Friday, May 26, 2017

Vintage Coal Bills

It's funny that although the Zboray Coal ad that I posted recently was originally just a filler, it seems to have kindled (or stoked, if you prefer) some readers' memories, and generated some interesting emails.

Longtime blog contributor Bob Kovach (who has provided me with many great photos and reminisces over the years) contacted me recently and sent me some scans of some great vintage records relating to Lorain coal orders (shown below).

Bob wrote, "I thought you might get a kick out of these. About twenty some years ago, I was hired to clean some old file cabinets out of a basement on Broadway. They were filled with a wealth of information about old Lorain as far back as the turn of the century.

"They were files from a very old law firm in Lorain, forgotten for decades I imagine. The sad thing is I had thrown a lot out before I finally took a good look at what they were. Luckily, I managed to hold on to quite a bit of history."
We’re lucky that Bob saved these, as I'm sure that in 2017 there aren't too many of these things floating around anymore. Thanks for sharing (as usual), Bob!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

For Safety, Health & Economy – Burn Coal!

I thought this full-page ad for the Zipp - Stack - Miller Coal Company of Lorain was rather interesting. It ran in the Lorain Journal on June 21, 1955 and basically makes the case to stick with a coal furnace.

The particular model of coal heating unit being promoted in the ad was fully automatic and self-stoking. The ashes that were generated were removed by vacuum and placed in a sealed container. The unit was also said to be a very compact size of 40" long, 30" wide and four feet high.

Also of interest in the ad is the fact that the coal company had sold their previous property to the Lorain Journal for its new building.

The ad also provides a roll call of coal brands, including Pocahontas. Local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont passed along an interesting observation to me about Pocahontas coal.

Dennis noted that the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine is a tourist attraction. He noted, "It is interesting that the mine we used to get our coal from is a landmark now, and mines that still use that same vein provide coal to the folks that still use it in steam locomotives."

Dennis also reminisced about life in a home heated by coal.

"Very few people remember that spring cleaning used to involve wiping down each room with wallpaper cleaner (playdough now) to get the soot off the walls. We quit coal when it went to $25/ton and my dad converted the furnace to gas."

Lastly, Dennis made me aware of another local option for heating your home in the old days.

"National Tube used to sell coke to employees and that was very hot and clean burning ...they also sold you the white iron grates that you needed to handle the hot burning coke.  They were made in our own foundry, of course."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Basement Memories

Writing about coal last week reminded me of the furnace in the first house I ever bought, on Nebraska Avenue in Lorain (in the Hoy-Lo-Mae Allotment).

The house was built in the early 1940s and still had an ancient gravity furnace in the basement. That's it above, as it looked when we moved in.

I remember looking inside that monstrous thing a few times. It was mostly just a large, empty shell – which makes me wonder if it been converted from coal to gas.

Of course, the ductwork was covered with asbestos, which we discovered when it was time to replace the old furnace with a high efficiency gas furnace. (By the way, the new one was a Janitrol; many people turn up their nose at that brand, but we never had any problems with it at all.)

It was nice to get rid of this pipe (below) when we replaced the furnace.

The rest of the basement left a big impression on me. There was a huge precast concrete double utility sink (shown below).

That thing weighed a ton – I oughta know. I had to eventually bust it up with a sledgehammer when we got rid of it. It wasn’t easy; many of my blows just bounced off it.
In the photo, you can see our mismatched washer and dryer from Dye's Appliance in Lorain. That setup was the best arrangement we could come up with. You can also see the fuse box up in the corner, which still had those old screw-in type fuses.
Although you can't see it in the photo above, there was also a leaky root cellar to the left of the utility sink. The root cellar was actually under the patio. The entrance to it was a large, jagged hole in the basement wall that looked like someone had used dynamite to make it. It looked like a prison break had taken place.
How do I know it was a root cellar? That's what the original owners of the house said it was, after I tracked them down in Amherst and called and asked them. They were quite elderly when I called them, but they graciously answered all my questions.
Anyway, the root cellar was creepy and full of cobwebs. It also leaked when it rained. But there were some pretty good shelves in there, so we stored things in it anyway. 
I didn't go in it very often, and I still think we left some stuff in there when we moved.
It’s still hard to believe that the root cellar was under this patio (below).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lynn Gardner Trio Plays the Showboat – May 11, 1957

Longtime readers of this blog know that I enjoy posting old Lorain nightclub ads spotlighting the performers that were appearing. Here’s an ad for an appearance of the Lynn Gardner Trio at Gus Athan’s Showboat Restaurant. The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on May 11, 1957. (Can you find the major typo?)

