Friday, June 18, 2021

Neil Pinkley 1925 – 2021

It was sad to drive by Your Pit BBQ (or “The Pit” as it was known for many years) a few days ago and see the sign board announcing the passing of Mr. Neil Pinkley.

Mr. and Mrs. Neil Pinkley, along with Mr. and Mrs. Noah Tedford, were the founders of The Pit, opening the iconic Vermilion restaurant back on December 31, 1968.

I interviewed Steve Pinkley in preparation for a four part series on The Pit that I wrote back last year, and he told me how his father Neil got the inspiration for the restaurant.

Steve had explained that his parents were from Memphis, Tennessee. Neil, a Ford worker, transferred here to work at the new Lorain Assembly Plant on Baumhart Road, along with several other workers from that area.
When they got up here, however, they discovered that there were no Southern BBQ restaurants. “You oughta open up a barbecue,” was something that Neil heard many times from his friends.
So Neil Pinkley and his friend, Noah Tedford, decided to do just that.
And there are a lot of people (including me) that are sure glad he did.
My condolences to Steve and the entire Pinkley family.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Huron’s Showboat Grand Opening – June 17, 1971

Fifty years ago, one of the more unusual restaurants on the shores of Lake Erie opened: “Showboat,” located at the foot of the Huron pier. The ad for it above appeared in the Lorain Journal on June 17, 1971.

As noted in an article in the Journal that ran the day before, “The building takes on the shape of an old river boat and to add to the effect, the inside is all of nautical design. There is a great view of Lake Erie and the Huron Harbor from the upstairs dining area. Boat decks are available for those who want to come by water.

“The owners, Jake Claus and Walter Messenburg, plan a grand opening for tomorrow evening with dinners being served from 5 until 11 p. m.”

Here are two nice color postcards of the restaurant (both currently on eBay).

Here is a Showboat “wooden nickel” also currently on eBay.

(I first wrote about Showboat back on this 2016 post.)

Although Showboat eventually closed, it’s still incredible that Mr. Claus and Mr. Messenburg were able to make their restaurant dream a reality, and a successful one at that.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Saddle Inn 25th Anniversary – June 17, 1965

Beach Park Station circa 1898

Here’s a nice little history of how the old, abandoned interurban car barns in Avon Lake became the Saddle Inn. The story, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Inn, was written by Doug Warren and ran in the Lorain Journal on June 17, 1965. 


Saddle Inn Marks 25th Anniversary


AVON LAKE – There was a ponderous downfall of rain one Sunday afternoon. It very nearly obscured the bleak looking brick structure more than a hundred yards back from the road. The building, forlorn in its retirement from service, would probably look anything but interesting to less creative eyes, but one car which sloshed through the rain slowed, started up again and finally turned around and came back.

THE INTERESTED eyes in the rain drenched auto belonged to Ethel Frielingsdorf. She was the one who saw the lonely brick building and insisted that her husband William turn around and return for a closer look. What she saw was the Saddle Inn.

Actually the building was known then as the Interurban Car Barns. The area was known as Beach Park. The year was 1939.

The brick building was erected in 1893, and housed its last streetcar in 1938. Interurban service between Cleveland and Toledo ended when the streetcar lost its battle with the auto and the bus. The car barn was abandoned and up for sale.

Mrs. Frielingsdorf saw a new life for the discarded building; a new role. A future, which she and her husband would mold.

The restaurant dream was no lark with the Frielingsdorfs in 1939. They had been in it in Cleveland at 1W. 117th St. and Clifton, called Mother’s Pantry, and had no plans for starting another. That all changed when the creative eye of Mrs. Frielingsdorf caught sight of the car barns. They bought the Avon Lake property and the for sale sign has never been seen since.

A YEAR later the Saddle Inn was opened. Now it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. The facade has changed dramatically over the years, and its acreage has been populated with a 22 unit shopping center. In addition to the Inn, which has grown from 9 to 30 units, the complex includes a theater, drug store and supermarket.

The Frielingsdorf's had plans drawn up for an 80-acre extension of their empire, which would give Avon Lake the largest shopping center between Cleveland and Lorain, but their plans were altered by fate.

In 1957, a $200,000 fire started in the adjacent theater and crept into the inn to destroy much of the refinements of 17 years. The insurance failed to cover the loss.

A new start was demanded of the Frielingsdorf's and they were worthy of the challenge. The inn was restored and improved upon. Now, again the industrious family is studying plans for extending the shopping center. Frielingsdorf has been approached often during the last months by potential renters and he feels the development of the 80-acre addition is nearing time of fruition. He sees 400,000 square feet of store space going up for business occupancy.

MRS. FRIELINGSDORF’S son, Phil Tanner, and his wife, Audie, are the cordial host and hostess of the restaurant. Phil attributes the family success to his mother’s driving force and her good cooking. Not even a devastating fire could dampen her enthusiasm. With an extended illness slowing her physical pace she remains at the helm from her upstairs apartment. Phil’s step-father, Williams Frielingsdorf, supervises the kitchen every day.

