Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Small details matter in the big picture of life

The moon belongs to everyone, the best things in life are free...
The ages-old song captures the essence of what the composer had in mind – there are many wonderful things in our everyday lives and they are there for us to enjoy if only we took the time to pause and appreciate them.
And love can come to anyone...
Yes, love can be free also – in the context of what the songwriter was talking about. Let’s just leave it at that, except to add that, yes, love is indeed one of the best things in life. I hope we can all agree on that.
But I would like to add a thought of my own about something that is basically free. It is one of the four basic elements we studied in high school chemistry. You’ll recall that the four are earth, air, fire and water. The one I am concerned with today is air.
The air we breathe is basically free, except, of course for the unfortunate folks among us who must carry tanks of it around in order to breathe. They have my sympathy. But for the most part, the air around us is free. Including the air that we breathe.
The air in the tires on our cars is also free – with one exception. Some places you have to insert four quarters in order to get about five minutes worth of “free” air. That is profiteering at its most extreme level. Shame. Shame.
But this discussion takes us back a few weeks, to a matter I discussed concerning a leaky tire.
The fact that I even mentioned it enraged one constituent, who felt that the topic lacked substance. He said those words were “fluff,” and unworthy of my attention. I should concern myself, he said, with more important matters, such as the Mounds Club robbery – stuff like that.
My feeling is that I have written enough about the Mounds Club robbery, and I am ready to move on to more important topics, such as the air that surrounds us.
Several readers, in sidewalk and restaurant conversations, came to my defense. The air is not fluff, they said, and is worthy of discussion.
One reader in particular, Don Miller of Eastlake, was quite eloquent in defending me in his letter to the editor. He made his point with convincing clarity that little things do mean a lot, citing a 1954 recording by Kitty Kallen.
Now, Don is not totally unknown to me. But I have met him only once and that was at one of Ed Glavac’s August reunions of Willoughby-Eastlake schools graduates. We had a pleasant conversation at that time, and I know him to be a person of manners, taste, decorum and eloquence – in all aspects of everyday living, but especially in the area of music.
That is because we have talked on the phone about music – without ever even having met each other. We have swapped enough CDs so that I know what his tastes in music are, and he is aware of mine. They are, as George Will would say, congruent.
It was he who introduced me to the eight-hour recorded series on the history of jazz, which I have enjoyed over several playings.
But we seldom converse, so don’t even know whether he received the copy I sent him of a CD by the McGill University jazz orchestra, which is by far the greatest college jazz group I have ever heard. And that is saying something. Of course it is. That is why I said it.
I cannot let you go today, however, without an update on my leaky tire. Or tires, as it were.
If you have ever had to go to the gas station two or three times a week to put air in your tires, you know what a pain in the neck, and elsewhere, that can be.
Well, the very day after that column appeared in the paper I got a phone call from Bob Willrich, the service manager at Classic Chevrolet in Mentor. That’s where I bought the car.
“Bring your car in,” he said. “We’ll fix it so the tires never leak again.”
So I took the car in, and guess what? Since that day, several weeks ago, I have not, even once, put air in any of my tires.
I have a button on my steering where I can check the pressure in all four tires simply by depressing it.
As a result of the bad experience I had with having to constantly put air in the tire(s), I became compulsive about checking all the pressures. Obsessive compulsive, you might say.
I check the tires constantly now. Well, not constantly. But you know what I mean. And I feel constrained to point out that the pressure in all four tires has remained exactly as it was the day I drove out of Classic. Which is a relief from the tiresome (sorry about the pun) routine of adding air two or three times a week.
They even washed my car! And while I sat in the waiting room I munched on a complimentary apple and had a nice conversation with a young lady who was a classmate in Leadership Lake County.
So thank you, Bob, for solving my problem. And thank you, Don Miller, for having some insight into what constitutes “fluff” and what doesn’t.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

News-Herald colleague David Glasier stands out among superior writers at the paper

