Monday, December 31, 2012

The Woolly Bear Forecast: the Drive-In is Closing

The busy scene at the restaurant on snowy Saturday, December 29.
Although I only ate there once or twice, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the closing of the Woolly Bear Drive-in on this blog. (Special thanks to Mark Hicks for the tip.)

The small restaurant at the intersection of State Route 60 and State Route 113 dates back to the days when Dick Goddard's Woollybear Festival was still held in Birmingham (before moving to Vermilion in the early 1980s).

It opened on May 9, 1981 with Zelma Hughes as the owner-operator.

What first lured me to eat there was the fact that the Woolly Bear was the only place besides Midway Oh-Boy that used the secret Oh-Boy mayonnaise-based sauce on their burgers.

The Woolly Bear Drive-in had its devoted legion of fans (just read some of its online reviews), and it's always sad when a family business shuts down. It's still open today until 4:00, so if you are hankerin' for a Big Bear sandwich, you'd better hurry!

The restaurant's mascot

Invitation to Disaster – 1962

Well, it's New Year's Eve – so readers of this blog know that means it's time for yet another macabre "Don't Drink & Drive" full page vintage ad featuring the Grim Reaper.

This one is from the pages of the December 29, 1962 Lorain Journal. This Grim Reaper is kind of a bare-bones (heh-heh) version. No robe or scythe for him.

As usual, there's an interesting roster of area businesses of yesteryear. There doesn't appear to be very many that are still around; Lucas Plumbing and Ed's Transmission managed to survive, however.

Anyway, have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kline's New Year's Eve Ad 1956

I posted some Kline's Christmas-themed ads in this space a few days ago. Well, here's a New Year's Eve version that ran in the Lorain Journal on New Year's Eve, 1956. (Click on it for a larger version.)

By George, it looks like the same illustrator who drew Baby New Year in the Driscol Music ad from yesterday. The unsung artist sure was very good at his craft. The artwork of Baby New Year and Father Time has a lot of heart.

The ad copy is bright and encouraging as well – sentiments that we sure do need for 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Driscol Music Ad - December 31, 1955

Here's a 1955 New Year's Eve ad for an iconic Lorain company that happily is still around in the 2000's: Driscol Music Company on Broadway. Back in 1955, the company was at 1000 Broadway instead of its current 445 Broadway Avenue address.

According to their company website, Driscol Music Company has been around since 1941.

If you were a band or orchestra student in the Lorain City Schools like me, then you probably were in Driscol's at some point or another through the years – to rent an instrument, or perhaps to buy some music (maybe a Belwin Band Builder). Even as an adult, I used to go in there every couple of years to buy slide oil for my trombone.

It's good to see a company that has managed to survive the ups and downs of Downtown Lorain!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pueblo Ad – December 1956

Here's another holiday-themed 'preview' of coming attractions on this blog. The ad at left for El Pueblo ran in the Lorain Journal around Christmas in 1956.

Like Kline's, the Pueblo is another long-postponed topic on this blog which I will get to early in the new year – I promise.

The restaurant, which opened in May 1928, was a Lorain landmark out on Lake Road near the undercut west of town for decades. It went through several name changes and ended its "life" as the Gypsy Fiddle Inn in a spectacular blaze.

I first heard of the Pueblo from my parents, and the idea of an elegant restaurant with a Spanish motif on the western approach to the city fascinated me. Researching it, however, took years. (I did it the hard way, looking at newspaper microfilm at the library for months until my eyeballs almost fell out.)

I've filled two file folders with newspaper clippings, ads, a few photos and other goodies – and will boil it all down and present it here soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Lake Erie Oil Co. - 1956

On Thanksgiving, I featured Lake Erie Oil's newspaper ad, so it's only fitting that I post one of their Christmas ads. This one appeared in the Lorain Journal on December 24, 1956 (and is a not-so-subtle plug for Sinclair Power-X gasoline).

I love that Santa is wearing a fez while he's relaxing at home. (One of these days, I'm going to have to get one, so I can look like a 1950s lodge brother. Maybe I'll order this one from Dennis Miller.)

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the cute little girl in the photo reading The Night Before Christmas is related to H. D. Murphy, the man who started the company.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Kline's

Here's three Christmas-themed vintage ads for Kline's, the well-remembered Downtown Lorain department store.

The first ad (below), a playful one promoting Berkshire stockings, ran in the Lorain Journal on December 20, 1955.

The second ad (below) dates from December 24, 1956 and features a very Disneyesque Santa Claus.
And lastly, here's one from late December 1961 (below).
Look for my special series about the history of Kline's shortly after the holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ohio Theater Ad December 23, 1961

Here's a December 23, 1961 Journal ad showing what was playing at the Ohio Theater around the holidays – House of Fright (a 1961 Hammer horror film), Black Sunday (a 1960 Italian gothic horror film filled with violence and mayhem) and Santa Claus (a bizarre 1959 Mexican production.) True family holiday fare!

That sure looks like Michael Jackson in that Black Sunday ad.

The heavily-dubbed Santa Claus movie is probably the strangest and most incoherent holiday feature ever produced. The plot – if you want to call it that – consists of Lucifer sending one of his horned demons to Earth to corrupt the children and turn them against Santa Claus.

Yes, there's nothing like a Christmas movie featuring an extended scene in a fiery Hades to put you in the holiday mood!

Although I remember seeing commercials for it on TV, I'm sure glad my parents didn't drag my siblings and me to see this in the theater – I'd probably still be having nightmares about it!

Gene Patrick, Passing Scene Artist, 1936 - 2012

(Courtesy Morning Journal)
It was very sad to pick up the Morning Journal yesterday and see that Gene Patrick, the talented artist behind the Journal's The Passing Scene weekly cartoon feature in the 1960s and 70s had passed away. In case you missed it, here is the link to his obituary.

(Longtime readers of this blog remember that I'm a big fan of his Passing Scene cartoons and featured many of them in this space over the last few years, such as in this two-part series.)

Gene Patrick had a unique ability to sum up the week's local news events in simple cartoons that were funny, but never mean-spirited. His likenesses of local politicians and other officials were dead on, and added to the enjoyment of the strip.

Besides working for the Journal, he had several other careers. I'm sure many of you remember Gene's Hobby Hub, his small hobby shop that was located next to Yala's Pizza. And he had a career out in Hollywood as an extra in movies and TV shows.

I put out the call a few years ago to try and find out how he was doing, and had hoped that he would Google his name at some point, find his many mentions on this blog, and consequently drop me a line. I'm disappointed that it never happened.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

1961 Whalens Christmas Ad

Here's a small Whalen Drugs Christmas-themed ad that ran in the Journal in late December 1961, a quaint reminder of those days (before Revco came to town) when you knew your druggist, and you went to your drug store for, well, for drugs! Today's modern drug store is a combination department store/grocery store.

Sadly, with so many regional and national drug store chains competing against each other and staking out their turf on almost every major street corner, the family-owned drug store is pretty much a thing of the past.

Whalen Drugs, though, is one of those places I can still see in the misty recesses of my mind. I've already mentioned in this blog the big advertisement for Bowman Ice Cream that was painted on the side of the building facing Meister Road.

Once inside, you could expect a cheery greeting from June Gajdos, who worked there in the back as a clerk for more than 25 years. She was outgoing and friendly, and always recognized me when I went in there to check out the huge comic book rack or buy a Bub's Daddy. "Hey, Brady!" she might shout at me. It made it nice to go in there.

Whalen Drugs closed in 1986, when the owners – Bob and Geraldine Whalen – retired, and with the shuttering of the business went another piece of Lorain's small-town personality.

Today, ironically, a CVS Pharmacy sits on the site.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mary Lee Tucker Show – December 1956

For decades, the Morning Journal's Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-a-Child program has made sure that needy school-age children in Lorain County have warm winter clothing.
According to article in the MJ website archives, the Mary Lee Tucker program dates back to 1924 when the newspaper's society editor Rhea Soper Eddy initiated a campaign to raise money and collect clothes and food for families in need. The "Mary Lee Tucker" name was her charitable name (much like the fictional names Ann Landers and Betty Crocker).
While today the program consists of collecting money donations from readers, for many years there was an annual Mary Lee Tucker benefit show at the Palace Theater. Below is an article about the 1956 show, and the appearance of well-known Lorain musician Jimmy Dulio and his big band.
Frank Katrick, who I mentioned in yesterday's post, was the co-director of the 1956 show and is in the photo of the Dulio band accompanying the article. (He's sitting directly behind Gloria Dee, the female vocalist.)

Dulio Band Booked For Benefit Show

SHOW VETERAN – A Mary Lee Tucker show veteran, Jimmy Dulio,
seated front right, and his band will again appear on this year's Christmas
benefit December 5 in the Palace Theater. Gloria Dee is featured vocalist
with the band. Other members of the band are George Moseley,
Leonard Gerace, Jesse Gonzales, trumpets; Jack Becker, trombone;
Ed Smith, Jack Ruth, Charles Bisgrove, Vincent Perrier, Frank Katrick,
saxophone; Dick Reed, drums; Bob Gawne, bass; Dana Hague, pian
A veteran of many Mary Lee Tucker shows, Jimmy Dulio and his band, will again appear at this year's Christmas benefit scheduled for Dec. 5 in the Palace Theater. The show is sponsored by the Lorain City Club.

Engagement of Dulio's 14-piece band, including Gloria Dee as vocalist, was announced today by Frank Katrick, co-director of the show with Ted Reese.

Katrick also announced another well-known Lorain band, the Jolly Boys, would also have a part in the show.

The Dulio organization will be the stage band, furnishing accompaniment for the singers and dancers. It will also be one of the featured acts.

The Jolly Boys, whose leader is Mike Vidovich, specialize in nationality music. They have played in and around Lorain for the past 16 years.

At the benefit show next week they will furnish pre-show entertainment in the theater lobby, Katrick said.

Several acts of local talent have been selected for the program and one or two others are still being considered, Katrick said today. Complete list of local talent will be announced tomorrow.

Members of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority will again serve as usherettes and members of the Alpha Iota Sorority will again assist candy butchers with candy sales before the show begins and during intermission.

Tickets are still available for the show, for which Bill Randle, voted the nation's No. 1 disc jockery, will be master of ceremonies.

Randle has been a Cleveland disc jockey for several years and until recently also had his own television varieties show over station WEWS.

Reservation of seats for the show will begin Monday in the lobby of The Journal building. Tickers may be exchanged for reserved seats from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Ben Fabrizio, ticket chairman, said today that in addition to various places in Lorain, tickets for the show may be purchased from drivers of Num Num potato chip trucks operated by Pete DeSantis.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Birthday (in advance), Alan Hopewell!

Alan and his wife Tracy Jean
Here's wishing Alan Hopewell the happiest of birthdays on December 23! Although he doesn't live in Lorain anymore (he's a Texan now), his heart is still here.

And although his blog is going through some changes these days, be sure to drop by there and give him some feedback on his new creative endeavor, as well as peruse his rich archives of stories and thoughts!

Have a good one, Alan! Thanks for all the comments!

December 23, 1961 City Officials Ad

Here's a vintage holiday newspaper ad full of good old Lorain political names that many of you will certainly recognize, even though the ad dates from the Journal of December 23, 1961. Back then, Woodrow "Woody" Mathna had just been elected Mayor of Lorain, and he shares billing in this ad with outgoing Mayor John C. Jaworski.

Mayor Mathna was the mayor that I associate with my youth, probably because for years we had nail files emblazoned with his campaign slogan in our desk drawer!

There is one gentleman listed in the ad that I had the pleasure of knowing: Frank Katrick, the Clerk of Courts. From the mid-1980s on, I sat right behind him in the Biz Grove Orchestra and several of its later incarnations. (I played trombone, he played sax.) Besides being a great guy and musician, he was a talented artist as well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lighthouse Shuts Down For Season - December 1955

The Lorain Lighthouse is the very symbol of Lorain. It's hard to believe that the Coast Guard was planning to demolish it at one point in the 1960s after it was no longer in use. (For a nice history of the lighthouse, click here.)

Since the Lorain Lighthouse has been "retired" for decades, I thought the below article which appeared in the December 23, 1955 Lorain Journal was kind of interesting. It takes us back to the days when the lighthouse was manned, and was closed up for the winter once the shipping season was over.

Lighthouse Shuts Down For Season

The Lorain Lighthouse ceased operations after the last ship was to enter Lorain harbor for the winter today to officially end the 1955 shipping season.

Chief Boatswain's Mate Wilbur W. Dowe, head of the U.S. Coast Guard station in the East Side, said both keepers of the lighthouse were brought ashore before noon after spending two days on winter preparation.

