Thursday, April 30, 2015

What used to be in that building at 2834 Broadway?

I haven't done one of these in a while–where I photograph some arbitrary building, and then research it in the library to find out what business originally called it home over the years.

In this case, however, I already knew what longtime Lorain business was located in this building at 2834 Broadway. Do you remember?

Perhaps like me, you had your senior pictures photographed by John J. Gargus at Gargus Studio. If so, then you most likely had them shot in this small box-like building.

1955 Lorain Phone Book ad
The original Gargus Studio was located at 1561 E. 33rd Street, from around 1946 or so until about 1948. Beginning with the 1949 directory, the business was at 2834 Broadway.

The studio continued to be located here even after Mr. Gargus retired in 1977. The business finally disappeared from the city directory beginning with the 1983 edition.

I had thought that perhaps some other businesses preceded Gargus Studio at this location and that's what I was hoping to find out. But according to the city directories, the original building in the back was merely a residence before that, hosting various tenants at the same time. So it appears that Gargus Studio was the first business in the front addition to the house.

Interestingly, the Lorain County Auditor website has the house listed as being built in 1875.

You can read more about John Gargus here.

Some of the subsequent businesses that called 2834 Broadway home include Ritenauer Real Estate (mid to late 1980s), Century 21, Mid Town Security AgencyComputer Exchange and West Furniture.

I still chuckle when I look at my senior pictures. It was a very hot day in July when they were taken, and I was wearing an uncomfortable, heavy brown jacket that was not unlike a bearskin rug. And I was wearing shorts, since they weren't going to be in the camera frame.

I didn't wear a jacket and shorts combination again until my honeymoon in Bermuda.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Demolition Aftermath Update: 5475 E. Lake Road in Sheffield Lake

Back here, I wrote about "the Vanishing Sheffield Lake Cottages," my observation that the city's tiny, original vacation homes (that eventually became full-time residences) were beginning to slowly disappear.

A few cottages at 5475 E. Lake Road in Sheffield Lake (just west of the 103rd O.V.I. grounds) had been put up for sale in 2011. That's an aerial view of them above, with the property outlined and marked with a red pin.

It took almost three years, but the cottages were finally torn down. Here is my shot from September 2014 (below).

Anyway, while coming back from photographing the house in Avon Lake from yesterday's post, I stopped to see the progress on the new Sheffield Lake home that replaced the torn-down cottages. Here's my shot (below).
It's an interesting location for a large, modern house with the small cottages to the west, and the historic buildings of the 103rd O.V.I. to the east.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Demolition Aftermath Update: 32990 Lake Road in Avon Lake

A little less than a year ago, I blogged about the gradual demolition of the house at 32990 Lake Road in Avon Lake in a two part series (here and here). That's it above, in a photo courtesy of the Lorain County Auditor's website.

Here's a shot (below) from my series of demolition photos from late May 2014.

Almost a year later, a fine new home (below) has been constructed on the site and seems to be getting its finishing touches. It's positioned slightly to the east of where the old house sat. (It's the same big tree in both shots.)
I really like the new house. Although it's a lot larger than the old house, it seems to be designed to look like it was a small house that was gradually enlarged over the years. Plus, it's not a garish architectural monstrosity that you often see squeezed onto a lakefront lot previously occupied by a humble cottage or ranch. The architect had plenty of room to work with here but designed a charming, tasteful house that seems to fit in with Avon Lake's personality.

Here's another view without the fence.

By the way, the old carriage house is still standing (below). I hope it continues to be a part of the property as a historic link to the past.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Aerial Photo Fun #2

Although it's been a while since I stopped in, I used to scrounge through the photo files of the Lorain Historical Society quite regularly looking for a shot of this or that to accompany a blog post. In one of the file drawers was a sleeve with a stack of aerial photos that were believed to be in Lorain but were marked, "unknown."

Now, anyone who reads this blog for a while knows I love a good mystery (as well as wasting time trying to solve it). So I grabbed some quick hand-held copies of the photos with the hopes that I could figure out where they were.

Back here, I wrote about how one of the photos turned out to be an aerial photo of the Elberta Inn in Vermilion. Well, here are two photos, offering views of another mystery subject (below).

