Pulse Of The City

The Ball Club Logo And The Red Feather...

Many years ago, I became involved with a Northern Ohio Native American association. The association served a number of very beneficent purposes with the Cleveland Native American community. Quite a few people with whom I spoke with at the time were unaware that there were reportedly Native Americans from well over a hundred tribes represented in the Greater Cleveland area. There were in fact, thousands of people living here then, who either claimed to have, or were actually registered with Native American ancestry; not to mention thousands more who believed that they did, but either did not know for certain, or had been admonished by their elders to keep that identity secret.

When the Indian Removal Act (passed by Congress in 1830) went into effect, many who were identified as Native Americans were pushed from their homes and farms to lands west of the Mississippi. To this day, there remains tension at times between "government-registered" Native Americans who moved to reservations, and those who are "unregistered"; whose ancestors stayed behind and quietly assimilated into the "white" culture.

 At the time I volunteered with that association, there was also a great deal of material and spiritual need among the Native peoples around Cleveland. For years, area volunteers helped to provide support for gatherings tied to spiritual and cultural awareness events, permitting quite a few good times for Native American children, while giving them a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their cultural heritage.

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Volume 10, Issue 8, Posted 2:32 PM, 04.15.2014

700 Years Ago...March 18, 1314...A Solemn Anniversary: The Execution of Jacques DeMolay

700 years ago, Knights Templar leader Jacques DeMolay was presented to the public near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Held in chains by the French king for seven years, DeMolay was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, known then as the Holy Church's own warrior-monks. At that time, DeMolay, who was by then quite elderly, was expected to publicly confess the many alleged and supposedly sordid "crimes" of the Templars, many of which had been supposedly admitted to under torture by the imprisoned knights.

As DeMolay cleared his throat and began to speak, the world would never be the same.

The tale began like this: On Friday, October 13, 1307, the Templars in France were rounded up under the orders of the French King Phillip IV "The Fair" and put into dungeons and chains (which is where we got the Friday 13th "bad luck" legend). Within hours, and under torture, confessions were allegedly extracted from the imprisoned knights, attributing all manner of horrible deeds and beliefs to the secret Templar organization.

As the tale continues, although incensed that his warrior-monks had been put into chains, the Pope was nonetheless persuaded to permit the investigations to proceed. Indeed, there was little that he could do, as the French king had already moved the Seat of the Papal Court from Rome to Avignon, France.

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 3:06 PM, 04.01.2014

Lakewood: Part Of "The Wild West"???

Everything's relative, I suppose. Just ask anyone familiar with Dr. Einstein's great theory.

Yes, at one time, the lands west of the Cuyahoga River were indeed considered both wild and western in the eyes of many of our early settlers. The land presently comprising Lakewood finally became a part of Rockport Township after treaties with various Native American tribes were concluded. This area was heavily wooded at that time, and was well marked by at least two major Native American trails that became the present Warren and Detroit Avenues. (Warren, by the way, was named after Isaac Warren, an early settler and son of Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren. Isaac Warren resided at the intersection of Warren and present-day Madison Avenue.)

Even when civilization as we know it spread farther west, the Rockport area continued to retain a "Wild West" flavor for many years. Lakewood did not achieve "hamlet" status until 1889, and did not even become a city until 1911. Even then, and for many years thereafter into my own lifetime, concrete horse troughs, hitching posts, and old horse tie-down stones could commonly be seen around our city.

In 1849, when the East Rockport area (as Lakewood was then known) was still held primarily by large landowners with fruit farms, gold was discovered in California, and the adventures of the other "Wild West" began to be romanticized in the press. By then, Ohio's Native American tribes had been forced from the state. (Ohio's Wyandots were the last tribe to leave, in 1843, from their home in the Upper Sandusky area.)

A number of shallow tunnels were reportedly dug from homes along what was then known as Detroit's "old plank road" straight down to Lake Erie. Several residents from this area were also reportedly active in the Underground Railroad, and it was fairly common folklore that those tunnels were likely used by escaping slaves on their journey to boats out on the lake that would take them to Canada and freedom.

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Volume 10, Issue 6, Posted 5:07 PM, 03.18.2014

Lakewood life, a half-century ago... When "Chat Room" Chatter Was Spoken Aloud... "What's Your 20, Good Buddy?"

T'was a time, not so long ago, when "chat room" chatter took place in real time, and was a spoken event, rather than being written down. Generally too, what was said went unrecorded as well. Those were the days when CB (Citizens Band) radios ruled the roost. In those pre-Internet days, you could purchase a CB walkie-talkie, a mobile unit, or a home base station, and talk away to your heart's content. Originally, there were call signs and licenses to buy, but over time, the licenses were no longer required. People generally went by "handles", (adopted names) which is not so different from what many people in Internet chat rooms do these days. Back then, my "handle" was "Silversticks", as it happened to be the nickname that I went by as a drummer.

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Volume 10, Issue 5, Posted 8:46 PM, 03.04.2014

Lakewood, A Half-Century Ago: "One, Two, Three, FOUR!!!!"

February 9th, 1964. Just a few minutes after 8 p.m., Eastern Standard Time... Anyone living in America at that time would not need to be reminded of an event that happened on Sunday night television.

Seems that a British "guitar group" had arrived on our shores, and had a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular variety show reminiscent of America's vaudeville theater productions that were popular prior to the advent of movies and television. In that type of show, you might have singers, dancers, plate spinners, and animal acts, in addition to a few live musical acts on occasion.

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Volume 10, Issue 4, Posted 2:17 PM, 02.18.2014

Testing...Testing...Testing? (NCLB? Common Core? Common Sense...Please!)

Once upon a time, little Gary Rice walked into a Pennsylvania first grade classroom that was preparing students for a readiness examination. The boy took one look around, took a good look at the paper on his desk, and then walked back out the door to his parents. "I'm not going to stay here!" said he, and he did not. It was another year before little Gary would be persuaded to return to school. For the next 12 years of his life, Gary would be at war with America's educational system. In many ways, he still is, even though he spent more than 30 years teaching in the public schools, and continues to volunteer from time to time as a retired teacher with your Lakewood Schools.
Little Gary was a pioneer in what has become the school testing refusal movement. Let's face it, testing could be so....Well, I distinctly remember getting a question "wrong" on that same readiness test the following year....We were shown a picture of two umbrellas- one having a curved handle, and the other with a straight one. We were asked which was a "man's" and which was a "woman's". I picked the "wrong" choice. Give me a break. At home, my parents used whatever umbrella was in the stand. Frame of reference governed my response, and not some artificial cultural or governmental expectancy, yet I was penalized for something totally beyond my control.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 5:59 PM, 02.04.2014

Lakewood, A Half-Century Ago: The Christmas Walk...

I'm not sure if there's any more peaceful time known to humankind than the quiet walk to church on Christmas Eve that Mom and I took each year. We walked down to church to join Dad, who was already there, directing the youth choir.

As walks go, it wasn't a very long one; just down Rosewood Avenue, across Detroit Avenue, and over to the Lakewood United Methodist Church. In the span of a lifetime, those walks generally only took about fifteen or twenty minutes. More often than not, there was simply the quiet crunching of our metal-strapover gumboots on the crystalline snow that shown like shimmering diamonds in the glow of those old frost-covered streetlamps; having their light interspersed by the shadows cast from those huge tree-lawn elms, arching ever Heavenward. The elms' V-like giant branches formed a natural cathedral of wonderment. Rosewood itself took on a surreal, holy, other-worldly quality, as childhood imaginations took flight on that Sacred Night of nights.

Sometimes too, we would be joined by neighbors on our pilgrimage down that street. Sometimes, we would all sing carols together. At the intersection of Detroit, some of those neighbors would turn left, for destinations like St. James, or Trinity Lutheran. Others stayed with us, and made the trip across the street to Lakewood Methodist. Sometimes, we walked in the footprints of others. Sometimes, especially with us kids, we made new pathways of our own, and not always on the sidewalks, of course. The mounds of snow at the ends of the driveways became our own little mountain range to conquer. All too often, by the time we arrived at church, we had wet trouser legs well above the height of our 8 inch gumboots, and we could have cared less too. Sometimes, we lost our balance, and ended up fidgeting through our beautiful, but always extra-long church services, with very soggy, itchy, wet, cold behinds.

