you? Oh, I'm glad to hear that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:37:49] It's... It's tiny, but it's, it's my...
Erika Reale [00:37:52] I wonder if there's... If I have a clue when Margie passed away. Gee, well, it is so funny how I was so shocked when Barb Shockey came up with this idea of Village Garden Club doing volunteer work down at the VA Hospital. It was nice. And there are some people that really looked forward to coming. And I'd have a closet that people would donate vases in. And then when they were finished, the dining room table was cheerful looking.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:37] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:38:37] It's nice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:40] Do you still go to all the meetings now? Do you still go to all the meetings now?
Erika Reale [00:38:48] Well, there haven't been...
Caitlen Cameron [00:38:50] Yeah, I know. That's true.
Erika Reale [00:38:51] Yeah, I hear that there's gonna be a regular one on September 13th, I heard. I don't even know what I heard where. Oh, yeah, NOAC.
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:01] Okay. I know... Oh. How did Covid affect... Did you go to the meetings on Zoom and do those meetings or...
Erika Reale [00:39:13] Just, just a couple. And I wasn't very good at Zoom, and I had three book clubs to keep myself busy and...
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:23] Oh my gosh.
Erika Reale [00:39:23] And some I could Zoom and some I couldn't, and I'm waiting [laughs], waiting for it come back. I don't know if that's...
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:30] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:39:32] Going to happen or not.
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:33] Did Covid affect you, and did you, like how did it, how did it change everything for you?
Erika Reale [00:39:41] Well, let's see. Well, I got all my shots in... It's a funny thing, I'm asthmatic and bronchitis and I got better, you know.
Caitlen Cameron [00:39:55] Really?
Erika Reale [00:39:55] Yeah. Nobody, nobody seems terribly interested. I'm not coughing or sneezing or dripping or anything. And it knocked all the germs out of me.
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:06] Huh. That's good though. I mean, that's a benefit.
Erika Reale [00:40:11] [laughs] Yeah! Right. Nobody believes me.
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:16] Hmm. I know it was a big change for a lot of people, just a lot of...
Erika Reale [00:40:21] Yeah, my husband's in a nursing home and I hate to get their newsletter. Every week there's somebody...
Caitlen Cameron [00:40:36] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:40:36] A lot of my friends... Let's see, one of my friends, her daughter, they've gone a little crazy. Her daughter... I think her husband's a lawyer and the daughter, I think she's doing virtual teaching. And then for a while, they wouldn't let their son go back to Ohio State. Now I hear he can go, but they've gone a little bonkers, growing plants under lights. And, they're... They've got carrots and vegetable gardens...
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:12] Really?
Erika Reale [00:41:12] In their basement. And I think everybody's going back to school.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:18] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:41:19] Like my grandsons, my darling grandsons. They're in sixth and seventh and they don't mind... Well, they don't say they mind wearing a mask. I was just glad they could go.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:35] Yeah. I know virtual school is not fun, sitting on a computer all day.
Erika Reale [00:41:41] I didn't mention my husband grew up in Mansfield. He probably went to some kind of Richland [County] school.
Caitlen Cameron [00:41:47] Oh, really? Does he still have family there and stuff?
Erika Reale [00:41:55] He does... Do I know? I don't know. I've lost track of his relatives. Well, there are some that email me but they're in Florida and I don't know where.
Caitlen Cameron [00:42:09] So did you and your husband ever travel anywhere together?
Erika Reale [00:42:16] Yes. He really didn't like to travel. But there we were, this single, this couple with no children, and one of the, one of his friends said, which you should take advantage of that. And so the law firm gave you four weeks. A lot of people just didn't take it. And we just got in our little car and drove out west for four weeks. We did most of the national parks. And then after a while... Well, first he seemed reluctant to go. We got as far as Chicago and his Notre Dame roommate had a party for him.
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:02] Mhm.
Erika Reale [00:43:03] There were all these people. And oh, they all kept saying come stay with me, come stay with me. And I thought, I'm going to be telling my friends I'm in Chicago. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:13] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:43:13] And then finally, we got on our way. And like I said, we did most of the national parks. We'd wake up every morning and he'd get out his map and we'd discuss how many miles he could go. And then the next year, he filled in the gaps.
