Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Happy Birthday, Lorain – Part 2

One of the more interesting features of the Lorain Journal's 50th Anniversary Edition was this detailed, two-page history of the city from a 1924 perspective. (Click on each image for a larger version.)

The history is very thorough (although at times a little cumbersome) and focuses much on the story of the Connecticut Western Reserve, which included the land that ultimately became Lorain.

It’s strange to read how what is now Lorain was at one time part of Trumbull County, and later, part of Geauga County. Both of those counties seem so far away today.

I should probably point out that many of the “facts” in this history of Lorain – such as the identity of the first settler – are debatable among historians.

But there’s also information that’s quite interesting and hard to find. This would include the last half of Chapter II, which deals with the arrival of the first pioneer families in the area, and reveals where their cabins were located.

All in all, the history is a nice reference from a 1924 perspective.

Next: More Lorain Jubilee fun

Monday, April 6, 2020

Happy Birthday, Lorain – Part 1

Today is Lorain’s birthday. Happy Birthday to my hometown!

Back on April 5, 1924, the Lorain Journal was celebrating the city’s 50th birthday with a special edition of the paper. As noted in the lead article on the front page (shown above), “Just a half century ago, April 6, 1874, the 1,000 inhabitants of the then village of Charleston, were granted papers of incorporation.”

I know that some people might want to debate whether the 1874 date is correct; some may argue that 1807 is the real date, since that is supposedly when there was a log cabin near the mouth of the river, built by either Nathan Perry or Azariah Beebe. But the appearance of a log cabin is not the same as the founding of a city, which involves many standard civic activities such as an initial election.

Anyway, I’ll be reproducing some of the pages of that commemorative issue of the Journal during the next few days.

What’s creepy is that just a little more than two months after the 50th anniversary celebration, the city would be almost destroyed by the tornado of June 28, 1924.

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The front page above has a few interesting transportation tidbits.

The article with the heading, “BUSES MAY BE ORDERED OFF STREETS” involved the Collister-Freeman Motor Transportation Act, which placed all of the public carriers (freight or passenger) under the public utilities commission. Basically it required all bus lines to file an application with that commission. This was in response to complaints that the highways were being destroyed by carriers that weren’t paying their fair share of the upkeep via taxes.

I like how the Journal reported the Mayor’s response to the prospect of the Safety Director ordering the buses off the streets: “I couldn’t say. I don’t know anything about it,” was the snappy response from Lorain’s chief executive."

For you Lake Shore Electric fans, the article with the heading, MAYOR FAVORS CHANGE IN TRAFFIC, explains some changes that the city was requesting in the interest of improving traffic congestion. “At the meeting, street car service on the Yellow Line and freight service on the Lake Shore Electric also was discussed.

“It was decided to ask officials of the latter interurban company to run their freight cars thru the city at intervals of 15 minutes instead of running a string of five and six cars at the same time. At times this line of cars seriously blocks Erie-av traffic, it was charged."

Friday, April 3, 2020

Elyria Alligator Tales – Part 2

Mutt the Alligator was so popular and well-known that his seasonal comings and goings in the fountain on Elyria’s square were covered by the Chronicle-Telegram.

As Rick Kurish noted, "He would typically be placed in the fountain each May, and in October he would be removed to spend the winter hibernating in a makeshift basin in the basement of the courthouse or in one of the fire stations.”

Here's the Chronicle-Telegram’s coverage of Mutt getting ready for winter in the fall of 1912. The article ran in the paper on October 18th.

Skipping ahead a few years, here’s an article noting that although spring had sprung, Mutt was still sleeping in his winter quarters in the basement of the courthouse. It ran in the C-T on March 27, 1915.
A few months later, Mutt made the paper again – when two newsboys invaded his turf by wading into the fountain. This article ran on July 26, 1915.
This item from the September 9, 1916 Chronicle-Telegram tells the story of an unfortunate park pigeon who strayed a little too close to Mutt. Unlike the newsboys, he didnt survive to tell his tale.
The August 7, 1917 edition of the Chronicle-Telegram had a similar story. This time, it was a turtle that became lunch. The article also reveals that Mutt had a roommate at that point.
Nobody was eaten in this story from the May 24, 1919 Chronicle-Telegram. It was just the usual seasonal story letting the public know that the two alligators would soon be moved to their fountain home.
Mutt was mentioned in a small article that made the newswire and ran in the Tuesday, August 15, 1922 edition of the Coshocton, Ohio Tribune. A young girl had fallen into the fountain; fortunately, she made out better than the pigeon or the turtle.

