Saturday, April 15, 2006

Forest Hills Park, East Cleveland, OH Circa 2006

This post is a continuation of a previous post from last year. Please read that post and the comments so that you understand the background behind it.

I have not stepped foot in Forest Hills Park since 1970 so my first return was with a bit of trepidation. One of the last times I was here I was attacked by a gang and pretty badly beaten. I told no one. My parents asked about my condition but I said I took a hard slide/collision in a baseball game. That covered for the bloody nose, black eye and bruised ribs.

In the mid-60's children could go to the park by themselves or with friends and spend the entire day there without parent supervision. We never saw parents around. And the park was just about the safest place in the world. You could go anywhere and do anything.

But it changed. It changed quickly and in ways we didn't understand. For example, in the middle of a Little League game, a young man walked right through the diamond and threw firecrackers at us. Jim Libertore was the coach and he couldn't believe it. We were all too stunned to do anything but we just hoped that he'd leave.

Or the time the park planted a row of new trees. The next day someone took a hatchet to all of them and cut them in two. Why? What kind of anger was motivating these actions?

And that's where the innocence began to leave us. And we left. We had to leave. It's not about "the mean people came and ruined our little town." It had everything to do with social forces that were colliding with great intensity.

East Cleveland became the battlefield between the poverty and despair of the underclass versus the comfort of the middle class. But it also had to do with banks cooperating with block-busting realtors who drove home prices down. It had to do with welfare that made it easy for the man to leave home and not be welcomed back. It had to do with politicians and self-seeking leaders flaming the fires of anger until it nearly engulfed us all in 1968 (though watching the National Guard patrol Euclid Avenue was pretty cool site for a ten-year old).

Did it have to go down this way? Couldn't East Cleveland have been integrated like Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights? And what has driving people out done for East Cleveland? After thirty-six years the city is in deplorable condition. Such are the fruits of anger.

East Cleveland was once a great city. Someday it will wake up and remember it. Until then here's a look at East Cleveland today. Enjoy!

Let's start with a tour of Forest Hills Park (you may click on any picture to enlarge).

Here is the spot where we played baseball every summer. Right in front was home plate. If you hit it into the woods it was an automatic home run. The players were David and Jimmy Fielding, Steven Boyer Wild, Stanley Lee Anthory, Mark Drefs, David Chamberlin and myself. With only six players it was a perfect, little field but it sure looked big to me.

This is a view of our baseball diamond looking westward toward the park entrance. The park ranger's house is in the background.

This is one of the baseball fields at Forest Hills Park (and where the firecracker punk walked through). We played Little League here as well as at the field next to Shaw Pool. I played for Rendlesham Insurance though I had no idea who they were. One year I won best pitcher and best hitter for the league. I loved baseball.

This is the pavilion at the lake in Forest Hills Park.

Today was a perfect spring day. The trees were just starting to bloom. After 30 years it's still beautiful and much better kept than the 70's when it deteriorated. I must admit it was somewhat emotional seeing this. We spent nearly every day in this park when we're kids in the 60's.

A tall view of the trees. They looked great

I walked around the lake. You can see the island in the middle which of course wasn't there in the 60's.

Here's a view of the pavilion from across the pond.

Another view of the pavilion from one of the many stone bridges. They look the same as ever.

Another beauty shot of the trees. So many memories come out standing in the park again like ice skating on the pond, playing in the ravine, riding bikes, hiking, playing army-man and, of course, lots of baseball.

Not much has changed at the pavilion. The steps haven't been touched.

Remember the fireplace when ice skating at Forest Hills Park? You'd freeze your butt for an hour on the ice and then warm up inside.

Here's a view from the pavilion to the pond.

More tree blossoms.

This view is from the front of the pavilion across the pond.

One of the many beautiful stone bridges in Forest Hills Park, East Cleveland, Ohio.

O.K. I like the tree blossoms but this shot is the only one that looks toward the east and Lee Road.

Forest Hills Park main baseball diamond is used for the Cleveland State Vikings team. It's in good shape with a home run fence and scoreboard.

I can't say the same for the tennis courts. They still look a little beat-up.

I'm sure everyone recognizes this wonderful bridge that spans Forest Hills Blvd. and connects to the Cleveland Heights side of the park. It now has a fence across it to prevent rocks being dropped on cars and the consequences of drug deals gone bad.

Copyright 2006 James D. Fisher
All Rights Reserved

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At 1:07 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Wow. I grew up on Allandale between 1957-1973. In the early 70s I partied with Jeff Dearden, who unfortunately, passed away in November of 1975. He had gone to Alaska and was killed in an auto accident. I was also friends with Lenny Hill and Howie Wells. Howie passed away in the spring or early summer of 1976. Sorry for the sad news. They were both free spirits and touched my life in a very positive way. I went to Christ The King grade school all 8 years and then on to St. Joes 2 years and Cleveland Urban Learning Community of St. Ignatius High School. I grew up on the same street as Kent Collier and Billy Morton. Email me sometime PLEASE at I have been working at NELA Park for the last 28 years. My travels take me to the E.C. post office sometimes. I take Terrace Rd. to Stanwood and cross Euclid onto Strathmore. Lots of memories.


