12 James and Susan Borchert

marry within both the ethnic and religious background of their parents, succeeding generations have strayed more frequently beyond ethnicity if not religion.

Through hard work, multiple jobs, and business enterprise, villagers have earned considerable success. Although few first-generation families moved up out of their unskilled jobs, many did succeed in buying their own homes, an effort that required considerable sacrifice by the whole family The second generation, American-educated, drew on their parents' access to unskilled industrial jobs first to gain employment and then to gain promotions to more skilled and better paying work. By 1940, the success of these intergenerational efforts became clear; most American-born villagers worked at skilled or semi-skilled positions and 13% held white collar jobs.

In the last twenty years, as older factories have laid off workers, closed down, or moved out of the area, the third generation has found it increasingly difficult to take advantage of the old beachhead in industrial jobs. While some grandchildren continue to work for the same employer as their parents and grandparents, most have to go outside the neighborhood for employment; during this period for the first time more villagers have commuted by car than walked to work.

Increasingly, younger generations of villagers have chosen to move out of the village. Early on, Birdtowners had spilled over Madison, spreading north and west across Lakewood, and eventually this migration led to more distant suburbs. Residents moved for a variety of reasons. Some undoubtedly found the tight village gemeinschaft suffocating, while others sought newer, more modern housing. Eventually the decline of local employment opportunities encouraged migration out of the county and even the state of Ohio.

These distant moves did not necessarily reflect either a rejection or abandonment of the neighborhood. Many former villagers continued to own neighborhood property; many returned weekly for church services and to visit friends, family, and other institutions. Moreover, as many of the first villagers came to the neighborhood as part of a chain migration, so too did the neighborhood spawn its own chain migration of residents to more distant suburbs. Again, neighborhood institutions played a role in this process; at least one village church reproduced by fission when a group of its members moved to Parma, Ohio, and founded their own church there. Although they left the village, they did so in the context of other villagers and of a village institution.

Local business declined sharply in the post-war years as affluence reduced the need for supplemental income, and chain stores increasingly cut into profits. Bars and taverns appeared most resistant to these changes, but the number even of these has diminished in recent years. Not surprisingly the many small grocery stores and confectioners have also declined precipitously Even the chain stores pulled out of the community as marketing under-went major changes in response to the automobile. Housefront shops along residential streets often were the first to go; residents simply integrated these small rooms into their homes for more space. Larger mom-and-pop groceries continued to hold out for some time.

The U-NO Motion Picture Theater, 12224 Madison Avenue, ca. 1930. Photograph courtesy of Amelia Bendik Cotter.


Last Updated May 24, 2000

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