Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

So, where are you from?

This is a common question uttered down here in Florida, as most folks are from somewhere else. When I am asked that, I usually reply with Ohio. When pressed I say northeast Ohio, Akron area. If they are really wanting details I mention the town I grew up in – Cuyahoga Falls.

Ah, Caucasian Falls. In my youth it consisted of 49,572 white people. It is not so homogenous now, as integration and matriculation from neighboring North Akron has brought it into modern times. But my high school graduating class consisted of 841 white faces. I did not share a classroom with a black or minority until I got to college. To be clear, that is not something I am proud of. It’s just how it was.

But anyway. The Falls was a great town to grow up in, and it is still an interesting place to live, as my mother and sister still reside there. So my purpose here is to give a bit of a primer on my hometown.

First off, let’s get the pronunciation straight. Cuyahoga is an Indian word meaning crooked. The Cuyahoga River, which runs through town is also called the Crooked River. One look on a map would explain why. But the correct pronunciation is KYA-HO-gah. That’s if you say it slowly. We don’t, and instead it comes out Ki-ogga. That’s why we just say The Falls. So now that we have that down, here are some interesting (to me anyway) facts about The Falls -

One Of The 24 Nicest Places To Live

When I was growing up in the Falls there were signs at the city limits proclaiming “Welcome to Cuyahoga Falls – One Of The 24 Nicest Places To Live In America.” I was always intrigued by this proclamation. First off – why 24? How did they come up with that number? Secondly, how was ‘Nicest’ defined? Was it because we were all white? Was it because the people were nice, or that nothing exciting ever happened there? To be sure, The Falls of my youth was one of unlocked doors at night and no fear of going anywhere or doing anything. I guess that’s how they ended up with that moniker.

Rex’s Erection

One of the more interesting residents of The Falls was televangelist Rex Humbard. During the 50s and 60s his broadcasts emanated from the Cathedral of Tomorrow, a cool-looking circular building up on State Road. He was on a par with Jimmy Swaggert and the Bakkers as far as power in the God Needs Your Money arena. So Rex pulled in a lot of bucks. In the early 70s he took much of this fear of going to hell money and plowed it into erecting a 500-foot tall tower with plans of having a revolving restaurant perched atop. Construction began, and up rose this concrete monstrosity that looked like a skinny nuclear cooling tower. Not surprisingly, when Rex got the tower completed, he ran out of money to construct that revolving restaurant, so he never was able to finish off his dream. But the tower remains to this day, and is the iconic image of The Falls. The locals have dubbed it Rex’s Erection.

The Naked Lady Building

On Portage Trail there is an interesting building. It is circular in design, and it presently houses the Akron Art Institute. What makes it unique, however, is the exterior of the rotunda. It is replete with...3-D images of...we are not sure what. But for some of us with more imaginative minds, we see naked ladies. Check it out for yourself.

Rockin’ On The River

In the 70s, downtown Falls went through an urban renewal period where Front Street was closed to vehicular traffic and was turned into a walking plaza, which essentially killed the local businesses. There used to be a movie theater, car dealerships, restaurants and so on. When they dried up and died, other businesses took their place, a Sheraton hotel was built, and new venues opened up. The plaza now hosts some kind of festival every summer weekend, and every Friday night there is a drunkfest overlooking the river called, appropriately, Rockin On The River. Live bands perform, cheap beer is consumed, and everyone has a grand old time.

Black Tigers

That is the name for the Falls High sports teams. The Black Tigers, which I always thought was funny for a couple of reasons. One, tigers aren’t black. That would be a panther. Two, as I stated earlier, there wasn’t anything black in the Falls. If you were black, you best get yourself on the other side of the high level bridge into Akron before sundown. So to have our sports teams have a ‘Black Tiger’ moniker seemed goofy…at best. Ah well. We are goofy. But we are also pretty good people.

So that is where I am from. And like they say, everybody has to be from somewhere, and I am a Black Tiger.



Anonymous said...

Love the article. Grew up near Preston--they've since mowed down the woods and built more homes.
Used to go to the dentist in the "naked lady" building. Went to Dr. H for orthodontist--creepiest black modern building. Guy was an asshole sadist.

Merilee said...

This is great. Have made copies for my husband Jim Hampton who grew up in Cuyahoga Falls. from the 1940' to the 1960's.
Merilee in St. Pete