It didn’t take much research to find out that Lynn Gardner had enjoyed a fine career as a vocalist dating back to the early 1940s when she sang with the Will Bradley big band. The attractive singer made several recordings with the band, including “I’m Tired of Waiting For You.”

According to this biography, she “hit the hotel and theater circuit as a solo artist” in the mid-1940s. At some point she formed a popular trio that was still going strong near the end of the 1950s.
The Lynn Gardner Trio was performing every evening at Harrah’s Club, Lake Tahoe according to a column in the March 29, 1957 Reno Gazette-Journal. And less than two months later, she passed through little ol' Lorain, Ohio.
Here’s hoping that Miss Gardner is still around and enjoying retirement.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sutter’s Nut Shop

I was happy to find the above Grand Opening ad for Sutter’s Nut Shop, which ran in the Lorain Journal on May 21, 1937. I had only mentioned Sutter’s once previously on this blog, so it was about time that I put the spotlight on this longtime, well-remembered Lorain business.

Actually, there were two businesses run by John H. Sutter – with one on each side of Broadway. Sutter’s Nut Shop was located at 636 Broadway next to the Tivoli Theatre. Sutter’s Sandwich Shop was at 525 Broadway.

Sutter’s Nut Shop seems to be the earlier of the two businesses, first appearing in the city directory and phone book in 1937. The sandwich store was in the next available directory, the 1940 edition.

For a time, there were more Sutter’s outlets listed in the city directory in addition to the two main stores in Downtown Lorain. In the early 1940s, there was one at 1924 Broadway and another at 2832 Broadway. There were even two stores on Pearl. But by the late 1940s, the two main stores located downtown were all that were listed in the directory,

Sutter’s Nut Shop was often listed as a confectionery, which is basically a sweet shop where one could purchase candy.

It was a very popular store. “You couldn’t beat Sutter’s. That’s where the kids would meet,” explained my mother recently. “That’s who Sutter’s catered to: the kids.”

Late 1950s phone book listing
By the time of the 1957 city directory, John Sutter had apparently decided to focus on the Sandwich Shop. About that time, Sutter’s Nut Shop became Firestone’s Sandwich Shop.

John Sutter retired around 1961, turning the restaurant business over to his son, John T. Sutter, who ran it for almost another twenty years.

The business moved to 710 Broadway near the end of its long run. John T. Sutter and his wife Janet also ran Sugar ’N Spice at 714 Broadway.

Sadly, Sutter’s Sandwich Shop disappeared in the 1980 city directory. Many longtime Downtown Lorain businesses closed around that time.

Hopefully, another family business can emulate Sutter’s success and make a long-term commitment to Downtown Lorain.

As my mother noted, “They sure could use a Sutter’s there now."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Zboray Coal Grand Opening – May 23, 1947

As I sit here writing this, it’s 90ยบ outside – not exactly a good time to think about coal. Nevertheless, that’s the focus of this full-page ad for the Grand Opening of Zboray’s Coal, which ran in the Lorain Journal on May 23, 1947.

Joseph S. Zboray was the man behind his newly expanded business, which was known just a few years earlier as the Smokeless Coal Company. The company was located at 1127 Reid, which puts it right next to the Nickel Plate tracks.

You can see a little of the building in this archival photo courtesy of Drew Penfield. (For a Then & Now treatment of this photo, click here.)

Anyway, the ad is interesting because it lists the various brands of coal available, including Silver Ash, Blue Fire, Blue Flame and Slo-Glo. I always thought coal was coal.

Some of the brands show up in 1947 Zboray Coal phone book ads.
Speaking of the phone book, at that time in 1947 there were no less than 35 coal dealers listed in the Lorain Telephone Company directory.

But coal’s days were numbered, apparently. By 1950, the phone book contained only 29 dealers; by 1956, only 18 remained.

It was about this time that the Zboray Coal Co. disappeared from the directory.

Coal continued its downward slide; by the end of the 1950s, the number of coal dealers had dwindled to 11. And by 1970, three remained.

Like many houses in Lorain, the house that my mother grew up in on Sixth Street had a coal furnace. She told me that the coal bin was located in a corner on the driveway side of the basement, and that there was a little window above it through which the coal company would extend its chute. “I can still remember the sound of the coal coming down that chute into the basement. The whole house shook,” she explained.

