Friday, March 24, 2017

The Old Fire Truck in Cascade Park – Part 2

I reached out to Rick Kurish for help researching the old fire truck that used to be located in the playground at Cascade Park. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it easier for Rick by accidentally (and feeblemindedly) telling him it was an old train!
Rick responded, “My family frequented Cascade Park at least once or twice a year from the mid 1950s until the early 1960s, and while I and my brothers were all over the playground, I have no recollection of an actual railroad locomotive in the park.”
Once I informed Rick of my mistake, it didn’t take long for him to remember the fire truck.
“Ah, a fire truck, not a train!” he responded. “Yes, I remember the fire truck. It sat near the building that served as a concession stand. I was never too interested in the fire truck, but my younger brothers spent some time playing on it. I was more into the slides and swings --- especially the corkscrew slide.”
It didn’t take long at all for Rick came through as usual.
“Attached is a neat article from the Chronicle-Telegram of June 8,1956 which details the fire truck that the city of Elyria retired and donated to Cascade Park. The city apparently bought the truck new in 1929. Perhaps your correspondent who played on the truck in the 1960s will find the article interesting.”
Here is the article (below). It reveals that the fire truck was a 1929 Ahrens-Fox. The company was based in Ohio.

I sent the article to Fritz, who was happy to get the information about the fire truck that he remembered so well.
“It's hard to believe that it was put out to pasture in the park with only a couple thousand miles on it,” observed Fritz. “I'm sure it was well-loved and played on by all children who visited Cascade Park. I know by the time I first played on it the fire truck had been there at least 10 yrs. from what your article states from 1956. By then it was becoming well-worn when I first remember climbing upon it.
“I always remember it had that huge brass or chrome ball mounted on the front which I presume was part of the pumping unit. The next question for all is whatever happened to it when it was removed from the park and when?  Lets hope it ended up being preserved and restored somewhere. Being a 1929 Ahrens-Fox model, I would think that by today’s standards, it would be quite a collectible model.  
“Although I did not live in Elyria, we would go there frequently for summer band concerts, and on Sunday drives for picnics in my dad’s Model A Ford. We would also go there in the winter to go sledding down the hill.
“Thank you so much for searching and finding the information from my memories of the fire truck from 50 or so years ago!”
And thanks to Rick, a little bit of Cascade Park history – retrieved from the Chronicle-Telegram – is available online for others who remember the fire truck from their childhood.
Click here to visit the official Ahrens-Fox website. And to see a restored 1929 Ahrens-Fox fire truck, click here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Old Fire Truck in Cascade Park – Part 1

Although I don't mention most of them on the blog, I get emails almost every day from people asking me if I have any information about something they remembered from being a kid.
I received an interesting email like that from Fritz Kuenzel in late February. The name seemed familiar, since I remembered that my brother Ken had played trumpet in a Musicians Union band that included two gentlemen named Hans and Fritz Kuenzel. (It was hard to forget them because the Katzenjammer Kids of comic strip fame have the same first names.)
Fritz’s email revealed the musical connection – and brought up a bit of Cascade Park trivia as well.
Fritz wrote, “I was reading one of your articles on Cascade Park at Elyria, Ohio. As a young boy in the 1960's, my father played in a local musicians union and they would periodically do concerts during the summer months at Cascade Park.
“My parents would take us along and we would play in the park playground during the band concerts. There used to be a very old 1930's era fire truck that sat in the sand in the playground for kids to play on. I have fond memories of climbing and playing on it.
“I was wondering, what ever happened to that old fire truck? What manufacture and year was it? Was it an old retired Elyria fire truck?  A friend of mine who grew up in Elyria also remembers the old fire truck and we talked about it last week on the phone.”
I traded emails with Fritz, who responded with more information about his father. “My Dad, Fritz R. Kuenzel, played tuba in the band,” he explained. ““I was named Fritz N. after him. His twin brother Hans played trombone in Dixieland bands, both are 82 yrs. old. Hans named his son Hans also.” 
A quick online search revealed that the Kuenzel brothers have had a long musical career. An item in the April 23, 1945 Chronicle-Telegram about the Avon Lake High School Spring Music Festival mentions that “Hans and Fritz Kuenzel will play a duet, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.” Another Avon Lake High School concert mentioned in the November 25, 1947 C-T notes that “Hans and Fritz Kuenzel, members of the band, will play a trombone solo and a tuba solo, respectively.”
But getting back to the fire truck. Researching it was more difficult than I thought, and I only found a photo of the playground (with no truck) and few recent online mentions of the truck in the Chronicle-Telegram
Cascade Park playground photo courtesy of
The Great Elyria Time Machine website
An article from the C-T June 13, 2014 included this reminisce. “When I was a kid, my grandparents lived just above Cascade Park on Bath Street, and one of the biggest thrills of my kid life was getting to play in the park. This was before anything in our world was scary or dangerous, so it was ok for parents to let their kids climb all over a rusted out fire truck with jagged chrome edges and steel springs sticking up through the seats.”
Since I had come up short in my research, I decided to ask Rick Kurish for his help. Rick is a great researcher who has helped me many times. 
If anyone could come up with something about the Cascade Park fire truck, he could.
And he did!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Harvest House Grand Opening Ad – 1966