At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also grew up in EC and left in "69 as a freshman at Shaw...just too rough...had to leave before last period and then run hard. Miss the park the pavilion,ice skating and the freedom of riding in the park. It used to be just beautiful. Was there this summer trying to find my nephews baseball game which was actually on the (really nice) Cleve Hts side. EC side was dismal, dangerous and an incredible disappointment. Saw this blog and loved the living in Burton, OH.

Jim Simpson

At 12:05 AM, Blogger Chox said...

Wow...Rendlesham Insurance. That's a name I haven't seen or heard in decades. I grew up in Cleveland Heights around Monticello and Noble, and that's where Rendlesham was located, a tiny brick building next to the Union 76 station. Later it became Anawalt Realty, and to be honest I have no idea what the hell it is now. Monticello and Noble is barely recognizable from what it looked like in 1974 when my parents moved into that neighborhood from Euclid.

And to think...they're still in the same house. :-)

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the 50s the Rendlesham family lived on Terrace about three doors east of Kirk JHS. Rollie (Rollin) died in 1979 and his son Chuck continued in the insurance business. I think Rollie's wife (name forgotten) died in the late 5os or early 60s. Chuck graduated from Shaw about 1946 and died in 2007. Rollie's daughter, Helen graduated from Shaw in 1955 and died in Kentucky in 2008. I would say that Rendlesham Insurance was a fixture in East Cleveland for many years.
I graduated from Shaw Jan 1954. My memories of Forest Hills park are not quite so vivid, but I remember fishing and ice skating there. going to Kirk from Greyton Rd I used to cut through a corner of the park, entering from Glynn Rd, and going down a path by the ball diamond to the drive behind Kirk where the bike sheds were.
Dick Small, Jan '54

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived on Stanwood Road until I left for the Air Force after graduating from Shaw High School in 1974. I lived right across the street from the front doors of the new Prospect Elementary. I, too, had Mrs. Beasley in 3rd grade in her first year...I think it was 63 or 64. She discovered I needed to wear glasses because I "read with my nose." Lived down the street from Corinne Marcovy. Beautiful pictures from the Park. I spent many afternoons in the 60's and 70's looking up at the sky through those maple leaves.

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi! My husband, Jim Sweeney, grew up in East Cleveland until 1945, when he moved to Cleveland Hts., but continued at Shaw High for his senior year (don't tell anyone, It was illegal. He should have transferred to Heights.)He went to St. Philomena's, then to Kirk Jr. Hi. Joined the Marines when he graduated from Shaw in 1946. Went to China, came home and went to John Carroll for a year, then transferred to Miami Univ in Oxford, Ohio. Now we live in Calif.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also lived on Stanwood where it joined Grandview Terrace. I went to Shaw for my freshman year in 1968. Then I went to Lutheran East and graduated in 1972. My family lived there from 1951 to 1975. I loved going to the park to ice skate and sleading on that great hill.

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous David McKay said...

I am Shaw HS class of 65. The members of the swim teams from 63-66 still get together occasionally. Was in EC last August (2012) and drove along Terrace Rd. There are houses that are literally falling apart. The siding is off and you can see thru the walls. The polulation of EC is less than half of its 1984 population. The decline saddens me.

At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave McKay - I'm also a class of 65 grad - Bonnie Moyer Householder and like you, Jim, I have a lot of very fond memories of Forest Hills Park. When my brother, Jeff, and I were kids, our dad, a much better ice skater than either of us, would take us there to ice skate and I remember the hot chocolate that I think made the whole trip worthwhile. i have a great photo of my parents and Jeff and I during spring when the trees were blooming like your photos. Lovely memories. Thanks so much!

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Forest Hills Park! We'd hop on our bikes in the morning and weren't expected back until sundown. Nobody had to worry back then. I'm Dave Bower and I lived there from '51 till' 60. Those were the days.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

I just reconnected to your blog. I wrote an extensive comment in your earlier blog; therefore, this one will be quite a bit shorter.

I have very fond memories of East Cleveland and often lament with my family and friends about the extraordinary decline of our once great city. Our family moved into East Cleveland in the summer of 1959. I was happy to see a couple of remembrances about the Rendlesham family. I was a member of the Rendlesham Insurance baseball team in the summer of 1960. Then, in Pony Leadgue Baseball, I was a member of the Edwards (funeral home) team.

I graduated from Shaw High School in 1966, and hope to return home for our 50th reunion in 2016. I have a couple of sad notes to report. Ed 'Bobcat' Williams (great basketball player from Shaw in the mid-60's) died recently. Also, Shaw's outstanding QB and baseball player, Bruce Matte, died a couple of years ago. In additon, Mike Wilson and, Melvin Carter, have also passed away. I recently heard that Jim Wardell (basketball and discus man) died a few years ago as well. But, many of our friends are either still working or have retired after enjoying a fine career.

Best Wishes to you Jim, and all of our old friends.

Mike Montgomery
Shaw High School, Class of '66


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