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New Clevelanders – Allison Powers Interview

Allison Powers grew up in a very small town in Connecticut and lived there until she completed high school. During that time, her family had the good fortune to spend two years in Japan due to her father’s job responsibilities.

Allison attended college in Massachusetts and lived and worked in Boston for 5 years. She met her husband, Jim while they were both employed by a large engineering firm in Boston.

Before finally locating in greater Cleveland, Allison and her family lived in many different and varied places. From Boston, they moved to Long Island for six years. Following that, they moved to San Diego, and then on to Huntsville, Alabama. Allison reminisced about encountering wardrobe issues with each move, i.e., not wearing dark colors in the hot climates, needing lots of layers and especially, sweaters, in the Cleveland area, etc.

When Allison’s husband was offered a position in Cleveland, she didn’t have strong positive or negative feelings regarding the move. She was aware of Cleveland’s rich cultural reputation. She was also familiar with some of Cleveland’s well known negative publicity such as the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969 and knew that this was a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, Cleveland has been the butt of many nationally known comedians’ jokes. The city’s great treasures, history and institutions seem to be some of its best kept secrets.

Initially, she was glad to be leaving the Alabama heat. Her childhood in Connecticut, she thought, had prepared her for the winters of Ohio. However, once she got here, she said she wasn’t “prepared for the gray days” that are the result of our proximity to Lake Erie. She related that she immediately had to stock up on sweaters! After some time here, Allison realized that she one of those people who are affected by seasonal affective disorder.

The Powers moved to this area in late August of 1995. Their first home was in Mentor. They actually moved here the day before her son started first grade in his new school. The family came here with just a few things because their home in Alabama still had not been sold and most of their personal belongings would be shipped along with their furnishings.

Allison recalled that their son’s first grade teacher had a hard time understanding why he didn’t dress up for Indians (baseball) Day soon after school started. It was necessary for Allison to explain to the teacher the difficulties associated with a relocation. There was so much going on with selling a home hundreds of miles away, moving into another one, getting the family settled, and being in an area with which the family was unfamiliar.

At first, Allison didn’t know what to do to acclimate to her new surroundings. She was still very involved in selling their home in Huntsville and at the same time getting her two children settled in school, etc. She joined the PTA at their school in an effort to meet new people, however, that did not turn out to be a satisfying experience for her. Allison noticed that so many people she met were native to this area with long established friendships and local family and, therefore, they did not go out of their way to get involved with “new” people.

She went to the local YMCA frequently to swim. As the staff got to know Allison, they realized that she was new to the area and did not know many people. Coincidentally, they needed a swimming instructor, so she was hired. At this point, she had a lot of free time and really enjoyed teaching the classes. Once she became more involved with community and friends, her seasonal affective disorder became more tolerable.

After more than six years in the Mentor area, Jim’s job required the family to move, yet again, this time to Sandusky, Ohio. They lived in Sandusky for eighteen months before Jim was transferred to Akron, Ohio.

This time, the Powers settled in Hudson, Ohio which is about a 20-minute drive from Akron and about a 30-minute drive southeast of Cleveland. They have been in the Hudson area for about five years now.

With this move Allison said she “got lucky” with regard to meeting people and feeling part of the community. One of Jim’s co-workers invited Allison to bowl with her league.

Allison and Jim hosted a party at their home. The guests were people with whom Jim worked. One of the guests asked Allison if she was going to join an organization (she had heard of before, but never joined) called the New Clevelanders. As Allison explained, when she and her family came to this area, finding organizations and things to do was not as easy as it is now with “Google” and other search engines.

So Allison got started with New Clevelanders. She found it to be a wonderful way to share experiences associated with relocation with others who had “been there, done that”. Everyone was looking for the opportunity to find new friends and discovering their “adopted” home town. The great thing about New Clevelanders, according to Allison, is that ‘this month you’re the new person, but next month, it’s someone else. Within a few months, you’re a veteran.” Allison now serves the New Clevelanders as its president.

When asked what was most enjoyable about living in the greater Cleveland area, Allison listed several things. She enjoys living in Hudson which is on the outskirts of the secondary “snow belt.”

Because of her association with the New Clevelanders which has a monthly group “trip” to visit various places in the greater Cleveland area, she discovered some wonderful places. She lists the towpath trails which are part of the Cleveland Metroparks as one of the greatest treasures here in this area. She talked about how lovely the summers are in Cleveland.

Allison feels that Cleveland does not get enough credit for the great variety and quality of performing arts available in the community.

Some other favorable points Allison listed about Cleveland included: Cleveland is a less expensive place to live. Locations/events are much more accessible than in New York, for example. She cited attending theatre productions in Cleveland vs. New York with required commute time of ½ hr. vs. 1 ½ hr., and the cost of parking being considerably less here.

Allison states that greater Cleveland is a wonderful place to live with many great things to do, but one has to get out and explore the city. Some activities she listed include: great places to bicycle, wide selection of museums, lake and river cruises, Lolly the Trolley, numerous unique shopping areas, knitting and fabric stores, etc. Allison made specific mention of the Lakeview Cemetery with its original Tiffany works. The various neighborhoods of Cleveland, its great restaurants, and numerous church festivals, are among the many “pluses” of Cleveland that Allison has discovered. She feels that people who are new to the area tend to discover more about the Cleveland “jewels” than those folks who have lived here most or even all of their lives.

From somewhat unhappy beginnings/experiences upon moving to this large metropolitan area, to total involvement in the community and what it has to offer, Allison found a way to learn about this remarkable place to live. As I talk to more “new arrivals” in Cleveland, it appears that this group makes it their objective to learn about the greater Cleveland area they now call “home”. They seem to be very captivated by Cleveland’s rich history and the treasures we have today that stem directly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the “native” Clevelanders tend to take this great city for granted and may not be aware of all the great things this area has to offer. We hope to allow our longtime Clevelanders (and anyone else who is interested) the ability to view our area through the eyes of our “newer arrivals.”

– Written by: Roberta Malbin Levenson

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