In this 2007 interview, 51 year old Chuck Hoven, a life long resident of the west side of Cleveland, and managing editor for the Cleveland Plain Press, talks about the neighborhoods of the west side of Cleveland in which his family (his father was of German descent; his mother of Lebanese) has lived since the 1860s. He also talks about the history of the Cleveland Plain Press, a west side community newspaper, and articles that it published about some controversial events in Cleveland since the 1970s, including the controversy involving I-90 and the Zone Recreation Center and court-ordered busing. Mr. Hoven also discusses his community involvement in a number of different organizations, including one in which he was involved while a student at CSU, which helped to prepare Cleveland children for attendance at magnet schools. Mr. Hoven also talks generally about the decline of Cleveland in general, and the Detroit Shoreway area in particular, over the course of his life. In addition to busing issues, he also talks about the proposed closing of west side Catholic Churches by the Diocese, and other problems associated with the precipitous decline in Cleveland's urban population.
Hoven, Chuck (interviewee)
Souther, Mark (interviewer)
Mark Souther [00:00:00] Interview. Today is June 9, 2007. My name is Mark Souther and I am here at the Gordon Square Arcade in Detroit Shoreway this morning interviewing Mr. Chuck Hoven who was... is or was a reporter for the Plain Press?
Chuck Hoven [00:00:18] I'm the managing editor currently at Plain Press, but I guess I've been a reporter and a photographer and newspaper delivery person or whatever for the Plain Press since I started as a volunteer in about '81 I think with the Plain Press and then came on staff in about '88.
Mark Souther [00:00:44] Where and when were you born?
Chuck Hoven [00:00:44] I was born in a actually right here in this neighboring St. John's Hospital in 1956, November 9th, 1956. I grew up on 84th Street, just south of Clark, which is kind of just a little outside Detroit Shoreway service area right now. I guess it's officially like the West Boulevard neighborhood, but that's where I still live, there at my parents and my grandparents' house. So I'm still there. My mother's family moved to 85th Street near Madison in the mid-thirties, so there's [inaudible]. My dad's family is more in the West Boulevard neighborhood for years. He moved around and they finally bought the house I'm in I think right at the beginning of World War II.
Mark Souther [00:01:47] In World War II?
Chuck Hoven [00:01:52] Yeah, I think he was like 18 and he went off to war and they bought the house right before he left and came back to it. But he had... They had always... They had been renting for a number of years before that, and that was their first house and he never wanted to give that up after he had paid for it. He was in the insurance business and they started redlining the neighborhood and wanted him to move to the suburbs because they don't want to sell in Cleveland anymore, and he he said, no, my house is paid for. And he took it. I think he got a dollar a day pension for a year, and and he was unemployed for a couple of years. It took him a while to get another job, but he didn't want to sell his house.
Mark Souther [00:02:36] So the insurance company was pressuring him, you said?
Chuck Hoven [00:02:38] Yeah, it was nationwide. Yeah. During the time, I think it was probably maybe around 1970, they were tearing down houses for I-90 and people were burning their houses to collect insurance. And in Cleveland, it was generally on the downspin. But this neighborhood, in particular, was suffering from... They were just knocking down houses left and right for 90 and that was a big... I think that was a big reason why the insurance company wanted to get out.
Mark Souther [00:03:22] So when you say redline you are speaking in the sense of because of the arson rather than because of racial changes because that was...
Chuck Hoven [00:03:28] Yeah, I think it was. Oh, I don't know how do you say it. They just didn't want to sell in the city. And I think it was auto insurance. It was homeowners' insurance, but they wanted to sell on the suburban market. So maybe it was a socio-economic thing, but it was also I think the freeway had a big deal to do with it. But for whatever reasons, they had put a line around the entire city and they didn't want to sell. They told them they don't want to sell any more policies in the city. And that was all his customers.
Mark Souther [00:04:01] What company is this?
Chuck Hoven [00:04:03] Nationwide.
Mark Souther [00:04:09] When I-90 was first even planned, how old were you when you first learned that I-90 was going to go through this general neighborhood?
Chuck Hoven [00:04:14] Well, I think I have an old newspaper clipping from Mercedes Cotner in 1962. I think she said the freeway would go through her ward over her dead body. I have that somewhere at home. And she was the councilperson [of what] I think was old Ward 2 at the time. But that's what currently Jay Westbrook is the councilperson of that ward, so it's 18 now. But of course, it did go through her ward and she became council clerk I think and was there for many years, but that... I was maybe 10 years old in '66 when I actually benefited from the freeway because they took the house of one of the newspaper delivery people and I got a job with the Cleveland Press as a paperboy and my cousin Greg was the paperboy on our street. He told me about it and I went down and met with the paper guy who they they used to hang out at Tony's Diner, which was on 90th 90, where I mean, where 90th Street and where Lorain and Clark come together. It comes to a V, and Tony's restaurant was this big, you know, it's kind of just regular food but the paper guys used to hang out there with their Press trucks after they finished delivery. You could get your spare papers there. So, I went down, met with the guy and got a route. My route was on Grace and Lorain between 80th and 73rd, the initial route and then eventually as more and more houses got knocked down. My brothers and my sister and I, we had this territory from 73rd to 90th between Clark and Lorain, and I think initially I had maybe 80 customers in that little area. Some of those houses are still there on part. A little part of Grace is left, and a little part of, well, all of Lorain from 80th to 73rd is still there, but we had houses on Hope and on Clark that are I mean, all this area is gone that it's just gone where the freeway is now. So that was, I don't know, we... You knew people when you saw their houses get knocked down. And I think one experience we had when we were kids, we wanted to preserve a real nice flat piece of sandstone that was somebody's big sidewalk in front of their house. And we took some porch rails that were around and we were rolling this thing maybe about six blocks because we were trying to get it to my backyard. We're gonna make a nice flat basketball court. [laughs] And so, we got to, I think, almost the corner of my street and some cops came and they said we had to leave it there. We said, well, they're just going to smash it. And they said, well, somebody called, so you have to... So that was a real, you know, experience with, you know, just the waste that the whole thing. You know, because everything was getting knocked down or getting torched or, you know, when people moved out and we were just, you know, trying to do a little recycling, I guess. [laughs]
Mark Souther [00:07:57] Yeah.