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:34] Hmm. Wow. Did you ever go back to Hawaii, like, since then?
Erika Reale [00:43:37] No, I keep telling my family, I said even if they just went, I said, I just want to see my old, my apartment is there or my favorite restaurant.
Caitlen Cameron [00:43:50] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:43:51] And one one of my grandsons, he got on his phone and he found there was one restaurant—I love to see it—it was a room with three walls in that you would sit at this lovely... Think it was French. You would sit at your table and you'd look out at the waves coming in. They had no third wall, or fourth wall.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:18] Really?
Erika Reale [00:44:19] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:19] So just open.
Erika Reale [00:44:20] That... That was neat. And then he took me to a lot of nice places, to Tahitian dancing. I would never have seen that and... Hmm, I'm sure there were many, but it was pretty funny when twenty people were sleeping on the floor because we were worried about a tidal wave.
Caitlen Cameron [00:44:48] Yeah. Have you ever... Have you ever talked to that boyfriend since then, since you left?
Erika Reale [00:44:55] No, I've been playing with the computer. I just wonder if he's alive, because I don't think I left in the best way.
Caitlen Cameron [00:45:07] Yeah. Maybe he'll listen to this and he'll come...
Erika Reale [00:45:10] But I don't... I'm not even getting a clue. So I think he's probably gone.
Caitlen Cameron [00:45:17] Yeah. Huh. You never know.
Erika Reale [00:45:21] [Laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:45:21] That's cool. So I guess what else would you like to add about the Garden Club? So any other memories or any other things?
Erika Reale [00:45:34] I'm sure there's something I forgot. Programs, I did that for about twenty years. The stamp program, he probably canceled that. At some point, some of the ladies talked about canceling the cherry trees. They thought it was... Old women shouldn't be digging around and then thank goodness we saved that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:46:11] That's still going on and still going strong, I know.
Erika Reale [00:46:13] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:46:15] How do you see the future for The Guardian? What do you see going on?
Erika Reale [00:46:21] Well, it seems all positive. They've had some men that want to join. We've never had that. And I think the numbers are increasing. Helen, who was the treasurer, says we have too much money. We should never have twenty thousand dollars. The old dues used to be either 80 or 90. And I don't even remember what they want now, I just write a check.
Caitlen Cameron [00:46:51] Any advice for people wanting to join?
Erika Reale [00:46:56] Oh, I don't know. I wish I had something wise to say but... [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:00] No, that's okay. If you, if you could describe the Garden Club to somebody, how would you describe it? Like if they never even heard of it before?
Erika Reale [00:47:09] They never what?
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:11] Say if they never heard of the Garden Club, how would you describe it?
Erika Reale [00:47:13] Oh, well, there's several ladies come together for informal lectures. I think they even used to have a limit of thirty people, and then they have this hot lunch and go to someone's home. We used to go to the historical society. I used to have to go down to Judson Park. I was always on the lookout for a room that I could rent.
Caitlen Cameron [00:47:55] Really?
Erika Reale [00:47:56] I think I did a damn good job, and I loved it. One of the ladies joked, she says it was... My appointment was like to the Supreme Court. [laughs] It's forever.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:12] Yeah. That's good. You definitely had a great legacy in the Garden Club and...
Erika Reale [00:48:18] I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:21] It's okay. You said you've had a great legacy within the Garden Club. A lot of people talk about you, so no worries.
Erika Reale [00:48:26] Oh, really? Oh, I'm glad. I enjoyed every bit of it, except when somebody was suggesting we stop doing the cherry trees.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:41] Yeah, well, that's a good thing that didn't happen, so no worries. But is there anything else you'd like to add?
Erika Reale [00:48:50] I'm sorry.
Caitlen Cameron [00:48:55] There's no reason to be sorry.
Erika Reale [00:48:56] There were several mother-daughter groups. There was one lady... That was way back... She hoped nobody would ever come to Garden Club with slacks on.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:10] Really?
Erika Reale [00:49:12] [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:12] She was... Like it was a like dresses or skirts?
Erika Reale [00:49:15] Yeah. In town she always had a silk blouse on. And she was lovely. She was gorgeous.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:19] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:49:20] I think she was even president sometime,
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:23] Gosh. Yeah, now nobody...
