Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ohio State Fair's Smokey Bear May Hibernate Permanently

Smokey's fur looked a bit moth-eaten when I visited him in 2008 at the Fair
I'm a big Smokey Bear fan. That's why I found the news that the Ohio State Fair was planning to retire their current Smokey Bear – and replace him with a new version – pretty interesting.

The beloved fire prevention bear has greeted fairgoers since 1959. He's been a fixture over in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources area for years.

Here's the link to Smokey's page on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website.

Apparently Smokey is now in pretty poor condition, and the plan is to replace him with a new $80,250 "animatronic" version. (The plan is temporarily on hold, but it sounds like it will eventually happen. You can read about it here on the Columbus Dispatch website.)

I don't go to the State Fair every year, but when we do go, a stop to see Smokey to grab a photo is a must. I don't have a problem with a brand new high-tech version of him, as long as it's the classic Smokey – and not the unsettlingly realistic version that was seen in commercials a few years ago (that I complained about here).

Speaking of the classic, lovable Smokey Bear, I was reminded that Sandy of Sheffield Lake sent me this keen Smokey Bear comic book a couple years ago. (Sandy said that she picked it up at a ranger station at either Cook Forest State Park or Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania.)

It tells the true story of how a badly burned bear cub – rescued in the aftermath of a forest fire in New Mexico in 1950 – became the Smokey Bear who lived at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for years. (The Forest Service probably gave up the idea when it became apparent that it wasn't a good idea to have a Smokey Bear who would eventually die.)
Anyway, here's the back cover of the comic book (below). It's a reproduction of a classic Smokey poster – and one of my favorites, with plenty of cute critters.
Feel like doing some light reading? You can read an online PDF of the comic book right here!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Knickerbocker Knolls Ad – July 1954

Here's a full-page ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on July 24, 1954 – 60 years ago this month – for the Knickerbocker Knolls development in Sheffield Lake. Built by the Great Lakes Realty Company of Lorain, Knickerbocker Knolls represented a huge undertaking of more than 300 Early American homes on Irving Park Boulevard and its many cross streets all the way south to Oster Road.

Amenities included Sheffield Lake's ubiquitous bituminous cold-mix paved streets, the new water treatment plant (built in Lorain in 1954), cooling lake breezes, and a convenient location one mile from stores, school, fire and police protection.

Gretchen of Sheffield Lake emailed me some scans of a photocopy of the promotional flyer for Knickerbocker Knolls last year. I'm glad I could finally use a few of them!

The back of the Knickerbocker Apartments,
facing its parking lot
After I moved out of the Overlook Apartments in the mid-1980s, I moved into the Knickerbocker Apartments on Irving Park Boulevard (foreshadowing my future as a Sheffield Lake homeowner). 
You can see the future location of the Knickerbocker Apartments indicated on the middle plat plan above, as the larger of the two areas proposed for business zoning.
Although they didn't have the classic ambiance of the Overlook Apartments, the Knickerbocker Apartments were pretty nice. I kept a post bird feeder outside my apartment window, and by George I had a pretty interesting mini-crop of various grains growing under it.
I remember having a nice, large storage locker. I used to drop off my dirty laundry at my parents' house in Lorain, and dear old Dad would deliver it – clean and folded – to my storage locker!
The Knickerbocker had a great bunch of tenants, including Mr. and Mrs. Surface and other neighbors. They all sat in lawn chairs out in the parking lot at one end of the building, and were happy to shoot the breeze with anyone coming or going. A real nice bunch of people.
My only bad memory of the Knickerbocker Apartments is that one resident used to play a rollicking electric organ regularly after I went to bed. I'm surprised that I didn't dream about rollerskating every night!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vintage Postcards of Lorain's Two Bridges

Vintage postcard postmarked 1947 (Courtesy of Ebay)
Vintage postcard postmarked 1950 (Courtesy of Ebay)
Vintage postcard (Courtesy of Ebay)
Here's some old time postcards of Lorain's two bridges across the Black River, both dedicated on the same day in September 1939. The Charles Berry Bascule Bridge is shown above on three vintage linen postcards, and below is the High Level Bridge (now known as the Lofton Henderson Memorial Bridge).

Vintage postcard postmarked 1950 (Courtesy of Ebay)

One of the reasons that I thought that the High Level Bridge was constructed later than 1939 was the fact that for years I had only seen this color postcard view of it (below). 

It's a shame that postcards are pretty much defunct anymore as a way for a city to publicize its civic improvements and beauty spots. 

