Interview with James Semsak concerning the public image of Cleveland and his work in the marketing of the city. Various marketing campaigns were discussed as well as the affect of some negative events such as the burning river, busing, and the Kucinich era.
Semsak, James (interviewee)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
"James Semsak Interview, 23 July 2014" (2014). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 999121.
Mark Souther [00:00:02] Today is July 23, 2014. My name is Mark Souther, and we are at Cleveland State University as part of the Cleveland Regional Oral History Project. And I am interviewing Mr. Jim Semsak. Thank you again for agreeing to be interviewed for the project today.
James Semsak [00:00:23] Happy to be here.
Mark Souther [00:00:24] Can you state your full name for the record?
James Semsak [00:00:27] Jim or James Semsak.
Mark Souther [00:00:31] And can you spell your last name for the record?
James Semsak [00:00:34] It's S-E-M-S-A-K.
Mark Souther [00:00:37] Okay, thank you. And when and where were you born?
James Semsak [00:00:41] I was born in Cleveland in '45, I went to high school here and left for college, went to Ohio University in Athens, graduated there with the Electrical Engineering degree in '67, actually moved as part of a corporate move down to a small town in South Carolina for a period of time, less than a year, and came back and continued my career at Clark Control, which had an office in, or its factory, in Cleveland. I worked there about seven years. Research and development. Got into marketing as kind of a side issue. And my project was discontinued, so I moved on to a year where I was selling electronic components, Intel, Motorola, et cetera, for a regional firm. Their office closed regionally, so I was actually moved out to the Los Angeles area just for a bit and came back to get involved with my company at the time in '74, which was Western Specialty Company.
Mark Souther [00:02:10] Okay. Thank you. Can you go back then and tell me a little bit about the neighborhood that you grew up in? What your first recollections of it were?
James Semsak [00:02:20] Well, I was born in the Buckeye-Woodland area, which was a predominantly Hungarian neighborhood, as many parts of Cleveland was at the time. Went to St. Elizabeth's, great school there, until the beginning of my third grade and family moved to a house in Garfield Heights, so continued at St. Peter and Paul Parochial School, grade school in Garfield Heights, and grew up there for the most part until I went away to OU when I was 17.
Mark Souther [00:02:59] So your family moved when you were in what grade?
James Semsak [00:03:01] Uh, finished second grade in the summer of... so I was about I was actually six, I guess. I started school early for I don't know what the reason. I have a suspicion that my grandmother had something to do with it, but that's a long story and we probably don't want to get into it now, do you? [laughs]
Mark Souther [00:03:21] Well, I wanted to ask... I was curious about the circumstances surrounding the move. What was the neighborhood like and did you have a perception of it as a place that was... Did you enjoy living there or were too young really to notice?
James Semsak [00:03:35] We... I was pretty young. Even back then. This was let's see, of course, this was '45, '50, early '50s, '52, '53. Lived in actually a rented house. My grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side owned a four-family front-and-back, up-and-down configuration, and we were upstairs in one of the units, and I think the opportunity just presented itself. In the other section upstairs was my aunt and uncle who was my mother's sister—they were very close—and we actually moved jointly. They moved a couple of months earlier than we did. However, they bought a duplex in Garfield Heights, so again, they shared the same home and we moved. It was, I guess, an opportunity for both families to own a home at the time. So that's really the rationale for it.
Mark Souther [00:04:34] What connection, if any, did you continue to have to St. Elizabeth's?
James Semsak [00:04:38] Very little. I, you know, I don't really recall too much after that. You get involved in the new community to some degree, going to a different school. I don't remember. I think I recall going back to St. Elizabeth's, which was a very prominent and historical Hungarian church in regards to the entire country, quite frankly, but maybe several times for special masses or Sunday masses or events, but very little contact, I guess, back to the old neighborhood after that.
Mark Souther [00:05:19] Did your parents still attend another church regularly or no?
James Semsak [00:05:23] Well, St. Peter and Paul was about six, seven blocks away, and that became our basically our church, my school. And then my brother, I think, was five or so. I think he graduated from St. Elizabeth's, so he went on to College Cathedral Latin, which was very close, you know, in the University Circle area before it was closed down.
Mark Souther [00:05:51] Did you... As you went back over the years to Buckeye, what changes did you notice as the neighborhood did evolve over time.
James Semsak [00:06:01] IIt was a changing neighborhood even back in the '50s. Certainly, it was predominantly Hungarian. Yet toward the Woodland area—we were one block from the intersection of Buckeye and Woodland—it was... It was... it was a... I guess you consider a lower rent area in a sense. The housing stock was not terrific. A lot of rentals and things. It was a mixed neighborhood back then, even, and I think over the years since then, you know, different things happen from an economic standpoint that didn't favor the neighborhood. It kind of fell into a little disarray and wasn't considered a wonderful neighborhood to be a part of at that time.
Mark Souther [00:06:59] In terms of Hungarian businesses, do you have any recollection of ones that were on Buckeye and then left and established business elsewhere? I'm thinking of one in particular but I wonder if there are others.
James Semsak [00:07:11] Well, there was, I remember, just across the street there was the Hungarian paper offices was there. There was Szabadsag, I think they called it. There was a Blonder's or there was some home repair, home decorating, you know, paper paint stores, a place everybody called Uncle Sid's. I remember that for some reason. And there was a... That's about all I really remember, you know, small candy stores, et cetera, local movie theater, the Sun Theater on Buckeye between our house and the church. There was, well, there was a, I think they pronounce it Micelli's or Micelli's, Micelli's Cheese. They've been there for a million years and, quite frankly, probably to be applauded because they've grown there and expanded and have made a presence in the neighborhood. And as a matter of fact, I think... I think my wife actually went to school with one of the family members, two at St. Elizabeth's. So she has that connection.
Mark Souther [00:08:21] What about Balaton restaurant?
James Semsak [00:08:27] I... My only recollection is after they moved to Shaker Square. And we went up there several times. I do remember going up Buckeye and The Gypsy's Cellar, which was a popular place. There was a... And for some reason, I'm not even sure of the relationship, but I think my grandmother was somehow connected by a second cousin relationship to either one of the owners or the family that ran it or something. There was nothing real strong, but of course I think I was... I was 12 years old before I realized that all these people I thought were aunts and uncles were just family friends. Everybody was an uncle this or an aunt this. And that was the way people, you know, met people and responded and lived in that neighborhood, quite frankly.
Mark Souther [00:09:23] When you think about, you know, being a Clevelander, did your sense of being an Clevelander evolve when you moved to the suburbs or not?