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Volume 9, Issue 25, Posted 2:41 PM, 12.11.2013

Honoring Lakewood's Veterans... The Smell Was Missing...

As our nation continues to deal with more violence, both around the world, and in our land, I thought that it might be good to look at the potential effects of the permeation of war and violence in our culture with young people.
It seems like everywhere you look nowadays, kids have some sort of hand-held, combat-related video game in their hands. Every year, those games become more and more realistic, to the point that it might well become difficult for some kids to distinguish real life from the parallel universes offered by those games. For video game lovers, it's a great time to be alive.

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Volume 9, Issue 23, Posted 2:01 PM, 11.12.2013

A Lakewood-Friendly Director? A Lakewood-Friendly Movie? The "Hitchcock" Story...

As a child of the 1950's, I remember seeing all kinds of movies. You had your mainstream films at the local cinema, and then, there were those offbeat, unusual, or sometimes, just plain strange low-budget films that, as teenagers, we usually watched on those late evening TV shows; hosted by local luminaries like Ghoulardi, the Ghoul, or Big Chuck and Hoolihan (later, with Little John).

Movies were an absolutely essential part of 20th Century culture. Socially, they were generally enjoyed together, and were part of workplace water cooler discussions on the following day, much as sports always has been. It was the same thing with those off-beat black and white movies shown on late-night TV. Some of those were arguably so bad that they were actually good, or at least as they were remembered by many of us.

Believe it or not, there are those who not only still appreciate the power of those late night-type low budget films, but actually seek to perpetuate an art-form known as "cinéma vérité," that is, creating a credible-looking movie, focusing more on the story and the action, rather than on the lighting, pin-perfect sound, or by using the particularly expensive and sophisticated backgrounds and multi-camera scene work available to the major movie production people. Cinéma vérité -type people will sometimes even go to great lengths to even artificially "age" a film, or perhaps, produce it in a timeless black and white format; anything to lose the "pretense" of a camera to more directly involve the audience in the action in an effort to achieve ever-greater truth and an illusion of reality in the film itself.. Indeed, this form of movie still thrives in limited-run theaters. The words "cult following" could well apply for those who continue to enjoy this special art form.

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Volume 9, Issue 22, Posted 4:09 PM, 10.29.2013

A Musician's Musical Memories...

Since I've been "Guitar Guy Gary" for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the past, many people are interested in that side of my musical life. While being a "guitar fixer-upper to the stars" was fun, I'd like to share some other musical memories with you this week.

As a child with musical parents, I was surrounded by music from the day I was born. I have so many great musical memories from my Lakewood childhood, and just in case you're wondering, it's never too late for YOU to learn to play and enjoy music as well! Fact is, back when I taught private music lessons, some of my best students were adults!

There are essentially two ways one can learn to play music, and they both work--in fact, if a person CAN learn BOTH ways, so much the better. The first way I'll call the "legitimate" approach. You get an instrument and a "Book 1" instruction guide, and then you find a good teacher and start practicing. The other way is to learn to play "by ear." Dad tried every trick in the book to get me to learn by "legitimate" musical instruction, but I was indeed a teen in the '60s, and the musical winds of change were coming along much faster than I could flip through the pages of "Book 3."

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Volume 9, Issue 21, Posted 8:54 PM, 10.15.2013

Lakewood Life, 50 Years Ago... Grandmother's Hoover Constellation Vacuum Cleaner

Living in 1950's America, air power and the space race were two highly significant areas of public interest, due mostly to the Cold War between the West and Communism. When WWII ended in 1945 with the birth of the Atomic Age, it was clearly understood by anyone who truly cared, that air power had played a highly dominant role in winning that war. At the same time, the explosion of rocketry and guided missile technology meant that every town and city worldwide could suddenly find itself on a front line of a new, sudden, and devastating world-wide war. Communism was competing for world-wide domination and small revolutionary wars were springing up all over the world.

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Volume 9, Issue 20, Posted 8:12 PM, 10.03.2013

Lakewood's Antiques... The Holy Grail...Drum? "As the Father sent Me, so do I send thee..." Jesus

Back when I was a Lakewood kid, one of the favorite writing assignments that teachers would roll out every fall would be having us write about what we did during the last summer. Creative writing prompts like that helped students to reactivate their imaginations after summer break. Tales of vacations, roller coaster rides, picnics, ball games, and friendships made would all come out as we scribbled our freshly sharpened no. 2 pencils onto that rough-draft theme paper during our first week of school.

Well, this is my tale of how I spent my summer this year. No, I did not get out of town once. I missed the beaches and the roller coasters too, at least the amusement park kind. The emotional roller coaster, I rode plenty though. More about that one later. Missed picnics and ball games, as well, but overall, it was probably my best summer ever.

See, I found the Holy Grail. At least I believe that I did.

Historically, the search for the Holy Grail has comprised one of the great stories in Western Civilization. Essentially, it went like this: Roughly two thousand years ago, one Jesus Christ of Nazareth was reportedly crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem. Afterwards, Joseph of Arimathea reportedly collected some of His blood in a cup that was later referred to as being the Holy Grail. That cup was considered to have been among the most priceless relics in Christendom, and the search to recover that cup has consumed kings, queens and knights for many centuries. Perhaps the most famous of those tales was the mythical Arthurian legend of Sir Lancelot's quest for that Grail.

Of course, there have been other interpretations of what the true symbolic meaning of the Grail was. Perhaps the best known recent interpretation was that the Grail's meaning implied that there was a bloodline of Jesus Christ. Interesting twists on the tale have included the theory that the other convicted man that Pilate released (Barabbas) was possibly Jesus's son. (bar-rabbi could mean "son of the rabbi") Another theory was that Jesus had a bloodline that was secretly preserved through kings and leaders of secret societies. Indeed, there are still those who relentlessly pursue the quest for the Grail, and countless books come out every few years related to this topic of endless fascination.

The original Knights Templar were a group of soldier-monks whose legends have also heavily intertwined with tales of the Grail, and these days, the Masonic Knights Templar organization continues to honor and protect the memories and traditions of traditional Christendom. As a matter of fact, Holy Grail Commandery no. 70 of Knights Templar continues to meet regularly at our Lakewood Masonic Temple. It was widely believed that many Christian treasures were deposited with the original Knights Templar, but on Friday 13, 1307, the Templars were betrayed into the hands of the French king, accused of all manner of crimes, thrown into prisons and tortured. The Templars were ultimately disbanded by the Church without a finding of collective guilt or innocence. In 1314, the Templar's last Grand Master, Jaques DeMolai (DeMolay) was burned in Paris after publicly proclaiming the innocence of the Order. Most, if not all Templar treasures were never discovered. A Templar fleet of ships also went missing, and a Templar emblem (the skull and crossed bones) later flew above pirate ships for many years afterwards. Although no direct connection can be traced to the original Order, the Masonic Knights Templar nonetheless go to great lengths to honor the spirit of the original Templars.

One of the things that the Templars, and later, Masonic organizations, would be accused of would be the "heresy of relativism". At times, there could be several holy books of different faiths present on Masonic altars. By either working with, or accepting people of different God-believing faiths, it was felt by many religious groups that the Templars and later Freemasonry, believed that one religion was as good as another. That was not true, however. Freemasonry instead, allowed a man's personal political and religious opinions to remain his own, while teaching that well meaning people could then work together for the greater good of humanity. America's Constitution and Bill of Rights both reflected that same ideal of having people put aside their religious and political differences for a greater good. America's place in the world continues to exemplify the results of this ideal.

I actually have an interpretation of my own regarding the Grail to tell about here. As I mentioned, yes indeed, I believe that I have found the Grail, and I'll present the particulars of the matter here for your own evaluation.

