Dennis Coughlin, a life-long resident of Cleveland Heights, describes what he has seen growing up in Cleveland Heights. He discusses living in the Cedar-Fairmount Neighborhood. He recalls the various shops and stores that he would go into. He also remembers his elementary school, Roxboro School, and the various events that surrounded that school such as the Davis Cup. He then describes the Coventry Neighborhood and how it has changed over the years. After Coventry, Coughlin describes St. Paul's Church and Tucker Hall before he finishes with a brief description of learning to drive on Cedar Hill.
Coughlin, Dennis (interviewee)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Mark Souther [00:00:01] Okay, we're recording. Today is September 7th, 2012. My name is Mark Souther and I'm interviewing Dennis Coughlin at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed.
Dennis Coughlin [00:00:17] You're welcome.
Mark Souther [00:00:19] I wanted to begin by just asking you a little bit of background, when and where you were born.
Dennis Coughlin [00:00:23] I was born in University Hospitals at Rainbow Babies and Children or McDonald House, I'm sorry, in 1950. And, yeah.
Mark Souther [00:00:39] Did you grow up in Cleveland Heights?
Dennis Coughlin [00:00:41] Okay. I am, I grew up in Cleveland Heights. I am a fifth or sixth-generation Cleveland Heights resident. My mother grew up in Cleveland Heights. They moved to Cleveland Heights in 1916. And after the war, after doing work in Washington, they moved back to Cleveland Heights and lived a block away from where my mother grew up. So.
Mark Souther [00:01:01] Where was that?
Dennis Coughlin [00:01:01] On Delamere. They, they were the first house on Delamere. And then we moved one street over to our... We... After she was married we lived on Ardleigh. Lived there for... I lived there for 26 years and my parents lived there for 50, 60 years and then moved... They moved to Judson. So it's still half a mile in another direction, still Cleveland Heights.
Mark Souther [00:01:30] What did your parents do for a living?
Dennis Coughlin [00:01:32] My father was an attorney with Thompson Hine and my mother was a volunteer. She was active in the Maternal Health Association. Actually, she and my grandmother used to go to New York and bring back Planned Parenthood kind of items, information and supplies or whatever from New York for the people in Cleveland, and they were very active in the '30s doing that, or early '30s, and she volunteered at the hospital, did a lot of hospital work. My grandfather was a stockbroker and was president of the board of Lakeside Hospital before he moved the hospital up from downtown to become Lakeside to University Hospitals. He and Dr. Bishop moved it up. And so they were very closely connected with the hospital. My father is from out of town. He moved to Cleveland... He wanted to be in a bigger city than where he's from. He's from eastern Pennsylvania. And Cleveland was basically one of the legal capitals of the United States, the legal practice, and was cutting edge back in the '30s when he started. And he worked for, oh, let's see, '30... 70-something years in Cleveland as a lawyer, partially retired, but with Thompson Hine. He was one of their oldest lawyers when he died at age 94. So, and my mother died at age 91. They died two weeks apart at Judson. So back in 2008.
Mark Souther [00:03:10] Wow. You mentioned Planned Parenthood and that's not really the subject of our conversation today, but I do have a quick question about that. A student asked me about the Planned Parenthood movement in Cleveland. You know, to what extent it was strong here, and I said, I'll look into that. I don't have the answer.
Dennis Coughlin [00:03:28] Okay, it's, it was the Maternal Health Association. It was located in University Circle, and they provided information to people through their University Circle location. Plus they had a bus that would go around and would be at various different locations. My mother during the '60s was down at 123rd and Superior. I think that's where the address was near Patrick Henry Junior High in that area. I know in the '60s, it wasn't the safest neighborhood. My, my mother said, well at eight o'clock in the morning it's a very safe neighborhood. So she, she had no problem meeting with the women in that community at that time. In the '67, '66, whatever '68. I taught there and I tutored there, I guess rather than at Patrick Henry Junior High in the '67, '68, I never had any problems, so.
Mark Souther [00:04:35] Shifting gears back to the Euclid Golf neighborhood for a bit. Do you remember much about or anything about the Ernst family?
Dennis Coughlin [00:04:42] The Ernst family lived at the corner of Ardleigh and Fairmount in a very large house and. It was always a very nice place to go play in their yard when they weren't around because it was across the street from me and they had a little pond there that we could fish for the goldfish that were in there as we were growing up. So but growing up on Ardleigh was wonderful. I could walk to Cedar and Fairmount without crossing the street. And the stores at Cedar and Fairmount were always very attractive, their toy store and restaurants and the grocery store. And my mother had a charge account at Russo's, which was the store to shop at at Cedar and Fairmount, and she had a two-digit charge number, which I would use at age six or seven and charge cookies and whatever snacks at the grocery store.
Mark Souther [00:05:40] Where was this located?
