Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sheffield Lake's Pizza Hut

Here's an article that appeared in the Sept. 11, 1968 Lorain Journal. (Click on it so you can read it.) It is the announcement that Sheffield Lake (my current home) was going to be the home of a proposed Pizza Hut.

No less than the president of Pizza Hut himself was to make the pitch to the city planning commission. The article also mentions a new Lawson's store being constructed next door to the proposed Pizza Hut (to apparently replace one that was smaller and a little further east down Lake Road in Sheffield Lake).

1969 Lorain phone book ad
Although I've mentioned countless times how I grew up on Yala's Pizza, I still went to Pizza Hut in my high school days. I liked the Sheffield Lake one, since the drive out there was good for killing a little time on a date (although you had to be careful not to go over the speed limit by Shoreway Shopping Center).

I was still going to the Sheffield Lake restaurant in the mid-1980's, because I really liked the Priazzo, and it was nice to be able to sit down and enjoy it. I was bummed when it disappeared from the menu. A lot of other people were too, judging by the comments on various websites.

Eventually the Sheffield Lake restaurant became a carry-out only store, and finally it was replaced by a new Pizza Hut and Wing Street that opened in February 2010 at the intersection of Root Road and Colorado Avenue. Although it is about 3 minutes from my house, I can't bring myself to go there; the good folks at Selenti's might not forgive me.

Today the Sheffield Lake Pizza Hut is the home of Coconuts Internet Cafe. (Here's a link to its Facebook page.) It seems to be one of the few local internet cafes that always has a nice crowd, judging by the number of cars outside. It's got a nice location.

The former Sheffield Lake Pizza Hut today

Meanwhile, the ex-Pizza Hut over on Oberlin Avenue in Lorain wasn't so lucky in its new career as an internet cafe. Unfortunately, it's already for sale.

The former Oberlin Avenue Pizza Hut today
It sure is strange that the west side of Lorain couldn't support a sit-down Pizza Hut or even the small carry-out only outlet (that is currently home to Happy's Pizza). I hope it's because everyone prefers the local pizza shops like Yala's and Selenti's.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Uncle Ben

Last week I posted the story of Ed Duskey, whose Duskey Brothers service station sponsored a baseball team in the 1930's. Here's a story about one of the players on that team.
My Dad's Uncle Ben
Everybody has boxes of old photos that probably should have been sorted and put into albums. My family is no exception. When I was a kid, we had several boxes of old black and white family photos from my father's side of the family.

Grandpa Esterle – my Dad's grandfather – had owned a camera, and pretty much shot anything and everything. Thus we had lots of old photos of my Dad as a baby in the early 1920's, plus tons of photos of Esterle family get-togethers in Lorain and Cleveland.

The photos are all labeled and sorted now. But back in the 1960's, they were still a big mess. The big box of photos would be brought out from time to time, usually on a rainy day when we were bored and stuck indoors. Then, my siblings and I would pick through them, pointing to unfamiliar faces on tiny, yellowing prints and inevitably repeating the same refrain to my mother: "Who's that?" Most of the time, we weren't particularly interested in the answer.

But there were a few photos of a ballplayer, and these weren't tiny snapshots like the rest. They were formal studio portraits. My brothers and I wondered: did we have a major leaguer in the family?

"That's your father's Uncle Ben," Mom explained. She wasn't sure what team he played on or when, but it wasn't a major league team. Consequently, my brothers and I would lose interest and move on to the next photo.

It wasn't until much later that I learned the story of Uncle Ben.

Uncle Ben (left) and Uncle Fred
Grandpa Esterle had moved his family from Hungary to Lorain in 1905, coming through Ellis Island like so many other families, so he could get a job in the steel mill. While his daughter (my Dad's mother) and his other son (my Dad's Uncle Fred) were born in the old country, Uncle Ben was born right here in Lorain in 1906.

Uncle Ben's story isn't all that different from many others in Lorain. He grew up, and graduated from Lorain High School in 1924. Along the way, he became a pretty good athlete. He was a catcher for several of Lorain's leading amateur baseball teams, including the Duskey Brothers Class A baseball team. (In 1934 the team represented Lorain in the National Baseball Federation tournament in Cleveland.)

More important than Uncle Ben's athletic accomplishments, however, was the close bond he had with my father. Since Dad's father worked on the railroad and was away much of the time, Uncle Ben filled a big void in his life.

Dad had lots of Grandpa Esterle stories, and many of them included Uncle Ben also. Once, Uncle Ben brought home a big turtle he had apparently found. Since Grandpa Esterle liked pets, he drilled a hole in the turtle's shell and they tied him up outside, just like a dog.

