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Chris King
Storyteller has her Story Told

She's active and energetic and amazingly agile. She's Chris King and this is her story.

Chris was born in Westchester County, New York. She is the only child of parents who believed fiercely in the power of education. She started at Sarah Lawrence School in New York. It was a very progressive school where she learned math by cooking and reading in a reading circle.

In Kindergarten they told stories which the aides wrote down and the children illustrated. She knew right then and there that she wanted to be an artist and storyteller.

As early as first grade however, her parents wanted her to be a mathematician. They felt the art and storytelling would make fine hobbies, but she was good in math and should pursue the more academic field. So she did. In fact her parents tested her at home on a regular basis to make sure she was keeping up.

"So many people complain about their childhood. I had such a privileged childhood. It was wonderful!"

At age 9 she moved to Massachusetts. The education she had received at the Progressive School put her ahead of the rest of the class in everything except cursive writing and spelling. Spelling was always her worst subject.

She had a reputation for being "the smart aleck from New York". With a mischievous smile on her face she recalls convincing an entire class to play hookey one day.

Chris King dressed as Cher
Chris King dressed as Cher with Eddie Leigh

Although she enjoyed her fun, Chris was very studious and studied hard. She knew she had to excel in academics to go to a college of her choice.

In her freshman year Chris moved to Chevy Chase Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. She found she was still academically ahead of the other students and was bored with her school. She started tutoring in English and languages.

Chris applied to and was accepted at Goucher College, a liberal arts college in Maryland, which boasts "education without boundaries." The Goucher concept was not to memorize but rather to experience and use information and education.

There were only about 900 students but for once, Chris found she was not the "head of the class." In fact her grades suffered that first year. Her parents put it simply "Do well or work in the 5 and 10."

Her father wrote her every day she was in college, where of course, her major was Math. "I was very spoiled, but much was expected in return. If I scored a 98 my parents would ask why not 100?"

Chris has always been a very active person, requiring little sleep. In her sophomore and junior years she was asked to teach freshman how to study and at the same time began tutoring math students.

To earn extra cash she worked as the head switchboard operator for the school. She protested to the Vocational Director on behalf of all student employees, saying that the students were not being paid enough. As a result she received a raise, as did all other student employees.

Between Junior and Senior year in College, Chris decided to take an Integral Calculus class again because she had gotten a "B" in the course and she wasn't satisfied with that. She was also preparing for her comprehensive exams and she knew the course would also help her with that. Frankly, she knew there would be a lot of men in the class and that also interested her.

Chris King and family with Santa - 1980
Annual Family Photo with Santa - 1980

After WWII automobiles were scarce. If you wanted a car your name would go on a list. You didn't get to choose color or style or really anything about the car. If you had a Plymouth before, you would get a Plymouth now.

Much to her surprise she came home one day and saw a brand new white coupe in her driveway. Her parents told her if she would scrub the whitewalls and keep the car clean she could drive the car.

So she drove her fancy car to school and sure enough, she met a young man from her class. Known as "a bad boy" and a "real jock", his first words to Chris were about the car. She offered him a ride home and they started dating. Their relationship picked up; he gave her his track medal and his fraternity pin.

At about this time Westinghouse Atomic Power Plant was hiring math majors and wanted to interview her. "There was a lucky star over me. Two different departments at the same plant were arguing over me!" Her work would be in the computer department - it was the days of main frames and punch cards. She was hired instantly.

There was one hitch though. The young man she had been dating was attending the University of Pittsburgh and her mother told her "You're not moving to Pittsburgh as a single girl with him living there. If you go, you have to get married."

So, in 1957 she graduated, moved to Pittsburgh, started working and, needless to say, she got married. They spent their honeymoon on the Jersey Shore, partially because of Chris's love of the water.

The first year of their marriage Chris worked and he was a student. The second year ROTC took him away for a year. When he returned he got a job at the East Ohio Gas Company and they moved to Canton, Ohio.

Canton was a smaller town than Chris was used to and she experienced a bit of culture shock. But IBM was in town and they offered her a part time job helping companies learn how to use computers.

Chris often came in to Cleveland to shop at Bonwit Teller and Higbees. She also attended Flower Arranging classes and eventually became a Flower Show Judge. Chris would do just about anything to keep busy.

Chris King's grandsons - Tyler and Corey
Grandsons Tyler and Corey

Her husband got transferred to Cleveland and they built a home just outside of Brecksville. By this time she had five children and joined the Brecksville PTA. Chris loved having children and was excited very time she learned she was pregnant!

Chris taught all of her children to read. While she did her housework they would read aloud to her and study their phonics.

Unfortunate her marriage was not working out. She decided she needed to work. She had made ceramic pots when she was taking the flower arraigning classes and wanted to pursue something in the art field. She applied at Kent State and received permission to attend a course designed for future art teachers.

Soon she was mixing glazes and firing projects for other people just to enable her to get into the Clay Class. She also took a Fiber Class, which taught her weaving among other things.

Chris excelled at this as she did most of her studies and had a fiber piece entered in the International Show in Pittsburgh. She was able to get into the graduate program with a double art major: fiber and clay.

By this time both of her parents had died and she and her husband had divorced. She continued to take courses at Kent State and became involved in the Blossom Kent Art Program. One of her teachers suggested she open an Art School after graduation, which she ultimately did.

Daughter Julie with Chris King's tile
Chris' youngest daughter Julie with her tile

She opened Studio 123, which was actually a school,studio and gallery. It stayed open for 3 years, but right around 1979 it was closed.

Chris entered her artwork in the very first show Cain Park ever put on. But the art was not enough to pay bills, so Chris got a job at a textile design studio to help out. She stayed there for 3 years before she was laid off.

This was a very tough financial time for Chris. The children all worked to help out. She went to work at the Marriott and Cookers as a waitress and taught modeling at John Powers. She was now living in Cleveland Heights - finally a spot she really loved!

Again luck was with her and she met someone who was involved with SMI (Success Motivation Institute) who thought she would be a great salesperson. Everything she had done taught her how to deal with people and provide good quality customer service. She blossomed in the SMI program.

Chris King telling a story
Chris King telling a story

From there she joined Toastmasters and then full circle back to her childhood dream - she became a storyteller. In fact, she wrote an advanced manual on storytelling. She is part of the National Storytelling Network as well as a Past President of O.O.P.S (The Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling).

Chris is also a past president of her Toastmaster group that placed 40th in a worldwide competition! She also belongs to the National Speakers Association.

While waitressing at Cookers Chris moved to Shaker Square and started writing for the Shaker Square Connection, a local newspaper. It wasn't long before this feature writer became the editor, which also meant she had to hone up on her computer skills.

She was at the paper, (20 page tabloid size) from 1991 through 2001. Her favorite part was the "Women on the Street interviews" where she was able to ask questions and interview people randomly around Shaker Square.

Since she brought her computer skills up to date Chris started designing websites and became involved with (and even president) of the Greater Cleveland PC Users Group (GCPCUG).

Chris King teaching a step aerobics class
Chris King teaching a step aerobics class

Always concerned with fitness and exercise, she became a certified group fitness instructor with certification from ACE (American Council on Exercise). She combined her fitness knowledge with her computer skills and her writing ability and became a writer for ClevelandSeniors.Com.

There's a lot to Chris King besides what meets the eye. She is playful and serious at the same time. She is a wonderful speaker and writer and has a creative flare that demands attention.

Profiled by Debbie Hanson

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