Dennis Coughlin [00:05:42] Cedar and Fairmount between Grandview and Ardleigh. There was also a drugstore, Standard Drug, which had good candy and it had a, I guess, a quick grill. And then there was Damon's, a restaurant, and there was Hough Bakeries and the toy store known as the Toy Chest. The owner just died recently and there were all sorts of places we'd had friends of fathers and relatives of friends who take us into the Alibi Room to get a ginger ale. It was the local place where all the local people would hang out for alcoholic beverages and the building that is now the India Center at Cedar and Fairmount, which is in the next block, used to be a. Fisher's restaurant, a restaurant sorry, Fisher's grocery store and the Fisher's grocery store was also the hangout after school for a lot of kids who would go up on the roof behind the, behind come up from behind and fights would break out there or whatever. Always on top of the school and there were some interesting restaurants there. Heading down, there was the Toddle House, which was a place that was open very late at night and would always I mean, they'd have food. It would be the drivers for people and for help in the community and various other people who would from the hospital and across the street from the Toddle House was the Doctor's Hospital, which was a local hospital for the emergency. It was mostly I thought it was emergency people going to the doctor's hospital. We would prefer to go to UH just because of the quality of care I think was better there. Doctor's Hospital actually was the predecessor to Hillcrest. They moved away from University Circle at the top of Cedar Hill out to Mayfield. Is that Mayfield Heights, Mayfield Village to become Hillcrest. And next door to that was one of my favorite restaurants, which was a quick order grill, which had the best hamburgers and best chocolate shakes. I never knew their name, but it's now where Nighttown is. It was, but it was a single storefront.
Mark Souther [00:08:15] Was it the Hilltop Luncheonette or Chris's Hilltop Luncheonette?
Dennis Coughlin [00:08:19] I have no idea of the name. I wasn't driving at the point, so I guess I didn't pay as much attention to names as but whatever. But anyway. But Russo's was owned by the Russo's family and they still own the building. But they what I understood is that they had the highest profit per square foot of any grocery store around, which was why they were able to sell it to Giant Eagle at a good price. And but all of the trade help would would buy from there because the inner city had no good grocery stores and people would come from miles around to this grocery store, even though we had local grocery stores all over Cleveland Heights, they would come to Russo's to shop because of the quality and because of the price.
Mark Souther [00:09:14] Let me go back to a few things. I want to get back to Doctor's Hospital in a few moments, but I'm intrigued by the Toddle House. You mentioned that the quote-unquote help would, would go there, presumably. You mean people who worked in the.
Dennis Coughlin [00:09:27] People who worked in the. Yeah. Who worked in the neighborhoods. A lot of that section of Cleveland Heights in the '50s still, a lot of people still had... They had regular either cleaning help or day, day help. Sometimes they had people who lived in the houses with them. I know my grandparents had a cook who lived with them at the house and she would buy from the... from Russo's.
Mark Souther [00:10:00] Were African Americans mostly welcome or unwelcome? How would you describe their presence in the Cedar Fairmount neighborhood and give me a sense of date ranges roughly?
Dennis Coughlin [00:10:11] Okay, in the '50s, I had African Americans, not very many, there were, I could say, probably three in my class at Roxboro. I went to Roxboro Elementary from 1955 to 1960-something to the elementary school and there were African Americans there. I didn't, I mean, I never I actually didn't classify people by color. I mean, the only reason I know is because I can look at pictures now and say, oh, we did have colored people in our class, whatever, blacks now, but I think they were called colored at the time, and I don't think there was any problem in the shopping at, you know, being welcome in the stores. I don't think we ever saw them in any of the restaurants there. They did not live up the hill. I'm sorry, off of Fairmount Boulevard, in the out through to Coventry, I don't remember any people living in that neighborhood. They lived Grandview, Delaware, whatever. So.
Mark Souther [00:11:30] If they lived on Grandview and Delaware, for instance, and I know there are a lot of apartment houses there today, is it fair to say that, that... How would you describe sort of the help, so-called help, as they called them?
Dennis Coughlin [00:11:44] Oh, okay. Which is different, Okay.
Mark Souther [00:11:48] That did not live in the big estates. Where did they tend to live if they if unless they came up out of the city?
Dennis Coughlin [00:11:55] They came up out of the city. As far as I knew, they all lived in the city because I would... We would drive them home at times into the city, even there were... We had... My grandparents had somebody from – not black – from Ireland who lived in the inner city who would come, but they had brought her from Ireland to the United States originally. And then she'd gotten married and moved to a house along Liberty Boulevard, now Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Mark Souther [00:12:30] You mentioned Grandview, what jogged that memory about blacks living on Grandview?
Dennis Coughlin [00:12:35] Well, I just had a classmate who lived on Grandview. And I had, I mean, you were asking about where they, where blacks might have... Where they lived. I had one on Grandview and one on Delaware who would have been in a house. Delaware has houses. Grandview, he lived in an apartment. As far as I can remember, yeah an apartment there.
Mark Souther [00:12:56] The reason, I'm asking I'm very interested just because, you know, of course, in 1967, there's an incident in which a house is bombed in western Cleveland Heights over around Edgehill and I wonder how all this fit together?
