Sunday, January 31, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 8

Here is the last of the photos from the 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce booklet that is part of the Lorain Public Library's special collections. (I've pretty much photocopied the booklet within an inch of its existence, although I shot this one right in the library with my digital camera – I'm such a sneak.) This time it is the old Fire Station Number One.
If my memory serves me correctly, after the building was no longer being used as a fire station, it served as a bank branch for several years. Anyway, today it is again doing its civic duty by serving as the City of Lorain's Treasurer and Income Tax Department.
To the right, you can see a photo of how the building looks today (literally – I took advantage of a nice but chilly day and shot it this afternoon).
To see what it looked like (also in 1968) to a nine year old with a sketchbook and a box of crayons, click here to see an earlier blog entry.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 7

Here's yet another photo from the 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce booklet – of course, it's the JCPenney store at Midway Mall, sometime in the 1960's. And the corresponding "now" view is at right. (Click on each so you see a jumbo size and pretend "You Are There!")
JCPenney (or just Penneys as it was known back then) was one of the three original anchor stores at Midway Mall when it opened back in 1966, along with Higbee's and Sears.
The concept of a covered shopping mall was still relatively new in 1968, having transitioned from the 1950's open air shopping malls (such as the O'Neil - Sheffield Shopping Center a few miles from Midway Mall). I'll be doing more on Midway Mall and the O'Neil - Sheffield Shopping Center as well in some future blog series.
It wasn't easy getting the "now" picture. Several times I framed my shot, only to have shoppers wander into the shot at the last minute. Then, I realized that a gentleman was seated in the right side of the shot and looking right at me the whole time! After I explained what I was doing, he was quite friendly and enjoyed looking at the 1968 photo.
Unfortunately, I also drew the attention of a security guard, who literally ran over to see what I was doing. "I thought you were secretly photographing shoppers," he explained.
That's all I need – to get arrested and end up on the front page of the newspaper. Actually, it might be good publicity for this blog!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1970 Lorain Urban Renewal: a Post Office at the Loop?

After my post on Monday about the downtown shopping district, I was thinking about how so much of downtown Lorain was torn down in the 1970's as part of the urban renewal plan. So I thought I would scan the newspaper microfilm from that era to see if there were some interesting demolition photos.

I didn't find any photos on the September 1970 reel that I examined – but I did find this rather intriguing map of an early plan for the Loop area. (If you click on it, you can see a larger view.)
Apparently, the original idea for the former location of Heilman's (at right) was a post office, instead of the City Center building that is there now. (See blog entry below from Monday.)
In retrospect, it's just as well that a post office was never built. Since the US Post Office has been cutting costs and selling off grand old post office branches in the last few years, this proposed branch might have been closed anyway (just like Lorain's original downtown branch).
One final observation about the map artwork. If you look carefully at the artist's initials, you can see that the art was done by our old pal, Passing Scene artist Gene Patrick.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 6

Here's another photo from the 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce Booklet. It appeared in a section promoting the local shopping options, and the accompanying text gave a nice snapshot of what shopping in Lorain was like back then. (Click on it for a larger view.)
The article states, "The traditional place to go shopping is Broadway, where a great variety of retail stores and service establishments – 30 blocks long – appeal to every taste. Wares range from candy to major appliances, prices from those of the discount house to those of the high fashion shop."
The article even mentioned the downtown shopping district's main nemesis, Midway Mall, declaring, "Midway Mall is an incredible new super shopping center midway between Lorain and Elyria. This complex covers 65 acres and includes outlets of three major department stores."
Lorain's other shopping centers were not overlooked either. "A large, well stocked shopping center is never far away in Lorain. Westgate, Lorain Plaza, Sheffield, Oakwood and Shoreway are conveniently located in various neighborhoods, each essentially a self-contained shopping community."
Today, only Lorain Plaza and Sheffield (now called Centre of Sheffield) are still thriving (somewhat). Oakwood and Shoreway are being redeveloped. Westgate, its signage removed, sits deteriorating, although a dollar store operates at the eastern end.
Now, getting back to this photo. When I first looked at it, I assumed that it was from the 1950's. However, Furniture Mart didn't appear in the Lorain City Directory until the mid-1960's.
Unfortunately, the choice of this strip of stores as a representative example of downtown shopping proved to be a poor choice. By the time of the 1969 City Directory, Furniture Mart was no longer listed and by 1970 Fisher Foods was gone as well. For the final irony, the entire block here was leveled a few years later due to urban renewal.
Today (at right), the area shown in the photo serves as a parking lot for the City Center Building.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 5