Chuck Hoven [00:07:59] But so we never did learn how to dribble properly because our court was all rocks. [laughs] But we could shoot, but we never could. We never did get a flat court. But what else do I remember about that? I think that led to the freeway tearing down. I don't know when they actually completed it. I'm trying to remember, it was probably the late '70s and I think we had our... I had the paper route until all the way through high school so I graduated in '75 from Ignatius High School. So that whole period was freeway building in that. You know, I don't know how much that probably affected other neighbors. I know it affected St. Colman's in this neighborhood heavily because of loss of population. My parish was Ignatius. We were right on the boundary between Colman's and Ignatius on 84th and half the kids went to Ignatius and half to Colman's that were in Catholic schools, but both parishes were pretty much devastated. I mean, when I was younger, Ignatius was the largest parish in the city. We got kicked out of the CYO because we had one like 10 years and we're all so we had our own league with about... They still have their own leagues there, but they're recruiting from all over the city now. But we had our own football and basketball league with like eight teams. And just because the school was so large in the masses would go on. There'd be. There is an upstairs church and a downstairs church, and they'd have simultaneous masses from like 9:00 till noon in both churches and I think they probably each hold about 500 people or something.
Mark Souther [00:10:14] So, within one church or one church school you would have all the basketball teams coming from within a single school playing each other?
Chuck Hoven [00:10:21] Well, and some of them were kids that... We had like kids that were from the neighborhood also could join. So there... It was always that way because they kind of expect like kids that would go to Sunday school, they went to public school, but they were welcome in that league. So it was always that way once they formed their own league. So it was... And then we would play at Halloran Park or at, well, I guess all the games were up, up by Halloran Park and they'd practice at Jasper Field or Halloran Park. So that was just part of... But that's, you know, that's all west of Detroit Shoreway. I don't know. I should probably. I don't know how far back you want to go. Some of my mother's family, like I said, they moved on to 85th Street near Mad... [Madison]. Well, actually they moved to.. .They had moved to one of the side streets there in Tompkins first and then they—my aunt, my mother's oldest sister—worked at Lamson & Sessions which is MarshAllan which they're tearing down as we speak, I think, on 85th and Madison. So that was a big employer. It was a nut and screw thing—I guess they just put nuts on screws all day [laughs]—but she worked there forty-eight years and I think sometimes my mom was in the sixth grade and they were in St. Pat's Parish and they lived down on Bailey or something and they moved up to Tompkins and which is right off 85th Street here. And the... I think my mom walked back to St. Pat's with her younger brother for a year to finish that school year, and then they went to Ignatius on Boulevard and Lorain, which my dad was in the same class as her in the seventh grade up there. So it was 7th and 8th grade... And then they met years later. My dad used to ride his bike past her house on his way to a factory on Lorain where they made—I mean, on Madison—where they made engines. He used to hit it with a sledgehammer. He used to hit the engines as they come off the line or something [laughs] but made auto engines or truck engines, I think. But her family was nine kids. Shalala was my mom's last name and they were Lebanese. My dad was German, Dutch, French. I don't know. And his family was in Cleveland a very long time. They were... They had probably sometime in the mid-1800s, came here and his dad was a postal worker. I think at one time they owned, you know, rental properties and things but they... I think the Depression or something along the line, they lost them all because people couldn't pay rent at some point and so my dad's family had always rented until they bought that house. His dad was a postal worker. And my mom's family, they came from Pennsylvania. And I think her father's work was a candymaker there. And when they came here, I think initially they... He worked in the steel mill. I think all the old... her older brothers worked various places and her older sister—it's kind of an interesting story—she was, I think, 15 and she got a fake I.D. from her cousin in Pennsylvania. Got her I.D. I think her name was Wilmina or something. So she got a job at Lamson & Sessions and her whole career there, 48 years, they called her Billie because she had her [card]... Her name was Ida, but she had her cousin's I.D. when she started work there [laughs] and I mean, eventually she straightened it out, but they still called her Billie. But she... I think when she would walk down—nobody had a car then when they first... that was in the mid-thirties—and she walked down to Lamson & Sessions. And I think on our way down there, they she walked past the house that was for sale. And then eventually bought their first house on 85th, which I think is, you know, about pretty close to Madison. Not too far. I think it's 2094, something like that. But they had nine kids and her oldest brother is was Jim Shalala whose twin daughters, one of them is Donna Shalala who's famous. Now she's President of the University of Miami now. But so that whole family was... They lost two brothers in World War II, which just kind of a thing with the whole family, because all of us are named with parts of [laughs] one of the brothers' names, all the boys in the family. So I think I'm trying to remember what else that my mom told me about that neighborhood. I think there was a Stork Theater on the corner of 85th and Lorain, which was a big, big deal, though. Yeah. I guess people went to the movies all the time. And then I think going down Lorain. I remember riding around with my mom when she was... She had Alzheimer's before she died. But she would just say things. And one thing she said was, oh, we'd pass where Lorain Surgical is at 65th and Lorain, and she said, Baby doctor. Who would think the baby doctor would have an office up the stairs? So that was where our doctor's office was. Doctor Fallon, I think, who was up the stairs, and she... [laughs] She had four kids. She had to go up the stairs when she was pregnant. So she remembered that. And I think our dentist, which was Dr. Fallon's brother, was in the same building. So that's been a kind of a medical building for a long time. And I don't know. I think the current owners I don't know if they're related or not, I'd have to ask them. They're advertisers with the Plain Press. I could...
