Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vacationland

Here's a undated travel brochure from my collection that fits in with my current blog theme of summer fun up here by the lake. It describes the Lake Erie Vacationland region. (I know, I'm straying outside my blog's "Lorain County" theme again!)

Before I picked up this brochure, I thought "Vacationland" was some ad man's recent creation, probably because I had seen signs for the Vacationland Credit Union and assumed it was just some catchy name.

It wasn't until I acquired a copy of Lake Erie Vacationland in Ohio that I learned the name had been around a long time. The book is a reprint of a 1941 travel guide that was part of the Ohio Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration, designed to give writers, editors and researchers some work during the Great Depression.

The book defines Vacationland in its very first paragraph:

The traveler following State 2 over the monotonous farm land east of Toledo, or US 6 along the lake west of Cleveland, soon enters a region unlike any other in Ohio. It is made up of both land and water. Sandusky Bay is as much a part of it as Lake Erie; two long peninsulas jutting into the lake offer extraordinary surprises; and a few miles to the north are celebrated islands and fishing grounds. The region can be accurately spotted on an Ohio road map. The neat quadrangle formed by drawing straight lines between Vermilion on the east, Norwalk on the south, Toussaint Creek on the west and North Bass Island in Lake Erie embraces all the area known as Lake Erie Vacationland.


Anyway, the Vacationland map (shown at left) is one of those that are a lot of fun to look at, with plenty of tiny cartoon images sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately it is printed on super strength paper slightly thinner than plywood, making it tough to wrangle onto a scanner. I can only imagine trying to navigate with this thing in your car!

But I did manage to scan a few chunks of it, folds and all and piece it together. Here's a portion showing Cedar Point (with no Causeway) and the old Bay Bridge across Sandusky Bay (that preceded the Thomas Edison Bridge). (Click on it so you can navigate around!)


And here is a close-up of another part of the map.


It shows an area that was a favorite of my family, Marblehead and particularly East Harbor State Park. East Harbor had (and has) a great beach and was a good place to set up the old trailer for some camping fun. And after looking at the map, I now know that there is a West Harbor too!

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Incidentally, to visit a terrific blog by the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center dealing with Vacationland and many, many other historical topics, click here. It's got tons of fascinating archival photos and is well worth the visit!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lakeview Park 1974 Rejuvenation Plan

Lakeview Park has gone through several changes since it was leased to the Lorain County Metro Parks: a new bathhouse, a new one-way traffic pattern, etc. It has never looked better. (I have even argued that it looks too good – and lost its unique Lorain flavor!)

But for me the real metamorphosis took place in the late 1970's. During one of my visits home from college during freshman year, I went down to Lakeview Park – and the park now had a real beach! I couldn't believe it. Ever since I was a kid, the park's beach was pretty sad.

This March 27, 1974 article from the Lorain Journal explains the whole thing. (Click on it so you can read it.)


The two "before" photos of how the beach looked back then bring back a lot of memories. Not good memories – just memories!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lakeview Park Then and Now

Keeping up with my summer fun theme, here's a vintage postcard of Lakeview Park showing the park that many of us grew up, with the skimpy beach. This is the view west of the bathhouse.

And here is roughly the same view now.
As you can see, once Lakeview Park was leased to the county, extensive changes and improvements were made. In this case, many of the shade trees were removed, eliminating much of the cozy canopy of foliage. (I've tried to match up trees in both photos and it is pretty much impossible – but you can try!)

But park visitors still sit on benches and enjoy the view. While taking this photograph this past Sunday, the woman sitting on the nearest bench eyed me suspiciously all the while, wondering what I was up to. After dealing with this sort of thing for years, I decided to skip my usual tongue-tied explanation and just snapped away and then scrammed!

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To visit the Lakeview Park page of the Lorain County Metro Parks website, which includes a nice history of the park with many archival photos, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

No Name High School

Over the weekend, I happened to be driving over by my Alma Mater (the building formerly known as Admiral King High School) and noticed that all of the signage has been quietly removed, including the Ohio Historical Marker honoring Admiral King. It's a strange sight.