One of the images that Michael Brown sent me during our correspondence in January about Midway Mall is the above ad for the Grand Opening of the Harvest House Cafeteria. The full-page ad ran in the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram as part of the special section about the opening of Midway Mall in late September 1966.

It’s a great ad, showing both the interior and exterior of the store, as well as apparently the first of the ongoing roast turkey dinner specials. (I’m surprised their cafeteria advertising slogan wasn’t “It’s Always Thanksgiving at Harvest House!”)

Since my original posts about Harvest House back in January, I’ve also scared up a bigger version of the postcard showing the interior and exterior of typical restaurants. You can click on for that “You are there” experience.

I also found this matchbook currently on Ebay.
It's Sunday afternoon while I'm preparing this post, and it’s almost time for me to get started on my chili. But for some reason, all I can think of is roast turkey with creamy mashed potatoes, giblet gravy and a warm roll and butter.

And a choice of vegetable.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Midway Mall Reflections – Part 2

To Michael, it’s not that surprising that the downtowns were unprepared to compete with Midway Mall.
“We lived in Grafton from 1962 to 1978,” he noted. “I remember the Elyria downtown chain stores were dingy and old with wooden floors and bad ventilation.  Going there involved parallel parking and parking meters.
“The Mall was like an Apollo rocket. The original cinema had a 60’ screen with a working silent curtain. Not only was the mall heated in the winter, but in that era most homes were not air-conditioned in the summer.”
Michael also remembers – like everyone else who shopped there in the 1960s and 70s – the dripping vertical columns at the Mall that were so interesting to watch. 
An article that Michael sent me explains that it was called the WonderFall. 

So why does Michael have such a keen interest in Midway Mall?  
“My mother was secretary to the Mall manager so it overtook our family life,” he explained. “As a teenager I worked for the Mall management in the early 1970s,” he added.
He has a theory about how the new anchor stores at the Mall basically came in under the radar, playing down what would eventually happen to their outlets in the downtowns.
Cleveland Press photo of Midway Mall Sears
circa Sept. 1970 (currently on Ebay)
“I suspect Sears was coy about the downtown stores because they needed the building permits,” he noted, “and deferential local officials bedazzled by money coming into build the mall probably didn’t press it.  
“We have to remember how much more rural and remote Lorain County was in that era. For Higbees of Downtown Cleveland to open in Lorain County was a major wow!  The mid-1960s were the peak years of the 20th century manufacturing economy. Lorain County was at the center of it.
“I don’t know about you, but nearly everything we bought for our household from toys to clothing came from Sears!”
I would tend to agree with Michael on that. We picked our clothes out of the Sears catalog, as well as our Christmas presents.  
Michael has a few more memories about Lorain County.
“As a Graftonian, Lorain was a distant place,” he admitted. “I don’t think I ever made it to downtown Lorain until I was at LCCC in the late 1970s. I had a part-time job at new bank (TransOhio) at Oberlin and Tower.  
“I do remember a small beach and marina where my uncle had a boat, but I also remember the dead perch littering the beach.”  
Michael left Lorain County for Ohio State in 1979. After that he worked in the Ohio House of Representatives, and then in Washington DC, before his present post at Barrick Gold USA.
“Now I am bicoastal between Washington DC and Nevada. I have seen the same boom and bust in Las Vegas in the last decade.”
He did not forget his Lorain County roots though.  
“I was back for a high school reunion and I took the Saturday to walk into every place I once worked, no matter what is there today, and introduced myself!”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Midway Mall Reflections – Part 1

