Video Bridges The Generations In Neighborhood

LAKEWOOD, Ohio (AP) - Five teenagers combed the city's Birdtown neighborhood recently with video cameras and notebooks, learning about a slice of life that has all but disappeared.

In Birdtown's heyday, streets with names such as Robin and Plover hummed with workers heading to factory jobs at National Carbon. Mothers walked to market nearly every day, buying meat from one store, bread from another. Children played in Madison Park until Officer Harry blew his whistle at 9 p.m. and sent them home.

"Whatever the people needed in this area, they didn't have to leave. It was a self-contained community," said Marge Stopiak, sitting in a Birdtown living room with two other women as the young videographers asked questions.

The video project is the brainchild of Slightlyaskew, a New York-based arts collective that teams with students across the country, offering workshops that challenge minds and create art.

Lakewood is a favorite location for Slightlyaskew, in part because co-artistic director Meryl Murman is a Lakewood native.

The Lakewood neighborhood, recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built more than 100 years ago to house workers from a nearby factory. National Carbon opened the factory in 1892 with a small number of workers from Cleveland. At the time, the surrounding area was undeveloped farmland.

Murman, 23, a New York University graduate, said New York City is full of arts programs for youth. "We go out and try to work with the rest of the country," she said.

The second of three workshops in Lakewood this summer focused on Birdtown, a very timely pick. Earlier in July, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stopiak, her cousin Rose Slavik and Helen Pohorence campaigned for the designation.

During their videotaped interview, the three women talked about the ethnic foods of their old neighborhood cabbage rolls, sauerkraut and kielbasa.

Most of the teens did not know about kielbasa, so Pohorence went in the kitchen and pulled the sausage out of the refrigerator. She also showed them cups and saucers that the local movie theater used to give away on "dish night."

"We got a lot of good information," said 15-year-old Rocky River resident Brynne Donoughe. The Magnificat High School sophomore said she would liked to live in Birdtown because of the history and "funky feeling."

The teens later shot a few street scenes, then headed back to a makeshift studio to edit. Five days of interviewing became a 13-minute documentary.

"Overall, the older crowd missed how it used to be," said Eric Namaky, 17, a senior at Chagrin Falls High School. "The younger people say it's getting better all the time."