Mark Souther [00:18:08] Speaking of the Plain Press, let's jump forward again to when you were on the staff. Well, you said you volunteered for seven years or so before you were on staff. Were you a contributing writer? Is that what you?
Chuck Hoven [00:18:20] Yeah, I started out I was, I think I was in grad school at Cleveland State and a friend of mine, I'd gone to grade school with Jimmy Reddy. He is telling me about this. They're restarting this newspaper on the Near West Side. And while I always enjoyed reading small publication like what we're talking about Roldo's Point of View at the time, I think and and I said why I'd like to get involved with something like that. So that's how the conversation started. And he said, well, they're restarting this paper. And I was like tutoring kids at the time and at Cleveland State and going to school. And I didn't have a lot of time to write. But this Lisa Oppenheim was the editor at the time and her and Rosalyn Block, as a neighborhood person, got together and wrote a grant to the Gund Foundation. They got like three years funding. They had about like probably half of what they asked for or a quarter what they asked for. [laughs] So it was a shoestring operation.
Mark Souther [00:19:29] Why were they... Excuse me. Why were they restarting the paper?
Chuck Hoven [00:19:31] The paper went out like in the late '70s it went out of... It just folded.
Mark Souther [00:19:39] And when did it start?
Chuck Hoven [00:19:41] Started in '71 and a group of neighborhood activists. And the reason they called it the Plain Press was kind of a combination between the Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press. So it was supposed to be this alternative to the major media. And they... A lot of... Some of the people that were heavily involved were like Chris Warren and Larry Bresler were heavily involved for most of that time period, either as writers or putting the paper out or driving it to the printer thing.
Mark Souther [00:20:24] Were there any particular issues that motivated them to start the Press, or was it more of an issue of trying to just purely provide an alternative to the major newspapers?
Chuck Hoven [00:20:37] Well, I think I think there were a lot of people that were upset that neighborhood issues weren't getting covered. And I think if you look, I brought a scrapbook here, but some of the issues were like rats or glue sniffing or things of the time that [were] neighborhood block club issues. And I think both Chris and Larry and some of the other folks that are involved came here as VISTA workers or they were involved with some neighborhood organization doing some kind of project. I think they were both college students that were in the neighborhood. And so they became heavily involved that way. And there are a lot of neighborhood residents that he had issues too. And it just a lot of the issues, I think early on centered around youth youth issues and youth problems because they had a youth component. Actually, I think mandated in the bylaws ahead early on that there is some kind of youth involvement. But over... I guess it was just always funding was always an issue and trying and in fact, early on they tried to get printers to donate. They weren't going to have any advertising. They were idealists. And that didn't last very long. But but they were getting printers to donate different issues or getting sponsors. I think once they had the police union sponsored and that only lasted an issue or so until some police shot somebody or something and they reported on it and they lost their funding. So were different issues like that over time. And I left a copy of a scrapbook we did for our 20th anniversary in '91 with Nelson. So it's got some of the. We just kind of cut and pasted different articles. So kind of reflective of of so you can look at that. Some of some of the things from this neighborhood that are in there, the building of the senior high rise Villa Mercedes is in there. And I think if you look at the rec., the battle for the rec. center. There's a real interesting story has to do with I-90 because Zone was built on the hub that was supposed to take 90 to the Shoreway. And that was one victory. People actually stopped the freeway from devastating the rest of the Near West Side.
Mark Souther [00:23:46] Can you tell me more about that? There was one reference to that but I am very unfamiliar with it.
Chuck Hoven [00:23:46] Well, it ended up being empty land that was owned by the state. And I think the battle I think in '77, they actually got some money because Kucinich made it a campaign promise and they got like a million and a half to figure out where they're going to build a rec. Center and do. And I think it still took into several more administrations before it actually got built some time.
Mark Souther [00:24:25] Before that. I am interested in especially in the battle that stopped it. Who was involved?
Chuck Hoven [00:24:26] Oh. That was. Yeah, that was before. I think we could probably look back in the Plain Press archives and find that. But I think it was a combination of neighborhood residents and some of the council people. And I think it may. Who knows if it had, you know, funding implications or what. But I think part of it was the historic churches that would have been you had Stephen's and Pat's in the. I'm not sure what the actual path was. But but I think that was that that was part of it.
