Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Muir Cut-Rate Drug Store Ad – October 19, 1949

October 19, 1949 ad from the Lorain Journal
Many of us fondly remember Lorain’s great family-owned drug stores, such as Whalen’s and National Pharmacy.

Detail from a July 4, 1949
Lorain Journal ad
But decades before Discount Drug Mart and Revco came to town, Lorain had an outlet for a large regional chain that is largely forgotten today: Muir’s Cut-Rate Drugs.

The chain was based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Its listing (as the Muir Co.) first appeared in the Lorain City Directory in the early 1920s, located at 552 Broadway. Some time in the late 1940s, it moved to 362 Broadway. By the 1950s it was located at 758 Broadway.

It’s Lorain directory listing finally disappeared beginning with the 1965 edition.

One of Muir's Lorain store managers went on to be become famous. The manager listed in the 1947 Lorain City Directory was none other than Larry E. Tetzlaff. Of course, you know him as Jungle Larry.

1947 Lorain City Directory Listing
A nice capsule history of the Muir chain was provided in an ad that ran in the Sandusky Register on September 14, 1966.

Vintage Muir pill box
The ad copy read, "We opened our first Muir Drug Store in 1922 on the premise, that top quality famous-name brands, if offered at extra low prices, would sell in large enough volume to justify our operating at a lower-than-normal margin of profit. That premise has proven to be correct.

"Since that modest beginning over 40 years ago, Muir Drug Stores have grown and grown in number and size and spread throughout the Middle West until today Muir's is one of the largest, fastest- growing and most respected drug chains in America.”

Strangely enough, it was about that time Muir had abandoned the Lorain market. But although the chain is largely forgotten in our area, it managed to survive until the mid-1980s.

The 24-unit Muir Drug Store chain was acquired by Rite Aid in June 1984.

One of the amusing aspects of Muir advertising is their mascot: the stereotypical Thrifty Scot.

Early appearances show him as a small silhouetted figure, such as seen on the vintage pill box above. But as time went on, he became more prominent in the ads until he became the smiling, friendly face of the company.

He was even featured on service pins given to company employees.

Today of course, using “Scottish thrift” in advertising is recognized as an unflattering and silly stereotype. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Welcome to Lorain Sign – October 1949

Here’s a nice photo of the impressive sign that the Lorain Chamber of Commerce erected where State Route 611 meets West Lake Road (U. S. Route 6) at the undercut. The photo ran in the Lorain Journal on October 28, 1949.

The Welcome sign in Sheffield Lake
It was one of two “Welcome” signs erected by the Chamber at the eastern and western approaches to the city.

The other one (at right) was located well inside the Sheffield Lake city limits, rather than being erected near Root Road. This resulted in a controversy in November 1950 (which I wrote about here).

Anyway, the signs provided a nice snapshot of the city’s industrial strength at that time. American Ship Building, National Tube and the Lorain Telephone Company get featured billing.

The various fraternal groups and their meeting times and locations are also posted, with the Pueblo and the Antlers Hotel doing the hosting duties.

I think these signs are still a good marketing idea in the 2000s. They’re the only chance a city has to establish an identity and impression of their own choice with motoring visitors.

How about it, Lorain?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Manners Perch Dinner Ad – October 4, 1966

It's Friday! To many people, that means it's time for a fish dinner, perhaps a visit to American Slovak Home in Lorain, home of the best local fish fry.

Well, back in October 1966, another option was a trip to Manner's Big Boy Restaurants for their perch dinner.

As the ad copy says, dinner included Tasty Golden Brown Fresh Lake Erie Perch, French Fried Potatoes, Country Cream Slaw and a Freshly Baked Roll & Butter. Nice, light fare.

I wonder if Big Boy Restaurants could get away with using the word 'Whopper' in an ad today?

Anyway, at that point in 1966, Lorain had three Manners: at Leavitt and W. Lake Road (West Erie Avenue); Oberlin Avenue & Foster Park W. (Route 254); and Henderson Drive. Elyria's Manner's was at 146 Bridge Street.

The announcement that one would be built on Route 254 near Route 57 had just occurred that August.

Manners and Big Boy have been favorite topics on this blog since 2011.

The Big Boy mascot was in the news earlier this year, when he received an (ugh) makeover.
But I still prefer the original Manners version, the one familiar to Northeast Ohio fans of the double decker burger.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Scott’s Scrapbook featuring the Old Man of the Mountains– October 18, 1949

Newspapers have been fighting for their survival for years due to declining subscriptions that coincided with the availability of “free” news on the internet. Consequently, newspapers look for ways to cut costs, such as reducing the number of comics or syndicated features they carry.