At first glance, I thought, "Aha! That's the old Sanitarium (now Golden Acres). But then I realized that the building in the photo sits too far back from the main road.  Plus, Golden Acres does not have those winding lanes.
My next guess was some kind of housing development in its infancy– or perhaps a park, museum or sports complex. But the erratic layout of the road didn't make sense, and it sure didn't look like anything in Lorain.
Have you figured out what kind of property this is yet? The clue to solving this mystery was in the top photo at far right: a heart-shaped lane.
I had a hunch, and it didn't take long to find what I was looking for–in North Olmsted!
I'm sure you probably guessed already that the aerial photo was of a cemetery. 
But Sunset Memorial Park on Columbia Road in North Olmsted is much more than a cemetery. It also provides funeral planning services, as well as banquet facilities and catering. Their Signature Services include the releasing of white birds at graveside, caisson service and musical tributes utilizing a bagpiper, string trio or harpist.
I happened to be attending a funeral a few doors down from Sunset Memorial Park last summer, so I stopped in for a few shots.
Westwood Abbey, the lone building in the vintage aerial shot, has been enlarged over the years.

Here's a modern aerial courtesy of Bing Maps (below).

As beautiful as Sunset Memorial Park is, though, I'm glad my future resting place is Elmwood Cemetery in Lorain. But like Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) said to Mattie Hayes at the end of True Grit (after she told him she wanted him buried next to her), "Excuse me if I don't try to move in too soon."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Amber Oaks Closes

According to some comments posted on the "You know you're from Sheffield or Sheffield Lake if..." Facebook page, Amber Oaks quietly closed for good at the end of last weekend.

I saw the sign on Monday during my commute and didn't realize that it was the owners' way of saying goodbye to the community.

A 1971 view of the original building
It's very sad. The restaurant had been part of Sheffield Lake since it opened in 1963. (I wrote about its Grand Opening here and here.)

Although I hadn't eaten there in a while, for many years it was our preferred choice for family celebrations and New Year's Eve dinner.

The restaurant obviously still had many fans, judging by the many cars in the parking lot.

Here's wishing the owners a Happy Retirement, along with my thanks for providing a backdrop for so many of our family get-togethers.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lake Shore Electric Railway Ad – April 1, 1931

At left is an attractive ad for the Lake Shore Electric Railway, which ran in the Lorain Journal on April 1, 1931 – 84 years ago this month. It's a nice reminder that there was a time when you could board an interurban car and enjoy a carefree ride to destinations all over northern Ohio. As the ad says, "Big comfortable steel cars operated by experts get you there safely and quickly and with the greatest ease and comfort."

It's a real pity we don't have anything like that today. Over the years during my daily commute to Cleveland, I've taken the bus and driven my own car. Neither has been very satisfying, although I could at least sleep on the bus (much to the annoyance of the person next to me).

If you're interested in learning more about the Lake Shore Electric Railway, spend some time on Drew Penfield's Lake Shore Rail Maps website. He has the route from Cleveland to Berlin Heights broken down into separate sections (such as Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, etc.)

Each section has interesting and informative text along with rarely seen photographs, some from the archives of local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont.

Best of all, each section has its own Google map link with all the stops indicated, as well as a list of the stops. It's a handy reference for historians when the only address available for a long-gone local business along Route 6 is a stop number such as "Stop 109" (which happens to be the location of both the Pueblo and the Lorain Country Club).

My father was born in 1921, so he remembered the interurbans well and used to talk about them. On the other hand, my mother was born in 1927 and rarely got out of Lorain in her early years. So she has no memories of riding the interurbans before they went out of business in 1938, and were replaced by buses.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lorain City Hall to Undergo Face-Lifting – April 22, 1947

This painting of Lorain's former city hall hangs in the current city hall
The announcement that Lorain's city hall was going to be spruced up was front page news in the Lorain Journal of Tuesday, April 22, 1947 – 68 years ago today.

Here's the story (below). The fixing up of city hall was part of a larger "spring cleaning" campaign in Lorain, in which councilmen were charged with making sure their wards were "the cleanest in town."

Lorain City Hall to Undergo Spring Face-Lifting

The residence that has served as city hall nearly 40 years will definitely get a much-needed face-lifting operation this spring.

That assurance was given by city councilmen last night as they enthusiastically joined in the spirit of Lorain's "spring cleaning" campaign slated May 12 to 30.