If I could roll the pages of the calendar back to 1950 and try to enumerate all of the really first-rate writers I have been associated with at The News-Herald in that time span, the list would be uncontrollably long.
Let’s just say there were a lot of them, and they were masters of the written word. I hesitate to list them, however, because there were too many, and as sure as I named five dozen, No. 61 would pop up as a sin of omission, and I would have to say, “Oh yeah, I forgot him – or her.”
They labored in all areas of newspaper writing, from main news to sports, to feature writing, travel, entertainment, food, column writing and every other area that impacts the content of your daily paper.
So I will not name any because I would not know where to stop. But today I will focus on just one of them because I heard him speak at a meeting two weeks ago at LaVera Party Center, previously known as the Mounds Club, in Willoughby Hills.
David Glasier could have been a public speaker as well as a newspaper guy. But he chose the right career because to have gone the route of orating would have deprived the newspaper’s readers of an almost daily source of information and entertainment.
He held his audience, the members of the Willoughby Rotary Club, in the palm of his hand. I am glad I was in attendance, because when he concluded his prepared remarks he asked if there were any questions, and naturally, I had a few.
He mentioned, for instance, that his coverage beat had once been TV, but he failed to point out an item of interest that I felt obliged to bring up.
“Didn’t you,” I asked, “at one time hold a rather lofty position with the national organization of newspaper TV writers?”
He admitted that he had been president of that esteemed organization. He then elaborated that as president it had been his duty to set up the group’s annual conventions.
If they happened to be in Las Vegas, well, David had to arrange for all of his colleagues, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, to meet for their annual bash in Las Vegas.
Whatever it was that he did seemed to meet with the satisfaction of the nation’s TV scribes.
As we used to say in the Army, that was tough duty. But I digress.
What he did not get into was that, among his chores was reviewing all the TV shows before they came out.
He did an admirable job of it, although it entailed previewing an ungodly number of  programs and sitting in front of the TV for endless hours watching the tapes.
As you might imagine, he got hundreds of video tapes in the mail from the networks. But they served no useful purpose after David was finished with them, so he dumped them on the “TV Table” at the office, which led to a weekly scramble by staff members who, apparently, were hungry for entertainment.
I, of course, being in charge of the staff for many of those years, was in favor of any diversion that kept them out of restaurants and other places that served adult beverages.
Perhaps I am being unfair. Not all newspaper people frequent pubs. Some of them spend time in libraries, at art museums and other places where people of culture gather for fun and amusement.
“I grabbed many of those VCR tapes,” I told David, “but I used them to record movies on TV.”
“Sure,” he acknowledged. “You just punched out the tabs and taped over the holes.”
It was a common trick to avoid buying blank tapes.
Tapes have now given way to discs. I never figured out how to re-record on them. Someone in the audience recalled that David had done a lot of golf writing, along with playing prestigious courses up and down the coast. Which prompted me to ask, “Have you ever had a hole-in-one?”
I knew the answer to that one, because I was playing with David, Joe Cocozzo and Rick Stenger when he scored a memorable ace on a long (220 or so yards) par 3 on the back side of the new course at Quail Hollow.
It was a miserable day, dark, gloomy and raining, and we feared the ball was lost because it was headed straight for the green but we couldn’t find it anywhere.
We were all elated when we found it in the hole.
“I used one of those new hybrid clubs,” David commented.
Turns out he has four career aces. One of them, unfortunately, was witnessed only by him.
David has written some captivating series in the paper, including a step-by-step epic on the construction of Classic Park in Eastlake and the grisly details of the infamous cult murders in Kirtland.
But I relented in my questioning of him at the Mounds Club luncheon. I didn’t ask him about one of his specialties. That would be telling about the home-made pickles which he preserves and sells in the summertime at the outdoor farmers’ market in Downtown Willoughby.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

