Euclid Corridor Oral History Project Interview with Carol Hornek

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Euclid Corridor Oral History Project

Interview with Carol Hornek

Interview by Nicole Kiehl

November 21, 2005

7:00 PM

Cleveland State University
Kiehl: Can you say your full name?
Hornek: Carol Hornek
Kiehl: Where were you born and where and around what time?
Hornek: I was born here in Cleveland, Ohio at Huron Road Hospital.
Kiehl: Can you tell me about your childhood and about the neighborhoods you grew up in?
Hornek: I lived in the Forest Hills neighborhood in East Cleveland which was at one time part of the original Rockefeller estates. I grew up going downtown. Downtown was the place to go, the place to be seen at. The stores were marvelous, there was entertainment. All sorts of things going on on Euclid Avenue from public square all the way up to 12th Street.
Kiehl: Is there anything you did with your family as far as going downtown?
Hornek: The holiday time was probably one of the best. You would go downtown. At that point Higbee’s, May Company, Taylor’s, Sterling Linder’s, Halle Brothers all had fabulous, fabulous windows that had mechanical animated windows like you see in New York City still today. You go to Sterling Linder Davis – they had the famous tree that you see in many photographs. It filled their whole atrium. That was a big thing for your parents to bring you downtown to see all of this, to visit the tree, to go upstairs to the top floor and they had a Santaland. If you went to the other department stores – Higbee’s had a Santa village that you would go and visit Santa and Mrs. Santa in their alleged home. There were all sorts of things to do. You would go to the movie theaters downtown in what is now the Playhouse Square area. At one time those were movie theaters and you would go on the weekend or on Sundays downtown to see a particular movie that was playing.
Kiehl: What is your fondest childhood memories?
Hornek: Holiday time in downtown was probably my fondest memory. It was so festive. They used to have Christmas trees on the lamp posts all the way down to what is now Playhouse Square. The decorations stretched from Public Square all the way down. The stores and their animated windows, the shoppers. There weren’t suburban malls at that time. There were just stores here and there. So to go downtown to get dressed up and come downtown. You’d go to the Silver Grille and you would eat. They used to have a little stove for children that their meal would come in that are a collector’s item nowadays. And your food would come in a little stove and you would go with your mom and have lunch and shop. It was a wonderful, wonderful time and a wonderful experience.

Kiehl: Do you have any memories from Euclid Avenue from lets say your early 20's?
Hornek: Euclid Avenue was a place to go. Up by Playhouse Square there was a famous restaurant. It was just all sweets and ice cream called Boucairs. If you went to a special event downtown – if you went to a concert, or a show or something like that – you would go after to Boucairs which was in the Playhouse Square area. They had a menu of ice creams that were works of art. Giant three pounds of ice cream I think you would get in a simple sundae with all sorts of things cascading on it and hanging onto it. There were great restaurants up in the Playhouse Square area. A lot of different types of entertainment and shopping.
Kiehl: What jobs have you had throughout your life?
Hornek: I was with Cleveland Ballet for quite a few years. First we were at the Hanna theater then we went over to the convention center, to public hall for a very short time and then we eventually moved into the State theater once they were renovated. I was with Western Reserve Historical as a senior staff member for about 7 years. Included in that time we worked for a number of years on the Euclid Avenue millionaires row project which was Showplace of America. I also do work and have for a number of years free lance work for Cleveland Playhouse on their marketing and events.
Kiehl: Can you talk a little bit more about Showplace of America?
Hornek: It was a fabulous, fabulous project. It was conceived and it took about 2 years just putting it together. It was an exhibit that ran for probably about 17 months if I’m not mistaken, and it encompassed everything from Euclid Avenue all the way down to where the Cleveland Clinic is today. East 55th was really the cut off for the high end millionaires. East 55th was called Wilson Avenue at that point in time. The railroad trestles, the bridge that runs over East 55th, there was an elaborate train station where a lot of the residents of Euclid Avenue would come and go from that because back then to go all the way to public square to catch the train was miles and miles away. Those homes out by 55th were considered almost summer homes. They would go farther out of town. Which is amazing to think that East 55th was out in the country at that time. The exhibit also produced a book called Showplace of America which was authored by Jan Sigliano that chronicled the life and times of Euclid Avenue from when the city was first established and eventually became the avenue to be on. Everyone from the Rockefellers, as a matter of fact here on Cleveland State campus is still one of the original homes from millionaires row. I think that is the only one left at this point in time. A few years back there were about 3 or 4 but now there’s just the one – Mather Hall over here. And that was the home of the Mathers. It was a time of opulence. Cleveland was a very – there was a lot of commercial industry that was starting up. It was the largest car manufacturing company – Detroit was not auto city Cleveland was at that time. The automaking capital when automobiles first came into being. So there was a lot of automobile manufacturers here, Standard Oil got its start here. A lot of different corporations got their start here. Western Union, the Wade family, Wade Oval was the area out by University Circle. There was a lot of money in the Cleveland area. A lot of very prominent individuals lived on Euclid Avenue. If you had a home on Euclid Avenue you had really made it. If you were fronting Euclid Avenue. If you were on the backside maybe you weren’t doing as well. But if you were on Euclid Avenue you were a millionaire.
Kiehl: Can you talk a little bit more about what you did at Western Reserve Historical Society?