For the past few months, my 93 year-old dad had been seriously going downhill, health-wise. Being his sole caregiver, I was able to see first-hand what was going on. Late in July, Dad fell and hurt his foot, necessitating even more changes in his routine. Before long, his other conditions worsened, and it was back to the hospital in August. During a gut-wrenching week at Fairview Hospital, and through the aid of some magnificent doctors and nurses, Dad was given life-saving treatment, and is back home again and well on the road to recovery. That fact, of course, has been the main reason why I've had a good summer.

While at Fairview, we were helped by many people of many races and religious backgrounds, all working, very Masonic-like, for the greater good of humankind; while putting aside the particulars of what divides them in favor of that which unites them in service to humanity. No one is forced to change or hide their beliefs either. People in clerical collars work beside people in turbans, or wearing yarmulkes. People wearing head coverings stand beside others wearing Crucifixes with that central goal of helping everyone to feel better. The truly international flavor of the Cleveland Clinic Hospitals truly reflect the best that can be attained by a world of wonderful people having differences, and yet, working together for a greater good; while still retaining their individual beliefs.

But what about the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, you may ask? What happened then when people tried to work together building a tower to Heaven? According to that tale, God stopped their work and gave them different languages, forcing them to abandon the project. The Tower of Babel has been used by many groups to justify not associating with others who are not of their kind. I would submit rather that it was simply the wrong reason (trying to make a name for themselves, rather than working for God and others) that got those people in trouble back then.

On the dark night before my father's life-or-death procedure was to transpire at Fairview, Dad and I were in serious need of prayer and reflection. I went down to the Hospital Chapel, and, passing by the Chapel's office, noticed someone sitting there. I went in and discovered that he was a Catholic Chaplain  We then engaged in conversation concerning many things, and particularly, my ailing father. In a kind of joking manner, I then asked him whether he might be willing to pray for a couple of Protestant Freemasons. With a chuckle, he then carefully asked whether that might be OK with my dad? When I assured him that would be wonderful, three people from wholly different faith traditions then met in Dad's room for prayer; providing an infinite expression of Christian love in an infinitely ecumenical setting.

Dad and I cannot say enough good about that Catholic Chaplain, or Fairview Hospital, or the doctors and nurses that work in the Cleveland Clinic System. In fact, even while Dad was still in intensive care, he continued to compose music. After his release, we supplied our doctor, as well as the Cleveland Clinic, with some new songs to sing!

The other day, a friend sold me an antique drum that had been used in the now-defunct Drum and Bugle Corps of Lakewood's Holy Grail Commandery of Knights Templar. Appearing to be nearly a century old, the drum speaks well to the traditions of people who were, and are, willing to put their personal religious and political differences aside, while working together for humanity's higher purposes. Echoing Christ's message that loving God and others sums up the laws of religion, that message, at least for me, shows the REAL essence of the Holy Grail.

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Volume 9, Issue 19, Posted 11:41 AM, 09.20.2013

The ADHD "Crisis"... Myth Or Reality? (Or Is There A Larger Question To Ponder?)

Yes, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a very real condition seen primarily in active boys who sometimes display short attention spans and/or hyperactive behavior. ADHD has been in the news quite a bit lately because more children are apparently being diagnosed or treated for suspected ADHD. Treatments for this condition have historically included prescription medications. The diagnosis of ADHD for children is normally arrived at through the input of a psychologist or a pediatrician.

Being a retired Special Education teacher, I've been involved with children having symptoms of this condition since serving as a Learning Disabilities tutor at Emerson School in the early '70's. At that time, Emerson was a junior high school, and special needs educational services were just beginning in the higher grades. Prior to that time, special educational services were based in the elementary grades, and were generally intended to be "pull-out," "as-needed," and "temporary" services. As research increased, it was discovered that special needs did not necessarily end in the 6th grade. Eventually, special educational services expanded into the junior high and high school years, and even beyond, as some so-called "special needs" simply did not go away with age.

The question of how to deal with students having "differences" has been around since schools began. Students having so-called "differences" have been labeled, re-labeled, and un-labeled over the years as various educational fads, political leadership, and classroom assistance programs have come and gone. In the 1970's, Public Law 94-142 (the Education of the Handicapped act) and other laws were passed to ensure that special-needs children would receive a "free and appropriate" public education in the "least restrictive environment" possible in order to suit their needs.

For about 250 years now, the American educational system has primarily been a come in, sit down, shut up, we-know-what's-best-for-you, pencil-and-paper, tri-modality system of learning. You listened, you read, and you wrote, and that's pretty much the way it was, and all too often, that's the way it continues to be in many schools. It's no accident that so many on-line, private, and charter schools have sprung up because one-size-fits-all learning never seems to fit everyone.

The traditional system of learning does work...for some students, but for many others, it has not worked well at all. The number of drop-outs in high school and college continues to be staggering. An incredibly high percentage of individuals incarcerated in America's prison systems have either failed in schools or have been found to have some form of special needs that might not have been addressed when they were younger.

The "one-size-fits-all," "go-through-the-same-cattle-chute" philosophy of American education was based on the utopian supposition that everybody is capable of experiencing success at the same time in every subject offered in the public schools. Higher and higher educational standards have been called for by politicians from both parties, and a huge testing industry has developed in order to insure that students are meeting those higher standards. Diversity in education somehow became a dirty word in the last 20 years or so, as America's students have been pushed towards increasingly uniform academic education, often at the expense of learning about the trades and the fine arts.

The cry for "higher standards" was very much a bi-partisan political push in the 1990's, resulting in a "No Child Left Behind" law that mandated testing and continuous improvements in the public schools. The failure of that law is patently obvious these days, as a vast majority of the states have sought waivers from the standards that the law had demanded. There were several problems: While the intent of that law may have been meritorious, funding for schools continued to lag behind, and there was a huge failure to address the issue of many students who were simply unable to respond to the social, educational, and political pressures that were placed on them. Intending to increase our competition with the world, standards-based advocates tended to forget that much of the world allows educational specialization (directing students into diverse interest areas) earlier in life. Ironically, those high academic standards achieved by many countries only seem to be higher because many of their students have already entered vocational or specialty schools.

These days, the "Common Core" movement is the latest attempt by the federal government to raise academic standards ever higher to a nationwide standard of uniformity, while offering financial incentives for states that move in that direction. While the backers of "Common Core" school standards may mean well, there still remains the issue of what to do with individual students who fail to meet those standards.

Can all students learn? Of course they can. Common sense, however, will tell you that students are not always ready to learn the same thing at the same moment in their lives. There's something called "developmental readiness," as well as the maturity factor, and then you have differing abilities and interest levels. Were you, for example, a genius in all of your subjects in school? Neither was I. Back in the old days, you were taught to master something before you went on to the next challenge. These days, more and more subjects are being covered for content rather than mastery. Teachers are often being forced to teach to the tests, rather than being able take the time to respond to the interests and abilities of each child.

In the case of those ADHD diagnoses, there would be an honest question in my own mind as to whether more kids need diagnosing, or should MORE SCHOOLS be "diagnosed" for failing to respond to the needs of a diverse population? Students are indeed NOT all the same. Some are attentive. Others are easily distracted. Some can listen well. Others? Not so well. Some can write or sing well, and others, not so well.

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Volume 9, Issue 17, Posted 11:29 AM, 08.21.2013

Our Century City...Living In Lakewood 50 Years Ago. Encouragement! A Tribute To An Unknown Harding Teacher

Going through those old papers...

You know the drill. Around your home somewhere, you probably have a drawer or two (or three) filled with them. It's amazing how quickly papers accumulate, is it not? Old credit card receipts, medical records, and phone bills mix in with old business cards and household warranties...Before long, those drawers won't close, and it's clean-out time.

I've been doing that for awhile now. My dear late mom saved everything she thought might EVER be needed for reference purposes. She learned a valuable lesson about that when a milkman claimed that we'd not been paying our milk bill. Fortunately, she'd sent checks in for payment, and had the canceled checks to prove it. She taught me that if I kept my receipts, I'd never have to worry about those kinds of problems later on.