Dennis Coughlin [00:13:08] Well, in 1967, there was a folk singer who was shot at the top of Cedar Hill. But it was, it was... It was somebody who had a grudge against blacks, but it was a somebody who my brother knew and my brothers were both folk singers and they, so, they knew him. But it was quite an incident. I mean, I mean, the whole detail. There was a Judge Steele involved in this case and two brothers who ended up killing this black folk singer at the top of Cedar Hill. But I don't think that that was a problem. The problems that occurred mostly, I know along the ravine along North Park Boulevard, in the riots that took place, the Hough riots, there were some people who were very concerned that blacks were going to come up out of the city through the ravine and attack the people in their houses. And I know nobody on our street was, as far as I knew, were concerned. But the ravine was a place we were not supposed to play, but it was a beautiful place with a lot of stonework inside and it's still very nice today. There used to be a bridge across it, but it was never rebuilt for fear that people would come from southern on the far side of Shaker Square into Cleveland Heights and attack people. My understanding is that there were soldiers with guns on top of Roxboro Junior High School during the riots, and they did patrol that area up and down North Park and Fairhill to make sure nobody was coming up. I'd say in the '60s there was a time when I was probably about – so this would have been about 1958 – somebody tried to steal my bicycle. Somebody who'd come up the ravine and tried to steal my bicycle. And I was a little kid and swung my bicycle at him and he ran away so he didn't get my bike. But, but he was somebody who was not from the community. The concern were more people who came in, into the community from outside the community. It was the growth that time of the growth of the black middle class and the doctors and nurses and people in University Circle lived in Cleveland Heights or Shaker Heights. And this was one of the areas that they lived because it was so convenient to University Circle.
Mark Souther [00:15:49] Do you think, well you mentioned this bridge did not get rebuilt for fear that people would come up from sort of south of Shaker Square? When was the bridge, was it a footbridge?
Dennis Coughlin [00:16:02] It was a footbridge that crossed the ravine between Fairhill and North Park, somewhere around Roxboro. Roxboro used to go through there and but it allowed people to walk over to Shaker Square. I still think it's a good idea. I'd love to see it come, but it was washed out in a flood, the lakes there, the Shaker Lake, had a tendency to flood, which is another story because we'd always have floods from the lake, would always... The lowest Shaker Lake would always overflow. And in nineteen. Again, it was probably 1958, the dam broke at Horseshoe Lake and kids were kept in school at Roxboro Elementary and they were only released to their parents because there was water flowing. It was about a foot deep and water flowing at a foot deep has a lot of force behind it. And I remember seeing mothers holding kids hand and the kid out in front of the mother being pulled away by the water. But we used to, we, actually, we used to canoe all the time on our street on Ardleigh and were known for doing that. And we actually we canoed down Cedar Hill, scraping all the way to University Circle in about 1960, the big flood when Case was underwater and the buses were underwater, we canoed down to University Circle. Might have been about '67, '66, something like that.
Mark Souther [00:17:44] So there was water a foot deep up the hill. Above the ravine.
Dennis Coughlin [00:17:47] This was on top of the hill flowing down. This was on St. James. At the intersection of St. James and Roxboro. But quite often, if you went to Coventry and North Park, there would be water flowing two feet deep, flowing there, and kids would be playing in it. And there was a chance that they would be killed by being washed into the ravine. And my brother and I did save a couple of kids one time who were caught on a telephone pole, but, yeah.
Mark Souther [00:18:23] Wow.
Dennis Coughlin [00:18:23] It was not a safe place, but we used to also... We used to canoe up at Shaker Lake at the whatever the Shaker Lake, Green Lake, whatever the lake is called, the lowest one.
Mark Souther [00:18:34] Yeah, I think Green Lake. Let's return to Doctor's Hospital a bit. What can you tell me about what it was? I have an idea from, I've seen an old picture, but you remember before it was Doctor's Hospital?
Dennis Coughlin [00:18:50] No. No. As far as I know, it was Doctor's Hospital in the '50s. And I'm trying to think with it probably moved. I would have said 1960-something, but I don't know. I don't remember specifically it moving. I don't, I was never in the hospital. We always would drive past it on the way to UH. The father of one of my best friends was head of OBGYN there but I never knew the place so.
Mark Souther [00:19:22] Okay. Any other memories about the Euclid Golf neighborhood? What, any interesting happenings or other neighbors or houses that you could comment on near where you lived?
Dennis Coughlin [00:19:35] Well, let's see, I. It was what I found interesting is that there was such a mix of people, our street, Ardleigh, which probably had, I don't know, 15, 20 houses on it, one could not tell whether somebody was rich or not. I mean, whether they were middle class or not. The person who lived next door to us started to Addressograph-Multigraph. The Ernst house on the corner of Ardleigh, the Carlin family, moved in, they were big real estate, I guess, developers in the '50s. Across the street from them, where the Kangessers who were involved with parking lots and a lot of real estate. And the Barkers lived on the street, which was office supplies. And there were attorneys and, and doctors and people who had family money that lived on the street. It was somebody from the Cleveland Indians at one time who lived on the street, but he moved away. And the head of the Cleveland Orchestra, the sorry, the administrator for the Cleveland Orchestra, lived on the street. And so it was it was quite a mix of people that were there. So.