James Semsak [00:09:36] I really had no sense of being a Clevelander or not a Clevelander living in the city. Of course, at the time, within our city boundaries, I was before and of course moved to, you know, Garfield Heights, which was still in the county, but outside the city. Had no feeling for it one way or another as a youngster growing up. I think my first recollection of who I was and where I was going or what I was doing, or my feelings about the city where I was born, was probably late in my junior or senior year. Back then, there was recruiters coming on campus and interviewing for positions after graduation, and there was an opportunity to go to several places, and I feel fortunate by comparison now, some of the people graduating now are struggling to get jobs. But back then in the late '60s, you know, with a degree that I had, we can just go to one of the halls in town and there would be six or seven employers, and in some cases, you know, it was a lucky situation, unfortunate situation to have multiple offers of jobs after graduation. So I was looking at balancing, you know, between Wisconsin, St. Louis, Chicago. Indirectly, coming back to Cleveland because I knew this particular company A. O. Smith out of Milwaukee had a factory, a new factory in South Carolina, but they also had a customs or custom engineered products division in Cleveland in the Five Points or Collinwood area. So I thought, well, I could, I could do any one of the... any one of four different situations. And I kind of... I kind of struggled with that a little bit because I had another situation. My father had died during my sophomore year at school. Mother was having a difficult time dealing with the loss, and I felt if my brother actually gave up a fellowship at Michigan State to stay home and kind of get her through this transitional period, and he was kind of an unspoken contract maybe or agreement between us that when I got out of school, I might take on that role for a while that he, you know, gave up quite a bit to stay home and make that make that sacrifice. So... And that was fine because so I chose the one that would ultimately get me back to the Cleveland area and not really sorry about it at all. But quite frankly, being out of town and then getting a chance to travel and getting over to Europe and going skiing in Switzerland and Germany and things like that, then having the opportunity to get to the West Coast and spend a little time there and everything. It took me until probably I was 22, 24 to say I have feelings now about parts of the country and how I feel about my hometown, Cleveland. And it was only then that it kind of solidified a little more to the point where it became somewhat meaningful and not to the point where I will guarantee that I will spend the rest of my life here. But I would not be terribly sorry if I did. I have some real feelings and there's some things about the area that I feel very attached to and very committed to and feel a part of. But it took a while. It certainly wasn't during my teenage years or early college years.
Mark Souther [00:13:28] When you reflect, do you... Do you remember many of the efforts to promote the city, such as The Best Location in the Nation? If so, when was the first time you heard that?
James Semsak [00:13:44] Well, yeah, I was probably, you know, I was probably gone for, you know, while I actually spent five years at OU ultimately and coming back and finally working with Clark Control in Cleveland was probably the first time I even remember too much. I remember the Forest City. That was a term that was used to refer to Cleveland. And I remember, you know, the Best Location in the Nation. Those were really probably the only two that I had recollection of early on, and I was kind of ambivalent about either one. I mean, didn't didn't make much difference to me or didn't make too much sense one way or another. I didn't think about it too much, quite frankly.
Mark Souther [00:14:37] When you think about the sort of the state of the city, from your vantage point in Garfield Heights at least, first of all, how often did you go downtown once you moved out there in what, 1952?
James Semsak [00:14:52] Yeah. We came downtown quite a bit. There were certain traditions. You know, shopping was still a focal point of downtown and then centered in downtown with many of the department stores. And coming down Christmastime, Higbee's was wonderful, as evidenced by the Christmas Story movie, you know, and Sterling Lindner and Higbee's and, what was it, May Company and everything, you know, it was really the mecca for shopping back then when I was really young. Easter was a time to get dressed up and come to Wade Oval and walk around the art museum and the lagoon there, and it seemed like everybody in the world was there taking pictures and just enjoying Easter. So there were things, and I think I didn't experience from the early days and Garfield Heights, the detached suburbanite mentality that I'm out of the center of core city, and I don't care if I have anything to do with it. We still... There was a lot of things you enjoyed about going down and, you know, as a young boy, my father taking me down to a Yankees doubleheader at the old stadium and walking up the ramp into the sunlight and with a sellout crowd of 75, 78,000 people, and it's like, I never saw anything like that before. So it was amazing, you know, so there was, there was opportunity and a lot of times we came downtown to just experience the core city.
Mark Souther [00:16:28] How often would you say that you went downtown for shopping?
James Semsak [00:16:31] Well, I mean, not myself, but I used to tag along, you know, probably not every week even. But I would say several times a month, maybe, is my recollection.
Mark Souther [00:16:44] Where... Do you remember where you ate, when you went with your parents?
James Semsak [00:16:50] There was a couple of... It was a couple of cafeterias back then. And it's kind of strange. There wasn't many restaurants downtown. And, you know, in the old neighborhood, boy, I... From the time I was born, of course, up until the time I was 10 years old, maybe, you know, it's almost like, or 8 years old, we maybe only went to two restaurants, you know, there was, there, first of all, there wasn't any restaurants like the fast food that you see, but there wasn't any other restaurants where you could sit down or tablecloth meal and the whole deal. They just didn't exist at that time. They had... They had a couple of cafeterias. I remember one being in the lower level somewhere. They also had something interesting that beforehand I only saw in movies about New York, and that's the little automated, you put money in and the food comes swinging around and the automat or whatever they call that, you know, they're dispensing sandwiches and salads and desserts and everything through a little machine. You open the door and you, you know, you watch it rotate and you stop it where you want and you pull it out and you sat down and ate it. And that was kind of, that was kind of a fun thing. I don't know how I envision that, but that was something different.
Mark Souther [00:18:06] Where was that?
James Semsak [00:18:08] I think it was somewhere on Euclid, close to 9th Street. I couldn't even begin to tell you.
Mark Souther [00:18:16] The cafeterias, I'm guessing, were Mills and Blue Boar? I've come across those.
James Semsak [00:18:20] Well, Mills, I remember. I don't even remember the name Blue Boar. Mills, I do. I think they had a little, like a fan, or as part of their signage or something, like a little Dutch windmill, as I recall. I don't remember the other one at all. I remember going down to the lower level of the Terminal, and of course, they had the frosted malts. They had a little kiosk. There was little stands as you went toward the train platforms and so forth. And that was always kind of interesting. I mean, getting one of those, that was worth the trip even if nothing else happened. So those are... Those are kind of the recollections early on. But it's kind of funny, you know, we've talked among a lot of people when during the early portion of my life there, Cleveland was all offices and business. No residential, no residents, basically no entertainment. And it has not flipped entirely, but certainly to a great degree, it has flipped almost in the opposite direction. So it's a lot more fun. It's a lot more entertaining and a lot more interesting, I think, the way downtown is configured now than what it was before. I mean, quite literally, they used to talk about five o'clock, you roll up the sidewalks and you could roll a bowling ball down Euclid and not hit anybody or whatever. And that was largely true. There wasn't much more to stay around for back then. So luckily, that has changed dramatically.
