New Generation Inspired by "Freeway Fighters"

"Freeway Fighters" Sally Burton, Graham Grund, and Gloria Reske enjoy reminiscing and signing copies of their books

On Oct. 26, the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes held an open house to welcome the "little ladies in tennis shoes"—a group of determined citizens who 40 years ago helped stop a freeway that would have carved through the Shaker Lakes. Now, these "Freeway Fighters" are the main characters in a new book that captures their stories through interviews done by students from the Intergenerational School. The book also features beautiful photographs of the parklands, reflections written by the students themselves, a dedication by Shaker Heights Mayor Earl M. Leiken, and pieces by sustainability expert David Beach and the co-founders of the Intergenerational School, Peter and Cathy Whitehouse.

Condensed from the book introduction by project director Dave Harris:

The Legacy of Clark Freeway Fighters, a newly published limited edition hardcover coffee table book, captures the stories of the spirited citizens from the late 1960s and early 1970s who succeeded in preventing the building of a highway that would have destroyed the parks, lakes, and watersheds of the Shaker Heights area. These citizens were known as the “Freeway Fighters.” What is most exciting is that these stories are in the form of interviews conducted by students, ages 12-13. Through this process, we are not only educated, inspired, and entertained by the Freeway Fighters’ telling their own stories in their own words, but we are also touched by the students’ reactions to all they heard and learned.

The student interviewers attend the Intergenerational School, a nationally praised K-8 public charter school in Cleveland with a distinction of excellence. The school believes in individualized, lifelong learning in a multi-generational setting. Many of the Freeway Fighters are members of the Judson Smart Living Retirement Community, who took the time to meet with the students and share their amazing stories of courage and determination.

In preparation for the interviews, I met with the students and asked them what they think of when they hear the word “interview.” They responded: “It's a conversation.” “You have to ask questons.” I thought I heard one mention “fact questions,” so I queried, “Fact questions?” “No! Fat questions! Fat questions!” they replied.

They proceeded to explain that a fat question is essentially an open-ended question. A closed-ended question would be a “skinny question.” They explained, “Skinny questions are bad because we want more than a yes or no answer.” They couldn’t have been any more right, and together they came up with a fantastic list of questions that led to some really interesting anecdotal conversational narratives about the experiences of the Freeway Fighters.

These stories of inspiration encourage us to stand up for what we believe in. The process reminds us to stay engaged with our wondrous children and with our wiser elders. And, remember to ask fat questions!!

Chef Douglas Katz will host a book launch at fire food & drink on Shaker Square, Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Meet some of the Freeway Fighters as you enjoy delicious light appetizers and complimentary valet parking. Proceeds from book sales benefit the Intergenerational School in developing community service partnerships. RSVP to Dave Harris at or (330) 239-8760.

Dave Harris

Dave Harris received his Master of Science in Social Administration from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. His project Tec4Life unites generations through technology. 

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Volume 4, Issue 12, Posted 4:23 PM, 11.13.2011