Frank Dobos, retired teacher at St. Edward's
Frank Dobos is proud to show a photo of his maternal grandparents, taken in 1909, standing in front of Sztranyak’s Grocery Store and Meat Market on E. 117th and Buckeye Rd., which they owned and operated. His grandparents, the Sztranyaks, came from small towns in Vespren county, Hungary, but met in America. They were married in St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Catholic Church in Buckeye, and then settled in the neighborhood.
Frank himself was born in 1932 in a building his maternal grandparents had built five years earlier at 12609 Buckeye Road, which still stands today. “We lived in the back unit of the house—my grandparents, parents, and me. The other units we rented out, and there were two storefronts on the first floor.” One of these was the Buckeye Tavern, where Frank Dobos’ father, grandfather and uncles worked.
His paternal grandparents also came from Hungary, and married there before coming to the US. Frank has photos of the ships all of his grandparents crossed the ocean on before landing in Ellis Island: the Pennsylvania, the Finland, and Frederick the Great.
Frank remembers well going to church by streetcar with his paternal grandfather who, along with his grandmother, lived seven houses down from him. “I would be waiting outside for him to come down the street. He always wore a suit with a vest and had a little mustache. He’d take my hand and we would get on the street car and ride down to St. John’s, which was his parish. It was wonderful - the street car still had a diner in it at that time. This was a big deal for a kid during the war.”
Growing up, he attended nearby St. Margaret’s School and church. He fondly remembers the neighborhood, which he felt had everything: ‘’It was close to Shaker Square where you could take the rapid to downtown, and the bus-line and streetcar ran nearby.”
When Frank and his wife Jean married in 1962, he moved out of his family home on Buckeye and over to the west side, close to his job as a Civics and Business teacher at St. Edward’s School, where he eventually became Vice Principal. The couple had two daughters, one whom is a now Law Professor at the University of Akron in Ohio, and the other works in accounting in Clearwater, Florida.
When Frank ponders the future of the Buckeye neighborhood, he reflects upon what gives him hope and concern. “When I grew up in Buckeye, it was a very nice neighborhood, we felt safe and lived near our families," he says. "I remember I used to watch them bake bread across the street at Sokolo’s Bakery and could roam the streets from 5 a.m. on. Now there’s not much left standing in the area."
"It’s going to take a lot of leadership to bring the neighborhood back around, but there won’t be another Hungarian neighborhood," he continues. “There’s been so much inter-ethnic marriage over the years. My wife wasn’t Hungarian and didn’t speak Hungarian or go to many of the events I did. She was a Professor of Communications at Kent State University. We had a life together, we had our own parts of our lives too. I think the Hungarian community will live on through the Hungarian Cultural Gardens and other organizations rather than neighborhoods.”
Frank goes back from time-to-time to St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary in the Buckeye neighborhood where he grew up and where his grandparents were married. However, he now lives in Lakewood in summertime and in Naples, Florida the balance of the year, where he and his wife Jean (now deceased) retired nineteen years ago when the Cleveland winters became too much for them. Frank is active in many Hungarian groups throughout Cleveland, which he enjoys socializing with when he lives here in the summer. In Naples, he’s the Head of the Hungarian Club there.
Valerie Maczak-Grimm, Development Director at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute
A guiding theme for Valerie Maczak-Grim’s life is "transformation," she says. She sees transformation of self, neighborhood, family, students and physical space as what her work and life are all about. And this theme is evident everywhere.
Val colorfully describes herself as a descendant of Hungarian “tinkers and junk dealers.” Around 1914, her family moved from Detroit, another major settling site for the Hungarian diaspora, to live in the Buckeye neighborhood. Her aunt opened a small corner store selling produce, dry goods, and candy. Her grandfather had more exotic things in mind. In the basement, he cultivated and grew mushrooms, nourished by the horse manure he used as fertilizer, and sold these at the store and to area restaurants.
Though Val was born in Parma, she moved around a lot as a child because of her father’s work. After some bouncing around herself, (she did a stint as flight attendant among other things) she returned to Cleveland in 2008, primarily because her sister and brother-in-law lived here and were very connected in the Larchmere community. “My sister is truly the reason I returned,” she says. ”She’s very important in my life.”
