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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Basic Biittner: Let's hear it for the Rust Belt

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cleveland, situated on one of the Great Lakes (Erie) in northeast Ohio, has had its share of public relations problems over the years. It is part of the so-called "Rust Belt"(an unfortunate moniker, in my opinion) of blue-collar manufacturing towns that stretch from Buffalo to Duluth. The term "Rust Belt" was coined to signify the collapse and eventual restructuring of the steel industry, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. These economic hard times didn't help Cleveland's image, nor did the question of toxic waste from the manufacturing plants spilling into the lake. And then there were the comedians who made jokes like, "I spent a week in Cleveland one night." Not to mention the nickname of Municipal Stadium, longtime home of the NFL Browns and MLB Indians, derisively called by some "The Mistake on the Lake."

At any rate, Cleveland has gotten a bad rep. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was created in the mid-1980s and it was announced that the Hall and Museum would be in Cleveland, the reaction from most interested people (outside of Cleveland) ranged from "Huh?" to "Why Cleveland?"

(Photo)
The Rock Hall at night
The answer to that question, by the way, is that Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed was widely credited with promoting the new genre (and the term) of "rock and roll", and that Cleveland was the location of the first rock and roll concert. At any rate, the beautiful Hall, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, has been a big tourist attraction and economic boost to Cleveland. Of course, the dissing of the Buckeye city continues, as only one time in the 15 years since it was built has the annual induction ceremony of newly-elected members actually been held at the Hall in Cleveland. In other years, including the upcoming March 14, 2011 ceremony, the induction was held in "the Big Apple" (aka 'The Center of the Universe'), at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

I'm ranting about Cleveland because the city was connected to two big events that were in the news last week. One, of course, was the annual announcement of the new inductees into the Rock Hall, which again, will actually take place in New York. A diverse and interesting class, though not exactly stellar - Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Tom Waits, Darlene Love and Dr. John were chosen as performers, Leon Russell as a sideman, and record executives Art Rupe and Jac Holzman as non-performers. But the announcement at least brought Cleveland some publicity.

(Photo)
"Rapid Robert"
The other news came the next day, when baseball Hall-of-Famer Bob Feller passed away at the age of 92. Feller's death deserved all the publicity it received - he was a youthful phenom, an early enlistee in WWII, decorated veteran, and was well-loved not only in his native Van Meter, Iowa, where he has a museum in his honor, but also in - you guessed it - Cleveland. "Rapid Robert" spent his entire career with the Indians, retired there to live and raise his famly, and continued his involvement and interest in the team - and in baseball, in general, to his dying day.

I traveled through much of the "Rust Belt" on a week's vacation early last summer, hitting both Syrause and Buffalo, New York and winding up my trip in Cleveland.

I found all three cities to be full of courteous, helpful, "blue collar folks," and, being from small-town Iowa myself, I felt right at home. I also got that same feeling from the folks in the "Iron Range" in northern Minnesota (where my daughter-in-law grew up) - great folks.

So never mind the negative stuff you hear about Cleveland (and Buffalo), and "consider the source," as they say. The naysaying usually comes from snobbish "city folk" in New York and L.A. The so-called "Rust Belt" and the so-called "Bible Belt" are where the real people of America live.

As Cleveland native Drew Carey says, "Cleveland Rocks!"

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner