Friday, September 22, 2017

Woody Hayes Article – Sept. 2, 1967

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I went to Ohio State and, like my father, was a big fan of Woody Hayes. (Back here, I even mentioned how I “met” him once.)

Well, since it’s Friday, here’s a little look back for all you Ohio State fans from the sports pages of the Lorain Journal. It ran in the September 2, 1967 edition – 50 years ago this month – and features Woody Hayes talking about the upcoming season.

It’s strange how few games they played back then (nine, with two non-conference) and how late they started (September 30th). The Buckeyes would go 6-3 during that 1967 season.

The 1968 season would be the one in which Ohio State would earn its fifth national championship. And by the time the Buckeyes won their next national championship in 1970, I knew that Ohio State was where I wanted to go.

Now in 2017, I think too much attention is given to trying to win the national championship. The team should follow Woody’s example and focus on just beating Michigan!

I also hate the divisional realignment of the Big Ten conference that happened in the last few years, and I’ll probably never get used to it. There was something interesting about Ohio State battling just about the same conference teams every year. While I was at Ohio State, the football team played Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan all four years, with only Purdue and Michigan State taking turns. You knew Ohio State might have a little trouble with Indiana, but would usually pulverize Northwestern. There was something reassuring about that.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thistle Building Update Part 2

Rick Kurish was finally able to determine the organization behind the Thistle Building’s construction, as well as a Scottish connection. 

In an early September email, he wrote, "Under the heading “Lorain News” in the Elyria Reporter of September 27, 1905 I found the brief article that describes what I am almost positive is the announcement of the drawing of plans for the Thistle Building (see article below). 

"The article fits both the building location and the interior design of the building. If the plans were being drawn up at the end of September 1905, construction probably didn’t start until Spring of 1906.

"Even more interesting is the fact that the Fleming & Miller Company mentioned in the article as the company erecting the building, would seem to have ties to Scotland. I still don’t have all of this sorted out, but the Fleming & Miller business was listed in the 1905 Lorain City Directory as “Saloons.” The principals in the business were John Fleming and James Miller. According to the 1910 census John Fleming was a bricklayer, who was born in Scotland, and while I could not find with certainty James Miller in the 1910 census, the 1905 Lorain City Directory listed him as an agent for the Hoster Brewing Company of Columbus Ohio, which according to the industry magazine “Ice and Refrigeration Illustrated” dated July to December 1905, had just established a plant for distribution in Lorain, Ohio. Interestingly, the February 1910 Sanborn Map for the building shows one of the ground floor stores as a Tea Shop and the other as a Saloon.
"In the 1910 census John Fleming was boarding with the extended family of Jean Miller, who was born in Scotland and immigrated to the United States in 1899. So the Fleming partner in the business was born in Scotland, and I suspect that the Miller partner was Scotch also. So perhaps, and I think most likely, the Thistle Building was named after the builder’s Scottish heritage, and not after the Thistle Lodge — although I like the Lodge theory better. 
"Perhaps some day you will turn up an article on the completion of the building in the Lorain Newspapers that will definitively answer the question.
I took Rick’s advice and scoured the microfilm beginning around the time of his late Sept. 27 article about the building. I did find a similar mention of the proposed building in the Sept. 26, 1905 edition of the Lorain Daily News.

A few days later, Rick weighed in again on the company that sponsored the building’s construction. "While watching the Indians beat up on the Detroit Tigers this afternoon, I picked up my laptop and started looking at the Fleming & Miller Company that was apparently associated with the Thistle Building. I had never heard of the company before finding the article about the drafting of building plans the other day. Mainly, I was trying to establish a hard link between the company and possible Scottish ancestry of the principals in the company. I didn’t accomplish that, but I did find an article in the Elyria Reporter of September 25,1905 containing an interesting interview with Jane Miller, wife of James Miller. 
"While a portion of the article is a little hard to read, apparently Jane Miller, a business owner in her own right, if the article is to be believed, is the person who was the driving force in moving the company into Lorain. It appears that they had big plans for business in Lorain. I’m not sure if they all came to fruition, but I did find a mention of one of their saloons in Lorain in 1907.”

So what does all this mean? Rick summed it all up.

"Perhaps the origin of the name “Thistle" attached to the building erected by the Fleming - Miller Company is destined to be an enduring mystery.

