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II. THE BUCKEYE ROAD HUNGARIAN NEIGHBORHOOD

A. THE AMERICAN DEBRECEN

       The Buckeye Road Hungarian Community was a transient neighborhood until 1920. Immigrants came and went-worked for a few years to save money, lived in boarding houses and generally were not really concerned with establishing anything of permanence. This situation was altered dramatically, however, by World War I and the Treaty of Trianon, which imposed harsh economic and political conditions on Hungary. The plight of the homeland had a dramatic affect on Hungarian immigrants living in the United States. Suddenly the decision to return or remain was imminent. More than half of the one million Hungarian immigrants living in the United States returned to Hungary during and after the First World War.

       Hundreds of incidents, related by residents of Buckeye, conveyed the many obstacles and disappointments faced by those who returned. Many returned and bought land, only to find that they couldn't keep it because of political changes, economic hardships and/or the taxation system. One community of many, the Hungarians of Middletown, Ohio left en masse after the War; the town was left with virtually no Hungarian residents. One Szekler-Hungarian immigrant returned to his family in Transylvania, partitioned to Rumania, and found that his wife wouldn't speak to him or let him in their home. He finally learned the reason for her anger: the family had not received any of the money which he had promised to send from America. The immigrant was devastated by this news as he had taken all of his earnings to an "official" currency exchange-transfer agent; he had been under the impression that the funds were being sent to his family.35

 


 

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       One Buckeye Road resident, Mrs. Bertha Ludescher, was three years old when she was first brought to America in 1907. She met her husband, also a Hungarian immigrant, was married and returned with him to Transylvania in 1920. Mrs. Ludescher recalled this period in her life as being pleasant; her husband's relatives were very kind to her and they were relatively happy. Some things were difficult to comprehend however, such as not being allowed to speak Hungarian in the streets in an area of Hungary which was now part of Rumania.

       Difficulties arose when the Rumanian government wanted to draft her husband into the army. Bertha Ludescher wrote to her parents in Pittsburgh for assistance. They sent the young coupl $600 to save their son-in-law from the forced military service. The Rumanian government, upon receiving the money, which was at that time an enormous amount, issued an official certificate stating that Ludescher was free of all military duty and could not, from that time forward, be called for service.

       Not even one year passed when Ludescher was again called for military service. Again, the parents in America were notified of the situation; this time they sent $400. Mrs. Ludescher later realized that even $100 would have been enough to satisfy Rumanian officials, who took the money each time as an excellent illegal source of American currency. The $1,000 was not enough, however, after receiving two "official" documents guaranteeing Ludescher's freedom from military service, he was called in again the third year. The parents in America as well as the young couple finally grew tired of the bribery and deception and Ludescher hurriedly left Rumania with a forged passport to Argentina. Because of the Quota System, Bertha Ludescher could not rejoin her husband in the United

 


 

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Upper and Lower Buckeye Road during 1940's

 


 

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States until 1930, more than seven years later.36

       Approximately half-a-million Hungarians stayed and made permanent homes in the United States. Thousands did so upon learning that their villages were under foreign rule or because they received countless pleas for aid and letters describing the poverty and suffering. They realized they could be of greater assistance by saving and sending home their earnings. In the case of the Cleveland Hungarian Community, World War I and the effects of the Treaty of Trianon were the two most significant factors which decided the fate of this ethnic enclave. It was due to these factors that the east side Hungarian community developed into a unique ethnic neighborhood and remained self-contained and distinct for nearly five decades.

       The stability of this unique Hungarian neighborhood was signalled by the following indicators: after 1920, an increasing number of residents purchased their own homes and became citizens of the United States. Only fifteen percent of Hungarian immigrants took out naturalization papers prior to World War I, as compared to about thirty percent following the War. By 1930, this percentage had increased to 55.7 percent.37 The original Hungarian neighborhood around East 79th Street and Holton Avenue expanded from Buckeye Road until Woodland Avenue and East 72nd Street, from Woodhill Road until East 125th Street. At the time of the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad through this section, Hungarians moved eastward to the other side of Woodhill Road, as far as 140th Street, where living conditions were "considerably better." Their stay seemed permanent and they were intent on making the best of it. They expanded east along Buckeye Road, building homes and establishing businesses.

 


 

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Hungarian businesses soon dominated the entire span of Buckeye: around East 79th Street and Holton Avenue, on lower Buckeye from East 79th to Woodhill and upper Buckeye from East Blvd. to East 130th Street.

       Hungarian real estate brokers encouraged their fellow countrymen to buy homes in this area. In particular, the owners and operators of the South Woodland and Rice Avenue Allotment Company: John Weizer, Ferenc Apáthy, Joseph Szepessy and John Gedeon, among others, were instrumental in moving Hungarians into the Buckeye Road area. Weizer alone sold more than 2,000 building lots to Hungarians. In Hungary, home and land ownership was a symbol of status and this attitude was reflected by the Hungarian immigrants in America. Once it was established that their stay was permanent, home ownership became a top priority and pride was taken in keeping the house and property in good order.

       The 1920s and early '30s were boom years as far as Hungarians in Cleveland were concerned. The Buckeye Road Hungarian Community was built in its entirety during these years with most of its present churches, businesses and office buildings. Never before, or since was so much accomplished. The immigrants built themselves a Hungarian town, in memory of the hundreds of towns and villages they could never return to and made it their new home-a little Hungary-5,000 miles away from home.

       In determining the stages of the history of the Buckeye Road Hungarian Community, 1920 to 1930 is known as the period of expansion, while 1930 to 1965 is designated as the period of stability.38 By the end of the 1930s, the Buckeye area had a population of approximately 40,000, of which Hungarians constituted about 35,000. The concentration of

 


 

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Building of the weizer family on lowe and upper Buckeye. John Weizer began building the family fortune by selling real estate to Hungarians who stayed in America after W. W. I

 


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