Uncle Ben and my father as boy
During Prohibition, Grandpa Esterle made beer and whiskey. Once, someone tipped him off that his house was going to be raided the next day. Naturally, Grandpa Esterle and Uncle Ben did what they had to do: drink as much of the homemade brew as they could the night before.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the raid didn't occur.

Like his father, Uncle Ben got a job at the mill as a pipefitter. Later, he married Ruth, his sweetheart. They began their life together in a house that Grandpa Esterle owned on W. 30th Street.

The future looked bright for Uncle Ben. But then tragedy struck at the steel mill.

On February 28, 1937, Uncle Ben and several other workers in the shipping department were draining oil out of a cast iron reservoir. They were using compressed air to force oil out of the reservoir.

The side of the reservoir blew out, and during the explosion one of the many flying pieces of cast iron struck Uncle Ben in the head. He suffered a 14-inch fracture through the top of his skull, and the side of his head was crushed. After lying in a coma for 25 hours, he died in St. Joseph Hospital.

He was thirty years old, and had only been married for six months. More than 400 people attended his funeral. His former teammates were active and honorary pall bearers.

My father took it very hard. His mother later told my Mom that he rode his bike out to Elmwood Cemetery often to visit his Uncle Ben's grave.

Uncle Ben's widow remarried four years after his death, and she and her new husband lived in a house on East Erie Avenue.

I saw her outside the house in the 1990's, wearing a house dress and pulling weeds. I briefly considered stopping and introducing myself. But too many years had passed since the tragic accident.

She lived to the ripe old age of 93 and passed away in 2006.

After Uncle Ben died, Grandpa Esterle rented out the house on W. 30th Street to other tenants. Later, he gave the house to my parents when they got married. 
More than sixty years after the accident that claimed Uncle Ben's life, my Dad still couldn't talk about it.  He only wanted to remember the happy times. In the last few years before he died, his face would still light up when he was talking about the good times with Grandpa Esterle and Uncle Ben.
Since I go out to Elmwood Cemetery now to visit my father's grave, I try to swing by and pay my respects to Uncle Ben as well. He's buried in a single plot next to his widow and her second husband.


Today, I am constantly reminded of Uncle Ben. There's Uncle Ben® Brand rice that I buy regularly. Even Peter Parker – Spider-Man – had an Uncle Ben that died tragically.

But, like my Dad – with the exception of this post – I don't dwell on the sadness associated with his uncle. I'd much rather chuckle at the silly stories that Dad told me about his mother's family, all filled with warmth and love, all played out against the backdrop of the Lorain of the past.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lorain's Spudnut Shop

The much-missed Bob's Donuts wasn't the only donut shop in Lorain. There were a lot of others that came and went.

And here's one of them: The Spudnut Shop.

The ad above appeared in the pages of the Lorain Journal on December 21, 1950. That's Mr. Spudnut decked out in a bow tie and top hat.

What's that – you've never heard of Spudnuts?

Well, it was a very popular national chain of donut shops that used potato flour. The first store opened in 1940, and by 1946 the concept was being franchised. (Here's a link to the Wiki entry that explains the history of the chain.)

The Lorain shop opened in November 1950 and was established by Michael and Jo Moldovan.

The donuts with the potato base had their devoted fans. My mother remembers them as being very good.

The Lorain store lasted until around 1956. Then its address – 120 Eighth Street – disappeared in the 1957 directory.

Although the Spudnuts parent company closed around 1980, there are still individual stores that remain open. There's one in Berea, and one out in Mentor too. Here's the list of stores that are still open. And here's another website with a directory and plenty of interesting tidbits and links about the chain.

You can also buy Original Spudnut™Mix on this blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ed Duskey - Part 2

Here's the conclusion of the profile of Ed Duskey that appeared in the Lorain Journal in 1969 as part of the Bill Scrivo's People feature.


Ed Duskey: A Long Run on Broadway (Part 2)

March 9, 1952 ad from Lorain Sunday Times
Ed Duskey remembers the old days on Broadway and the friends he made. Many of them are gone.

"All of the people that were here when I started are dead or not in business any more," he says. George Llewellyn's son now runs the automobile agency. But Ed remembers going to old George for a couple of hundred dollars when the gas truck was due and there wasn't enough money in the till. And he remembers Sol and Isadore Jacoby and the Delis Brothers too.

"I GOT MYSELF in debt through bad credit and bad management. I went in there in August, 1929 when the bottom dropped out. But I paid back everybody I owed.

"There's nobody in the city can say I owe them a dime. That's the reason I stuck it out."

Along the way, Ed Duskey lost something very precious to him. He can talk about her now, where once he couldn't.