In addition to promising their whole-hearted cooperation in the drive, the solons authorized Service Director Wallace Chapla to take on bids on painting and repairing city hall inside and out at a cost not to exceed $1,200.

The director sent out an S. O. S. to council in the form of an ordinance, after the old building showed signs of "splitting her seams" during a recent rainstorm.

Not only has the hall sprung leaks in many places, but her "plates have been buckling" due to the ravages of time and the elements.

The building now used as city hall was built by William Jones for his private residence during the last century. It was the most pretentious house in Charleston village.

Jones died Jan. 15, 1888 after a record of building 40 vessels at his local shipyards. After Jones' death, John Stang purchased the property and resided in it until his death in 1899 in the room now used as the auditor's office.

Records show the city bought the building in the early 1900's from Herb Little, Stang's son-in-law, and in 1908 an architect was hired to remodel the structure.

The last time the hall was given a re-painting was in 1944 during the administration of Mayor Harry G. Van Wagnen.

Council voted full cooperation with next month's clean-up, paint-up, and plant-up drive, after Mayor Patrick J. Flaherty asked appointment of a special committee comprised of councilmen to take active part.

Council President John Jaworski responded by designating the committee of the whole–which consists of all councilmen–to serve as the special panel. He urged each ward representative to strive to make his district the cleanest in town.

Carl Eversman is chairman of the executive committee in charge of the campaign. He is assisted by James Colgan and Fire Chief Elmer Stough, co-vice chairman.

Elsewhere on that same April 1947 front page of the Journal was a small item with the title, "DRIVE-IN CAFE IN LORAIN OPPOSED." It read, "Protesting anticipated use of former W. Erie-av service station as a drive-in eating place, a petition was presented to city council last night and referred to the building and lands committee. The petition was signed by 15 alleged property owners who wanted the area surrounding the former service station near W. Erie-av and 5th-st to be classified for residential purposes only.

The only filling station in that area at that time was a Gulf station located on the southwest corner of West Erie and Brownell Avenues, just a little east of the park with the Big V at Fifth Street. So I'm guessing that was the property in question.

The anticipated drive-in restaurant never came to pass, because the location apparently had some life left in it selling gas. It became one of the stations operated by Fred Hunger and lasted at least into the 1960s.

The residents who signed the petition back in 1947 would be happy today, as the service station at 1301 West Erie Avenue is long gone.

Courtesy Google Maps

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My First Texas Burger at Dog 'N Suds

The scene on Saturday night
After writing about Ilene's Dog 'N Suds on Friday, I was looking forward to my first visit to the drive-in this season. So when it turned out that I was on my own for dinner Saturday night, I knew where I was going to end up.

Plus, I was looking forward to trying something new there. I'd been working my way through a huge pot of homemade chili all week, and had even made chili dogs at home one night. So coney dogs were off the menu that night.

The view out my window
I decided to try the Texas Burger instead. And I'm mighty glad I did, pardner.

For the uninformed, the Texas Burger has been a regular on Dog 'N Suds menus all over the country for decades. It's basically a double-decker charco-broiled hamburger with the famous Dog 'N Suds coney sauce on it. Based on what I've read online, each Dog 'N Suds outlet makes it a little different, customizing it for local taste buds.

The Texas Burger has shredded lettuce and a white sauce on it, making it sort of the Midway Oh Boy's Texas cousin. The burgers tasted just like they were cooked over charcoal – just how I like'em.

Here's what mine looked like (below).

My Texas Burger
I really enjoyed my Texas Burger, and this cowboy is already looking forward to his next one. I think I'll even recommend that the Texas Bradys try one when they roll into town this summer on their annual visit.

By the way, the Lorain Morning Journal recently ran a very nice article by Drew Scofield about the Dog 'N Suds on N. Ridge Road (which you can read here). It has a nice profile of Ilene Sowards Hampton, the owner, as well as a discussion of–you guessed it–the Texas Burger.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lorain Sokol Society Hall – Then and Now

Rick Kurish is a regular contributor to this blog, helping with research and offering suggestions for topics. He recently sent me the link to the above postcard, which is currently for sale on Ebay.