Mark Souther [00:25:10] Was it supposed to be a connector between 90 and Shoreway or was it supposed to actually carry 90 to the Shoreway and then take 90 through across the river...
Chuck Hoven [00:25:12] Yeah and what not. All I know is that that was like a land that they already bought for that purpose to connect. I guess it would connect the two and that that was stopped that I you know, I've just been told this by other people who know and I think we have some of the stories more about organizing for the rec. center than about actually... I think the stopping of it occurred before the Plain Press. I think because it is probably sometime in the '60s.
Mark Souther [00:25:54] What about in the '70s and '80s? What. What effect would you say the interstate had on... Well for one thing suburbanization. Like the flock to the suburbs.
Chuck Hoven [00:26:09] Well, I think just physically, the people that lost their houses, a lot of them did go to the suburbs. They had no place to go. They couldn't get replacement value for there. They got appraised value for their houses, so they had enough to make a down payment. It was a hardship. But the families, a lot of them moved moved out of the city. Kind of in and then once the freeway was built, of course, it made it easier for more people to, you know, still work in the city and go out. But but I don't know how many. I've heard one hundred thousand people actually lost their homes, but I don't, you know. I can't document that. But I know on my paper route that I had like 80 customers, if you figure those were bigger households at the time and my brothers' had, like 60 initially. And that was half of what was in that. And that was just a space from 73rd to 90 in between Lorain and Clark that became freeway in some of those households are still left, but most of them are gone. So you're talking. I don't know. You know, in just in that little space there. I don't know how many people were there, but, you know, several blocks of people. You feel. You think maybe five hundred people in the households that we had on our route and maybe double that. And you multiply that by how many miles this freeway that was maybe a quarter mile space. So maybe more half-mile space. But yeah.
Mark Souther [00:27:59] [inaudible]
Chuck Hoven [00:28:00] Yeah, it is a lot of people, a lot of households were just physically removed. And then if you think not just 90, then you got a little little chunks of 71 in the city. And and then they were they knocked down houses for what is now 176, which they didn't complete until just recently. So all that stuff was just taken out. And the east side wasn't impacted as much as the west side. But as far as exodus from the west side, I think a lot of those people or families would still be in Cleveland if the freeway wasn't built. So and then, of course, the freeway makes life easier for everybody. You can get places fast, but at the same time, it devastated your commercial strips and your your shopping areas. We like when I was a kid, we my mom would take us places walking because we go down to... well, Fisher's was about somewhere on Lorain, about 89th. And I think there was a pharmacy across the street, a little bakery, all that. And then Tony's Diner of course. So you could go and walk and do your grocery shopping and come home with, you know, a little pushcart and kids in tow and. Yeah. In the course, well the Lorain Branch library's still there but we would walk. There were streets... I think we'd go down to 82nd and Clark. There was a light and we are cross. Of course, all that is gone now. There's no 82nd and Clark. But there. Yeah. We'd walk across over to the library, which has been an institution for generations. I mean, when my mom was growing up, that was there. We went to the summer reading club. I forget the woman's name. I think Miss [unintelligible]. There was a woman that was there for years and years as well. That was a big institution.
Mark Souther [00:30:11] What about. Do you remember any organizing going on and tried to convince the freeway from one of those certain areas on the west side or was there or did the people essentially lie down?
Chuck Hoven [00:30:26] Well, like I had said, Mercedes Cotner, who was very powerful councilperson. She tried to oppose it and was unsuccessful.
Mark Souther [00:30:38] What about from the grassroots?
Chuck Hoven [00:30:38] That would have been before my you know, before my time. I. I know that someone stopped that spur. And I don't know if it was a grassroots thing or of if it came from above. But that that little piece, I think the thing that everybody knows about is what happened on the east side with Kathy Barber and folks at Save Shaker Lakes. But there was I think there was some... There must have been something on the Near West Side, too. But I'd have to I could look in our archives, but I think it predates the Plain Press because we were in '71, that would have probably happened sometime in the '60s. And... But, you know, Mercedes Cotner just passed away a little little a few years back. But I don't... I'm trying to think who would remember. So maybe as you're interviewing, you'll find some of the old-timers that that remember. But there were the battles that occurred afterwards, I think are some of those are recorded in the Plain Press as far as making use of that land for a rec. center. And I think Councilman Zone, who's Matt's father, has the center named after him. So I'm sure he was instrumental in some of that, but there were I think the article I looked at and our scrapbook had a some kind of youth ministers involved in youth organizing was head of a committee, and there were other people in the neighborhood that were heavily involved in in getting that piece of land secured and made into a rec. center. And then they formed a neighborhood advisory board for the for his own rec. and it became the most used rec. center in the city. So it was really needed. Clark Rec., which is really around the corner, but it's on a different east west route, yet it is also very heavily used rec. centers. We have two rec. centers they're real close to each other. But Clark doesn't have nearly the capacity as Zone, but this city, of course, has neglected Zone over the years. And I think of the Voinovich administration, they laid off all their skilled tradespeople and they kind of let the whole thing deteriorate inside. The grounds, they've done a lot of work on the grounds outside are real nice. I think that's become part of this whole Eco-Village thing that centered around that that area.
