Rose Strauss, owner and operator of ten buildings in Cleveland's Midtown Corridor, discusses her professional life in the area. Ms. Strauss, former president of Leader Electric, decided to go into the real estate business in the early 1980s. She discusses why she decided to get involved in urban real estate, security issues, marketing issues, and her attraction to Downtown real estate. Other topics include her personal and family history, perceptions of Cleveland neighborhoods, and the changing environments of multiple neighborhoods.


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Strauss, Rose (interviewee)


Calder, James (interviewer)


Midtown Cleveland



Document Type

Oral History


69 minutes


Rose Strauss [00:00:00] …much to talk about, actually.

James Calder [00:00:04] Well, since you’re on the mic, do you want to introduce yourself?

Rose Strauss [00:00:07] Yes, my name is Rose Strauss and my business is, I own, manage and market and do all the work for about ten buildings. A lot of them are in Midtown.

James Calder [00:00:25] Okay, I guess the first question, we’ll repeat some of the things we already went over on the phone, but the first one is that- So how did you sort of get into the building management business?

Rose Strauss [00:00:43] Our company, we started our company in 1961, Leader Electric Supply. It’s a wholesale electrical supply company. We started on Superior and 36th Street with $10,000 in investments and moved from there to 43rd and Superior in 1968. And we had grown and we bought- Actually, I bought that building with money my mother gave me from the sale of her house. That was a down payment. Paid $90,000 for it. It’s a whole city block. And our company grew there and we did very well. In 1984, we became a woman-owned minority business. And a lot of our competitors went out of business or moved away, and we did really well. The city of Cleveland helped us grow because of the minority program. So in order for us to have this company in that building, I bought the building. And that’s how I got started, I filled it up with other tenants and saved my money and started buying buildings.

James Calder [00:02:18] So you worked at the Leader Electric? And then-

Rose Strauss [00:02:23] I became president because that was part of the- My husband- It was my husband’s company until the minority thing went through the city hall. That was during the time George Forbes was there, was council president, and I don’t remember who the mayor was. But anyway, so I bought that building at that time. And that’s how I started. Made money with it, which is more than I can say right now. Making money.

James Calder [00:02:59] The business-

Rose Strauss [00:03:00] Well, we don’t own the Leader Electric anymore. So we sold it to a big national company. Still called Leader Electric, but it’s not our family business anymore. Like everybody, we’re all selling out to the big guys.

James Calder [00:03:18] With the minority business status, how did - because it was a woman-owned business - how did that work and how did that benefit you? What were the benefits?

Rose Strauss [00:03:29] Well, the city of Cleveland gave us a lot of business and we could be 5% on the bidding. We could be 5% above the lowest bid. So we could, if they had to have a minority, most of the time we would get the contract. And other electrical contractors, when the project was financed by federal [or] state monies, it had to have a minority and contractors, minority contractors, very seldom qualified. They were not business-oriented and they came, they went. They had a hard time paying their bills, so they didn’t have credit. It was a big thing for us. Really, really a big opportunity for our company. So we grew. But it was not the only reason we grew. I mean, we grew because we were family business and gave personal attention. And our customers were a family business. Small companies, mostly. We were the only company, electrical supply house in Cleveland that gave credit to minority contractors and gave them the same prices. That was not the custom. Although no one talks about it.

James Calder [00:05:03] Do you mean like minority-owned businesses-

Rose Strauss [00:05:08] Couldn’t get credit.

James Calder [00:05:10] And you sold electrical supplies? What-

Rose Strauss [00:05:13] Yes, mostly commercial.

James Calder [00:05:14] Okay. What would that entail, just for someone who wouldn’t know about it?

Rose Strauss [00:05:19] Lighting. Lighting, wire, pipe controls. [Interruption and unrelated discussion about recording equipment from 00:05:29 to 00:07:15]

Rose Strauss [00:07:16] So where were we? I was telling you how great I am?

James Calder [00:07:19] Yeah, best business in Cleveland!

Rose Strauss [00:07:22] Everybody loves to tell- I’m so wonderful. All right. So anyway, where were we? We were talking about the minority business.

James Calder [00:07:34] Yeah. Electrical businesses. Your work with minority businesses.

Rose Strauss [00:07:38] Yeah. We worked 100 hours a day. It’s just, you know, we did $6 million worth of business with eight employees. And two of those were my husband and I. We delivered. We got- We were started at some in the morning. I loaded trucks, put stuff in stock, receiving, and we did everything. People didn’t show up from work and, you know, we did whatever needed to be done.

James Calder [00:08:04] So was it completely- Who else was there? Just family pretty much?

Rose Strauss [00:08:09] Well, my kids were little, my husband and I, and-

James Calder [00:08:14] Are you recording? [Brief interruption]

Rose Strauss [00:08:24] What a job to edit all this. It’s going to be a big job.

James Calder [00:08:28] That’s all right. That’ll give me something to do.

Rose Strauss [00:08:33] Anyway, my kids were little, and so I was housewifing and raising kids and girl scouting and all that other stuff, PTA.

James Calder [00:08:42] What do you find all the time to do that sort of thing?

Rose Strauss [00:08:44] I have no idea because I can’t seem to find time now to do everything and I’m always tired. I don’t know how I did it. I may have been getting uppers. In my day when we were pregnant, the doctors gave us uppers [crosstalk] to keep the weight down. Oh, yeah. Even after it was nothing to get drugs. Don’t have to take that out of the thing.

James Calder [00:09:17] Well, okay, so we’ve gone through sort of the founding of leader electric that’s led into-

Rose Strauss [00:09:27] Real estate

James Calder [00:09:28] Real estate. And so I guess we can stick with that. Just-

Rose Strauss [00:09:34] Go ahead with the real estate.

James Calder [00:09:36] Go ahead with real estate. How is- What led you into that?

