June 2nd, 2007
October 5, 2005 Interview with Ted Woznicki at the Jefferson Library
Interview done by Mollie Alstott and Eileen Sotak
Mollie: What is your age?
Mollie: What years did you live in Tremont and where did you live?
Ted: I was born on W. 6th St. originally and uh incidentally, at that time all births were done by midwives. You didn’t go running to a hospital. And then we moved from there to W. 7th St., and I lived at 2443 W. 7th which is at the intersection of Jefferson and W. 7th.
Mollie: What did your house look like?
Ted: Well, we had really a 3-family house. Our family lived on the first floor and the front of the house had a small bakery store. My mother sold baked goods and upstairs we had two suites, two rental suites.
Mollie: Did you rent your house or did you own it?
Ted: We owned the house.
Mollie: Did you have indoor plumbing?
Ted: Yes, we did.
Mollie: Tell me about what you remember about Lincoln Bath House, hearing about it or knowing about it?
Ted: Well yes, my recollection is that Saturday was devoted to the men who worked in the mills and that was their day to go to the bathhouse to get a good scrubbing down.
Mollie: Do you remember names of your neighbors or names of your friends while you lived there at that time?
Ted: Well, I remember the Guziks, the Holts, the Varnas, and uh not too many others we were friends with.
Mollie: Nationalities of those people?
Ted: They were Polish, Ukrainian, for the most part and some Czech, Russians.
Mollie: And Slovaks?
Ted: Slovaks, yes.
Mollie: When did your parents arrive in Tremont?
Ted: Um, well my mother arrived in 1912. And uh, her parents were living here prior to that. My grandfather came here, he made a first trip uh, well, prior to that, to get a start and to bring his family over here and then my grandmother followed him in 1912. My mother came here on a two-week ocean voyage with her brother and sisters.
Mollie: And where did they come from?
Ted: From Poland.
Mollie: And why did they choose Cleveland and why did they choose to come to the United States?
Ted: Well, first of all for the grandparents, for the opportunity to live a better life and to provide a better life for their children. They had some friends living in the Cleveland area. They first arrived in Baltimore then from Baltimore they took a train trip to Cleveland and so they settled in the Cleveland area because of friends and family members.
Mollie: Do you remember what your mother’s maiden name was?
Mollie: Did your family keep in touch with relatives from the old country?
Ted: Very definitely. My mother had a sister still living in Poland.
Mollie: Did those people in turn visit here?
Ted: I don’t remember whether we ever had a visit from my aunt. My mother would send packages during the war years and after to her relatives in Poland. I don’t ever remember them visiting us.
Mollie: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Ted: I have two brothers and one sister. One is deceased now and one is still living.
Mollie: Could you tell us a little bit about what your earliest memories are of the neighborhood?
Ted: They were pleasant. Typically I think of any other young kid growing up in any neighborhood, you played with your neighbor’s kids and did things you were not supposed to do.
Mollie: Do you remember any games that you played?
Ted: Well, kick the can and I forget some of the others, and baseball of course, but kick the can, uh, all of those things. But, I don’t think our lives were really different from other kids. We seemed to have done a lot of things on our own, by that I mean, organized games, fortunately for us at that time, and unfortunately for the kids of today where everything is so structured. But back in those days you pretty much had to decide what you were going to do and by early evening your parents were calling you to come in. So, it was somewhat a full life that any normal young child would enjoy living.
Mollie: Do you remember any other areas – there was a place called Headlow Farm, down by where St. Theodosius is?
Ted: No, frankly, in the early years growing up you pretty much stayed in your own neighborhood. Going to another neighborhood, just a few blocks away was like traveling a distance. So, you pretty much confined your activities and your interests in your own neighborhood. And of course, for the obvious reason, you didn’t have the modes of transportation that you have now, plus the fact I think the parents watched over the kids and certainly didn’t expect their kids to stay out late at night or anything of that nature. So, you lived in a sort of closed community.
Mollie: Did you remember anything about the theaters or what movies you saw?
Ted: I used to work at Jennings Theater. Interestingly, when we moved from W. 7th to W. 14th, Jennings Theater was just about half a block away. This is when I was going to high school, so I worked at Jennings Theater for a number of years. And uh, they had another theater on W. 25th St., uh, here again, that was a long distance away, you seldom went so far away.