But in the heyday of newspapers, they tried to make themselves distinctive by offering things that their competitors did not. Some of those things were illustrated features like "Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” or the one above, “Scott’s Scrapbook,” which appeared in the Lorain Journal.

The example shown above is from October 18, 1949. R. J. Scott is the artist. The feature was made available to the Journal by Central Press (which I wrote about here), which was a division of King Features in Cleveland. (Click here for a nice tribute to R. J. Scott on the King Features website.)

The main topic of this particular sample – the Old Man of the Mountain – is of interest to me. It was one of the things we saw during a 1966 family camping trip to New England.

What’s funny is that I remember having trouble seeing him from our distant roadside vantage point. He was just too far away.

Here's the photo my parents took. No zoom lens on that camera!

It wasn’t until my parents picked up this travel brochure a few years later that I could appreciate just how much the rock formation resembled a man’s profile.

It was a real tragedy when the Old Man of the Mountain collapsed in 2003. Happily, New Hampshire honors his memory with an innovative solution.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Arlington Traction Co. – Part 3

Norman C. Muller and his museum made the national news in the summer of 1956 when he attempted to acquire another high profile historical streetcar to go with No. 4144. The United Press story below ran in a variety of newspapers, including the Anniston Star in Anniston, Alabama (June 21, 1956), the Brazosport Facts in Freeport, Texas (July 3, 1956) and the Provo, Utah Daily Herald (July 8, 1956).

Transit Museum Man Seeks Oldest Street Car
LORAIN, O. (UP) – Norman C. Muller, who runs a transportation museum here, is making a concerted effort to do right by old 0140, the oldest street car in the world. Muller said the ancient electrical vehicle, which the Cleveland Transit System gave to the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., two years ago, is “sitting out in the weather with no protection or without even a badly needed coat of paint.” He wants the Transit Board to get old 0140 back in Ohio. At the museum now is 4144, the last street car to run in Ohio, and Muller wants to give it company.

(Courtesy www.newdavesrailpix.com)
Muller was not successful in his attempt to acquire 0140 and today it is still part of the Henry Ford Museum.

By the late 1950s, it appears that things were winding down at Norman C. Muller’s museum.

According to the 1957 Lorain City Directory, a church – First Assembly of God – had already taken up residence at 5459 Broadway. The church shared its pastor, Keith Smith, with Lorain Gospel Tabernacle on E. 31st Street in Lorain, which continued to appear for one more year in the directory. It seems that both congregations were then consolidated at the 5459 Broadway location as Broadway Assembly

In July 1958, Norman C. Muller listed his house at 223 E. Cooper Foster Park for sale or trade. An ad which ran in the July 11, 1958 Sandusky Register stated, “Would like to trade for small farm Norwalk or Berlin Twps.”

And what about No. 4144?

Courtesy of Dennis Lamont
Dennis Lamont saw it shortly before it was scrapped. Referring to the above photo, he explained that it represents the “last days of Norm’s trolley.”

“His coat of “green” Southwestern paint has worn down to the original Cleveland Transit System colors and the church bus is in the new driveway.

“This is about the time I saw it last. It was not in good condition but unfortunately absolutely nothing was salvaged when it was scrapped,” said Dennis.

The book Cleveland’s Transit Vehicles: Equipment and Technology by Jim Toman and Blaine S. Hayes indicates that No. 4144 was scrapped in 1962.

The Trolley Dodger website provides additional history about 4144, the man who designed it and the reason as to why it was not salvaged by Gerald E. Brookins, the man behind Trolleyville, U.S.A. You can read this interesting post here.

Norman C. Muller and his wife eventually moved to Richland County. A 1968 article in the Mansfield News-Journal indicates that he had been keeping busy as the caretaker at “one of Ohio’s oldest and most attractive roadside parks” near Olivesburg. It seems like an appropriate position for someone who brought a lot of enjoyment to the children who enjoyed his miniature train.

Streetcar buffs certainly appreciate his efforts to salvage an important part of transportation history for others to enjoy.

He passed away on January 19, 2001.

The corner of South Broadway and Cooper Foster Park today

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Arlington Traction Co. – Part 2

Before Norman C. Muller began operating his small park and miniature train near today’s intersection of South Broadway and Cooper Foster Park Road, he worked at various jobs.