Mark Souther [00:33:31] What are. What are some of the other issues that you remember I guess in the 1980s, what would have been the key issues in this neighborhood?
Chuck Hoven [00:33:37] In Detroit Shoreway? Well, I think the key to what happened is the exodus of factories. Detroit Shoreway is like... It [has] always been an employment place where people could probably walk to work or in. You saw a massive exodus. I think, you know, the '70s and early '80s, the factories just started closing or burning down. I remember a 4th of July fire, one paint factory just burned to the ground. And I think they said the whole west side would have been evacuated. If the wind had blown the other way, it blew out to the lake, fortunately, but there is one factory after another. And I think if you look part of the organizing in the neighborhood and I think what Our Lady of Mount Carmel was so a lot of foresight and Detroit Shoreway was buying up these old factories and making them into housing. I guess they foresaw that factories were just coming back. I think everybody hoped that they would because that was the big employment. I think another issue, of course, with the factories early on, I remember David Beach had interviewed the priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and he had told me he thought there was an unusually high incidence of cancer in the neighborhood. That was resol... There was pollution with the factories, of course, you know, you had the Eveready battery plant down there yet a lot of paint and chemical type factories in along Detroit Avenue. I think Dancyger's was one of the last factories to close. I think probably had maybe three shifts of 60 people that would. They made labels or did you know just something you wouldn't think of was a big employer? But that's the restaurants like City Grill and Perry's that used to be there. Those raw places that thrived because of these factories, people work before or after work. They go for a drink, go eat breakfast or whatever. And that whole this whole neighborhood really depended on all those factories. You know, I don't think Detroit Avenue has really recovered. You see all the vacancies. I mean, there's some thriving businesses, but not to the extent when you had all the factory workers, people were employed. So poverty went dramatically up. If you look, I think we have some old articles. I think from... I think from like '80 to '90 in Detroit Shoreway. You had an increase of... Poverty went up to like 49 percent. I think it had been maybe a third before it in the beginning of the decade and maybe lower in. I think there are like three or four thousand like thirty-five hundred more people were in poverty than at the beginning of the decade. Plus you probably had lost population. So I don't know what the percentage was at the beginning of the decade. But I just read it. So it was like 49 percent poverty and 90 at the end of that. So that was the loss of factory jobs and the increase in poverty was, I think, the big difference in that time period.
Mark Souther [00:37:37] What has affected the mentality and well about Cleveland? I'm thinking about people in this neighborhood and the west side in general the loss of industry. This idea of people seeing people leave for the suburbs or maybe leave completely. What did that do to the mentality about Cleveland? Do you remember anything specific about the '70s and/or the '80s?
Chuck Hoven [00:38:02] Well, you know that the joke with people who had lost their jobs in the steel mills and moved out. I know my cousins lived over on 95th and they all... about eight kids in the family. They've all moved there all in Houston now or a lot of them are. They're scattered around. But they used to kid me, you know, Cleveland, last one out, turn out the lights because you know, they didn't see any future here. That's. People were wrong. They were without jobs. It was hard for people to stay. The people that did stay. I think there is a lot of spirit of organizing and trying to save. And I think this particular neighborhood, you know, had a lot of vision in terms of trying to get senior citizens close to the church in terms of Lady of Mount Carmel and the organizing around housing. Even today, they look, I think, something very progressive in the last few years in terms of rehabbing a lot of very low-income housing in some of these these buildings where people can can, you know, get something affordable, which a lot of neighborhoods. Their focus is a more upscale housing. I think there's a lot of that here as well along the lakefront and the ever ready thing. But keeping that balance is really important. I think they they've done a good job in. But how do you sustain that without jobs? And the other thing is the educational system. It's really a competing thing because you give tax abatements to attract the housings and you're killing your schools. And despite the Cleveland State study, which I don't give very much credit that says, well, 15 years out, you're going to show a benefit, but you have... You buy one teacher now. You reduce class sizes. You buy 10 teachers or 30 teachers, even if you know only 25 percent of those houses. So it's a real tradeoff and it's a dilemma. Do you say how do you save your schools at the same time, save your housing stock? And that's been I mean, housing is always one in Cleveland. I mean, of course, our school system now is is really bad. You know, I mean, you saw the paper the other day with, what, 49 percent of the. And that's just the kids that made it to the 12th grade or 43. You know, it's 43 percent haven't passed the state test and you know, we're we're. That's the other thing that I think this neighborhood did in terms of Lady of Mount Carmel. They have an excellent school and they have probably one of the best schools in the county. I remember interviewing the principal there and she was telling me one of their students had this was when they were transitioning to year-round. I guess they don't call it year-round school, but it's pretty much they don't have a summer traditional summer break. They have several breaks during the year. But she's telling me one of the students there, he had scored highest on the entrance exam for the whole county for a going and Ignatius High School. And it's a school where they teach for Spanish and Italian to elementary school kids. And so they have an excellent education that is pretty. You see that all the kids are in uniform and they march around. And so it looks it's discipline and it's education and something that I wish, you know, the rest of the city had done. I mean, you have these little pockets of but you have to do both education and housing, and that's a mistake. Cleveland, I think had done. If you look around some of the other schools in the neighborhood, you have Gallagher and what, Waverly Watterson-Lake. Then you have Metro Catholic, which is combination of Stephen's and Boniface and Colman's participates, I guess, which is I think a good education, but probably not on par with what Mount Carmel was doing. And then.
