Thursday, May 25, 2017

For Safety, Health & Economy – Burn Coal!

I thought this full-page ad for the Zipp - Stack - Miller Coal Company of Lorain was rather interesting. It ran in the Lorain Journal on June 21, 1955 and basically makes the case to stick with a coal furnace.

The particular model of coal heating unit being promoted in the ad was fully automatic and self-stoking. The ashes that were generated were removed by vacuum and placed in a sealed container. The unit was also said to be a very compact size of 40" long, 30" wide and four feet high.

Also of interest in the ad is the fact that the coal company had sold their previous property to the Lorain Journal for its new building.

The ad also provides a roll call of coal brands, including Pocahontas. Local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont passed along an interesting observation to me about Pocahontas coal.

Dennis noted that the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine is a tourist attraction. He noted, "It is interesting that the mine we used to get our coal from is a landmark now, and mines that still use that same vein provide coal to the folks that still use it in steam locomotives."

Dennis also reminisced about life in a home heated by coal.

"Very few people remember that spring cleaning used to involve wiping down each room with wallpaper cleaner (playdough now) to get the soot off the walls. We quit coal when it went to $25/ton and my dad converted the furnace to gas."

Lastly, Dennis made me aware of another local option for heating your home in the old days.

"National Tube used to sell coke to employees and that was very hot and clean burning ...they also sold you the white iron grates that you needed to handle the hot burning coke.  They were made in our own foundry, of course."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Basement Memories

Writing about coal last week reminded me of the furnace in the first house I ever bought, on Nebraska Avenue in Lorain (in the Hoy-Lo-Mae Allotment).

The house was built in the early 1940s and still had an ancient gravity furnace in the basement. That's it above, as it looked when we moved in.

I remember looking inside that monstrous thing a few times. It was mostly just a large, empty shell – which makes me wonder if it been converted from coal to gas.

Of course, the ductwork was covered with asbestos, which we discovered when it was time to replace the old furnace with a high efficiency gas furnace. (By the way, the new one was a Janitrol; many people turn up their nose at that brand, but we never had any problems with it at all.)

It was nice to get rid of this pipe (below) when we replaced the furnace.

The rest of the basement left a big impression on me. There was a huge precast concrete double utility sink (shown below).

That thing weighed a ton – I oughta know. I had to eventually bust it up with a sledgehammer when we got rid of it. It wasn’t easy; many of my blows just bounced off it.
In the photo, you can see our mismatched washer and dryer from Dye's Appliance in Lorain. That setup was the best arrangement we could come up with. You can also see the fuse box up in the corner, which still had those old screw-in type fuses.
Although you can't see it in the photo above, there was also a leaky root cellar to the left of the utility sink. The root cellar was actually under the patio. The entrance to it was a large, jagged hole in the basement wall that looked like someone had used dynamite to make it. It looked like a prison break had taken place.
How do I know it was a root cellar? That's what the original owners of the house said it was, after I tracked them down in Amherst and called and asked them. They were quite elderly when I called them, but they graciously answered all my questions.
Anyway, the root cellar was creepy and full of cobwebs. It also leaked when it rained. But there were some pretty good shelves in there, so we stored things in it anyway. 
I didn't go in it very often, and I still think we left some stuff in there when we moved.
It’s still hard to believe that the root cellar was under this patio (below).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lynn Gardner Trio Plays the Showboat – May 11, 1957

Longtime readers of this blog know that I enjoy posting old Lorain nightclub ads spotlighting the performers that were appearing. Here’s an ad for an appearance of the Lynn Gardner Trio at Gus Athan’s Showboat Restaurant. The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on May 11, 1957. (Can you find the major typo?)

It didn’t take much research to find out that Lynn Gardner had enjoyed a fine career as a vocalist dating back to the early 1940s when she sang with the Will Bradley big band. The attractive singer made several recordings with the band, including “I’m Tired of Waiting For You.”

According to this biography, she “hit the hotel and theater circuit as a solo artist” in the mid-1940s. At some point she formed a popular trio that was still going strong near the end of the 1950s.
The Lynn Gardner Trio was performing every evening at Harrah’s Club, Lake Tahoe according to a column in the March 29, 1957 Reno Gazette-Journal. And less than two months later, she passed through little ol' Lorain, Ohio.
Here’s hoping that Miss Gardner is still around and enjoying retirement.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sutter’s Nut Shop

I was happy to find the above Grand Opening ad for Sutter’s Nut Shop, which ran in the Lorain Journal on May 21, 1937. I had only mentioned Sutter’s once previously on this blog, so it was about time that I put the spotlight on this longtime, well-remembered Lorain business.

Actually, there were two businesses run by John H. Sutter – with one on each side of Broadway. Sutter’s Nut Shop was located at 636 Broadway next to the Tivoli Theatre. Sutter’s Sandwich Shop was at 525 Broadway.

Sutter’s Nut Shop seems to be the earlier of the two businesses, first appearing in the city directory and phone book in 1937. The sandwich store was in the next available directory, the 1940 edition.

For a time, there were more Sutter’s outlets listed in the city directory in addition to the two main stores in Downtown Lorain. In the early 1940s, there was one at 1924 Broadway and another at 2832 Broadway. There were even two stores on Pearl. But by the late 1940s, the two main stores located downtown were all that were listed in the directory,

Sutter’s Nut Shop was often listed as a confectionery, which is basically a sweet shop where one could purchase candy.