Rose Strauss [00:09:40] Well, our own building was so big - to me, it was big, 30,000 square feet - that I just, we didn’t need it all so I rented out parts of it and I saved the money I got from that and saved it up and bought another building. I bought a building across the street, bought a couple of apartments. In ’77 I bought two apartment buildings on 93rd, right next to the Clinic. They were in horrible, horrible shape, full of drug addicts and drunks and empty, and it was a terrible building, but it’s all redone and it’s all filled up. And I bought a building on Marquette that’s- We kind of redid an old industrial building. I did that one, that belonged to Leader Electricity. And more recently, the buildings on Perkins. That’s a 240,000-square-foot building that I’ve had six years now, and it’s pretty much filled up. Low rents. It’s a nice building.

James Calder [00:10:51] Is this- Do you rent mostly to sort of residential renting or is it commercial?

Rose Strauss [00:10:57] It’s mostly commercial. Like Thundertech is one of our tenants. They’re just getting additional space, probably thanks to Midtown and their work with Midtown. Yeah, they’re getting- It’s supposed to be done by August 1 but I have to tell them it’s probably not going to meet that criteria. And we have a lot of nonprofits in that building. I have the art museum in three spaces. So that’s what I do. My kids are all grown and through college and graduate school, and that was a very tough time. We actually sold our house to pay for college, never borrowed any money. Now I could use some money to finish what I’m doing.

James Calder [00:11:47] Has it been, well, like I said, along with money and things would have been the challenges of, especially, real estate downtown?

Rose Strauss [00:11:58] Well, it’s marketing. The downtown realtors, the big ones, don’t help us. In fact, they try to hurt us, I think. And maybe we’re paranoid, but, you know, lots of times when we try to buy a building and I won’t, well, CB Ellis, it gets, we make an offer and we don’t, we’re not taken seriously. And usually it winds up with somebody that works with for CB Ellis, but it’s not a well known fact. These things are all not talked about.

James Calder [00:12:38] We can talk about them if you’d like. We certainly don’t have to.

Rose Strauss [00:12:42] There’s no use to it, you know, it’s making, having an expose at this point. You know, nobody really does anything, can do anything. These people are very powerful.

James Calder [00:12:54] So you think that’s- But to. I guess what we can say is that you think that’s a detriment to, I guess, smaller-

Rose Strauss [00:13:03] Well, to people like us. They write programs. Programs are written. Right now there’s one at the county that says they have money for owner of a building that’s vacant for two years or more. Well, that’s me. I have a building. I sold a building and put the money into this vacant building that I got on the, it’s at 38th Street. It was formerly a machine shop that supplied Ford Motor. And one day the people that owned the company went out into the shop and said, you guys are done at noon today. And they all lost their job right there. And then the bank took back the building and it went up on auction and I bought it. Still vacant. So they have this program that’s perfect for this. It’s a great building. But. So when I called up, there’s another thing that besides being empty for two years, you got to have a tenant for it. So I have to go out and find a tenant that wants a nice building and show him this pile of junk and say, well, if you sign a lease for me, I can get money to do whatever you want. Who’s going to do that? What big company would do that? So they wrote that in there, in my opinion, to keep people like me out. They already have somebody that probably is going to get funded because there’s plenty of empty buildings in this town, and also there’s plenty of people looking for space that never come to me and are never directed to me. So. My tenants are startups, young people on a really tight budget, so my rents are low, but they have big expectations, and it’s not like it used to be where I say, here’s a space, you know, we’ll put a lock on the door for you, and you’re all set. And then they go to work. That doesn’t happen anymore. They want air-conditioning. They want, you know, very nice bathrooms, showers, kitchens. Just ask Thundertech, you know, and if they don’t get it, somebody else might do it. So it’s competitive.

James Calder [00:15:32] What was the, you know, considering the situation with larger companies making it difficult and then even just sort of the general difficulties, Cleveland as like a downtown area has had, what was the attraction of getting into downtown real estate?

Rose Strauss [00:15:51] Well, I was running Leader Electric and working in that environment you never had a minute of time. You didn’t have lunch breaks. My lunch was in my desk drawer, and I’d take it while I’m filling orders for somebody. So when a building was up for sale, it had to be in the neighborhood so that I could show it, so I could see what the contractors were doing. And so that’s what I had to do. And even now, we try to keep buildings in the neighborhood. I have my own truck now and snowplow, and, you know, we do our own lawns. I have lawn equipment, so if it’s close by, it really makes more sense. The building across the street on Perkins, the old boxing building, by the way, they moved away. Yeah, they moved out. It was a boxing school.

James Calder [00:16:50] Really?

Rose Strauss [00:16:51] Yeah, they put everything in it. Anyway, that building came up for sale, and even though they wanted more money than I really thought it was worth, I had to have it. I had to have it. It was across the street from the other building, so, you know, if anybody else got it and put and didn’t fix it up, it would destroy my building, you know, I wouldn’t be able to- The main thing people look for is security. That’s one of the reasons that the area, you know, has problems. And once you have a problem with security, it’s hard to live that down. Like Hough. My building’s in Hough. They’re in Hough, my apartments. And you tell, how far is your building from Hough? Well, we’re three blocks away. Oh, bang. Down goes the receiver. And that goes for anybody, black, white, in between. We can walk across the street. We’re on Clinic property. In fact, we can go next door. We’re on Clinic property. I still only charge now. My rent’s going up to $425 a month with heat, which is really pretty cheap. So most of the people that live there work at the Clinic. Now that’s walking. They’re going to make that entrance to the Clinic right on 93rd and Chester. It’s going to be nice. They’re going to put a park there. It will be beautiful right there where we are. They’ve wanted to buy it, but I don’t want to sell it. I don’t know why not. [laughs] I don’t know why not. I could use that money, put it into the other buildings.

James Calder [00:18:45] Well, it sounds like a lot of what you’re saying is that the reputation of sort of downtown area makes it difficult.

