35th Anniversary: The Great Divide

It may be our city’s most pressing question: east or west? Be careful how you answer. As we’ve discovered in the last 35 years, there are far-reaching social, economic and historical implications implicit in your choice.

Call it our “split personality” or our “great Cultural Divide” (as we did in December 1974). Call it our “us-vs.-them mentality” or more gently, “two halves of a brain” (as we did exactly 30 years later in December 2004).

We’ve tried to explain it from a historical context (blaming the Indians, Moses Cleaveland and the Irish) and from a geological perspective (you know, the famed Wisconsin glacier of 18,000 B.C.). Heck, we even tried to pronounce it dead (complete with faux gravestone) to finally put the issue to rest.

Mostly, though, we decided our obsession, our neurosis, with which side of town you live on “makes us look silly” (April 1988).

So Cleveland Magazine editors have exploited the issue for laughs — and then, while we’ve got your attention —proposed ways for East and West to come together (or at least be able to enjoy a holiday party together).

Maybe we’ve never really answered the essential question posed back in ’74: “Is the divide real or is it just some more of Cleveland’s shame-faced self-consciousness?”

But along the way, we’ve discovered that what makes us chuckle only brings us closer together.
Why the divide might be real: “When Moses Cleaveland and his intrepid band of 45 surveyors sailed in off Lake Erie and landed on the east bank of the Cuyahoga in 1796, their mission was to survey only that part of the Western Reserve which lay east of the river. ... So Cleaveland and his men started working their way back east.” — Dec. 1974

Alcohol might be the explanation for everything (in other words, maybe our editors had a few too many): “East Siders drink to keep their hands from caressing their expensive lapels. West Siders drink to feel good. East Siders will drink anywhere, as long as it is decorated in mauve and gray. West Siders will drink anywhere, as long as the sign outside reads, “Liquor.” ... When an East Sider asks for a tab, he means a diet soda. When a West Sider asks for a tab, he means he is broke, thirsty and friendless.” — May 1987

Best attempt to undermine our own claim that “the sharp division between East and West is blurring”: Our 1974 chart on “How to Tell an East Sider from a West Sider:”

Best guide to plaid pants (ever!):
Almost tailor-made for Princeton graduates who are commodities brokers or industrial real estate salesmen, and attended Heights High during the fifties when public schools were “in.”
Perfect for the upwardly mobile West Side Irish Catholic alumni of St. Edward High School. Would be in style for any Christmas function as well as the Cleveland Athletic Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Party.
Acceptable for clothes-conscious Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue associates living in century house fixer-upper in Berea or Chagrin Falls and attended Hawken when co-ed private schools were “in.”
— Dec. 1980

Vacation dream:
East Sider: A 44-day drunk aboard the QE2
West Sider: Two days at Cedar Point or a madcap weekend at Put-in-Bay
Leisure wear (men)
East Sider: Something in leather, preferably fringed
West Sider: If it is double-knit and goes with a white belt and shoes, buy it

Leisure wear (women)
East Sider: Sequined T-shirt, recycled jeans and mink
West Sider: So what’s wrong with pegged stretch pants?

East Sider: As long as it’s boxy, a muted color and European
West Sider: A primary color — like lime, fuchsia or tangerine — and strictly made-in-Detroit

Favorite sport
East Sider: Sex
West Sider: Drinking

Favorite drink
East Sider: Olives and anything
West Sider: Whiskey and anything
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