Mark Souther [00:21:07] You mentioned that you went to Roxboro Elementary and also middle school or?
Dennis Coughlin [00:21:13] No, I went to University School for middle school, but the elementary I mean, it was sort of fun. The classes were fairly small at 20, 20 kids in a class. They were like three fifth-grade classes. So there were 60 people in my class and fourth, fifth, third, fourth and fifth-grade. I know. I mean know anecdotal items are my first-grade teacher. After my first grade, she ran off, got married to the custodian and ran off, ran away, whatever, eloped somewhere. The school didn't think very highly of that. Roxboro didn't think very highly of it. And after I left Roxboro, there was a well-known principal at the school, Clarissa Adams, and a friend of mine and I in sixth grade. So this would have been 1961. We were throwing snowballs at the streetlights and we got it from we were at US. Actually, this is the person who was the chairman, became chairman of the board of KeyBank. And we got called into the principal's office and told never to do that. You know, throwing snowballs is something for your backyard and so on. But because he and I were very good friends at the time. So anyway, Henry Meyer.
Mark Souther [00:22:37] Do you remember much about the school building, itself, the Roxboro School building itself? Any fond memories about the building or?
Dennis Coughlin [00:22:45] I mean, it was a, it was a school. I mean, it was... [laughs] I don't... It's interesting because at the time the libraries in the school system were part of the public library, the school... I think the libraries were under the school board and the library at the junior high upstairs was one of the branch libraries for the, for the library system. And I think that at the elementary you could, the books would go back and forth. But I think you use the same system for checking out books from one library the other. So, yep.
unknown speaker [00:23:27] Sorry. How are you?
Mark Souther [00:23:27] Hi, good. How are you?
unknown speaker [00:23:27] Good.
Mark Souther [00:23:35] You mentioned, well, rather let me back up. The one reason I asked about the building is that I understand that there was, there's the original building some people say is encased within all the additions and no one really is able to comment on that.
Dennis Coughlin [00:23:54] Well, I should have asked my mother more. She was there when they built the school and dynamited to build the school because the school is built on a... The stone is right to the surface in that section of Cleveland Heights. There's probably no more than a foot of soil in that section of Cleveland Heights and they dynamited when they built it. But when I was there, the day actually they this long time later they put in new windows and put on an addition, which was the library. And Roxboro went through. It was a through street. But I remember, you know, the gym was in the basement and and it was one of these places, a two-story tall gymnasium, and and I remember playing in there and the there was a dirt yard that we played in the back. And then sometime in the, in the '50s, they paved over part of the lot, part of the lot, which actually made it much harder to deal with things. There were a lot more skinned knees and injuries to all the students after they paved over the schoolyard from the dirt. We were a lot cleaner, but probably a little more injured. But I remember lining up for classes and so on and having recess in the back of the school. So.
Mark Souther [00:25:20] Tell me about the tennis facility and how it came to host Davis Cup and when that was?
Dennis Coughlin [00:25:26] This would have been probably about 1960, I don't know, '63 somewhere in the early, well, '65, '66. Bob Malaga, who just died in the last several months or whatever, brought tennis to Cleveland. And they they built this court for the Wightman Cup originally and brought women tennis players from all over the world. I remember meeting Evonne Goolagong, who I fell in love with as a teenage boy or whatever. I just any female, I guess, teenage boys might fall in love with. But a neighbor had a party for all the tennis players and we were there and got to meet all these people. She was, I guess, closer in age to us than the other some of the other players were. But it was quite something to have this huge tennis stadium and it was filled. And later on they brought the the Davis Cup and watching all of the players. And these were the best players in the world watching Arthur Ashe play. But it was full. The absolutely full and the tennis courts were there. Actually, the courts are still there, but they removed the stadium and moved the stadium down the the seats and the I guess the fences and everything else were moved down to the Shoreway to become a tennis facility down on the Shoreway.
Mark Souther [00:26:56] You mentioned Malaga and that's the same name that's down at Cleveland State at the tennis center down there.
Dennis Coughlin [00:27:01] Yes, right. Same.
Mark Souther [00:27:03] Tell me something about him?
Dennis Coughlin [00:27:05] I... Somehow, I think he was a member of the Skating Club, but he was just a big tennis enthusiast and was was probably head of the USTA and and was quite a voice. I mean, he died the... Actually, I think his services were in the last two weeks. I'm sorry, I can't tell you about him. I mean, these are some of these things are not things that, that a teenager would remember, I guess.
Mark Souther [00:27:32] Sure and yeah. And I could look up some of this stuff too. I just, I wonder how, how he chose Roxboro? Was there a particular connection?
Dennis Coughlin [00:27:47] I don't know whether there was a particular connection, but I think it was because it was an open space that was near to the Skating Club, which was an, which had indoor facilities and outdoor facilities, the practice, so it gave them practice areas that they could practice at. The. Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:28:12] That makes sense.
Dennis Coughlin [00:28:14] And actually, the another piece, I mean, later on at the Roxboro, at that place, that location, there is now a nice track at Roxboro and also at Heights High. And that was put together. The financing was put together by the Weingart. I'm trying to think what his name was, but he arranged for Cleveland Heights residents, residents to help out at the air show and at the auto races, where we would earn 10 percent of everything we sold in the concessions. We would get paid nothing. Basically, you got paid what you could eat and plus you got in free to the event. But it provided 10 percent of all our sales went to providing for the football stadium at Heights High and the track at Roxboro. And I believe there was something at Monticello. Also, it's.
Mark Souther [00:29:16] Alright, thank you. We've been, mentioned before just a little bit about Mitchell's when it was at the theater. Can you?
Dennis Coughlin [00:29:25] Okay, Mitchell's was the candy store as far as I was concerned. There was also Damon's at Ceder and Fairmount and Hough Bakeries that had candy. But Mitchell's made their own candy right in the store next door to the Heights Movie Theater. The movie theater was there. It had various activities, I mean, sometimes it was an art movie theater, sometimes it was a an X-rated movie theater. I'm not quite sure what prompted it to move from one to the next. And but it would have more avant-garde movies. But all of the popcorn for the movie theater was sold at Mitchell's and there came a point where they moved the popcorn out of the movie, out of Mitchell's into the movie theater. And somewhere around then it's when Mitchell's moved to its current location at on Lee Road. But it was on Coventry, but it was the place to go for candy. It was the best candy around. And the Mitchell's were characters and, and their son was about my age. And I don't know whether right now whether Mrs. Mitchell is still alive. Her mind is, wasn't last time I saw her about a year ago, her mind wasn't completely with it and she'd speak Greek to me or whatever. I think it was Greek and her son would tell her, no, you have to speak English. So.
Mark Souther [00:30:56] What was your favorite candy that you got when you went to the theater?
Dennis Coughlin [00:31:03] Probably the chocolate-covered orange peel, I think candied orange peel, chocolate covered, I, I had to give up on Mitchell Candy, I became allergic to chocolate through overdosing on chocolate, dealing with stress at a job in Cleveland Heights that I got burned out from. Anyway, but I'm allergic to chocolate now.
Mark Souther [00:31:25] I'm very sorry to hear that. [laughs]
Dennis Coughlin [00:31:27] Yeah, [laughs] anyway.
Mark Souther [00:31:30] Let's come back to, oh, one other question you may or may not know about Mitchell's. What prompted the move to Lee Road?
Dennis Coughlin [00:31:41] I don't know, I mean, I could surmise that it had to do with the changing mix of people in the Coventry area, plus the lack of parking in Coventry. People in the apartment building started having more than one car per apartment and which created a lot of stress on the amount of parking there. Whereas on Lee Road, they had parking lots, which they did not have down there. I would guess probably, it was probably more the the people who were walking in the community at that time in the '60. It was it started running downhill. As evidence, I will segue into some of the places on Lee Road. The C-Saw Cafe, which was a hangout for the Hells Angels between New York and Chicago, as well as they had a house that they would crash in on Hampshire. It was a three storey house, which is now a parking lot. The Cleveland Heights, I guess, declared it a nuisance and tore it down so as to discourage the people as did as they did with the C-Saw Cafe after where there was a shooting. And I'm not sure. I can't remember as to who was involved in the shooting. It was a somebody was killed at the C-Saw Cafe, but then there was. That that probably didn't help, and then Irv's, Irv's Deli, that was there, that was the after-hours. After all the other bars in, in northeastern Ohio would close, Irv's would still be open and people would go there. And there was not much control made of the, the clientele there. And so I worked at a, at one of the hospitals and I worked a 7:00 to 3:30 shift and would have to get up at 6:00 in the morning and there would be people passed out on the lawn or at three o'clock there would be shooting going on down at Coventry and Hampshire. I lived on Hampshire, four buildings in. And [it was] a real nuisance. And the Cleveland Heights responded with by, well, they closed the C-Saw Cafe and tore it down and tore down the house on Hampshire. And then I, I was very active in Coventry Neighbors as their... as one of the board members and the treasurer. And we decided if Irv was not going to clean up his act, we were going to take away their liquor license. And so we did a local option. And my name and address was on all the literature and we felt, felt badly. But we ended up taking away their liquor license, which sort of killed that corner of, of Hampshire and that whole well, we didn't kill the block. The block still there and there are still businesses there. I think the hardware I don't know, the hardware store is still there and it's always been there. And Grum's and all of these places are still there. And Coventry is still quite a wonderful place to go to hang out, visit whatever. And I still go down there occasionally. And I do see people I recognize from the time I was there in the, in the '70s and '80s. I was active in, in a number of programs down there. A program called the Apartment Improvement Program, which were block grants to help fix up buildings. And actually I, I was asked to run for city council in 1983 and I lost, but, but I had improved the name recognition and got my brother elected to the school board based on running his campaign. So after that, so but I love the Coventry area and a lot of people still live in that community that, that I knew back in the '80s and they're still there. And in Cleveland Heights, what's interesting with Cleveland Heights is that more than I think more than half the people in Cleveland Heights that live in Cleveland Heights used to rent in Cleveland Heights. And, probably a third of the people in Cleveland Heights grew up in Cleveland Heights, so there, there are a lot of people that that still that stick with Cleveland Heights just because it is so it's an eclectic community. It's open in places. It's of course, in some others it's not. But it's it really is. I love it because it is community and it's what I enjoy.
