Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Showboat in Lorain – Part 3

The Showboat kept rolling along during the 1950s, showcasing a variety of acts from around the country. Above are two ads from the mid-1950s (courtesy of Rick Kurish).

By the late 1950s, however, the Showboat had apparently shifted its focus from entertainment to fine dining, judging from the ad below – which appeared in the Lorain Journal on June 1, 1957.

Gus Atthanasoff had also shorted his name in the ads to the more pronounceable ‘Gus Athan.’

But disaster in the form of a fire struck on November 17, 1957 – for the second time that year. The Lorain Journal article (below) tells the story.

Showboat Fire Again Shuts Doors

Fire again swept the Showboat Restaurant yesterday.

It was the second major blaze of the year in the same establishment.

One other time, on May 14, the restaurant was damaged by smoke from a fire in the adjoining Muir drugstore at 758 Broadway.

This occurred shortly before the planned “grand opening” of the Showboat after the place had been remodeled as a result of a fire earlier in the year.

August Atthanasoff, proprietor of the restaurant, estimated damage Sunday at $15,000.

Cause of the blaze has not been determined. It is being investigated by the fire department and the state arson board, Fire Chief Alfred G. Nickley stated.

The origin of the fire, which started yesterday afternoon in the restaurant at 776 Broadway, had not yet been determined. Chief Nickley said this morning that he would not know the cause until he makes a complete investigation.

The inside of the Showboat, one of the largest restaurants in Lorain, was gutted with heavy damage to the bar and dining room.

Smoke damage was also reported by 12 business offices in the Commercial Building above the restaurant and to adjoining stores.

Nickley said that gas service had been shut off to the surrounding stores.

The fire, a repeat of a $15,000 blaze last Jan. 15, was brought under control by 22 firemen directed by Nickley, 35 minutes after the first alarm was sent in at 5:23 p. m.

Atthanasoff said he could not say how long the restaurant will be closed.

The Elyria Chronicle covered the story as well. Here is that paper’s version (below). By the time of the Chronicle’s story, Atthanasoff had decided not to reopen the Showboat.

2nd Fire Does It
‘Showboat" Will Sail Under New 
Name – Too Much Bad Luck in Old

SEAGOING SUPERSTITION – Twice sunk, the “Showboat Restaurant,” once a popular Lorain night club is going to be salvaged. But she is going to be launched in a new location under a new name. Her captain-owner is convinced that she’s jinxed.

Plans are now being made to re-open the club by its owner, August G. Atthanasoff, of 2520 North Jefferson Blvd. It was closed for the second and last time on Nov. 18 when the restaurant’s plush interior was destroyed by a $27,000 fire, the second such fire in a year.

The first fire hit the night spot on Jan. 17, also destroying the interior and causing about $20,000 worth of damage.

Atthanasoff said he is now working on several deals on a location to reopen the restaurant sometime in the near future. And the name will be changed.

“The ‘Showboat’ has just had too much bad luck,” he declared.

Atthanasoff, in the meantime, is kept busy operating his second restaurant, Vian’s Bar-B-Q on Lake Rd.

As it turned out, Gus Atthanasoff’s new restaurant was Colony Bar, located at 1407 Colorado Avenue on the east side. Today the building is home to Offshore Pub and Grub.

It’s just too bad that the Showboat became yet another memorable Lorain business that was lost to fire.

Thanks to Rick Kurish for his help with this post.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Showboat in Lorain – Part 2

On January 16, 1953, the above ad for the Showboat nightclub ran in the Lorain Journal, promoting an upcoming appearance by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, who were “opening Monday."

Bugs and Elmer?!

