July 27th, 2007
My name is Thomas J. Woznicki. I am 85 years of age, born December 10, 1919.
I was born in the Tremont area and resided there for 30 years, then moved to the Brooklyn area after my marriage. Our family resided on West 7th Street (2443) during our childhood and then moved to West 14th Street in 1936. While living on West 7th, we did go to the Lincoln Bath House and recreation center at times. The neighbors that we knew and associated with were Guzik, Harchar, Brookes, Proszek, Lestechin, Lapinski and Barr families.
Our parents arrived to Cleveland from Poland in 1916 or 1917 to establish a new and prosperous life that they did not have in Europe. They kept in touch with their parents and from time to time sent them packages and monetary gifts. My mother’s parents, the Bibro family - our mother Mary, her sisters Sophie and Anne and brother Peter, were able to join the family in 1918 but after several years my mother’s mother and sister returned to Poland, never to return to Cleveland. Dad’s family remained in Poland and he was the sole arrival.
I have a brother Ted and sister, Sister Francis Therese (TOSF). Our brother Edmund passed away in 1965.
Our early years were joyous ones playing the usual games of that era - baseball, roller skating and street games. The movie house at that time was the Jennings Theater on West 14th. We went there frequently on Saturday afternoons to see the Western movies popular at that time.
Because of the close proximity of downtown and the West and East Side Markets, we took full advantage of the facilities, especially of the markets on Saturdays for meats and produce for the week’s food pantry.
In those years, every food, drug, bakery or candy store prospered. Clothing, tailors and furniture stores were nearby and did a brisk business up to the Depression years of 1929 - 1940.
ETHNIC GROUPS AND TRADITIONS
At that time, the South Side of Cleveland, as the Tremont area was then known, had several ethnic groups residing there - Polish, Russian (we now know these early founders of St. Theodosius were truly “Rusyns”, not Russians - editors note), Slovak, Ukrainian and a few German families. They all had the churches and community halls where they gathered for weddings or meetings and special occasions. The ethnic groups were very “clannish” and each nationality did their own thing to put it very simply. But, on the whole, they did get along in a neighborly fashion.
Christmas and Easter were celebrated very simply, compared totoday’s commercial fashion. We were satisfied with the simple things of life because there wasn’t too much out there those days. Yes, we had a Xmas tree every Xmas, decorated with simple toys and candles (that were not even lit). Halloween was the same as we celebrate nowadays, but the candy and gifts were very scarce, especially during the Depression years.
My brothers and sister attended the parochial school at St. John Cantius for elementary education. My brother Edmund and I went to Benedictine High School for our secondary leanring and Ted went to Lincoln High School and our sister went to Mary mount. Both the elementary and high school years were happy years - we were eager to learn and play in class and on the sports field, especially in baseball. All the teachers I had contact with were dedicated nuns, priests and brothers who were proficient and well-versed educators. To choose one favorite teacher would be very difficult. They were all good.
PARENTS AND WORK
My dad worked at an auto company (I forget the name) when the gasoline autos were becoming more numerous those days. Then he worked at a steel stamping company (Lake Erie Steel and Stamping) on East 131st Street. Because of his position he was able to employ a few friends and members of our family. Even my mom’s dad (our grandfather) was employed there as a watchman for several years until he retired. Our family had a car at our disposal (one of the few in the neighborhood) and we took advantage of the public transportation when going downtown or to school.
We took advantage of the programs at Merrick House after school hours. In the summer, we were able to go to the cabin that Merrick House had in Hinckley Park for a few days where we enjoyed camping and swimming. Lincoln Park was another outlet to visit friends during the hot summer evenings. At times, they had movies for the public.
Horse-driven vendors came around daily in the summer selling fruits and vegetables that were in season. At that time, 25 cents got you a bag of peaches or apples. Then there was the paper-rex man, who bought old rags that people disposed of.
What did we do on Saturdays and Sundays? On Saturday the home was cleaned and prepared for Sunday. On Sunday morning first it was Mass, then in the afternoon we had visitors for dinner, conversation and drinking. The children would be in the yard enjoying games of that period. On other Sundays, we would visit other families and friends and spend many happy hours together. There were no TV’s, or digital games to interfere as it does these days. Those were the “Good Old Days”.
LIBRARY AND LEISURE TIME
The library! Yes, we did use and enjoy the neighborhood library. It was and still is the Jefferson Library where we had access to books to read and to do research for school projects.
That was the source of entertainment of the day. We enjoyed them both in the evenings. We had a phone installed in the late 1930’s and the first TV came into being later in the mid 1940’s.
FREEDOM OF FEAR
Safety in Tremont. People had no fear of being muggd or robbed those days. You could go visit a neighbor, leaving your doors opened, and not be afraid.
Boys and girls got to know and date each other in school or church socials. Dating began during the mid-teen years. Once you married, you moved into your own home or apartment, in your mate’s neighborhood, or whatever was more convenient.
Our two boys, Lawrence and Tom, Jr., were both born here in Cleveland, attended parochial schools and then Catholic High Schools. Larry Chose Benedictine High School and Tom went to St. Ignatius.
I remember the depression very well. With the lack of employment, people struggled to feed their families. Many lost their savings in banks, lost their homes and some ended up on welfare.
I drive through the neighborhood often and see the many changes. Blocks of homes, homes built on empty lots, and the numerous gourmet restaurants and pubs doing a brisk business especially on weekends. What a welcome change!
If other localities in Cleveland would take steps to do what happened in Ohio City and the Tremont area, our city would grow in leaps and bounds, growing into a metropolis deserving that distinction.
Entry Filed under: Oral/written Histories