"I had a wonderful wife," he says. "She was such a fine person – and she would always go anywhere with me. She could be washing clothes and I would call up and say I was going to Cleveland and she would drop her washing and say 'I can do these tomorrow.'

"I'm a widower now going on 14 years.

"In my life there have been lots of sorrows, but I found out I had to leave those sorrows behind and I had to live with the people and make them believe everything was rosy.

"I told a lady today who had just lost her husband that the more you grieve the more you are going to be hurt."

AND ED DUSKEY has not spent his time in grieving. He loves life and the people who come into his gas station. He loves the people he grew up with in 40 years on Broadway. He remembers the good times – the baseball teams he sponsored; the teams that took a back seat to nobody in the Cleveland area. He remembers the trips to Notre Dame and Michigan and Cleveland and Northfield.

He remembers the Lorain he came to as a young man and the people he knew and loved. But he is not sad. For Ed Duskey is not thinking of what used to be or of retiring or things like that.

He's looking ahead to the fall, when the Central Business Men's Association will board a bus early in the morning and head for the Pittsburgh Notre Dame football game.

AND THE MAN with the youngest heart and the loudest voice on that bus will be Ed Duskey – going to Pittsburgh and coming back late that night. And he'll be leading his favorite song:

"Love me sweet, love me true, love me as you ought to do,

For I don't have a wooden heart..."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ed Duskey – Part 1

I'm sure lots of old-timers in Lorain remember the Duskey Brothers service station that used to be at Broadway and 19th Street. Well, here's a nice profile of one of the brothers – Ed Duskey –  that appeared in the Lorain Journal in 1969 as part of the Bill Scrivo's People feature.

Special thanks to the Morning Journal for allowing me to reproduce it here.


Ed Duskey: A Long Run on Broadway

In 1929, Ed, Stanley and Walter Duskey opened a gas station at the corner of Broadway and 19th Street in Lorain.

A couple of months later on Oct. 29, the bottom dropped out of the market. It was Black Friday, when millionaires became instant paupers and businesses collapsed like houses of cards.

What about the Duskey brothers? If you drive up Broadway, you'll see their Pure Oil Station, doing business at the same location where they began the business 40 years ago. And if you pull up to the gas pumps, chances are Ed Duskey, the patriarch of the clan at 69, will fill up your tank for you.

Walter is the other remaining Duskey brother. Stanley died in 1958.

"It was hard for three of us to make a living off the gas pumps," Ed recalls. "Stanley decided he'd better get a job in the steel mill; then he went to Bendix.

"I wish he would have stuck it out."

The years of hard work show on Ed Duskey. They show in his tough, gnarled hands, permanently darkened with the grease of the service station. They show in his deeply-lined face.

BUT THE YEARS of hard work and sometimes hard luck have not calloused the happy heart of Ed Duskey.

He loves to sing and dance. When the Central Business Men's Association starts out on one of their bus trips to a baseball or football game, Ed Duskey's the organizer and he's up front leading the singing. His voice is a little gravelly and that goes back to the only time he was sick in his life. How he got "sick" explains a lot about Ed Duskey.

"We went to the Notre Dame football game and at the time I couldn't get anyone with an instrument to play on the bus. So for four hours, I got the people to sing.

"There was no mike. I strained my darn voice and afterwards I couldn't talk. I went to the doc and he gave me an examination and said I had high blood pressure and he told me he couldn't operate on my throat.

"A month later I went back and he told me there was something on my throat and it had to come off.

"I said, 'Doc, do you really have to operate?'

"He said, 'Well, it can be cancer.'

"I asked if I had a 50-50 chance it wasn't cancer.

"He said 'Yes' and I said 'Doc, I'll take that chance.

"That's been five or six years ago and I'm still hoarse, but I'm still living" said Ed Duskey.

Now a few months away from 70, Ed Duskey still works six and seven days a week. In fact, that's something he's done all his life – work hard.

ED WAS BORN in Wheeling, W. Va. back in October of 1899. He lived there until 1918 when he came to Lorain with his family, just after the end of World War I.

His schooling was confined to the first six grades.

"Father was sick and out of a job," he recalls. "I started in the newspaper business – carried newspapers and 54 magazines.

"I loved that game and don't know why I didn't stick with it. I was the oldest in the family and the sole support."

"I DON'T KNOW if you believe me or not, but I used to make more money back there in 1910 than I do now. I had a very good stand and I gave it to a blind man when I left Wheeling."

The family came to Lorain because "they got tired of the floods down there."

"So help me God, they had floods year after year. They simply couldn't take it any more."

Ed's first job was at the shipyards. Then came the layoffs as the nation drifted into the post war period and Ed had no job. But he was able to get on at the American Stove Co. in Lorain and worked there until 1923.