THE LIGHTHOUSE keepers are James R. Foster, engineman, third class, of Rocky River, who was in charge, and his assistant Seaman Gordon K. McCartney, of 2465 Homewood Dr.

Meanwhile, the oil tanker Rockett, operated by Cleveland Tankers, Inc., was scheduled to arrive in Lorain harbor this afternoon for routine repairs and winter lay-up.

CHIEF DOWE said the Rockett was to be the last ship to enter the local harbor this season.

Foster and McCartney shut off the 13,000 candlepower electric revolving light in the lighthouse for the last time this season early this morning.

The Rockett will be the 13th lake ship to lay up for the winter along Black River in Lorain.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 1955 Steve Polansky Ad

Here's a vintage ad for a well-known local company that's still around in 2012 – which makes me happy, since I go there once in a while. This Steve Polansky ad ran in the Lorain Journal on December 24, 1955.

Those kids in the ad look pretty happy. The boy is giving that long-hatted Santa a simpering gaze that can only mean one thing: Santa brought him gift boxes full of his favorite Steve Polansky meats!

I really like going to Steve Polansky's meat market out there on Dewey Road. It's a nice little drive into the country. And besides the nostalgia factor of going to an old style butcher shop, there's the simple fact that everything looks so good – and is good. Plus, the staff is friendly, and they really hustle to take care of you.

Besides going in there for beef short ribs every so often, I've bought their bacon and tasty bulk sausage (which we used in our Thanksgiving stuffing for the second year in a row). I've also enjoyed their homemade chicken paprikas, and I get my local honey there too.

Anyway, on a blog that celebrates so many things that aren't around anymore, it's nice once in a while to mention a business that still is.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 1955 Lorain Journal Ad

From December 1955, here's a Christmas-themed newspaper ad for Journal want ads. I love the jangled and seemingly hand-rendered 'Journal Want Ads' typography, as well as the little illustration of the woman on the phone. Santa's sock-like hat is unusual too.

I gotta confess – I still have a hard time with the name The Morning Journal.

If there's anything that leaps out at me as I scroll through endless rolls of vintage newspaper microfilm at the library, it's how much Lorain news used to be crammed into the former Lorain Journal. In the 1960s and 70s, the newspaper was chock-full of community news, especially pertaining to schools. The hiring of new teachers, school honor rolls, school dances, fun fairs, choir and band concerts, and poster contests used to be newsworthy.

I used to get a real thrill seeing my name in the paper for the honor roll. (Now the only way I see my name in the paper is for a traffic ticket.)

When it became The Morning Journal, it just wasn't the same paper. And with the focus now on being a regional newspaper (way beyond the former Golden Crescent), the whole Lorain flavor of the publication has been watered down. I'm not sure if it has helped or hurt sales. What good is it if someone in Castalia or Westlake buys it if there's Lorainites who don't?

I miss the old Lorain Journal. But I don't think it's ever coming back.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 1961 Big Town Ad

Here's an ad for the well-remembered Big Town department store chain that ran in the Journal on December 21, 1961. (Give the image a click for a larger image.)

The store on Tower Boulevard in Lorain wasn't open yet (for that story click here), so this ad is actually for the one out in North Ridgeville on Route 20.

The Big Town ads were always very distinctive with their thick, unique borders separating the various items for sale. This one has a great-looking Santa.

This full-page ad is loaded with interesting things for sale. The one that caught my eye first was the Kenner Give-A-Show Projector ad featuring our old pals Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. We had one in our house in the early 1960s, and it provided a lot of entertainment. (I can still remember the plots of some of the individual slides!) And if you got tired of looking at the cartoon strips, you could also use the device as an overhead projector. We used to project our own drawings on the wall and it was just plain fun. (Here's a link to a blog dedicated to vintage Give-A-Show slides!)

Other interesting items in the Big Town ad include card tables (remember when neighbors and friends got together to play cards?), Revere Ware tea kettles, and a 3-piece luggage set for $8.88!

I goofed! We did NOT have a Kenner Give-A-Show Projector. We had the elitist Kenner Super Show Projector (shown below). My brother Ken still has ours!

It was kind of a sophisticated version of the Give-A-Show that allowed you to project your own drawings on the wall in addition to the cartoon slides.

It also came with these jointed cardboard "puppets" (below) that you could clumsily manipulate to create your own primitive cartoon show that was projected on the wall, big as life.