Mark Souther [00:42:57] Speaking of education, I wanted to go back a little bit and ask if you could remember anything about the busing issue? When that was an issue and the specifics about that borough either this neighborhood or west side...?
Chuck Hoven [00:43:09] Well, one of the big issues covered in the Plain Press was, of course, the busing thing. And I think Michael Charney with welcome was east side west side neighbors coming together, I think. And he was a member of the Cleveland Teachers Union.
Mark Souther [00:43:28] Is that the name of the...
Chuck Hoven [00:43:30] The group was
Mark Souther [00:43:32] Is there an east side west side?
Chuck Hoven [00:43:35] Neighbors coming. West side, east? I think it was west side east side. Something like that. WELCOME. I don't know what the home yeah, west side, east side. I don't know what the L was, but it was something like that with the whole the anachronism was WELCOME. And they did these bridge walks where people from the west side and east side would meet on the bridge and you know, hold, you know, kind of symbolically that this was going to be a peaceful desegregation. I think with all the conflicts we had, it was probably more peaceful than, you know, a lot of other cities, probably because of some of that organizing and some of the efforts. So I think Gloria Aron, who as I understand was in here today, was heavily involved with WELCOME and some of the it was just. It is kind of that that kind of a grassroots thing that some of the church groups and neighborhood groups kind of embrace but is still difficult. I think you had a lot of people that resisted heavily resisted on busing. A lot of... for different reasons, whether they wanted their neighborhood school or didn't want or were afraid to go to a different neighborhood. Everybody thinks another neighborhood is more dangerous than theirs, even though statistically look at them, you know, the crime rate may look, but people had these fears. And I don't know. Some of the things that happened, some of the magnet schools, I think we're pretty innovative and had a lot of resources poured into my. I worked when I was at Cleveland State. I worked for a couple years setting up the Law and Public Service Magnet School, which was in Hough on 71st and Hough. It's still there today. We never were able to complete that the design the way we wanted it. We were four years in and they cut the funding. But we had designed a curriculum where kids would get involved in neighborhoods and volunteer with neighborhood groups. And I had been a volunteer with the Plain Press before I came over there. So I had a lot of contacts and a lot of the kids ended up getting involved in in some of the neighborhood groups in this neighborhood as well as in Hough where the school was located. So we had kids from all over the city going to school because of the curriculum, because they wanted to do. And it was called experiential education. They would go into adult settings and follow people around. They would volunteer in places in the vocabulary like shot up because they were talking with adults. And I don't know, there's you know, we still had some things academically. But I think we we the kids stayed in school longer and had better graduation rate in the. These were kids that I think we're attracted to this kind of education because maybe they didn't want to be sitting in a classroom. But it was it was, you know, it was a new unique experiment experience. We we built a house. And in the Hough community, one of those things that an Indian tribe was supposed to be able to set up in a day or something. It took us a while longer than that. But I almost got killed by the English teacher because it was supposed to happen during their Easter break. And the house never arrived, so we ended up taking them out of classes. And the guy from Famicos who was doing it. It drove him nuts because they wouldn't let me use the same kids because there they had English tests that week. So, we had to rotate a different group of kids. Everyday he had to teach them to use these power screwdrivers and everything. So is. It was fun, but it... But that kind of... Some of the remnants of those schools still exist, like the School of Arts and the school they created these citywide schools that would really, I think, got kids from different neighborhoods who became friends and were very tight. And in that sense, it worked. But I think a lot of the comprehensive schools really didn't work. They had friction because I think because kids weren't there out of their choice. And so they.
Mark Souther [00:48:47] They were out of the neighborhood. Did they tend to try to pair up a west side area with an east side area? [cross talk]
Chuck Hoven [00:48:54] Yeah, they had clusters. Right. Right.
Mark Souther [00:48:58] And it just happened to be located on the west side of... [cross talk]
Chuck Hoven [00:49:01] Right. And the way they did it, it was a lot of... It was a socioeconomic thing too. So you had Marshall with JFK which was distance-wise, didn't make sense, but it was all these kids are more from the same socioeconomic class. I think I think that's because that's the way it ended up. And so those kids had the farthest. And I don't think it was the only neighborhood that didn't have a high school because I was. Well, this was really part of that area that were east, the east cluster went to East. [00:49:42]Blue [0.0s] was East High because near west side didn't have a high school. We had West Tech, but we didn't have the... I don't know how that worked because Max S. Hayes wasn't was always a trade school. So that but I think it was the east cluster. I don't remember how that worked. But then there's Lincoln-West, I think was paired with Glenville. I don't know if West Tech and. Yeah, I'm not sure what the what. But they had different pairings in clusters and the feeder schools were all feeder schools that went into particular high. So the clusters were named after the high schools. What years were was bussing taken in Cleveland? Well. Probably late '70s, I would say through the... through the mid '80s, I guess.
Mark Souther [00:51:02] [inaudible] attempted the desegregation of schools.
Chuck Hoven [00:51:05] Yeah.
Mark Souther [00:51:06] What did they do prior to that time to try to meet the, you know, the federal order to desegregate, which of course originally came in 1954 when they were...