A small series of unusual teaser ads added to the promotional build-up. The two ads shown below ran in different sections of the paper on January 17, 1953.
So who or what took the stage at the Showboat on Monday, January 19, 1953? 
The early 1950s were still a little too early to mount a costumed character show like you would see later at Disneyland. Plus, a Lorain nightclub was no place for children, anyway.
As it turns out, the act was none other than Les Barker, direct from Alpine Village in Cleveland. Here’s the ad that ran on that Monday.
I’ve written about Les Barker before. 
He had appeared at Midway Mall in August 1969. My family caught one of his shows, in which he drew Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd on pieces of acetate, which he manipulated to create a sort of primitive animation using an overhead projector. I even got his autograph (written on part of a Hough Bakeries bag).
Apparently that’s what he did at the Showboat in 1953, as well. As noted on blogtoonnetwork, Barker “created one novel nightclub act called “Quick on the Draw,” where he entertained audiences with a stand-up routine and an overhead projector." 
For his Showboat appearance, however, Barker was billed as not only the creator of Bugs Bunny, but Bat Man as well! (I’m not sure how Bob Kane would feel about that.) As we know, Barker really wasn't the creator of either, but did achieve some lasting success and fame as the cartoonist behind Johnny Canuck.
Anyway, it’s interesting that sixteen years after his 1953 Showboat appearance, he was back in the Lorain area, still doing his shtick.
Next: The end of the Showboat

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Showboat in Lorain – Part 1

I had heard of a night club in Downtown Lorain called the Showboat, but only knew that it had the same name and theme as a restaurant in Huron in the 1970s. Lorain’s Showboat seemed to be a business that had only a very brief time in the spotlight in the 1950s before disappearing, and I didn’t know its story.

That’s why I was happy to see this two page spread in the February 10, 1950 Lorain Journal. It announces the formal opening of the nightclub, lists the two gentlemen involved in its management – Gus Atthanasoff and Joseph Karhusz – and even includes a photo of the outside.

Here are larger versions of each page in case you want to click on them and read them.

Employees featured in a photo of their own included Helen Wilson, cook; Frances Smith, waitress; Howard Ripple, bartender; Dolores Tracy, waitress; and Hallie Moore, waitress.

The ad includes a lot of detailed information about the restaurant itself and its culinary offerings.

It also mention that “A professional photographer will be on hand every evening to make “on-the-spot” souvenir photographs of you and your party for a moderate charge (if you so desire).”

The Showboat was located at 766 - 770 Broadway (the location of the now-demolished Ghoulardi’s).

Two Rusine’s businesses – Rusine’s Menswear and Rusine’s bookstore – had previously been located at that location since at least the early 1940s. (As we know, Rusine’s moved to a new location just a little further down Broadway.)

Tomorrow: Bugs Bunny “visits” the Showboat

Friday, February 24, 2017

Feb 15, 1950 – Ohio Fuel Gas Company Ad

It's been a while since I featured this little guy, the gas flame mascot for the Ohio Fuel Gas Company. The above ad for an automatic gas water heater ran in the Lorain Journal on Feb. 15, 1950 – 67 years ago this month.

(I probably should have posted an Ohio Edison ad with Reddy Kilowatt since the last few days have been all about Thomas Edison. Oh well.)

You might remember that I had been on a unsuccessful quest to come up with the gas company mascot's name until I received an assist from the Michigan State University Library – who revealed that his name was Speedy. (I wrote about it in this two-part series, here and here.)

Anyway, old time hot water heaters are certainly something for me to be nostalgic about.

They used to last for 15 or 20 years, until you found the inevitable puddle of water on the floor – and then it was time to get a new one.

Nowadays they don't last half that long. And because of a change in building codes, mine has to be vented. Thus I have a fan on top of it that I hear almost every time I rinse off a crusty fork with hot water.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Edison Centennial – 1947 – Part 2

I went back and reviewed the Lorain Journals from February 1947 to see how the Thomas Edison Centennial was celebrated in Milan, Ohio where he was born. The Feb. 11, 1947 edition of the paper included this article (below).

Celebration for Edison
Reach Climax at Milan
Sleepy Little Town Hums With Activity as It Pays
Tribute to Its Most Famous Son
By Staff Correspondent

MILAN – This sleep little Ohio town took on a gala atmosphere today as it celebrated the 100th birthday anniversary of its most famous son – Thomas A. Edison.

The red brick house that was the birthplace of the famous inventor was thrown open to the public for the first time since his widow approved plans for its restoration 18 months ago; the post office prepared to cancel and mail thousands upon thousands of “first day covers” of the new Edison stamp, and the town’s churchwomen readied a huge banquet for this evening to top off the day’s activities.

Stamps Main Interest
The post office was the focal point of the celebration as a special staff of 50 postal workers prepared the stamp covers for collectors. Postmaster James Lavey said he had a full mail sack of requests from Australia alone, with the furthest request coming from the Bank of China in Hong Kong.