Back in January, I received an interesting email from Michael Brown. Michael is a former Lorain Countian who has done very well for himself. He grew up in Grafton in the 1960s, went to Ohio State in the late 1970s and is now President of BarrickGold USA, the nation’s largest gold mining company.
From Nevada, Michael reads my blog to connect with his Lorain County roots. He shared some thoughts regarding the coming of Midway Mall to Lorain County in the 1960s, as well as its effect on the downtowns of Lorain and Elyria. He also sent me some newspaper articles, as well as some images to supplement some of my previous posts.
Here’s one from the June 8, 1964 Chronicle-Telegram announcing the multi-million dollar mall project.
“The announcement of the Mall was not only front page above the fold, but was above the CT’s banner!” observed Michael. “It was interesting how the Mall was designed to replace a downtown. At the opening, it had a community room, a barbershop, a stockbroker, a drug store, pet shop, etc. I don’t remember the community room being used much (it was in the original south mall area) and I think became a storage room. The Mall had an apartment where the manager resided.  I found the rarely mentioned coffee shop at JC Penny to be the best place for Mall workers for lunch or dinner.  
“What should be noted was how the community celebrated the opening of the Midway Mall. No discussion about what would happen the downtowns of Lorain and Elyria. The focus was on temperature controlled shopping at a pleasant 72 degrees. Lorain County was booming with the opening of the auto plants.  
Sears store at Midway Mall circa Sept. 1970
(Cleveland Press photo currently on Ebay)
“Sears was the driving force for the Mall,” noted Michael, and for a very good reason. “The original chain stores built in the downtowns of medium size cities were unable to expand and lacked adequate parking. We tend to forget that Sears was to the 1960s what Walmart is in retailing today.
Another article from the January 1, 1965 C-T reported, “Another all-time record for employment may be in store for Lorain County in 1965.” According to Michael, this was another distraction that kept city officials from noticing that their downtowns would soon be suffering because of the mall.
“Look at the number of people hired and the taxes paid,” observed Michael. “Booming communities always assume the boom will go on forever.”
Next: More Midway Mall reminisces including the story behind the dripping wires

Friday, March 17, 2017

Vintage St. Patrick’s Day Ads – 1967

Well, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s time to post some vintage ads from the Journal with that particular theme. These three ads all appeared in the Journal just in time for St. Patrick’s Day 1967 – 50 years ago today.

Since I’ve spent most of the week blogging about car washes and auto dealerships, it’s appropriate that the one at the top of this post is for Si Gary Dodge. The ad uses an unusually pie-faced leprechaun and some nice headline type.

This ad for the Reidy Scanlan Company (below) has great typography too. But it also has a leprechaun that (to me, anyway) seems to hearken back to the 1800s when Irishmen were depicted as ape-like in editorial cartoons. (But I’m not offended; besides, I was working on a bunch of bananas from the grocery store earlier in the week.)

Lastly in this 1967 St. Patrick’s Day Parade of ads is this one for Casey’s Drive-in. In this case, the ad steers clear of leprechauns and just plunks a shamrock onto the layout so as not to take away from Casey the mascot.
Like me, you might be wondering what “Faith an’ Begorra” means. Apparently it is a cliché, a sort of mild oath that evolved from “By my Faith” and “By God.” 
One online source said that real Irishmen never say it without a tongue planted firmly in their cheek, as it is an example of a stereotypical Irish expression.
Anyway, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Atkinson Williams New Showroom – March 1956

Ford has long been a popular automobile brand for Lorainites, even before the plant was built on Baumhart Road in the late 1950s.

And here’s an ad for a Lorain Ford dealership of yesteryear, announcing its new home at 1530 Kansas Avenue. The dealership: Atkinson Williams. The very stylized ad shown above ran in the Lorain Journal on March 5, 1956.

Previously, the dealership had called 1735 Broadway home since the mid-1940s. (It had started out briefly at 1803 Broadway in the early 1940s.)

Atkinson Williams lasted until around 1963 when the Ford dealership took a new name: George May Ford. ( I mentioned its car wash a few days ago here on the blog.)

By the 1970s, the dealership was Buckeye Ford. A change in automobile brands took place at 1530 Kansas Avenue in the early 1980s, when O’Malley Dodge moved into the vacant business.

The former dealership building was eventually demolished and is now part of the Emerson Network Power Energy property at 1510 Kansas Avenue.

Nowadays, Lorain doesn’t even have a new car dealership in its city limits. You have to head to Amherst, Vermilion, Sheffield Village, Avon or Avon Lake.

However, a forlorn image of the former Kansas Avenue automobile dealership remains on Bing Maps – for now.