The real photo postcard (which was postmarked 1909) has an unusual Ebay description because of its hard-to-read inscription. It's listed as "LORAIN SOUTH HOLLORAIN SOKOL CLUB HOUSE BUILDING."

I thought that the building was in South Lorain, until I found a mention of it on the Lorain Public Library's online history. For the year 1908, there is a line that reads, "The Czechoslovak Society of America builds Sokol Hall on Kelly Place." That put the building on the west side, west of Reid Avenue between W. 23rd and W. 25th Streets.

I consulted the Lorain Public Library's city directories to learn about the building. The earliest available book with the building listed was the 1912 edition, which simply lists the building as "Dance Hall." Subsequent books list it as Sokol Lorain (1915) or Sokol Hall (1924).

The 1947 directory still had the building listed as Sokol Hall, but as of the 1950 edition, the listing changed. It was now identified as Youth's Center for a few years before the address went vacant through much of the 1950s. The building returned to its roots by the early 1960s, when it became home to the Czech Society of America Hall. It continued with this listing until 1967, when it became Wings of Faith Church.

Today (below), the 2400 Kelly Place address is home to Ministerio Pentecostal Luz De Salvacion.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cat Burglar at Dog 'n Suds – October 1963

Dog 'n Suds has been open a few weeks now, and it reminded me that I had this little news item about the iconic drive-in. It appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on October 18, 1963.

'Skinny' burglar cuts mustard

Lorain County Sheriff's deputies are looking for a skinny burglar who broke into the new Dog-n-Suds Drive-in, 2050 North Ridge Rd., Wednesday night by slipping through the slats of a jalousie window at the side of the stand.

Deputies said the slats were only about 12 inches apart. The burglar got away with about $170, according to Manager Dick Tomanek, former Cleveland Indians pitcher.

Deputy Charles Bulger said he discovered the break-in while on a routine check this morning at 3:20. He said the burglar must have made his escape through a rear door just as deputies arrived, but a search of the area failed to turn up anyone.

Bulger said the  burglar seemed to know where the cash box was hidden behind a gallon jar of mustard. The jar had been swept off the counter and the mustard was all over the floor, he said. The burglar forced one of the slats on the window, cut through the screen inside, then was able to reach a crank on the inside to open the jalousie, Bulger reported.

From the book,
"Pitching to the Pennant:
the 1954 Cleveland Indians"
It's interesting that in the article, the restaurant is referred to as the "new Dog-n-Suds Drive-in," further supporting my belief that it really hasn't been there as long as everyone thinks. (I did a whole post on the inconsistencies associated with the dates that the drive-in originally opened.)

I also didn't know that Dick Tomanek (at right) had once been the manager of the place. It makes sense, since the former Indians pitcher (1953-54) was born in Avon Lake and had just finished up his Major League Baseball career a couple of years earlier.

He had also appeared at the grand opening of the Lorain Westgate Shopping Center (which I wrote about here).

Early Passing Scene Cartoon – April 17, 1965

To finish out this week, here's one of the earliest "The Passing Scene" cartoons (above) by Gene Patrick that I've ever seen. It ran in the Lorain Journal on April 17, 1965 – 50 years ago today.

Although you might not notice it, the style is a little different from his later strips. It's a little bit simpler, with less Zip-a-Tone (the rub-down adhesive-backed film that adds dots to an area to give it a tone) and solid black inked areas. But the style is still effective and compliments the humor.

For comparison, here's one from June 1974 (below). It's just a little more polished.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Barbarossa Beer Ad – April 8, 1947

Here's another vintage beer ad that ran in the Lorain Journal during the month of April. Only this time the date is April 8, 1947 – and the beer is Barbarossa.

It's a nice, stylish ad. I like the tagline too: A Welcome Label on any Table.

According to the book, Cincinnati's Brewing History, Barbarossa was brewed by the Red Top Brewing Company and was its premium brand of beer. It was produced solely at the Dayton Street plant until the demise of Red Top in 1957.

Courtesy of
The book also reveals the story behind the beer's unusual name. It states that the iconography of the Barbarossa label (at left) "revolves around the legend of Frederick I, the king of Germany and a Holy Roman emperor. According to this legend, Frederick, also known as Barbarossa, never actually dies but bides his time in a cave, waiting for the ravens to cease flying so he can return to Germany in triumph."