Over the years, William Frielingsdorf has made a hobby of collecting bric-a-brac antiques for the restaurant. There is a 200-year-old replica of the Santa Maria in prominent display over the bar. There are chandeliers imported from Italy. exquisite wrought iron grill work, and even a saber which survived the battle of Bunker Hill.

Frielingsdorf is constantly searching for artifacts to add character to the rooms which have been so much a part of his life over the years.

Mrs. Frielingsdorf came to the United States in 1907 from Poland. When she was 16 she served as court interpreter for the city of New York, having command of nine languages. William was born in Dusseldorf, Germany.

THEY MOVED to Cleveland in 1924 and conducted grocery and delicatessen businesses before venturing into the restaurant world.

The Frielingsdorfs regard the launching of the Saddle Inn as their real beginning, however, because the half of their lives spent in Avon Lake has seemed the most like home.

Recently Phil and Audre Tanner acted as hosts of the inn’s 25th anniversary party and entertained more than 50 long-time friends of the family. Among their guests were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gould, the George Timmermans, the Carl Fjelstadts, Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Scoggin, the Bob Mittendorfs Amon the others.

The Tanners served cocktails, dinner, and afterward, treated their guests to a performance of “The Perfect Setup” the last play of the winter season of the Huntington Touring Players.

Detail from a 1959 newspaper ad
Tanner announced that in conjunction with the 25th anniversary celebration, the Inn would begin serving daily European dishes which his mother made famous over the years. Sauerbrten, bratwurst, wienerschnitzel, potato pancakes and German potato salad are some of the items to be featured. Mrs. Frielingsdorf’s secret recipes will be followed in the preparation of the authentic old world dishes.

THE TANNERS, his step-father and mother, all live in upstairs apartments at the Inn. Phil and Audre, married in 1941, have two children. Their son, Tom, 23, is doing post-graduate work at Ohio University. Michael, 8, is at home.

The lives of all the group have centered around the Inn. Phil admits having been dishwasher, waiter, bartender and finally host of the family business. He even met his wife there.

The Saddle Inn has been a temporary residence for celebrities from all over the world. To the Frielingsdorfs and the Tanners, the Saddle Inn and Avon Lake is home. It has been for the last 25 years and their friends hope they will be calling it home after the next 25 years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

State Route 2 West From Baumhart Road Plans – June 1971

Back in June 1971, you couldn’t do this yet:
get on State Route 2 at Baumhart Road and go west

Fifty years ago, westbound State Route 2 out of Lorain ended at Baumhart Road. It’s a funny thought to those of us used to taking it to get to Port Clinton.

But that was about to change, as noted in the article below, which appeared in the Journal on June 18, 1971. 

As the article noted, “Bids will be opened July 20 for a $7.9 million project extending SR2 five miles west from Baumhart Road and creating picnic areas above the Vermilion River.

“This part of SR2 will then become a section of Interstate 90.”

“Still not completed on the western leg is a stretch between SR 60 and SR 61 in Berlin Heights.

“Also not built is a connection to the Jackie Mayer Expressway in Huron from SR 61.”

A close look at the map shows how different the plan was back then, compared to how the highways are designated now.

Both the article and the map indicate that part of State Route 2 was going to be part of I-90. As it turned out, at least in this area, I-90 is one of the designations for the Ohio Turnpike. State Route 2 strikes out on its own west of the Route 57 interchange, staying fairly close to Lake Erie all the way to Toledo.


I’ve posted quite a few articles about State Route 2 construction. It’s of great interest to me because I was very aware of it while it was slowly happening.

This post describes how far along the highway was in 1966 – when it was going to be part of I-90.

This post describes what the plan was in 1967 to close the ‘Vermilion Gap’ of Route 2.

This post shows the progress by 1968.

This post noted how in 1969, highway signs gave the impression that you could take State Route 2 all the way to Toledo, but the highway really ended at Baumhart Rd.

This post noted how the section of Route 2 from Baumhart Road to State Route 61 finally opened in August 1975.

Monday, June 14, 2021

On Area Movie Screens – June 13, 1971

It’s always interesting to see what was playing on area movie screens fifty years ago (back when we still had area movie screens). Unfortunately, the cultural changes that were taking place meant that there was very little for families to choose from on the Journal movie page of June 13, 1971.

Oh, there was still family entertainment, courtesy of Walt Disney Productions. Both Amherst Theatre and Liberty Theatre (in Vermilion) were showing The Barefoot Executive starring Kurt Russell and a chimpanzee. (I wonder if Alan Hopewell saw that one at Boy’s Town?) But the rest of the movies on the page reflected the changing tastes of the moviegoing public. 

Not surprisingly, the local drive-in theaters were showing biker and horror flicks. Bury Me An Angel and Angels Die Hard were at both the Carlisle and the Lorain Drive-ins. Night of Bloody Horror and Night of the Living Dead were at the Tower Drive-in.

