The older I get, the more I seem to not only recall, but truly appreciate, the great memories and traditions there are associated with growing up a “Cleveland kid” in the '70s.
For starters, the Maple Heights Baseball League (I still have my many all-star team patches) that had boys on the east and west side occupied all of our summers with practices, games and excitement.
Then, of course, there was Mr. Jingeling, the Keeper of the Keys to Santa’s Workshop, who thrilled children each and every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas at the downtown Halle's store before moving to Santaland at Higbee's.
There are many, many more, but one that probably goes a bit unappreciated is the iconic Cleveland Press pumpkin. I’m a case in point, because when I saw it again for the first time in way more years then I’d like to admit, the memories came flooding back.
Children around Cleveland could count on seeing this simple grinning jack-o- lantern staring back at them from their family’s just-delivered afternoon Cleveland Press every fall. The hardest part was resisting the urge to dismantle the paper before your parents had a chance to read it first. Needless to say, that earned you a fairly serious rebuke from Dad that Mom seemed to be able to smooth over.
And let's not even talk about the battle with your siblings to get to the paper first. Sometimes the easiest answer seemed to be buying your own copy of the paper, which fortunately your allowance covered nicely.
Step two of the process was to see how many additional copies of the treasured paper pumpkins you could procure from other adults in the neighborhood who either didn’t have children or had children that had outgrown the excitement of the collection.
Some houses in neighborhoods had just the one that came with the family paper proudly displayed in their front picture window, while the windows in other homes were literally covered by the smiling, mischievous-looking pumpkins.
This simple treasure provided by the afternoon paper found its way not only into homes, but the local firehouse window (which had the coldest and most refreshing water fountain), elementary school windows, local neighborhood storefronts and just about any other place you could possibly think of.
Simply stated, it represented community, a time for everyone to be on the same page and share in the excitement of the Halloween season, which in turn led to the holiday season that gave us Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgivings at your relatives was meant to be tolerated because we all knew that was the time to be on our best behavior to remember what comes just a month later - Christmas, the crown jewel of every year for children.
Truth be told, I’m really enjoying writing some of these memories because it really takes me back to simpler times. As I progressed through being a parent, and now into a grandparent, it’s been fun to see my family appreciate some of the traditions we’ve tried to keep alive while creating new ones for themselves.
Thank you, Cleveland Press, for another one of those treasured Cleveland memories.