Somehow, that creepy story doesn't exactly make me want to reach for a cold, refreshing Barbarossa.

But it must have worked for my grandfather, though. According to my mother, it was her father's favorite beer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Old Dutch Beer Ad – April 15, 1965

April 15, 1965 ad from the Lorain Journal
Just in time to take your mind off the unpleasantness of Tax Day 2015, here's a vintage ad for Old Dutch Beer. It ran in the Lorain Journal on April 15, 1965 – 50 years ago today.
(Old Dutch Beer is one of those topics that keeps popping up on this blog again and again over the years.)
Why is this ad interesting to me? Because it's part of an Old Dutch advertising campaign that seems very foreign to me – and I don't mean Dutch.   
By 1957, the company that produced Old Dutch Beer – the Krantz Brewing Corporation – had merged with International Breweries of Detroit. Sadly, after the merger, the classic Old Dutch Beer label was revamped to conform to the standard IBI label design. The trademark old German couple was reduced to what was basically a cameo appearance on the label.
At left is a photo of the bottle in the ad, courtesy of
The above ad reflects that change in the brewery's ownership and consequently the marketing of Old Dutch Beer. The typeface of the Old Dutch logo is different. So is the classic tagline. Instead of "The Good Beer," it reads: "The Good-time Beer." Apparently (and mercifully), these changes didn't last. 
Unfortunately, the Findlay brewery didn't either. 
In March 1966 – about a year after this ad – International Breweries announced the closing of the Findlay plant. The Old Dutch brand was sold to the Associated Brewing Company of Detroit. Later it would have even more owners, including Queen City Brewing Company and lastly, Pittsburgh Brewing Company. 
At least these new owners realized that there was still a lot of value and goodwill left in the brand, and the classic Old Dutch label design and tagline were restored (below).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pittsfield Civil War Monument Dedication Date Resolved

Thanks to Jeff Sigsworth, I now have a confirmed date for the dedication of Pittsfield's Civil War Monument (shown above).

You might remember that back here, I told how I was having trouble finding any mention of the dedication of the monument in a newspaper. The Lorain County Historical Society's online history of the monument says it was erected on August 13, 1894, but I was unable to find any article connected with that date in the available newspapers.

I feel it's important to get these historical dates right and on record – before it's too late.

Fortunately, Jeff left a comment on my original Palm Sunday Tornado 50th Anniversary post saying that he had seen an article that had the date as August 12, 1896.

As it turns out, that date was correct (well, maybe one day off). The Lorain County Reporter of August 8, 1896 included the following information in the paper's section on Pittsfield:

"The Lorain county soldiers' and sailors' reunion will take place at Pittsfield, Thursday, Aug. 13th, and from present indications will be one of the best occasions ever held at this place. The citizens of Pittsfield extend a hearty and cordial invitation to all to come by on that day and help us dedicate our monument and enjoy the occasion with us. Following is the program: Business meeting and election of officers; address of welcome; response; dinner; dedication of monument at 1 p. m. by G. A. R.; oration, Col. Winship, of Cleveland; short address by comrades. Plenty of music all day."

From the Lorain County Reporter of August 8, 1896
Apparently, the dedication ceremony had a top-notch speaker in Col. Winship, who had fought during the first battle of Bull Run as a member of Company A, Fifth Maine Infantry. After the war, he maintained a large general law office in Cleveland.

History of the Republican Party in Ohio Vol. II (1898) includes an extensive biography of him. In the book he is described as "a natural-born orator and versatile speaker." The book also notes, "Colonel Winship never fails to inspire enthusiasm in his audience; he is a fluent and eloquent speaker, and by his logic, wit, sarcasm and pathos, all reinforced by a well disciplined and cultivated mind, stored with wide and varied knowledge, he carries conviction to his bearers and maintains a position in the front rank of political orators."

Special thanks to Jeff Sigsworth for his help with the date of the dedication.

Monday, April 13, 2015

50th Anniversary of Pittsfield Tornado Commemorative Program

The scene outside the Pittsfield Town Hall Saturday afternoon
On Saturday, I managed to make it down to Pittsfield for the event sponsored by the Pittsfield Township Historical Society commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado. It was held at the Town Hall at Routes 58 and 303. I knew it was going to be a big event, because the parking lot was already packed when my mother and I arrived, a half-hour before the scheduled start.