At the time, Val was working freelance in the communications and writing field. After meeting now husband, Gerry Grim, (Edwin’s Director of Culinary Services and now acting COO), and seeing how happy he was with his work, she began to volunteer for EDWINS. It wasn’t long before Brandon Chrostowski, EDWINS founder, gave her a chance to transform her career become Development Director. She now has responsibility for bringing together all of the resources EDWINS needs to educate its students. This usually means money from foundations and individuals, but she also works with volunteers, as well as gathering donations of everything from clothes to pillows to notebooks and pens.
She loves her work and the neighborhood. “The most challenging aspect has been to not let other people’s perceptions of the neighborhood influence me. When I tell people what my work is and where I do it, they often ask, ‘aren’t you afraid of crime?’ They worry something negative might happen because I’m working with former offenders.” EDWINS' mission, after all, is to give formerly incarcerated adults a foundation by teaching a skilled trade in the culinary arts. “What many people don’t know,” she says, “is that 1 in 3 individuals in the U.S. have a police record. These are our neighbors, the people behind us in line at the grocery store, who we sit next to in church.”
“I tend to be optimistic though--I see the good in everyone though—the lady who sells flowers out of her flower box, the guy who picks up beer cans on the square.” In her opinion, “when people are fearful, whether on a global or local level, they are less likely to contribute to the community, to be part of it, and to believe in it. This is one of the biggest challenges to growth."
When asked about places she enjoys visiting in the community, she smiles. “Of course, I love EDWINS' campus, which is full of positivity and hope.” A place she's eager to watch transform is Sunny’s Market for the People at E.126th and Buckeye Rd. “It’s going to be kind of an organic bodega serving a lot of varied needs at the same time. Sunny, the owner, is lovely and full of optimism—stop in and see her!”
Val has learned from those she works and lives with to never judge a book by its cover. In terms of what she would like people to learn from her, she says, “My intention is to teach people it’s OK to be open, welcoming, and receiving of others. The students who come to EDWINS are ready to be in a different place in their lives. We just have to be willing to show them how.”
“The people who are actually living here are so happy and responsive to changes being made in the community. Many people get what EDWINS is doing and see the success we’re having. It’s so rewarding to have people drive by and honk their horns, call out “We love EDWINS!” when they go past the Square. We are working to widen our circle, not to keep people out but so they have space to step in.”
Val’s next focus is on expanding EDWINS Second Chance Life Skill Center campus by making the side yard into an ornamental and vegetable garden. Other changes to the space where students live include new space for meditation, yoga, and AA meetings. She especially likes to tell people that EDWINS' fitness center now stands on the site of the former Buckeye Beverage and Liquor Store, which for a long time was dilapidated structure. Transformation is everywhere.
On a more personal level, she and Gerry look forward to starting a family: “I love the idea of introducing them and connecting them to this community from their first day onward.”
Valerie Maczak-Grim is proud to serve as development director at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, and she has been a member of the Buckeye-Shaker community since 2008. However, her family legend has it that during the Great Depression her grandfather grew and sold mushrooms in the basement of his aunt’s house on Buckeye Road.
Carol Malone: The Ludlow Experiment
As told to Lee Chilcote
When my parents first came to Cleveland, they lived in the Central neighborhood. Then they moved to Glenville and after that to the Ludlow neighborhood of Shaker Heights, following the migration patterns of African-American families at the time.
There were some folks who were not happy about black families moving into the Ludlow neighborhood. So periodically we would get people riding up and down the street yelling ‘nigger’ and shooting off guns. I can remember my girlfriend’s father worked for the NAACP and the Klan burned a cross on their lawn. I had my experience of being stopped by police with my friend. A lot of African-American parents had to talk to their children about what to do if they got stopped by a police officer. I had my conversation before I was 5.