"Then I went to Detroit one day and met my wife. Actually, I knew her in Wheeling, but then she moved.

"SHE ASKED ME to move to Detroit and I did. Got a job with the R and E Shoe Company and stayed with them for four years. I got married in 1925.

"I was the top salesman for R and E," says Ed. "I was up there until 1928 when my brothers in Lorain got into the gas station business. Naturally, I wanted to get in with them and I have been here since 1929."

Broadway was paved with bricks in those days and there were four gas stations in all of Lorain. George Llewelyn Sr. was selling cars across the alley and the late Phillip Lanza had a little store across the street. And that first year the Duskey brothers pumped 7,000 gallons of gas – by hand – into Fords and Pontiacs, Studebakers and Marmon 8's.

"It wasn't exactly a heavily-traved street," says Ed Duskey.

"NOWADAYS, DUSKEY Brothers pump steady 24,000 gallons a year.

"I don't try to get all the business," says Ed."I'm satisfied with the customers I've got. I still know people from when I first went into business and they still know me."

Those first years were tough. Stanley had to go to the steel mill because the station wouldn't support three men and their families.

"Then my brother Walter and I got a house together at 838 W. 18th St. and we raised our first two daughters in the same house. Finally we were able to get enough money so he could get himself a home."

"You see," says Ed, "We went into a business we didn't know much about. We know quite a bit about it now, though."

Walter and his family finally moved into their own home. And Ed and his wife and three daughters moved into a home at 745 Hamilton Ave., Lorain.

THE GIRLS grew up – Delores is a first grade school teacher at Masson School. Mary Anne is a receptionist with American Airlines in Florida. Patty is now Mrs. Paul Bick, living on Reeves Avenue in Lorain – and the cause of great wonder to Ed Duskey.

"She is raising a family and I have three grandchildren," he says. "Imagine having three grandchildren after I was 60!"

Tomorrow: Part 2 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ginger Beer Vs. Ginger Ale

You might remember that a few weeks ago, I mentioned Seher's Old English Ginger Beer here in a post. It had been bottled in Lorain, but I had never tried it or any other ginger beer.

Fellow blogger Loraine Ritchey (from That Woman's Weblog) recommended I pick up some ginger beer at World Market and give it a try. I did just that, buying a four pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.

What did I think? I thought it was pretty good; very different from ginger ale. It had a very deep, very woody taste. It was a totally different drink than Vernors.

Ironically, I had been feeling a little off earlier that night. Just like Vernors used to settle our stomachs when we were kids, the ginger beer did the same thing.

And the bottle caps were pretty cool. No bottle opener needed, and no twisting. You just pull the tab and the cap popped off.

The funny thing is, the spouse saw me sitting in the easy chair and drinking it, and she didn't recognize the bottle. Since I rarely have any reason to drink a beer since both my father and my father-in-law died, she became alarmed that I was suddenly becoming a booze hound.

There's no chance of that. I'd much rather drink pop.

Fellow blogger Alan Hopewell mentioned that he couldn't find Vernors down in Texas – and he has my sympathy. Along with Pepsi Throwback, it's my favorite pop.
Vernors used to be headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It has an interesting origin story and company history, which you can read here on the Vernors website.
Back in 2000, Vernors had a neat promotion. For a limited time, Vernors was available in real glass bottles that were sort of a replica of the old style design we remember as kids. (That's my collectible bottle at left.) As a kid, I thought the gnome on the bottle looked like one of the little men who got Rip Van Winkle drunk.
In the last few years, I wondered if Vernors had changed their recipe, because if I drank it out of a plastic bottle, I never coughed or sneezed – and what fun is that? I discovered that you have to serve it in a glass to get the desired effect – and drink it while it was still popping and fizzing.

Here's a phone book ad from the early 1960's showing that the Cotton Club Hires Distributing Company handled Vernors in Lorain County.
1960's ad from Lorain phone book
And look what else they distributed: Smarty Ginger Beer. Check out this can from the National Pop Can Collectors website.

Image courtesy www.canogram.com
Those kids look as happy as if they were drinking chocolate milk! I guess ginger beer was more mainstream than I thought!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Hats – Then and Now

The Brady boys – January 1965 (that's me in the middle)
As I get older (next month I'll be 53), I find that I'm becoming a bit of a curmudgeon, often thinking that things were better in "the good old days." Or at least that they made more sense.

A good example of this is the comparison of the winter hats that I wore as a kid with the styles worn now.

When I was growing up in the early to mid-1960's, kids' winter hats were functional. The brim style was very popular for a while. That's all my brothers and I seem to be wearing in old black and white family photos.