Last week the Morning Journal included an article that matter-of-factly mentioned what was going on with the various schools slated for replacement. After the brouhaha earlier this year over the renaming of Admiral King High School, I guess the school board wasn't going to pussyfoot around with the elementary schools and middle schools.

Apparently, Irving Elementary is going to be replaced by Admiral King Elementary at the site of the former Lorain High School. It sure sounds like Lincoln and Hawthorne elementary schools (which will open later this year) will retain their names. (So much for my suggestions for new names: Woody Mathna Elementary or Father Guido Sarducci Elementary!)

A new Whittier Middle School is being built next to the former Southview High School. The old Whittier and present Irving Elementary may be demolished.

It's kind of funny that the new Lorain High School will be (temporarily) over at the former Admiral King High School site, and the new Admiral King Elementary will be at the former Lorain High School site.

I guess that's one way to bury the hatchet and settle old scores!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Cedar Point Chaussee vs. Causeway Part 2

On June 12, 1957, the Cedar Point Causeway opened, effectively replacing the Chaussee as the preferred way to get to the park. Visitors to Cedar Point pay a toll to cross Sandusky Bay.
Here is an aerial photo, also from the Arcadia Publishing Images of America book on Cedar Point and credited to the Cedar Point archives.

During the years my family made its annual trek to Cedar Point, we usually took the Chaussee, or the "back way" as my parents called it. There never seemed to be that much traffic on it that I can remember, and it was interesting looking at the homes and cottages along the narrow road. Plus it was particularly exciting when the park finally loomed into view at the end!
Going home after a day at the park, we would take the Causeway. My guess is because it was often difficult to navigate the car over to the Chaussee route when the park had cones and signs directing you the other way. While on the Causeway, Dad would play around by turning his headlamps off to plunge the roadway into total darkness for a few seconds, and my siblings and I would all shriek, knowing there was water on both sides of the road!
Despite the popularity of the Causeway, the Chaussee is still in use, although it is no longer promoted with signage. Here is a photo of the Route 6 entrance to the Chaussee today, as you approach from the east.
As you can see, there is no sign indicating that it is the way to Cedar Point. Quite a difference from the way it used to look in this postcard! (Below)
To see someone's short clip of 1951 home movies showing this entrance to the Chaussee, click here. And here's a link to a great 2008 video that literally takes you from the entrance to the Chaussee on Route 6 all the way to where the road meets the lake.

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Anyway, back to the present. If you do turn in to the unmarked Chaussee entrance shown in the above photo, after a few hundred feet you are greeted with this sign. (Click on the photo.)
The sign basically hornswoggles you by telling you to turn left to go to Cedar Point (forcing you south back to Route 6), instead of turning right to take the Chaussee!
Meanwhile, remember the original, abandoned 1914 Chaussee entrance that was further east? Well, you can still take that road today, although on foot. How can that be? Read on!
In 1954, Dr. Dean Sheldon, a Sandusky obstetrician, purchased the 54-acre tract that included the original 1914 Cedar Point road for use as a family retreat.  He was a dedicated conservationist who built a cabin on the site, but otherwise left the land undisturbed so as to attract birds and other wildlife. The state of Ohio purchased the property from Dr. Sheldon’s estate in 1979, and today it is part of the 465-acre Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve is important because it is one of the last remaining sites where undeveloped coastal beach turns to marsh. The preserve is also a critical stopover for migratory birds, and consequently is known for providing excellent bird watching opportunities. More than 300 bird species have been identified there.

The 1914 roadbed itself, which previously carried Model T's to a day of fun at Cedar Point, now carries foot traffic and looks like this.