"Whatever the plan, the building located on the southwest corner of 7th Street, which was most likely built in 1906, was named the Thistle Building. We can postulate that the building was named “Thistle” by the principals of the Fleming & Miller Company, due to the apparent Scottish ancestry of several of the principals, or that the Lorain Thistle Lodge of Lorain, founded in 1905, was somehow involved in the naming of the building. That may be as close as we come to an answer to the question. I tend to believe the first option relating to Scottish ancestry — at least until a third option appears!

Hilariously, I think I might have found that third option while preparing this post. I had Googled the word “Thistle” and discovered that the flowering plant is the floral emblem of both Scotland and – Loraine, France!

In the meantime, I will continue my search for some sort of newspaper article announcing the completion of the building.

Thanks once again to Rick Kurish for sharing his research.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thistle Building Update Part 1

The view this past weekend
Although the Thistle Building is gone, the question remains: How did the building gets its name?

Thanks to longtime blog contributor Rick Kurish, we now have some theories about the origin of the name, as well as a lot more information about the building.

First of all, Rick determined an interesting coincidence regarding the name, “Thistle.” As he wrote in a mid-August email, "I found it interesting that you found nary a Thistle surname in any Lorain City Directory. That led me to believe that perhaps the name Thistle on the building was derived from an organization that may have financed its construction. To that end, I spent some time looking for a fraternal organization in Lorain that had Thistle in its name — and I found one.

"In The American Year Book - Directory of Scottish Societies and British Associations, 1915 -1915 on page 85, under the heading “Ohio Societies” is listed Lorain Ohio Thistle Lodge No. 3. Perhaps this Scottish Society financed the building, then rented out the 1st and 2nd floor commercial/residential space, and used the 3rd floor auditorium for their Lodge Hall. 

"It’s an interesting thought, but the only problem is that I can not find a shred of evidence that that was in fact the case.”

I think it is a pretty good theory, and I was able to determine that the Lodge (whose membership was all female) celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1945 – meaning it was in existence about the time the building was constructed. But I couldn’t find any connection between the Lodge and the building either. It sure would have been nice to find out they held their meetings in the Thistle Building!

Anyway, Rick kept digging and was able to clarify something about the building’s address. He wrote, "I was puzzled by two seemingly conflicting addresses for the Thistle Building. The current address (at least before demolition) was 700 Broadway. In your blog posting a week or so ago, you mentioned an address of 676 Broadway for the Thistle building in 1907. 
Using a Sanborn Fire Map from 1918, Rick explained the discrepancy. 
"At that time, Seventh Street didn’t go all the way through to Broadway. As a consequence, there was a grocery at 666 Broadway, and the map indicates that the adjacent Thistle Building, first floor only, was divided by a wall into two commercial spaces. These commercial spaces on the first floor, while listed as 676 Broadway and 700 Broadway, were in fact in the same building. 
"Apparently at the time that 7th Street was continued to Broadway (perhaps after the 1924 tornado), the grocery was demolished, and the 676 Broadway address of the Thistle Building was discontinued. Not an important discovery perhaps, but it clarifies the address of the building.”
Rick also was able to hone in on the approximate construction date using the Sanborn Map. He noted, "One of the news stories I read on the fire indicated that the Auditor’s Office didn’t have a construction date for the Thistle Building. It dawned on me that the Sanborn Maps may hold the key to the buildings construction date. The building does not appear on the attached Sanborn Map dated June 1905, at which time 7th Street was named Chestnut Street. 
"Since you found a reference to the Thistle Building in 1907, that would pretty much lock in the construction date to the late 1905 - 1907 time frame. You also turned up information that the Daughters of Scotland Thistle Lodge No. 3 dates to 1905. Although it proves nothing, it is interesting that the Thistle Lodge and Thistle Building appear in Lorain at about the same time.”
During my correspondence with Rick, I mentioned that I thought it was strange that neither the Morning Journal nor the Chronicle-Telegram mentioned that Harry’s Mens Wear was the longest tenant in the building.
Rick noted, "I shopped at Harry’s regularly after I returned to the area in 1969. In fact, it is the only store that I remember being at that location. 
"The store had parking out back, and both front and rear entrances. They always had the best selection of clothes — especially Levi jeans!”