I'm one of a rapidly dwindling group that still sends out postcards (when I can find them) while I'm on vacation, rather than posting my shots on Facebook where they may or not even be viewed by my "friends," but will certainly be forgotten.

Monday, July 28, 2014

60th Anniversary of Prospect Point Collapse at Niagara Falls

As it was covered in the Lorain Journal on July 29, 1954
I almost forgot – today is the 60th anniversary of the collapse of part of the American Falls at Niagara Falls. It was on this day on July 28, 1954 that a huge chunk of Prospect Point broke off the rim of the American Falls and tumbled down to the base of the Falls.

Niagara Falls has been a favorite topic on this blog (here, here and here, among others posts), due to the numerous times my family vacationed there beginning in the early 1960s and continuing to this day.

Only one person – Mr. Frank O. Seed – managed to get a picture of the event as it was happening. At left is one of his series of shots covering the collapse, which changed the view of Prospect Point forever.

You can read all about it here on the excellent Right in Niagara blog, which includes some other interesting events in the history of Niagara Falls.

Two New Bridges on the Way for Lorain – July 1939

The Bascule Bridge under construction, with the old
Swing Bridge in the background
Back on Wednesday, July 26, 1939, the Lorain Journal was celebrating its 60th anniversary. The front page of the second section (shown above) provided a photographic progress report of the two new bridges being constructed (after county voters had finally approved the bonds).

I still think it's incredible that both the Bascule Bridge and the High Level bridges were built at the same time and were dedicated the same day – September 25, 1940. I never knew that while I was growing up; I had always assumed the High Level Bridge was built much later.

Another upcoming improvement mentioned in an article was the plan to extend W. 21st Street so that it connected up with W. Lake Road. The article also mentions that Broadway had just been entirely repaved from the Loop to W. 28th Street with reinforced white concrete.

Judging from the tone of the newspaper articles, it was an exciting time to live in Lorain.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lorain Monument Works Then & Now

1939 Lorain City Directory ad
In a world where so many businesses with 'Lorain' as part of their names have closed (Lorain Printing, Lorain Aluminum, Lorain Drive-in, Lorain Diner, etc.), it's good to see one still around in some form. In this case, it's because they offer a product that everyone buys sooner or later – whether they want to or not!

Lorain Monument Works at 1035 Broadway dates back to the late 1930s – but its roots go back even further than that.

The J. A. Ruscher Company first appeared in the Lorain City Directory as a manufacturer of monuments and headstones around 1912. Back then, it was located at 925 Broadway, but the firm soon moved to 1035 Broadway. It continued to appear at that address until around the mid-to-late 1930's, when  the Lorain Monument Works succeeded it at the same address. Irving McCarthy was the proprietor.

Here's an ad for the firm that appeared in the Lorain Journal on July 31, 1939. It's one of those ads masquerading as an article.

And here's a shot of the building today. As you can see, it's stranded on the original alignment of Broadway, above the Frank Nardini underpass.

Whoever owns the company did a terrific job of refreshing the building. It's quite attractive, and I love the fact that they kept the vintage sign.

It looks like Lorain Monument Works is either affiliated with or part of Lewis Monument Company today. Here's a link to the company website.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vintage Postcards of Johnson Hill in Amherst

Dennis Lamont sent me the link to this vintage postcard, which was for sale on Ebay last week. It depicts a view of Johnson Hill, looking north on S. Main Street towards its intersection with Elyria Avenue. The Plenochrome postcard was postmarked August 1912 and was published by H. A. Williams, Amherst, Ohio.

I'm not very knowledgable when it comes to Amherst or its history, so I wasn't familiar with Johnson Hill.

It turns out that apparently this serene scene was a popular subject for postcards. Here's another version, courtesy of the Amherst Public Library website. According to this link on the library's website, the postcard dates to 1910. (The site also points out a landmark visible in the background on the postcard that still exists today.)

The two-story house on the far left of each postcard, sitting high up from the road, can be seen in this current aerial shot below (courtesy of Bing maps). It's still all by itself at the top of the hill, on a huge lot, more than a hundred years after the postcards were published.
Here's a closer look at the house, courtesy of the Lorain County Auditor's website (below). According to the website, it dates to 1904.
This past weekend, on a cloudy Sunday morning, I attempted to get a through-the-windshield "now" shot to match the postcards. But a century of tree growth made it fairly impossible. As Dennis pointed out, it is "a view that is long gone."
I'll have to try again sometime to get a better shot – maybe in the fall.