It was a very popular store. “You couldn’t beat Sutter’s. That’s where the kids would meet,” explained my mother recently. “That’s who Sutter’s catered to: the kids.”

Late 1950s phone book listing
By the time of the 1957 city directory, John Sutter had apparently decided to focus on the Nut Shop. About that time, Sutter’s Sandwich Shop became Firestone’s Sandwich Shop. (I'm not sure if it changed ownership or just the management.)

John Sutter retired around 1968, turning the business over to his son, John T. Sutter, who ran it for at least another ten years. The business moved to 710 Broadway near the end of its long run. John T. Sutter and his wife Janet also ran Sugar ’N Spice at 714 Broadway.

Sadly, Sutter’s Nut Shop disappeared in the 1980 city directory. Many longtime Downtown Lorain businesses closed around that time.

Hopefully, another family business can emulate Sutter’s success and make a long-term commitment to Downtown Lorain.

As my mother noted, “They sure could use a Sutter’s there now."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Zboray Coal Grand Opening – May 23, 1947

As I sit here writing this, it’s 90ยบ outside – not exactly a good time to think about coal. Nevertheless, that’s the focus of this full-page ad for the Grand Opening of Zboray’s Coal, which ran in the Lorain Journal on May 23, 1947.

Joseph S. Zboray was the man behind his newly expanded business, which was known just a few years earlier as the Smokeless Coal Company. The company was located at 1127 Reid, which puts it right next to the Nickel Plate tracks.

You can see a little of the building in this archival photo courtesy of Drew Penfield. (For a Then & Now treatment of this photo, click here.)

Anyway, the ad is interesting because it lists the various brands of coal available, including Silver Ash, Blue Fire, Blue Flame and Slo-Glo. I always thought coal was coal.

Some of the brands show up in 1947 Zboray Coal phone book ads.
Speaking of the phone book, at that time in 1947 there were no less than 35 coal dealers listed in the Lorain Telephone Company directory.

But coal’s days were numbered, apparently. By 1950, the phone book contained only 29 dealers; by 1956, only 18 remained.

It was about this time that the Zboray Coal Co. disappeared from the directory.

Coal continued its downward slide; by the end of the 1950s, the number of coal dealers had dwindled to 11. And by 1970, three remained.

Like many houses in Lorain, the house that my mother grew up in on Sixth Street had a coal furnace. She told me that the coal bin was located in a corner on the driveway side of the basement, and that there was a little window above it through which the coal company would extend its chute. “I can still remember the sound of the coal coming down that chute into the basement. The whole house shook,” she explained.

I'd never really thought about what a coal delivery looked like until I saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon called Mouse Cleaning (1948). Here are a few frames from the cartoon, in which Jerry Mouse diverts the coal chute from the cellar into the living room to make a big mess (and get Tom in trouble).

Later, my grandparents reluctantly converted their furnace from coal to natural gas. Mom said Grandma felt that a house heated with gas wouldn't be as warm as one with a coal-fired furnace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Name That Menu

Back in April 2013, I wrote about a 1953 promotional film about Lorain entitled “LORAIN – An Industrial Empire In Ohio’s Vacation Land.” It's full of familiar Lorain landmarks, such as the Easter Basket in Lakeview Park, as well as rarely seen images, such as the long-gone Civil War statue in Washington Park.

The film is still on YouTube, and every time I watch it I seem to notice something new – some little detail that I overlooked before.

Recently after I watched it again, something caught my eye. In the section of the film featuring Lorainites dining out, there’s a brief scene of some people passing around some menus.

We don’t get a good look at the front of the menu – just the back.
But there’s no doubt as to what restaurant the menu is for, because one of those menus is up on Ebay right now. Here's the back seen in the film (below).

I'm sure by now you've guessed which restaurant it was.
I like the "Li'l Abner" broiled pork chops on the menu!
By the way, there's another menu that's featured briefly in the film in a similar scene (below).
Can you guess what restaurant it's for?
If you guessed, "The Showboat" – you are correct!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Burger King’s New Retro Look

Burger King on Leavitt Road as it looked last weekend
Most of my mid-70s high school fast food hangouts on the west side of Lorain are long gone: the McDonald’s on West Erie; the Hardees on Oberlin Avenue; the Pizza Hut on Oberlin Avenue; the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Oberlin Avenue; the Burger Chef on 28th Street; the Taco Bell, as well as the Wendy’s, on Cooper-Foster.

Many of these restaurants were replaced by a new store in another location. A few simply closed for good. But there’s one still open in the same location more than 45 years after it opened its doors: the Burger King on Leavitt Road near W. 21st Street.

It’s an impressive feat for a store in Lorain, and it speaks volumes for the quality of its food and service.

Anyway, I was there over the weekend, and it gave me an opportunity to admire its recent makeover. It’s both modern and retro. What I really like are the cut-out letters spelling out "FLAME GRILLING SINCE 1954" over the entrance.

The restaurant looks more upscale thanks to the renovation, and should enjoy continued success at that location. 
A while back, I wrote about the numbering system of the McDonald’s restaurants. In the interest of equal time, the Burger King on Leavitt Road is No. 680 (out of more than 15,000 restaurants)!
Here’s the proof (below). (No, I didn’t eat both Whopper Juniors.)
The Burger King on Root Road that's only a little more than a mile from my house has a slightly higher number: No. 13,028!