Mollie: The Garden Theater.
Ted: The Garden Theater, right.
Mollie: Do you remember what the movies cost?
Ted: At that time? About 10 cents.
Mollie: How about going downtown, did you get a chance to do that?
Ted: As you got older you would, like when you were in high school, it was a special treat, and then again older, you are getting up into high school age, if you had a date, you take the streetcar to go downtown to the Palace to see one of the movies downtown. That was really going big-time. See that was a special, special treat.
Mollie: How about the Westside Market or the Eastside Market?
Ted: Well, the Westside market, the people in the Tremont area for the most part, quite often would walk across Abbey Bridge to the Westside market to buy their fresh produce and fresh meats. The chicken or goose would be live. When we were living on W. 7th St. my father built a smokehouse in the backyard. So it was not unusual for people to have their own smokehouse and buy a chicken or goose live, slaughter it and use every part of it, including the feathers or what they call Pierzyna which meant the comforter. So, the Westside market served its purpose very well and we walked to the Westside Market.
Mollie: In the neighborhood did you shop for groceries in the surrounding areas?
Ted: Where we lived we had the staples, the food, the bread we sold, the bread, milk, butter, the very basic staples of food. But yes, I remember there was the Kwiatkowski Store that was up on Professor, uh, and so we would go and visit them and buy some, the groceries from them.
Mollie: Can you spell the name of the store?
Mollie: Sometimes we heard about a furniture store, a meat grocery store, drug stores, do you remember any of those locations?
Ted: Well, QuoVadis was on Professor and the store that you mentioned, the furniture store on Professor near Jefferson. But, QuoVadis was a well-known furniture store.
Mollie: Can you spell the name?
Mollie: Do you remember anything about going to a photograph studio, because it seems people took pictures often in those days to send back to their families in Europe?
Ted: Well, there was a photographer right across from St. John Cantius, I forget the name now, but you could take family portraits, and I have one back home of the family, and yes you’re right and that’s where the people would go to take a picture of the family. People didn’t take pictures as often as they do now. You have the Brownie box camera and on special events you might take a picture or two, but some of the group pictures, you would go to the professional photographer.
Mollie: We know there were different nationality funeral homes, do you remember going to any of them?
Ted: Of course, Toman had their funeral home.
Mollie: Do you remember going to a funeral home?
Ted: Many times, we lived next door to a funeral director. H.H. Toman at W. 14th and Fairfield.
Mollie: Do you remember any of your early impressions of going to the funeral home?
Ted: Well, uh, I served as an alter boy for St. John Cantius, so of course I had the occasion many times to serve in the funeral mass and I remember one home on Literary Ave., where the homes were so small and clustered, that they had to move the coffin through the living room window because they could not get the coffin through the passageway of the hallway, but that was not unusual. The funerals were usually - the wake would be at the home of the deceased. So, yes I went to a number, I visited as a mass server and also of course the people who died, relatives and so on.
Mollie: Do you remember anything about the taverns or banks and their locations?
Ted: Well, Guzik’s Café was right on the corner of W. 7th and Jefferson. And uh, that was a tavern. It was kinda unusual when I think back now, I probably was about 7 or 8 years old, and I was able to go to Guzik’s café and get a pail of beer for my grandfather. So in other words you go there and I remember there was never any question as far as hey kid, what are you doing here? That seemed to be the norm. You would go there and they had little pails. You get a pail of beer and that would be it.
Mollie: Can you spell that?
Mollie: Do you remember any other taverns in the area?
Ted: Well, there was Hotz’s café, but I didn’t frequent that, it was too far away. But Guziks was the most common for us because it was so close, within walking distance.
Mollie: How about the banks, do you remember going to a bank at an early age?
Ted: Well, the only bank would be Lincoln Saving and Loan which is close to St. John Cantius. I remember going there, walking in there.
Eileen: I understand in talking to some other people about the neighborhood that there were a number of stores that didn’t have names. It was like let’s go to Mary’s Store, John’s store, John’s store, is that true?
Mollie: Well, I think that sometimes they didn’t put their names outside because they all knew each other, just like Barber’s tavern, Wolanski’s tavern, but Wolanski’s was just Jefferson Inn.