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After a long career as a beloved Elyria icon, Mutt came to a bad end rather quickly. First, he managed to escape from his winter quarters in the cellar of the fire station, as related in this article from the front page of the Chronicle-Telegram on December 14, 1927.
A few days later the longtime park pet was found dead. A fine tribute to him appeared on December 19, 1927 in the Santa Ana, California Register, of which J. F. Burke (formerly of Elyria) was the editor.
Apparently, that was not the end of alligators in the Elyria park fountain. 
As Rick Kurish noted, "After Mutt passed away, he was replaced by a smaller alligator who was named “Snoozer,” probably for obvious reasons. I found mentions of Snoozer into the 1930s, but he never seemed to hold the public fascination like Mutt did. I believe that the era of “park alligators” ended in the late 1930s or around World War II. " 

Thanks, as always, to Rick and Dennis for sharing their research.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Elyria Alligator Tales – Part 1

Did you know that the city of Elyria used to keep alligators in its fountain on the downtown square as community pets?

I didn’t either – until two of my longtime blog contributors Dennis Thompson and Rick Kurish both made me aware of it, unbeknownst to each other, in separate emails that suggested it as a topic for a post.

Just like yesterday’s post about kite flying, Rick saw the appearance of an alligator in the fountain as a harbinger of spring. As he eloquently put it, "Just as spring heralds the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano and the buzzards to Hinkley, a century ago spring meant the return of the alligators to the fountain in downtown Elyria. 

"As a youngster in the 1950s, I remember standing at the fountain in Elyria, which contained a few small denomination coins and some litter, while my grandmother told me that at one time the fountain was home to many fish, turtles, and a couple of alligators which a city employee would feed by placing meat on a long pole and extending toward the alligator. 

"It seemed hard to believe,” noted Rick.

Dennis found out about it from family as well "After dinner, I was showing old Lorain and Elyria photos to the kids when my son's wife asked, "Did you ever hear about the alligators in the fountain in the Elyria square? They stayed in the pond during the summer and were kept in the basement of city hall in winter. 

"Thinking this must surely be an urban legend, I hit the Chronicle-Telegram archives,” said Dennis.  "To my delight, I found that not only were there several alligators, but they were a frequent subject of the paper."

Indeed they were. Between the clippings sent to me by Dennis and Rick, supplemented by ones I found, we can piece together the story pretty well.

Rick observed,"From newspaper accounts, it appears that the renovation of the fountain from a genteel Victorian floral garden to a home for alligators and other wildlife was the idea of a rather unusual councilman named Jude Jones, who was the proprietor of a tobacco store in Elyria. 

"When he was named park superintendent, he made many changes/upgrades to the park, including the fountain. Prior to becoming a councilman he maintained animal exhibits of turtles, fish, and apparently even a small alligator in his store window — much to the delight of children passing by.”

Rick found mentions of alligators in the fountain as early as 1908.

By 1909, “Mutt,” the alligator, was already a popular attraction in the fountain. This clipping from the Saturday, June 12, 1909 Chronicle-Telegram tells the story of Mutt’s first feeding since his hibernation, which began the previous October.


The same edition of the paper revealed that Mutt had a little buddy.
By 1911, it sounds like Elyria needed some new alligators. This article from the May 22, 1911 Chronicle-Telegram notes that a shipment was en route from Ocklawaha, Florida. 
By May 26, 1911, the new gators were enjoying life in their new home, according to this story from Chronicle-Telegram that day.
"Of course the next step was to name the alligators,” noted Rick, "so a contest was organized. Per the C-T article on May 27,1911, the decision was Mutt and Jeff." 

"The names of course were derived from the then wildly popular Mutt and Jeff comic strip, which had debuted a couple years earlier,” said Rick.

This story from the Saturday, June 10, 1911 Chronicle-Telegram clarifies the alligator situation. Sadly, one of the two gators from Florida had passed away, leaving a total of three living in the fountain – which included a tiny one that was only seven inches in length. Hilariously, the turtles in the fountain enjoyed piggyback rides on the gators.
“Mutt,” the biggest alligator, was apparently very smart, according to this article from the July 8, 1911 Chronicle-Telegram.