I remember as a kid being confused as to just what we were supposed to do with these things. We had the exact ones shown above. Notice how Popeye looks like he needs to see a chiropractor!

Anyway, that's what passed for high-tech entertainment for Baby Boomers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Ghoulardi's Goulash

In case you've been wondering, I've refrained from trying to provide a detailed history of the now-demolished former Ghoulardi's building. That's because of the difficulty in trying to decipher the various addresses connected with the building over the years in the available city directories, which form a sort of goulash of facts.

The Morning Journal has admirably provided some history about the building (here and here) and listed a few businesses that used to call the building home. But, with such a variety of Broadway addresses associated with the building over the years, ranging from the 750s to the 770s, it's a real mess that I'm not sure anyone can figure out conclusively.

For example, it appears that in the 1933 city directory, there are three different Broadway addresses associated with the building: 760, 762 and 768-70. The Greenwald meat market (referred to in the Journal article) was at 760, 762 was vacant and 768-70 was R & B Auto Parts.

But by 1945, it appears that the only two addresses connected with the building were 766 and 770, with 766 being Rusines Mens Wear and 770 being Michael Rusines' drug store.

I looked through a few more city directories and found that The Huddle lounge (which had the 766 Broadway address along with Rieger & Company) was there a lot longer than I thought. One of the earliest listings of the popular bar was in the 1965 directory.

I was never in The Huddle, so if any of you have any memories of it (hey Alan!) be sure to post them. I was in Ghouldardi's a few times, however.

But the building – like so many others in Downtown Lorain that were home to well-remembered businesses – is gone now, so its colorful history really doesn't matter anymore. It's yet another vacant lot full of memories of Lorain past.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Major Lofton Henderson Remembered

Major Lofton Henderson
Back in November around Veterans Day, I featured Lorain native Corporal Charles J. Berry in a post by request. In a comment left on that post, Alan D. Hopewell reminded me that Major Lofton Russell Henderson – another Lorain native and Marine hero who gave his life for his country – should also be remembered here. So here is that post.

Major Lofton R. Henderson is well known for leading his squadron to attack the Japanese forces during the Battle of Midway, and consequently becoming the first Marine aviator to perish in that battle.

The 1942-43 Lorain High School Scimitar provided a nice capsule summary of his heroics:

On the fourth of June, 1942, Major Lofton R. Henderson and his small group of Marine Corps aviators took to the skies over Midway to defend the island from an attacking Japanese invasion force... Major Henderson and his greatly outnumbered group of scout bombers spotted the Japanese fleet and launched the attack... His plane... the leader was hit... immediately it burst into flames... He deliberately maneuvered his light bomber... plunged into the smokestack of an enemy carrier... He knew what he was doing... It cost him his life... but the destruction of the carrier was assured... His act of heroism spurred our forces on to that historic sea and air victory... That day the sun set... A Japanese sun, too, was setting... Control of the Pacific was in American hands.

In honor of Lofty's supreme sacrifice the United States Navy changed the name of the airfield on Midway from which he launched that epic attack... Later at Guadalcanal the "fighting leathernecks" defending that island also named the blood-soaked airfield there... Henderson Field... in memory of the man who delivered THEIR "Answer to Tojo."

Here is the Lorain Journal's front-page account of his actions (below). (Click on it for a readable version.) His parents were quite magnanimous when discussing his death.

Major Henderson posthumously received the Navy Cross for his heroism. The citation reads:

The Navy Cross is presented to Lofton R. Henderson, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Squadron Commander of Marine Scout-Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FORTY-ONE (VMSB- 241), during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. With utter disregard for his own personal safety, Major Henderson, with keen judgment and courageous aggressiveness in the face of strong enemy fighter opposition, led his squadron in an attack which contributed materially to the defeat of the enemy. He was subsequently reported as missing in action. It is believed he gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country.
The 21st Street (High Level) Bridge in Lorain was renamed the Lofton Henderson Memorial Bridge in his honor in October 1991. (And as we know, the bridge approach from the east is named Henderson Drive.)
The website includes an excellent and detailed biography of Major Henderson that includes some great photos. It also addresses the debate as to whether or not his plane was the one that was piloted into the smokestack. 
It doesn't really matter. Henderson remains the consummate hometown hero who not only gave his life for his country, but whose heroics inspired countless others during World War II to focus on defeating the enemy.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lorain Journal Pearl Harbor Front Page

Well, today is December 7th – National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – and a good day to look back at how the attack on Pearl Harbor played out in The Lorain Journal. Above is the front page of the paper from Monday, December 8th.