Mark Souther [00:20:00] Mm-hmm. Do you recollect a time in which you became aware that downtown was not the same as it was? That it was losing some of its verve, some of its energy, at least with regard to shopping or the appearance? Anything along those lines?
James Semsak [00:20:17] Yeah, I think there are several things that stick in my mind when you realize, wow, we're not an emerging city, you know, gaining population and popularity. When some of the department stores closed down, when some of the businesses moved out, when, you know, they talk about losing population, they talked about, you know, the outmigration of people, you know, and even at that time there was a certain period, it seemed like within five years, tens of thousands, if not more, people, you know, moved south. I mean, if it wasn't for air conditioning, you know, that wouldn't have happened, but they had air conditioning. We had some dreadful winters during that period, too, where if somebody was on the fence about staying here or not, sometimes that was enough to have somebody said, I'm gonna leave. I just... [laughs] I can't stand another winter. I suppose that's understandable in some cases, if winter or weather affects you, like that. But yeah, there went through a period and even... Even late when I was going through this interviewing process, late in junior or senior year at school in the late '60s, I could... I felt that that was already happening, certainly. Okay? Cleveland was in somewhat of a decline. If you know you're... I've always thought that. And it just wasn't much happening and it didn't seem like anybody was even pushing in the right direction. And that was kind of a little discouraging thing. I've always had an image of the progress in a city when people say, you know, you have movers and shakers and they're pushing to do something positive. And I liken that to pushing a car that's not running, but on a level road. But a city isn't like that. A city is like pushing a car up a slight incline because when you stop pushing, you don't stay where you are. You go backwards. And I think that's what was happening. There wasn't the effort. It wasn't the programs. Or quite frankly, I think people moved from the core city and emotionally they just became detached. They just were not engaged whatsoever and they were happy to do that. They felt they didn't want to have anything to do with it. Okay? You know, certain things, probably images of crime, integration, busing, et cetera. So there's a lot of factors that people did not find particularly attractive. So they moved out into other areas of the county, other counties or out of state even to get away with it. But it's... I think it's classic. I mean, it certainly just doesn't happen in this area. You... And here's the other thing. You have to almost be away from the city... When I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, they're reading their papers, looking at their 11 o'clock news. You think, Boy, this sounds familiar. Those people think every politician is a moron, just like we do. They think their weather is not so good most of the time, just like we do. You know, it's similar. Every story leads with a horrific crime, whether it's a murder or a fire or abduction or something. And you realize, you know, there are differences, but in a lot of fundamental respects, a lot of the cities are similar. Very similar. Okay? But I sense a lack of attitude and direction here. And there was a little discouraging because I wasn't... I couldn't say I was a big fan until later in life when I came back and I spent time in other parts of the country. My brother had been working. I'd spend time well, probably, had been in New Orleans four different times, up in Seattle—my brother was up there for about three years, so I visited him quite often. You know, Chicago, spent time there, New York, Atlanta. He had something going down there for a while. So, you know, we just... I had an opportunity to fortunately, a lot of people don't, and that's, it's unfortunate. But I came back, I think, with a greater appreciation of what we have, an appreciation of what we could be. Potential is a often-used word, sometimes meaning you just didn't do it. So there's a negative and a positive aspect to potential, but it was there, quite frankly. And the old guard... I had friends too that were very involved in things and many of the leaders from the early '60s, '70s, the Herb Strawbridges of Higbee's and all these other people, Whitehouse and them from BP and so on and so on and so on. They were gone or they weren't involved. And people did not see an emergence of younger leadership, I think. Quite frankly, now I see that on a much, much larger scale. I can't even tell you a particular one single name or not, but you read about them, you hear them, you see them on TV, you see them on, you hear them on the radio. There's a lot of insightful, intelligent conversation going on now about the city, its direction and what could happen. And it's terribly exciting. Now, whether I'm here or not, I will always be a part of the city, and it's exciting, especially for the younger generation now, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s that are here, like we discussed before. I think they have a much more positive attitude than somebody who is in their 60s and 70s and 80s who have lived through this, kind of this plateauing out and decline and a lot of the negativity that went on in the late '50s, '60s and early '70s, and then it became a little cyclical. It seemed like we were on a high when we opened the Rock and Roll Museum and everything. And then it kind of... There was never any real momentum that was consistent. And I feel differently now. I think, you know, not really sure, but I think there's different driving forces, different people and with that different personalities, and they think differently, which is good because it's the... It's what the city needed. And as all young cities, you put it, in the hands of the younger generation and the way it should be. So...
Mark Souther [00:27:02] What do you remember about Carl Stokes's election and did that have any impact on how people, including yourself, perceived Cleveland?
James Semsak [00:27:14] Well, I don't know if we discussed this earlier. I was... I was living in Lancaster, South Carolina, at the time, and this is the small-town factory that was run by A. O. Smith, Clark Control that I spent time in. And when that happened, of course, all the... There wasn't too many people living there, you know, it was a very small town. They all knew three of us were from Cleveland. And when that hit the news, I can't tell you, these people were so flabbergasted, they were so amazed, they were so distraught, they could not believe that happened. So this is a small town, South Carolina. This is, you know, 40 years ago or whatever, more, 50 years ago. They just couldn't imagine that. So I caught a lot of grief, I guess. Quite frankly, I mean, I was... I was somewhat proud of the fact that Cleveland was the home of the first African American mayor of a big city. I mean, if you understand our our legacy in racial relations, major events in diversity even, you know, you talk about Mayor Stokes, you talk about Robinson or, you know, being our first Black manager of a Major League Baseball team, okay? Of course, Larry Doby had the misfortune of follow[ing] Jackie Robinson by two months or six weeks or something, but he was the first Black player in the American League. John McLendon, with the Pipers, first Black manager of a professional basketball team. You know, there's just a lot of events in Cleveland that really supported their idea and, you know, and there the elements that fight it yet. But we are a diverse community, as evidenced by MLK or old Liberty Boulevard. And as I mentioned to you, you know, you knew too, the Cleveland Library, has more foreign language books than any other library system as of a few years ago. I'm not sure if that's the case. It probably could be yet. So I was... It was kind of a difficult, crazy period for me because I didn't want to get everybody in town there terribly upset and burn the factory down, but I was... I was rather proud and I was fortunate, I guess. My father, who was a mailman and worked in University Circle, was, it was at the time that Blacks were integrating the post office. And I don't remember his grandfather, quite frankly, at all, or his grandmother or his father and mother. I was pretty young when they died, but he was... he was a wonderful man, racially tolerant, and I suppose I got a lot of that from him to the point where he moved... When we moved to Garfield Heights. He moved and got transferred to the Garfield Heights Post Office, and if I could share a story with you, it just says it all, I think. So he had been probably 15, 20 years out of the UC or university Circle station here, and he was a big supporter and was kind of a mediator in some of the skirmishes that started as the Black employees started coming in and there was friction in the post office. So when he died, of course the funeral was in Garfield Heights, and close to the end of the day, the viewing day, the doors open up and about 25 Black men come marching in and nobody, like what is going on here? I didn't know what was going on, and they come up to me, and these were, these were fellow workers from 20 years ago. They came back and, you know, it kind of tears me up a little you know, brings tears in my eyes right now when I think about it. But that kind of respect that he had in his efforts down there and, you know, it just blew everybody away. But anyway, so, I think, you know, I saw that part of him and I probably share that part of him with, you know, in my personality, I guess, too. But anyway, he did that.