Hornek: Western Reserve Historical sole mission is to put forth the history of the Western Reserve territory. It was originally a land grant from Connecticut. That’s why it is called the Western Reserve. We were considered the west coast this far along Lake Erie. Soldiers that fought in various campaigns were given a reward and they would be given a certain plot of land that would be in what was considered Connecticut’s Western Reserve. That’s how the name for this area really came into being. What Western Reserve Historical does – there was two aspects – well more than two – there is also at that point the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum which got its start because Cleveland was the largest auto manufacturing city in the world at one time. A lot of other transportation modes started here in the area. There is the Hay mansion and a lot of other properties that are part of Western Reserve including even Hale Farm and Village. There is a couple of other properties that the Historical Society does maintain throughout the Western Reserve area.
Kiehl: Can you tell me more about the Cleveland Ballet?
Hornek: Cleveland Ballet’s third home was at Playhouse Square. Originally it started at the Hanna theater on Euclid Avenue which was right across the street. It moved for a short time to the convention center to public hall and then when the theaters were finally renovated the Junior League came in and took the Ohio, the State theaters and renovated them. Gave some endowments to bring them out of the shambles that they were in and restore them to their original luster and to becomes theaters for live performing arts. So at that point in time that is when the Cleveland Ballet moved to the Euclid Avenue address and our offices were at 1 Playhouse Square which is the old Bonwit Teller building at that time. We also would produce a lot of original works plus a lot of classical ballets that were performed at the State theater which is the largest of the three houses – the Palace, the State and the Ohio at that time which were 6 acres under roof which at that time was one of the largest performing arts centers in the country. Since then they have added a couple of other theaters in the neighborhood the Allen and that type of thing.
Kiehl: What exactly did you do for the Cleveland Ballet?
Hornek: I did marketing and promotion. What we used to do is needless to say it was a fledgling group at that time. We would go out into the community. We would put together all sorts of educational programs and not only for schools but also for adults. We had ? that would be on the road going to organizations throughout the city talking about ballet, promoting ballet, promoting the various programs that we were performing over the years. We did incessant incessant promotions for the Nutcracker all over. We would go everyplace from basketball games to the Browns games at halftime promoting right out on the field promoting the Nutcracker while the fans are going “what are they doing – I came here for football or basketball and there are all of these dancing people doing strange things on the field.” We would go all over town. We’d go to the Coliseum when the Coliseum was there. Like I say, we went to the old Browns stadium. We would educate the community as to what ballet was, what we did, what our mission was and promote the arts throughout northeastern Ohio.
Kiehl: Did you know a lot of the dancers?

