Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sheffield Middle School 1923-2015

The school year winds down this week for the students that attend the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake City School system. That also means that school's out forever for many of the aging buildings that will close when the new combined middle and high school open this fall.

With construction of the beautiful new school campus completed, it's an exciting time for the two communities that make up the school system. But it's also a time for melancholy feelings, as many of the old school buildings are to be demolished.

One of these structures that is slated to be torn down is the building that has housed the middle school for decades (after the new high school was built in the 1960s). The building was constructed in 1923 and began its scholastic life as Brookside School. It served as a K-12 school building until an elementary school was constructed about a decade later.

Appropriately, a simple, nostalgic message commemorating the school building's years of service appeared recently on the school's sign that faces eastbound traffic on Colorado Avenue.

I'm not sure if the newer addition to the building (below) is also scheduled to be demolished. 
Nevertheless, the middle school building has served the community well for almost a century. Hats off to the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Board of Education for its wisdom and prudence in its efforts to ensure that our fine students continue to receive an excellent education in a modern environment for years to come.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Big Boy Revisited

The Big Boy outside the Port Clinton restaurant
Over the weekend, I found myself in Port Clinton around mealtime. Since that city is one of the few in Northern Ohio with a Big Boy restaurant, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have one of their iconic double-decker sandwiches.

You might remember that back here, I explained how there are actually two competing Big Boy chains: Big Boy, which has a direct lineage to the original restaurant, and Frisch's Big Boy.

Frisch's originally was one of the largest franchisees of the Big Boy chain, and introduced the sandwich in Ohio. Manners Big Boy (in the Cleveland area) was a licensee of Frisch's.

Interestingly, in those early days, Frisch's had been granted permission to develop its own version of the Big Boy mascot. Frisch's version wasn't as, uh, fat as the original Big Boy character used in the rest of the country. He also wore a hat with the name of the franchisee. Consequently, Frisch's version was used by Manners and that's the Big Boy (at left) we grew up in Northern Ohio.

Over the years there were many other franchisees of the Big Boy name, including Shoney's and Eat'n Park. You might remember (if you ever visited Detroit or listened to CKLW in the 60s and 70s) that Elias Brothers was the franchisee in Michigan.
Today, Frisch's is a co-registrant of the Big Boy name and trademark along with the other chain. Frisch's has restaurants in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio – including the one in Port Clinton.

It's interesting to me from a marketing perspective that the Port Clinton restaurant is a sort of hybrid between the two competing Big Boy brands. It's independently owned and operated by Bennett Enterprises as a Frisch's, and as a result uses Frisch's tasty tartar sauce on its Big Boys. It uses the Frisch's version of the mascot on its sign (at right). But the statue in front of its store, as well as the souvenir items sold inside are all of the chubbier version.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my sandwich at the Port Clinton location. I just have to make sure that with all these Big Boys, Oh Boys and Texas Burgers that I've been inhaling lately that I don't end up looking like a burger mascot myself.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chippewa Lake Park Ad – May 1964

Here's another vintage ad announcing the Memorial Day opening of a now long-gone Northern Ohio amusement park: Chippewa Lake Park. It ran in the Lorain Journal on May 22, 1964.

According to this Wiki entry, Chippewa Lake Park was in operation from 1878 to 1978.

It began as a simple picnic grounds adjacent to a beautiful lake, and with the addition of a roller coaster and boat ride, became an amusement park. It thrived during the 1920s and was still a popular choice for families right into the 60s and 70s. It finally closed without fanfare in 1978, due to competition from Cedar Point and Geauga Lake.

Unlike other amusement parks that closed, however, its rides were not sold and the land immediately redeveloped. Chippewa Lake Park apparently was just left to deteriorate for more than 30 years. It became a favorite documentary subject of filmmakers who contrasted the decaying park rides and structures with photos and footage of the park in its heyday.

Here's one of those short documentaries that are fairly common on YouTube. This one is pretty creative, with some great clips and now-and-then photo dissolves.

I don't remember my family ever going to Chippewa Lake Park. It was one of those things I remember hearing Captain Penny mention on his TV show, but we were strictly a Cedar Point family.
I remember driving out to Chippewa Lake Park in the 1980s and taking some pictures of the sign and the roller coaster. But that was in the pre-digital camera days, so it's gonna take some digging for me to find those shots.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Crystal Beach Park 40th Anniversary Ad – May 28, 1947

Crystal Beach Park in Vermilion first opened on Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) 1907. Thus, the 40th Anniversary of the park was a big event, and was heralded in this ad, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on May 28, 1947.

The ad is a nice snapshot of all the rides and attractions that Crystal Beach offered at that time: Crystal Thriller, Tumblebug, Dodgem, Rocket Ship, Merry Go Round, Loop A Plane, Caterpillar, Miniature Railway, Kiddie Rides, Ponies and Miniature Golf.

Amusements listed in the ad included a Fun House, a Shooting Gallery, Bingo, Dart Game, Balloon Bust, and a Fish Pond.

Crystal Beach Park was well known for the popular Big Bands that performed there. Upcoming bands listed in the 1947 ad include Frankie Masters, Stan Kenton (one of my father's favorites), Carmen Cavallaro and Vaughn Monroe.