I'd never really thought about what a coal delivery looked like until I saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon called Mouse Cleaning (1948). Here are a few frames from the cartoon, in which Jerry Mouse diverts the coal chute from the cellar into the living room to make a big mess (and get Tom in trouble).

Later, my grandparents reluctantly converted their furnace from coal to natural gas. Mom said Grandma felt that a house heated with gas wouldn't be as warm as one with a coal-fired furnace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Name That Menu

Back in April 2013, I wrote about a 1953 promotional film about Lorain entitled “LORAIN – An Industrial Empire In Ohio’s Vacation Land.” It's full of familiar Lorain landmarks, such as the Easter Basket in Lakeview Park, as well as rarely seen images, such as the long-gone Civil War statue in Washington Park.

The film is still on YouTube, and every time I watch it I seem to notice something new – some little detail that I overlooked before.

Recently after I watched it again, something caught my eye. In the section of the film featuring Lorainites dining out, there’s a brief scene of some people passing around some menus.

We don’t get a good look at the front of the menu – just the back.
But there’s no doubt as to what restaurant the menu is for, because one of those menus is up on Ebay right now. Here's the back seen in the film (below).

I'm sure by now you've guessed which restaurant it was.
I like the "Li'l Abner" broiled pork chops on the menu!
By the way, there's another menu that's featured briefly in the film in a similar scene (below).
Can you guess what restaurant it's for?
If you guessed, "The Showboat" – you are correct!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Burger King’s New Retro Look

Burger King on Leavitt Road as it looked last weekend
Most of my mid-70s high school fast food hangouts on the west side of Lorain are long gone: the McDonald’s on West Erie; the Hardees on Oberlin Avenue; the Pizza Hut on Oberlin Avenue; the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Oberlin Avenue; the Burger Chef on 28th Street; the Taco Bell, as well as the Wendy’s, on Cooper-Foster.

Many of these restaurants were replaced by a new store in another location. A few simply closed for good. But there’s one still open in the same location more than 45 years after it opened its doors: the Burger King on Leavitt Road near W. 21st Street.

It’s an impressive feat for a store in Lorain, and it speaks volumes for the quality of its food and service.

Anyway, I was there over the weekend, and it gave me an opportunity to admire its recent makeover. It’s both modern and retro. What I really like are the cut-out letters spelling out "FLAME GRILLING SINCE 1954" over the entrance.

The restaurant looks more upscale thanks to the renovation, and should enjoy continued success at that location. 
A while back, I wrote about the numbering system of the McDonald’s restaurants. In the interest of equal time, the Burger King on Leavitt Road is No. 680 (out of more than 15,000 restaurants)!
Here’s the proof (below). (No, I didn’t eat both Whopper Juniors.)
The Burger King on Root Road that's only a little more than a mile from my house has a slightly higher number: No. 13,028! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

St. Mary’s Catholic Church – Then & Now

Vintage postcard of St. Mary’s currently on Ebay
Many of Lorain's beautiful churches have been featured on postcards through the years, and consequently given the “then & now” treatment on this blog. First Methodist Church appeared here in June 2016; before that, it was Church of the Redeemer in June 2011.

And above, you see the latest photo project: St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 309 W. 7th Street. According to an article in the June 21, 1955 Lorain Journal, it is the city’s oldest Catholic parish.

St. Mary’s was one of the churches which suffered damage by the Lorain Tornado. According to the same June 1955 article mentioned above, “Six of the city’s finest churches were completely demolished by the tornado of June 28, 1924. Damage was wrought to 10 others."

The church was in the news in March 2012 when the Vatican restored its original St. Mary name. (It had been lost when the church merged with Holy Trinity and was renamed Mary, Mother of God by the head of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.)

Anyway, here’s my now shot from late April, on a Sunday appropriately enough.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Water Works Park

Late April 2017 View
The building that served as the Lorain Yacht Club’s clubhouse continues to be of interest to me.

Recently I discovered that it dates back to at least 1929. An article in the Lorain Journal on August 19, 1929 about the Lorain Yacht Club’s second annual regatta makes reference to it. It notes, “More than 200 visitors came by water to Lorain for the regatta, and many of them remained for the buffet luncheon and awarding of prizes at the club house, foot of Oberlin-av, at the close of the races.”

Although today we generally describe the building’s location as being at Hot Waters, in its early days it had another address: simply Lorain Water Works Park. That’s how it appeared in several issues from the early 1930s of Motor Boating – The Yachtsmen’s Magazine.

Water Works Park was featured in the book, Lorain: The Real Photo Postcards of Willis Leiter. The book included the photo of the lakefront park below.