Chuck Hoven [00:51:17] Yeah, I don't think there was a lot of reinforcement in the North. I think it was it was aimed originally at the South. And I think in Cleveland it resulted from the NAACP lawsuit, which I think.
Mark Souther [00:51:36] What was the lawsuit?
Chuck Hoven [00:51:37] The NAACP had a lawsuit, because I think a lot of people I think in the Briggs' administration, which was the school superintendent at the time, they were building schools that were in like white neighborhoods or in or there were schools that were in neighborhoods where there were, you know, mixed-race kids with white kids, African American kids were going to an older school. And the newer school was getting, you know, white white kids.And then there were resource disparities between schools. Kids weren't getting the same amount of books and the same quality of teachers and thing. So that was, I think, the basis of the lawsuit. And then the I think Battisti was the judge who was appointed by Kennedy. He administered it. They set up this monitoring group. Jeez, my memory. The. But it monitored. He said he made a decision and then they set up. A lot of people thought, well, maybe this should be done differently. But I think it was up to the school system and the NAACP to come up with a plan that was acceptable to to both parties. And I think there was a lot of resistance and delay in designing a plan. So I'm not sure when the decision was. I'd have to look. But I think I don't think it started. I think maybe '77 comes to mind as when it started. But it was a court court ordered decision. And they tried to, you know, implement, I think in the late '70s and early '80s. I think probably early '80s it was more implementation. I think.
Mark Souther [00:54:16] What caused it to fall apart? Was it... I know nationwide, it seems that in a lot of other cities it fell apart a lot earlier and that's why I was surprised by these dates. I didn't realize it was quite so late in Cleveland. But then there was sort of a backlash against...
Chuck Hoven [00:54:35] Well, I think.
Mark Souther [00:54:36] What happened in Cleveland?
Chuck Hoven [00:54:38] Well in Cleveland, I think you had very I mean, it just stopped making sense when you had a population that was as far as school kids go. Like in the high 80s was African American, 80, 80-some percent. So you were you were taking a very small number of kids. I think when it started, it might have made more sense. You had them closer to equal.
Mark Souther [00:55:15] What about the role, you know, the Catholic schools and other parochial schools or other private schools in making that transition?
Chuck Hoven [00:55:22] Well, I think always in in Cleveland, there was always a huge presence of the Catholic schools, Catholic schools and some think they're small. Couple of small Lutheran schools. But as far as the west side goes, it was a lot of the elementary schools used to have free tuition until eighth grade. They don't anymore. But it used to be that the parishes were large enough and that was a pre-freeway thing, I think. Where they would collect enough in the collection plate that they'd offer free school until the eighth grade. And then you had to pay, of course, for high school, which meant there was a massive influx of parochial school students into the public school system in the high schools. And I think that's where you got your drop off. People either started moving to the suburbs when they got to high school. Where they started. Those kids just didn't. They start paying tuition to go to high school at Catholic schools. So I think you got a. There was an altar and I think in the younger grades and I don't remember when the the whole voucher thing. But Voinovich, of course, was from Cleveland when he became governor. He started that that voucher program, which is another late edition. But that was kind of a reaction to two things, I think affordability of Catholic education, because the collection plate wasn't. That was probably the primary thing, but it was also a reaction to the deterioration of the public schools and people. There is a lot of pressure to find some kind of alternative. And so it's not, I don't think, a surprise that a governor from Cleveland started that, because that was that was a big thing, and even I think Fannie Lewis was a big supporter of that in the Hough community because. So it wasn't just a white, white thing. It was, you know, an education thing. And the the Cleveland schools are still the stumbling block for for any kind of change. And people are are voting in the last four years. I think we lost twenty thousand students in the school system, went from seventy-four thousand to fifty-four thousand in just four years. And a good part of that is charter schools and vouchers. But a lot of that is people just moving out of the city. And a lot of their choices, I think, have to do with education. And you end up with, you know, a lot of it's probably, you know, maybe half and half people just moving. And I think their decisions to move get more critical as their kids get older because they worry about safety, which is always a big concern. As kids get older, they don't worry about it too much. When their kids are a little, they can't hurt each other that much. But so I don't you know, I don't know if if what I think I got off on a tangent here to the. Do we start talking about the.
Mark Souther [00:59:26] About the busing.
Chuck Hoven [00:59:28] Busing and we're at... I mean, Cleveland, I think one of the benefits of of what's happened, one of the, you know, maybe a real untold story and particularly for the West Side is that there is a lot more integration racially and and in in these in ethnically in terms of mostly a racial integration, the west side that happened relatively peacefully and it happened after busing. And I think part of it is that, you know, as people become adults and they went to school on a different there, they're more comfortable in neighborhoods that they probably won't have ventured into had they hadn't had that experience. And I think it's almost I mean, it's Cleveland is still pretty much a segregated city. But if you look around the neighborhoods on the west side, they are much more integrated now than they were 20 years ago. And it's just kind of a peaceful transition. I think some of that is due to people's experience in the school system. But some of it is is, I think our large Hispanic community, which traditionally has gone across races and calls for it, has also influenced that, particularly in this immediate, immediate neighborhood, but throughout the near west side. So it's you know, there's, there's just been. I am trying to think what else in terms.
Mark Souther [01:01:24] Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any other topics we haven't covered.