Next: The company behind the Thistle Building revealed

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Richard C. Beck Remembers Lorain

The trailer park just west of Chris’ Restaurant was home to Richard Beck
I got an nice email a few months ago from Richard C. Beck III, who called Lorain home for a while in the 1950s. Although he now lives in Georgia, Richard has fond memories of his short time in Lorain, and decided to share a few of them with me. 

"My family lived there in 1957- 1958,” noted Richard.  "I was in school there at grade six. My 6th grade teacher was Mr. Davidson.

"We lived in the one row small trailer park on Rt. 6 & 2 just west of the (now gone) Howard Johnson's Restaurant. 
"My dad worked as a painter/sign painter for Brady's Restaurant, the Ohio Theater, and the Lorain Drive-In. My dad paid me 25 cents an hour as an apprentice during the summer break.
"Mr. Dick Kline managed the Ohio Theater and the Lorain Drive-In.  We painted and made signs for both of them. Now they both have been gone quite a while.  
Richard remembers the Drive-in well. "Lorain Drive-In had "Buck Night" on Fridays; the total cost was only one dollar for everyone packed inside a car. 
"At the back of the parking lot, there was a fish pond, he noted.
Biking was a passion for Richard during his time in Lorain.
"From Sears and Roebuck on Broadway Avenue in Lorain, I bought an English Racer 3 speed bicycle.  I pedaled it on West Erie Ave/Rt 6 & 2 quite often.
He remembers, however, that the streets werent always bike-friendly back then.
"In those days, all drivers considered bikes as toys – not allowed to legally use Public Right-of-Ways.
Nevertheless, Richards still an avid biker. "At age 71, I still pedal a bike here where I live near Atlanta, he noted.  
Richards lived in a lot of places, but knows which one he liked the best: Lorain. 
"Before we moved there, we lived in Massilon, Lima, Defiance, Hicksville, and Toledo. Lorain was/is my most favorite town. It's made me depressed when I learned about all those big businesses that disappeared from Lorain."
Richard sums up his affection for Lorain quite eloquently.
That city – at the mouth of the Black River on Lake Erie with the Coast Guard station – was always the place I wanted to move back to."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ghosts of Nationwide Theatrical Agency

Remember when I wrote about the Nationwide Theatrical Agency and its uniquely-shaped sign at 1629 Broadway? At the time, I wondered what kind of acts the agency actually booked.

Well, recently a small window to the world of Nationwide Theatrical Agency mysteriously cracked open, after being literally boarded up for decades, and provided me with my answer.

Here’s the fascinating story, a tale of haunting showbiz images revealed.

I recently received an email from Mark Stadul, who along with his wife owns the building in which the Nationwide Theatrical Agency was located. It's now the home of their business, Steel Coast Trading – which sells used and surplus tools, machines, electronics, test and vehicular goods.

Mark and his wife had been renovating the building and recently made an interesting discovery. He wrote, "During recent repairs, I uncovered a door that had been walled over in the building that had several posters, postcards, and pin-ups from the agency.” It seems that the plywood had been there for decades and only needed to be pried off to reveal the various promotional pieces that hadn’t seen daylight for years

Mark invited me to stop by and take a look at his findings, and I did just that.

The actual promotional pieces seem to be from the 1960s, with a few bearing postmarks. I spread them out on a workbench and grabbed some quick shots of some of them. Most were yellowed, curled and full of pinholes.

It’s quite an eclectic collection of acts, all striving for the bookings that would catapult them to fame and fortune. A few made it big; others, we’ll probably never know. 
Little is known about Tia and her "volcanic, tempestuous and seductive" Tahitian Fire Dance. 
On the other hand, Frank and Denise Agostino had a fine career with their acrobatic balancing act. The back of their postcard was postmarked November 1969 and advertised that they were currently appearing in Minsky’s Revue at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. By 1976 they were sharing the playbill with Joey Bishop in Philadelphia.
Colonel Jerry Lipko and his "Human Chimps” were based in Florence, New Jersey. They also performed as “Lipko’s Comedy Chimps” and were billed as “America’s Finest Chimp Act.” A July 1973 newspaper report in the Monroe Evening Times described the act, noting, "Col. Jerry Lipko has had chimps for 18 years, using them in his shows and lectures. At present, he features Skippy, eight-years old; Roses, five; Hazel, 24, and a new member, George, who is two, and still in training. All Chimps wear shoes and clothing and amaze crowds with their human traits. They roller skate, balance on rolling balls as well as on the high perch. They play musical instruments, ride bikes, and even a Honda, where their working area permits. They have appeared on television shows with Red Skelton, Jimmy Dean and Mike Douglas and with numerous circuses and fairs throughout the country.”
A tragic fire in Col. Lipko’s camper in Dec. 1976 claimed the lives of several of his famous chimps.
Here are a few more promotional photos for Lipko’s Human Chimps.