Later, the wool stocking cap became the winter headgear of choice. In fact, I don't remember wearing anything else all the way through high school.
Nowadays, decades later, the styles have certainly changed.

WKYC Channel 3 does a 'Bus Stop' segment each morning, showing real kids filmed in studio, wearing the winter clothes appropriate for the particular weather forecast that day. Several times, I have looked in disbelief at what the kids are wearing.

The most surprising is the Peruvian-style hat. I would probably be too embarrassed to wear one if I was a kid.

I've also seen the Peruvian style's American cousin, the furry one with flaps that come down (similar to what Cousin Eddie wore in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation).
For years, you would mostly see it on mailmen who had to be out in bad weather eight hours a day. Now, it seems that the style has been adapted for kids – in a time when kids are shuttled everywhere and are hardly out in the cold any more. (That is, unless their busing has been eliminated to save money.)

It's like my hair stylist says. For a long time (she's cut my hair for about 24 years) I would ask her what the latest hair styles were. A few years ago, she finally explained that there really weren't any set styles any more – that it was "anything goes".

I guess that kind of applies to everything now. Which isn't that bad, I suppose. It's more fun for the kids, and good for the economy, too.

As for me, I'll stick with my practical Stormy Kromer with the brim, and the flaps that are tied in front.

My only problem is that when I wear it to work, my co-workers say I look like Elmer Fudd.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The 530 Shop Makes the New York Times

Here's a link to an article about Lorain that appeared in both the print and online version of the New York Times in early January. The article is entitled, "A Dimly Flickering Light in a Darkened Downtown," and it is a look at The 530 Shop against the backdrop of Lorain's depressed economy. It's extremely well-written (although painful to read) and it includes several quotes by Art Oehlke, owner of the 530 Shop.

Several people have emailed me this link in the past few weeks, so I thought I would share it with those of you who might have missed it.

I hadn't been in the store since last summer, so I stopped in this past weekend to browse and ask Mr. Oehlke how he and his store ended up in the New York Times. After good-naturedly kidding me about not having been there in a while, he explained to me that the writer (Sabrina Tavernise) had been in the area for some event and stopped in at his store. She had asked him why the downtown seemed like a ghost town, and after he told her about Lorain, she must have seen the rich story potential.

One of my recent purchases at The 530 Shop
I learned from the article that Mr. Oehlke's grandfather constructed the building that houses The 530 Shop.

At the library a few days ago, I decided to see how many different businesses had been at the 530 Broadway address. The 1926 city directory listed Horn Brothers Meats as the tenant. From 1929 through about 1937, Henry Oehlke had a clothing store there.

Richman Brothers operated a store there from 1940 through at least 1942. Jumping ahead to the next available book (1947), I found Clear Sylk (a hosiery store) as the tenant until about the mid-1950's. After that, Betty Gay (a women's clothing store) was at that location until the store space went vacant around the early 1960's.

And beginning around the mid-1960's, The 530 Shop has called the storefront home.

It's fun stopping in there every once in a while. I've found some great local maps, as well as some fun knick-knacks. Mr. Oehlke always has some great vintage music blaring to put you in the mood to shop for antiques, as well as to evoke memories of the heyday of Downtown Lorain.

So be sure to stop in and buy something! The 530 Shop is open seven days a week.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

That Beaver Looks Familiar!

While scrolling around in the late June 1964 Journal newspaper microfilm archives at the library, I found this ad announcing the Grand Opening of The Hut restaurant at 3709 West Erie Avenue in Lorain. The ad is interesting for a couple reasons.

Although there is no way of knowing from the ad, The Hut was located in the building attached to and in front of the Lorain Arena. Originally the building was the standalone Baetz Dairy Bar until the Arena was built behind it and it became all one property. A few years before the Hut moved in, the building housed the Arena Restaurant.

The Hut appeared in the City Directories for 1965 and 1966 before disappearing. The Hut and the Lorain Arena were replaced in the 1967 book by Big Moose Canteen and Big Moose Showcase respectively.

(By the way, the former Lorain Arena is still for sale by Bill Latrany).

What really caught my eye about The Hut's ad, however, was the cute beaver cartoon character. I instantly recognized him as the current advertising mascot for Beaver Park Marina, located just a few miles west of the former restaurant.

The beaver first surfaced in a telephone book ad for Beaver Park Marina in 1978, wearing a captain's hat and clutching a pair of water skis (at left).