Mark Souther [00:32:03] But then once you returned—I know you came back in... came back in '68? Or '67 to Cleveland. Originaly, I thought '67 but maybe...
James Semsak [00:32:13] Well, I graduated in '67 and then I was away for a while. I really came back... Oh, boy, I forget what year. I was going, I was here most of the time. Like I said, my stay in South Carolina was less than a year, so I was probably back in '69, certainly, full time.
Mark Souther [00:32:38] And by which time, you know, so you missed the Glenville shootout in '68.
James Semsak [00:32:45] Right?
Mark Souther [00:32:47] Weren't in town for that.
James Semsak [00:32:48] Right.
Mark Souther [00:32:48] Were you back in town by the time the river infamously burned for the last time?
James Semsak [00:32:54] Yeah, I think I was. I think I was. Quite frankly, you know, to me that was not such a big deal. And if, you know, if the media wasn't there in the right moment to catch that image at the right time and, you know, media spin is everything and you could take, you could take any event, and I'll write it up two different ways and two people read it and they wouldn't know they're talking about the same event, you know. I'm always reminded of the story about the... What is the Russian national newspaper, Pravda or something? There was an article. For some reason, I guess some engineering societies, I hea,r got together and they were testing certain new engines and transmissions, and so they had a friendly competition between the U.S. version and the Russian version. I don't know where it was, maybe neutral ground. So they went in, they raced around this track and everything like that. So the U.S. version won, okay? In Pravda, it says, We're very proud of our engineers. We placed... We placed second. And didn't mention that they lost and there was only two cars in the race, you know. Okay? So it's the spin of putting them in a very positive vein there, you know? But I didn't... I didn't think any of that. I knew, you know, that was part of, that was part of... Another thing that was... I was very ambivalent about in a way, because our industrial past was tremendous in a way. I mean, okay, it's a little dirty and gritty, but it produced an enormous economy. It produced a gazillion years and, you know, very famous people. It made the city what it is as far as a diverse manufacturing city and everything. I don't know if you could even name a city back, you know, during that period of their heyday where we were big in automobiles, we were big in steel, we were big in machine tools, we're big in ore, we're big in mining, we were big in clothes manufacturing. We were a big, big clothes manufacturing city here. There was there was nothing that we weren't, you know, involved in, almost in a very, very prominent level, too. That's the amazing thing. And you would think we were much, much larger than we were, although, you know, we were the fifth or sixth largest city at one time and at its peak. But so the burning of the river had, you know, like, you know, who cares? I mean, we know there was industrial waste down there and a lot of people I knew had been like well they should've took pictures of this. That's nothing, you know, that sort of attitude. So that didn't make... That didn't make... And I had friends, though, that had this and they had this kind of negative attitude about events, how it portrayed the city in such a negative way. And I said, Well, you're harsh on yourself. I mean, you know, things happen in cities, okay? I mean, some of them are accidents, and I said to them, I said, Let me ask you a question. What would happen, and what would happen, what would be the attitude among Clevelanders if President Kennedy got assassinated in Cleveland? They said, Ohhhh. I said, Yes, oh, it's the blackest day, it'd be a black mark on Cleveland's history. People in Dallas consider it the site of a historic event. That's it. They don't take any blame for it. They don't feel, you know... And that's, that's the difference as far as your attitude toward your city and other people around there and, you know, your surroundings and everything. And that's what I didn't like in a sense. I would like to see the other attitude say, Hey, we're sorry about it. You know, I wish it could have been prevented or whatever. But, you know, the city wasn't responsible. Cleveland wouldn't been responsible. Just like the fire, it happened here but, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't a policy of City Hall to say let's dump some more gasoline and garbage and oil on the river, and let's see if it starts on fire. No, I mean, it's just... It was industrial accident and they happen all over the place. And, you know, there's been greater industrial accidents and nonsense going on in other parts of the country. If it doesn't get the press, it goes away, and it never stays in people's memory or psyche. But here, you know, I don't know why. I don't know why.
Mark Souther [00:37:36] I was going to. Ask you that. Yeah. What is it in the water, or what is it in people's personalities? Well, like the psyche of Cleveland, that even back then, they were ready to think ill of the city?
James Semsak [00:37:50] Well, I said once before, I read and I was told several times, back then there were a couple of Clevelanders who were writers. They went to Hollywood writing comedy. So they were writers on a lot of shows and variety shows and sitcoms and everything like that. And not, not to be hurtful, but they they used Cleveland as the butt of some of their jokes and, you know, things like that. And it somehow caught on. And I remember seeing two of them on TV, and they kind of acknowledged it and said, Well, we had no idea it's going to blossom or fester like this or whatever term you want to use, you know, so they were almost apologetic, saying we didn't mean to do it. We just thought we'd use the name of our hometown. But it's... I don't know. I don't know what it is. You know, sometimes it's an insensitivity. I don't know, back when, there was, there was an era where people started telling Polish jokes, okay? So if you're Polish extraction, you probably took great offense to that because they were not complimentary, you know, and I don't know how it started and why people thought it was funny or, you know, and they perpetuated that. I don't hear them anymore. But for a while, that was an ongoing and it was everywhere. You know, it's everywhere and is picked up nationally and everything like that. And I say, Boy, I'd hate to be Polish extraction. I mean, you know, it could be, could have been Hungarians, could have been British, could have been German, could have been anybody like that. So I think part of it was... Part of it was circumstance. I think the attitudes of some of the people here in Cleveland at the time contributed to it—they didn't create it but they contributed to it—and they didn't know how to diffuse an objection or a stereotypical image, I think. You know, something negative, sort of slightly negative might happen instead of saying, Yeah, okay, all right. Next. How about, you know they would, Oh, it's such a black mark. Or they would try to complain if Cleveland had a ranking of something in the newspaper or a national magazine, instead of letting it go, they would... Some delegation or three people would have to call the magazine and say, We object to this ranking for Cleveland because we're... It's like, don't... Sometimes it's not worth calling attention to it. You might not have the information or the stats or facts to support it, so you sound like you're whining or complaining. You're almost, you're almost you're perpetuating it, you know.
