Underpass area spurs memories
By ANDREW ZAJAC
C-T Staff Writer
|Sitting at the site of a downtown underpass in Lorain are, from left,|
Albert Rink, 96, Joe Bohach, 47, and Louis Kovach, 68. (C-T)
"Tell me something," demands the 62-year-old Carter. "Why are all these cars going up Broadway? There ain't a damn thing downtown."
THE SAME conclusion has dawned on city fathers over the last 20 or so years.
Mostly they blamed suburban malls for siphoning off business.
But they also blamed the railroad, reasoning that waiting 10 or 15 minutes for a train on the edge of downtown is small time.
That's why the underpass is being built.
Sometime in 1984, the moldering, sagging strip of two and three-story buildings on the west side of Broadway between 10th and 13th street will be torn down and a concrete strip will be poured under the tracks.
Sixteen of 19 properties needed for the first phase of the $4.5 million project have been purchased by the state since appraisal and relocations began at the beginning of the year. Many businesses and most residents have left.
A dwindling fraternity of pensioners, loners and drifters lingers, assembling in decent weather on a rail next to the tracks to stare at the traffic and recall when the neighborhood was a commercial as well as a geographic high point on Broadway.
"USED TO be that they'd accost you on the street and ask you if you wanted a job," says Richard Callahan, 61.
But, adds Joe Bohach, 47, "Not much of nothing" happens anymore.
The slide began two decades ago with loss of rail passenger service at the Nickel Plate station across the street from the proposed underpass route.
It accelerated over the years as landlords held off on property repairs, figuring that sooner or later a bulldozer would confirm all of the rumors and plans about an underpass, according to Edward Zieba, who owned the prosperous Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant a few yards from the tracks.
"Businesses started falling apart from negligence," Zieba says.
After people stopped coming into his place to eat, Zieba turned it into a bar.
It was called the Overpass Lounge, because "my manager didn't know if it was going to be an underpass or an overpass," he says.
The confusing moniker was apt: For years it was anybody's guess when somebody would do something about the rail-clogged traffic and when it would happen.
ZIEBA himself bought the restaurant 20 years ago anticipating a quick sale to the state.
"I bought it with the underpass in mind, never thinking I'd have a Chinese restaurant."
Jack Glick believes the construction will open the way for a Broadway comeback.
"It's something they need. All you need to do is look out the window and watch the traffic tie-up from the trains," says Glick, who is the third generation owner of Glick's Hardware, across from 11th Street from the tracks.
His store is an oddity for a retail outlet in the area: It's still busy, although not necessarily with hardware customers.
Business is "slow just like everywhere else," he says, but the license bureau Glick runs in the front of the store carries the hardware end of the operation.
But next door at the Lambda Tavern, a throbbing disco beat stops for no one and nothing, not even a train.
Manager Dan Daniels isn't pleased about having to move, mainly because Lambda has earned grudging acceptance in the area.
DANIELS says Lorain is "a very redneck area," but the Lambda has prospered in the five years the bar has been on Broadway and wants to stay close by.
Many residents are also reluctant to leave.
A highway department spokesman says most of the elderly occupants of the rooming houses and apartments above and behind Broadway businesses have asked to be relocated nearby.
"I don't like to have to move I been here all my life," says Albert Rink, 96, who lives above the Golden Dragon, but passes time on the perch by the tracks. "I like to sit here and watch the traffic go by."
I had mentioned in an earlier comment (on my Golden Dragon post) that I was haunted by the memory of a gentleman who always seemed to be outside by the tracks near the Golden Dragon, and that he looked like a scruffy Santa Claus. I remember that he seemed to be watching me as I drove by, and it gave me a mild case of the creeps. I now believe that it was Mr. Rink mentioned in the article above, merely enjoying himself by watching the world go by.
|The Golden Dragon circa 1975 (photo courtesy the Chronicle-Telegram)|