My friend and I had walked to Shaker Square. At the time, there used to be FAO Schwartz, John Reed record store, Marshalls drug store and the Stouffers was very ornate. We would always go into Marshalls, which is now Yours Truly, and cut through the back. We would get a Cherry Coke and fries. Robin and I, we got off our stools, went out to the front door, and we step to the corner. The light changed, we stepped off and then stepped back. At that time, there was a beat cop that walked the square. This had to be like ‘62, maybe. The white police officer approached us and said. “You know you guys jaywalked?”
We said, “No we didn’t, we didn’t cross the street.”
In hindsight, when I look at this, you know, we could have disappeared. So, he took us upstairs in the office at Stouffers and interrogated us. I can remember what my father told me to do – make sure you get his badge number, make sure you get his name, and that’s all you do. Our fathers – my father worked for the state of Ohio, and my friend’s dad was a bailiff for a white judge – were very angry when they found out.
Everybody knew everybody. In my mind’s eye, you can kind of go down and remember everyone’s house.
I learned how to ice skate. Every Shaker neighborhood has green space with an indented area that’s used for ice skating. Two years ago, when it was very cold, was the first time they filled that grassy area in, like, 30 years. I would always walk home with my feet in my boots my toes frozen. On the corner of everyone’s street sat a box of free salt.
I remember one incident. My brother was probably 17 at the time. He was leaving the house and we heard this yelling and screaming. There were, like, 5 police cars. They’d gotten calls someone had reported mysterious black man on street – he said, “Hey, we live here.”
It was called the Ludlow Experiment. People were committed to making sure it was the kind of neighborhood they wanted to live in. Could you protect your children from all the things, all the biases and prejudices? No, but you could certainly give them the tools to be able to combat racism in all of its ugly forms.
Carol Malone was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Shaker Heights High School and Boston University. She has been involved in community engagement activities and programs for most of her life. She has been a member of AFTRA and SAG for almost40 years as a commercial talent. Currently she is the Communications Fellow for Neighborhood Connections. After serving as a volunteer grant maker for three years, she was extended the opportunity to produce, write and host a podcast she created that is called "Neighbor Up Spotlight". The podcast showcases citizens making positive contributions to their neighborhoods and our city. She is the proud mother of Samira, her daughter, who just graduated from Cleveland State University.
Aaron DeAngelo Knuckes, small business owner
Although most people know Aaron DeAngelo Knuckles as DeAngelo or “D,” his father named him after Moses’ brother Aaron from the Bible. However, he didn’t want to go by his first name or last name when he was a young man, because he was afraid of messing it up.
“I didn’t always do the right thing and make the right decisions,” admits the 40-year-old father of four. “The name Knuckles goes back generations and I didn’t want to tarnish it. I wanted to pass it on to my kids. I used the name DeAngelo because I didn’t want to disrespect my first or last name.”
As a young man, Knuckles was attracted to the life of the street. He had various jobs, but he also always had a side hustle going. He had a young son to take care of, but didn’t stop until he was in his early 20’s. He says the turning point was when he and six friends got into a bar fight at Penny’s Lounge in Slavic Village, and he found himself getting arrested several days later.
“We had got into it with a group of guys, we’re young, and the whole bar came out,” says Knuckles. “They were a group of Caucasian people, and they came out and said, ‘Excuse me, you derogatory-word-for-black-people, go back to where you came from.’ We got to fighting – there were seven of us and about 30 of them – and I hit this guy in the head with a bat. The fight ended, but days later, the police come to my door to arrest me.”
The case was luckily dismissed without prejudice – it turned out the guy who identified him and his cousins as their assailants had been jumped in a completely different incident – but the experienced changed him. “At that moment, I said couldn’t no one have delivered me from that but the Lord, and I was able to see him directly working in my life,” he says. “That made me make a transition. So, I did. I got up on out of there.”
Knuckles bought a house on Mt. Carmel Avenue about 10 years ago so that he could pursue his passion for dog breeding and cooking as a vendor at street festivals. He and his oldest son renovated it themselves. He also got involved in the Student Parent Organization (SPO) at Harvey Rice School, where his four children attended, and became president. “I started making the transition that I needed to make to raise a productive young black male,” he says. “I was teaching him how to fix the house, teaching him how to fix cars. I’m twenty years and nine days older than him exactly. He’s a junior, too.”
