Friday, January 20, 2017

Last of the U. S. Steel Ore Bridges Comes Down

Right before Christmas I received an interesting email from Mr. James Shedron of New London, Ohio, about ore bridges – those large, distinctive looking cranes used for loading and unloading ore. You can see them in the two vintage postcards above.

James wrote to me about the waning days of the ore bridges at U. S. Steel.

He wrote, "I am a retired steelworker from “the Mill" in Lorain. I spent most of my time at the blast furnaces and ore-unloading docks. I want to share with you these old pics of the last of the ore bridges (No. 6) which was taken down on December 17, 1994."

Here are his photos.

“No. 6 ore bridge was the last of the ore bridges demolished, “ he explained. He noted that No. 6 was built some time around 1960, and had more capacity, as well as updated electrical systems. "No. 4 and No. 5, which were much older, were taken down sometime around 1977. These machines became obsolete with the advent of self-unloading Great Lakes ore carriers,” he added.

According to James, there were many changes on the docks beginning in the 1970s.
"During 1975-76 a new conveyor-belt unloading system was built at the USS docks to accommodate those self-unloaders. The Hulett machines, which dropped their buckets into the hatches of the old-style ore-carriers, also became obsolete and by 1982 they were no longer needed.
"Many jobs were eliminated; by the mid to late '80s, there were two guys remaining at the Docks operating and maintaining the self-unloading system.
“I was fortunate to board those ore-carriers when they would come to Lorain to unload their cargo. We had walkie-talkies at the docks, and we would communicate with the vessels out on Lake Erie as soon as they got near the breakwall. We could unload 23,000 tons, a typical boatload, in about 6 hours."
But the No. 6 ore bridge continued to hang on until the 1990s. Why?
As James explained, "The company kept No. 6 to handle odd jobs in the ore storage yard until 1994 when it was demolished."
“One more thing of interest about these ore bridges, “ he added. "That tornado that hit Lorain in 1924 damaged the dock area. An ore bridge was destroyed."
In closing, James couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful about the mill.
He noted, “It’s too bad that the mill is pretty much down and out. Fresh out of Admiral King High School in 1970, I started employment there. My father-in-law worked there along with many of my close family. I had forty years of service when I left in 2010. Those years went by in a flash!”
Thanks to James for sharing his reminisces and photos.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sealtest Ads Featuring Famous Cartoonists – 1947 and 1957

A few days ago I mentioned how the once mighty A&P chain of grocery stores went kaput.  Well, here’s another national brand that advertised a lot in the Lorain Journal back in the 1940s and 50s, but has similarly disappeared: Sealtest. 

Sealtest lives on as a brand of milk in Canada, but here in the Lower 48, it’s nowhere to be found. At one time, it was a popular brand of ice cream, running frequent ads in the Lorain paper.

The ad campaigns were pretty creative too. One featured the work of cartoonist George Lichty, who was well known for his Grin and Bear It comic feature. His loose, sketchy style of artwork is instantly recognizable.

Here’s one ad from the Lichty campaign, which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 15, 1947 – 70 years ago this month.

Toasted hazelnut sounds like a pretty exotic ice cream flavor to me, more like something from the 2000s than the 1940s.

And here’s another one from about a week later. It ran in the Journal on January 23rd. The motorist kind of reminds me of Broderick Crawford.

If you take a squint at the fine print at the bottom of the ads, you’ll see that Sealtest sponsored a radio show on WTAM called Sealtest Village Store, starring Jack Haley (also known as the Tin Man on the Wizard of Oz).
Ten years later, Sealtest used another well-known cartoonist – Charles Schulz – for one of its ad campaigns, this time for its chocolate drink. (They couldn’t call it chocolate milk?)
Here’s an ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on July 11, 1957. It has a nice piece of custom artwork, unlike the stuff that is cobbled together now since Schulz’s passing. Strangely enough, the ever-present “Schulz” signature is missing.
There’s no doubt that the arguing ballplayers are Peanuts regulars Linus and Shermy, but who is the chubby, indifferent umpire? Did he get fat slurping Sealtest's ersatz chocolate drink?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Save Used Fats” Ads – January 1947

Courtesy pinterest
Did you know that during World War II, housewives were encouraged to save their cooking fats and turn them in at their local butchers or meat dealers? The reason: the fats could be used to manufacture bombs.
This article in The Atlantic explains it all.

Here's a great wartime LIFE magazine photo (below) sent to me by regular blog reader Rae. Not only is there a great "Save Waste Fats" poster right on the counter of the meat department, it turns out that it's an A&P grocery store!

