How You Go Downtown Now

By the time I moved to Cleveland in August 1993 the yellow PCC cars used on the Shaker Rapid Transit lines were long gone, having been replaced by Breda cars built by an Italian manufacturer.

Also long gone by then was Higbee’s and the Silver Grille, and Hallee’s and Mr. Jingeling, all of them venerable Cleveland traditions referenced in the post above of a Shaker Heights PCC car photographed by Robert Farkas.

Seeing Bob’s photo reminded me of how I used to think it was a thrill to ride the Rapid.

Riding the Rapid and passing the high-rise apartment buildings near Shaker Square that can be seen behind the PCC car in Bob’s photograph both made me feel like I lived in a “big city.”

Sure I had lived in Indianapolis for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s but it didn’t and still doesn’t have a light rail line. All of the other places I’ve lived were too small to have such a mode of transportation.

None of them had a row of high-rise apartment buildings either.

The town where I grew up didn’t even have public transportation. You either walked or drove everywhere.

Bob’s photo also reminded me of how much I didn’t photograph the Cleveland RTA rail lines during my time living there.

The closest I came to photographing a Rapid car passing those high-rise apartment buildings was getting a car chartered by the Akron Railroad Club passing the Coventry Station during a photo runby.

Coventry station is located at the far east end of that line of apartment buildings that has an “urban” feeling.

Even if there wasn’t a pandemic doing on, I doubt that many people would be riding the Rapid to downtown Cleveland for Black Friday.

If they are going to get out on Black Friday they will drive to their favorite big box store that is more than likely located somewhere in a suburb.

If they have lunch that day it will probably be from a fast food chain outlet.

People continue to ride the Rapid to downtown Cleveland although they are far less likely to do it on Black Friday to go shopping.

Downtown department stores are a thing of the past and the retail that is left is a shadow of what it used to be.

I even wondered if the day after Thanksgiving was known as Black Friday back in the era when Bob made his photograph.

The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the start of the U.S. Christmas shopping season since 1952 with the “Black Friday” term dating to at least 1961.

However, one of the earliest known uses of the term in advertising didn’t occur until 1975. Even a decade later the term wasn’ that commonly used by merchants.

But the term has gained widespread currency in more recent decades and has been expanded to refer to marketing efforts that transcend the day after Thanksgiving. There are even “Black Friday” sales in October.

In writing the article that accompanies Bob’s photograph I was trying to capture a holiday tradition even if might be a greatly diminished one.

Some day there will no longer be people around who remember riding the Rapid to downtown to visit Higbee’s or Hallee’s.

There will be others, though, who can associate riding the Rapid to go downtown for other traditions.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

 

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