When Knuckles found out about the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps build community leaders, he attended a class that he says “put everything in focus for me.”
“I knew what I wanted to do – advocate for my community,” he says. “Not just because I live here. My community needs advocacy. It needs to be brought out from this negative light, it needs to come out from behind the shadows, it needs to be lifted up, to be the great community that it can be and probably once was, but I know in my time it’s not.”
Knuckles created a block club on his street so that neighbors could get to know each other and fight crime together. There were only about seven occupied houses at the time – the rest were either empty or had been torn down. They called themselves the Mt. Carmel Unity Block Club.
Knuckles grins when talking about his four kids, the oldest of whom are now working or heading off to college: “You have to be involved in your kids’ lives. We don’t have the village effect anymore and it takes a village to raise a child.”
Asked what he would tell people who don’t live here about his community, Knuckles responds, “My community is very surprising. Even though it looks the way it does, with abandoned houses and all the vacant open space, there are people there who care, people who will welcome you with open arms, watch over you, take care of you like one of their own, accept you like one of their own.”
Buckeye-Shaker resident Aaron D. Knuckles returned to the Cleveland neighborhood after he graduated from Fairfield High Preparatory High School. He also attended Neighborhood Leadership Institute. Once he graduated from there, the community representative in him was awakened. He became president of The New Mount Carmel street club. He has also served as president of Hub and Spokes, helping advocate for the community to ensure fairness and equality. A. De'Angelo was the Precinct Committee Rep for Ward 6 S under Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell. He currently sits on the H.E.A.L. (Healthy Eating Active Living) advisory board. He is also a member of C.A.B. (Citizen Advisory Board) with juvenile court. He continues to be the striving role model to his children and neighborhood.
Carol Malone: The Great Migration
As told to Lee Chilcote
My parents were from Birmingham, Alabama. Dad first started coming here in 1933, and married mom in 1941. They were both born in Birmingham. My parents were born across the street from each other, went to elementary school, high school and college together. My dad was the only man my mom ever dated. They were married 43 years, and he passed away at the time he left for work on Valentine’s Day 1991.
It was during that time of opportunity. Unless you had that die-hard experience with really unbridled racism, it was hard to understand. My dad said there was no way he was going to stay in Birmingham. No way – at all. You couldn’t look no white person in the eye because you were being an uppity nigger. That could cost you your life. You had to step off sidewalk when white people were walking on the sidewalk. Or not saying Mr. or Miss. States had what they would call the black codes. These were rules for black people. The sundown law – the rule that black people had to be out of town by sundown – that’s not a joke. In some parts of the country it still applies today. We talk about terrorism in the world, but people of color and black people in particular have lived with terrorism every day.
I don’t think my parents were surprised at all. I don’t think many of the black people who migrated were. They didn’t have blinders on about what the north was like. My dad graduated from college when he was 16 years old. My parents both had degrees and training. They knew it wasn’t any different from the south, just a different version of what the United States is supposed to be.
I think [the Ludlow experiment] was to prove that people of diverse backgrounds can live together. No, your property values are not going to suddenly drop because black people move in. All those racist ideas being peddled. Blockbusting. White realtors coming in and telling them sell because prices are going to drop, then a realtor comes in and sells to a black family for an exorbitant price.
The Ludlow experiment was to promote racial harmony and integration while at the same time addressing white flight. You did have white families who stayed and said, ‘we’re not going anywhere.’ Yes, it remains a fairly diverse neighborhood. I can go back on my street and some of my neighbors are still there.
I’m telling you, Ludlow people are still close now! There’s a Christmas party every year. When I go on Facebook, it’s people I’ve known since Ludlow. It’s unusual for you to know people you’ve known since afternoon kindergarten.
Today we’re not just challenged with racism but also with civil liberties. Younger generations are seeing things they’ve never seen before, never had to experience. Those of us who are over 40-45, we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve seen this movie before.’ Overt racism, murders by police, people’s houses being set on fire. Because you’ve had all of that within the last few years.