Going Downtown

My earliest adventures taking the Mayfield Road bus with a girlfriend or two, at age eleven involved getting dressed in Sunday best, walking through the bigger department stores, perhaps making a small purchase or spending time listening to records in rooms called listening labs where one might listen to a record, then buy it, or not.  Lunch in the five and ten cent store or at a cafeteria might be a treat before the long ride back home. 

The department stores have all disappeared leaving retail business to small boutiques in a couple of large buildings like Tower City and the Galleria.  The city has tried with assorted entertainment events to lure back the once large crowds of people to downtown and some of them do draw high attendance, but none of the everyday traffic has returned to the once vital activity levels before the 1960s.

When I worked downtown I always took the bus to work, and returned home the same way, rarely staying in town after office hours because it no longer seemed safe to do so.  Driving downtown has no appeal to me, especially since there has been a good deal of road work and parking is expensive. 

I had a simple route when my cousin Theresa sang for the Cleveland Opera and I parked in a garage a block away from the theatre, but that was several years ago.

It was with some trepidation I accepted an invitation to an office party – dinner at a posh restaurant on East Fourth Street.  I made up my mind to attend but dreaded both the drive, parking and finding my way to the restaurant which I had never heard of and which was not there during my working years downtown.

I voiced my concern to the young lady I report to at work and she generously offered to pick me up at the office and we could go together.  I was greatly relieved and happy to accept her offer.  She said as long as I didn’t mind her little car and I told her I drove a VW bug for many years – so we laughed and headed for the highway. 

Once we got to town I was amazed to find I did not even recognize the area – all aglitter with lights from competing restaurants and clubs, there were lines for valet parking, and parking lots so full one or two were closed.  There were twos, fives and other combinations of people going to and fro and in general a holiday atmosphere which was wonderful to see and feel a part of.  We left her car to a valet to handle and she offered me her arm which I was glad to hook my arm into as we walked facing the wind and in no time we arrived at Lola’s and were told our party was downstairs, so we descended and joined our co-workers and some of the spouses.  We put our coats on chairs along the wall and soon began laughing and talking.  I ordered red wine and April had white and others had beer or mixed drinks.   We were relaxed and enjoying ourselves very much. 

When we sat at the table we deliberated over the gourmet choices and we made our selections from each of five courses.  The aromas that filled the air were tantalizing and soon the quiet of people engrossed in the delicacies before them pervaded the room.  More laughter and chatter filled the spaces and we took turns taking pictures and being in pictures.

April and Danny were each presented with gift wrapped plaques in honor of ten and fifteen years respectively of loyal and hard work and dedication to the company.  We were all happy for them and applauded their well-deserved recognition.

The younger folks re-convened at another club to continue the celebration and Colleen and her husband, Steve drove me back to the office where I got back into my little car and bidding them goodnight, thanking them again for a most enjoyable evening, I drove home with the memory of gourmet tastes still on my tongue and the happy laughter warming me through and through.

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