In search of an island where the population is zero

Our study group has concluded its deliberations now and is ready to move into the action phase of our program.
Which means that from now on it’s all work and no play as we look to the future to see what, if anything, that may hold.
The possibility that the future may hold nothing at all, or that it may be bleak beyond description, depends on how you look at it. To my brother and me the future is dotted with possibilities – mixed with uncertainty.
The lady of the house maintains that she wants nothing to do with the entire venture and sees no reason to change her mind.
What we have been studying – the three of us – is a trip to an exotic island. Exotic may be the wrong word. Let’s just call it an island unencumbered by a modifier. It is an island we had never heard of until my brother saw a program on the Travel Channel having to do with the disappearance of a certain Mrs. Putnam.
She has been gone since July 1937. She vanished over water, as did Glenn Miller, one of the greatest orchestra leaders of all time and the person who immortalized Jimmy Stewart, who portrayed him in the film, “The Glenn Miller Story.”
I have often compared Glenn Miller with Paul Brown – in different fields of endeavor, of course.
Their greatness was apparent in the fields of popular music and professional football. We have had enough to say here about Brown in the last couple weeks. As for Miller and Jimmy Stewart, let us just be reminded of the classic words of Steve Allen, who once noted: “Yes sir, folks, there’s only one Al Jolsen, and that’s Larry Parks.”
To which I would add: “There was only one Benny Goodman, and that was Steve Allen.”
And, of course: “There was only one Glenn Miller, and that was Jimmy Stewart.”
If you don’t get it, I must not be making myself clear. Let us just say there are clear connections to the clear-minded among us.
Which brings us back to Miller and Mrs. Putnam, and the recurring thought many have expressed that, somehow, some way, they may be together.
Because, you see, they both disappeared over water, even though he disappeared over the English Channel while she found her watery grave someplace in the Pacific Ocean.
(I have not brought Adolf Hitler into this discussion because I do not care to, in spite of the fact that the three of them have been linked in conversations about missing persons, which I personally think is ridiculous because he was an evil man. But I digress.)
If you think this discussion may be coming to a boil, it is because you may have suspected all along who Mrs. Putnam might be, and you have possibly shouted out the name by which she is better known.
The news reports referred to her and her navigator as Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  I am not prepared to speak about Fred’s credentials as a navigator. All I’m saying is that if he had done a better job of navigating, the Travel Channel wouldn’t have been doing a program on the island, which was not their actual, planned destination but which may have been the place where they wound up.
It is that island which has been the focal point of our study group for lo, these many months, and there is a good chance you have never heard of it, so get a pen and a piece of paper and write it down so you will not lose it.
I will wait.
The island has a spectacular name which you will never tire of pronouncing because of its assonance, which, I was told in college, means internal rhyme.
The island’s name is Nikumaroro. Isn’t it beautiful? It is so quaint that is comes up on the computer as a misspelling. I am quite sure it wasn’t on the master lists of recent spelling bees covered so eloquently by The News-Herald.
It is a beautiful name. Say it again. Nikumaroro.
When my brother heard the name on TV he made a dash for the library at our house. We also call it the den, the sewing room, my office, and the room where the two darling puppies, Maggie and Tricia, go to sit on the bench, look out through the window and bark upon the arrival of Dave, our mailman.
The puppies are very smart. They have figured out there is no mail on Sundays. But they know Dave will be back on Monday.
Which brings us back to Nikumaroro. My brother found it as a dot on the globe in the library. I could tell you a lot about it, but you could spare me that trouble by the use of the Google thing, which will lead you to more information about Nikumaroro than you ever knew existed, including that it is 6km long and 2km wide and its population is listed as 0.
That probably explains why it has no airport (sorry about that, Amelia and Fred) and thus no direct flights from Cleveland.
My brother and I will have to find another way to get there. The lady of the house said thanks a lot, but somebody has to stay home and feed the puppies.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Naming rights to Super Bowl trophy belong to Paul Brown