The caption noted, “The huge brick chimney on the left was the location of the steam boilers that powered the water pumps for the city water supply. The park was located behind the Lorain waterworks on First Street at the north end of Oberlin Avenue.”

Here’s another vintage postcard view (below).

An internet search reveals that many municipal water works seemed to have parks adjacent to them. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of available information about Lorain’s park. It’s hard to know when the park was apparently lost to the expansion and upgrading of the Water Department facilities.

It looks like change had already occurred in these 1930s views (courtesy of Al Doane).

Today, the Water Works Park area is unrecognizable (below). The towering chimney seen in the vintage views is long gone, along with the older Water Department buildings.
But at one time, the property provided a nice lakefront park for residents, and a good home and address for the Lorain Yacht Club.

Here’s a view of Oberlin Avenue and First Street from yesterday afternoon. As you can see, the tall building in the background is in several of the vintage photographs.

Friday, May 12, 2017

History of Century Park

Here's another one of those series of articles about the history of Lorain parks that ran in the Lorain Daily News back in mid-August 1939. I've already posted the second and third articles in the series, so – finally – here's the first one (sorry they’re out of order).

Note: The following is the first of a series of articles to appear in the Lorain news concerning the history and present needs of Lorain city parks.

In 1900 – the birth year of the 20th Century – some enterprising folks purchased land from the A. C. Farragher farm and built a dance hall on Lake Erie a mile and a quarter east of Black River. They very "timely" called it the Century Park Dance Hall.

Lorain oldsters were youngsters then, and to the tune of a fiddle and a piano, they waltzed, quadrilled, "polkaed," two stepped, hesitated, and tangoed until April 2, 1919, when the city purchased the hall and 2 1/2 acres of land from Charles and Martha Refring for $14,700.

The dance hall was rented out as a concession by the city and the post-war young folks waltzed and tangoed some more, and foxtrotted until the floor was worn thin and unsafe. Lake Erie had, through the two decades, quietly dug solid ground from under 20 feet of the north end of the hall. So in August, 1923 a new floor was being laid, and new underpinning constructed. On the 11th day of that month a fire broke out, and despite the best efforts of the fire department, the hall burned to the ground.

Fire insurance brought the city $8000 which was used toward the development of the present Century Park. A bath house was built, parking space provided, a retaining wall and piers built, and proper landscaping done. Later swing for the children were put up, and still later tables and fireplaces for picnickers provided. For a good number of years, the beach has been well guarded. Many tourists as well as home folks daily use the park for swimming and picnicking.

The Park Commission has included several items in its improvement program for the next few years for Century Park. The lake bank is being undermined by recent high water, and must be repaired; the bank should be graded and seeded; more shade trees should be planted; and the piers should be encased in concrete for greater safety.

Recent photo of Century Park
Century Park has been featured a few times on this blog. I did a “then and now” back in 2011, and featured vintage postcards here. I also posted an article about the dedication of the bathhouse that replaced the dance hall here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Did They Stay or Did They Go?

Remember the Bell family?

They were featured in the July 1956 article (back here) in which Brownhelm Township residents were interviewed by the Chronicle-Telegram about the Ford Assembly Plant that was going to be built.

Mrs. Bell noted, “We moved away from 21st Street in Lorain to get the children out in the country away from traffic and factories. Then they go and start building a plant right across the street… We’ve got this big picture window and now we’ll be looking right at a factory. But I guess it depends on where they put it and what it looks like…”

I felt bad for the Bells, as over the years I came very close to bidding on several homes "in the country" myself. All of these old houses were in Avon, and I shudder to think what was eventually built next to or near each of them. (One house was eventually lost to development.)

Anyway, being a nosy type, I wondered if the Bells hung in there on Baumhart Road, or if they vamoosed back to Lorain. So I hit the city directories to find out.

Surprisingly, they stayed for quite a while. Perhaps they decided that even with the Ford plant, Brownhelm Township was a great place to live and raise their kids.

They continued to live on Baumhart until the end of the 1970s. By 1980, their brick house was home to the Lorain Auto Employees Federal Credit Union.

Today, 5730 Baumhart Road is a branch of GenFed Financial Credit Union.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Colonel Henry Brown’s Grave

After devoting more than a week on the blog to Colonel (or Judge, if you prefer) Henry Brown’s house, it seemed appropriate to pay a visit to Brownhelm Cemetery, and take some photographs of his grave to wrap up the series.

So on this past beautiful Sunday morning, I took a short drive out to Brownhelm Cemetery on North Ridge Road.

