Friday, April 22, 2011

David Shukait: Creator of Lorain's Easter Baskets

David Shukait And His Colorful, Enduring Easter Basket
To close out this week's Easter Parade of ads and articles, I thought I'd post this great article about David Shukait and how he created Lorain's iconic Easter Baskets. The article is part of the Lorain Public Library's Special Collections file. It was written by Frank Dobisky, Staff Writer for the Lorain Journal, and it appeared along with the above photo and caption in that newspaper's pages on Thursday, April 7, 1966.

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But, He Built An Easter Basket
It Just Couldn't Be Done, Shukait Told His Boss

BY FRANK DOBISKY
Staff Writer

"It couldn't be done, I kept telling him," recalled David Shukait, now 73 and retired from the Lorain Park Department.

He referred to the constant urging in 1937 of the late George Crehore, then parks superintendent, for Shukait to construct a large cement Easter basket for Lakeview Park.

"He kept after me for six months," Shukait said during an interview, "but I couldn't figure out how it could be done."

THEN ONE night Shukait came home from work exhausted and sat down to relax. While unwinding from the day's labors he began thinking about the idea again – and suddenly a solution came to him.

"I told Crehore the next morning I knew how to do it. He told me to drop everything and get on it," said Shukait, who was a mechanic in the park department.

It took Shukait and an assistant a month to construct the reinforced concrete basket that now stands at the entrance to Lakeview Park off W. Erie Avenue.

SHUKAIT PATENTED his idea, but he never marketed the colorful and sturdy baskets. He built another basket in 1939 that stands in Oakwood Park.

He also built one for a priest in Pennsylvania – a smaller version of the Lakeview and Oakwood models. Then, he constructed miniature versions of the big baskets for display in the yards at his home and at the homes of his sons – Andrew, Louis and Edmond – who live in Lorain. Andrew Shukait is the Third-Ward's councilman.

The first basket was built in the park department garage and pulled on skids by a truck and grader through city streets to the park. It cost $50 for material, plus the salaries of two men for a month to build that first basket.

Shukait estimated a similar basket built today would cost $800.

THE BASKETS in the park draw large crowds when the weather is pleasant on Easter Sundays. The city adds an Easter touch to the baskets annually by putting large, concrete eggs in them.

Shukait, who retired from the park department in 1958, suffered a slight stroke last June and gets around now with the use of a cane. He spends his leisure time reading newspapers and conversing with old friends at the clubrooms of the Polish Legion of American Veterans.

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I forgot to mention that the above article contains an incorrect date that seems to forever plague most articles about the Easter Basket (with the exception of those written by Rona Proudfoot!) As pointed out back here, the Lakeview Park Easter Basket (the first of David Shukait's baskets) was installed in April 1941.

2 comments:

Deanie said...

Dan,
rona and I have spoken quite a bit about the basket. She has shared things with me that you had found and I shared all the items that I have collected over the years. And yes, that date has been the one everyone believes but it was installed in April of 1941, I have a copy of the park notes that are at the Lorain Historical society.

Silver Spring: Then and Again said...

See http://www.shorpy.com/node/10355