Chuck Hoven [01:01:31] Well, you know, I think we've touched on things. I think in this neighborhood it's it's jobs and poverty have made, you know, the big transition of the closings of factories and in the, you know, resulting in the increase in poverty has been a big thing over time. And then the school systems, you know, the different schools and the devastation of the commercial strip, particularly along Lorain Avenue because of the freeway and I think Detroit because of the loss of factories, are just if you wanted to sum up, you know, observations over time. But I think people have tried in their own way to regroup and create create best they can. But we're still as a city, we're losing we're losing housing stock. We're losing people. And it looks like. I think if you're looking forward, you know, with the way the Diocese has asked Detroit Shoreway as a particularly tough decision with you have they want to close a couple churches in a cluster that includes some real historic buildings. You know, you have St. Colman's, which has these carved marble and St. Stephen's, has carved wood. I think they were competing at the time to see who could do the most ornate. And then, of course, you have the Sagrada Familia, which is a brand new church, and then Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which, you know, has a long tradition. So you have, you know, a real tough decision. I don't know which other maybe St. Helena. Well, you know, I'm not sure who else was in that cluster, but it's going to be a tough, long, tough decision. And I think more than the church probably should be involved in it the neighborhood should get involved and the same thing with the schools.This we did this whole big battle over the last school plan. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and you know which schools are gonna stay open in which we're gonna get fixed and which we're gonna get turned down now it's all thrown out and we've got a new CEO and we've lost all these students and they will be closing schools. So again, the big decision.
Mark Souther [01:04:00] What do you think is going to happen with the churches? Of course, no one knows what is going to happen in terms of which places get closed but what's likely to happen to some of these historic buildings? Do you think there is the ability... Do you think the community has the ability to save the buildings or will they ultimately be torn down?
Chuck Hoven [01:04:19] Well, I don't see how you could tear down some of them. I think they'll probably have to sell them to another denomination or do something with them creatively. And I don't I don't know if you use. Churches and in for some kind of social service function or something or that. But I think that's what each cluster is gonna have to sit down and plan and say, we're gonna use this in a more. You know, this is gonna be our neighbor and hunger center. This is gonna be our, you know, we'll have church in this one. I don't know how they're going to.
Mark Souther [01:04:57] So, they're going to keep the buildings up for another purpose?
Chuck Hoven [01:04:59] Then they've got the maintenance. Why not just keep them? So I don't know. They may probably have to sell them to another denomination. I would imagine. I don't know how.
Mark Souther [01:05:10] And there's no population to sustain that either.
Chuck Hoven [01:05:11] Yeah. Are they are they. Yeah. It's a tough one. Unless we, you know, open up our doors and bring immigrants in. I mean all the Central and Latin American immigrants are all Catholics, you know, and start farming are vacant lots and create some jobs. I don't know. I mean how do you how do you use it? It's a tough decision. Same thing with the schools. You've got a lot of these buildings that are historic buildings. Architects value. And so, you know, people in the immediate neighborhoods do. And they we've saved a few of them from being torn down in the last school closings cycle. But it's all you know, the everyone wants a new school building. So what we end up with all our historic schools torn down and all are, you know, a number of our churches abandoned them. And that's a question for the next decade. You know how we're gonna figure this out. And same time, educate our kids and find some jobs. And it's.
Mark Souther [01:06:24] A lot of tough decisions.
Chuck Hoven [01:06:26] Tough decisions. It's not you know, it's not it's not going to be easy. But but the way I think the Diocese is doing, it is probably more constructive in terms of letting those neighborhoods sit down or those churches and sit down together and plan and figure out a way to do it. You know,you hate to see it happen, but I wish the school system would use a similar planning process. Maybe ward by ward and involve the council people and have people at least participate in the decision. Either way, it's it's gonna be a tough, tough decision. But at least when you include people, they understand more. Here's the you know, here's why it happened. And maybe they can come up with some creative way to keep some of these things functioning. But you know, you're between a rock and a hard place and we have a lot of wealth in Cuyahoga County. But it's not not filtering down. I mean, the Diocese could mandate anyone whose family came from that church, had to take a percentage of their money and send it back here or something. But it's not likely to happen, you know, as the wealth has moved out and so.
Mark Souther [01:07:46] Well. I guess we should probably close.
Chuck Hoven [01:07:50] OK.
Mark Souther [01:07:53] It has taken the better part of an hour, but we have had a lot of really good times. So, thank you for coming down.
Chuck Hoven [01:07:53] I really enjoyed it.
Mark Souther [01:07:53] It has been really interesting.
Chuck Hoven [01:07:53] OK. OK. And I'd be interested, interested in your results, are you going to. You're gonna have these recordings available, then?
Mark Souther [01:08:07] I can say we archive them and then Detroit Shoreway is going to do some public programming with possible excerpts.
Chuck Hoven [01:08:20] Mark, can I get your some of your contact information, maybe I can we can do a little story on this issue.
Mark Souther [01:08:27] Sure.
Chuck Hoven [01:08:27] Near completion. [cross talk]. Sure. Sure. OK. OK.
Mark Souther [01:08:33] [unintelligible] ... keep this form for us.
Chuck Hoven [01:08:33] I gotta figure... fill this out.
Mark Souther [01:08:36] I'll stop the tape.
Chuck Hoven [01:08:36] OK.
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"Chuck Hoven interview, 09 June 2007" (2007). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955023_999036.