Heading North to Opportunity
This interstate didn’t look at all like this when Otis and Cleda Evans set out from Kentucky and headed north.
The coal mines were dark, dirty, and dangerous. Otis, along with his brother, decided to leave the dust behind and find other work. Options were limited, but Otis heard of work in Ohio. He and Cleda packed up the kids, their meager belongings, and left their Kentucky home behind. They headed north for better opportunities in a new state.
I’m sure it was a long and arduous trip with their four children, Shirley, Dennie, Pat, and Gerri. But sometime between 1943 after the birth of Gerri, and before the birth of their fifth and final child, Karen in 1947, the family made their way across the Ohio River. They put down stakes in a little town north of Cincinnati, Norwood, Ohio.
Otis found work at the General Motors plant; he worked as a painter on the assembly line. The work was hard but steady, and safe.
The first home I remember as a child is a small apartment on Hunter Avenue. As I recall, there was one bedroom. The dining room was converted to a second bedroom for the children. We lived in that cramped apartment until 1953 when we moved to Tilden Avenue in West Norwood.
That’s the home of our childhood. Compared to the apartment on Hunter it was a mansion. The living quarters and mom and dad’s bedroom were on the first floor with three bedrooms on the second. The best part was the huge yard with a large three car garage. We had arrived.
Seeing is Believing
It’s funny how your memory as a child is exaggerated. In my mind’s eye that white house was sitting on a hill and it was huge. On trips home as an adult, I realized the house on Tilden was only slightly elevated and not quite the mansion I remember. But to me, as the song goes, it’s the house that built me.
Otis and Cleda Evans were humble people, from the hollers of Harlan, Kentucky.
With a limited formal education and funds, they built a better life. Times were tough, but with determination, dedication to their family, and defying the odds, they discovered their American dream.