Also of interest to those who walk the trail through the preserve today is a NASA pump station located at the northern end of the road. It was originally built in 1941 to provide water for the manufacturing of munitions at the Plum Brook Ordnance Works.
As a tribute to the preserve’s origin as part of the first Cedar Point road, the original brick pillars and iron gates have been recreated near the entrance. They look like this from Route 6.
Nearby, a historical marker erected by the Erie County Historical Society commemorates the important role that the road played in the development of Cedar Point.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Cedar Point Chaussee vs. Causeway Part 1

While blogging about Cedar Point last week, I forgot to mention that a big part of going there was (and still is) deciding on the best route. Did your family take the Causeway across Sandusky Bay? Or did your family prefer the Chaussee?

If these two terms are a bit confusing, or if you get them mixed up like my family, read on for an explanation as well as a bit of history. (The following is an abridged version of an article I wrote for The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette, and the material appears here courtesy of that publication.)

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Since Cedar Point is on a peninsula, originally the only way to get to it was by steamship. To solve this access problem, in 1911 it was announced that a road would be constructed. Cedar Point general manager George A. Boeckling realized that building a road to cater to the increasingly popular automobiles would be the key to the park’s continued growth and success.

Work began on the road in 1913, and construction across the marsh was costly and difficult. When the two lane concrete highway was finished, it ran one mile north to the lake and then six miles west along the length of the peninsula to the park.
The completed road was widely regarded as an engineering marvel, and was one of the first concrete roads built in Ohio. The new highway was even given a special name, “The Chaussee,” which is a French word for a paved road. Brick pillars and iron gates gave the Chaussee entrance a handsome appearance.
The Chaussee opened on July 19, 1914 and was an immediate hit. On the following day, the Sandusky Register reported that, “More than 500 automobiles traveled the new Cedar Point Chausee [sic] or automobile roadway from a point near Rye Beach where it connects with the Cleveland–Sandusky road, designated as Main Market Road No. 13, to Cedar Point.  At 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon the number of autos that had passed through the gate was 352. At the same hour there were so many machines parked at the end of the Cedar Point midway that the men in charge of the improvised garage said they didn’t know what they would do if any more came.”
The newspaper article also stated, “The auto roadway impressed those who drove over it as one of the most remarkable pieces of construction work in this or any other country. When the fact that it was constructed through the stretches of bog and marsh land bordering on either side was taken into consideration, the transformation seems little less than miraculous.”
In 1917, a spring storm destroyed much of the eastern end of the Chaussee and subsequent storms did even more damage. Eventually the 1914 entrance was abandoned, and a new one leading to the now-shortened peninsula road was constructed further west on Cleveland Road. It opened in 1920.
Here is a photograph of that newer, 1920 alignment courtesy of the Cedar Point Images of America book.
Here is a later postcard view of the entrance to the Chaussee.
By the 1950’s, Cedar Point recognized that a new road was needed to relieve traffic jams on the crowded Chaussee. 

Next: The birth of the Causeway and the 1914 Chaussee entrance today


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sheffield Lake Community Days 2010

Over the weekend, I did my civic duty and took the wife over to the 49th annual Sheffield Lake Community Days at Shoreway Shopping Center (or what's left of it until it gets redeveloped). I was actually impressed by the size of the crowd this year. The weather was great, and the city had a chance to show off the new wind turbine that will provide power to the Apples grocery store. (Read about it here.)

Having grown up in Lorain, I can't say I'm too nostalgic about Community Days. Maybe in another twenty years, I will be. My wife, however, grew up in town and went to Brookside, so she is much more of an expert on the topic. As I suspected, she confirmed that Community Days was the high point of the year for the local youth.

Surprisingly, we didn't run into any of my wife's Brookside High School classmates at the carnival. I say that because shortly after we were married and had an apartment in Sheffield Lake, we would always run into her fellow Brookside alumni everywhere! After a couple years of this, I began to wonder if that there was an invisible force field at the city limits that kept her graduating class from exiting the city!