Today the now hatless beaver holds an oar instead of skis, and looks out onto U.S. Route 6 traffic from atop a sign on the main Beaver Park building. At least it makes a lot more sense for him to be promoting his namesake marina instead of pancakes!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Midview Middie Mascot - 1964

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I really like advertising mascots of any kind. That's why this mascot for the Midview School District in Grafton caught my eye while I was looking at old Journal newspaper microfilm in the library. (Plus, the Midview sports teams have been doing really well lately.)

The accompanying Journal article from September 10, 1964 explained that the emblem (named "Midview Middie") was chosen by the Build Midview Committee as part of a promotional fundraising campaign. "Middie" was going to be featured on decals that would be sold to raise money to sponsor an essay contest, a poster contest and other programs.

The mascot was selected because he "exemplified the combination of friendship, warmth, and forward look of the Midview district," according to the article.

I like the freckled little guy and his clean cut, wholesome looks right out of a 1950s or 60s comic book. He looks like he should have a slingshot hanging out of his back pocket.

Contrast "Middie" with the design of the current Midview sports mascot (below).

I guess times and tastes have changed! "Cute and wholesome" have given way to a burly, hairy "goon" look, dripping with testosterone. He looks like he doesn't just want to defeat the other team, he wants to pound them into senselessness.
Somewhere along the line in our culture, the concept of a sports mascot seems to have changed from that of a 'lucky charm' to that of a symbol that must project the strongest, manliest attitude – lest the team and its fans stand accused of being utter wimps. 
Although the cute "Middie" has long since been retired, apparently his message is still relevant. On the current Midview schools website, the first paragraph leads off with "The Midview Schools are on the move!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From the E-Mailbag #8: Manhattan Market

1955 Food Fair roster including Manhattan market
Back in December of last year, one of the commenters on my post on the Gel-Pak Building asked if I had any information about Manhattan Market.

I was aware that it had been a small grocery store on Broadway, but didn't know much more than that. So I dug around in the city directories a little bit.

It appears that Manhattan Market first appeared in the Lorain City Directory around 1946 or 1947. Its initial location, 1152 Broadway, used to be occupied by a previous grocer, Vincent McHenry.

Manhattan Market was part of the Food Fair chain of grocery stores for a while.

Around 1964, the grocery store moved south to 1820 Broadway. It remained there until about 1975, when Manhattan Market disappeared from the listings and the address went vacant.

Here's a 1960's view of the store, courtesy of the Black River Historical Society. (Click on it for a larger view.)

The store is flanked by the Lorain Fire Department Station No. 2 on one side, and the The Squire Shop, (which featured men's clothing) on the other. A few doors down from that is the Lorain Post 451 Veterans of Foreign Wars, with its distinctive sign jutting out from the building at an angle.

It's interesting that at the time of the photo, Manhattan Market was apparently part of the Sparkle chain.

Here's the 'today' view of the same block, now dominated by Fligner's, another formerly small family grocery store. I believe the building that presently houses El Kefon can be seen in the 1960s photo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The View from 17th & Broadway - Then & Now

While scrounging around in the photo files of the Black River Historical Society this past Friday, I found this view of Broadway from about 17th Street looking north. (I think this area was formerly known as the Devil's Elbow because Broadway makes such a harsh dogleg as it heads north)

The photo caught my eye because the Mister S sign was visible in the distance. The photo was labeled as being from the late 1960's.

The SOHIO sign from Sharrock's Sohio Service gas station at 1628 Broadway is visible, although the station itself is hidden from view. Also seen at left is the Journey Bar, which was at 1652 Broadway.

The current shot from yesterday (below) reveals that several buildings are gone. (Click on it for an enlarged view.) The former service station is now visible, and the SOHIO sign post minus sign remains. Mister S is now Gyros & More. A few more buildings on the east side appear to be missing as well, because the Gel-Pak building stands out more prominently.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mister S Grand Opening – June 26-28, 1964

You might remember that a week ago I posted some of Sue Slutzker's reminisces about the Mister S Drive-In, the business that her father and some other family members and partners started.

Since she had mentioned that her family's involvement with the restaurant dated back to 1964, I decided to hit the newspaper microfilm at the Library and see what I could find out as to when the place actually opened.

It turns out that the informal opening of Mister S was the weekend of June 6, 1964. The small article above had a nice photo of the distinctive building and its memorable sign with the colorful, rotating S. What's interesting is that it says that it was the pilot store for the chain.

Also in the newspaper that same day was the very first advertisement for the chain. You can tell it's an early one, because the logo isn't quite the final version yet.

Almost three weeks later, the upcoming Grand Opening buzz began to appear in the Journal. An article that appeared on Wednesday, June 24, 1964 revealed that the chain had national aspirations, and that the franchise for the restaurant had been obtained from Commissary Corp in Wooster, Ohio, originators of Dairy Isle ice cream drive-ins.