A lot of the dancers were delightful, delightful people. We had a lot of fun. It was probably the best job I ever had in my whole life. The people at Playhouse Square which was our home were delightful people, wonderful to work with. The ballet company itself was – you know they always say if you find a job and it’ wonderful it’s not really a job. And that truly was the case. It was a magnificent job with wonderful people in a setting that was – I mean to go to work – when we were in our offices it wasn’t so beautiful, but when we were in the theater – to think that the State Theater with its magnificent lobbies and murals and the house as large as it is with one of the largest stage houses in this part of the country. It is just amazing to think that that is where you did what you loved to do. I had run of the theater so to speak.

Kiehl: Did you go backstage at all?

I was backstage, I was front of the house, I was everywhere. A little bit of everything. I had a little earpiece like you were in the secret service and people were always talking to you and looking for you and you could choose to ignore them or you could actually answer them. It is such a large complex. You never knew what was going wrong or what may be happening or what needed attention. You had to be kind of spread out all over the theater. Especially when you’re in performance. When you’re not in performance you have other jobs. But you’re in actual performance it is very long, long, long days – 80 hours weeks when you’re in performance because you perform three days a week two different shows. The only day you are dark is Monday so long, long hours during that time for everybody concerned no matter if they are technical, artistic performers or whatever. It is just very long days. But they are always filled with interesting things that went on. It was like a little village to itself.
Kiehl: When did you see your first performance at Playhouse Square?
Hornek: I’m trying to think of what the first thing I saw at Playhouse Square. When the Junior League was raising money to renovate the three theaters they used to have some unbelievable acts. Big, big name acts. Bill Cosby, Tony Bennett - all kinds of top name acts would come in and perform in the theaters that were run down. They would set up a stage because they had such – the State Theater had such a huge lobbey – they put up a stage and set up tables and chairs. Cheta Rivera – all kinds of Broadway people would come and perform for a weekend or something like that and you would go down and then they would have some other shows like All Night Strut and of course Jack Brell. (?)

Brell for a couple of years – it was kind of a cabaret type setting. That’s how they got the seed money and starting renovating the theaters at Playhouse Square that became the fabulous complex it is today.

Kiehl: What was the most memorable show?
Hornek: I saw the Nutcracker only about 200 times. Besides that a little show called “All Night Strut” which was a great, great show. It was kind of a back to the 40s throw back show like you were in World War II time, and the characters – it was a musical type review show and it was fun. It was something different. You are sitting in this kind of hulk of a theater and you’re thinking “it’s kind of run down, it’s probably how it was back then where it was going on”. It made you feel like you were really there and the entire show was just done very well. It ran I think for about 2 years. It was really an interesting, interesting show. But it was one of my favorites there.
Kiehl: Around what time was that?

Hornek: That was right at the start – Playhouse Square would have been about 1970’s when that was up and running before the theaters were fully restored. They were one by one restoring the theaters and getting funding to complete various aspects.
Kiehl: Before you worked for the Cleveland Ballet how often did you see a show?
Hornek: I hate to tell you but there wasn’t before that – Playhouse Square did not exist. So to speak. Cleveland Ballet was one of the first tenants of State Theater. So prior to that there were not resident theater companies and it was only used for special performances that were used for fund raising to bring Playhouse Square into what it is today.
Kiehl: I understand you are more involved with the Cleveland Playhouse right now, how did that come about?
Hornek: I moved down the street. Just going down the road. Even when I was with Western Reserve Historical I used to do some freelance work for Cleveland Playhouse. Cleveland Playhouse is the oldest regional theater in the United States. As a matter of fact it is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, this season. It has been in a couple of locations on Euclid Avenue. The Drury family had a mansion and across the street they had another smaller house that they originally started some productions 90 years ago. At one point in time there is a church at about 71st or 72nd and Euclid that is still in existence today that was used for their main stage productions. For a lot of years until they built the complex now that’s right next door to the Clinic – Philip Johnson designed for them – that encompasses three theaters now – the Bolton, the Drury and the Brook theaters.
Kiehl: How are you involved there?