Mark Souther [00:40:37] Do you remember... You mentioned some of these comics or comedians who went from Cleveland out to L.A. Do you remember some of them directly?
James Semsak [00:40:46] I thought there was a guy, I think it's Pat McCormick that seems to be one name that I remember. And he was a little heavier set guy. I think he had a mustache at one time. I think he was one of them. That's my recollection. There was a woman... I could almost picture her. I couldn't come up with her name though, I don't think at all. But there was quite a few few people in show business at the time from the Cleveland area, and I think they kind of networked a little bit and everything. But that's what I was told, and I read it in two different places, you know, over time. I'm not sure if that's correct, but it could have some credibility. [laughs]
Mark Souther [00:41:24] Did you ever hear from anyone who was involved in The Best Things in Life Are Here in Cleveland campaign as to... I mean, did you ever hear of who coined that term and what the circumstances were?
James Semsak [00:41:42] I do not...
Mark Souther [00:41:42] I imagine that had to have a negative publicity that it...
James Semsak [00:41:46] I do not. Yeah, back... Back in the late.... Let's see. Well, it's not late... I got involved with Western Specialty Company. I had a partner, Tom Irwin, who I met in college down in Athens years before, and we got together and bought an existing company that... We didn't pay anything for it but we realized he had no clients either. So that.. Was. It was even. That was fair, I guess. But it was a promotional products, especially advertising firm, as they called it then. And it must have been late '70s, mid '70s to late '70s. We started calling on people like the Growth Association, which is now the [Greater Cleveland] Partnership, and the Convention Bureau, which is now a Positively Cleveland, to provide promotional items and whatever services we can offer, you know? And all of them were basically meant to promote the city and/or maintain, generate, or retain businesses here in the Greater Cleveland area. I don't know who did it, but a friend of mine who I still am in contact with, Bob Zion, was the director of downtown development for the Growth Association back in those years, and we were working with him, and the campaign already existed because they were talking about getting some shirts and providing them and, you know, getting 'em out there. They had written a jingle. And I have a I have a suspicion... I have a suspicion who might have wrote the jingle because, I forgot to tell you this earlier, there was actually there was a jingle written by this guy about the North Coast, and I had it on a disc. I haven't been able to find it for years and years, though. Somebody else asked me about it. His name was Walt something, and I'm at a loss right now. He may have written it, although I'm not absolutely sure. So it existed when we started this relationship and we got involved in providing shirts, and also we were happy to sell them because we were making some money on it and it was kind of like a, felt it was a little civic duty to here too that we would take advantage of and offer our services. But I don't know the origin, though. And it might have been from the Growth Association. I might be able to even find out if I talked to this, this one person.
Mark Souther [00:44:36] I'd be curious. And I know that you mentioned before that then this was still going on, this jingle...
James Semsak [00:44:44] Yeah,.
Mark Souther [00:44:45] Up in about '78 or so, '77, '78.
James Semsak [00:44:47] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:44:48] And that's about the time that you got the idea for the North Coast.
James Semsak [00:44:52] Yes.
Mark Souther [00:44:52] Can you walk me through that again? Sort of everything that you can remember about maybe dissatisfaction with the existing Best Things campaign and then how the germ of the idea, you appeared.
James Semsak [00:45:07] Well, it really came about because of our involvement with the Best Things. And quite frankly, I liked the concept, and I liked the slogan and I liked the song, if you only hear it three or four times in a row. But we were getting, as we were selling shirts, we were getting feedback, or pushback rather, from people who came up and misunderstood the Best Things, meaning we have the best of everything in Cleveland as opposed to other cities in the country. And that didn't sit well with people, and I'm not sure why they took it out on us. We were just working the booth here. But they did, and they were pretty vocal about it, too. Now, I gotta say, the vast majority of people thought it was great and they loved it and they bought shirts and were happy about it. But there was enough of a negative reaction that my friend Tom and I, we walked away, and we did that for two days over a weekend, I believe, and I said, Wow, I says, you know, everybody's slamming this. They say it's too bad, I said, and I thought to myself, it'd be nice if we or someone could come up with an image, a concept, a slogan, or a tagline, that would positively identify with Cleveland. Create a positive image, something people can relate to, can enjoy, can rally around, and not be debatable, not be debated one way or another, because it could be just a straight statement of fact. It's like saying Cleveland is in Ohio, and if that got you somewhere, you got it. You know, no one's going to argue with you. So we were, you know, thinking about that. And weeks later, I was reading a magazine and it was an article about the Coast Guard and they were talking about their operations. And of course, we have a Coast Guard station and a facility here in Cleveland on East Ninth. And they had a little article about the Gulf Coast. And you know, you're used to hearing East Coast, West Coast and everything. But for some reason, the Gulf Coast stuck in my mind and I was standing in our office, which was overlooking Chester Commons, looking north toward the lake—we'd see the lake from our office—and looking out the window, and I thought, looking north, we're the edge of a great body of water, an inland sea, really. And beyond that is a foreign country. I says, I think we're on a coast. So I turned to my friend. I said, Tom, I said, How would you like to live on the North Coast? And he didn't say anything. He kind of smiled. And within a half hour, I had contacted a woman we had worked with in the graphics area and told her, I said, We have a, I have an idea here and we want you to develop something that would go along with this tagline. And [she] said, What do you want? I said, Well, we want we want to identify with the coast, but it has to be identified with Cleveland. It has to be something that... We don't want to put palm trees or coconuts. We don't have palm trees or coconuts here. So we decided we're going to use the lighthouse at the mouth of the river. And she added seagulls. She put... There was a graphic available. And she used the letters in Cleveland to, you know, format that made it look like waves pounding up against the base of the building or the lighthouse. And that became our visual graphic for the North Coast. As I mentioned, within that week, we decided to just put together a couple dozen T-shirts. And I was running in a 10K race up in Mayfield, Mayfield Village, the following weekend, and I wore one of the shirts, and I didn't think anything about it. I forgot I had it on even, but during the race, in front of the, behind the race, after the race, before the race, I had about 80 people ask me where they can get the shirt. And I thought, okay, maybe we're onto something. Maybe this is an image that people can relate to. So we started, we started making more shirts up, and I remember we did matches. That's when people bought matches. [laughs] You know, little matchbooks and it's kind of a miniature of the shirt design and everything, and we had some cups made. Well, we did some promotional products because that was our industry. So we had ready access to a lot of this stuff. And then we started getting phone calls. I mentioned I had taken it to Bob Zion at the Growth Association, who was the first person to really see it outside of our office. And he liked it, and he even made some suggestions as to, you know, this, this could be good, and everything like that. Took it to the Visitor and Conventions Bureau and ultimately their newspaper, within probably two weeks to a month of that meeting, became the North Coast News, the official title of it. So we were getting some traction. There were some articles in the newspaper, and then businesses started calling us up. Charter boat cruise industries, you know, were calling us. A couple of the small fishing vessels that have charter things wanted to use the name either in their publication or in their official name, like North Coast Cruises or whatever. Radio stations called up. I don't remember exactly, but there were several and a couple TV or radio stations. A couple of TV stations called up and wanted to just use those such as okay, here's the weather from the North Coast, or today's North Coast weather is, or news from the North Coast, and we gave it out freely. I didn't want to, you know, my goal was to just create it and have it function, I guess like it has been. And I guess, you know, after all these years, I'm very gratified that it has kind of sustained itself and endured. And to the point where it's, it seems to be, you know, part of the fabric maybe of the community, which is really gratifying, I think, because, you know, people don't even look at it as a created concept that started, you know, at a finite time in '78. It's just, I think a lot of people say, well, it's always been the North Coast. That's where we are. I said, Well, okay. [laughs]
Mark Souther [00:51:51] I want to go back just for...
