Monday, January 22, 2018

Sickles Bottling Company

I’ve featured nostalgic soda pop advertisements on this blog a lot in the last few months, so a recent email from longtime blog contributor Rick Kurish was perfectly timed. It contained information about a Lorain bottling company that I hadn’t heard of before.

Rick wrote, "I ran across an ad for the Sickles Bottling Company of Lorain Ohio, that I thought might interest you. The ad appeared in the Amherst newspaper of July 8, 1948, and has a nice graphic of a young lady enjoying a Ma’s Old Fashioned Root Beer.”

Here’s the ad (below).

Now that’s the kind of advertising copy I like: short and to the point!
But getting back to Rick’s email. He noted, "The interesting part for me was the location of the Sickles Bottling Company, located at 1142 West 14th Street in Lorain. My dad grew up at 1127 West 18th Street, and that was just a handful of houses east of Oberlin Avenue, which would lead me to believe that the 1142 address was probably located on the corner of West 14th Street and Oberlin Avenue. I never knew there was a bottling company at that location."

Rick checked the Chronicle-Telegram for the same time period and found the ad below.
Ad from the Chronicle-Telegram of April 6, 1948
Rick was able to establish a rough timeline for the company based on when the ads ran. "As far as I can tell,” he wrote, "the ads ran occasionally from early 1948 until at least August of 1952.”
"A June 1953 reference to the Sickles and Franklin Bottling Company would seem to indicate the merger of two companies. Apparently the location at 1142 West 14th Street closed at the time of the merger,” concluded Rick.
Rick was right on the money with the timeline for the business. It first appeared in the city directories in the 1947 edition, with George H. Sickles was the manager. 
Here’s a recent view of the company’s former facility at 1142 W. 14th Street in Lorain, courtesy of Google Maps.
Below is the “Beverages – Wholesale" listing that ran in the Lorain Telephone Company directory in 1947. You can see that there were quite a few local bottlers and distributors. Sickles Bottling Company has one of the large ads running down the right-hand side of the page.
As the ad noted, the firm bottled Ma’s Old Fashion Root Beer. It appears to have been a popular regional brand, with lots of old signs and bottles for sale on the internet.
Sickles Bottling Company's listing disappeared as of the 1952 directory. As Rick noted, the company merged around that time with the Franklin Bottling Company.
A 1959 Lorain phone book ad
Although Ma’s is no longer in business, Squirt soda is still around. Here’s the link to its website; Little Squirt the mascot is there too, on the company’s ‘history’ page. Grapette is still available too.

Friday, January 19, 2018

New Name for Steel Stamping Co. – Jan. 1965

A recent view of the former Mascon Toy Company building on Broadway
Back in January 1965, one of Lorain's iconic businesses – Steel Stamping Company, manufacturer of a variety of toys – received a new name: Mascon Toy Company. Its home on Broadway received a makeover as well.

Read all about it in the article below, which appeared on the front page of the Lorain Journal back on December 10, 1964.

(I did a post about the history of the Steel Stamping Company/Mascon Toy Company here back in 2013.)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

“Suicide Strip” – January 6, 1968 – Part 2

This illustration of “Suicide Strip” accompanied the article below
Here is the second part of the article about “Suicide Strip," which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 6, 1968. This portion of the article by Jerry Walker describes the last part of the hazard-filled journey.

Lorain to Vermilion: Suicide Strip – Part 2

You’re now on the last leg of the trip. The next obstacle is a four lane bridge that runs traffic down a hill into business-lined East Liberty Avenue in Vermilion.

Watch out for this one. You’re in the right lane of the bridge keeping the speed limit – 50 miles an hour. Suddenly a huge truck barrels past you. The bridge is very narrow, but you squeeze over to the right as the truck flies by. That was close. The truck almost side-swiped you.

Slow down now. The speed limit is 35 miles an hour. Look out for cars pulling out of Berkely Road on the right, which leads into Vermilion-on-the-Lake. There’s no traffic light to hold them back while you pass by.

Easy now, there’s the South Shore Shopping Center and it doesn’t have a traffic light either. People pulling out from here and the new “teen” sports near here tend to get impatient with the long wait. They’ll take chances when pulling onto “Suicide Strip.” Friday and Saturday is especially hazardous when driving past this area.

Just ahead is Linwood Park, you’ll have to stop – there’s a traffic light there. It’s the first since Baumhart Road.

As you drive down the hill watch out for cars pulling in and out of the Lagoons and McGarvey’s Nautical Restaurant on the right.

You go across a short bridge that spans the Lagoons. It’s narrow too, but go slow and you’ll make it.

Up the hill now and towards Main Street – the end of the line. You’ve made it… Now what about the trip back?

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE for “Suicide Strip’s” reputation? The driver or the road?