Mom kept all my school stuff too. I came across all of that not long ago. Want to see my photos? What age would you like to see? I have them all. Want to see my grades, on the other hand? Well, never you mind about those. If you've read my columns now for any length of time, you'll know that, essentially, I was at war with school since my first day of class.

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Volume 9, Issue 15, Posted 10:38 PM, 07.24.2013

The Civil War...150 Years Ago...Gettysburg: July 1-3, 1863... 150 Years Ago, Or Only Yesterday?

So much has been written about the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath, (including President Lincoln's famous address) that, at first glance, one might wonder why we continue to be fascinated by that epic struggle. Many, if not most 8th graders in this part of the country, have visited that battlefield either on the way to, or from, their visit to Washington D.C.. Hundreds of school buses enter and exit those bus loops around the Gettysburg Visitors Center each year, giving students the opportunity to view the iconic Cyclorama painting by Philippoteaux, and to purchase different souvenirs. In all of that hustle and bustle, students could be excused for missing a few aspects concerning that sacred ground.

For sacred it is, in so many sublime ways.

As far as I have been able to determine, I may have had ancestors on both sides of that historic struggle at Gettysburg. That was because during WWII, Dad had been stationed in the South, where he met the prettiest Southern Belle that Alabama had to offer, (or at least he thought so!) and I certainly agreed with him. Mom and Dad kept on fighting the Civil War, good-naturedly, on and off for the next 59 years, but they made a really good team otherwise, and, of course, they also made me! As a "Sou-northerner", I've always been fascinated with the Civil War, and the stories behind the stories of that sublime conflict.

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Volume 9, Issue 14, Posted 8:59 AM, 07.10.2013

Ohio, 170 Years Ago...The Tragic Time Of High Sun And Thunder Moon...July 20, 1843

Some are unaware of their secret. Others learned their secret at an early age, but by now have either forgotten or repressed it. Some know it well, but couldn't care less. Some feel that revealing their secret would serve no purpose, or that it would be irrelevant in today's world. With the passage of time, some are even uncertain as to whether their secret is true or not.

Still, there are those who remember and honor their secret secretly. Sometimes, you can tell who carries their secret by subtle signs. Not wearing a watch could be such a sign. Yes, there are those among us who do not measure time as others do. There are those among us who still look to the skies, the lakes, the rivers, and the hills to mark passage of the natural cycles of life, because the strict precision measurement of western time simply does not fit into their life's cultural or spiritual paradigm. Those would be the ones who quietly (and among themselves of course) measure their lives in "Indian time." They would be the ones who still walk on what is known as "the Red Road."

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Volume 9, Issue 13, Posted 11:03 PM, 06.26.2013

Our Centennial City...The Civil War, 150 Years Ago...From These Honored Dead... (A Memorial Day Reflection)

"...from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."   Abraham Lincoln 1863

With these last words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, given at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863, and only a scant four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Lincoln established a goal for a national post-war reconciliation while at the same time acknowledging that the American Civil War was not yet concluded. 

Most people, including a great percentage of our nation's civilian and military leadership, had not envisioned the Civil War to last very long. At the war's first significant battle at Manassas (also called Bull Run), a fair amount of Washington D.C.'s glitterati had even come out to watch the battle with their picnics and carriages while dressed in their Sunday finery. Only when the battle had turned to favor the Confederates did their carriages (and the Union army) race back to Washington D.C. in disarray. 

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 11:51 AM, 06.13.2013

Guilty Til Proven Innocent Premieres Locally April 28

A documentary film, Guilty Til Proven Innocent, will have its world premier screening April 28 at the Capital Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland. The film should be of interest to Lakewoodites as nearly one-third of the footage is from various Lakewood City Council sessions. The legislative body deliberated and ultimately passed an ordinance in 2008 banning Pit Bull dogs within city limits.

The 83-minute film, produced and directed by former Lakewood resident Jeff Theman, and edited by another former Lakewoodite, Bryan Porter, “examines the controversy of Breed Specific Legislation, chronicles Ohio’s breed specific law from its inception, and uncovers the truth behind the misleading information of the most misunderstood dog…the Pit Bull,” according to the film’s promotional material.

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 9:37 PM, 04.16.2013

Our Centennial City...Lakewood 50 years ago... School Movie Day! (Morals, Manners, And A-Bomb Mayhem!)

OK, we've all been to school and know how classes work. Whether the teacher initiates a discussion on a lesson or there's classwork to be done, the thing about schools is that they want you, the student, to be engaged in the learning process. That was pretty much the way schools worked, except for those of us who nodded off, daydreamed, or were otherwise occupied with passing notes to the object of our desire sitting just a few seats away. Of course, once in awhile, the teacher would pick up such a note from some poor unfortunate writer, and then? Let's just say that the outcome was not pretty.

There were, however, three important school days when our spirits were inevitably brightened by circumstances beyond our control. One of those days involved heavy snow and the announcement that our school district was closed (which, in Lakewood's case, was all too seldom!).  Another favorite day was when we walked into the classroom and saw a substitute teacher. Immediately, that circumstance ensured that a new, often surprising, and utterly interesting classroom dynamic would come into play. The third day, of course, was "Movie Day"!

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 9:37 PM, 04.16.2013

A Passion Play Concern... (Another Easter Message)

I once again had the opportunity to witness an Easter "Passion Play" a few weeks ago. Like so many times before, I stunned some of my friends by refusing to go and see it. I have consistently refused to witness yet another replay of that dark, morbid, tragic, and yet timelessly hopeful story of the Easter message.

If you were thinking that Christmas was the most important time in the Christian year, think again. For Christians, the message of Easter was what totally defined the birth of Christianity. Indeed, for many years, the celebration of Christ's (birth) Mass did not receive the celebratory acclaim that it does today. Easter, on the other hand, was when, according to Scripture, the Son of Man defeated death on the cross, and the Christian message of salvation through a belief in Christ started to spread around the world.

Easter, at once a dark and brooding, and yet- infinitely hopeful story, tells the tale of the betrayal of Jesus in Jerusalem (by one of his disciples) into the hands of the high priests. Jesus was then delivered to the Roman Prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who questioned Him and ultimately brought Him before a crowd, along with another man, and offered to pardon one of them. The crowd chose to save the other guy, and Jesus was then crucified along with two others on the hill called Golgotha on the afternoon of what today is called Good Friday. On Sunday, His tomb was found to be empty, and a living Jesus reportedly appeared to His followers before ascending to Heaven; leaving them with messages of hope and salvation.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:25 PM, 04.02.2013

Our Centennial City... Luddite Lakewood...Or Not? Lakewood's 21st Century Urban Vision... What Exactly?

Urban planners, professional or otherwise, are always looking for ways to improve cities. Change, after all, is one constant gift that keeps on giving. As we turn the page on another year of the 21st Century, Lakewoodites can once again reflect on our historical and future place in the scheme of this bustling and rapidly expanding throng of humankind that we call Earth.

As with many cities, there are things that we have done very well to position ourselves in a positive light for the future. At the same time, there are things that perhaps we might have done better over the years. This column takes an admittedly opinionated historical look at the state of our centennial city, by one who has lived here for more than half of that time.

Being the first suburb west of Cleveland, the Rockport Township/Lakewood area was ideally suited for homes and recreational activities. The wealthy developed the Clifton Park area as a 19th century resort, and even built their own private railroad in order to get there. For the better part of the 19th century, Lakewood was also a fruit and farm paradise. Orchards, farms and grape vineyards mixed with a lakeside polo field, while Lakewood resident Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland and his estate (located at present-day Bunts and Detroit) helped to develop the nation's agricultural technology.

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Volume 9, Issue 6, Posted 9:18 PM, 03.19.2013

Another World War II Story... The OTHER Veterans

This column is dedicated to my father:
Robert R. Rice, 336th Band, CWS, United States Army 1941-1945 

My father is a war veteran, a retired Lakewood teacher, a school band and orchestra director, and co-composer of "The American Veterans Last Salute March," showcased and conducted by Dad in 2011 with the American Festival Pops Orchestra in Manassas, Virginia. He recently got a call from someone who wanted to interview him about his WWII experiences. He has received a number of those in the last few years, as students and archivers frequently want to document those pivotal times in American history. Like all soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, WACS, WAVES, and merchant marine sailors who participated in that superhuman effort to defeat what was then the greatest threat to democratic ideals that had ever been assembled, Dad has looked at his own participation in those events quite simply:

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Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 9:45 PM, 03.05.2013

Support The School Levy? YES! By Gary, With Robert Rice

Timing is everything, or so they say.