Only one alligator is mentioned in this story from the October 7, 1911 Chronicle-Telegram, in which the city was having trouble finding him a big enough tank to spend the winter in.


Next: More Alligator Tales

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Go Fly A Kite

Yesterday, I wrote about how the opening of soft serve ice cream stands signaled that winter was over and warm weather was coming. Today, our friend Rick Kurish, longtime blog contributor and researcher, reminisces about another sign of spring – kite flying – and provides some nice vintage graphics to go along with them.
"Do kids still fly kites, or is that another activity lost to video games?” wrote Rick in an email about a month ago. "As I was working in the yard the other day, I was thinking it was almost kite flying weather. 

"While building and flying kites was a common spring activity for me and my brother growing up in the 1950s, I realized that it has probably been years since I’ve seen kids flying kites. Perhaps that’s because the area where I live now has too many trees and other obstacles that make kite flying impractical; at least that’s what I would like to believe. 

"Where I grew up, there were open fields all around our house which made flying easier. I suppose today’s kids would find kite flying incredibly boring and old fashioned, but we enjoyed it.

"Newspaper articles from the 1930s through the 1970s attest to the popularity of the activity among kids. Each spring, the newspaper contained articles on kite flying contests and meets, as well as editorials warning kids about the dangers of flying kites. 

"In the 1940s and 1950s, even your old friend Reddy Kilowatt was featured in public service ads reminding kids to observe safety precautions. 


"In the 1970s, churches and stores used kites to lure in kids — and their parents. A Baptist Church encouraged kids to attend Church by giving each child who attended Sunday School on “Kite Sunday” a free kite. 


"Perhaps in the next few weeks I will see a young child and his or her parent flying a kite and, for me, it will herald the return of Spring.

"I've attached several articles from the CT from the 1930s through the 1970s. I thought you might find them interesting.”


I did, Rick! Thanks for sharing!

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Just like Rick, my brothers and I tried flying kites for amusement, at least for a little while. As he noted, you needed a lot of space to do it – which we had, because there was just a big open field to the west of our house on Skyline Drive. I remember Dad came home with a box kite one time too, which we managed to destroy.

I wrote about those kite flying days of the 1960s back here.

It’s funny how kite flying was so dominant in the public consciousness back in the 60s, whether it was in the comic strips (like Peanuts) or TV shows (like the beginning of That Girl).

Today, kite flying seems to be a largely forgotten form of entertainment for kids, just like those balsa wood airplanes. Oh well.

Anyway, if you want to relive those kite flying days, a quick look on Ebay reveals a few vintage kites for sale right now, both of the promotional variety.

Marlo Thomas flying her “That Girl” kite in the opening credits of the show.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dairy Queen Vermilion Ad – March 31, 1965

Spring 2020 has been off to a crazy start, with all of the precautions being taken to control the Coronavirus. But hopefully things will begin to get back to normal by the beginning of summer.

One of those things to look forward to along with the warm weather is the opening of Romps’ Dairy Dock on Liberty Avenue (U. S. Route 6).

As you can see in the above ad at the top of this post, back in 1965 the popular soft serve ice cream stand was part of the Dairy Queen system. The ad appeared in the Vermilion Photojournal on March 31, 1965 – 55 years ago today.

Romp’s has been a favorite topic on this blog since I moved to Vermilion.

I posted an interesting 1963 article about the history of Romp’s here, as well as a Grand Opening ad for the Dairy Queen from June 1964 here. Romps’s also made it into this article about the flooding that took place back in January 1959.

Anyway, whenever Romp’s Dairy Dock does open this year, it will be a pleasant sight indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Cedar Point 100th Anniversary Article – March 1970

Despite the disruption of life as we know it by the Coronavirus, Cedar Point is still hoping to open in May for its big 150th Anniversary season. I’m hoping they’re right. (Here’s the story as covered in the Sandusky Register.)

Back in March 1970, Cedar Point was getting ready to open for its – what else? – 100th Anniversary season. That’s the subject of the article above, which appeared in the Journal on March 13th.

As part of the celebration that year, Cedar Point unveiled ten new amusement rides, including the original Wildcat, which was a pretty nifty little steel roller coaster. It made for a memorable ride because each car only accommodated four riders.

The original Wildcat
(Courtesy www.cpamericasrollercoast.com)
Click here to read about the two Cedar Point rides with the Wildcat name on the great www.cpamericasrollercoast.com website. The page includes some great vintage photos, such as the one above.