A couple weeks ago I vented my frustration with the Browns by saying the team’s problems can be laid at the feet of the National Football League.
The league made a monumental gaffe in 1999 at the rebirth of the Browns by awarding the franchise to the wrong people, and the team has been an out-of-control disaster ever since.
My advice, unsolicited to be sure, would have been to give the franchise to Bill Sanford, who made a hugely successful company out of STERIS in Mentor, and his group of investors.
Would that have worked out any better than the current situation? Let’s just say things couldn’t be much worse than they are right now.
At least Bill and his group would have put people in charge of the team who know more about football and are better judges of talent than the present ownership.
Evaluating talent seems to be a conundrum that ties the current honchos in knots.
So now they bring in a “new” quarterback who had a sparkling record of 1-10 last year with Tampa Bay with the understanding he will either play this year himself or teach Johnny Football how to play.
(For those who don’t follow sports, and many of you do not, 1-10 stands for one victory and 10 losses, a record that will not ultimately lead to a series of championships. But I digress).
Me, I would have brought back Bernie Kosar and told him to teach Johnny how to play quarterback. But once again, my suggestions are not taken seriously, even when offered in the spirit of trying to be helpful.
But soon after that previous column I got an almost immediate response from Bill Sanford, the man in whose hands I would have placed the fortunes of the team in the hope that something good might have happened.
Goodness knows, enough bad has happened to last until the government abolishes football as being inhumane, or too rough, or imbalanced by not having enough female players.
Don’t laugh. Well, go ahead and laugh. I didn’t mean it anyway. I just get carried away sometimes when I talk about my favorite topics.
Bill isn’t so sure what might have happened had his group taken control of the team.
He thanked me for my kind words about STERIS and about what might have been with different ownership.
“Who knows?” he asked. “However, I am probably fortunate that my investor group did not win. By now I would most likely be dead from a frustration-induced heart attack or a public lynching.”
He added, “HA,” to let me know he may have been jesting.
But he has also been keeping track, from the warmth of his home in Naples, Fla., of the weather reports from back North.
“Look forward to seeing you soon after the global climate change (aka global warming) subsides in Cleveland,” he said.
I detected a note of irony in that comment.
I got another note about that previous column that really tickled me. It came from Dick Shaeffer of Willowick, whom I have never met, but I think we could become pals after reading what he had to say.
“Bingo!” he wrote. “Your column in The News-Herald hit it for a touchdown. Way back in time, the Browns were neighbors of my parents in Massillon where he coached the Tigers.
“We moved to Canton where my brothers went to McKinley. Hence, we were Bulldog fans.”
Later, the family moved to Rocky River, “and we did make it to the Browns first game in Cleveland Stadium. When Modell and Jim Brown fired Paul (Brown) and Paul left Cleveland, he took football along with him.
“Oh yeah, Blanton gave us a good year or two and that was it. To me, that football team down South in Cincinnati is the ‘Browns.’ That team (?) playing in Downtown Cleveland is the ‘Modell Leftovers.’
“One thing that keeps nagging me is the NFL Super Bowl “Lombardi Trophy.
“It very well should be the Paul Brown Trophy, eh?”
I must offer my own comment about that.
Vince Lombardi was indeed one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. But Tom Landry was also a great coach. And our own Don Shula, who won more games than any coach in NFL history, learned many of his skills by playing for Paul Brown, listening to him intently and learning from his every word.
Don would tell you that himself. He has in fact told me that – while sitting at Hellriegel’s in Painesville, as we enjoyed an adult beverage together.
All of which bring us back to square one: PB was THE greatest coach of all-time, and something should be named for him besides the football stadium in “The Natti,” as they call the city where his son’s Bengals now cavort.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Willoughby winters can be brutal, but brighter days are ahead

I was thinking about spending the rest of the winter in Florida, playing golf.
I think about a lot of things I’ll never do. I used to think about playing Majong with Jennifer Lopez – until the lady of the house told me to cut it out.
I will say this about those two ladies, though. They are both exceptionally good looking, although the parts Jennifer has had in movies are much larger that the roles the lady has played.
I have never told you about those movies, although I must say the roles she played would have to be considered somewhat minor.
Beyond that, she has asked me not to talk about it. I must say this, though: The nicest person she ever worked with, in her opinion, was John Ritter, who was a big star on a TV sitcom (which I didn’t watch) and he died at far too young an age.
She said he was a prince of a man, and I feel constrained to point out that she is very good at evaluating princes among men.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the weather. Now that we have dispensed with February, let it be said that it was one of the nastiest spells of weather we have ever endured.
There is an old joke about bad spells of weather, but I won’t repeat it here. Just for one example, however, a bad spell would be “whether” when referring to global warming which, come to think of it, isn’t really such a bad spell when you think about it.
Unless, of course, you are a true believer in the nasty global “warming” trend that has enveloped us in early 2015. Fie on it, I say. Fie.
I’m not sure what “fie” means, but I think I read it in a play by Shakespeare. Or maybe it was Tennessee Williams. Or Tennessee Ernie. Some author of note.
But if you think this winter has been miserable, I direct you back to 1977 and 1978.
One of them was noteworthy for deep snow and the other for sub-zero temperatures. I forget which was which, but one of those days it was so bad out that we couldn’t get the papers to the customers.
Now, one thing you absolutely cannot do in the daily newspaper business is miss a day of publication. So there was one day in either ‘77 or ‘78 that we delivered two papers in one day.
Yes, it was that bad out. But all the papers got delivered. Note: In today’s world a lot of people are reading the paper on their computers.
Two thoughts come to mind: If you read in on a computer, why is it called a “paper?” Also, does the snow ever get so deep that a computer can’t deliver the paper?
For real snow, I mean really man-sized, or, if you prefer, woman-sized snow, I give you Thanksgiving weekend of 1950. Now that was a snowfall.
We had just moved from our old News-Herald building on West Spaulding Street in Downtown Willoughby into our new building on Mentor Avenue, also in Willoughby.
That was before our present new building on Mentor Avenue, which is just down the hill from our previous new building.
Except that the newest new building is in Mentor. You could easily hit a wedge shot from one building to the other, except they are in different towns. It has to do with where the city dividing lines are located.
All of which has little or nothing to do with the Thanksgiving snow storm of 1950, during which we had three pressmen stranded in the building for two days.
Snow removal at that time was not as sophisticated as it is today. Nearly total traffic paralysis set it. Cars could not get down Vine Street through the newly created town of Eastlake. (It had been Willoughby Township.)
The Willoughby Armory was home to Companies C and D of the 116th Engineers Battalion, Ohio National Guard.
Both company commanders, Stan Shwartz and Jimmy Robinson, worked at The News-Herald.
They got out their tanks, full track-laying vehicles which had no problem with the snow, and delivered milk and bread along the side streets off Vine because nobody could get to the store.
My recollection is that the snow was 30 inches deep, although some old newspaper clippings say it may have been an inch less than that.
Whatever, it was substantial, even by present-day Boston standards.
The good news is that baseball season is almost upon us, the Indians are in spring training in Arizona, and the rigors of an awful winter are almost a thing of the past.
So think pleasant thoughts of palm trees swaying and cactus bushes doing whatever it is they do.
The smack of a baseball into a glove means only one thing – the ball wasn’t hit to me and thus didn’t roll up my arm while the batter ran to second base.