Ted: I think that is probably true, because there was the Izydor Czyk bakery which was on W. 7th St., you simply knew it was there, the storefront was there, but they didn’t have any neon signs, so obviously living in the neighborhood you knew where the shop owners had their business, so I don’t remember any big signs, anything of that nature.
There was also Ziemba’s bakery on Jefferson.
Mollie: We’re going to talk about groups of people that lived in your area. You mentioned some of them earlier. Did you belong to any social clubs, or do you remember going to ethnic libraries, how did you celebrate your holidays?
Eileen: Tell us about ethnic groups and social clubs.
Ted: When I was raised in the Tremont area I was still a young kid so I didn’t belong to any social club. The only thing I remember joining was the Boyscouts. I remember the wolf patrol. The guy came, was forming the Boyscouts in our neighborhood and simply arrived one day and said how would you kids like to get involved in Boyscouts. I don’t remember his name and the next thing you know we were forming a Boyscout group and we called ourselves the Wolf Patrol. So, that I remember doing that, so that was an organized activity. As far as social clubs, I didn’t join any social clubs or ethnic clubs until I got older, when I joined quite a few and became more actively involved. I don’t know what groups my parents belonged to. I know my mother belonged to church groups, I know she did. Because she was an officer in some of the solidarities in church groups, same with my father. But as far as specific social clubs I don’t remember.
Mollie: How about Christmas time how did you celebrate that?
Ted: I think typically of any other family, church played a major, major role in the Christmas festivities and decorations. Christmas was as it is now, you looked forward to the day, the time, to get together with family, and especially at that time you didn’t have the means of transportation you have now so there was a great opportunity for families, friends to get together more closely.
Mollie: What kid of foods did you have at that time?
Ted: Well, it would be the Polish foods, the kielbasa, the hams, the chickens, pierogis, they seemed to be the normal fair. My mother was a good cook, she prepared certain soups and puddings. In our family the typical polish meal would consist of kielbasa, pierogis, chickens, hams and so forth.
Mollie: With Halloween approaching, do you remember how you celebrated it as a youngster?
Ted: Well, yes sometimes, like any other wild kid you try to get some firecrackers, but I remember we used to get these small firecrackers, you would hold them at the tip of your fingers. That was a real challenge and you really felt brave when you did that. But they were probably about an inch long and the noise was more frightening than anything else. But again, Halloween, you would dress up as much as you can, and you enjoyed yourself. You walked around the neighborhood and got your treats.
Mollie: Where did you go to grade school?
Ted: I went to St. John Cantius. Uh, so I must have started let’s see, I graduated in 1938, so 1930.
Mollie: Do you remember any experiences at school, did nuns teach you?
Ted: Nuns are pretty tough. They were disciplinarians, and school of course was a place where you simply learned the importance of being a good Polish catholic.
Mollie: Did all the children speak English well?
Mollie: What were some of your favorite subjects?
Ted: I enjoyed history, art.
Mollie: How about some of the church activities, did you participate in that?
Ted: I was a mass server.
Mollie: How about high school, can you tell me some of your memories?
Ted: I was the only member of the family who attended a public school. I went to Lincoln High School. My dad had passed away although he passed away after I enrolled at Lincoln. Those are good years of my life. I lived about two miles away from Lincoln maybe further, but we walked to school. I didn’t have any other means of transportation. So I made a point of walking. Usually I ran to school to make the deadline. Lincoln High gave me the opportunity to make a lot of other friends of other backgrounds. It was the true melting pot of the neighborhood. I made some very, very fine lasting friendships, as a matter of fact, I meet with a group of my high school friends. We have dinner with our wives, there are four of us that do that. As a group, the Lincoln High School, they meet every two years, they call themselves the Old Sports and they have a banquet that gives the opportunity to renew old friendships and acquaintances.
Mollie: Ok, maybe later we can get more names from you from that group. Knowing these people, did you ever go to their churches, the other churches in the neighborhood?
Ted: No, I don’t remember making it a point to go to other churches.
Mollie: Now, the teachers in Tremont, because I think they had some excellent teachers there, so you must know two or three?
Ted: Oh sure, Nola Rearick, #1, my homeroom teacher, and Don Amby my track coach, Paul Newell was one, and ???. My favorite is Nola Rearick. She played a major role in my life.
Mollie: How do you spell that?
