Monday, January 14, 2008

Generational Divide?

During the 2006 Cuyahoga County Fair, we mounted a large exhibit of poster-size images of landmarks in Cleveland's 20th century history. Sort of a greatest hits of Cleveland history for the fairgoers to wander through and enjoy. While manning the exhibit, I got reflecting on these landmarks and wondered whether we aren't witnessing a fundamental difference in the way that generations relate to Cleveland. When I was growing up in Lake County, Cleveland was still the center of my universe. My parents both commuted to work downtown, we did all our early (1950s) shopping in the department stores and as late as the 1960s I was still taking dates to the movie theaters on Euclid Avenue and to Euclid Beach. We watched many locally-produced TV shows and listened to music from local DJs. It didn't matter what part of town my contemporaries and their parents lived in, we all shared those experiences in common. But what I realized at the Fair was that the generations coming of age after 1964 or so were increasingly less likely to share that type of memory and didn't associate with downtown Cleveland as I had. Sure, we all still have the Browns, Indians and Cavs and all still watch locally-produced news shows, but that's about it. Younger generations of suburbanites grew up with the local malls being the focal point of their lives, not downtown. They don't -- I think -- all share the same degree of identification with the core city that those do who grew up in the Fifties or earlier and being from Cleveland is much more a geographical abstraction than it was for us. This has to have ramifications when talking about regionalism and the problems of the central city.