I remember when I used to work at a local paper, my friends Robyn, Nick and I would go out to grab something to drink before we started our work day. We’d stand in line, all three of us holding a different type of beverage—Robyn with hot tea, Nick with chocolate milk, and my own left hand wrapped around a cup of Wawa’s cigarette butt flavored coffee, six sugars and a cup-and-a-half of cream. The background music leaking out of the speakers in the ceiling would surround the air with some 1950’s excuse for Rock and Roll—Fabian begging to be turned loose, Bobby Rydell asking to be held tight or Fats Domino looking for his thrill. I’d turn to robyn and Nick and say, “How did our parents ever like this?” I got my answer to this question in Cleveland.
In downtown Cleveland, surrounded by four right angles of traffic, stands The Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, or known locally as Cleveland’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The monument’s most notable recognition would probably come from the opening scenes of “A Christmas Story,” where little Ralphie, his brother Randy, and all their friends press their noses against the display windows of Higbee’s Department Store—in the background stands the monument ignorant of the Christmas season, blackened by years of soot and pollution from the burning furnaces of steel mills circling the city like like stationary iron and chromium buttresses.
Today the monument has been cleaned and invites visitors to look at her insides, walls lined with gray granite and Amherst sandstone where the names of local soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War are carved, with the notable exception of any Black soldiers who served (apparently there are plans to add those missing names to the stone walls as the names are discovered through research), and four interior bronze wall reliefs depicting important moments of the Civil War. Above the walls are the bronze carved images of high ranking officers. The yellow, bronze and red colored walls and their echo gives today’s visitor the feeling that he/she is in the bathroom of train station. Albeit a clean bathroom, but this is a step back in time when the cultural symbols were different. When memorializing and the neutral color of yellow depicted remembrance. Still, around the exterior of the monument all you can smell is urine— you can see the decades of piss stains on the red sandstone. Continue reading