It’s a warm, cozy city, with welcoming, friendly people. People willing to help their neighbors and strangers in need.
It’s a great place to grow up in a tremendously beautiful part of God’s creation.
Just spending a short time in Cleveland touches one’s heart and makes you yearn to be back there when you’re away.
I have lived in a half dozen cities in my 54 years, moving away from Cleveland twice and gladly coming back home after a five-year absence the first time and 11 years the second.
Although I learned a long time ago “to never, say never,” I have no intention of leaving here again until I go to my eternal home.
Having been born in Bradley Memorial Hospital just eight days into the decade of the 1960s, I spent the first 17 years of my life on Meadow Lane, the first road just east of Gilliland’s peach stand on Waterlevel Highway.
I lived in the last house on the left just before the S-curves on the Bates Pike end of the street.
I can remember Hwy. 64 as a two-lane road and watched with fascination the construction that made it into the four-lane, divided highway it is now.
The Shake-Shack opened the year before I was born and would be the site of my first job when I was 14 years old.
We had Hall’s Grocery at the end of Meadow Lane, until construction on the four-lane wiped it out, and Nipper’s Grocery across Hwy. 64, a couple of roads down.
At either I could take my weekly “Papaw dime” (from my grandpa Roscoe Cannon) and go buy a RC Cola, a Moonpie and have some change left over for some penny candy.
I lived less than a mile from Oak Grove School, and rode Jamie Bryson’s bus No. 29 (the non-smoking bus) from my first day of school in Mrs. Daughtry’s class until my 16th birthday, when I drove my first car, a 1964 Rambler, to Bradley Central in January of 1976. I never rode a school bus again until I started training to drive one in 1995.
As a child in the late ’60s and early ’70s during the summers, I would often go to town in the mornings when mom went to work as a secretary/bookkeeper/proof reader at Bible Place on Central Avenue, across the street from the old Church of God of Prophecy tabernacle, M.C. Headrick Grocery Store and Dooley’s Ice Cream parlor.
While she worked, I’d go downtown to either the Boys Club at the corner of Broad and 4th streets, or the YMCA on Central Avenue, to play.
Some days I’d go eat lunch at The Spot and watch Lyman make the burgers, then throw them to the other workers to serve them.
I’d go to Cooper’s Sporting Goods Store and dream or stop by the Town House Bakery for a “Mary Ann.” That wasn’t a cute little girl, but a delicious cake covered in white creamy frosting and chocolate. You can still get one today.
Our dentist, Dr. Penney, had his office upstairs above the bakery. Later in life I asked him about it and he joked it helped keep him in business.
When it got to be around 4 in the afternoon, I’d head back to either Bible Place or to my dad’s work at Pathway Press, to go home for the evening.
Back then no one thought anything bad about a 10-year-old going around town by himself and no one ever bothered me.
When I got a little older, I’d ride my bike to town instead of going with mom. I widen my scope of travel during the day, going to the Village, the library, Deer Park or up by Bradley High, which at the time was where Ocoee Middle School is today, and even to the Rebel.
After I started working at the Shake-Shack, I was able to save enough money to buy a used Schwinn 10-speed bicycle from Keith Campbell and that allowed me to go even farther.
If I was off or didn’t have to work until the evening, sometimes I’d ride across the county to my best friend Bruce Sullivan’s house out by Hopewell School.
Bruce was a year older than me, so when he turned 16 and got on old green 1967 Camaro, he’d come pick me up. I’d put a dollar’s worth of gas in the tank (about three gallons back then) and we’d drive all over the place.
For my 13th birthday, my dad, Gene Cannon, took me to the “new” tabernacle parking lot on Keith Street and taught me how to drive. He also gave me a set of keys to his work car to make me feel grown up.
After I started working, when he and mom, Juanita Cannon, would go visit my brother Daryl (D.G.) in Georgia for the weekend, I would drive that car all over the county (without their knowledge), learning every back road to avoid getting caught.
Having spent a lot of time at Parksville Lake, Chilhowee, the Ocoee and Hiwassee rivers as a kid, when I could legally drive I headed over to Polk County as often as I could.
In fact on the day I got my learner’s permit mom had me drive up in the mountains past Reliance to visit a family she was ministering to up there.
Between my junior and senior years of high school, my parents sold the Meadow Lane house to our neighbor’s daughter, Rita Crye, and her husband. They still live in the house today.
We moved to the north side of town to Laurel Drive, just a couple of blocks from the Duracell plant on Mouse Creek Road. It’s been 36 years and my folks still live there.
Although I loved our many family vacations to Florida, as well as Myrtle Beach (S.C.), Hawaii, Canada and even a two-week, cross-country trip to my brother Jerry’s wedding in Oregon (which included me getting thrown out of a Las Vegas casino), many of my favorite times were when we’d make day trips to Gatlinburg and Cherokee, N.C.
I’ve always loved the mountains and feel “at home” when I can visit them or at least see them.
My current school bus route has me cresting the hill on Wilkinson Road to a spectacular view of the Smoky Mountains at sunrise. I always say a thank you to their Creator for the beauty before me.
While my time away from Cleveland was spent mainly in 14 years of pastoral ministry, I have always felt closest to the Lord right here in the “buckle of the Bible belt.” That was my vote for Cleveland’s city motto.
When “King James” stunned the sports world by saying he was going to Cleveland, I understood completely. There’s no place I’d rather be.
Wait, what do you mean he was talking about Cleveland, OHIO? Is he crazy? I’ve been there.
Why would he move from the beaches and sunshine of south Florida for the bitterly cold, harshness of Northeast Ohio. They have “lake effect” snows a couple of feet deep at a time.
With full disclosure in mind, I will say my brother Jerry’s family has lived there for the past 30 years and love it.
I know you’re from Akron and wanted to go back home, Lebron but I think you’d like this Cleveland much better.
I know we don’t have an NBA team, but like the voice in Fields of Dreams said, “if YOU build it, they will come.”
While “King James” and I agree with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz — “There’s no place like home” — I’ll take the southeast corner of the Volunteer State over the Buckeye State big city any day.