“Suicide Strip” got its name from careless drivers and with these same drives rest the responsibly of erasing that reputation.

Traffic signals aren’t the answer, according to the state highway department and automobile club statistics and veteran police officers.

A traffic signal is a control device, not a safety device, explains Lt. George Maiden, head of the traffic division of the Lorain Police Department. He said the 50-mile-an-hour speed limit on the four-lane highway isn’t the cause of the numerous accidents. Rather, he pointed to the “much faster traffic” and the drivers of those automobiles as the cause of much of the problems on Rts. 6-2.

HE SAID THE HIGHWAY is under “constant study” because it is traveled so much and that “selective enforcement” is practiced by the police department.

Selective enforcement, he said, is patrol of known trouble spots at the time statistics show that area is most accident prone.

The department hasn’t received any complaints about traffic congestion at SR 58, where two drive-in restaurants attract much traffic.

Beaver Park is a “very dangerous” area he admitted, because of the private drive entering the highway. “High Accident Area” signs have been posted there for that reason.

Police Chief R. E. Fleming of Vermilion pointed to the “potential hazard” created when a traffic signal is erected on a high-speed or four-lane highway. He said statistics prove an increase in rear-end collisions.

He said traffic on Rts. 6-2 was from 30 to 50 percent heavier this year than it was last year, yet there wasn’t an increase in traffic accidents.

Former Vermilion Mayor Louis Rauh Jr. noted “a couple areas that possibly should have traffic lights, but only after a survey by our own police department and safety committee.”

The South Shore Shopping Center area should be “reassessed,” the former mayor said, along with intersections in Vermilion-on-the-Lake and Elberta Beach.

Rts. 6-2 was constructed from November 1955 to August 1957 by the Horvitz Construction Co. at a cost of nearly $1 1/2 million. The main purpose for construction of the highway, explained Donald Trimmer, deputy director of Division 3, (Ashland) of the state department of highways, was to add to the capacity of the existing system, “which it has done,” and to feed workers to the Ford Assembly Plant in Lorain.

Trimmer also said the approaches off 611 are being widened up to two 11-foot lanes and that with the completion of I-90 (Rt. 2), the Rts. 6-2 traffic problem will be eased.

Today, 50 years after the above article was published, things have become much safer along “Suicide Strip,” mainly due to Lorain's economic decline.

Many, if not most, of the Lorain businesses mentioned in the article that caused minor traffic backups (such as McDonald’s, Benny Hart’s, and Roman Villa) are long gone. The absence of the Ford Plant has severely reduced the amount of traffic at Baumhart.

Just as the highway official predicted, Route 2 has siphoned off most of the through traffic that previously had clogged Routes 6 & 2.

In Vermilion, several traffic lights have been added, particularly near the two shopping centers – making a safer – but more sluggish – trip for drivers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

“Suicide Strip” – January 6, 1968 – Part 1

This illustration of “Suicide Strip” accompanied the article below
If you’ve lived in Lorain for a long time, you’ve probably heard of “Massacre Mile,” that stretch of Leavitt Road from around Tower Boulevard south to Cooper Foster Park Road that was the scene of so many accidents.

But did you ever hear of the “Suicide Strip” running from Lorain to Vermilion via U. S. Route 6?

I hadn’t either, but it was the subject of the nearly full-page article below, which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 6, 1968. The story is a fascinating look at what it was like to drive on Route 6 west from Leavitt Road to Vermilion, with the emphasis on the dangers that drivers encountered.

You’ll find that some of the same concerns that Jerry Walker wrote about back then are still valid today.

Anyway, the article is kind of long, so I’m busting it into two parts.

Lorain to Vermilion: Suicide Strip

IF YOU HAVE a few minutes, why not take a ride with us down “Suicide Strip?”

It’s not a very long trip – only about 10 miles. But it’s a dangerous trip and you’ll have to be alert every second or you might be another of the strip’s victims.

“Suicide Strip” is actually better known as combined Rts. 6-2 or the Lake Road (West Erie Avenue in Lorain and Liberty Avenue in Vermilion) which runs from SR 58 in Lorain to Main Street in downtown Vermilion.

If you come, you’ll get a “driver’s eye view” of the countless hazards lurking around every bend.

At times the speed limit is 35 miles an hour and changes to 50 miles an hour in spots. But you’ll notice that traffic generally travels from 50 to 70 miles an hour.

So let’s start the motor and take a spin.

It’s Friday night in “teen town.” You’re driving west on combined Rts. 6-2. You pull up to SR 58. The traffic light is red. You stop.

But, as soon as that light turns green, watch out. You’re on “Suicide Strip.”

YOU START TO PULL through the SR 58 intersection, but you don’t go far. You are quickly initiated as you’re stopped dead in your tracks. Looking ahead you see 10 cars waiting to pull into Manners Restaurants on the south side of the road.