James Semsak [00:51:52] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:51:52] A couple of things too to fill in some details. You mentioned that you had done some shirts for the Best Things campaign...
James Semsak [00:51:58] Yes.
Mark Souther [00:51:59] Previously.
James Semsak [00:51:59] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:52:00] Can you describe what the shirts looked like in terms of the graphics?
James Semsak [00:52:03] Oh boy, I almost forget. I think it was... It was mostly copy or in other words, you know, The Best Things in Life are Right Here in Cleveland, I think, and maybe the Best Things were larger and then Right Here in Cleveland. And that was kind of it was almost like the opening line of the lyrics of the jingle or the song that was written. I don't remember... I don't remember anything graphically that they used, quite frankly. If I saw it, I'd probably recognize it, but right now it's been, it's been quite a while.
Mark Souther [00:52:40] I don't remember graphics associated with it when I've seen it in advertising.
James Semsak [00:52:45] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:52:46] You know, in 1974, they put a series of ads in the New York Times...
James Semsak [00:52:51] Mm-hmm.
Mark Souther [00:52:52] Magazine, and they were just these big, full page ads that showed a picture of this, that, and the other...
James Semsak [00:53:00] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:53:00] With some sort of clever tagline. One was about the art museum. Another was about the Metroparks...
James Semsak [00:53:06] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:53:07] And so on. And then they had that line at the bottom, The Best Things in Life Are Here in Cleveland.
James Semsak [00:53:13] Yeah. Well, I remember, it wasn't particularly for that campaign, but we did, we did a graphic, there was one other graphic we put together, but it had Cleveland and then kind of almost a step and repeat, an entire collage kind of everything in the city that was a nice event or a nice location or a positive thing. The Art Museum and Playhouse, the Cleveland Playhouse and Playhouse Square in the Flats, and it just created this whole design, and Cleveland just stuck out, you know, in bold letters like that. So we sold that... As a matter of fact, we've actually had some clients that had taken something similar, and then we just incorporated the corporate name in there and we created another part in the graphic so that we could drop in their name, and they liked the whole idea if they were proud of the fact they were in Cleveland or the show or the, you know, they had a convention in town. They've used that as a promotional piece and just take advantage of the attractions of the city.
Mark Souther [00:54:30] Do you think that... Let me rephrase the question. To what extent do you think the success of the North Coast name reflected relief or gratification that this was a way of changing both the local and the national conversation about things like the water quality, which had been so much on people's minds...
James Semsak [00:55:02] Mm-hmm.
Mark Souther [00:55:02] The river burning, the lake being so polluted that one cannot safely swim in it.
James Semsak [00:55:06] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:55:07] Was that ever brought up or did you ever since that was part of the appeal of this was that it was showing Cleveland's waterways as healthy areas and implicitly about healthy waterfronts and waterways?
James Semsak [00:55:22] Well, it didn't... Obviously, it didn't speak to that directly, but I think our goal was, you know, we didn't want a tagline, "And our water's getting better" and "Our air is getting better," and, you know, et cetera, et cetera. I think again, it was it was a simplistic concept and say most people's idea about a coastal city is positive. Just even that is enough to almost change attitudes. You talk about the West Coast, well, you got San Francisco, you got San Diego, you got L.A., you got... Okay, you got Seattle. A lot of positive images there. You got the East Coast. You got Boston, New York, okay? A lot of positive images there. Even the Gulf Coast, okay? New Orleans, et cetera, et cetera. So that... That was the starting point. And, you know, it's almost one of these images, I think, and concepts that... It's like a good movie director. He won't show you too much. It's up to your imagination to fill in the gaps. And I think people have gravitated to that and said, This means this to me and the North Coast means this to me. And the North Coast means I'm a boater and this is recreational heaven with the lakes and the beaches and other people will say, I'm a staunch businessman and the North Coast is a transportation heaven where we're on highways and railroad lines and everything like that. And I think it means different things to different people. And I, and that was... I don't... I guess I'm not sure if I originally intended it to be that, but I think it evolved into that ultimately. Like I said, last time I looked, there were about 350 to 400 companies in the area that used North Coast as part of their official company name. And I always thought that was kind of nice because the taglines could come and go, but if you want to name your company after that, that's something something a little special.
Mark Souther [00:57:31] Did anyone ever come up to you or write you or call you and say anything about their belief that this was a way of changing the conversation away from the river or the lake? Or did that never happen?
James Semsak [00:57:44] Not, not directly. Not directly. I've gotten comments of Hey, this is really cool! This is good! I like this! He says. Said, yeah, I'd like to live on the North Coast, you know, I've gotten stuff like that, okay? So it was... It was more an overall emotional response to it rather than a very specific look at water conditions or whatever, joblessness or job creation or crime or lack of crime or, you know, whatever it was. It was meant to be kind of a feel-good, image-provoking image. And maybe like a movie director, I want other people to look at it and get out of it what they want to get out of it.