Famous persons who have asked for stamps include President Truman, and Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth of England.

Third Assistant U. S. Postmaster General Joseph J. Lawler presented the first sheet of the purple three-cent stamps to Mrs. John Sloane, Edison’s only daughter, prior to the opening of public sales.

Today’s events climaxed a three-day centennial celebration giving this village of 700 persons more excitement than it has known since Edison as a boy set fire to his father’s barn and was publicly paddled for it in the town’s square.

The banquet tonight in the Presbyterian church will be served by women dressed in period costumes.

In that same edition of the Journal, a photo feature (below) showed the opening of Thomas Edison’s rolltop desk in his library in West Orange, New Jersey by his widow, son and daughter. The desk had been sealed since his death 16 years earlier.

Also in that Feb. 11, 1947 Lorain Journal, Ohio Edison took out a full-page ad honoring the inventor. (Note the tiny Reddy Kilowatt next to the company logo.)
The Feb. 12, 1947 Lorain Journal included a front page story about the celebration in Milan the day before. It noted, “This village was crowded to its limits yesterday as almost 4,000 visitors milled thru the streets and attended the re-opening of the restored Edison birthplace. The home had been out of the Edison family for some years.
“A high spot of the anniversary celebration was the presentation of the first sheet of the new Edison stamps to Mrs. Madeline Edison Sloane of West Orange, N. J., only daughter of the inventor, who was Milan’s honored guest for the occasion. 
“Mrs. Sloane represented the Edison family at the re-opening of the homestead.”
There was also a celebration in Cleveland. The article noted, “Edison was honored last night at Cleveland in an address by an old friend of his, Dr. Laurence A. Hawkins, consultant in the research laboratory of the General Electric Co.
“Principal speaker at a civic dinner in commemoration of Edison’s 100th birthday, Dr. Hawkins said that “Edison is the greatest inventor that the world will ever see.”
“I can conceive of the possibility, tho not the probability, of another Shakespeare,” Dr. Hawkins said. “I cannot conceive of the possibility of another Edison."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Edison Centennial – 1947 – Part 1

Back in February 1947 – 70 years ago this month – the country was celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Thomas Edison, often described as America’s greatest inventor. He was born Feb. 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio.

The small article on the front page of the January 16, 1947 Lorain Journal mentions that Edison was to be honored with a stamp. The celebration in Milan also included the opening to the public of the Edison Birthplace Museum.

Here are some vintage postcards of Edison's Birthplace. We went there at least once when we were kids, like all good Ohioans.

Vintage postcard dated 1924
Vintage postcard dated 1937
There are several first day of issue covers featuring the Thomas Edison stamp available on Ebay right now.

It’s interesting how formal and dignified stamps used to be back when they were engraved and not produced by lithography as they are now. It makes a big difference in how they look.
I wonder if stamp collecting is still a popular hobby?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Luncheonette at 611 Broadway

Here’s a place that I’d never heard of before: Eddie’s Luncheonette. The ad celebrating its reopening ran in the pages of the Lorain Journal on February 2, 1952.

Its address was 611 Broadway, making it part of the Palace Theater complex.
Eddie’s Luncheonette had a classic diner business model, offering breakfast and lunch to people on the go, especially business people. The ad lists all sorts of mouth-watering goodies that were available.
We’ve actually met Eddie – Edward Easton – before on this blog. During the late 1940s, he was running Eddie’s Blue Castle on Broadway in the 600 block. By 1950, he had moved his business down Broadway a block to its location next to the Palace.
By 1955, however, Eddie had become an insurance agent. Thus the business became Alexander’s Luncheonette, operated by Alexander and Lucille Hladik. They ran it for a couple of years before turning it over to the owners who would have it the longest: Mary Lesiuk and her husband Omelan.
Mary’s Luncheonette first appeared in the directory in 1958. The restaurant would have an incredible run at the 611 Broadway location until around 1977. 
As of the 1978 edition of the city directory, Critic’s Choice, run by Leonard DeLuca would take over the location.
Unfortunately, you can’t get a steakburg and fries at 611 Broadway today. It is the Lorain Branch Title Office of the Lorain County Clerk of Courts, where you can get a ‘fast and easy’ passport or auto title.
I think Lorain could use the luncheonette more.