Since my parents took my siblings and I to Cedar Point each year, I can't say that I really ever went to any of these shopping center-type carnivals while growing up. There was always the concern about nuts and bolts flying off the various rides, etc.

During college in the late 70's, however, I let myself get finagled into getting into a Viking boat ride at the Circleville Pumpkin Festival. You know the type of boat I mean; the boat goes baaaack and forth... baaaaaaack and forth. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it very much. Good thing I didn't have any pumpkin ice cream that day or I would have barfed it all over the boat!

So when I saw King Tut gracing both ends of one of those boats at Community Days, I knew what to do: get the heck out of there and head over to something less dangerous– like the mouse roulette wheel!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cedar Point Postcards

To keep this Cedar Point theme going a little longer, I paid a visit to Ebay and collected a few more images – all postcards currently for sale.


I was pretty bummed when Cedar Point got rid of the Pirate Ride. Sure it was kinda corny. (Remember the looped recording of the gravel-voiced pirate exclaiming "All Hands on Deck!" that you had to listen to ad nauseum while you waited in line?) But it was a really memorable little ride (air conditioned too) with great graphics and even a little humor (the guy getting hung, the rats deserting the ship, etc.). I wonder where it is now?


This card depicts the Frontier Lift, the Sky Ride extension that took you over to the park's Frontier Trail area. I really liked the Frontier Lift and couldn't believe it when it disappeared. I guess the park management didn't see the point of having guests look down and see treetops, storage sheds and dumpsters from above.



Here's a few views of the beach. I'll have to rely on my sibling's memories, but I don't think we ever went to the beach at Cedar Point. I'm sure we walked over there and looked around a bit, but we came to the park for the rides, not to play at the beach. (Besides, we could do that at Lakeview Park anytime we wanted to, and... wait a minute. Back then (in the 1960's) Lakeview Park in Lorain only had a tiny, rock-and-jagged-stone-filled beach!)


This postcard with fountain was labeled "the Fabulous Funway". It looks like part of the kiddie land rides area to me. Anyone know for sure?


I remember these Cedar Point gift shops well. One year, I happened to find a dollar on the sidewalk right outside one of them. Of course I did what any other 8 or 9 year-old red-blooded American consumer would do with a buck: I spent it! If I remember correctly, I bought a wooden totem pole (made in Japan) with it! Don't ask me why. I had that thing for years!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Visions of Cedar Point 1966 Part 2

Here are a few more images from that battered Cedar Point brochure from 1966.


I wish Cedar Point still had this interactive element to their period rides. It must not have lasted too long, because I remember the animated figures more (such as the trapper, warning you about the Indians).

The train is another ride that as an adult, I make sure we don't miss. Here's another shot from the brochure. (It's a little out of register; I've worked at a printing company for 25 years so I guess I'm qualified to say that!)



Apparently the train still goes through Boneville, according to this flickr collection and this Yahoo video!

As I mentioned last year, I have vivid memories of hanging out over by the Fascination and other games area right before my family would call it a day at the park. Maybe it was because there were a lot of benches nearby for us to rest on, or perhaps because it was near many of the goodies such as salt water taffy and cotton candy that we would get right before exiting. Or it could be that we were heading over to the Space Spiral one last time to check out the park at night. But no matter why, seeing these arcade buildings lit up really make me nostalgic and think of the end of a great day at Cedar Point.


Looking at these pictures makes me want to go to Cedar Point this year. Now, however, I would be happy just to go as part of a 'geezer package' where you just go after dinner for the evening. I don't think I can handle a whole sun-burned day there anymore!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Visions of Cedar Point 1966 Part 1

Summer always brings thoughts of Cedar Point, and last year almost about this time (starting here) I posted some images I scanned from a 1966 brochure of the park. Well, I went back and looked at the brochure and found a few more images that I hadn't included the first time. Here are a few of them. (Click on them for a larger view.)