The Pittsfield Township Historical Society put on an ambitious program. First was the dedication of a plaque (at right) outside the Hall, honoring those who died during the tornado. The church bell at the nearby Pittsfield Community Church solemnly tolled once as the speaker finished reading each victim's biography.

Next, a documentary produced by Wellington High School students was shown, in which Pittsfield tornado survivors were interviewed about what they remembered from that fateful day. The short film was followed by an entertaining presentation by Roger Pickenpaugh, author of "Night of the Wicked Winds," in which he told the story of the Palm Sunday tornadoes.

As the program drew to a close, people that lived through the tornado and had a story to tell were invited to share it with the crowd in the well-packed room. Some of the survivors still had difficulty talking about it 50 years later, and their stories were punctuated with tears and sobs. For many of the people, the tornado was the defining event of their lives.

Hearing the recollections of the survivors, and the stories of how everyone pulled together to help each other in the hours after the tornado, really drove home the feeling of community that the Pittsfield Township residents share.

Lastly, some rare clips from home movies showing tornado damage were shown to end the program.

Before the program started, there were tables set up around the room with displays of photos of the tornado damage, as well as yellowing newspapers from the days following the disaster. So I joined the line of people slowly moving past each table, studying each artifact and document.

At one point, I looked down at an old Chronicle-Telegram with an article about a woman who – after the tornado had struck her house – had ended up in a ditch on Route 303, buried under several feet of debris until one of her sons found her. She lived through the ordeal, but was unable to walk after that.

The gentleman next to me saw me reading the article, and pointed to it. "That was my mother," he told me matter-of-factly.

In an instant, I imagined my own mother in such a horrible situation. All I could say to him was, "I'm so sorry."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pittsfield Tornado Damage Wire Photo

Well, the big 50th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado is this Saturday, so I thought I'd post this great aerial photo of the intersection of Routes 58 and 303 taken a few days after the disaster. The aerial photo (from the Columbus Dispatch) appeared on, by way of

The Associated Press wirephoto is interesting because it shows the crop marks done as a guide for the camera/stripping department of a newspaper – meaning the photo is from a collection of old newspaper photos.

Pittsfield Township Historical Society is holding a dedication ceremony at the Township Hall on Saturday, April 11 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. There will be a plaque dedication, refreshments, artifacts and stories. There are also special guests that are scheduled to appear, as well as newly found historical recordings.

Anyway, here's the aerial view of the same area today (below), courtesy of Bing Maps.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In Search of Bessie Rider – Part 4

When I first started researching Bessie Rider, I had very low expectations that I'd ever be able to find out anything about her. That's why it was so thrilling for me to find out that Dr. Charles "Eddie" Herdendorf of the Sheffield Village Historical Society actually knew her as "Aunt Bess," and was able to share some photos and reminisces with me.

Dr. Herdendorf related to me how Bessie and one of her brothers played matchmaker to her sister Ada. As he explained, "My grandfather Henry "Harry" Garfield Root had traveled to California as a young man, but not finding work there returned home about 1911. Back in Ohio, Harry renewed his friendship with cousin and neighbor, Roy Taylor. Roy happened to be a patient of Dr. Tromley, a Lorain dentist with a young assistant named Bess Rider.

"Roy was dating Bess and knew that she had an older sister named Ada, who worked as a switchboard operator at the steel mill where her father was a manager. In any event, Roy and Bess decided to play matchmaker and introduced Ada to Harry—a match that resulted in a 59-year marriage."

Dr. Herdendorf also reached out to his cousins (Suzie Rantz and Melinda Rider Newton) to see if they had any stories or memories of Bessie.

Suzie Rantz (whose mother was Margaret Rider, a sister of Bessie) confirmed that Bessie did lose an eye, and wore a glass eye as a result. Bessie must have developed a sense of humor about it, because Suzie remembers that she would take out the glass eye to fascinate her nieces and nephews!

There's a slight debate among the cousins as to whether Bessie ever got married or not. According to Suzie, Bessie had gotten married, but was soon divorced. Melinda Rider Newton believes that Bessie never got married, but was once engaged. Melinda still has the engagement ring.

Melinda also provided several wonderful photos of Bessie through the years.

