Remembering Cleveland’s New Year’s Appliance Toss

photos from appliancetoss.com

by Lee Batdorff

New Year’s Eve is time to stay under roof as well as off the road. These days we stay at home and open the bedroom window a bit and listen to the celebratory sound of firecrackers close by and of semi-automatic weapons’ fire in distant neighborhoods. Cleveland Heights is relatively quiet compared to the rapid fire pops coming from Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods.

Kevin Scheuring* is owner of Spice Hound and manager of  the Coit Road Farmers Market in East Cleveland which is not far from his home in Cleveland’s South Collinwood. A few years ago he posted a short audio/video on Facebook of what sounded like a war breaking out immediately outside his home at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s. (*Mr. Scheuring has nothing to do with the Appliance Toss.)

I’ve taken to being under a roof for the hour around midnight on New Year’s for many  years now. This is since I read a newspaper story about the death of a young lady from Shaker Heights Ohio walking on the sidewalk with friends on NYE in New Orleans Louisiana. A bullet fell out of the sky and struck her dead.

New Year’s need not always be so cautious.

For over two decades, until the 2016-2017 New Years, was staged the surreptitious Appliance Toss on Cleveland’s east side. The Toss is very simple. A “target vehicle,” (an old car or van contributed by a party goer with a bull’s eye painted on top), is positioned on the ground below a second floor porch railing. The party guests bring their cast off appliances, small and large, to the second floor balcony and pitch them over the railing upon the target vehicle.

I’ve attended several Appliance Tosses, and always managed to stay under a solid roof during the hour around midnight NYE. The Toss has two phases. Before and during the tossing. There is a frenzied buildup before the clock strikes midnight.

Once all the elements are in place, (including during later years a ‘Toss Dome’ constructed of wood frame and plastic sheets high above the target vehicle and the party protecting them from the elements)—at about 10 p.m. guests start to arrive.

In the later years the hospitality of the host couple was remarkable! Guests brought plenty of inebriate and the hosts provided a big hunk of beef cooked on a spit and all the implements to eat it with, along with a pot luck pot-pourri of side dishes brought by guests.

During the last hour before the strike of the New Year, guests posed for photos with the target vehicle. Young ladies draped themselves over it as if for car commercials on TV.

A few minutes before the moment of the strike of the New Year, a recording of Richard Wagner’s ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ started playing. A line of eager guests stood on the outdoor stairway to the second floor balcony porch holding their used and soon to-be-discarded appliances. At the crescendo of the Flight of the Valkyries—at the stroke of midnight—came the first toss!

While I’ve witnessed a two-level kitchen stove range unit and a washing machine being dumped over a balcony rail, it is on video where I saw a large white 1950s round corner refrigerator being lugged up an outside apartment house stairway and tossed upon a target vehicle near Hessler Road. That was apparently sometime in the late 1990s.

This is the essence of the Toss: From the lightest to the heaviest, any energy consuming appliance is dropped upon an automobile, one of  millions of CO2 (global warming) spewing vehicles on this Earth.

The guy who bought my old yellow Honda Civic eventually contributed it to the Toss. Posthumously the old GM Geo owned by American Splendor author, late Harvey Pekar, was a target vehicle.

Two water heaters, simultaneously tossed over a porch handrail upon a target vehicle.

The bashing of the Toss continued well into the wee hours. “The young ones keep at it,” said a veteran Toss activist.

The Apppliance Toss was started in the Hessler Road neighborhood of Cleveland’s University Circle. Then as the toss crew grew older they  moved into further out Cleveland neighborhoods, then out into an eastern suburb—and the Toss moved too.

One year, (somewhat after dawn of January 1st  when the Toss organizers woke up), the target vehicle was discovered to still be drive-able. Instead of taking it to a nearby wrecking yard by tow truck as usual, it was instead driven, while inflicted with many infractions against what makes a vehicle allowable on the road.

Suburban police pull the rattle-trap over—it had no windshield and was piled high with broken appliances except for the driver’s seat. When the police realize what they had on that January  1st — they called in their comrades from other patrols. They gathered together in a group photo in front of the notorious wreck that until then, they had only heard about.

After the pic session was over, the Toss crew was allowed to take the target vehicle to a nearby wrecking yard—via tow truck. There was no criminal charge. One proviso however: “If you put this out on social media, things will not go well with you.”

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