Burlesque performer Von Ray, the “Texas Tornado” also enjoyed a successful career with her novelty act. She often performed while standing on her head, which is why she was also billed as “the Upside Down Girl." She owned her own bar in New Orleans as well. 

Here’s another promotional shot of Von Ray from the late-1960s.

But getting back to the other acts...

Mississippi Rain was a Southern pop group based out of Jackson, Mississippi. The band recorded an album for Polydor Records and was represented by Fras-Co Productions. Here’s a link to a nice collection of photos of the band on Facebook, collected by the man who wrote and arranged their album.

Buck Buckley and his “neoteric wit” unfortunately seem to be destined to remain a mystery, with no internet “footprint” to reveal anything about the man and his act.
Of all the acts represented here, Eddie Floyd was by far the most successful, with a long career as an American soul/rhythm & blues singer and songwriter. Heres Eddie today (below).
And heres the link to his website.
Lastly, and happily, Walter Blaney and his big one-man show featuring 100% clean, wholesome fun, comedy and magic" are still around as well. 
Herethe link to his website.
Also included in the collection of items retrieved from behind the plywood wall was, appropriately, this postcard of Fremont Street in Las Vegas as it used to be in all its original neon glory. 
It was postmarked August 17, 1970 and was sent to Frank Gimello from Ralph, one of his employees. “Hi Boss,” it read, “Looking things over for anything new you might be able to use or interested in…”
Sounds like Ralph had a great job!
Special thanks to Mark Stadul of Steel Coast Trading for sharing his findings. Heres the link to the Steel Coast Trading Ebay store.
While preparing this post, I researched Mark’s building a little more. It was built around 1948 and was originally known as the Central Lorain Commerce Building.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The One-Room Schoolhouse at Meister and Leavitt – Part 5

I’ve compared the available photos of the Black River Township schoolhouse and I’ve come to the conclusion that the photo in the Arcadia Images of America – Lorain book (shown above) is not the school once located at Meister and Leavitt Roads.

First of all, the pitch or slope of the gable roof in the photo found in the Lorain book is different from the Rudy Moc photos found in the Port Mills newspaper coverage. It is not as severe as the building shown in the airport photos.
Next, the front of the schools are quite different. (We can identify the front of each building because they all have a chimney in the rear.) The window in the peak above the front entrance is different – round in the Arcadia book, more ornamental in the airport photos. The detail around the windows is different as well.

Lastly, although the school in the Lorain book has the same number of windows on it side, they all have a rounded brick design at the top, as opposed to a more pointed and separate arc above the windows in the airport photos.
Anyway, there were many old schoolhouses in Lorain County and some are still standing. Perhaps some day we can determine which school that actually is in the Lorain book – as well as figure out if that is a small black dog in the photo.

Be sure to visit the great flickr site, “Ohio’s Historic One-Room Schoolhouses,” where you can see structures very similar to those presented here on the blog this week.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The One-Room Schoolhouse at Meister and Leavitt – Part 4

So when was the Black River Township schoolhouse torn down?

An obituary for Mrs. Martha Opfer that appeared on the front page of the Lorain Journal on August 4, 1941 provided an answer.

With the heading “LORAIN PIONEER RESIDENT DIES,” the obituary noted, “Mrs. Martha Opfer, 90, a lifelong resident of Lorain and a member of one of the city’s oldest families died at 2:30 a. m. today at her home, 936 Reid-av, after an illness of one month.

“Death came to Mrs. Opfer in the house where she had lived for the last 50 years. She was born in 1851 in a log cabin on Leavitt-rd in the village then known as Charleston and attended school in the little red building at the intersection of Leavitt and Meister-rds, recently razed.

It’s impossible to know if the reporter defined ‘recently’ to be during the last few days, months or years. I meticulously checked the microfilm several times, going back to March 1941 and was unable to find any mention of the school being demolished; I did it again the other night in a last-ditch effort to find some mention of it.  At least we know that as of the beginning of August 1941, the school was gone.

Next: Is it the same school?