Whenever my wife and I do make it to Cedar Point (which is not very often) I always try to hit the old favorites that symbolize the park of my youth. The sky ride is one of them and I hope they never get rid of it. Here's another view.


I still remember how creepy it was when the sky ride car noisily reached the top of each pole!


Jungle Larry's Safari Island was another high point of the day for my siblings and I, due to his appearances on local TV shows such as Captain Penny. (Over on Alan Hopewell's blog about growing up in Lorain called Pointing the Cannon, he also waxed nostalgic about seeing the mighty hunter on the congenial Captain's show at this post.)

Eating at Cedar Point used to always follow the same template when I was a kid. We usually brought a picnic lunch, which we stashed at a pavilion upon entering the park, and dinner would be at the Silver Dollar with its tinkly piano. I think I mentioned in last year's blog that the last time I was at Cedar Point, I noticed that the Silver Dollar had become a sports bar.

I'm pretty sure that we never ate at this place.


It kind of looks like a mini Red Barn restaurant!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 5


Here's a final 'then and now' shot to finish off this look at old photos of interurban train track shots from the Lake Shore Electric Railway book. This one is from Avon Lake. The caption reads, "The land adjacent to the LSE tracks consisted of grapes and dirt roads in 1902. This is Lake Road in Avon Lake, showing the development markers for Mull Road on the right and North Point Drive on the left."

The view is looking towards the east.

Here is how the same view looks today from a couple of weeks ago. There's still a telephone phone next to Mull Road on the right. Unfortunately the pillars are long gone.


These kind of comparisons always fascinate me. The idea of a dirt Lake Road with farms and vineyards is hard to believe. The vintage shot reminds me of the scene in Back to the Future where Marty McFly hides the time machine near the entrance to his development!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 4

Here are a few more then-and-now shots of the Beach Park station.








Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 3


Here's another photo that I scanned from the Lake Shore Electric Railway book. The book's caption reads, "This photograph, taken in 1898 at the Beach Park station, shows an L&C car heading west to Lorain. In 1898, this was an L&C property." (The L&C that the book refers to is the Lorain and Cleveland Electric Railway.)

The book also points out that the L&C built a car barn, a powerhouse and a resort area at Beach Park.

Of course, you and I recognize the above structure, as it later became the old Saddle Inn at the Avon Lake shopping center on Lake Road, and housed the much-missed Avon Lake Theater.

The building is now part of the Avon Lake Artstown plaza complex, also housing the Casita Del Lago restaurant as well as the Tailgators Sports Bar. Here is a recent view (click on it for that "you are there' feeling).


(I have a special feeling for the far right portion of the building that is now the sports bar. In the 70's, it was the Chef Henri Party Center, and I played at several weddings there as part of a local dance/polka band called the Four Links!)

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 2

Here is another vintage photo courtesy of the Lake Shore Electric Railway book. The caption reads, "This picture was taken on Route 2, east of Vermilion, at Elberta Beach stop No. 127. A very dangerous crossing with the Nickel Plate Railroad main line seen in the foreground with the LSE track behind it." The caption then went on to mention that a very large highway overpass was at the scene today.

Once again, I had to scratch my head and think. Route 2? Then I remembered that before the limited access Route 2 was constructed, it had followed Route 6 along the lakefront. And the reference to a highway overpass finally make me realize just where this was.

Here is the “now” shot.

And here is the location, courtesy of Bing Maps.

The overpass going over the railroad tracks was rebuilt sometime in the last 10 or 20 years, so it is probably the second span built to eliminate the dangerous crossing there. I'm not sure when the first one was built, but the next time I'm at the Ritter Public Library in Vermilion, I'll see if I can find out. I'm guessing it was the 1920's.