Hornek: I do freelance work for the various events for promotional work for the Playhouse. Also doing a lot of fundraising work for various projects that they have. There is always something. Once of the things we’ve done – I sound like I’m on a holiday kick at the moment – we do festival of trees every year. This is the ninth year that we’ve done festival of trees where we turn the whole complex into kind of a winter wonderland. We get corporate sponsors to come in and we have maybe between 60 and 70 trees all the time on display. We get corporations to come in underwrite each tree and by doing that it is an event that once we have that up and running it is our gift to the community. We go out and open it up 7 days a week. You can come down, there is no charge to the public so they can come in and enjoy some holiday magic because downtown the stores are gone and a lot of the luster just doesn’t exist anymore in Cleveland that was at one time. So this is something you can do. We also produce all sorts of things from children’s theater. We have a reading company which brings in children from some of the homeless shelters – we bring a child and their mother in and we have programs for them – we give them books and that to take back to the shelter so that they can continue the interests that we hoped we’ve spurned with them to do reading and to be interested in books. We just had one this Sunday – kids take their little books home and they’re all excited to go back to the shelter and this year they all got hats and mittens to take with them and whatever. We have a lot of educational programs for various age groups of children. We are also affiliated now with Case Western Reserve in the same program which gets one of the highest ratings for students in the theater department in conjunction with the Cleveland Playhouse and Case Western. Another thing is the masters of fine art degree for prospective students who are interested in the fields of acting. It’s rather select – there may be only 8 or 10-15 at the most students that are accepted in any one year. It is a two year program where they have their academic programs at the University and then at Cleveland Playhouse they are actually working on main stage productions and actually involved in not just the school type productions but actual productions that are main stage theater. Because the Playhouse only does original plays and we produce. We produce – we create I should say as opposed to just producing or bringing in road companies or road show tours.
Kiehl: Is there any other events that you take part in?
Hornek: I take part in a lot of things. I don’t know if I want to talk about them all. There are so many wonderful things going on in the Cleveland community – both in the arts field and various institutions. It’s hard to pick just one or two or three – there are so many marvelous things that are going on in the community. Art wise – you can probably do something almost everyday of the week someplace. There is something wonderful going on from a lot of the renovations, a lot of the new galleries that are opening up. Just along Euclid Avenue in the Colonial Arcade, there are so many new things that are coming to town and Euclid Avenue itself is just getting more vibrant especially close to the square area. You’ve got the House of Blues, Pickwick and Frolic. There’s a lot of new housing developments going on that are starting to move down toward Playhouse Square a little bit more. I think it is a very vibrant time for Clevelanders and for all the things that are going on that you can be involved with. New avenues of entertainment, living alternatives – you don’t have to be out in the suburbs all the time now. You can be close to what’s happening and all the things that are going on in that particular area. Even the healthcare facilities that are along Euclid Avenue are world renowned. They’re expanding up and down the streets and there will their on little healthcare world. Down by University Circle it has always been a tremendous art that is hard to replicate in any other city where there are so many cultural institutions in that small a physical area.
Kiehl: Back to the Festival of Trees? What kind of companies get to do trees?