Click on the image for a larger, readable (if you have your glasses on, that is) version.

Scanning the various articles, you can get a taste of the anxiety and hysteria sweeping the nation as the United States found itself at war again.

Although it didn't have anything to do with the Pearl Harbor attack, the article at the bottom of the page about Lieutenant Sidney Muhart – the ex-Lorainite who was in the Royal Air Force of Britain – is kind of interesting.

According to the article, Lieut. Muhart was in an air battle with two German Messerschmitts, and his British Hurricane fighter plane sustained a cannon shot in its gas tank. He managed to land his plane, but was burned about the face and hands.

Of course, I wanted to find out more, so I looked him up in the Lorain City Directories. In the 1937 directory (the only listing I could find), Sidney N. Muhart resided at 1218 W. 20th Street, and worked as a glazier at Lorain Glass Company.

But how did he end up in the British Air Force? According to this online account, he had gone to Canada along with a buddy (Lance Wade) in the first year of the war and enlisted in the air force there.

Sadly, Lieut. Muhart was later killed in air action over Africa. (There are several online links that mention him, including this listing in a book called The Foreign Burial of American War Dead: A History. He's also mentioned on another website about the exploits of his friend Flight Lieutenant Lance Wade, as well as in the 1943 Lorain High School Scimitar.

Lieut. Muhart is buried in Heliopolis War Cemetery in Egypt – an unusual resting place for another of Lorain's unsung war heroes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dec 7, 1961 Shoreway Shopping Center Ad

Here's another vintage ad to put you in the Christmas spirit. This one ran in the Journal on December 7, 1961 (a mere 51 years ago tomorrow) and promoted the appearance of Santa Claus at Shoreway Shopping Center in my current town of Sheffield Lake.

Back in the late 50s and 60s, the various local shopping centers were literally at war with each other. Oakwood, Westgate, Sheffield Center and Shoreway were all still new at that point, and battling it out for a piece of the shopping pie in almost daily newspaper ads (which I'm sure the Morning Journal is nostalgic for). Each shopping center had its own Santa too, of course. Caught in the crossfire was Downtown Lorain, which put up a good fight until Midway Mall appeared.

Westgate Today
Today, Oakwood is gone, Westgate is an empty shell (at left) and Sheffield Center (oops, I mean Centre of Sheffield) and Shoreway each tore down part of their properties to enhance them a bit. Thankfully, Downtown Lorain is still somewhat alive and kicking thanks to the efforts of the city and various organizations dedicated to bringing it back.

Unfortunately, I don't think Santa Claus is going to be dropping by at Shoreway any time soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

1961 Decorated Lorain Homes – Then & Now

Here's a pair of photos of Lorain homes with Christmas decorations that appeared on the front page of the Journal back on December 26, 1961. (Click on the image for a larger view.) The pix were more or less filler on a slow news day.

The Journal photographer didn't exactly knock himself out choosing examples of Christmas lights around different parts of Lorain. Both homes were located near George Daniel Field, and were less than a minute apart by car! Maybe he lived around there.

The photos were interesting, though, because they reminded me that back in the 1960s, huge holiday displays were the exception, not the norm, in the west side neighborhood I grew up in.

Courtesy Etsy
Almost everybody had those old-fashioned Christmas lights (with the big screw-in bulbs) along the roof line. You rarely see them today, but back then everybody in our neighborhood had them. They were very bright, and looked great.

It was a real pleasure to go for a walk at night and see the colorful, comforting glow of those lights stretching all the way down the block. They looked even better when there was snow on the ground; it was a true winter wonderland.

Today's tiny Christmas lights don't hold a foot-candle to those lights of old. But they're probably a lot cheaper to illuminate.

Anyway, as for the two homes shown above, of course I had to drive over there this past Sunday and see what they looked like in the daylight in 2012. I was happy to see that both homes still look great and well-maintained (below).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Christmas Trees Arrived by Train

Here's an interesting reminder of how times have changed. The small article at left appeared on the front page of the Saturday, December 10, 1949 edition of The Lorain Journal And The Lorain Times-Herald. It was announcing the arrival of the first shipment of Christmas trees by rail in Lorain that season.

