The main protagonist of PFIB, Ellen Grace O’Malley, was born in Cleveland, OH on June 7, 1916. Much of the book involves various locations in downtown Cleveland, especially Public Square (including Cleveland Union Station, Terminal Tower with its observation deck on the 42nd floor, Higbee’s Department Store, and the English Oak Room Restaurant as seen on the Railway and Transport page.) But the rich history behind Cleveland's legacy began long before the first settler in 1797. By 1832 the Ohio and Erie River Canal made Cleveland’s ports a major source of employment. It would later become a town known for steel production and home to Standard Oil (established by Cleveland resident, John D. Rockefeller) and Sherwin Williams Paint Company.
The animated slide show below shows the progression of Cleveland as a major metropolitan area beginning with an 1839 military parade of the Cleveland Greys in Public Square (the heart of downtown Cleveland), 1848 Fourth of July celebration, to the development of government buildings [courthouse, work-house (a dreary facility where male, female, and children prisoners resided for a variety of infractions), post office, and Cleveland City Hospital on Lake Street.
In the 1800s, Cleveland Union Depot became a hub of activity encompassing travel in and out of the Cleveland area.
The following animation reveals the transition of Union Station into the Terminal Tower Complex (consisting of 52 floors and located in downtown's Public Square.) It included a phalanx of buildings such as Hotel Cleveland (where a wedding reception takes place in PBIF) and Higbee's Department Store which first opened on September 8, 1931 with the most popular area located in the lowest level--the bargain basement. In addition, there were a host of amenities to accommodate the busy traveler (shops, restaurants, banks, meeting rooms, etc) and easy access by streetcar. For more information, see the Railway and Public Transportation page. Enjoy the animated grid below.
In 1936, track and field star Jesse Owens from Cleveland, OH (aka “The Buckeye Bullet”) earned four gold medals at the Olympics held in Berlin followed by a hasty exit of the Fuhrer who considered this a defeat for the Aryan Race. In PFIB, young Frank Szabo would meet Jesse, and receive encouragement, during his own track event. Spurred on by the achievements of his local hero, Frank would later rise within the ranks of the Cleveland police force as a detective in charge of the Sheridan murder case.