Mark Souther [00:36:35] When you say it's open in some places and not in others. Can you elaborate?
Dennis Coughlin [00:36:39] Well, there are some communities that that are very welcoming of anybody coming into the community and and the stores. I guess I feel of course, [I'm] [I] feel I don't feel necessarily unwelcome in communities, but I it's I'm, I'm willing to go anywhere in Cleveland Heights, but there are some places which seem a little more homogenous than others and others that that are are not I mean, it's just it's where everybody lives. I mean, it's that's what's nice about, I guess, of the middle class is that we work together. We live together. So.
Mark Souther [00:37:27] At some point, both before when we were talking, you mentioned you called this place the White House. Can you?
Dennis Coughlin [00:37:33] Oh, it was a, it was a White House. I seem to remember green shutters, but it was on, on Hampshire. It was two or three buildings in from Caroll Drug. And it was where the house where everybody, the Hells Angels would crash and so there would be motorcycles always parked in the yard, whatever. And it's now a parking lot, which the neighborhood needs. But I guess we didn't. Cleveland Heights determined we didn't need the motorcyclists. So.
Mark Souther [00:38:07] I wonder how the motorcyclists chose, you know, chose, I mean, I have an idea but how they chose that area? Because the counterculture, of course, is moving in there, but the Hells Angels are different of a difference source really...
Dennis Coughlin [00:38:25] I have I don't know. I really don't know. Cleveland Heights had some of everybody we had the motorcycle people, we had the preppies, we had, we had hippies. We had... You name it, we had it. So it was probably I mean, it's... In University Circle, University Circle had a plan for urban development, which was basically... I interpreted it as getting rid of all the blacks and hippies was their view of urban development. And therefore it's tear down any place that attracted blacks and hippies. There were places, Dean's Diner, Adele's, and there was a head shop down there that we would hang out in underage, all these places we were probably underage going to at the time. But University Circle closed them down and tore them down. And I think it probably encouraged some movement up the hill up from Little Italy, which was another place that I lived briefly for about six months. I lived in Little Italy with my brother. Although my parents still lived and I sort of moved back and forth between Little Italy and the house on Ardleigh. But it was that was a close community at the time to a great extent anyway. But they probably moved up the hill just because they were near to that community, which was why they would be why one reason why they might be there.
Mark Souther [00:40:11] You mentioned also, well you had mentioned the C-Saw Cafe. I'm wondering if you could just describe that a little bit more. What kind of scene it was, apart from just the Hells Angels...
Dennis Coughlin [00:40:21] It was a bar, it was a bar with not a very good reputation, I would not go in there. There were other Coventry Pizza, you, I would go in. I really didn't like their pizza. I would rather go to Mamma Santa's in Little Italy. But the Coventry Pizza was a place that a lot of people would hang out in and get pizza at because you could buy it by the slice or whatever. And I know I had classmates in school who had an apartment. Unbeknownst to their parents, they rented an apartment in the Coventry area as a place to go party. And I think there were a lot of high school students who did that. These were 17, 18-year-olds who somehow were able to rent an apartment.
Mark Souther [00:41:06] Do you remember much about going to I'll throw out a couple other names of businesses, Record Revolution?
Dennis Coughlin [00:41:13] Yeah, it's I wasn't that big into those that sort of thing. I mean, it's at High Tide Rock Bottom that came in. There were, there are various different head shops that would come and go in that location, Pick-N-Pay had. I was trying to think if that was their first store Pick-N-Pay, which was a predecessor to I'm trying to think what it became Topps eventually down the road, but it was a grocery store that was there. Part of the problem in the Coventry area is that there is a stream that runs underground and so the stores would have a problem with water in the basements. We had a chicken, chicken plucker or whatever that would sell live chickens, and kill them, and pluck them for you. That was back there, which in the summertime wasn't always the most pleasant activity. What else was there? I mean, there were the cleaners that was always there that I used and my parents used up until the day they died. I think that's all it had always been there. What other stores did? It wasn't my neighborhood of preference because it wasn't as close to me. Cedar and Fairmount met my needs. However, what was there was the main branch of the library, which is now the Coventry branch of the Heights Library. But that library had a wonderful kids' collection. And I remember riding my bicycle over there as a as an eight-year old or whatever and taking books out all the time. And I could remember the smell of the library and the books and going through and taking out every book I could from the library. But it was not an accessible building. You had to go up, probably it seemed like 20 steps to get into the building. So but it was a wonderful place to pull out books off the shelves and read and and the people there were very nice and it was just a wonderful place. So.
Mark Souther [00:43:29] What do you remember about the interior, you mentioned the smells but the look of the place? I've been in it, but.