You know what people say about the truth being stranger than fiction sometimes?

I had JUST completed a twelve hundred word column, expressing in the strongest possible terms, why I felt that it was high time that we took a hard look at doing something about those supposedly "temporary" modular classrooms currently in use across the street from Lakewood High School. For six years, going on seven now, our students have needed to cross busy Franklin Blvd. several times daily, in all kinds of weather, in order to complete their high school education. Both Dad and I have felt for a long time that having so many students out of the building, multiple times during a school day, continues to be a very serious concern. Thinking of possible short term solutions, we even wondered whether Franklin Blvd. could be closed off during the school day, or whether an enclosed over-the-street walkway might improve the immediate situation? Hopefully, our school district is taking a hard second look at all aspects of school safety and security, particularly these days.

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Volume 9, Issue 4, Posted 9:31 PM, 02.19.2013

Black History Month In Lakewood: A Letter To Lakewood, By Way Of Birmingham

It does not seem possible that fifty years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King and some of his associates were incarcerated in the Birmingham (Alabama) city jail for civil disobedience actions relating to the Civil Rights Movement in the spring of 1963.

While in the Birmingham jail, King composed an open letter in response to some pastors who had questioned the necessity for King's methods of non-violent civil disobedience. In that letter, King essentially laid out a thoughtful rationale for his actions, and also provided inspirational words that have guided many of my own thoughts and actions ever since I first read them.

That letter should be required reading every year in every school in this country.

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Volume 9, Issue 3, Posted 9:58 PM, 02.05.2013

The Massacre Of The Holy Innocents Matthew 2: 16-18

"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

This column is dedicated to all the victims of school violence.

According to the book of Matthew, Joseph was forewarned in a dream to take his family from Bethlehem to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. What reportedly followed was a massacre ordered by Herod of all boys under two years old in Bethlehem. While questions remain as to whether the massacre actually occurred (due to lack of corroboration from other sources), it is nonetheless recorded that, at some point in his reign, Herod may have even killed his own sons. As Bethlehem had a population of about a thousand souls at that time, estimates place the possible child death total of such a massacre at about twenty innocent souls.

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Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 9:23 PM, 01.22.2013

Lakewood's Antiques... Those Old Rocking Chairs.... (A child learns about life's questions, and the costs of war)

Every couple of years, I face the same question concerning two old rocking chairs on our front porch.

Paint 'em and patch 'em... or pitch 'em?

Frankly, one might think that would be an easy question to answer. These two rockers are not in the best of shape. They could probably use a good re-caning soon, and they're just, well, getting a bit older. (just like yours truly) Having virtually no monetary value, they could certainly be easily replaced with a couple of nice new rockers for a relatively modest sum.

Practically speaking, it's probably getting about time to pitch 'em out to the tree lawn.

Problem is, I'm just not that "practical" yet. At least, not in this case.

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Volume 9, Issue 1, Posted 9:24 PM, 01.08.2013

The Story Of Dirty Town Guitar & Amps

No question about it, our own Lakewood has been a hotbed of music, musicians, and musical development, ever since we hung out our city's shingle over a century ago. Those ubiquitous bars and night spots spilled music into Lakewood's red brick streets since well before you and I were born, and that music mixed and mingled with the numerous high church organs and carillon bells that marked the evening Angelus chimes and Midnight Masses. The schools too, have long echoed Lakewood's eclectic musical experiences with a long and continuing tradition of instrumental and vocal music excellence. The list of Lakewood's musical educators, performers, and inventors is a long one indeed. From the legendary baton of Lakewood Schools Director Arthur Jewell, to performers and entertainers like bandleader Sammy Kaye, steel guitarist Alvino Rey, (Alvin McBurney) legendary guitar and electronics designer Dan Armstrong, (who had been one of Mr. Jewell's students) to so many others, Lakewood has experienced, supported, and developed more musical talents than I could ever list in one column. Local performance venues like Mahall's, The Phantasy, and the Winchester, continue to support our effusive local music scene. Lakewood retail music establishments like Marrell's Musical Instrument Repair, Educators Music, and Vance Music Studios, also all contribute to the ever-present-and-mighty musical pulse of this city.

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Volume 8, Issue 25, Posted 10:01 PM, 12.11.2012

The Pew

If church pews could only talk...

Ever think about all of the church pews in Lakewood? It seems as if they might soon be on the endangered species list. There once were plenty more of them than there are now. It seems somehow, in the last 20 years or so, that both churches and their pews have fallen on hard times. Even with those churches that have not closed around here, their trustees and other powers-that-be have been taking a hard look at the hard surfaces of those well-worn wooden pews. The latest church fad seems to be to replace those old pews with movable chairs so that sanctuaries can occasionally be re-purposed easily, and also so that people will feel more comfy, welcome, and private, with those padded seats and their fortress-like arm rests.

Churches these days seem to forget that the original purpose of a hardwood pew was twofold. First of all, you weren't supposed to feel too comfy in church. You were there to reconcile with a loving God. Your creature comforts were not the priority for that hour of worship. As well, pews were intended to be communal and not individual, as chairs are. You were supposed to share your pew, as well as your faith, with other parishioners. Chairs can bring to mind individualism and separation. Pews, on the other hand, symbolize unity, and communion with others.

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Volume 8, Issue 24, Posted 1:17 PM, 11.28.2012

The Ever-Blowing Winds of Change

Having just been walloped by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, I thought that when we finished chasing down our garbage cans and recovering our porch furniture, we might remember one of Lakewood's other major storms from the last century with this updated reprint of a classic "Pulse of the City" column.

A while back, I wrote a column about Lakewood in 1969. I suppose that year set the stage for many of the changes we are living with today. In many ways, that year changed everything. Just about anyone alive at that time knew it too. Much of what is remembered as "the '60s decade" transpired in that year, or soon would. It was also quite a time for this young writer, who was about to graduate from Lakewood High School.

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Volume 8, Issue 23, Posted 10:37 AM, 11.14.2012

Republican? Democrat? Don't Give-A-Crat? I'm Gary Rice, And I Approve This Message!

By now, you've heard the above expression more than a few times, have you not? (Although. not with MY name in that phrase, of course.) If circumstances had been a bit different, you MIGHT have heard the above expression as written, however. After I retired from the classroom in 2005, I seriously considered running for political office in Lakewood.

When I graduated from college in 1973, my degree was in Political Science. Back then, there was a feeling that change was in the air in America. The Vietnam War was winding down. Issues concerning civil rights were entering the mainstream of America, and there was a real hope in some parts of our country that things were going to get better. The 1960s taught America that everyday people did indeed have a voice in historical events, especially with the advent of evening television newscasts. The world was changing. With the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal, there was a widespread feeling that common people could make a difference in our country and that, ultimately, right would indeed prevail.

Of course, that was before the gasoline and oil crisis hit the world, as well as other crises too numerous to mention here. Life's trials continued, as they always do, but at least we had the Bee Gee's (1977) "Stayin' Alive" Disco song to dance to and cheer us up. Steppenwolf's "Monster" (1969) had already replaced the Youngblood's (1967) recording of "Get Together" and then was replaced by The Who's (1971) "We Won't Get Fooled Again" (that said something about meeting the new boss, who was same as the old boss). These days, I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn't bring "Monster" back. Listen to those lyrics and see whether you agree with me.

Comparing America's political system to a huge out-of-control political monster does not require much imagination, at least to many people nowadays. The seemingly endless sums of money spent by political action groups, as well as by the two principal political parties in this country, all but insure that everyday people have to wonder just how much of a say they have anymore in the American governmental process. Still, it would be a mistake to paint that political process with too broad of a black brush. There are still everyday people who can and do make a difference in government and in life every single day. You, too, can be one of those people. All you need to do...is vote.