Mark Souther [00:58:32] You know, the reason I ask is it just seems that whether it was designed that way or not, it's certainly implicitly serves that purpose, among other purposes.
James Semsak [00:58:42] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:58:44] It works well for a city where the river burned...
James Semsak [00:58:46] Well, [crosstalk] it does, it does, it does address some other issues and I think a positive way. And that's, I think, frosting on the cake, really. Like, I had no knowledge of and had no input is naming, you know, on East Ninth the North Coast Harbor. I smiled when I always hear those things, and like I mentioned to you, I think I was on the phone with you when I was driving behind a truck that had North Coast Heating, I think it was, and I remember one two [or] three day period I came across like four or five different trucks that had North Coast, part of their name somewhere, you know, so... It's interesting. Just interesting.
Mark Souther [00:59:35] I wanted to ask about a couple of other campaigns that were going on, you know, soon after the North Coast idea germinated.
James Semsak [00:59:42] Mm-hmm.
Mark Souther [00:59:43] One was the New Cleveland campaign. I wondered what that name conjures up in your mind if anything, or I can prompt you a little bit more about that.
James Semsak [00:59:55] Actually, it doesn't... It doesn't bring too much to me. I can't... I can't... I really can't explain what it was or I can't really give you too many details or what my reaction to it was because it was kind of out there. I've heard the name and I've, you know, recognized that it was there.
Mark Souther [01:00:19] It was around 1978, but it was, you know, Tom Vail?
James Semsak [01:00:23] Yeah.
Mark Souther [01:00:24] Was behind that.
James Semsak [01:00:25] Right. Editor of the Plain Dealer.
Mark Souther [01:00:27] But what about the Cleveland's a Plum?
James Semsak [01:00:35] [laughs] We kind of laughed when we heard it, a bunch of my friends, and... Again, we got a lot of mixed reaction, not that we had anything to do with it, but there are, there's a group of people... Now, a plum is something prized and it's spinoff from the Big Apple? We're a plum. But in some people's minds, a plum didn't have the positive image that they were hoping for, I think, so I think it took a negative turn in some respects. And most people, I think, that I talked to realize, okay, we're not trying to become, in the best of situations, another Chicago or a New York. We'd like to become a great Cleveland, and that's good enough. And that's real good. Okay? But to kind of come off as a half-baked sibling to another good city, I don't know if I would have gone that way myself if I were trying to, you know, involved in the creation of it. You know, it might have had its moments, like I said, but I got mixed reaction both ways on that campaign, just from people that I was familiar with. And at the time, there was a little more discussion about it too, because at that time we were doing, and I was doing most of my work with ad agencies, so there was more of a buzz about, you know, campaigns like that and everything. And again, I don't even know who created that or who was responsible for that, particularly.
Mark Souther [01:02:06] It was also Tom Vail.
James Semsak [01:02:08] Oh, was it really?
Mark Souther [01:02:08] Mm-hmm. Plain Dealer.
James Semsak [01:02:09] Okay. Okay.
Mark Souther [01:02:10] Yeah, it sure was. What about then in the late '70s and early, well mainly the late '70s, another bit of context I want to bring in and get your thoughts on... To what extent were you motivated, do you think, by the condition of Cleveland and the perceptions of... You know, there's a lot of consternation I know about in some circles, at least about Dennis Kucinich as mayor and the sort of adversarial relationship that he seems to have with big business. And then related to, not really closely related, but concurrent with that rather, the loss of Fortune 500 headquarters. We lost four different Fortune 500 companies within the span of two years from '77 to '79. How much were these things on your mind or in the minds of other people as you had conversations...
James Semsak [01:03:04] Yeah.
Mark Souther [01:03:04] In Cleveland at that time?
James Semsak [01:03:05] Well, it it was disappointing, certainly, because I think after I came back from South Carolina even and, like I said, I spent a little time on the West Coast. I was trying... Well, I was thinking about trying to get an MBA. As a matter of fact, I took about 20 hours of post-grad work here at Cleveland State. I took a national test up at USC in Los Angeles for graduate work. It never came about entirely, but I was, you know, Kucinich was kind of an interesting character because at the time, I think they had 33 members of City Council and on every issue, or many issues, you'd find 32 voting one way and there was one opposed. And without reading, you almost knew it was Kucinich. And you kind of understand, he was... He was playing to the common person. He was the champion of the neighborhoods. And I could respect that, and to some degree, it was good. But I always was hoping for a little balance. And over the years, I mean, I wound up meeting him and talking to him several times and everything like that, and meeting his wife and so on. But the point is, and that was his political agenda. And I thought I thought he pushed it maybe a little too far because like anything, most things work out better when you have some sense of balance. One way or the other, you're always going to get into some problems if you push it either left or right. But in spite of that, though, I mean, the idea that a city would go into default, maybe not in the traditional sense, it's not that we were broke, but okay... And again, the spin on that was probably far more dangerous, damaging, and negative than the actual event was to the city. But that's a problem, you know, we.. Certainly in the area of national tourism, business decisions as to where to locate, a convention business, etc., we deal in perceptions, we don't deal in reality. I mean, everybody in life deals in perceptions. It's... We act according to how we think something is, not how it is. That doesn't count. And I was a little... I didn't really like to see that. I just thought we were a little too parochial. I was actually... I remember thinking it'd be nice if we ever had a mayor who wasn't from Cleveland or Ohio, and I meant that in a way that he would look at it the way some man with some vision who wouldn't get wrapped up in the petty politics and say, my job, my job is to rally people and make them feel good about themselves and their city where they live, to retain business as best we can to try to attract new businesses, and facilitate the environment for people to prosper. That's all. That's all a city should be doing, almost. We don't need them to get involved in too many other things. And, you know, personalities come into play and everything and ambitions come into play. And there's a lot of things that muck up everything and really have no place. But I understand that happens and everything like that. So that period was a little negative for me, I thought, and I wrestled with the idea... As a matter of fact, there was a time even... I didn't really consider it, although it was proposed to me, to move the business down to Dallas. We had a national show down in Dallas every year and we'd spend a week or two in Dallas, and Dallas at that time, you know, was kind of emerging into what they have become, and back then and they weren't too much, you know? I mean, I wasn't totally impressed at all going to Dallas back then, you know, back in the mid-'70s to late '70s. Of course, one might say, well, look where they are now, and granted they they've done a good job and they've done some good work over there. So I decided not to move the business there and actually stay here. And I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry. I'm, in a sense, now even reinvigorated. I think there's a lot of exciting things going on around here now. Whether I'm here for a long time or not doesn't matter. I still feel a part of it and I think people living here now, I would like to and hope they would embrace it, realize they can be a part of it, and they have to be a part of it just for it to work. But there's some good stuff going on. There's some good stuff, and I don't know why they place so much emphasis on the weather, although I have to admit my wife wants to move to California and she's been pestering me a long time, so I don't know what's gonna happen, but... It's... I still enjoy this area quite a bit.