Ted: NOLA REARICK
Mollie: When you went to Lincoln did you participate in any clubs?
Ted: The Tollentes. I participated in track and cross country from the time I was a freshman, my four years in high school. So, the Tollentes were the guard, they patrolled the school yards.
Mollie: Can you spell?
Mollie: Is there anything else you want to tell us about school?
Ted: Well, Lincoln High gave the kids who came from the area an opportunity to really get an education and certainly in many cases, the parents not being educated themselves, coming from the old country always supported the school and the teachers. But Lincoln took it a step further because the teachers took a very definite interest in the development of the student’s education. I have to look upon the two people who played a major role in my lifetime, Nola Rearick and Don Ambry??, my track coach as being responsible for me going to Miami University. So a teacher would encourage you if there was a spark of interest or promise. They were in the fore-front of encouraging you to get an education. That interest prevailed throughout your school years and beyond that. We would meet at the Lincoln Old Sports Banquet. The teachers would attend, not all of them, but some would attend those functions. So, they had a long-lasting interest in the development of the students.
Mollie: Tell me about your parents now, where did they work?
Ted: My father worked for Lake Erie Steel and Blanking Co., an automotive shop on St. Clair. My mother of course, was a housewife, but she was also in charge of the small grocery store that we had in our home on W. 7th St. My Dad worked in Lake Erie Steel.
Mollie: Probably, the other fathers in the neighborhood worked down in the flats?
Ted: The reason why that area of course had so many, the foreign born, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, was because of the steel mills, the heavy industrial area.
Mollie: How did your family travel from the neighborhood?
Ted: Well, we were fortunate. My father was very ambitious. I don’t know how he managed it, but we had two cars. He had what was in effect a Sunday car, a four-door Chrysler sedan which was used exclusively for Sunday driving. He also had a small little roadster with a rumble seat in the back that he used to drive to work. So, that’s the way that – at one time he had a motorcycle. So, my father was very ambitious.
Mollie: What do you remember about Merrick House?
Ted: Merrick House would be a place where kids could meet and gather and do some craft work and socialize.
Mollie: Tell me about Lincoln Park?
Ted: Lincoln Park was a place where you could go swimming. The pool was not large enough to accommodate everybody but it was a place where you could go and meet friends and enjoy the peace and solitude of Lincoln Park which was not in great abundance in the rest of the neighborhood. So, Lincoln Park was like an oasis in the neighborhood.
Mollie: Tell me about the various vendors that came through in the neighborhood?
Ted: Well, they used to have the fish man, the fish monger who would come through and blow his horn every Friday and people would then come out and buy the fish. Then they had the junk men, PaperRex, who would come with his horse drawn wagon and collect rubbish - whatever you wanted to sell.
Mollie: Do you remember any carnivals or circuses?
Ted: The churches of course, you pretty much confined yourself to the activities of your own parish so to speak, so St. John Cantius, whenever they had a carnival, or they had a fair, we would attend those.
Mollie: Do you remember taking any pictures on ponies or anything like that?
Ted: No I don’t.
Mollie: There was also an ice man that came around, delivering ice?
Ted: Right, the iceman, regularly. He was as regular as the fish man or the junk man.
Mollie: How about coal deliveries for the house?
Ted: Coal would be delivered to the house through the side window going down a chute to the cellar. You had your coal furnace. Also I remember quite often, the coal wagon, he would lose some of his coal on the street, so people would gather the pieces of coal, salvage as much as they could.
Mollie: What did your family do on Saturdays and Sunday?
Ted: Well, of course on Sunday you would go to church and have a meal. We also had a farm out in Willoughby where first people rented the acreage. So, the four-door sedan, that was our Sunday trip in good weather. Enjoy the country scene and atmosphere.
Mollie: Did you go to the library?
Ted: Yes, I would go to the Jefferson Library.
Mollie: Did you listen to radio, record player?
Ted: Radio, yeah. Listened to Jack Armstrong, the all-American boy.
Mollie: Any other programs you can remember?
Ted: Yeah, I forget, but radio played an important role. I’m trying to think of a timeframe, the year and so on. My brother played the accordion, so that provided some entertainment for us. You had no television and no phone. I remember when we moved to W. 14th, where my Dad passed away, I had to run to the local drug store to make a telephone call to call the doctor.