"Plans are under way for nationwide coverage with over 35 locations already surveyed and approved in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and New York," stated the article. It also noted that negotiations were being completed for several more units to be built in the northern Ohio area.

On Thursday, the following full-page ad appeared, promoting the Grand Opening on Friday, June 26, 1964.

I'm impressive with all of the great promotional gimmicks that were employed, with free large drinks, the chances to receive one of 500 free chicken dinners, free balloons and a live broadcast by Bob Lee of W-WIZ.

Finally, on Friday this ad drummed up even more enthusiasm.

The ad was the first to feature the true corporate branding (can you tell I'm in advertising?) with line art of the sign, as well as the final logo design. It also explains that the S stands for Smiling Speedy Service.

On Saturday, this ad appeared. No wonder Sue remembered those chicken dinners in her reminisces – they were one of the main items on the menu.

All in all, a very impressive promotional campaign to launch the Mister S chain! It's a shame that the chain didn't take off (especially with the pilot store in Lorain), but it's not too surprising. Many other chains went up against the McDonalds and Burger King juggernauts and ultimately couldn't compete.

The Mister S brand disappeared in Lorain around the mid-1980's. Today, the restaurant building is home to Gyros & More.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What used to be where the Lorain Public Library is today?

Okay, I've spent enough time down around 12th and Reid the last few days on this blog. Let's move up to 6th and Reid, and take a look at yet another gas station!

Here's an interesting photo and caption from the Lorain Sunday News of April 13, 1952. Apparently this Sunoco filling station used to be located where the present Lorain Public Library is today, at the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Reid.

The Lorain Library Board selected that location for the new library (to replace the old Carnegie Library). But when they began to acquire the parcels, they discovered that the Sun Oil Company had a lease on the property – for four more years.

The accompanying newspaper article basically said that the Board was willing to wait, since that location was so good. It stated, "The new library will located within a short walking distance of Lorain High School, St. Mary's Academy, the City Hall Building, local newspapers and radio stations. It will be in just the right spot for downtown shoppers to patronize."

Researching this service station didn't produce much information. I looked through the available city directories from 1950 on, and only the 1954 phone book listed Walker's Service Station at 608 Reid Avenue. So apparently the new library construction was delayed for at least a few years.

According to the online chronology of Lorain history compiled by the Lorain Public Library, the construction of the new library was completed in 1957.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The William Seher Company

After photographing the building at 12th Street and Reid (that I blogged about yesterday), I turned around in this driveway. I couldn't help but think that the 'S' on the pillars looked vaguely familiar. That's when I realized I was looking at part of Lorain's bottling history.

The 'S' stands for Seher, and the gates apparently used to lead to the William Seher Company bottling and distribution facility.

William Seher had been the manager of the Lorain Brewing Company (which was a branch of the Cleveland & Sandusky Brewing Company). From 1924 on, it appears that Seher went into the bottling business for himself with his self-named company.

1956 Phone book ads
A quick look through the city directories showed that Seher's company was originally at 330 W. 12th. By 1926, it was using the 304 12th Street address, which is the location for the two pillars and gate in my photograph.

Seher passed away some time between 1933 and 1937. But his company continued at the 304 12th Street address until around 1957, with his son and widow at the helm. A phone book ad reals that both beers (Genesee, Fort Pitt and Hudepohl) and soft drinks (Vernors, Hires Root Beer and Cotton Club) were distributed by the company.

Beginning in the 1959 book, the bottling facility had new owners and a new name: The T. J. Bottling Company. T. J. apparently stands for the first names of the company's principals: Jason J. Kallis (president) and Tony Palumbo (vice president).

1959 phone book ad
The T. J. Bottling Company continued to bottle and distribute the signature product, Seher's Old English Ginger Beer as well as a variety of other soft drinks and distilled water products.

Old bottles of Seher's Old English Ginger Beer turn up fairly frequently on Ebay.

Today, the gate with the distinctive pillars is the entrance to Geometric Forms .


It's interesting that the William Seher Company distributed both Vernors and his own ginger beer product. I wonder which one was the bigger seller? Some Lorain friends of mine mentioned the Seher Old English Ginger Beer to me a few years ago, and I had never heard of it before. (I grew up on Vernors, which was one of the things my siblings and I were given to drink when we were sick along with 7Up. I can still remember the occasional coughing or sneezing jag that resulted if we drank it too soon after it was poured.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What used to be in that building?

I've driven by this building at 1206 Reid Avenue for a long time, always wondering how long it had been there and what business it had housed. It's at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Reid Avenue, just south of the railroad tracks.