I was disappointed to find the row of his family's tombstones still in bad shape.

Several years ago – when I first began researching this story – I noticed that either a storm or vandals had created a mess of the Brown family’s stones. Broken monuments were lying on the ground, or unceremoniously stacked like TV dinners in the freezer.

They were pretty much in the same position on Sunday.

Henry Brown’s stone was still standing, but that’s more than we can say for his wife’s monument.
According to this article that ran in the Chronicle back in October 2016, care of the graves is left up to the families of the deceased.

In that case, it looks like the Judge is out of luck.

According to an article in the Elyria Independent Democrat of October 9, 1872 about the death of Mrs. Abby Long, "the deceased was daughter of Judge Brown, who first settled in, and gave name to the township of Brownhelm, and was the last surviving member of that honored family."

The History of Lorain County, Ohio published by Williams Brothers, Philadelphia (1879) includes a biography of Judge Brown and notes that "the family is now extinct in the township."

Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem right that the family plot of a man so important to the founding of Brownhelm should be so neglected, especially during the township's bicentennial year celebration.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Colonel Henry Brown’s House – Part 7

I’m sure you’re just as surprised as me to see yet another post in this series about Colonel Henry Brown’s house that I concluded yesterday. (Think of it as a curtain call.)

I forgot that I had a funny news story in my files about the house from one of the later years that the Emmerich family owned it. The short article is from the Lorain Journal of July 2, 1956, and provides a good example of the pitfalls of living in a highly visible house on a major highway.

Emmerichs Find ‘Guest’ In House

Mrs. Harvey Emmerich, Stop 119, East Lake Rd., doesn’t mind an overnight guest now and then, but she does like to know about it.

Shortly after arising early Saturday morning, Mrs. Emmerich discovered a well-dressed man comfortably ensconced on her couch and sound asleep.

A FURTHER CHECK disclosed his late-model car parked neatly in the drive. A daughter later told Mrs. Emmerich that she had noticed the car there when she drove past the house about midnight.

Mrs. Emmerich called her husband in from the barn, notified an upstairs tenant and the three roused the stranger and demanded to know what he was doing there.

STARING ABOUT him in confusion, he mumbled that he “must have got in the wrong place.”

“Did I hurt anyone?” he asked. Thereupon he asked the directions to Sandusky and left.

Recovering from their amazement, the Emmerichs alerted the State Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s office, but efforts to locate the man were unavailing.

Describing her unexpected guest as tall, grey-haired, about 55 and nicely dressed, Mrs. Emmerich nevertheless declared, “I sure am going to keep my doors locked after this."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Colonel Henry Brown’s House – Part 6

The Emmerich family did not linger very long in their house after the Ford plant opened; they had moved out by the fall of 1958 (according to the Lorain phone book). The Baumhart relatives living next door (closer to Baumhart Road) hung in there a little longer, but they too were out of their house by 1960. reveals that the two houses managed to survive until at least 1969.

The disappearance of their addresses in the 1970 Lorain City Directory pretty much proves that no one was living there then. However, the 1972 Dickman Criss-Cross Directory contained one last listing of the 8360 West Erie Avenue address, with the letters “XXXX” next to it.

At some point in the 1970s, Ford acquired the properties north of the highway containing the two houses. Perhaps it was part of the Lorain plant’s much-publicized expansion in the early 1970s.

Anyway, a 1971 topographic map on shows that the two houses are no longer depicted on the map.

An aerial photo of the plant from an undated Ford advertisement (found in the Lorain Public Library archives) shows the land containing the two houses cleared, with many tracks left by earth movers, but with the ramp and highway overpass across West Erie Avenue not yet constructed.

This undated photograph of the overpass (courtesy of the Lorain Historical Society) shows the land under the houses still showing signs of their demolition.

Here’s a more recent Bing Maps view (below).

Unfortunately, like famous celebrities who pass away in obscurity, decades after their greatest fame, the Colonel Henry Brown house was apparently demolished without fanfare. A house that had warranted several fascinating newspaper articles in the 1940s and 50s had simply outlasted the people who called it home, as well as the local newspaper reporters that knew its historic significance.

Today, there’s not much for motorists to see at the intersection of U. S. Route 6 and Baumhart Road. If they look towards the lake, they see only a weedy, fenced-in area with an unused overpass leading to a shuttered auto plant.

But 200 years ago, for a group of hardy settlers from Massachusetts, it was the perfect location for a fine home, and the birth of Brownhelm Township.