Mark Souther [01:08:19] What do you think happened—going forward quite a bit—why do you think we lost momentum after the bicentennial in 1996 because... Or if we did...
James Semsak [01:08:28] Yeah.
Mark Souther [01:08:28] I sense that we did...
James Semsak [01:08:29] [loud sigh]
Mark Souther [01:08:29] And I'm curious whether you have any thoughts on it.
James Semsak [01:08:34] I've always thought we had a little void in leadership and we had the worst situation as far as demographics working for us. We had an outmigration. And unfortunately, it took a great number of people with jobs, with money, you know, educational level got out of the city, okay? Now, as a politician, you're catering to your electorate, and if you know this is the base that you need to appeal to get elected, and Kucinich was working in that big way and I'm not trying to single him out, but you're not going to sponsor, support or push for situations, developments or whatever, that could be very positive for the city if you have a group of voters here that all they want is their garbage picked up and free lunches. So you're going to... You're going to... Otherwise you won't get reelected. So they have to cater to that. I wish... I wish Cleveland took advantage. I always said they missed a big opportunity back when, it was probably in the '50s even. A lot of cities around, you know, they had metropolitan water systems. Now Cleveland could have—I don't know why they didn't—look to all these suburbs and say, we'll be happy to supply you with water, but you have to join Cleveland. You have to be annexed to Cleveland. I think a lot of things could have been different. That was one major point that I think wasn't handled properly. I don't know for what reason. I don't know if the people in power at that time had an elitist attitude and figured, we don't need these people in the suburbs. I think it changed the course, at least temporarily and maybe greatly, of what happened in the city then in following decades. But I think, you know, you still have... It's changing a little bit. I mean, we never had anybody living downtown and you got, what, 12, 15,000 people living downtown and growing. So you're starting to establish a real, real residential neighborhood. Downtown means a lot, means a lot. Any major city has to have that, almost, and a viable city has to have that. So I'm very encouraged by that. But I think that... I just think we had very parochial leadership to the point of custodial almost. And you want somebody that can get on the radio or have a TV spot and, you know, like a state of the city address and have people interested and cheering and make them feel good about themselves and the direction of the city. And I think... I'm not saying our politicians are bad people. I think they're... Most of them are very good people, but they lack some qualities to bring to the position that would make it a little bit better.
Mark Souther [01:11:46] What effect do you think bussing had during that time? Because I know even when Voinovich came in, bussing had already been put into place...
James Semsak [01:11:54] Yeah.
Mark Souther [01:11:54] A year or two before, and, you know, he was a leader that promised a comeback in Cleveland. And to some extent, we saw a comeback. We saw the stabilization in the outflow of people to some extent. There were neighborhoods that were seeing more... I think that collectively in 1983, I remember a statistic in which the the city of Cleveland had more building permits for new structures than the suburbs for the first time in a long time. So there was some momentum there, but yet we knew that ultimately from that time through the '90s and continuing on into the 2000s, we just lost, lost, lost.
James Semsak [01:12:37] Yeah.
Mark Souther [01:12:38] Well, during a lot of that, bussing was a contentious issue up through about '96, I think...
James Semsak [01:12:46] [crosstalk] That didn't help. Yeah. I think most people's view of bussing was that, well, one of two things, some people didn't like the idea at all. But even if you supported the objective, which I do, it just never worked. It just never worked. And it became a disaster. Not only was it costly but it broke up neighborhoods. It broke up school groups. It created problems for extracurricular activities. It just became a nightmare. And it was like, I don't know what kind of example I could use. You know, it's.. The goal was lofty and worthwhile, but the implementation was totally screwed up. Just didn't work. So what would happen is you had bussing and then other neighborhoods didn't react positively to it. So you had other people moving out of this and you had outflow now. Besides, besides outmigration, you had total chaos, too, in addition to that. So, and a lot of confusion. There was parents upset. They lost... I think they lost a lot of confidence in the school system. Not that they were to blame, but, who was that Judge Batista or something, that issued the ruling... Again, well-intentioned maybe? I'll give them that, but absolute disaster, I think.
Mark Souther [01:14:12] Are there any things we haven't covered that you'd like to cover because I see that we've gone over the hour that I promised you.
James Semsak [01:14:20] Oh, that's okay.
Mark Souther [01:14:21] But are there any other things related either to Cleveland's image or your experience in Cleveland that I've forgotten?
James Semsak [01:14:31] I don't know, we covered we've covered quite a bit. We've covered quite a bit and I... On one hand, I feel fortunate that I've been able to be a part of somewhat of a cyclical but experience in this area where as a child we were, we were on a pretty high road, went down, came up and, you know, so we had a couple of dips. But we're I think we're on a upswing again. And I think a lot of people in some cities just don't experience that. They're either on a total decline or maybe from a small, south, southwestern city who has had 40 people that are living there in '50s, now, you know, a major metropolis, but it's a different experience. They just don't understand how hard it is, for instance, to try to create a neighborhood out of a brownfield compared to trying to create one out of virgin forests. All you got to do is chop down the trees and, you know, totally different. And what they're trying to do here with an existing older industrial city, to some degree, is is far more fascinating, far more challenging. And I mean, to some degree, far more rewarding, I think, than... You know, I'm always been down to Columbus quite a bit and they've done a nice job. But, you know, welcome to Columbus and you've got nothing but woods there yet. Okay? You're already 20 minutes into suburban areas before you hit any city limits of Cleveland so, to give you some idea, but it's so much easier to make something from nothing rather than to get rid of what was old and decayed and everything and then go through the process of building. So it's an interesting, interesting experience. I am glad to be a part of it. And like I said, who knows what's going to happen? But in the fact that people are continually coming up with concepts or images or taglines, it's encouraging. To try to compare one to the other is fruitless and we shouldn't even try to do that. The goal is the same. The goal is to make people aware of Cleveland, make people aware of what we have, the positive aspects here and hopefully to make people feel good about them being here themselves. And that's that's all it is.
Mark Souther [01:17:03] Thanks very much for being interviewed today and for coming up here to do it.
James Semsak [01:17:10] You're welcome.
Mark Souther [01:17:11] That's all I have right now.
James Semsak [01:17:14] Okay, well, thank you very much.
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