Street Clubs of the East Side

"We Do Our Own Thing Ourselves"

In August 1940, residents on East 85th Street on Cleveland's east side decided to organize their efforts for the betterment of the their block and Mrs. Beatrice Beasley, a citizen of the street, founded the E. 85th Street Club. In its beginning stages, the E. 85th Street Club held meetings at members' homes routinely every month, whereas after the Fairfax Recreation Center was completed in 1958, meetings were held weekly. The street club served members from East 85th between Cedar Avenue and Central Avenue in Fairfax. The club was dedicated to doing good within its own block by holding an annual spring cleaning program, which entailed older members as well as the youth raking leaves, painting houses, whitewashing trees and curbs, and remodeling abodes. The organization also held a "Back to School" dance for the children, which included refreshments, prizes, and music disc-jockeyed by Eddie O'Jay, who was known for discovering and managing the R&B music group "The Mascots," later known as the legendary "O'Jays." Other community outreach events included giving fruit baskets to the sick, donating money to various Fairfax events, and holding neighborhood picnics and banquets.

"We do our own thing ourselves," "Improve, don't move" - These are the mottos that spearheaded street clubs into action. When federal urban renewal programs fell short in their attempt to stabilize urban neighborhoods, street clubs tried to fill the void. While the E. 85th Street Club's work may have been the most publicized, other street clubs took very similar actions to make their neighborhood a better place to live. Christmas parties, home renovations for the poor and elderly, and voiced opinions regarding community renewal were not unusual. Street clubs, also known as neighborhood clubs or civic clubs, were prominent especially on Cleveland's east side neighborhoods, such as Fairfax, Glenville, and Hough. An annual meeting called "Street Club Organization Day" started in 1968 to bring together street club presidents to lead combined efforts to address problems plaguing the community. Workshops were led by the Street Club Presidents League, as well as representatives of various community non-profit organizations such as Citizens for Better Housing Inc. and University-Euclid Development Center. Through the meeting, combined club efforts yielded clean-up campaigns and an award banquet. Street clubs also participated in yearly beauty contests known as "The Beautiful Block Contest" and "The Bright and Beautiful Contest," conducted by the Cleveland newspaper The Call & Post. Contests were judged based on appearance and the total house participation. While this encouraged blocks to clean and renovate homes, other streets sometimes experienced difficulty contending, for they were plagued by absentee landlords and even rats. Since then, street clubs and neighborhood associations have expanded to the outer parts of Cleveland, including Shaker Heights as well as the west side of Cleveland.

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"Little Spots of Burning Leaves"
Debra Martin recalls the appearance of her neighborhood's brick-paved street in Glenville in the fall. When residents would finish raking leaves, they would burn the leaf piles.
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