There is a green arrow pointing south, but only a few cars take advantage of it. The number of cars waiting to turn does not lessen.

So you wait. Cars are streaming by in the eastbound lanes of the divided highway. Suddenly a car breaks across the highway into Manners with tires squealing.

You change lanes and pull over into the right lane but don’t get far before you are foiled again. Cars are stopped waiting to get into popular McDonald’s Drive-In. Horns blare and tires screech as cars grind to a sudden halt. You wait and wait. You’re becoming impatient and irritated. But somehow you manage to creep through the tangle of machines and zip out to the open highway.

It’s not over yet, there are nearly 100 other businesses on the strip. Just when you think it’s safe, you go into an S-shaped curve.

As you’re coming out of the curve, you notice a sign that says MERGING TRAFFIC. Cars running along SR 611 start to pull into the westbound lane of “Suicide Strip.” Watch out for that truck. Quick, pull over to the left. “Whew.” You made it. The truck squeezed itself onto “Suicide Strip,” narrowly missing you.

Watch out for that car pulling out of Benny Hart’s nightclub and that one pulling into the Roman Villa on the left.

From then on driving is calm and orderly (with exception of the area near Beaver Park in the summer) until you reach Baumhart Road.

Lorain’s Ford Assembly Plant corners the Baumhart Road intersection. A Ford Security Guard said the busy hours for the intersection are presently 12:30 and 6:30 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m. but the new shift change times after the “change over” will be 5 and 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. The guard also said that the majority of Elyria and Amherst workers have been using new Rt. 2 which eases the situation a little at the Baumhart intersection.

The first things you notice are the three possible ways to pass through the intersection. One lane moves traffic south to Baumhart. The other two lanes go through the intersection on Rts. 6-2. There are traffic lights for these two lanes, but they’re always “green.”

So you start through the intersection in the left lane of the divided highway.

You look to the left and see Baumhart Road traffic pouring out into the westbound lane – YOUR LANE. Now a car from Baumhart is parallel to you and traveling at speeds up to 50 miles an hour with only a median strip preventing collision.

The BAUMHART ROAD car is quickly merging into your lane. What to do? In seconds your two cars will meet in collision. You slam on the brakes. The Baumhart Road car shoots ahead. You’re safe – this time. But what about next time?

You drive a little farther, past the Steak House and up towards a four lane bridge. But suddenly the four lane road becomes six lanes and a car is merging onto Rts. 6-2 on your right from Overlook Road. You quickly check your rear-view-mirror, and switch over the next lane at left. You missed that car by inches.

Tomorrow: Part 2

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Big Snow – Jan. 16, 1968

The winter weather’s been in the news a lot lately, and that was the case back on January 16, 1968 as well. As the Journal reported that day, up to 13 inches of snow had fallen in Lorain – closing schools and bringing traffic on local highways to a crawl.

Relive those happy times with a glimpse of a portion of the Journal’s front page that day, shown below.

If you look closely at those billboards in the photo, you can see that the one at the top of the hill is for Howard Johnson's.

There's also a sign for Rudy Moc's photography studio. (His distinctive logo was the dead giveaway.)
I'm pretty sure that the sign to the right of it is for McDonald's. You can see the similarity to the image on this vintage postcard.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Run on the Lorain Post Office – January 1968

Former Lorain artist Stevan Dohanos designed this classic stamp,
released in January 1968
Back on January 7, 1968, the price of a stamp had finally gone up to six cents. This created a problem for many Lorainites who had a lot of old five-cent stamps.

This resulted in a run on the Post Office in Lorain for one-cent stamps, and a lot of postage-due letters. Read all about it in the article below, which ran on the front page of the Journal on January 9, 1968.

As the article notes in a sidebar, Lorain’s own Stevan Dohanos designed the new 6-cent stamp (shown at the top of this post) featuring the White House, with the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

After his long and successful career as a cover artist for the Saturday Evening Post, Dohanos served as chairman of the National Stamp Advisory Committee. There he was involved in the design and selection of art for postage stamps. He himself designed more than 40 United States postage stamps (some online sources list the total as 46), and oversaw the design and art production of more than 300 other stamps.

The Postal Service’s Hall of Stamps in Washington was dedicated in his honor in 1984.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New South Lorain Branch for Lorain National Bank – Jan. 2, 1968

Fifty years ago this month, Lorain National Bank was making preparations for a brand new branch in South Lorain at Pearl Avenue and 29th Street. Temporary quarters at that location would be utilized until the new building shown in the ad was completed.

It looks kind of like a college building to me.

Anyway, the finished building looks only vaguely like the building shown in the architectural rendering.

Courtesy Google Maps
Today, of course, the former LNB location at 2850 Pearl Avenue is a branch of Northwest Bank.

A recent view