Courtesy Pinterest
After the war, the saving of fats was still encouraged, as they were needed for such peacetime items such as tires and soap. That’s the point of the printed public service ad below, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on January 23, 1947 – 70 years ago this month.

Here’s another ad from that same January 1947 time period (this time without Uncle Sam clutching a container of fat as if he was about to take a swig). It ran in the Journal on January 20th that same year.

I’m not sure how long this campaign lasted.

I know Mom saved her bacon grease in one of those ubiquitous metal canisters (with the strainer insert) during the 1960s, but there wasn't anything patriotic about it. It’s what she cooked her eggs in.

(I would have to wait another twenty years to discover – as Joseph Heller described it in Catch-22 – the “smell of a fresh egg snapping exotically in a pool of fresh butter.”)

If the idea of making soap from used fat intrigues you, then you might be interested in knowing that you can make bacon soap from bacon fat at home! Here’s the link to the tasty instructions.

By George, that’s one soap a meat-loving tyke wouldn’t mind getting his mouth washed out with!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A&P Ad – January 16, 1952

Ad from the Lorain Journal of January 16, 1952
It’s hard to believe that the great A&P grocery store chain is no more.

According to this Wiki entry, it had struggled since the 1990s, and been in and out of bankruptcy – before finally closing all of its remaining stores in late 2015.

That’s why it’s strange to see the nearly full-page ad above, which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 16, 1952 – 65 years ago yesterday. It reminds me of its one-time market dominance, with its great in-house brands (such as Eight O’Clock Coffee, which is still around today).

It’s no wonder that Mom shopped regularly at A&P in the Lorain Plaza shopping center in the 1960s. The chain had a long history in Lorain.

According to an article in the June 21, 1955 Lorain Journal, the first two outlets in Lorain celebrated simultaneous openings on July 1, 1919. One was located at 858 Broadway and the other was at 500 E. Erie. A third A&P store opened on August 1, 1919 on Pearl in South Lorain.

During the 1920s, an incredible thirteen A&Ps opened in Lorain. These small, neighborhood stores were followed by six more in the 1930s!

At one point, Lorain's biggest A&P was at 3809 Broadway, which opened in 1955. A&P even constructed an extension of W. 38th from Broadway to Elyria Avenue. (Don’t look for that street on a map today; somehow it disappeared after that store closed in the early 1970s.)

Sheffield Lake’s A&P opened in August 1959. It was followed by the Lorain Plaza store, which opened in August 1960 (which I wrote about here).

Like I’ve said before, I remember seeing Ann Page products on pantry shelves in our house in the 1960s, never realizing that it was an A&P house brand. I thought Ann Page was a Betty Crocker-like cook who specialized in preserves.

I still buy Eight O’Clock coffee once in a while. The gimmick of grinding it in the store – and smelling its rich aroma – works for me.

That’s why I could never own a Keurig®. I want to sniff that coffee, man.

Although I don’t shop for antiques anymore (since I’m rapidly becoming one myself), I still have a few doodads on my shelves at home. That includes the two A&P souvenirs below.

I used an identical A&P scoop for years to make coffee every morning, until it cracked. I then broke down and reluctantly started measuring with a tablespoon.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Frank Meluch of Lorain: America’s "Natural" Ventriloquist

I recently came across this great promotional card on Ebay for a ventriloquist named Frank V. Meluch.

The card was interesting to me; first, because of the great studio photo of the man and his well-dressed, wooden partner; and second, the ventriloquist’s contact information, which included his 320 W. 22nd Street address in Lorain, Ohio.

As you can see from his card, Meluch billed himself as America's "natural" ventriloquist. He must have been pretty good, as the card also stated that no "cover up tricks” were used in his act. He was also quite versatile, as his other entertainment skills included juggling, mimicry, and fancy & trip rope spinning.
So did Mr. Meluch ever hit the big time? I guess it depends on how you look at it.
According to his obituary (he passed away in 2003), he was born in 1916 in United, Pennsylvania and moved to Lorain with his family in 1925.

His obituary noted, "Mr. Meluch served with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II as a sergeant under General George Patton in Germany. His decorations and citations include the World War II Victory Medal, the EAME Victory Medal with one Bronze Star, Meritorious Unit Award, American Theatre Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
"Mr. Meluch worked at U.S. Steel in Lorain as a brakeman, conductor and engineer of 110 ton diesel engine for over 40 years retiring in 1977.”