Friday, February 20, 2015

If only he'd been owner of the Cleveland Browns

I worry about the Cleveland Browns.

I know I’m wasting my time because there are people at The News-Herald, Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and a handful of TV stations who get paid to worry about the Browns. I do it for nothing.

But I can’t help myself because the Browns have been close to my heart since 1946. That is a lot longer than anyone now associated with the Browns. The current management was probably not even born then, and that is part of the problem.

The football team and its environment are now called “toxic” and “dysfunctional” and worse. Those are strong words. It will take a lot of work plus moving in the right direction to overcome those negative terms.

But the management has brought the ill will upon itself, and it will not be easy to make a correction.

Let’s go back to 1946. The Browns were a brand-new team in town, replacing the Rams, who won a world championship in 1945 and then moved to Los Angeles.

The owner of the new Browns was Arthur (Mickey) McBride, who owned a cab company.

He hired Paul Brown to run the team and coach it and then left him alone to do his thing. Brown was spectacular in both roles. His team, with Otto Graham at quarterback, played in 10 title games in 10 years, with only three disappointing losses (to the Rams and Lions) marring an otherwise unblemished string of championships.

McBride didn’t tell Brown how to run the team, and he didn’t send text messages to the bench during games.

That, of course, was a few years before texting. But he didn’t even send handwritten notes. In fact, his main contribution was the term “cab squad” which was used to designate players who were not on the active roster.

The Browns moved smoothly into the National Football League, won their first league game against the Eagles in 1950, and won the world championship that year by beating the Rams 30-28 thanks to the toe of Lou Groza.

The Browns continued to be one of the greatest teams ever in professional football. But then along came the 1960s. A guy named Art Modell took control of the team, Paul Brown had utter disdain for Modell (Brown, a former college quarterback, said he would take Modell seriously if he ever put on a jock strap), and in 1962 a petulant Modell fired Brown.

That was the beginning of the end for the Browns. They won one more championship, but it was with a coach (Blanton Collier) hired by Brown.

The bottom dropped out after the 1995 season, when Modell called it quits in Cleveland and moved the team to Baltimore.

The league soon figured out it was a horrible mistake to leave the city without a team, so it gave Cleveland an “expansion” team, which had no owners.

That was when current mess began. The league made another horrible mistake and awarded the franchise to Al Lerner, a billionaire, a Marine and probably a very nice man. But he knew nothing about football, so he hired others to run the team for him.

That added to the mess, so he turned the team over to his son, Randy, who knew a little about soccer and nothing about football.

The mess continued. Randy threw up his hands in surrender, sold the team to billionaire Jimmy Haslam, and the mess goes on.

A monumental mistake was made when the NFL awarded the franchise to Lerner 1999. That was a goof of world class proportions. The league fouled up big time.

What I have said so far is factual. Now I will insert my own opinion for what it is worth – perhaps nothing.

There were other bidders besides Lerner. In on the bidding action was a syndicate that included my good friend Bill Sanford.

Bill is the guy who, along with four other people, started STERIS in Mentor. He is a business and organizational genius. If you are not aware of the impact of STERIS on the area and on the overall economy, you have not paid attention.

(I did hour-long TV interviews with Bill and two of his partners in the founding of the company, Mike Keresman and the late Ray Kralovic. They are still shown from time to time on the Lakeland Community College cable channel.)

Brilliant businessmen does not begin to describe the talented founders of STERIS.