According to Dr. Eddie Herdendorf of the Sheffield Village Historical Society, Muller was at one time a maintenance engineer for the Cleveland, Southwestern & Columbus Railway for one of the electric substations.

Muller also spent some time in the early 1940s working at the family business, Muller Wallpaper & Paint located at 1207 Reid in Lorain.

By 1945, he was an electrician at National Tube. At about the same time, he acquired the land on Cooper Foster Park Road. The real estate transfers in the Chronicle-Telegram of November 19, 1945 including the transfer of property on Cooper Foster Park Road in Sheffield Township to Norman C. Muller.

So how and when did he acquire his full-size streetcar?

Since the 1940s, the Cleveland Transit System (CTS) had undertaken a program to eventually replace all existing streetcar lines with buses or trackless trolleys. Thus on January 24, 1954 the last CTS streetcars ran on the Madison Avenue line from Public Square to W. 65th and Bridge. The event was celebrated with free rides and decorated cars.

Here’s No. 4144 in front of Terminal Tower, all decorated and ready to go on that historic last day.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Lamont
Here’s another photo of 4144 on the day of its last run.

Photo provided by Rick Kurish and courtesy of the
Cleveland Memory Project,  The Gerald E. Brookins Collection
By the end of May 1954, Cleveland was well into the process of scrapping its old streetcars.

The Massillon Evening Independent told the story in its May 28, 1954 edition. The Associated Press story read, “Workmen with cutting torches and shears dismembered Cleveland’s last trolley car yesterday at the Cleveland Transit System’s Harvard Ave. shops, graveyard of some 1,700 old streetcars.

"The last 26 of the rattlers were sold to the Cleveland Iron & Metal Co, for scrap. The metal firm sold one of the better cars to the Arlington Traction Company of Lorain, a transit museum.”

So Mr. Muller acquired the only Cleveland streetcar that wasn’t scrapped: No. 4144.

The book Cleveland’s Transit Vehicles: Equipment and Technology by Jim Toman and Blaine S. Hayes, includes a listing of what happened to all of the cars and when they were scrapped. The listing for 4144 includes that it "had flag-bunting for last day on Madison 1-24-54, sold to Norman Muller and moved to his residence in South Lorain, PTD (painted) green, had a whistle and pipe organ installed and fender from Southwestern interurban attached, had “Arlington Traction Co.” on side.”

It didn’t take very long for Mr. Muller to put his historic car on display.
A Mary Lee Tucker story in the Lorain Journal on May 28, 1954 told the story of a trip to "the playground out Foster Park Road" by the Elyria School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The young students enjoyed a ride on the miniature train and the “highlight of the afternoon was the visit to the newly painted green street car, the newest possession of the playground.”

The article included the photo at right.

The streetcar was even used as a dining room for the students. As the Journal reporter noted, "Our host set a long board across the backs of several seats in the streetcar, covered it with a white cloth and spread all the edibles on it. Then the children filed past, picked up their trays and proceeded to individual seats to enjoy the warm snack.

Tomorrow: End of the line

Monday, October 17, 2016

Arlington Traction Co. – Part 1

Early last year, a Season Ticket for the Arlington Traction Co. (shown above) turned up on Ebay. As indicated on the ticket, it was located at 223 Foster Park Road, just east of Broadway and operated by Norman C. Muller.

There’s a small illustration of a train on the ticket, which got me wondering. What was the Arlington Traction Company anyway?

As usual, local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont – one of the two gentlemen involved with the planned Lake Shore Electric Railway museum in Avon Lake – had the answer.

As Dennis explained in an email, Norman C. Muller was “the guy that had the little trolley and the Cleveland streetcar out where the church is at Cooper Foster and Middle Ridge."

"He had sort of a “park” railroad, 2 foot gauge with little dinky cars you could just ride on.”

The Toonerville Trolley was featured in the comic strip
Toonerville Folks by Fontaine Fox
Apparently the train ran in a loop around the property, powered by overhead lines, just like a real trolley. It was jokingly referred to by Dennis as “Norm’s Toonerville Trolley.”

But besides operating the miniature train, Norman Muller also maintained a trolley museum of sorts on his property.

“The guy was a real collector of trolley stuff,” noted Dennis.

He must have been if he  had an actual former Cleveland streetcar on the property along with the miniature train. As Dennis explained, “That was his one full-sized car and it didn’t move.”

Here’s a photo of it, courtesy of Dennis.

So how did Mr. Muller end with an actual streetcar as part of his park? “Toon" in tomorrow to learn more about the history of his car.