Here's a photo from the booklet that should look familiar to Lorain Westsiders: the old Fire Station No. 7 at the northeast corner of Meister Road and Leavitt Road.
In the mid-1960's, this fire station was only a stone's throw away from our house, bringing us a certain piece of mind.
Unfortunately, it didn't last. The fire station was eventually moved further west to 2111 West Park Drive, off of 21st Street.
Today the old building is used by the Lorain Police Department (see photo at right). There's a few differences between then and now. A huge church building nearby is now visible to the right of the building; new garage doors have been added and the telephone pole has been moved.
Here's a link to the official history of Lorain's Fire Department.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 4

Here are a few photos from the booklet that should look familiar to every Lorainite. They are a view of the Port of Lorain showing the B&O Coal Loading Dock as well as a photo of one of the coal cars after being dumped. (Click on each for a larger view – sorry that they are photocopies!)

Older residents of Lorain remember well how the whole thing worked. Each car containing coal would be lifted, emptied into some kind of hopper and then lowered by gravity via tracks.
It used to be pretty interesting watching each car roll down after being dumped, swoop upward on the curved 'roller coaster' type inclined track, gradually slow down and then join the other empty cars. We always wondered if the cars would go flying off the end of the track into the lake – but they never did. I guess we were too young to understand physics.

1968 Lorain Part 3

Here's another photo from the 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce booklet. It's a great photo of something I've blogged about before, Brady's Restaurant. (Love that name!) It was located at 2200 Leavitt Road.

The booklet text reads, "One of the most popular restaurants in the Lorain area is Brady's, which has served 'Quality Foods Since 1964.' Brady's is famed for the finest "Chuckwagon" fried chicken in Lorain County, delicious home-made pies, and home-made ice cream and donuts fresh from Brady's own Dairyland and Donut Shop. Industrial catering, residential home delivery, and carry-out service available at all times."
I blogged about Brady's back in November in a 3-part series that started here, continued here and wrapped up here. To my family, Brady's was a nice place to celebrate special occasions.
I'm not sure why the above ad copy seems to indicate that the place was in business since 1964, since the roots of the restaurant go back to 1946. If Mr. Brady has his Brady's Good Food wagon out this summer, I'll have to get some of the inside scoop, Brady-to-Brady.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1968 Lorain Part 2

Here's an ad for Lorain National Bank from that 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce promotional booklet. As a graphic designer myself, I find a lot of things about the ad kind of interesting.

First of all there's the bank's logo. Although it is somewhat generic, there is a powerful simplicity about it that seems appropriate, especially since at that time Lorain was quite an industrial powerhouse. (Since then, both Lorain National Bank and its competitor, First Federal Savings of Lorain have both adopted logos (at right) that emphasize the whole "vacation playland by the lake" aspect.
The thing I really like about the ad is the use of illustration. It's a nice little montage by some unsung commercial artist. Custom illustration (and photography as well) is certainly a dying art in this age where you can buy some pretty good stuff online for twelve bucks.

1968 Lorain Part 1

I spend a lot of time in the Lorain Public Library doing research, and inevitably while looking for one thing, I get sidetracked when I stumble upon something else. (Attention deficit disorder really slows down research!)

In this case, up in the Local History section I found a nifty little book created by Windsor Publications in 1968 for the Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce. It's chock-ful of interesting photos of Lorain from that era, as well as ads and other graphics depicting a city that at that time was still brimming with optimism for the future. I'll be scanning and posting some of them in the next few days.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ask the Blogger: Name that Lorain Bottling Plant