Rose Strauss [00:18:51] Well, Cleveland, how are they ever going to live it down? You know, we don’t market. We don’t know how to market. I know how to market. I know that. But they have money and they have professional people that could tell them how to do it, how to really do it. And it’s such a great town. It is a great city. Great city to live in.

James Calder [00:19:19] Is that- I guess that can kind of lead us into something like Midtown. How do you think that fits in all to, well, just community development in general. And then I guess sort of like revising that kind of image of Cleveland. How does that play into-?

Rose Strauss [00:19:37] I don’t know. I really don’t know. I looked at the Euclid Corridor. How would you be in business on that street? You know? I mean, the traffic, especially since people, people want to drive and you come in from the suburb, you’re not going to leave your car somewhere and then jump on the bus to get to a business. How do you carry your stuff home that you’re going to buy? You know? I hope it works. I really do, because tons of money, but I don’t have much hope for it, really. I see how big those islands are and everybody says it’ll be great for auto traffic. What if the bus is on the street? You’re not going to get past the bus. You know, that’s a bus lane. Buses only. Well, if it works, if you can come in from the back and park, let’s say from Carnegie and Chester to park in the parking lots of those buildings. But then all they’re doing is building nonprofits anyway, that don’t pay taxes. And that’s another one of my real- Everything is nonprofit. Everything is- They don’t pay real estate taxes, and everybody complains about the schools, and then they want to charge me more real estate taxes, and I’ve already overtaxed. I can’t tell my tenants and say my taxes are up, especially if they’re on a lease. You know.

James Calder [00:21:16] I do think that’s one issue.

Rose Strauss [00:21:20] It’s outrageous. The building on the corner of 40th and Euclid, that was- That took like, five years. They gutted it. They left the shell, and then they redid it. The water, the sewer department. It’s outrageous what was spent in that building. And they don’t pay us one cent in real estate taxes. Their employees pay city taxes. It’s really- It’s pathetic.

James Calder [00:21:49] Well, there’s a lot of- I mean, that seems to be maybe an issue with a lot of the building that has been going on in Cleveland has been the Clinic, CSU, a lot of public-sector things. And I don’t know exactly how they- [inaudible]

Rose Strauss [00:22:08] Now they’re going to tear down the Cleveland Trust tower that was an architect. You know, it’s a very interesting building. They can’t work on the inside for these county employees? So to make them comfy, you know, it’s ridiculous. If you ever go in those buildings and see the executive offices, it’s embarrassing.

James Calder [00:22:32] Just how nice they are?

Rose Strauss [00:22:34] Yes. Yes.

James Calder [00:22:41] So do you think that’s maybe- How do you do that, then? So do you think the key is getting private, private businesses back downtown, back in buildings?

Rose Strauss [00:22:52] Yes. Well, are they going to- Are the people that are in these buildings going to shop in those businesses? Do the people that are gonna live in these homes, where are they going to shop? They’re going to get in their cars and go to the suburbs unless we get some, you know, Dave’s Market? It’s a whole different atmosphere at Dave’s. I go there, but I go early in the morning. It’s a whole different atmosphere than the people that are going to move into those townhouses want in the grocery store.

James Calder [00:23:28] So I can say what? I don’t know. What do you think could be done? Just.

Rose Strauss [00:23:37] I don’t know.

James Calder [00:23:37] No one knows.

Rose Strauss [00:23:38] You see, that’s what I was afraid you were going to ask me.

James Calder [00:23:40] Well, that’s a big question.

Rose Strauss [00:23:42] It really is. I can only speak from my experience.

James Calder [00:23:46] Oh, of course.

Rose Strauss [00:23:47] I mean, that’s because I work on giving business to people around me because it’s more convenient for me. But I’m not a shopper so I don’t, like, I haven’t been to Beachwood Mall in a year. All my clothes look alike like this, and they never go out of style. I have so many clothes you wouldn’t believe. So I don’t need to go to Nordstrom. But the people that live out there, they won’t come- They will never- They brag about never coming downtown. Not all of them. Some do. They’ll go to West 6th and go for dinner or something. And the art museum is busy and the orchestra, it’s busy there at Severance Hall. So people do come. On Wednesday night, you have those free things going on at the University Circle. It’s wonderful. Like I said, the city is wonderful for people that take advantage of what’s available, but lots of ’em don’t.

James Calder [00:24:55] Do you think part of it is the security, the sort of feeling downtown is unsafe?

Rose Strauss [00:25:03] Yeah. And it’s safe. It’s quiet on weekends. You go to Mayfield Heights on a weekend, you never come, go back again. You will never do that again, you know, or Beachwood. Beachwood Mall on the weekends. Oh, my goodness. Chagrin, I don’t do that, you know? But you come downtown, you can come down to work in twelve minutes. So, you know, the young people could. People from out of town do. If you grew up, you know, somewhere else, then you do. But if you- People that my age. Well, I’m so old and that most of the people my age are not here anymore, or they’re in nursing homes. I have two friends that are in nursing homes, so that are my age, you know. So that’s about it. You got plenty of my opinion. I guess that’s quite all right.

James Calder [00:26:02] That’s what we’d like to get your opinion.

Rose Strauss [00:26:04] I’m hoping that Euclid thing will work. And that’s why we’re here. I mean, when I was 16, I worked at 6611, 7:00 shift, seven to three. And we were doing. We were making raincoats for the army. Everything was for the war effort. There was nothing going on for, you know, no houses were being built, no cars were being built. Everything was for the war. And we packaged these raincoats that were against gas attack. I was bad at it. I kept getting the glue in the wrong place on the package. So they took me off the line and I went to the office and I was told that I couldn’t do that anymore. And I was crying. They were gonna fire me. I cried. So they gave me another job. That was a summer job, though, you know, I was 16. They paid 75 cents an hour. That’s a lot. That was a very good pay because when I worked on the farm. I used to work on the farm when I was- Before I was 16, out near Painesville. Like migrant workers. They’d pick us up and open trucks and-

James Calder [00:27:17] From the city?

