Lucky me. I’ve been “engaged” to the Square since childhood through food, filmmaking, interviewing and programming. Is it best for an evening walk for the couples? The dog walkers? The skateboarders? Or for memories of Arabica’s coffee and conversation, Tassi’s and Shaker Square Beverage’s special food and wine, Anna Polshek’s grown-up dresses, or children’s clothes at Helen Hale? I remember so many things, one of the first tent art shows in town. As a kid, I went bowling, stopped at Miller Drugs for ice cream, experienced my first solo rapid rides to downtown.
At mid-life, I helped organize and advocate for the repairs of a crumbling past to build the future and present we know. My children were among the last to choose a toy at Clark’s Restaurant, pick up an afternoon pastry at Hough Bakery or shop at the music store. The children have gone on to live in four different states, missing the community connectedness of Saturday mornings at the food stalls of North Union Farmer’s Market and the social consciousness of the owners of Edwin’s.
I remember the glamour of Balaton’s at its original spot on Buckeye, the violins playing at the table, dinner there the night my first book was accepted for publication. At Moreland Courts, the telephone operator, armed with her old-fashioned plug-in system, was the queen of information. She saw to all of her building residents’ personal needs: heat (when to turn on and off), and deliveries from the drug store, cleaners, and grocers. These times seem like ancient history, when elegance reigned and city leaders lived at the Square to escape the soot of the town.
As Shaker Square recognized its importance as a portal to the eastern suburbs, especially the national model of integration of Shaker Heights, and its wonderful core location and diverse population, it changed its services: Dave’s Supermarket, foods ranging from popcorn to many fine restaurants, from ethnic to delis and serious French cooking. It began to embrace the contingent location of Larchmere full of boutiques, good food and Loganberry Books.
Fun stories abound. People meeting boyfriends and girlfriends, women going into labor at the movie theatre, and families sitting on the lawn for band concerts. One time, when I was interviewing residents, an older resident insisted that she shopped at HMO Schwartz (FAO Schwartz) and a man said he was the “mayor” of Shaker Square.
I lived on the eastern edge of the square in Shaker Towers condominium for 31 years. While living on Warrington at Onaway Road prior to that for over 20 years, our family lived through the process of integrating Shaker Heights – our children went to both Onaway and Moreland Schools which gave us insight and perspective on what all of this meant. Current national exhibitions at the New York Public Library and stories in major newspapers like the New York Times verify that Shaker is still a national model. This only laid the groundwork for a lifelong attitude.
Later, as empty nesters we chose to live on the 11th floor of the tallest building on the east side. We could look at the lake, see the storms come in and out, pretend we were in Central Park because of all of the greenery and continue our belief in the Square as a haven for the city’s population. Shaker Towers was constructed in 1948 to allow populations that had not been allowed at Moreland Courts under the covenants of the Van Sweringens to live at the square in suites as spacious as those at the courts. All of this is true history and to present generations seems a made-up fairy tale. Thus our neighbors were Rabbi Lelyveld, Zelma George, Carl Stokes, and Dorothy Fuldheim, all who broke the barriers. The population mix has remained to this day and as other properties followed national regulations the building stands tall in social leadership, a characteristic of Shaker Square.
Nina Freedlander Gibans is an award-winning writer, author, and filmmaker and long-time Buckeye-Shaker resident. Learn more about her complex biography at www.ninagibans.com and www.universitycirclefilm.com.
Visit Literary Cleveland's Who We Are, Where We Live online anthology for more from the Buckeye/Shaker community.
Community Anthology Table of Contents
About the program
Who We Are, Where We Live is a free community writing program giving voice to people who live and work in the Buckeye/Shaker community. Participants write stories, learn about their neighborhood, and share with their neighbors. Annually, selected writings are published here in an online anthology and presented at a final reading and celebration.