Dennis Coughlin [00:43:34] Well, the high ceilings, the windows. It had windows that were in where the books are, the windows are above the books. Of course as a little kid, I guess at least that's what it seemed like to me. They were very high windows, tall windows, but there were places to sit on the floor. And the probably, you know, it seemed like, you know, dark wood that the books were on these shelves, the wooden shelves that were there. These were not metal shelves that I could remember. But then some time and all of a sudden it it became a branch library and I may have been when I was away at school or something, but I there was also a change in the Roxboro Library, changed from being a branch of the Heights Library to the Roxboro Library.
Mark Souther [00:44:30] Do you remember programs or other activities, for example, you know, the potter's co-opt and all that at the.
Dennis Coughlin [00:44:37] That was when we lived on Coventry, it became that and it actually at least that's I remember. I mean, with Coventry Neighbors, we met at the library. And so the potters were there. I'm trying to think of what other programs. But, but I mean it's Coventry Neighbors always met there. But that was when we moved to Coventry. I moved to Coventry, to Hampshire from Ardleigh. I lived on Hampshire from 1976 to 1985 and or well, actually, yeah '76 to '85.
Mark Souther [00:45:17] Coming back to where we are right now in St. Paul's, what and I know you said you haven't been in the church as long as your wife has, but what, what was St. Paul's like in the 1970s?
Dennis Coughlin [00:45:34] 1976, Chave McCracken was the rector of head minister here. We were married here. We we would switch. Although my wife grew up here because we lived on Hampshire, we would sometimes go to St. Alban's, which was closer, and St. Alban's, which burned down later. The rector there was a very nice guy who, who had been ordained by my wife's grandfather. But we would switch back and forth between the two churches. And I, I have to say, you know, we didn't, we didn't participate as much in the programs here in the '70s. We would just come to church primarily because my wife is a nurse and I was a hospital administrator and I worked every other weekend and she rotated days, nights. And so we wouldn't see each other a whole lot, so we would go to church and go home, go to bed or whatever, because we were in between shifts or whatever, one of us would be working and we wouldn't go to church. And, and when my daughter was born in 1987, we started attending on a regular basis here and my wife's family attended here on a regular basis. And so we see them here. We'd be with them all the time. So and that's when we got very active in the programs here at St. Paul's.
Mark Souther [00:47:11] What's the most important program to you that you've been involved with?
Dennis Coughlin [00:47:16] Well, what started out as a as a family teaching of the Eucharist in the, it started in the basement with Ralph Pitman, which was... It was at the same time as the church service, the 10:15 church service when it was morning prayer. They would have the services down in in the basement and in the dining room and we had actually our own service music. But we would teach kids and families about the Eucharist and it grew. The program outgrew the dining room and was moved up into Tucker Hall and it outgrew Tucker Hall and actually became the nine o'clock service and the nine o'clock service to this day has a greater attendance than the 11, 11:15 service. But it was it it was just a wonderful program. I mean, it's sort of got kids involved. And the people who are involved with the youth programs here at St. Paul's, the youth programs have always been a special program. We've had kids go out out of St. Paul's who have gone on to jobs, which have careers that have called on the learning that they have and their relationships with people here, the number of people who go on to divinity school. Actually, my daughter is at divinity school now, second-year student at Yale. And but it's the type of upbringing and in times were not easy, one of the people who was very active in the youth program here was murdered down at Kenyon College. And people learned I mean, they were working through that experience that they had. My daughter had been in plays with her and her father was head of the bioethics department at Case Western. I think it was Case Western and, and people learned how to how does one deal with that kind of issue? And I know he was his, his position is this person should not be put to death. And anyway, but it's how do you how does one forgive somebody who's done this to your child or to somebody in your community? And it's not an easy thing to deal with. And I think, you know, a lot of the youth, these were people who are now in their 20s and 30s who were in this program. Who learned a lot by being here.
Mark Souther [00:50:10] What is your favorite feature of St. Paul's as a building?
Dennis Coughlin [00:50:15] As a building? I mean, I like Tucker Hall, I, which is a wonderful space. It was, it was used, it was actually built as the parish, as a parish hall when it was built in 1928, I think 1928. But it was used as the main sanctuary for the church through the Depression. And then it ended up being continue to be used as the main sanctuary through World War II because they hadn't finished the main sanctuary. But it was originally it was never designed as the main sanctuary, but it was used as that. Actually, when I was working here, I worked here as the program administrator in the late 1900s, 1990s. I was here for several years and my office was in there and it was the acoustics in there were special and hearing the light opera practice, hearing Apollo's Fire practice outside my office, as long as I didn't have to really focus on whatever I was doing. It was wonderful to hear this music that was there all singing and music playing or whatever instrument playing that took place.
Mark Souther [00:51:36] Is there anything else that we haven't covered that we that you can think of, that you have experience with in Cleveland Heights?
Dennis Coughlin [00:51:48] Let me think.
Mark Souther [00:51:49] That's a very vague question.