Rose Strauss [00:27:18] No, I went to camp out there. And they had- We called it the crop corps. And we got 50 cents an hour. Or we picked baskets of raspberries and got paid piecework. So that was our summer then. It was fun. It was a lot of fun.

James Calder [00:27:38] Well, that’s interesting. We can sort of switch gears down to personal stories.

Rose Strauss [00:27:45] Oh, don’t you have enough already of me? You don’t have enough? [laughs]

James Calder [00:27:51] It’s about people. Well, you have an interesting story. So you came because you weren’t born here, right? When did you come to America?

Rose Strauss [00:28:06] In December of 1939. And it was a few months after the war was declared in Europe. I don’t- America wasn’t in it yet. So we had relatives here, and they got us over. Just my mother and I, and my brother was here already. So we lived on Coventry. And I went to Coventry School. I didn’t know any English either. Not for long. I didn’t go there for long. Then we moved to the city. Our relatives wanted my brother to become a tool and die maker. So he went to East Tech, and then he went in the army and he got killed in Okinawa.

James Calder [00:28:57] Did you live on- Where did you live on Coventry? If you don’t mind.

Rose Strauss [00:29:01] 1850, there was a bowling alley. It’s right above where Dobama Theater.

James Calder [00:29:09] Okay.

Rose Strauss [00:29:10] In that building.

James Calder [00:29:11] That’s where I just moved from there. No, not from 1850. I lived on Coventry and Mayfield in that corner.

Rose Strauss [00:29:19] That wrecks of. That’s. That’s a memory, how Coventry was, you know?

James Calder [00:29:25] I’d love to hear about it.

Rose Strauss [00:29:27] Well, six cents for a loaf of bread from yesterday, you know, and it was- For me, it was different. We didn’t have a lot of food where I was coming from. And here there was plenty of food, but no money. So it was interesting. I learned English fairly fast. And then when we moved to the city, Wade Park, 105th and Wade Park, a whole different thing. It was very different. The school was not as good. You could tell that right away. I hated school. I hated it always. So I wanted to work and make money, and I did, you know, babysitting and worked in Euclid-105th. All those dress shops that were up there. It was very- It was like downtown marvelous neighborhood.

James Calder [00:30:30] Well, that’s when Euclid was still sort of booming, correct?

Rose Strauss [00:30:33] Yeah, it was booming. There were five movie theaters. Every Saturday we’d go to the movies for ten cents. Ten cents to get in. You could sit there forever, see the movie over and over, double features and you know, serials. They used to call serials the continued things. I remember a lot of that. Old people remember long ago, much better than yesterday, you know, that’s just part of human nature. Yeah, streetcars. Why they ever got rid of streetcars is beyond almost everybody my age, you know, I would still be riding streetcars, probably.

James Calder [00:31:16] That’s what people say. I think we got rid of them and then they tried to get something back.

Rose Strauss [00:31:22] The streetcar went up Euclid to Cedar Hill, where you have that big grass on the side, the streetcar ran up that way. Yeah, and down Euclid Heights Boulevard.

James Calder [00:31:35] Really?

Rose Strauss [00:31:36] Mm hm. I don’t know what it did when it got to Coventry. I don’t know.

James Calder [00:31:41] So it ran all the way?

Rose Strauss [00:31:42] Yeah, to Euclid Heights Boulevard, where you have that median strip.

James Calder [00:31:47] Oh, really?

Rose Strauss [00:31:49] So that’s the same concept they’re going to do now.

James Calder [00:31:52] I didn’t know that medium was for a streetcar.

Rose Strauss [00:31:55] Yeah, I guess they call it boulevards. Yeah, so that’s what it was. We went to school on streetcars. There was no school busing. That’s another thing. Kids, you know, they’re picked up and delivered. They have no self-motivation, independence to go places. They have to be taken until they’re 35 or older. You know, the mothers, like in my buildings, they just- Their sons are still living with them. You know, 300 pounders not working. The mothers go to work, the kids are there. They’re up all night and sleep during the day. That’s what that Collinwood problem is about.

James Calder [00:32:47] What side? The Collinwood problem.

Rose Strauss [00:32:51] Well, you’ve heard Mr. Polensek’s letter and his problem in today’s paper, Philip Morris’s column about the kids, the young men that are out in the street and have no discipline or self-discipline or desire to be, to become anything but drug dealers. Not everybody, but too many. Too many.

James Calder [00:33:19] Do you think the self-reliance of- I don’t know, what?

Rose Strauss [00:33:28] Yes, self-reliance. And that comes from having to do things for yourself, you know, folding your own laundry, you know, although I must admit, I folded my children’s laundry and brought it up in baskets and put it in their room. I’m guilty of that.

James Calder [00:33:47] That’s all right.

Rose Strauss [00:33:48] But they rode the buses. They went downtown when they were kids. They’re in their fifties now, and they worked. They worked in the summer, and they worked after school, and they had paper routes. And now you can’t get anybody to do paper routes. Well, it’s not safe either for kids to be out at that hour.

James Calder [00:34:09] Do you think it’s really changed, or do you think the perception has just changed?

Rose Strauss [00:34:12] It’s changed. My children played outside with their friends all the time in the summer. They didn’t have to go to camp. You can’t let your kid play outside, and the neighbors don’t let their kids out. So, nope, they don’t even know anybody. My grandchildren go to private schools. So, the bus picks them up, brings them back, and the kid next door goes to a different school. They don’t even know each other.

James Calder [00:34:44] So did you think back when you were growing up, there was more of a sense of neighborhood or community?