The phrase "All politics is local" has been attributed to former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, meaning that politics begins with the interests of a community. Here in Lakewood, and in other communities across America, politicians who aspire to local or regional office must demonstrate a responsiveness to their electorate. Indeed, that responsiveness can insure a long political life for that politician. There are many Americans who might not share the political viewpoints of an incumbent, but may otherwise appreciate the services provided by that politician's offices. Politics IS local, make no mistake about it, thanks to that incredible power that you have....the power of the vote.

This, of course, is a presidential election year. As usual, we are shocked (or at least pretend to be) by all the negative rhetoric from those ubiquitous campaign ads (many of which are not generated by the politicians themselves, but by those independent political action committees--PACS). Negative "politikin'" is not a new thing either. Collectors of political memorabilia can show you negative political stuff going back to the early days of our country.

The good thing about all of this, of course, is that you and I do still have our vote. Although our votes do not directly elect a president (the Electoral College does that), we do vote for the electors who will do that job. A presidential election does, at least, generate a relatively fair voter turnout. To be frank, under the Electoral College system, we can pretty accurately predict how most states will go, even before an election. There are only a handful of "swing" states that generally will decide a presidential election, and Ohio is one of those states, which is why you are presently being inundated with all of this campaign stuff. Also, quite frankly, many Americans apparently want very little to do with the political process as it is today. A presidential election brings out the most voters in our country and yet, in 2004, only about 61% of Americans who could vote did so! More than 80 million eligible American voters reportedly stayed home in the last presidential election.

It probably would be easy to not blame them for doing so either...except that when we don't vote, we give whomever does vote more power than they really should have. Voting is indeed a precious freedom and responsibility. Not to vote is to walk away from the democratic process, and give away your power and responsibility to someone else. As much money as the PACS throw at an election, as much blather as the politicians spout, they can't buy you or your vote in the privacy of the ballot box. No one knows how you vote, and no one WILL EVER know, unless you tell them!

Look, you might be a conservative, a liberal, or somewhere in between. You might not have even voted in a while. You may even be sick to your stomach with all the garbage on TV about politics these days. Still, if you do vote, IF YOU DO VOTE, you WILL be among America's elite "secret" decision makers. You will then have MORE political power in your hands than the millions of Americans who stay home and do nothing but bellyache on election day. You've heard this proverb a thousand times: "If you're not part of the solution, then you're a part of the problem." 'Nuff said.

Please vote. I'm Gary Rice, and I approve this message.

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Volume 8, Issue 21, Posted 5:44 PM, 10.16.2012

L.A.K.E.W.O.O.D.- A Proposal For Our Times

When my family moved to Lakewood in the 1950s, we were welcomed by many people. There was even a "Welcome Wagon" type of experience, where we were greeted by a wonderful lady bearing a basket and coupons from neighborhood merchants. The church and school system both took us in with equally welcoming gestures, and people on our street quickly became our friends and good neighbors.

That was then. These days, baskets can be hard to find. Especially when young people want to play outdoor basketball, although I do understand that some of that may finally be coming back to more places in our city.

Getting back to my topic, I wonder whether new arrivals to our community are able to receive anything like the welcoming my family experienced? While it seems many new businesses are being welcomed along Detroit Avenue these days, I cannot help but wonder whether we are welcoming new Lakewood residents with equal enthusiasm. While a solid business district is a good sign of a healthy community, I have not heard much about how we, as a community, welcome our new residents. True, that welcome is there if those new residents reach out to our fine community resources and organizations, but exactly how much do we, as a community, reach out to them? 

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Volume 8, Issue 20, Posted 8:58 PM, 10.02.2012

Our Century City...Lakewood's Antiques... Sucking It All Up! A 1912 Era Hand-Pump Vacuum Cleaner

When the final history of this world is written, the period from 1865 to 1914 will arguably be one of the greatest times of invention and discovery for the human race. True, life is a continuum, and many of the inventions that first saw the light of day during that time period had roots even earlier. Still, just think about it ....Beginning perhaps with the first practical applications of electricity, that era also saw the rise of the telephone, electric lighting, cameras, bicycles, automobiles, sewing machines, dictation machines, and recording devices. And of course with advances in communication came advances in the arts and sciences, medicine, and also, unfortunately, weaponry. For the purpose of this column, we note that this era also marked the dawn of the home vacuum cleaner.

Indeed there were so many inventions back then that by the end of the nineteenth century, there was a feeling that "everything that can be invented has been invented." Although an American Commissioner of Patents was credited for the quote, research seems to indicate that it may not have been said by him at all. Nonetheless, that expression appears to have been a popular sentiment at the time, and even reportedly appeared in the Punch/London Charivari periodical in 1899, expressed as a joke.

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Volume 8, Issue 19, Posted 8:33 PM, 09.18.2012

Lakewood's Treasures... Lakewood Hospital's Professionals... When In Need? Friends Indeed! Gary, with Bob Rice

Over the years, I've discovered that talking about hospitals or medical care is a great deal like talking about politics or cats. It's been my experience that people have very strong opinions about all four topics, and it seems that the older I get, the more I hear about the topics of hospitals, medical care and politics. As far as cats go? Well, I would suspect that cats and their owners would regard their topic to have been settled once and for always. Anyone not sharing their point of view? Pity them.

In all candor, I have, over the years, heard from a few people who said that they did not have the best experience at Lakewood Hospital. In the case of my family, we've needed that facility many times in the past, and our experiences, while not always perfect, have generally been very good ones.

With any hospital or medical experience, there's a boatload of anxiety involved. Families are, at times, uncertain what to do...or where to turn. Ever-changing insurance issues can also necessitate patients needing to use doctors or hospitals that are a part of their particular plan, and if their insurance changes? They may then need to consider getting other medical providers. All too often these days, people may find themselves without medical insurance at all, so those situations can also come into play. In the face of all these variables, it's little wonder that a trip to the hospital can be stressful.

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Volume 8, Issue 18, Posted 9:58 PM, 09.05.2012

Lakewood, A Half-Century Ago... Models Of Yesteryear...

No Lakewood, this column will not be about those pretty lady models in those centerfold periodicals that came out back in the 1950's and '60's. (You know, the ones that teen-aged boys ogled behind the garage, supposedly safe from the prying eyes of the adult world.) Sorry, but the Lakewood Observer does not come in a plain brown wrapper. This periodical does not cater to those sorts of "observers."

Just as an aside, we kids once caught an uncle who (apparently unaware of the limitations of photography) was trying to "angle" a racy photo in order to attempt to get a peek under a bikini. Of course, that did not work out too well for his embarrassed and dirty old mind!

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Volume 8, Issue 17, Posted 11:00 PM, 08.21.2012

Saving The Churches... Did We? Can We? Will We?

I've written a number of columns on these pages about churches, as well as about my own faith experiences. My own religious journey was combined with the crisis of being a sickly child, frequently in and out of hospitals. As Dad was a church choral director, we attended a variety of churches. My denominational loyalties were therefore virtually non-existent, although my personal faith continued to be strong.

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Volume 8, Issue 16, Posted 10:20 PM, 08.07.2012

The American Experience... Woody's Mandolin

Happy 100th Birthday, Woody!

Woody who? Which Woody? Well, the person in question would be Mr. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, although I have it on pretty good authority that Woody would probably have taken serious umbrage if anyone would have called him "mister."

Woody was a man who often defied categorization and had a universal attraction to the whole human family. When he was hospitalized, he was reportedly asked what his religious preference was. His response, supposedly, was "all." When the registrar pressed for something more specific, Woody is said to have told her to list either "all"... or "none."

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Volume 8, Issue 15, Posted 10:55 PM, 07.24.2012

Life in Lakewood, 50 Years Ago... Drums and Sons... (A Tribute To Declan Simon)

It's well-known among my readers that every now and then, I like to do a column about music. If you know ANYTHING about Gary Rice, you know that a great portion of my life has been connected to the world of professional music. This particular tale goes back fifty years, and begins with a pair of drums.