Erika Reale [00:49:24] Yeah. I don't know the last time I had on a skirt.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:29] Really?
Erika Reale [00:49:29] I really don't even know.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:33] Hmm. That's okay. It's a new world. It's new...
Erika Reale [00:49:35] Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:35] We're allowed to be comfortable women now, right?
Erika Reale [00:49:38] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:43] That's good.
Erika Reale [00:49:43] Yeah, and my husband and I, we really enjoyed those Christmas parties.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:51] The big gatherings and... Yeah.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:57] Just when you leave, I'll think of something.
Caitlen Cameron [00:49:59] I know. That's how it always goes, but so thank you for your time and thank you for sharing with me a couple of your memories. And...
Erika Reale [00:50:10] Oh, I hope some time you'll come to one of their meetings when they get going again. I hope they do. It was really a nice thing.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:19] I might come to the tea, which is...
Erika Reale [00:50:21] Yeah, and my kids used to joke. They'd say, whenever we were going we would go on a vacation, without fail my son would bet my husband how long would take till we find another garden club. And I remember we were in Connecticut at Mystic... Mystic Museum, whatever that... Sure enough... [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:44] They had that one there.
Erika Reale [00:50:46] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:50:47] That's cool. You've had quite the history of gardening and garden clubs. Oh, before... Any tips, any tips for a garden or tricks that you would recommend?
Erika Reale [00:51:01] Gee. I don't know. I'm lucky. I'm one of the few that have a patio and I even found a hose I can tap into.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:12] That's nice.
Erika Reale [00:51:14] And I have, well Helen helped me find two tomato plants, so I have a little something.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:27] Nice. See, that's great. Yeah, I have tomatoes right now and they're doing okay. They're just okay.
Erika Reale [00:51:35] So what school do you go to?
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:38] Well, I went to Cleveland State.
Erika Reale [00:51:40] You went where?
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:41] Cleveland State. Cleveland State University.
Erika Reale [00:51:45] Oh. Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:51:47] Four years, but I'm going to end the recording, but I just want to say thank you again. And I appreciate your time.
Erika Reale [00:51:57] Oh, well, it's fun to talk about something that was so pleasant to meet such nice ladies like Helen. Well, no, I got Helen into the Garden Club. I think they joked, at one point I proposed at least six people.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:16] Really?
Erika Reale [00:52:17] Yeah, it's nice.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:18] Yeah. Helen said she wanted to thank you because you got her into the club.
Erika Reale [00:52:23] [laughs] Oh, she's wonderful.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:25] She's a wonderful arrangement, flower arranger.
Erika Reale [00:52:30] Oh, she's the best arranger.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:32] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:52:33] Yeah. And as a matter of fact, I think I mentioned, my husband passed away. Now it's three, three or four weeks, and she bought... She bought an arrangement.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:43] Really?
Erika Reale [00:52:44] Mhm.
Caitlen Cameron [00:52:45] That's so nice. I'm sorry about your husband too.
Erika Reale [00:52:49] Yes. He had dementia and he was such a good person. It's just terrible how he had to suffer for seven years. Just didn't deserve that.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:06] I'm sorry. I know at least he's not suffering anymore.
Erika Reale [00:53:11] Yeah. Mhm. That's the positive spin I have to put on it. Go to Hawaii sometime.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:21] Yeah.
Erika Reale [00:53:22] It's so interesting.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:24] I know. I want... You make me want to go now.
Erika Reale [00:53:26] Yeah. I would just like to see my apartment that I shared. It was 185 dollars. So cheap. [laughs]
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:35] Really. Gosh.
Erika Reale [00:53:36] Now. Now cheap. Yeah, everything was nice and safe. At this nice boyfriend, but I would just love to know... I don't want to get in contact with him but I'd love to know if he's still alive, but he was older than me.
Caitlen Cameron [00:53:56] And what was his name?
Erika Reale [00:54:01] Can you look? Raymore, Dan. And Raymore is spelled—it's a French name—M-R-A-M-O-U-R.
Caitlen Cameron [00:54:14] Let me look him up.
Erika Reale [00:54:14] That'd be amazing.
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"Erika Reale interview, 20 August 2021" (2021). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 918010.