Rose Strauss [00:34:52] Yeah, not for me so much. I was sort of an outsider always. But the other kids in my neighborhood, they always were playing ball in the vacant lots. And where my office is now, that’s where the kids are. They’re in the vacant lot playing ball. They bring their basket, their hoops out, you know, and some of the fathers come out and play. They play football. They play in the street, so you can’t drive down the street. I love it, you know, and everybody’s on their porch on that street.

James Calder [00:35:29] This is today?

Rose Strauss [00:35:30] Yeah, on 45th, Superior to Payne. They got plenty of police coming up. You know, we got motorcycle problems there. And it’s like a neighborhood’s supposed to be. And people fighting with each other and yelling at each other. And the guys have their heads under the hoods. That’s how it’s supposed to be. They’re fixing their houses, some of them. It’s much better than it was on these side streets off Superior. Much better.

James Calder [00:36:02] But that seems to not be the thing that- Do you think that comes back to some of the perception of things like people don’t think of, you know, a vibrant neighborhood, sort of downtown Cleveland. You know, people would focus on the negative.

Rose Strauss [00:36:20] Well, see, downtown Cleveland, these houses were built for the workers that, like, worked in that machine shop, in that empty building I own. So those houses were built for them, and then they left. Maybe they moved out and moved to close-in suburbs, maybe. And then people came in from Appalachia, a lot of them, and they were whole different. They didn’t have as much work ethic as the people that were there before, and they drank more. And those are the people that kind of let it run down. Then they’re gone. I don’t know when they left, their kids were wild. When we moved to that neighborhood in ’68, those kids were wild with the cars. I remember one car going around a corner at 45th and killing- Going on the sidewalk and killing a little kid in a stroller. Just nuts. Kids were just, you know, with the cars. And then they moved away. And I think black people moved in. It was rental and they were building- The houses were mostly rented. And then there’s- Some of them are still there, but not many Asians. A lot of Asians. Poor Puerto Rican and some black. Not a lot of black people are there on 45th. I kind of watch it. And the houses are getting fixed up. Asian people fix their houses up, you know, and they plant gardens, put bathtubs in their yards for the rain, catch the rainwater. So that’s good.

James Calder [00:38:07] So you see some neighborhood improvement, really?

Rose Strauss [00:38:10] Oh, yeah. Over the years in that neighborhood. Right.

James Calder [00:38:14] Is that how you feel is kind of all over the city or just-?

Rose Strauss [00:38:19] I think it’s better. Yeah, I think, like, 93rd is a world of difference. I have really nice people in my building. Unfortunately, there’s no- There’s no racial mix there.

James Calder [00:38:34] What is it?

Rose Strauss [00:38:35] All black? Mostly women, single women. We have a few people, like I mentioned, with their sons, after they move in, their kids come. That’s when the problem starts. So that next generation doesn’t have that much work ethic. They give up.

James Calder [00:39:02] All right, we’re recording here.

Rose Strauss [00:39:04] All right, where the heck. Where are we? I mean, if you want 78 years of stuff here, you may not be able to go home tonight.

James Calder [00:39:14] Well, we’ll run out of tape at some point, so maybe not. [laughs] No, this is excellent. I mean, this is. The project’s really about. I mean, we have focuses. Like today we showed up to talk about Midtown or Euclid, but the key is just meeting people and getting stories. That’s what oral history is really about. So this is great. So, yeah, good stuff. I forget what we’re talking about.

Rose Strauss [00:39:47] Yeah, we were talking about me living on Wade Park and the neighborhood concept and how it is now. And Cleveland Heights, that’s where my son lives. Where I live on Drexmore, that’s Shaker Square, the people that I bought the house from were moving because they didn’t want their kids outside. They had twin boys that were three years old in 1984. I’m sure they’re through college by now. So that’s why they were selling. You know, we started in. Yeah, well, it’s Cleveland, but still they didn’t feel comfortable. The kids they told me that the kids would run through the yards in the back, across the backyards. So that’s the first thing I did after I put the alarm in the house was put fences up, you know, enclose the yard. And everybody has a fence. So you go out to Beachwood, no one has a fence. When we were in Mayfield Heights, where we moved in, ’53 or 4, ’53, we left our back doors open and the breadman would come and the milkman would come. You know, it’s a different life. You walk to the corner store for bread or something if you needed something. And that’s how it was in Germany, too.

James Calder [00:41:20] Yeah. How much- How old were you when you came from Germany?

Rose Strauss [00:41:23] Ten.

James Calder [00:41:25] Would you remember about the differences between Germany and here?

Rose Strauss [00:41:30] No, you can’t compare it because, you know, we’re Jewish. And people would know we’re Jewish. How they can tell, I don’t know. I had dark hair in those days. That’s my real color is black hair. So. But other than that, you know, we had rationing. Everything was rationed. Just like here in World War Two, everything was rationed.

James Calder [00:41:56] This is in Germany?

Rose Strauss [00:41:57] In Germany, everything was rationed. And we didn’t get because we’re Jewish, didn’t get stamps, so we had to buy stuff that wasn’t rationed. Our neighbors helped us. And my mother was smart enough to get the heck out of there as soon as she could because everybody else in my family didn’t get out. So they, you know, they went to concentration camp. Mm hm. I only had that one brother, though, from my immediate family. My father died when I was five. He died in the hospital. We’re not sure. I don’t know of what exactly. But that’s another thing. You didn’t have the medical treatment either over there, the Jewish people. You had to have a Jewish doctor. So other than that. So it was very different.

James Calder [00:42:58] Were people more accepting here? Or. I guess- How were the people here? Did you move directly to Cleveland?

Rose Strauss [00:43:11] Yeah.

James Calder [00:43:12] Okay.