For a really terrific history of Crystal Beach Park that includes many wonderful photos and postcards, be sure to visit this link on Rich Tarrant's Vermilion Views website. Crystal Beach Park has been a regular topic on the Vermilion Views website over the years, so if you type in "Crystal Beach" in the search box at the bottom of the page, it will bring up the links of additional posts that mention it.

Courtesy Ebay
Drew Penfield has a nice history of Crystal Beach Park on the first page of the Vermilion section of his Lake Shore Rail Maps website, including some great photos.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rigbee's Bargain Town Ad – May 21, 1964

Here's a vintage ad for Rigbee's Bargain Town that ran in the Lorain Journal on May 21, 1964 – 51 years ago today.

The ad caught my eye because of the 99 cent Beatle dolls. But more on that later in this post.

Rigbee's Bargain Town at 852 Broadway (across from the post office) was the successor  to Rigbee's Kiddieland at the same address. Both companies have their roots in the Rigbee Company, which was based in Elyria and run by the Evenchik family.

The company seemed to evolve over the years. In the 1925-26 Elyria City Directory, it was called Rig-Bee Supply Company and specialized in auto accessories. J. A. Evenchik was the manager. Through the years, the popular store at its longtime home in the 500 block on Broad Street eventually added electrical supplies, hardware and toys to its product selection.

By the early 1950s, the business had expanded into Lorain with Rigbee's Kiddieland, run by Harvey Evenchik. The store specialized in baby toys and furniture.

By 1964, the Lorain store had taken the Rigbee's Bargain Town name, and Harvey Evenchik was joined at the store by Isadore Baer, who was co-manager. Strangely enough, the store reverted back to its Kiddieland name around 1968. It also moved to 663 Broadway.

Rigbee's Kiddieland in Lorain made it into the 1970s with a new manager (Shirley A. Frey) before the company disappeared from the city directory in the 1971 edition. The Elyria store (which by that time was managed by Marvin Evenchik) had already closed in 1969.

Courtesy iGavel Auctions
Now back to those Beatle dolls in the ad.

The popular dolls were manufactured by Remco. Each Beatle was about 4 3/4 inches tall, and came with a plastic instrument with his name on it (which the doll's owner would usually lose).

My sister and two brothers and I each had one of those Beatle dolls. I had good old Ringo – whose cartoon likeness provided so much of the comic relief on those Beatles TV cartoons that we watched regularly on Saturday mornings.

Anyway, since my siblings and I each had a favorite Beatle, we were doomed to be associated with that particular Beatle in perpetuity. This resulted in lots of ribbing later in the 1960s, as the Beatles lost their clean cut image in favor of the hippie look, and certain members of the Fab Four began getting into trouble with the law for drug possession.
As time went on, my brothers and I eventually turned our fairly beat-up Beatle dolls over to our older sister so that she would have a complete set. She'd been the big Beatle fan anyway, owning and playing the albums that provided a sort of soundtrack for my early childhood years.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lorain County Speedway Ad – May 1964

Here's a vintage ad for Lorain County Speedway from the May 14, 1964 Lorain Journal – 51 years ago this month.

According to various online sources, the auto racing track opened in 1949 as a 1/3 of a mile dirt oval, and was paved between the 1960 and 1961 racing seasons.

The Morning Journal has a nice article online by Jon Wysochanski (here) that provides a history of Lorain County Speedway, as well as Summit Motorsports in Norwalk. The article includes interviews with the people currently involved with the operation of both area tracks.

Here's an aerial view of Lorain County Speedway, courtesy of Bing Maps.

Be sure to visit the Lorain County Speedway website to learn about upcoming promotional events.

I haven't been out to the Speedway since the 1980s; maybe it's time for a visit!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Workshop Players Part 2

While doing a little research on Workshop Players, I found a few early clippings and articles that might be of interest to fans of the acting troupe. (Click on each for a larger, readable version.)

As you remember from yesterday's post, the origin of the Workshop Players was a group of Clearview High School students who wished to continue to present plays even after their high school graduation. The Lorain Journal had a small article in its August 19, 1947 edition about their very first play.

By 1951, Workshop Players had not yet moved to their current home in the former one room schoolhouse on Middle Ridge Road. Here's an article from the Amherst News-Times (below) from that era highlighting Jean Schaeffer's role in The Valiant.

May 4, 1951 article
Here's a pair of articles from December 1952 from the Amherst News-Times. The first one is about the one-act Christmas plays that the group was presenting for the holidays, and the second mentions the upcoming move to the Middle Ridge location.
December 12, 1952 article
December 19, 1952 article
By 1953, Workshop Players were in their new home. Here is a small promotional article (below) about their upcoming play, Ladies in Retirement that appeared on the front page of the April 24, 1953 Amherst News-Times. The photo features Bunny Ross and Duane Hinds.
April 24, 1953 article
Here's a front page 1955 article (below) from the Amherst News-Times of January 28, 1955 about the upcoming production of Would-Be Gentleman. The photo features Bill Penton in his role as Mr. Jourdain, and Dan Strauss as the Son of a Grand Turk.
Bill Penton also enjoyed some publicity for his acting career in the April 1955 issue of American Motorcycling. The article below mentions that the 1954 National Jack Pine Champion probably was making his last stage appearance for a while because "Uncle Sammy slated him to play a role in the armed forces."