It was a mixed bag at the other theaters. Avon Lake Theater went for horror, with Hawkeye Pierce himself (Alan Alda) starring in The Mephisto Waltz. Midway Mall Cinema (it hadn’t been twinned yet) was showing The Andromeda Strain. And Ohio Theater in Downtown Lorain was showing the documentary Woodstock.

Otherwise, the rest of the movies were of the smutty variety. VL Cinema was showing I Am Curious Tahiti and The Golden Box; over at Palace Theater (say it ain’t so) was the X-rated movie Threesome; and lastly, the Tivoli was featuring the popular, X-rated 3-D classic, The Stewardesses.

Now I know why we saw most of our movies at Amherst Theatre.

Hilariously, on the same page as all of the aforementioned films was the ad for the 13th Annual Vacation Movies for kids! The Ohio, the Palace and the Tivoli were the participating theaters showing ten P.T.A. - P.T.U. approved movies. (I wrote about these summer movies back here, featuring some of my older brother Ken's funny memories.)


On that same newspaper page is evidence that times have changed in Lorain County since then.

All three of the Pizza Hut locations in Lorain, Vermilion and Sheffield Lake would eventually close, although today Lorain and Vermilion have carry-out only stores. It’s just not the same for me; the best thing about Pizza Hut pizza was being able to go there to eat it.

Similarly, Tudy’s is gone, as well as the Arby’s at Route 57 and Griswold Road.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Avon Lake Power Plant to be Demolished

In one episode of the British comedy/Sci-Fi TV series Red Dwarf (one of my favorite shows), the crew visits a universe identical to our own, but in which time runs backwards. Although this concept is primarily a gimmick to run film backwards for humor, the whole idea is presented as a better alternative to our own universe.

Why? Because in the backwards universe, no one dies. Instead, people start out dead, or at least old, and get younger as time goes on until they eventually become babies and are put back in the womb. No one is murdered in this universe; instead, someone holding a gun sucks the bullets out of a dead body and the person springs back to life. In other words, in the backwards universe, things seem to move in a more positive direction.

So what does this have to do with today’s post? Well, I often think Lorain County is in its own backwards universe.

For decades, farmland, woods and lakefront land gradually disappeared as they were transformed by developers for residential and industrial uses. But in the last ten years or so, the major development has stopped. Instead, things are getting torn down (such as any number of houses, motels, old manufacturing plants, shopping centers, schools, funeral homes, etc.) and replaced by nothing but a grassy, vacant lot. Just like it was before all the development began.

The latest example is the news that the Avon Lake lakefront power plant on Lake Road is going to be shut down and demolished in the next two to three years.

It’s pretty incredible. According to an article in the Chronicle-Telegram, the city of Avon Lake said it is “committed to the site being repurposed for public access and recreational use that contributes to the future of our City and citizens.”

In other words, just like the land was used before the plant was built, when at one time it was the home of Avon Beach Park. (Read all about it on Drew Penfield’s Lake Shore Rail Maps website.)

Who could have ever imagined that this would be possible in our lifetime? I’m happy for Avon Lake.


I’ve written about the Avon Lake plant – and what was there before it – before.

This post shows a 1924 architectural rendering of the proposed plant.

This post dealt with the August 1926 start up of the plant for the first time.

This post presents a newspaper article from August 1926, shortly after the plant opened, in which old times waxed nostalgic about the days when the property was the home of Avon Beach Park dance hall and amusement park.

This post is about the dedication of a 1950 expansion of the plant.

This post shows the plant circa 1957.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Amherst Shopping Mall Proposal – June 11, 1971

Back in the 1950s and 60s, the west side of Lorain enjoyed a major population explosion, resulting in the need for new shopping centers to provide the growing number of residents everything they needed to buy. Westgate Shopping Center and Lorain Plaza Shopping Center soon become regular stops for west side shoppers.

With the new Ohio Route 2 expressway built just south of Lorain in the 1960s, Amherst would experience its own growth spurt and the need for more shopping as well. Thus it’s not surprising that fifty years ago in June 1971, the plans for the new Amherst Shopping Mall were unveiled, to draw shoppers from both cities.

Amherst Shopping Mall? Yes, at that time the developer expressed certainty that the shopping center would be an enclosed mall. It didn’t happen, however, and today the somewhat scaled-down collection of stores is known as Amherst Plaza Shopping Center

There was supposed to be a standalone movie theater there too. Read all about the original proposal in this article, which appeared in the Journal on June 11, 1971.

Here’s a close-up of the map (drawn by Gene Patrick) shown in the 1971 article. Note the inclusion of Dewey Road.

And here’s a present day Google Map of the area. I always knew that the parking lot at Amherst Plaza was huge. I guess it’s because those extra buildings, the theater, etc. were never built, and the L-shaped store arrangement replaced the original mall idea.

As longtime contributor Dennis Thompson noted a few years ago in a comment, the portion of Dewey Road north of the highway (seen on the 1971 map) was renamed Liberty Bell Street.