While having dinner with some friends over the weekend, I was surprised to find out that some of them actually read this blog! They also had a question for me: Did I remember a Lorain bottling plant that in the 1960s was somewhere around 14th or 15th Street. They thought that the company bottled soda pop, including Seher's Old English Ginger Beer.
Well I didn't remember any of this (especially since I'm more of a Vernor's drinker), but a trip to the Lorain Public Library revealed that in 1968, there was a company called the T. J. Bottling Company, Inc. at 318 15th Street. Their November 1968 ad (shown above) shows that besides the ginger beer, they handled Dodge City Sarsaparilla, Quicky (a grapefruit and lemon soda), and Clicquot Club Beverages.
I'm going to have to do some more research, because apparently there is much more to this story. According to the Images of America book on Lorain published by the Black River Historical Society, William Seher was the owner of the Lorain Brewing Company, which began producing the popular ginger beer bearing his name during Prohibition. So I guess I'll have to find out the relationship between his company and the T. J. Bottling Company.
If anyone else has suggestions for future blog topics, feel free to email me! And by all means, be sure to post a comment regarding any of the entries if you feel like it. It's easy! Just click on the word 'comments' at the end of the entry. A box will pop up that will allow you to type your comment into it. Then, use the pull-down menu to select 'Anonymous' (if you prefer) and hit the 'Post Comment' button!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't forget the Blizzard of 1977!

Although the Blizzard of '78 is well-remembered by many, the Blizzard of '77 was nothing to sneeze at either. (Well, maybe it was at that.)
Strangely enough, the Blizzard of '77 was within a few days of being almost exactly a year before the more infamous storm. The big difference is that the Blizzard of '77 hit during a natural gas shortage.
In its Friday, January 28 1977 edition, the Journal reported that "Plants and schools throughout the Golden Crescent already brought to their knees by gas cutbacks and the worst winter weather in memory, were dealt a knockout blow today as another blast of arctic air swept the state."
The paper noted it was going to get worse, nothing that "The National Weather Service today issued a blizzard warning for all of Ohio, calling for two to three inches or more of snow and winds up to 45 miles an hour with temperatures plummeting as low as 15 below tonight."
Governor James Rhodes declared an energy crisis and urged all non-essential businesses to close, and ordered state workers to leave work early. All schools in Lorain, Erie and Huron counties were closed, with the exception of Marion Steel High School in Amherst.
By the time the Saturday paper was published, the storm was already referred to as the Blizzard of 1977. The lead article by Staff Writer Tom Ferris stated "The first blizzard to hit the state in years has virtually closed down the Golden Crescent, already reeling from 41 straight days without a temperature above freezing. And the weatherman predicts this may be the coldest weekend of your life."
The paper went on to state that the temperature had stayed at a record low 11 below zero here from 9 p.m. Friday night to 5 a.m. Saturday.
I remember this storm, since I was a senior at Admiral King High School at the time. There wasn't a lot of snow, but it was frightfully cold and the basketball game was cancelled.
Incidentally, the two Journals shown above were ones that my parents saved all these years. After re-reading them to get the scoop for this blog, there's just one thing I want to know: whatever happened to the "Today's Chuckle" feature on the front page?
We sure could use it these days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Blizzard of 1978 Part 3

By Saturday during the Blizzard of 1978, the local death toll had risen to six, with a possible seventh person. More than 50 deaths in Ohio were attributed to the blizzard.
The grocery stores were about to reopen on Sunday in response to a plea from the Journal. It's interesting to read the list of area stores back then: Fazio's, A&P, Meyer Goldberg, Pick 'N Pay, Sparkle, Kroger and Fligner's Eagle Supermarket. More than thirty years later, only Fligner's is still around locally. has an excellent article written in 2008 on the thirtieth anniversary of the Blizzard. Click here to read it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Blizzard of 1978 Part 2

The Journal published on the second day of the Blizzard of '78 painted a bleak picture of the storm's aftermath, despite the cute newspaper headline that referred to the fact that President Jimmy Carter had ordered the Fifth Army into Ohio.
According to the article by staff writer Carrie Yakley, "Most roads are still impassable, many persons are still stranded without heat or food, and dozens of industry, businesses and stores were closed." The article noted that sixty percent of the roads in Ohio were closed, including the Ohio Turnpike.
The worst of the storm appeared to be over, but by that time the blizzard was already being blamed for four deaths locally. Near Milan, one man was found frozen to death inside a home with no heat. A woman died after falling while walking her dog.
After reading these horror stories, I think I'll think twice before complaining that "It's a blizzard outside!" during the next snowstorm.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Blizzard of 1978 Part 1

In a few weeks, it will be 32 years since the Blizzard of '78 hit Ohio. I'll sure anyone who was alive during that time will never forget it. That storm became the benchmark for all subsequent winter storms.