Here's Bessie (at left) and her sister Ada at the water pump, circa 1894 (below).

This is Bessie in 1897 (below) with McKeesport, Pennsylvania as a backdrop.
By 1908 – two years after she appeared on the real photo postcards, Bessie had become a beautiful young lady (below).
We also get a few glimpses of a smiling Bessie later in life. Here she is in 1940 (below).
Lastly, here she is apparently enjoying hitting the golf ball around in 1955 (below).
Bessie was still a dental assistant when she retired.
She passed away at the age of 73 on March 23, 1964 at McCleabs Rest Home in Warren, Ohio. She is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Lorain.
It was fascinating to me to see how the stars aligned to make everything fell into place so that the story of Bessie Rider could be told. It's very satisfying to discover that she apparently enjoyed a happy and fulfilling life, despite that very unfortunate event that happened in her early years.
Special thanks to Dr. Charles "Eddie" Herdendorf for his help with the preparation of this special blog series. Be sure to read his fascinating history of the Rider family and their many interesting historical contributions and connections on page nine of the September 2011 Village Pioneer (click here).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Search of Bessie Rider – Part 3

Bessie Rider – the girl on the 1906 postcards – and her family had disappeared from the Lorain city directories after 1915. I assumed they had moved out of the area, and that it would be impossible to find out anything more about her or the fate of her eyesight. But I decided to do a little more online research, focusing on other family members. Perhaps an obituary of one of them would list Bessie, and provide a clue as to what the rest of her life had been like.

I was lucky and uncovered a few obituaries. Maude Rider (Bessie's mother) had passed away in 1941. Her obituary in the Warren Tribune Chronicle stated that the family had moved from Lorain to Youngstown. It also revealed that Bessie and her sister Margaret had been living with their mother in Youngstown when she died.

I also found Bessie's sister Ada's obituary in the Lorain Journal. Interestingly, she had married a Sheffield Village farmer named Harry Root – thus connecting her with the well-known pioneering Root family. Ada passed away in 1977.

But I still hadn't found anything specifically about Bessie or her life.

Finally, while researching the Rider sons, I found a link to an online issue of The Village Pioneer. (The Village Pioneer is the Journal of the Sheffield Village Historical Society and Cultural Center). An article in the publication mentioned that four of the Rider sons had volunteered for service during World War I. 

The article also made reference to an earlier issue of  The Village Pioneer that mentioned the sons, and I excitedly looked for it online. When I found that issue (September 2011), I couldn't believe my eyes. An article – entitled "The Rider Family in Sheffield" – was all about Bessie's family!

(Courtesy of Sheffield Village Historical Society)
The article was written by Dr. Charles "Eddie" Herdendorf, the Director of the Sheffield Village Historical Society's Director. It recalled the early history of the Rider family, beginning with their exodus from McKeesport, Pennsylvania – where patriarch Harry had worked for National Tube –and their arrival in Lorain around 1904 as Harry transferred to the company's new plant. Although the article did not mention Bessie specifically, it did include a photo of her as a little girl.

And why was there an article about the Riders in The Village Pioneer in the first place? Because Dr. Herdendorf was related to them! (I should have guessed this, because one of Ada Root's daughters had married a man with the last name of Herdendorf!) I contacted Dr. Herdendorf to share my research with him, and to see if he had any knowledge or memory of Bessie.

He did indeed, and was happy to share his recollections of her with me.

"Yes, I knew Aunt Bess quite well, she was actually a great aunt—my grandmother Ada's sister," he wrote. "Although my grandmother never got along with her younger sister too well, I liked Aunt Bess a lot. She was quite a photographer and did her own developing."

"When I was a pre-teen, she seemed to take a liking to me too, and taught me how to develop photos and eventually gave me all of her darkroom equipment. She lived in the Cleveland area, but I don't recall when she died. I think it might have been in the 1970s. She never married as far as I know or at least she wasn't married when I knew her. I was surprised to hear about the loss of an eye. I never knew it and it was never apparent.

"I do have a photo of her playing in the snow in front of the house where I now live," he noted. Here is the photo (below).
Tomorrow, I'll conclude this look at the life of Bessie Rider with some final reminisces from Dr. Herdendorf and his cousins, as well as a wonderful photo gallery.