His obituary also includes a nice summary of his entertainment career.

It states, "At the age of 20, he was billed as “America’s Only National Ventriloquist” and was known professionally as Don King. During the war, he and his side-kick Jerry DuBerry entertained the troops.
"He later became a magician specializing in illusion and slight-of-hand with coins, cards and ropes. His coin tricks included using silver dollars that many other slight-of-hand artists said were impossible. 
"Other hobbies in his repertoire included juggling, mimicry and rope spinning. He enjoyed performing locally in schools, hospitals, various clubs and nursing homes.”
"A devoted husband and family man, he was someone who guided and inspired. A true man of God, he healed hearts, souls, minds and bodies of everyone he met by sharing gifts of humor and unyielding faith and hope, even during the most challenging times. He believed anything was possible if you worked at it and never gave up."
It sure sounds like he hit the big time to me.
I did a little research to find out more about Mr. Meluch. The promotional card seems to date from the late 1930s, since that’s when the city directories show him living at the 320 W. 22nd Street address.
Although there isn’t much of an internet footprint left by Mr. Meluch, I did find an article about one of his performances. The February 11, 1950 Sandusky Register included this article below. It reveals that he had several little buddies as part of his act, and that he had recently performed for Bill Veeck of the Cleveland Indians.
Seniors Sponsor Ventriloquist At Berlin Heights
BERLIN HEIGHTS, Feb. 10 — Don King, frequently billed as Don King, America's Only Natural Ventriloquist will present an interesting and unusual program at the Berlin Height's town hall Wednesday at 8 p. m. The public is invited. 
King has given his program in schools, churches, and different organizations throughout the country. While in the air force he appeared at army camp shows, billed by the USO, special services, and American Red Cross. He also helped promote the sale of war bonds. 
Last year his act was selected to entertain Bill Veeck, president of the Cleveland Indians, at a banquet held in Lorain. King performs with two dummies, Henry and his heartbeat, Orpholin, at the same time. This is considered a rare and unusual accomplishment in ventriloquism. 
As an added feature, another figure, Jerry DuBarry, mysteriously appears during the program to the delight of the audience. 
The program is being sponsored by the senior class of Berlin Heights High School.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday the 13th Jinx Show at the Palace – January 1967

Over the years, the Palace Theater in Lorain used a variety of creative gimmicks to sell tickets.

Some of these gimmicks included a 1957 show featuring a ‘live’ appearance by the late James Dean, a 1957 show by Dr. Silkini & Company and the Frankenstein monster, a 1960 live stage appearance by the Three Stooges, and a 1964 ‘back to school’ cartoon carnival.

Well, here’s another creative effort. Above is the ad for the Friday the 13th Jinx Show, which took place on January 13, 1967 – 50 years ago today. The ad ran in the Journal the day before.

To be honest, though, I’m not sure what the hubbub was about. Despite the great illustration and ominous tone of the ads (“AT THIS SHOW anything can happen… AND PROBABLY WILL!), it seems like it was all just a cute setup to present a 1962 movie called Tales of Terror.
Poster courtesy of
Here’s the terrifying trailer.
Apparently, the Jinx tie-in was that one of the Edgar Allan Poe stories that made up the movie was “The Black Cat.” Here’s a jolly frame from the film.
Courtesy of
Anyway, all of the ads for the Jinx Show featured the same black cat artwork, so I don’t think there was any advertised stage show to accompany the on-screen mayhem.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Finishing Ohio Route 2

While the Generation Gap was a big deal in the 1960s, there was another gap at that time that was probably of more interest to Lorain Countians.

That was the Vermilion Gap, the unfinished portion of Route 2 between Baumhart Road and Huron.

I've mentioned before how Ohio Route 2 was built in stages, and the above article – which appeared in the Journal on January 5, 1967 – explains how the Vermilion Gap was going to eventually be eliminated by 1973.

According to the article, there was supposed to be an interchange at Vermilion Road. I guess the highway designers decided to move it a little east, perhaps to avoid dealing with the river right there.

And the “super dooper” roadside park mentioned in the article did became a reality, with a trail leading down to a river view. (I haven’t walked it since the late 70s; maybe I’m overdue.)

The “Super Dooper” roadside park on Route 2
I've done quite a few posts on the “new" Route 2, which shouldn’t be surprising since it had and continues to have a big impact on our lives in Lorain County. Topics included the Oak Point interchange, the American flag overlooking the highway, a 1966 construction progress report, and the opening of the portion from Baumhart to State Route 61 in 1975.