Rumbles on E. 49th: A Most Magnificent Sound

Rascals and Rogues column writer Ralph Horner continues his chronicles growing up in Cleveland neighborhoods in his newest series, Rumbles on E. 49th.

Growing up on East 49th Street in the 1950s, “the old neighborhood,” could be rough for a kid. In fact, according to a report on juvenile delinquency in the Jan. 8, 1955 Saturday Evening Post, crime and disorder committed by teenagers increased by a 45% between 1950 and 1955. Horner recalls what life on the streets of Goodrich-Kirtland Park was like back then.

One of the most magnificent sounds I ever heard was proudly produced by me and my colleagues on the corner of 55th Street and Superior Avenue.

During the 1950s there were several fairly tall buildings on that that corner: one five-story building and two four-story buildings, if memory serves me correctly. They all had fire escapes on the side and the last set of steps to the ground of fire escapes were up in the air but were counter weighted.

If you were on the ground and wanted to go up the fire escape, you jumped up and pulled the step down and then you could climb up. We would do this and go up on the roof and just hang out.

As we were up on top of the five-story building that was on the southeast corner of the intersection, we noticed that a police car always parked on 55th street right under us at about 7 p.m.

When the patrol car came, we waited for a while to make sure that the police were comfortably settled in.When the patrol car came, we waited for a while to make sure that the police were comfortably settled in.The cops never got out. They just sat in the car for the longest time. One night, someone got an idea, a great idea. The next day we all roamed the neighborhood and rounded up all we could find of a certain item we needed to execute this great idea.

When we collected a lot of that item, we took them up to the roof in bags. We also took some old clothes. We made a dummy, but we didn’t stuff it with rags and newspaper. We stuffed it with the items, a lot of them.

We tied the ends so that the items would not fall out. It was very heavy. We left the dummy on the roof. Later in the evening, we went up to the roof before 7 p.m., and waited for the police car.

When the patrol car came, we waited for a while to make sure that the police were comfortably settled in. When we decided that they were relaxed, we tossed the dummy off the roof.

We heard people screaming. Presumably because they thought a “person” had just jumped off the roof. The dummy landed right on top of the police car—just as we intended it to.

The plunging dummy was filled with glass bottles. Try to imagine the sound it made when it landed on the metal top of the police car! It was magnificent!

By the time the police figured out what happened we were down the fire escape, around the building, running up to the police car asking, “What the hell was that awful sound, officer?”

Ralph Horner
Ralph Horner

About the Author: Ralph Horner

Ralph Horner grew up in the 1950s and 1960s on Whittier Avenue in the Central and Hough neighborhoods. In the 1960s and 1970s, at the age of 19, he managed a French Shriner shoe store on Euclid Avenue, where he got to know many of the people who hung out on Short Vincent.  A self-proclaimed juvenile delinquent living in the inner city, Horner observed the characters who were regulars in the neighborhoods he lived and worked in. Now in his 70s, Horner shares the stories of some of his more memorable experiences on Short Vincent with the FreshWater series, Rascals and Rogues I Have Known.