Rose Strauss [00:43:12] We came to Cleveland right away. That’s where the family was that was bringing us over. They’re distant relative. They were from Germany also, originally. They came over two generations before us. So it was the same family. My maiden name is Einstein, so it’s easy to find other Einsteins around. And they actually looked for us to bring us over. We didn’t look for them. And the Jewish organizations here were working on it, too, so it was kind of hard to come over. I mean, there was a quota. They didn’t let everybody in. You had to have a sponsor that said you wouldn’t go on welfare, wouldn’t become a burden to the state, you know, so that’s about it.

James Calder [00:44:11] Was there a strong Jewish community you found when you got here, or was-?

Rose Strauss [00:44:18] Yeah, yeah, well, we had distant relatives that we found here. And there was a synagogue, an all-German Jewish synagogue. It was on Superior and 123rd in an old- It was a railroad. It was RT. But because it was like a turnaround there for streetcars, and there was a building there, and we were in. We. I had- The congregation was in that old building. So I didn’t like to go to Dakota synagogue either. Didn’t like school, didn’t like synagogue. I wanted to be a baseball player, you know, a woman baseball player, but I was not an athlete, so I didn’t make the grade there either. Like playing with the kids. That’s why I wasn’t part of the kids in the street, because they were playing sports. And I, I didn’t know- I was terrible. At least I thought I was terrible.

James Calder [00:45:17] Yeah, well, at least you tried.

Rose Strauss [00:45:20] Not much. [laughs]

James Calder [00:45:25] Is the synagogue on 123rd and Superior, is that- Would that be in East Cleveland?

Rose Strauss [00:45:31] No, it was still Cleveland. Yeah. You had to go further up Superior for East Cleveland. Yeah. East Cleveland was a very nice suburb at one time.

James Calder [00:45:42] Mm hm. Do you know anything about. That’s always something I find an interesting history of. Do you remember when that changed, that area?

Rose Strauss [00:45:51] Not really, but, you know, people move away and then they rent instead of selling and have people moving in. They rent. They want to make money, you know, they need to. And some people don’t take care of their homes at all, even though if they own them and they deteriorate and nobody wants to buy them. So, that’s what happens. It’s a phenomenon in America. That’s really our thing, is to want to keep moving further and further out. It isn’t done in Europe, I don’t think, because it’s so much smaller. I went back to my apartment building where I grew up once my husband and I went back to Germany, and I found it, and I went to visit it, and it’s still standing there. And it was an old building when we lived in it, but it was nice. It had parquet floors. But when I went back, the rooms were a lot smaller. I remember they shrunk. The whole thing was much smaller than I thought it was. Yes, but it was nice. It was still, you know, it was still clean and kept up. We don’t take care of anything. We tear down the AmeriTrust tower, and we’re going to tear that down. How old is that thing? 20 years? It’s not old. It’s a new building. It’s disappointing. I’m really disappointed in that. How much money that’s going to cost? Of course we’ll pay for it. There’ll be abatement. All kinds of crazy stuff going on with abatement.

James Calder [00:47:38] You mean the [inaudible] and the taxpayers?

Rose Strauss [00:47:41] Well, the state will pay for that. There’s money for that. You know, they’ll give them a couple of million, and the actual work will probably be 1 million. And the other million will go for study groups and trips and- It’s like the RTA thing, that when that first started, the RTA had money to go and to study other people’s mass transportation. So they took the executive board from Midtown. It was a different group of people then. I was on the board, but not the executive board. So the executive board and people from RTA went to Brazil to study the-

James Calder [00:48:30] Board went to Brazil. Is that it?

Rose Strauss [00:48:31] Brazil. And when they came back, they had a big meeting. Big. That was. It’s still a huge board. Everybody in town is on it because everybody in town will pay membership. Big money, you know, to have their name on it. So anyway, they came back and they had a movie. A guy named Johnson was executive director then. Johnson? I’m not sure. Anyway, they had a movie showing them partying in Brazil with hats and, I mean, it was amazing. You know, how could you be so dumb? You know? That’s where the money goes. Yes. George Dixon was the- You ought to interview him. He was the president of RTA at that time. He has a beer and wine store on Hough and 93rd, which was the corner of the drug market. In all these years, it was the worst neighborhood in the city. I guess they’ve moved away. I mean, there’s still some bad going on. Not like in those days. When I first bought that building, it was unbelievable.

James Calder [00:49:44] Which in half what years is this?

Rose Strauss [00:49:48] ’77 and forward. Terrible. There was a- There was a- What do you call on the corner payphone that we just wanted to get rid of. People didn’t have cell phones. And that payphone was, you know, was a big part of the neighborhood business that was going on there. That building that’s on the corner, there has been redone about at least two times or maybe three times. Everybody moves out and it’s redone, and then new people move in and. Same problem. It’s a really tough corner. Has been. It’s better now. It is better.

James Calder [00:50:35] What do you think changed?

Rose Strauss [00:50:37] The Clinic. The Clinic police and the Clinic influence. And the developer that’s doing Park Lane Villa on 105th there, he. Really nice guys from Florida. Apparently he managed to become acceptable by Fannie Lewis. I’m sure you know Ms. Lewis. She has always been against anything to make the place better all along. She hates me, but she hates a lot of people. I mean, and she has left me alone pretty much. I ran into her at city hall at a meeting a couple of months ago, and she let me have it in front of everybody. It was a zoning meeting about that corner, they’re going to put shops there. They’re going to. Right next door to us. They’re going to, I don’t exactly know which where, but all up and down that street, starting at 89th, going up to 101st, is going to be commercial.

James Calder [00:51:45] What type of shops do you know, well, how it’s zoned?