The drums that you see in the photo are Ludwig™  400  model snare drums. At the time, those drums were truly considered to be among the best snare drums in the world. Turns out, all of you have heard that kind of drum on more songs than you could probably count. That type of drum was an in-demand piece of studio equipment, providing that essential back-beat and distinctive "rifle-crack" sound that defined the essentials of modern Rock and Jazz music. That professional-level drum sold for quite a bit of money back then, and as a result, was not always purchased by parents as a student's first drum.

In the early sixties, these two drums were purchased at Educators Music in Lakewood by two sets of caring parents who had sublime faith in the talents of their two young sons, both of whom were beginning their journey in the world of music.

This column tells the remarkable story of those drums... and those sons.

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Volume 8, Issue 14, Posted 10:02 PM, 07.10.2012

Just Another Gary Rice story...

This story, that happened on June 14th, is like so many of my stories. It's almost too strange to be true.

I was sitting on my front porch steps relaxing this afternoon, having just finished scrubbing and rinsing my front porch walls, floor, porch door, furniture, and windows, when I engaged my neighbor in conversation. As the City had come down the other side of the street recently and cited several residents for one problem or another, I wanted our home to have good "curb appeal," especially if someone from the government happened to come by to look at our side of the street. Having just discussed these aspects with my neighbor, he looked up and said, "Look, it's the President!" Thinking him to be joking, I turned around, feeling very much like a sucker...

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Volume 8, Issue 14, Posted 10:02 PM, 07.10.2012

At My Grandfather's Knee...(Ancestry Reflections)

"avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain." Apostle Paul- Titus 3:9

With a bi-racial American President currently in office, the discussion of race in American life has continued to be of interest in the news and, of course, in the political world.

The other day, I happened to be listening to one of those "political" radio stations where the commentator was harping about a politician who had apparently claimed to have had a bit of Native American ancestry way back in her family, and who had also supposedly identified herself as being other than "White" on some form somewhere. The premise of the commentator's point, seemingly, was that the woman might have once used a part of her ethnicity in order to be "favored" in some way. How different that type of thinking is from the days of our not-so-far-back past, when so many minority Americans experienced very different reactions regarding their racial make-up.

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Volume 8, Issue 13, Posted 11:38 PM, 06.26.2012

Lakewood, A Half-Century Ago... Let's DANCE!... 1962-2012 A Time To Mourn And A Time To Dance...Ecclesiastes 3:4

In the '50's and early '60's, a great deal of popular music involved audience participation in the form of dancing... and dance, we did. Music and dancing have been intertwined going back to the Middle Ages and probably before that, but long before the time when people began to sit like robots in cavernous amphitheaters, screaming like banshees at grown men in women's clothing and hairstyles- playing out-of-tune guitars through refrigerator-sized amplification, we actually danced in our high school gyms and church basements. We listened to harmonized bands in matching outfits, having infectious rhythms and beautiful music that we could, and did, dance to.

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Volume 8, Issue 12, Posted 9:10 PM, 06.12.2012

Guitars For Vets™ Rocks The Screaming Rooster!

On Friday, May 18th, the Cleveland Chapter of Guitars for Vets™ held a toe-tapping fund raiser at the Screaming Rooster. Guitars for Vets™ is dedicated to getting guitars into the hands of deserving veterans. The program provides ten free lessons on a loaner guitar. At the conclusion of that period of time, and upon graduation from the program, the veteran will receive a new guitar. The fundraiser at Lakewood's beautiful Screaming Rooster provided a raffle of various items donated to the organization from numerous community groups, as well as the opportunity to make contributions to a worthy cause.

For more information, contact G4VCleveland@gmail.com.

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Volume 8, Issue 11, Posted 10:52 PM, 05.30.2012

Lakewood's people...Those among us.... JT3! Dr. John Tamilio III, Your Lakewood Observer Religion Contributor

Pilgrim Congregational (Tremont) United Church of Christ Pastor and Doctor John Tamilio III, otherwise known in the Cleveland area and on the Eastern Seaboard as "JT3," is one of those people who strive to confront our world as it is, and in that confrontation dares to try to effect change for the better. If you read the Lakewood Observer regularly, you know that Pastor John and his family are Lakewood residents, and that his religion column has often graced these pages.
The track record for those wanting to change our world "for the better" has not been very good. In the Christian tradition, that kind of affirmative, non-violent, and loving change has often been met with ridicule, rejection, and even three nails and a cross on that ubiquitous hill called Calvary. 

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:26 PM, 05.15.2012

Lakewood Celebrates 35th Annual Volunteer Recognition With Gala Breakfast At Brennans Banquet Center

Hundreds of Lakewood's volunteers were honored by Lakewood's Department of Human Services at the city's 35th annual special recognition celebration at Brennans Banquet Center on Thursday, April 26th. These dedicated volunteers help our city in virtually every arena of service, from providing community meals to working with the Office on Aging. They also provide early childhood assistance, youth assistance, health and wellness activities, and animal shelter assistance--as well as many other kinds of service to our community.

Volunteer Services Supervisor Barry Wemyss smoothly moderated the stellar celebration, with keynote remarks offered by Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers, who also presented the service awards. Other city officials in attendance included two members of City Council, David Anderson and Shawn Juris. Senior Center Manager Dee-Dee MacNamee-Gold and Lakewood's Director of Human Services, Dorothy Buckon, helped to coordinate the event, with Cross Point Church Pastor Todd Calaway providing the invocation. Memorable big band jazz entertainment was provided by the Lakewood High School Jazz Band, under the inspiring direction of Brian Maskow, while volunteers from Lakewood's Gold Coast Follies expertly danced the morning away.

Persons interested in participating in Lakewood's outstanding volunteer traditions are invited to call Barry Wemyss at Lakewood's Senior Center West at 216-521-1515.

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Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 9:55 PM, 05.01.2012

Lakewood Kid Games...A Half-Century Ago...

Let's face it, Lakewood kids have never had it easy as far as finding places to play. While we've always had plenty of residential areas to live in, finding safe places where kids can be kids in a city like ours is a perpetual challenge.

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Volume 8, Issue 8, Posted 9:41 PM, 04.17.2012

Racism? Prejudice? Bullying? In Lakewood? Perhaps we need to talk...

1 John 1:8

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us"

This verse from the Bible reminds us that in the Christian tradition, the Lenten period is a time of soul-searching and repentance. As I write these words, the time of Lent is concluding, and as you read these words, the time of Easter will have begun. Easter, for the Christian world, marks the transition from repentance to a time of renewal.

Whether or not you are a Christian, if you are reading this you are probably a Lakewoodite. Maybe it's time for a little secular repentance and renewal for all of us, particularly regarding the topics of racism, prejudice, and bullying.

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Volume 8, Issue 7, Posted 9:57 PM, 04.03.2012

DENNIS! Thank You...

Dear Congressman Kucinich:

This is a difficult letter to write, and one that I hoped I would have never have to write. After eight terms serving this area as our Congressman, and even in this election garnering the majority of votes in Cuyahoga County, you are now being effectively forced from office by downstate politicians who combined your district with that of well-known fifteen-term Toledo-area Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

If you are feeling any personal outrage about this, please know that that feeling is shared by many of your constituents. Not that Marcy Kaptur isn't a hardworking and highly effective representative in Congress. She certainly is. As time passes, I have no doubt that she'll be a very effective spokesperson for our county, just as she has been for the constituents in her district. Of course, now she must run in November against Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, also nationally known as "Joe the Plumber"--the well-spoken "guy-on-the-street" who faced off with Barack Obama in that now-historic interchange.

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 9:13 PM, 03.20.2012

The Civil War...150 Years Ago... Ohio's Johnson's Island Prison, And The Tale Of The Magnificent U.S.S. Michigan... (The ship that saved our state!)