Mollie: Was it safe growing up in Tremont?
Ted: As far as I remember. I have no recollection of any unpleasantness in Tremont.
Mollie: How did you meet girls to date?
Ted: I didn’t meet girls till I was in high school. I mean I met them, but I didn’t start dating them till I was in high school.
Mollie: Where did you go on dates?
Ted: Well, the big date of course was going downtown if you had the money and means, but for the most part after school you maybe go to the local drugstore someplace and have ice cream.
Mollie: W. 14th and Auburn?
Mollie: When you married did you stay in the area?
Ted: No. We married and moved to Valley Rd. which is right off Broadview and we stayed there a few years.
Eileen: Where was your wife from?
Ted: From W. 49th St. right off Memphis. I went to school with her brother and that’s how I met her. He went to Lincoln High.
Mollie: What about your brothers and sisters. Did they move out of the area?
Ted: Yeah, they did, although my brother Tom is on Denison Ave., but we all moved out of the Tremont area.
Mollie: Where were your children born?
Ted: My children were born in Lakewood, and then in Brecksville. By then we were living in the Brecksville area.
Mollie: So, they went to school in Brecksville?
Ted: Yes, all four children went to school in Brecksville.
Mollie: Do you remember the Depression?
Ted: Some of it yes.
Mollie: Tell me how people managed?
Ted: I remember it was difficult for some people. Of course at that time I was just a kid. You talk about the hardship that some people had and some people were really starving. I remember at Christmas time you would write to the newspaper asking for gifts and the truck would deliver. You would never get what you really wanted, but you would get some underwear and maybe a toy or two. I remember that, because the people simply didn’t have the means to buy gifts.
Mollie: How about your neighbors, were they worse off and what did they do?
Ted: They were worse off than us, because some families drinking became a real problem with some of the men who didn’t have jobs or were on welfare during the depression years.
Mollie: Did they have any help from Merrick House or their churches?
Ted: I’m sure they had some help, but the churches too were struggling to survive.
Mollie: Have you visited Tremont lately?
Ted: Yes I have, quite often.
Mollie: What’s your impression?
Ted: I like to see what’s happening in the Tremont area. It’s encouraging to see what in my memory was a good neighborhood but it’s seen some of its worst days in recent years. But now it’s being redeveloped. I like to see the spark, the fire, the vigor that is being promoted now in the redevelopment of the Tremont area. Tremont is becoming very trendy. I think Tremont is an excellent location. Tremont and its proximity to the business section of downtown Cleveland, I think it offers the opportunity, the avenue to make it an outstanding location. There’s more and more interest being shown in the Tremont area. It’s going to take money and some vision on the part of developers, that seems to be developing gradually, but the seeds have been planted. I can envision a time where living in this area will be a very desirable thing. You’re gonna have to redevelop the area and get rid of the older homes, and that’s slowly being done. You have the displaced people and that is unfortunate. You have to make room for the people. The projects, the first projects were built on W. 7th St. where the under-privileged people had housing. That was the beginning of the housing development
Mollie: That was about 1939-1940.
Ted: Yeah, that was the first housing projects.
Mollie: You know that they are demolished now?
Ted: Yeah, I see that now.
Mollie: Anything else you want to add about Tremont?
Ted: I think we’ve covered it pretty well. I like to see what’s happening in the Tremont area. What happens in Tremont affects the City of Cleveland and vice-a-versa. You have to believe in the development of the City of Cleveland. You have to support that development. You can’t hide. As a matter of fact, you might have a Metro form of government which I think is necessary. These little neighborhoods can’t survive on their own. And, I think it speaks well for the leadership of the area where they can think and talk about Metro government, but as I say you have to support Cleveland and the neighborhood. I like to see the younger generation moving into the Cleveland area. As a matter of fact, there seems to be a reversal of moving out to the suburbs. Where the people enjoy the multi-culturalness of a neighborhood like Tremont, that’s a healthy sign. I personally don’t want to move back to Tremont, because I’ve gone through the experience, and I’ve gone through that time where we aspire to move to a nice neighborhood and my kids enjoyed that too. But, I would not be surprised if one of my kids moves into the Tremont area. I think it has great promise.
Eileen: Thank you for your time, Mollie Alstott and myself really appreciate it.
Entry Filed under: Oral/written Histories