Hornek: How do we get our corporate underwriting? We go out to corporations. Some of the top law firms in town. Household names. I don’t want to give anybody more credit than the other. They will be mad at me. They’re all pretty. It’s like my children. There is not a favorite one. They’re all beautiful. They are all very different. Aside from the sponsors that we bring in – the corporate sponsors who are marvelous people here in the Cleveland community that support festival of trees and support the Cleveland Playhouse in its efforts. It allows us to make this a gift to the community. Something that you can come and do 7 days a week. There is not a fee. It is a rare occurrence nowadays. Based on their generosity – it’s law firms, it’s small businesses, it’s household names. Like I say, I don’t want to give one more credit than the other or somebody will be mad at me. It is the same way with the people who do the trees. There is a lot of commercial decorators, there’s a lot of design people, florists, even companies that create various style trees. We’ve had everything over the years. This is the 9th year. We’ve had trees turned into human characters, into whimsical characters. We’ve had every kind of theme you can think of until another year comes along. “Oh my goodness where did they come up with that”. Some gorgeous, gorgeous interesting things. These people are very talented and we’re very lucky to have them to produce this type of thing so that we can turn it over to the public and let them come in and see and bring their families. It becomes a family tradition. A lot of people come every year. “Oh when our company comes from out of town they can’t wait to come down and see the Playhouse and see our shows” and that type of thing. This year we are doing Christmas Story which is from the movie that was actually filmed here in Cleveland. The old Dillards/Higbees store was the setting for little Ralph and his crazy family. A gentleman from California bought the house that was used in the movie which is down in the Tremont neighborhood. He’s renovating that and is going to make it into kind of a Christmas Story museum. It’s all kind of interrelated in Cleveland and we try to be involved with a lot of things that are pertinent to the community and that type of thing. There are so many wonderful things going on that you can be involved with if you look around and see what’s available and what is of interest to you.
Kiehl: What other shows are you putting on?
Hornek: We have all sorts of different shows this year. There’s I am My Own Wife which is a one man show that was on Broadway for a couple of years. We have a lot of some old classics. We have a lot of new things coming up this season. It is a very unique blend of different types of shows that are on this particular season. So almost anything you could have an interest in. We have a show later in the year that features Denny Dougherty who is one of the original Mamas and the Pappas and their type of music. So there’s something for everybody. Drama, comedy, all sorts of things. A little bit of everything depending on what you’re looking for.
Kiehl: Have your experiences connected you to different people throughout the years?
Hornek: At one point when I was at Playhouse Square George Abbott when he was 100 years old who is legendary in the American theater came to Cleveland and produced a show at Playhouse Square. He was there for about a week or two putting this together. It was made into a documentary that once in a while I’ll catch even on PBS. I’ll go “I remember that – I was there”. It was wonderful to meet someone like that that’s a legend. I met Fred Crawford who was to be also 100 and something. He originally invented the pistons that were on Lindberg’s plane the Spirit of St. Louis. He went on to do many, many other things over the years. He had the most remarkable life. He founded the TRW Corporation here in Cleveland. I’ve met everyone from Supreme Court justices to heads of state. Some were from countries I never heard of before. They do come to town and they would come to various events that we would produce or just come to visit some of the settings to see what we had and what we are doing here. I’ve been very, very lucky to have met a lot of interesting and well known people over the years that are household names and you see them kind of up close and personal. Not just “I saw them on TV” or that type of thing. Sometimes they are different than you think. Sometimes they’re not. So you never know until you really meet them.
Kiehl: Who was the most memorable?
Hornek: I would say the most interesting person – only because I had a very long – it wasn’t just a one time meet and greet type of thing – was Fred Crawford. He was just the most amazing man. He had graduated from Harvard I think in about 1909 or something like that. All of the various careers that he had in that 100 and some years that he lived. He used to go on safari with Gordon Stouffer from the restaurants and food chains. That’s how they got the animals that are at the Cleveland Zoo today. He and Gordon would go on safari and bring back these animals to Cleveland to the zoo. You learned something new about him all the time in the time that I knew him before he died. It was like the lives of about 6 different people rolled into one man. Very interesting and very delightful man.

Kiehl: Can you compare your experiences from Playhouse Square to Cleveland Playhouse and do you think one was more beneficial to you?
Hornek: I think they were beneficial. I think they were both very very different. Playhouse Square was new and rising. The Cleveland Ballet was the toast of the town at the time. It was exciting, it was magical because it was new and you were doing everything – a lot of the things you were doing was the first time this was done and the first time that was done. It was something that you were a part of and that you helped create and it was just a pleasure to be there and see it unfold in front of you and to see all of your work unfold to the point that it did. Cleveland Playhouse is a much older more stayed type institution. They have been there a long, long time. They’ve hosted a lot of well known people. Everybody from Margaret Hamilton who was the wicked witch of the north in the Wizard of Oz perform there. Joel Grey – when he was a kid he lived here in Cleveland and he used to belong to the curtain pullers which is a children’s production. It’s a very different type of thing. They are more old lined very stayed where Playhouse Square is new and it was more vibrant at the time and you were establishing traditions, you were establishing things that are now day to day operations there.
Kiehl: So how do you view Playhouse Square right now?
Hornek: I think it’s a marvelous, marvelous place. They’ve added some additional theaters. They added the Allen and they’ve added some other things to the complex. They’ve upgraded a lot of the things over the years and made changes from when they first opened. It’s wonderful. It’s a terrific venue for all types of performers. They don’t produce any of the shows but they do present everything from stage plays to Broadway road show companies to individual performers, kind of Las Vegas type acts. They have a wide variety. They do once in a while come through and do produce something original before it goes to Broadway or something like that. It’s kind of a testing ground to see how it will do before it moves on. They’ve made tremendous strides from when they were at one point looking at the wrecking ball to what it is today. It’s amazing to see all of that happening. It’s a great gift for the city of Cleveland.
Kiehl: When you were working at The Playhouse Square when was that?
Hornek: That was back in the beginning of the 80’s until the end of the 80’s almost.
Kiehl: Throughout the time you were working there did you see any significant change in Playhouse Square?
Hornek: You saw it develop from Playhouse what or where exactly is that into what it is today. You saw it metamorphose into kind of a fledgling “Let’s rent a barn and put on a show” type of thing to now it’s the home for a lot of Broadway road companies that come through. It’s significant in the marketplace here in northern Ohio and in the theater community in general.
Kiehl: How about the Cleveland Playhouse?