When talk around a Civil War reenactment campfire turns to ships and the sea, often the discussion turns to that first great battle between two ironclad vessels at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Union vessel was the U.S.S. Monitor, nicknamed the "Cheesebox on a raft." The Confederate vessel was the C.S.S. Virginia, formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack, a union warship that had been burned to the waterline and captured by the Confederates and converted into an ironclad.

That first battle between iron ships ended as a virtual draw. At that point in the campfire conversation, Civil War buffs will sometimes conclude that these were the first two iron ships built, but that would be a very erroneous conclusion. The first American iron warship was the U.S.S. Michigan, and she had been launched in 1843, fully 20 years before the first battle between iron ships was waged.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 10:02 PM, 02.21.2012

The Civil War....150 years ago... A Pilgrimage To Gettysburg...

It's not very much of a fence, as fences go...It's not even waist-high in many places. It's simply a low line of rocks, piled along the edge of a country field. One could easily hop over it in many places, and indeed, many did exactly that--at a critical time in our nation's history. For this particular fence marked the grand battle line of the Army of the Potomac on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (from July 1-3, 1863).

On that third day of battle, from out of the woods across that field came a mile-long line of the Army of Northern Virginia. Frustrated by being turned back on both flanks in the previous two days' fighting, a decision was made by Southern General Robert E. Lee to send that army directly across that open field and take the Union position at all costs.

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Volume 8, Issue 3, Posted 9:45 PM, 02.07.2012

Our Local Colleges And Universities- Keys To The Future!

There's no doubt about it, college does not come cheap, and, truth be told, for a young person to hope for a good livelihood he or she will probably need to complete some college studies or receive training in a good vocational school. To many Americans, that means trying to get their children into what they perceive to be a "top-tier" school of higher education. Even with whatever scholarships might be available, those schools often mean thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, along with thousands of dollars for student loans and room-and-board fees. Frankly, I just don't think that kind of expense account works for all of us.

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Volume 7, Issue 25, Posted 12:10 AM, 12.14.2011

Gary's Arrival At Geezerdom... (Bring it ON!)

Well, it came in the mail today. Here it is, a week to go before my 60th birthday, and somehow they knew. Of course, conspiracy theorists would probably opine that the state knows everything anyway. I suppose they must, because it came in the same mailbox as those uninvited tax forms come in every January.
(Then, too, this is probably way more information than you need to "digest," but it came with a "regularity" that I'm not feeling as often as I used to feel, either.)

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Volume 7, Issue 23, Posted 4:43 PM, 11.15.2011

Planning Commission Defers Decision On McDonald�s Development

On Oct. 19, the Lakewood Planning Commission convened a special session for the pending McDonald’s development proposal for the Detroit Theater property.

On the agenda was McDonald’s request seeking the merger of two vacant parcels of land currently zoned for residential use (being the south 70 feet of the subject parcel) into one tax lo,t as an ingredient for its desire to obtain a conditional-use permit from the city to allow for an accessory parking lot in a residential district.

Without this necessary conditional-use approval for the south 70 feet (which also includes a portion of the proposed drive-thru), the McDonald’s development would already be a done deal and would have proceeded much more unimpeded without this additional piece of oversight from our fellow citizens on the Lakewood Planning Commission.

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Volume 7, Issue 22, Posted 1:17 PM, 11.01.2011


Wow, some say this is "Church as it ought to be." Others say, "Hmmm, a church service for a cause?" Well, yes and yes. U2charist is a Christian worship service using poetry and visuals AND the music of U2! It will be a blast, a comfort, a shared reality with a world (and our corner of it) which is hungry.

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Volume 7, Issue 21, Posted 7:12 PM, 10.19.2011

Our Lakewood Public Schools...Something For Everyone?

The past decade or so has really brought the issue of American education to the forefront, has it not? Our public schools around the country have been pushing for higher and higher academic standards, as more parents, business leaders, and others compare American academic achievement with the world around us. About a decade ago, a Federal Law commonly known as "No Child Left Behind" (or NCLB) received broad bipartisan support so that ever-higher educational standards would become the law of the land. A system was put into place mandating that schools improve annually until 2014, when all schools would arrive at a baseline of universal proficiency. Failure to meet AYP (annual yearly progress) towards that goal could mean a loss of federal dollars for many schools around the country.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 9:51 AM, 10.05.2011

Our Centennial City: Lakewood's Antiques- The Ludwig 1909 Bass Drum Pedal

Here's a remarkable invention (the same age as our Lakewood home) that, although not directly related to Lakewood, has deeply affected the music that we listen to today. In 1909, William and Theobald Ludwig were brothers in the Chicago area who started what would later become the world-famous Ludwig™ drum company by introducing a foot pedal beater mechanism that could play a floor-mounted bass drum.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 7:27 AM, 10.05.2011

Our Centennial City- A Lakewood Kid's Food, A Half-Century Ago...(Popcorn, Anyone?)

I really don't like admitting this, but I just don't cook much. Being born without a significant sense of smell limited my time in the kitchen. Sure, I can taste whatever sweet, sour, salty, hot, and cold sensations the tongue can offer, but still, if you blindfolded me and alleviated the "crunch" factor, I would be hard pressed to tell you whether I was munching on a hot dog or an egg roll.

Having ear, nose, and throat conditions while growing up, I looked at food primarily as fuel for the body, and little else. I've been told that smell is one of the prime motivators to get the "hungries" going, so when I was young I was underweight and practically had to be forced to eat. When my parents took me out to a nice restaurant, they were often embarrassed when I told them that all I wanted was a grilled cheese while they wanted steak dinners. A throat condition also caused me to prefer softer food, as I had trouble swallowing from time to time. When I did eat a sandwich, I needed to have the crust cut off the bread first, and the sandwiches were all soft ones, perhaps containing mayonnaise, Vienna sausages, potted meat, cheese, or maybe bananas.

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Volume 7, Issue 19, Posted 8:27 AM, 09.21.2011

Historic Preservation? (Yes, But With Our People First!) The Fabulous Lakewood Senior Centers!

As our city begins to debate the relative merits and priorities regarding its architectural historic preservation, it's quite a comforting feather in Lakewood's cap to know that our city already has a vibrant array of senior services in place to assist the wonderful human resources who, indeed, have helped to create and maintain some of the historic wood, brick and mortar buildings that are currently being discussed in our community.

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Volume 7, Issue 18, Posted 10:48 AM, 09.07.2011

A Stellar Night With The Lakewood Hometown Band!

On August 21st, the 2011 Lakewood Sunday evening "Concert in the Park" series concluded with a superb performance by the Lakewood Hometown Band, under the able baton of Frank Cosenza. Congratulations are also in order to Donald Santa-Emma, the band's tireless Musical Coordinator, and to the flawless Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Jim Mehrling of WCLV 104.9, Classical FM radio.

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Volume 7, Issue 18, Posted 10:48 AM, 09.07.2011

Our Centennial City... Mementos and Memories

My family never moved around very much. We came to Lakewood from the family homestead in Pennsylvania in 1958, and we moved around Lakewood only once. People who move around a great deal are used to the sometimes sad but often all too necessary chore of de-cluttering their homes. That does not necessarily happen with people who put down deep roots. Adding to that (at least in our case), we had shared many good times, the remnants of which abound on the shelves and in the closets of our home.

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Volume 7, Issue 17, Posted 8:32 AM, 08.24.2011

Lakewood's Magical Musical Moments... "The Flip Side" Of The Winchester Music Hall

It wasn't long after my dear late mother passed away that I was driving up a Lakewood side street when I spotted a guy carrying a guitar case similar to one that I owned. Stopping the car on impulse, I hailed the guy down, and we enjoyed a few minutes of warm conversation. The guy's name was Mark Ronan, and he invited me to join his friends at the Phoenix Coffee House in Lakewood for their Monday night get-together jam session. Lakewood's Phoenix (which later morphed into the beautiful Root Cafe) at that time was a very small, intimate venue. We all played and sang while sitting tightly around a little table by the front window. I also met Mark's friend, Jack Mizenko, and some of the other members of a group of musicians called "The Flip Side," but was never actually able to hear them perform at that time.

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Volume 7, Issue 15, Posted 7:38 AM, 07.27.2011