General technological advancements dramatically changed the living conditions of Cuyahoga Valley residents in the 1900s. When electricity and running water came to the valley, families could buy new household appliances and easily refrigerate food.
New pavement on valley roads meant easier and faster transportation of both people and goods. Road construction also served as a secondary job for many farmers who needed additional income to survive the Great Depression.
Irene (Szalay) Kusnyer remembers when Everett families began to get electricity and running water:
"It was '39 maybe '40 that electricity came in that area. And we immediately got an electric stove and an electric refrigerator. And running water… we could take showers. Life was beginning [to get] easier." Irene (Szalay) Kusnyer, former Everett resident, 2011
2011 Oral History Project: Jan Thomas describes the new appliances her family could purchase once electricity came to Everett.
“Well first of all, we didn't have the oil lamps. And then we had kerosene lamps all over. And then we got a furnace so we didn't have to haul wood and coal and build a fire every day. Before that we actually had fuel oil space heaters, and then we got a furnace. And we got a refrigerator. And we got an electric stove. So electricity was a big deal. Big, big, bigger than you'd think.”
WPA Road Improvements
2011 Oral History Projects: George Dittoe describes how the Works Progress Administration (WPA) improved Kendall Park/Truxell Road in the 1930s.
“Our road was a dirt road all the way from Old Route 8, well it's Route 8 then, to the valley down here, to Akron-Peninsula Road. Impassible down that way going west in the wintertime. It was mud and ruts and real bad shape. And also the WPA, they did a lot of road work then too, coming like from the valley up, they took part of the road and rebuilt it and straightened it out a little bit and added . . . so finally it got paved, you know, it got paved there. Then it was great. But up to Route 8, like I say, that was all ruts and dirt and mud and terrible in the wintertime.”
WPA Road Improvements, Part 2
Willis Meyers and his son Ronnie describe WPA projects between Cleveland and Akron in the 1930s.
Ronnie: “Route 8 was paved with pavement brick at the time and that was done by WPA guys during the Depression. That road was paved to Steels Corners Road. From there on it was dirt and gravel and . . .
Willis: “They built that road out of red brick. They laid them all by hand from Akron to Cleveland. So you know how much . . . how long that would have took.”
Ronnie: “There's still a lot of that pavement brick in Akron. And Cleveland!”
Willis Meyers talks about his experiences using Model-T Fords.
My uncle was a mayor of Hudson for, oh a good many years. We might be invited up there for Sunday dinner, and we had a Model-T Ford. Well that was eight mile, and that was a long trip. He'd get things ready, you know, ~laughs~ buckets to dip water out of the crick on the way up there in case the motor got hot, you know. Spare tires and bands. Model-T run on bands. He carried a new set of bands in the . . . they could make a stop along the road and repair it and go on then, you know. They had enough stuff with them to repair anything that would break down in the Model-T Ford.
Lights and Phone Lines
Willis Meyers and his son Ronnie talk about their experiences using rechargeable batteries for light bulbs, and 12-party phone lines.
Willis: We had a light plant of our own in the basement. It was batteries is what it was. They'd last about a week, the batteries would, maybe they'd be fifteen, twenty batteries, all hooked together and they would last probably a week, and then you had an outfit that would charge the batteries. And you'd start that up and it would run all day long and then them batteries could last for another week.
You had a telephone. They had what they called "party lines" and maybe they'd be twelve people on one party. Maybe they'd be two or three or four wanted to use it at the same time. Them women would get in a squabble over that, you know. They'd lie about they needed the phone to call a doctor or somethin’, in order to get on it you know, and all they wanted to do was talk to the neighbor or somethin’. And you had a bell on it and a little crank. You could call the people that was on your line. You could call them yourself. You didn't have to have an operator. If you had long distance, well then, you had to get ahold of the operator. And what you did, if it was a twelve party line, maybe they was twelve rings for that . . . to get that party to talk to 'em, you know. With this crank you'd make them rings. If they had twelve rings, you had a list of all of 'em. So that's the way the telephone worked at that time.
Ronnie: Also, a twelve-party line, there were very few secrets in the community because whoever was talking, anyone could pick that receiver up and listen in.