Hornek: Well, the Cleveland Playhouse has been 90 years so they’re very well established. They’re not the new kid on the block. They’re kind of the long established different type of performance venue. They’re actually producing shows as opposed to as I mentioned before presenting programs or road show companies and that type of thing. They do a little bit different thing. They both compliment each other. They do it in a different way.
Kiehl: What has been your favorite part about working at Cleveland Playhouse?
Hornek: Cleveland Playhouse – there is not one specific event even. It’s the fact that you can come up with an idea, present it and be able to produce an event or something like that or bring a program to fruition that you saw grow from an idea on a yellow legal pad. That you’ve come up with this idea and you keep filling it out and filling it out and present it and people say “Oh that’s great or we could do this or we could do that” and to work on it and bring the right people into the process that can make it happen and you see it rise before you. It’s terrific to see it from paper to actually happening. It makes you feel good that you came up with this and you’re able to relate it to something at that level.
Kiehl: Can you talk a little bit more about the events at the Playhouse? Do you have things year round?
Hornek: It depends on for example the days trees go down in January you’re already starting on next years events. You have to go out to corporations and talk with them and seduce them into being a sponsor. Sometimes it’s very easy other times it’s a difficult chore. You have to make yourself aware they’re not necessarily aware of a lot of things and a lot of the benefits of being associated with a particular arts group. Sometimes you have to educate companies and corporations as to how that is a benefit to their image in the community and the demographics of the people they are appealing to.
Kiehl: Do you have anything to do with marketing the Cleveland Playhouse?
Hornek: They have an actual marketing department that handles that particular aspect of marketing the shows and selling tickets and promoting whatever a particular show is. They do a great job and they are out promoting all the time. That’s the thing about the arts business. You have to sell yourself every time over and over again. It’s not just something you can rest on your laurels. Every time something else comes along you have to start up again and reinvent yourself and reinvent an event or various aspects of your productions.
Souther: Can you speak at all about the Playhouse Square . . . into something more than the theaters, the Star Plaza. I get the impression that it almost looks like a miniature Times Square with the ticket outlet and the jumbotrons on the buildings

Hornek: That’s been an ongoing process. I can’t speak in great detail because I left about the time they were doing that. But what they’ve tried to do is to as you said, apparently they are doing a good job. Give it kind of a Times Square kind of feel. That’s a theater district and you’re in the theater district and the marques and the lights and the star plaza and the ticket booths all sorts of things. So it is a destination. Windham Hotel opened. That gave you a destination if you were coming to stay. They’re getting more restaurants and something that when you go to the theater you can come out and go to the restaurant. You can just walk to them. You don’t have to drive back to the suburbs to eat or vis versa. You can come down and make it a complete evening. You can come for a weekend. You can do some marvelous things. They’ve made a concerted effort to – over the years I’ve seen drawings and different plans that they had that continue to expand that in the area. They were successful apparently.
Kiehl: Thank you so much and it was nice talking to you today!
Hornek: You’re welcome, Nicole.

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