Rose Strauss [00:51:50] Yeah, it’s probably. It’ll probably be nice, but I’m hoping there’ll be nice stores because people who come to visit the Clinic need to have somewhere to shop other than, you know, the dollar stores and that kind of thing. I hope there’ll be nice shops. They’re going to move, from what I’m hearing, they’re going to pull down that older hotel that’s facing Euclid. There’s a shopping center up there, and I think that’ll all come down and it’ll get moved to Chester. The entrance of the CVS drugstore on 93rd is probably moving to that lot that they’re building on now. That’s east on Chester. They’re working on it. And so that space is going to be a park, and it may be just temporary for another building later, but now it’s going to be nice, really, with fountains and all that, because the drawings are out and my son has seen them. And I talk to the real estate guy from the Clinic when he wants to talk to me, only when he wants. [laughs] He never doesn’t call me back when I want to talk to him. So I get some of this news early. Like, I wanted that BP station gone for years. Beer and wine and cigarettes. It was an all-night deal with these people. Drunks, the street, and worse, holdups, car thefts. And that’s gone away with that BP. And now the drugstore will move. They sell beer and wine, too, so that’ll help.

James Calder [00:53:44] So if you don’t mind me asking, what was your argument with Ms. Lewis about it?

Rose Strauss [00:53:49] That goes back a long time. When I first got on the street, I had no parking for our- I have 52 units there no parking. And there was vacant land across the street. So I wanted that land. So I went down, found out whose it was and belonged to the city. So I thought, fine, I’m gonna buy that land or get it somehow. So I started. Fannie wasn’t a council person then, but she. So I started with the David, I forgot his name was another councilman. Then she ran later on. I started working with that. And Norm Krumholtz was at city hall at that time. And George Forbes and I started to- I called the city and they said, well, do a drawing of what you want to do. And so I have an architect for a son. So I had him do a drawing. And on the coldest day of the century I took that stupid thing this big downtown and walked from the parking lot in the wind. And it was a mess. And I talked about it in front of a committee. And as usual, these meetings are worthless. I didn’t know anybody. You know, I kept writing her letters because I knew- I kind of got the drift that you had to get it from the council person, that they had to help you. Well, you know, she just didn’t even bother answering me. And after five years I thought, you know, people couldn’t live there without parking. Then there was no parking on the street. So we had a customer, Burke’s Electric. It was a minority company. Really nice man. But he didn’t pay his bills that well so he owed us a lot of money. And so I called him and I said, you know, Walter, I need a favor. I used to go to his office trying to get money and stuff, stuff like that. So I need a favor. Do you think you could do anything? Oh. And I knew his friend was George Forbes. You think you could help me out with this lot? So I gave him the parcel number and all that and called me back. I didn’t call him back. He called me back. It’s hard for me to ask for favors. Really hard. But anyway, he called me back and he said, show up at council meeting and it’s yours. Wow. So I went to council meeting and at that time I had a partner who lived in the building. He went with me. Sure enough, Fannie had a- Had to introduce the legislation to sell me this piece of land. And that pissed her off. And a few years later I started a street club on the street because I wanted something- You should drive down that street still the houses, some of the houses are a disaster. So I started a street club in the basement of a church on Euclid. And all these people who I didn’t really know who’s who came to this meeting. I put out flyers and I started talking about these houses that have to either get fixed or pulled down. I was, you know, I was a lot. Very energetic then. And one of the women. And a lot of people are irrational, especially when they get older. Maybe I am. [laughs] But anyway, they get irrational and then they think I’m attacking them. And she really let me have it, yelling at me. And then next thing I know Fannie Lewis is calling me on the phone - I was still at Leader - and yelling at me on the phone at first about the club. She wasn’t invited. I hadn’t thought about inviting her. I said, Fannie, you can always come. Well, it’s Sunday night and you know, I go to church. I’m in church Sunday nights. I don’t know that you can’t answer her because she doesn’t stop talking. And so we changed our meeting to Saturday night. Yeah, early evening. But she still never showed up. And I wrote her a letter and all this. From then on, you know, we were done. And her memory is good. She attends every single committee meeting. You ever watch the council meetings on Monday afternoons?

James Calder [00:58:29] I’ve never seen them.

Rose Strauss [00:58:31] Her back is to the camera. You can’t see her, but she’s there. And through all the committee meetings, you know, and that’s where everything’s decided in those meetings, who they give the money to and all that. And our current mayor was in charge of all those committees. He was the finance committee chairman for years. Doesn’t do any better as mayor. Didn’t do well then. So much money has been given out to people that didn’t pay it back, which is, you know, it’s ridiculous. Don’t catch me owing anybody money not paying it back ever. And it’s always been that way. People who have some kind of scruples don’t do that, but everybody seems to do it now. It’s amazing. People buy houses they have no- They can’t afford. It’s in the paper every day. That’s nuts. I wouldn’t be able to see. Sleep. I don’t sleep anyway. [laughs] I got other worries. Some of them are money worries. Yeah. Now especially I spend a lot of money on these buildings, so I just don’t want to borrow. I do owe a lot of money too, but I always make my payments and I don’t want to borrow any more. That’s why that building on 38th is sitting empty, that should be worked on. I’m just waiting with it. Maybe I’ll find somebody, some crazy person that’ll sign a lease with me for a crummy building that looks terrible, that I won’t be able to do anything with for six months until that would go through. It takes a long time until all these people have their little meetings, you know. So are we- Are we out of space?

James Calder [01:00:36] We’re just gonna-

Rose Strauss [01:00:37] You should get a chair and sit down. Aren’t you tired?

James Calder [01:00:43] We’ve gone for a while, and normally-

Rose Strauss [01:00:45] I didn’t think you were gonna do this long. I thought we were gonna. I didn’t think I had much to say, but I haven’t shut up yet.

James Calder [01:00:54] That’s good. That’s real good. We can. Well, how about this? We’ll do, because we’ve gone about an hour-

Rose Strauss [01:01:02] At least.

James Calder [01:01:03] Yeah, we’ve gone about an hour, I’d say. And that’s normally about when I’d like to cut off anyway, just because sometimes you need to regroup.

Rose Strauss [01:01:11] I might-

James Calder [01:01:11] Yeah.