It's hard to believe the “then and now" photos are of the same area. The rustic nature of the older photo makes it look like it's out in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 1

I recently had the chance to enjoy reading another one of those excellent Arcadia Publishing local history books. (I use their Images of Lorain book, published by the Black River Historical Society all the time as a reference for this blog.) This new book focuses on the old electric interurban railway that provided passenger service between cities on Lake Erie, and is entitled Lake Shore Electric Railway. It was written by Thomas J. Patton with Dennis Lamont and well-known Lorain historian Albert Doane.

The book (published about a year ago) does a terrific job of explaining the history behind the rise and fall of this electric streetcar system that had routes that ran from Cleveland to Detroit, via Avon Lake (the Beach Park station), Lorain, Sandusky and Toledo.

The book contains a fantastic collection of photos, many of which depict the railway as it passes through Avon Lake, Lorain and Vermilion. If you're a local history buff, then you have to have this book on your shelf.

My father was old enough to have remembered the interurbans, and from what he told me I wish that there still was such a system in place. It would be pretty nice to be able to board one and take it all the way to Toledo. Apparently the interurbans would get up to speeds of 70 and 80 miles an hour out in the country!

Since the interurbans were pretty much out of business by the late 1930's, you have to look pretty hard in this area for evidence that they even existed. Thus I scanned in several photos from the book so that I could give them the 'then and now' treatment and reveal just where the tracks were located.

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Here is the first photo. When I first read the caption, I couldn't even imagine where this photo was taken.


The vintage photo (looking east) shows the interurban tracks as they cross Colorado Avenue.

After driving up and down Colorado Ave. just south of where it meets up with US Route 6 (East Erie Ave.) I finally figured it out. The brick building with the awning on the left is Paul's Auto Body. (Unfortunately Paul's Auto Body was demolished a year or two ago.)

Today, this scene faces the Spitzer Harbor Walk housing development and looks like this.


The building that sits where the tracks used to be was built between 1947 and 1950 (a decade after the railway went out of business). The empty lot to the left of it is where Paul's Auto Body used to be.

The tall building to the right of it (that is visible in both photos) had a variety of uses through the years. In the early 1930's it offered furnished rooms, and in the early 1940's it was a restaurant.

Today people drive by this area heading north to Dairy Mart on the corner of Colorado and East Erie Avenue, never knowing that 70 or 80 years earlier, the Lakeshore Electric Railway would have been clattering right through here!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

With so many things going on in this country this year – two wars, a terrible economy, tension with other countries, polarized politics – it is easy to become disillusioned. I know I am right now. But just as a New Year brings hope, and Easter brings spiritual rebirth, I find that July 4 often renews our patriotism.

Patriotism is a word that has lost its meaning over the years. It gets attached to many forms of expression, such as burning flags, protesting and criticizing the policies of a President. Many mealy-mouthed politicians often (and shrilly) exclaim things like "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

I disagree with this mangling of the definition of the word. Patriotism is defined very simply in the dictionary: love and loyal or zealous support of one's own country. 

That's it. It is not an all-purpose word to cover all acts of disrespectful expression against one's country. It's quite the opposite.

Here's hoping that all Americans rediscover this meaning as we celebrate our Day of Independence.

And here's wishing all of you a Happy July 4th!

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And now for a little nostalgia. The thing about the Fourth of July I remember most growing up in the 1960's is my family going over to George Daniel Field to watch the fireworks. If I remember correctly, we would park at Admiral King High School and then walk over from there with our blankets, etc. I remember as a kid being pretty excited.

They were pretty impressive fireworks shows, and they were right above you, too. (Nowadays you seem to watch them at a safe distance.) And there was no mistaking when you were seeing the grand finale, either.

Probably the worst part was the teeming mass of humanity when it was over, all eager to get out of there and back to their cars.

Much later, during a time when I was living in a series of apartments in Sheffield Lake, I remember going over to Avon Lake to watch the fireworks at the Fisher's Big Wheel. The office buildings at the corner of Walker and Moore weren't there yet, so you could spread out your blanket and enjoy the show. It's funny to already be nostalgic about something a mere 20 - 25 years ago.