According to this page on the website, it was the worst winter storm in Ohio history. It hit early on Thursday, January 26 and lasted into Friday. Governor James Rhodes declared a statewide emergency, enabling him to activate the National Guard.
The January 26th edition of the Journal shown above (it was still an evening paper back then) included a detailed account of the storm by staff writer Carrie Yakley. Winds up to 75 miles per hour caused a lot of damage to power lines, leaving many areas without electric power or heat. Drifting snow and ice caused many roads to be closed, including the westbound lanes of the Ohio Turnpike at Exit 8, the Shoreway in Cleveland, and I-71 between Cleveland and Columbus.
Big events like the storm inevitably lead to "Where were you?" thoughts. Since I was away at school at the time, the local angle of the storm covered on the front page was all new to me.
To read an article about the storm on the Kent State website, click here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow Days of Old

Well, it's only a week or so into the New Year, and we've already had a pretty good taste of winter weather. The commute was fairly annoying both Monday and today. The roads really weren't that bad (in some cities they were clean down to the pavement), but traffic was crawling along US 6 all the way into Cleveland anyway. And today, school was closed in Lorain, Sheffield Lake, Elyria and many other suburbs.

All this got me to thinking about snow days. I really don't remember getting off school all that much for snow days when we were little kids. Most of the time in the winter, we wore big, black boots over our shoes and punched our way through the snow drifts all the way to Masson Elementary, which was almost a mile away. We lived just outside the boundary that would have enabled us to ride the bus, but the bus carrying the kids over to the Sherwood allotment went right by our house.
When school actually was cancelled due to snow, my brothers and I did what the other kids did: go out and play in it! (Well, that and watch cartoons.) I still kid my mom that we weren't allowed to build a snowman in the front yard – it had to be in the backyard! And we didn't have a snowman kit, with plastic carrot, top hat, etc. – we used rocks from the window well for the eyes, nose and mouth. Nowadays, in this "Look at me!" age, it seems some families encourage their kids to build fantastic snow creations in the front yard in the hope of getting on the TV news.
If we were lucky, we were able to get a ride to either of the two preferred sledding hills: James Day Park or the Sanitarium (Golden Acres Lorain County Nursing Home.) I still cringe at the memory of getting wracked up while slamming into a tree at either of these two places!
Next week: Memories of the Blizzard of '78

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Coming Soon: "An Open Book" Review

One of my Christmas presents this year was a copy of An Open Book: Coming of Age in the Heartland by Pulitzer Prize winning author and Lorain native Michael Dirda. I'm embarrassed that my blog is all about Lorain nostalgia, yet I had never read this book before!

I've already flipped through it and it looks like a terrific book. It's filled with the kind of happy memories of growing up in Lorain that will probably bring tears to the eyes of older Lorainites.
The cover features the postcard at right, a view of downtown Lorain from the late 50's or early 60's (this postcard is postmarked 1962.)
Anyway, I'm just starting the book so when I finish it, I'll post a "book report" here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Keeping Fit in the New Year 1959 Style

Since it's a new decade, I decided to finally act on the same resolution that I've been making for the last 10 or 15 years – that is, to get some exercise. So I joined the new coed Anytime Fitness on Oak Point Road in Amherst.

Now if it was 1959, I could have joined Dee's Shoreway Health Studio in the Shoreway Shopping Center a mile from my house in Sheffield Lake. (I first mentioned this business in my blog back here.)
The July 1959 ad (click on it for a larger view) is interesting because it indicates that there were different hours for men and women to use the facilities. Also, the women are being urged to get ready for the swimsuit season while the men are supposed to preparing for football season! ( I thought getting ready for football season meant you made sure you had plenty of potato chips on hand.)
As opposed to the 1959 phone book ad (at right) the newspaper ad features an actual model, probably from a stock photo collection. It kind of reminds me of the old black and white cheesecake postcards that used to be in the machines in the Arcade at Cedar Point.
Times sure have changed. My gym, Anytime Fitness, has a lot of great equipment, but unlike Dee's Shoreway Health Studio, no on site masseuse or masseur for us martini-swigging, grey-flannel-suited businessmen. (I'll have to bring that up with the owner!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Well, it's a New Year...

and I've got a lot of great topics in store for my blog, including multi-part series about the early days of Midway Mall and the history of (as well as vintage ads for) Midway Oh Boy (one of my favorite restaurants). I've also been working on a series on the old Vians restaurant and motel complex in Sheffield Lake, and accumulating images for a look back at the Blizzard of 1978.

If there is a local topic that you'd like to see here, let me know! And thanks to all of you who either follow this blog, or check in from time to time and leave a comment. I appreciate it!