I've transcribed the short article below for easier reading, although you can click on the image for a larger version. Sorry the photo is so dark!

First Rail Shipment of Yule Trees Arrives

With only 15 days remaining until Christmas, the Yuletide spirit is blossoming in nearly every part of the city with the appearance of Christmas lights, Christmas carols and – most important the Christmas tree. Thousands of pines, spruce will be "sprouting" in backyards, garages, basements and on back porches this week. More than 400 bundles of trees, totaling 2,000 in all, were unloaded yesterday at the 12th-st and Broadway siding of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. The trees were the first to reach Lorain by rail this year and were shipped from Nova Scotia. Shown unloading trees from the box car are l-r: Alvin Gelman, Paul Reese and Ray Rogers. Gelman, to whom the trees were consigned, expects another rail shipment of trees early next week. He has already received two truck loads of trees totaling 4,000 in all.

Note that the Christmas trees were consigned to Alvin Gelman. Even though the Gelman Brothers business was not yet located in what we now commonly refer to as the Gel-Pak Building near the tracks (as I noted here), the company was nearby at 1218 Broadway.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The E. 37th Street Oval Christmas Tree

What do you call a short dead-end street with a circular turnaround at the end of it?

On the west side of Lorain, where I grew up, they were called courts. Loretta Court and Carmelita Court were right behind our house on W. 30th Street. Decades later, when I was watching Knots Landing, I learned they were also called cul-de-sacs.

But here's another name for that same kind of street: an oval.

Which brings me to today's post. I'd never heard of the E. 37th Street Oval in Lorain until I read the article below by John MacLeod, which appeared on the front page of the December 23, 1955 Lorain Journal. It's a neat little story of how a group of South Lorain neighbors did something annually to make their holiday season more enjoyable that not only embodied the true meaning of Christmas, but also the spirit of Lorain, the International City.


Neighborhood Melting Pot
Families on Oval Share Holiday Spirit

By John MacLeod

Families on the E. 37th Oval achieve annually what eludes nations: the ability to live together as civilized human beings should – with complete community cooperation. And it extends past Christmas into the entire year.

FOR THE past three years, seven families have tossed money into a pot to buy a Christmas tree, which is placed in the center of the circular street for all to enjoy.

They all get together to decorate and light it, and the expenses are distributed evenly.

During the time the tree is there, one man, who has a loud speaker system, plays carols nightly for the enjoyment of all.

THE UNUSUAL event is the product of an idea by Fred Fulgenzi, one of the members of the small circle of friends.

Fulgenzi is of Italian extraction. In the group of families, Croatian, Italian, Polish, German, Swiss, Hungarian and Mexican origins are represented, as are several religions.

It all goes to prove a man's extraction and religion have nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas or the ability to love his neighbor.

THE TREE is placed and lighted about one week before Christmas, and stays up until the day after New Year's Day. That way, each family takes charge of the lighting for two nights.

It is no electric drain on anyone that way. Each family pays for the purchase of one string of lights for the tree, and the cost of the symbol of Christmas is divided. Frank Septaric spends his own electricity to play the carols.

The families include 17 children.

Mr. and Mrs. Fulgenzi have a daughter; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sulkoski, Mr. and Mrs. Manuel J. Martinez, Mrs. Mary Schneider and Mr. and Mrs. Don Matzke each have one daughter and one son.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Petty have two sons and a daughter, and Mr. and Mrs. Septaric have four boys and a girl.

THE FAMILIES visit each other throughout Christmas Day, and they all get together for a party on New Year's Eve.

But, during the rest of every year – most of them have lived in the oval for about six years – they extend the welcoming hand of friendship to each other.

They truly represent an international settlement.


I drove out there recently just to see where this all took place. It's hard to tell from the vintage photo, but it looks like originally there was a grassy island in the oval. It's gone now.

Here's the oval today.

I don't know how long those families were able to keep up their wonderful tradition. It sure would be great if the current residents of the oval are still doing it.

I suppose, though, that it would be difficult to try and do something like that today – in the E. 37th Street Oval, or anywhere for that matter. Many families, especially in Lorain, are struggling to make ends meet on an ongoing basis – and a neighborhood Christmas tree would be a real luxury.

But it's a nice idea anyway.