Rose Strauss [01:01:12] I might tell you or have already told you some secrets, like, well, I was, you know, talking to this guy, and. City inspector dropped in on a job. Why? Explain that to you? Yeah, we’re hanging fixtures, you know. Now we got to get a permit to hang a fixture. We want to change the panel because that’s- It needs to change the electrical panel. But if we do it, we have to ground it, which means driving a ground rod into the ground. Well, people just aren’t doing that anymore. I mean, because I don’t know why they don’t do it. I don’t know why they had to do it in the first place. Lightning? I don’t know. Lightning strike? I don’t know. I don’t know that much about it. I used to sell the stuff. That’s it. My husband knew more. My son knows more than both of us. Well, my husband never- He graduated high school from night school. He went to 8th grade, and he hit his teacher and got kicked out of school, and he didn’t go back, and he went to work for his father, who was a peddler. They were probably the poorest family that I’ve ever heard of, my husband’s family. And then he went in the army. When he came back, he went, he finished high school. You should have gone to college. All these people that came back from World War Two that were middle-class and went to college on the GI Bill, not all of them, but a lot of them are now these big developers. It’s third-generation developers now that are in Cleveland because they became lawyers. And it’s a good thing to have a lawyer in the family. It’s good to have an architect, but it’s good to have a lawyer, even if you don’t practice law, it’s really- I guess it gives you a mental discipline. And learning how to research, that’s really important. And having the patience for research, that’s very important, I think. Especially nowadays. Anyway, I’m gonna take all your time.

James Calder [01:03:35] No, that’s perfect. Is there anything else you wanted to add? It’s what I always ask at the end, any subject?

Rose Strauss [01:03:40] What haven’t I said? I’m sure I’ve talked about everything there is to talk about. And we didn’t talk about the medical. The fact that we didn’t need that, we didn’t have medical.

James Calder [01:03:53] We can talk about that if you want.

Rose Strauss [01:03:55] Well, no, we didn’t have medical insurance or anything when I was a kid. Nobody did. We didn’t need doctors like we need now. I don’t remember going to a doctor for checkups. Once I think one came to our apartment because I was in bed for something. Had a high fever or something. He was a neighborhood guy. He was a doctor, I guess. My mother probably gave him $5 and that was it. It was $10 to have the pediatrician come to our house in South Euclid for a house call. And he would. Our doctor pediatrician had all the kids on the street. So he’d walk across the lawns because they all had chicken pox at the same time, you know, all the kids on the street. Cause they went to school together. Very different now. God knows where they are, all the kids that were in my girl scout troop.

James Calder [01:04:51] So medicine’s really changed, you think, and then do you think it’s just the way medicine’s practice has changed or just people-?

Rose Strauss [01:04:57] We live longer, so I guess that’s a good thing if we don’t wind up in- Two of my friends that are a nursing home. One is not in a nursing home, but she’s got dementia. I went out to lunch with her, and there’s nothing going on. And I didn’t even know what to talk to her about. Kept asking her questions, and she didn’t know. Just stuff about her kids. And my other one is in a nursing home, another friend. And then I have friends who are no longer here at all. But I don’t know. My mother took a lot of medications, it seems. She went to the doctor a lot when she got older, but she had emphysema, heavy smoker, so. But other than that, I don’t think, you know, there was never seemed to be a problem. We had medical insurance when I had my children and they paid for most of it. But other than that, we were not sick. Even now I never- Doctor has to call me and tell me get myself in once in a while. I wind up overnight in the hospital with high blood pressure or something. But other than that, get up at five every morning. I think some of it is staying, working.

James Calder [01:06:24] Yeah.

Rose Strauss [01:06:27] You can’t possibly have enough hobbies to keep you really excited about stuff. I’m excited all the time. I’m angry all the time. I think it helps me. I’m pissed off at something or other every day. Like I told you already.

James Calder [01:06:46] Well, if it keeps you going-

Rose Strauss [01:06:47] It must. It must. And that’s Fannie Lewis’s thing too. She’s mad at everybody all the time. And she’s gung ho. She is something else. I’m glad she finally found somebody that’s really doing some good stuff that she likes and can get along with.

James Calder [01:07:05] Who’s that again?

Rose Strauss [01:07:07] Finch is his name.

James Calder [01:07:08] Yeah, yeah.

Rose Strauss [01:07:08] He’s a developer.

James Calder [01:07:10] Oh, good.

Rose Strauss [01:07:11] Yeah, I met him at that zoning meeting. So those buildings, if I don’t sell ’em, I probably won’t. I can’t. I just- They’re like my kids, those buildings. And I did, you know, when I first got them, I would spend my Sundays there painting and putting floors down. So when I go in any of the. Not anymore. It’s all redone now. But when I see any of those apartments that I worked in, they’re horrible. I did a horrible job. Cutting, you know, cutting tile around radiators is- It’s hard. You have to be an artist, really. And I bought the cheap kind that you just glues itself down. Forget it. If you put water on them, they’re gone. You know, they’re up. I did a terrible job until I- I’m in eviction court every, almost every month. Kicking people out. Yeah, it’s part of the job. They know me down there too. Neighborhood character. [laughs] Kicking people out, you know. How many do they have children? Oh, yeah, they have kids. Kick them out. Kick them out. This is terrible.

James Calder [01:08:25] I suppose they can’t pay after-

Rose Strauss [01:08:27] I have to. Oh, I don’t. The newer people, if they’ve been there ten years, that’s different. But newer people, the month they don’t pay, the next month, they get the three day notice right away. I don’t. There’s no excuse. If you lose your job, you got another job. What’s the job? The new job. Finding a job. You know, they usually sit around and want to use up their unemployment, and that doesn’t pay the rent, so it’s just common sense. If somebody says they lost their job, that’s what I tell ’em. Heartless. Cruel.

James Calder [01:09:09] Well, thank you so much for- [recording ends abruptly]

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