Bill was aching to become an owner of the Browns. I am certain he would have been a huge success. (He knows a little more about football that the average owner. He went to college on a football scholarship before becoming a great success in business.)

I still watch those interviews at home from time to time. Maybe I should send copies to the NFL.

But that would serve no useful purpose. Of this I am certain, however: If Bill and his group had gotten ownership of the Browns, you wouldn’t see terms like “toxic” being thrown around.

More likely it would be “Super Bowl Champions.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jim Collins: Thoughts of those who have departed keep memories alive

It’s getting so I hate to turn to the obituaries because of the surprises that numb my senses.
It seems as if every day there are new listings that sadden me – people I cared a lot about who are no longer with us.
Just within a couple days there was Chuck Koelble, and Janet Hacha and Ken Ziel and Alan O’Janpa (OJ) – dear people who have departed. I could go on with many more names, but what’s the point? It won’t bring them back.
Nobody lives forever, but these people lived good lives, they were loved by many and they are now able to wait for others who will join them in their Heavenly abode.
I wrote the other day about a few people I know in the world of jazz and immediately got calls from pianists John Petrone and Frank Daniels informing me that singer Marilyn Holderfield, whom I mentioned in the column, had passed on just last month.
I didn’t know her as well as the others, but she was a giant in the world of jazz singers, female and male. Now she is singing in a Heavenly choir. Perhaps the others will pick up a couple of ideas from her.
Around this time of year I begin thinking about the golfing trip 16 of us took to Naples, Fla., every February.
As far as I know, there are three of us left. I am sure Walt Sargent is swinging the clubs every chance he gets. I don’t even know if Paul Ferris plays at all any more, and if anyone ever loved the game, he did.
The others are all departed now, playing golf in another life and paying off their nickels and dimes and figuring out their “presses” in a currency that we on this planet are not familiar with.
Some names in the obituaries are known to me only by reputation. Some I wish I had known if only because of the acclaim they won during their lifetimes.
A good example was in the paper Feb. 6. It said that Mary Healy, a versatile actress and singer who starred with Orson Welles on Broadway and opposite her husband Peter Lind Hayes for nearly 60 years, had died at the age of 96.
Wow! That’s a good, long life. I knew a lot about her career. It was spectacular. But whenever anybody mentions Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, I can think of only one event that made headlines in Lake County in which they were involved.
They were on radio and TV for years as a duo, and they starred in sitcoms and game shows for years, but their noteworthy appearance here was not mentioned in her obit.
It was the great robbery of the spectacular night club/gambling joint the Mounds Club in November, 1947.
The place is on Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills (at the time it was Willoughby Township), and no, I wasn’t there.
But I remember the news coverage, especially in the old Cleveland Press. Thanks to the painstaking research by Don Lewis of the Willoughby Historical Society, I have his encyclopedic volume on the subject.
I have given a few talks on the robbery, and I will say this as an aside to Don – I couldn’t have done it without you.
Unless you were around here in that era, you could never imagine the kind of place the Mounds Club was. It was run by a guy named Tommy McGinty, who later took off for Las Vegas.
A guy like me could never have gotten into the place. I was a sophomore in college at the time, so I would have no business in a gambling joint that operated illegally anyway.
But you couldn’t get inside the place without rapping on the door and knowing somebody. Funny thing – when a Cleveland reporter asked Sheriff Jim Maloney about the great robbery, he hadn’t heard about it.
Inside, the club was a showplace, with glitter and glamour that befit the high rollers and Broadway stars who inhabited the place.
And it is still glitzy. I know, because I have lunch there every Monday. It is now called LaVera Party Center, it is all legitimate and above board, and it is the Monday home of the Willoughby Rotary Club. We have met there for a few years.
I don’t know about the other Rotarians, but I can look around the room (actually there are two rooms) and still hear the strains of Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, Dean Martin, a fairly young Dean Martin, Joe E. Lewis, Sophie Tucker, Georgie Jessel, the Sammy Watkins Orchestra and a host of others.
Any of the high rollers there during the robbery who had money, a watch, a ring, a fur coat or anything else of value was ordered by the gunmen dressed in Army fatigues to throw them onto a tablecloth on the floor.
All the loot disappeared into the night. The robbery was never solved.
There were a lot of theories, and I have heard a few dozen of them.
Now even the bullet holes in the ceiling have been patched. It seems one of the robbers wanted to silence the crowd with a quick burst of a burp gun.
You don’t find that kind of excitement around here any more when you go out to dinner.