This year Brenda and I decided to take advantage of the low diesel prices and do some traveling. It’s been three years since we’ve been back to the Cleveland area, where we both went to high school and where we have friends and family. And thanks to Facebook, we’ve connected with people we haven’t seen since high school, so we were looking forward to seeing them again. We found a great location in the small village of Chesterland, on the East side of the greater metro area and convenient to most of the people we’d hoped to see. The park, the Maywood Community, is an over-55 park of modular homes that has a few RV pads. It was shaded, had full hookups, and was a perfect place for us to make our visits.
Our beloved Leg Lamp (it’s a major award!) is starting to show signs of wear, so we headed for the Tremont Neighborhood of Cleveland and the Christmas Story House. This is our third visit, and each time we’ve been surprised at how the neighborhood, which used to be very shabby, has been improved. Fresh paint, remolded exteriors, nice lawns – it just goes to show what happens when you have a world-famous one-of-a-kind attraction in your neighborhood! We didn’t tour the house, but on our way to the store I looked up and (gasp) there, at the upstairs window, was the ghost of Ralphie in the bunny suit! And he waved! Or maybe it was just some poor kid who’s parents made him dress up in the costume – but I prefer to think it was Ralphie’s ghost.
We wandered around the store looking at all of the incredible bargains – where else can you find a fluffy, full-length pink bunny costume for only $199? But alas, our leg lamp, which we bought for $29 five years ago, is now priced at $79.99, and so we decided to keep ours and clean it up a bit.
With the Cleveland skyline in the distance, we stopped for lunch at Sokolowski’s University Inn, a fabled Polish restaurant that opened in 1923 and is billed as “Cleveland’s Oldest Family-owned Restaurant”. This is a working man’s restaurant – buffet style, with a bunch of shouting woman dishing up the paprikash, pierogi, and stuffed cabbage, steam coating everything and everyone, and a crowded seat-yourself dining room. But oh my – the food! My stuffed cabbage was the size of a bowling ball – and about the same weight. Brenda’s chicken paprikash must have contained a family of chickens and the sour cream/paprika gravy was amazing. But afterward, we wished we had ordered a few pierogi – just to be polite, of course.
We took a day trip to Walnut Creek, an area with a large Amish population, and stocked up on cheese and smoked meats, and while there Brenda found this little block of Chocolate for cooking. On another day, we came across an Italian deli in Mentor with the name “Maxim’s”. We checked, and it is owned by the same family that started the business in Cleveland in 1949 and catered our wedding 45 years ago. Stopping in, we found the current owner is the son of the original owner, Manny Berardinelli, who we knew. Manny, who is now 96, still stops in one or two days a week to check on things. Maxim’s was famous for it’s great Italian meats, potato salad, and pizza – the only pizza we ever had that was better cold than hot. We talked about the old days while I feasted on an amazing Italian sausage sub, but Maxim’s is mainly a take-out pizza place now, without the home-baked bread and potato salad.
But our visit here was all about family and friends. We spent time with Brenda’s brother Ron and sister Joan and her family, and we managed to visit with my cousins Jayne, Judy, and Craig, and even cousin Knettie and her husband Flip, who were visiting from their home in Connecticut. Visiting my old high school friend Lorrie and his family, we not only scored some great home-made pizza, but a trunkful of Zucchini, onion, potatoes, and garlic. A special treat, thanks to Facebook, was the ability of Brenda to connect with some of her high school classmates. She had a great time reconnecting after 53 years with Ruby, Mary, Sandy and Tony, and Kathy and John. And just before we left, we had the chance to have lunch with my old co-worker and favorite female pirate, Charlene.
Our thanks to you all, for taking the time to visit with us and relive the “good old days” – we can’t wait to see you again!
We’re back on the road, traveling to new places and seeing new things, so c’mon back and check!