The 2nd, 3rd and 4th house on the left
There are these three houses in a row on a street in Cleveland Heights. I drive past them all the time. I walk past them often. I always look at them.
The first house, the one on the left when you’re facing them, my parents used to point out every time we drove past when I was a kid. They’d say, “That’s Dorothy Fuldheim’s house. You know who she is, don’t you?” I’d say yes, and then they’d tell me, anyway, that she was the first woman in the country to anchor a TV news broadcast—right here in Cleveland—and she was now a news commentator, and that she’d started as a newspaper and radio reporter who had interviewed Adolph Hitler in the 1930s, and that she was the co-host of "The One O’Clock Club" on Channel 5. Every time we went by. So, I thought the house was famous, and I was always proud to, well . . . pass it.
When I got a little older, high school age, I became friends with three brothers who lived in the next house, the middle of the three. We attended shows together at Cleveland’s main folk and rock music venue, La Cave, in University Circle. And sometimes we’d hang out in Lake View Cemetery, near their house.
But most often, especially in the summer, we’d lounge around on the floor of their large, old house’s once-formal parlor, listening to the latest Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and other albums on their record player, chain-smoking packs of cigarettes, and playing cards—games of 500 Rummy, not to 500 points, but way past, up to a million one summer, because we had the time.
These guys’ father had been a newspaper reporter and columnist since the mid-’30s, and now, in the mid-’60s, served as a writer for and the editor of a popular section of the Plain Dealer. He’d sometimes come home late and join us in the parlor (sitting in a comfortable chair, not on the floor). He would have been out in one or more of downtown Cleveland’s hot spots, like the Theatrical Restaurant, drinking and schmoozing with other newspaper people, and famous entertainers and sports figures, cops and criminals and their lawyers and judges. When he joined us, he’d have just mixed himself a fresh drink.
One of his sons would say, “Hey, Pop. Tell us about the time you [whatever . . . ],” and their father, lit cigarette dangling from the left corner of his mouth, left eye closed to avoid the smoke, would light into a story in his gruff voice, as if he were banging it out on his loud manual typewriter. “It was the 1930s, the hideous Depression years,” he’d begin. And the five or six of us guys would sit there drinking in every booze-soaked word of his gripping story, feeling like we were right there with him, back 30 years earlier. He’d finish and go off to bed, and we’d resume talking, smoking, listening and dealing, enduring deep into the night.
A few years passed. High school was suddenly over—more suddenly for me than most of my friends, since I’d quit that year. When September came, most of my school friends left town for various colleges around the country, and a few just took off to do other things, or nothing. By then I was homeless, having been invited by my father to leave his house. But I had some new friends—Cleveland’s music community; mostly folk, but also some rock musicians.
And a new person entered the scene, a 26-year-old independently wealthy stranger, Pete, who loved music. He bought a house—the third of those three—and moved into this big place all by himself. Pete started frequenting the other folk venue, Farragher’s, in Cleveland Heights, on Taylor Road, just north of Cain Park. He asked a bunch of us musicians if we’d be interested in recording demos, if he were to build a recording studio in his basement. The answer, of course, was, “Of course.”
So, he put in a nice studio. And he filled the house with furniture and invited a bunch of us to hang out there. And make demo tapes. And sleep in the bedrooms. As a homeless musician, I thought this was pretty ideal. The bedrooms were usually taken, though, so I often ended up sleeping on the floor of the studio. But I still have unexpectedly fond feelings for that time.
A few months later, I left for New York City, which is another story. But, I mean—three houses in a row, on a street other than my own, all with strong, positive memories from different eras of my life. I can’t say whether that’s unique or not. But it’s probably improbable. And I think it’s very Cleveland Heights.
David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.