Dennis Coughlin [00:51:51] Yeah, a leading question here. Let me just think here. You know, [I] love Cleveland Heights. I used to hitchhike to school to save money. I, you know, Fairmount Boulevard, which you actually used to have a streetcar running out it. But we ended up that was taken down in about 1954 or something somewhere around those years but it would go out to Eaton Road, I think, is where it turned around, but, but we would always I mean, I was riding our bicycles out to school or hitchhiking or walking in the in the parks, the Shaker Lake's parks are very special. I think they're owned by the city of Cleveland. And both Shaker and Cleveland Heights rent them from the city of city of Cleveland for a dollar a year. And in the agreement to maintain them, they there are still some things that need to be done. I mean, the bicycle paths that need to be improved or whatever, and that they're working on it right now. But it is, it's a, it's a nice. It's... I mean, I'm still here. As I said, I'm a sixth or seventh-generation, sixth-generation Cleveland Heights resident. I'm a seventh-generation Cleveland Heights resident, Cleveland, Northeast Ohio resident. But there are a lot of us here that whose families have grown up in Cleveland Heights and people have stayed in Cleveland Heights, and there is that continuity that takes place.
Mark Souther [00:53:28] I do have one other sort of line of questioning, wow it looks like we are getting a thunderstorm here, about Cedar Hill/Cedar Glen.
Dennis Coughlin [00:53:39] Okay.
Mark Souther [00:53:39] Anything you can tell me about that memories of that?
Dennis Coughlin [00:53:42] Well, other than it flooding and taking the canoe down it, it a lot of people, I mean, Cedar there's Cedar Road, and Cedar Avenue, and Cedar Glen Parkway and people don't know that they exist. I mean, that Cedar Avenue ends in University Circle, and then it becomes Cedar Glen Parkway. And then at the top of Cedar Hill, it becomes Cedar Road, and that goes all the way out to River Road. I know my, I had cousins who lived at the top of the hill. It's now an apartment building. They tore down the house and put in an apartment building. I I don't know, I mean, they still talk about building a, building a some sort of a retail housing residential something at the top of Cedar Hill. I'm trying to think if there's anything else that I've left out there.
Mark Souther [00:54:37] What about the rock retaining, what's the origin of the rock retaining wall?
Dennis Coughlin [00:54:42] Oh, I assume that that's all WPA or going both down on the south side of Fairhill. I don't know what the. Is that Fairhill that goes going up and down? I'm not sure which the going down part I know coming up is Fairhill. I never knew the street names. What was North Park as it goes down the hill, the retaining wall that's been built. There are pictures of it being built because it's the stream that's there. I grew up sledding on the hill, which is now in I think it's called Rogers Park. The new bicycle path cuts across between Fairhill and whatever North Park is there. But we used to go sledding there and sledding [at] Cain Park and we'd go ice skating at Cumberland, the fire department would come in and flood the Cumberland parking lot and we'd go ice skating all winter long. And then growing up, we always flooded our backyard and I'd go ice skating and playing hockey. I'd skate all, all winter long in our backyard, which is a big backyard to skate in. Oh, goodness. But, you know, it was always a terrible place to learn how to drive, going up both Fairhill and North Park and Cedar Glen Parkway. I have gone down Cedar Glen Parkway backwards in my car on the ice when somehow just the tires wouldn't grip. And it was very icy. And coming into Cleveland Heights from University Circle was always difficult, if you're riding a bicycle, I would usually skip that and go up Superior, which was my bicycle path of preference. When I worked down several different jobs I had downtown, I would ride my bicycle to my Superior was a much nicer hill to come up and come up through Coventry. And of course, there's Lake View Cemetery, part of which is in Cleveland Heights and which is a wonderful place and and anything that can grow in northeastern Ohio was growing in Lake View Cemetery. And the Ohio State University Landscaping Architecture Department would always bring their students up because if they were going to work in northeast Ohio, they could see everything that could grow there. So anyway, just another piece of trivia that takes place right now.
Mark Souther [00:57:22] It's the origin of Holden Arboretum.
Dennis Coughlin [00:57:22] Well, it was an arboretum. Yeah. I don't know if it was the Holden Arboretum. And I know I mean been my family's all buried there. So I've got another seven generations of family buried in Lake View. So and then, of course, they're also in River, Riverside Cemetery, which is the Lake View Cemetery of the West. I have relatives buried there, too. So anyway, another nice cemetery,
Mark Souther [00:57:46] Mike, did you have anything that you wanted to add?
Michael Rotman [00:57:49] No.
Mark Souther [00:57:49] Okay. I think we can conclude. I don't want to.
Dennis Coughlin [00:57:54] Sorry. Yes, I yeah. I was trying to keep it within an hour here as to what I could come up with, but I can always come. I'm Irish. I can come up with anything. You want me to talk, I'll talk.
Mark Souther [00:58:06] Okay.
Dennis Coughlin [00:58:06] They're good at coming up with answers. So I'll have to...
Mark Souther [00:58:08] Well, this has been very helpful and very interesting and very helpful, you know, there's certainly some material in there that... [recording ends abruptly]
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
"Dennis Coughlin Interview, 7 September 2012" (2012). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 911083.