I kind of assumed it had been a gas station, but with the cute little cottage-like building on the right, I wasn't sure.

Anyway, using the city directories as a guide, it appears to have first shown up in the 1933 book as a Sunoco filling station.

In the 1937 book, the only name associated with the station was Leo S. Bransztet. The 1940 book had a new person associated with it: Walter L. Clites. Both of these listings had no brand name or oil company listed.

By 1942, it was back in the Bransztet family, listed as Paul Bransztet, again with no gasoline brand name.

In 1945 it was listed as vacant. Then in 1947, it was Ken & Phil's Gulf. (Lorain sure used to have a lot of Gulf stations!)

By 1950, it was listed as the Webb & Cavanaugh service station.

The only real surprise or interesting aspect of all this for me is the 1952 listing for this address: Zelek Flower Shop. I had no idea they used to be in there. Actually, without the gas pumps, the building looks like a flower shop!

Zelek Flower Shop was in there until about 1966 or '67, when they moved up the street to 1001 Reid. They are still located there today (here's a link to their website).

The 1206 Reid building went vacant for many years. Today, the building is home to A Clean Ride Car Wash, a car wash and detailing company. Here's a link to their Facebook page.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Chipmunks Visit Hills Dept. Store – 1968

With Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked currently in the theaters, it's a good time to post this ad, which ran in the Journal on September 11, 1968. It announces the upcoming appearance at Hills Department Store out in South Lorain of the singing trio and their father figure, David Seville.

I sure would like to know what that event was like! (Does anybody remember?) It looks like it would have been a lot of fun – plus all those free 45's too.

And a frozen Coke or some fresh popcorn on the way out of Hills would have made it a perfect day.

I'll be doing more on Hills here on the blog in the next month or so.


Christmas 1959
I've been a Chipmunk fan since, well, I was a baby. They released their first single – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) in late Fall 1958, so they were very popular when I was born in early 1959.

One of my "first material possessions" was this windup Alvin doll (at left), which was a Christmas present in 1959. He's holding his trademark harmonica, and when you wound him up, he played Alvin's Harmonica. (It looks like I found it pretty amusing.) It didn't take me long to rip the harmonica out of his hands; it laid in the bottom of the toy box for years, long after the Alvin doll was put out of commission.

We also had one or two Chipmunk 45's when I was a kid, and we watched The Alvin Show too. (You can buy a DVD of the very first show here.)

For a nice history of the whole Chipmunk phenomenon, visit their website.

Friday, January 6, 2012

From the E-Mailbag #7: Mister S

I recently received a very nice email from one of my old Admiral King High School Band-mates, Sue Slutzker, whose father (along with her uncle and some other relatives and partners) owned the Mister S Drive-In at 15th and Broadway.

(I first blogged about Mister S way back here in 2009.)

Sue filled me in on some of the background of the well-remembered restaurant with the distinctive rotating 'S' on its sign. She said that her father and his partners were involved with Mister S from 1964 through 1974. Her uncle and her cousin ran it.

"Since I was just a little kid when I'd go there, I always thought that Mr. S stood for Slutzker!" she laughs. "The only other one I knew about was on Lorain Rd. in N. Olmsted and the last time I saw it, it was a beverage store, but it was the same style building."

Sue has fond memories of the chicken served at the restaurant.

Growing up in Lorain as the daughter of one of the owners of Mister S had its perks. "My other great memory of Mr. S was that I always had a primo spot from which to watch any parade on Broadway."

But it had its drawbacks too.

"The flip side was that until I was 12, I was never allowed to go to McDonalds!"

Sue also mentioned that Mister S continued to have a presence in the Slutzker household long after her family's involvement with the restaurant ended. "I know for years in our house – even through the '80's – we were still using Mr. S order pads as scrap paper!"
Special thanks to Sue for sharing some of her memories of Mister S, a Lorain original.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Century Park Dedication - 1925

An article in early December (here) about Lorain City Council applying for a state grant to renovate Harbor House in Century Park got me to wondering just how long that building had really been there.

As usual, I accidentally found the answer while I was looking for something else on microfilm last month.

The small article above is from The Lorain Times-Herald of Friday, May 29, 1925. (Give it a click.) It explains that the new bathhouse replaced the old dance hall, which had burned down in the summer of 1923, and that it was going to reopen on Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day).

The article also explains that the building was being leased by William Heimann, a former life guard at Lakeview Park for three years, and that refreshments would be available at the stand. (Heimann later had a well-known business, Heimann's Barbecue, at 402 E. Erie Avenue.)

And here's the article from The Lorain Times-Herald of Saturday, June 6, 1925 featuring the newly-opened bathhouse.

And here's my shot from September for comparison.