Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oberlin Avenue Putt-R-Golf and other 1960's businesses

I was recently reminiscing about Lorain of the 1960's with a librarian at the Lorain Public Library main branch, and she happened to mention, "Remember when there was a miniature golf course on Oberlin Avenue?"

As soon as she said it, I remembered it. I vaguely remember playing there at least once as a kid, although none of my siblings or I were ever very good at miniature golf. It was fairly routine for our balls to go rolling into the parking lot and beyond. (That's probably why no one in our family is an avid golfer today, although I tried it for a few years.)
I did a little research and found the miniature golf center in an old city directory. Beginning in 1966, Putt-R-Golf was located at 4354 Oberlin Avenue. In 1968 the address changed to 4290 Oberlin Avenue. By 1969 it was gone, replaced by a Taco Kid restaurant.
From what I can tell, Putt-R-Golf was a chain similar to the more well-known Putt-Putt Golf. A quick internet search seems to indicate that there are still a lot of miniature golf centers that use one or the other of these names.
Looking in the city directory listings for that stretch of Oberlin Avenue brought back memories of other businesses that used to be there in the 1960's. 
There was Esco (or Economy Sales, if you prefer) at 4630 Oberlin Avenue, where my family bought an awful lot of gifts and presents through the years. The gimmick was that the whole place was a showroom. After you found what you wanted to purchase either in the showroom or the catalog, you filled out a small order form with the item's number and handed it to an employee. A few minutes later, your item would appear like magic on a conveyor belt from the warehouse in back.
Esco was a great place because it was minutes from our home and really simplified shopping. Today the old Esco building is home to the Lorain County Board of Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities.

Open Pantry Food Mart was another business listed in that area, at 4450 Oberlin Avenue. It had a little different feel than a Lawson store. More seedy, perhaps? (If you want to read more about Open Pantry, here's a link to another blogger's post about the long-gone chain.)

I can see that I'm going to have to research businesses along this stretch in the near future and take some pictures. I haven't even mentioned Lum's yet! Mmmm... I can just taste that hot dog steamed in beer right now!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Coliseum Part 4

After the Coliseum burned down, the site remained vacant for a few years. Around the mid-1950's, a Howard Johnson's was built on the front of the lot, claiming the 2812 West Erie Avenue address (formerly assigned to a two-family apartment adjacent to the Coliseum). Around 1960 or so, the Beachcomber Motor Lodge was built behind it at the Coliseum's old 2800 West Erie Avenue address.

With the Coliseum gone, it was up to someone else to carry on the skating rink legacy on the west side of Lorain. A little further west of where the Coliseum was located and on the other side of the road, the Lorain Arena opened on April 2, 1955 at 3709 West Erie Ave. It closed around September 1972. A few other businesses then occupied the building, including Motor Homes Inc. and Penton Imports Motorcycles. Most recently, the building was the Kerr Beverage complex (now closed). Click here to see its link on the Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty website.  

And what about the businesses that succeeded the Coliseum? Today Howard Johnson's is now the popular Chris' Restaurant. And the Beachcomber Motor Lodge is now the Erieview Motel (See photo at top, looking north at the property and at left, approaching the property on Route 6 from the east.)

Further west on West Erie Avenue, Skate World Roller Skating Center at 4952 West Erie Avenue  continues the tradition of west side skating. It's located on the site of the former Benny's Motel and has been there since about 1975.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Coliseum Part 3

On the morning of May 5, 1952 the Coliseum burned down. Here is how the Lorain Journal reported it that same day, with a front page article running under the above photo (click on it for a closer look.)


Early Morning Fire Destroys Coliseum

A twisted, black skeleton within crumbling walls was all that remained today of the Lorain Coliseum after a fire that started about 3 a.m. and was still flickering at 10 a.m.

The big roller rink and dance spot, largest in this area, was declared a total loss by Black River Township Fire Chief Walter Wilker and owner Mrs. Ruth Stevens, Sheffield Lake.

"It was worth $125,000, but would have cost a lot more to replace." Mrs. Stevens said. The building was partially insured, she reported.

Origin of the fire has not been determined, according to Chief Wilker.

Started in Office
"It started in the back end of the office part around the stove," he said.

Forty volunteer firemen with three pumpers, one each from the Amherst, Sheffield Township and Black River departments, fought the blaze.

Lorain firemen did not assist them. The Coliseum is just west of Lorain on Route 6 about 300 yards beyond the city limits.

"We would have gone if they'd asked for help," commented Safety Director James Ryan.

Wilker said that "any more trucks would have been in the way." Only two fire hydrants were within usable range of the building.

First alarm was believed telephoned by Mrs. Lorenza Payne, 2812 West Lake Road, occupant of a half-brick two-family apartment adjacent to the rear of the dance hall. She called about 3:38 a.m. after a Mrs. Walters, resident of the downstairs apartment, rang her doorbell to tell her of the blaze.

Flames 40-Feet High
"Flames were shooting 40 feet into the air when we got there," Wilker related. "Then something went off and an orange ball of fire went along the roof and the whole roof was going in a minute and a half."

Wilker said his men had the fire under control by about 6 a.m. At 10 a.m. hoses were still being played on the smoking ruins. In places flames still licked over charred timbers under what was once the dance floor.

The building resembled a collapsed dirigible after the rounded roof collapsed, exposing tangled steel girders.

Lorain Fire Chief Elmer Stough, who arrived at the blaze early, praised the work of the volunteers in throwing up a water curtain to protected three houses next to the burning building.

Two of the houses, owned by Mateo Mannarilli, 1309 10th Street, were scorched and had windows broken by the intense heat. Mrs. Payne and Mrs. Walters occupied one home, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Andrews the other.

Built in the mid-twenties  by the Lorain Moose Club, the structure was known as the Moose Coliseum. Mrs. Stevens is the first private owner.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Coliseum Part 2

Here's an ad for the Coliseum that ran in the 1951 Lorain phone book. The same ad ran for several years, with the only difference being that this ad listed the address as 2800 W. Erie Avenue instead of Stop 104.

If you compare it to the early photo in my previous blog, you can see a few structural modifications to the front of the building since the early days.

I asked my mom what she remembered about the Coliseum. She remarked that she remembers seeing Chief Don Eagle wrestle there. And for those of you (like me) who don't know who Chief Don Eagle was, click here to visit a fellow blogger who is an expert on the subject!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Coliseum Part 1

In a blog entry that I did a few weeks ago about the 1945 Lorain County Victory Day Celebration (back here), an ad for a luncheon event listed the Coliseum as the location. This prompted one of my regular readers (who coincidentally happens to be my brother) to ask where the Coliseum was located. I knew the Coliseum was out on West Erie Avenue (US Route 6) somewhere but I wasn't exactly sure at the time. Well, I did a little digging in the city directories and found out that it was just a little bit west of the Castle. But I'll get into the actual location and what is located at the site today a little bit later in this series.

The Coliseum is a place that my parents had mentioned over the years, but all I knew about it was that it was a popular skating rink and that it had burned down. (Also, it was the place where my aunt had first met my uncle.)

According to the Lorain Images of America book, the Coliseum was built by the Lorain Moose Lodge back in 1926 at a cost of $115,000.

Here's a photo of the inside, courtesy of the same Images of America book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

All the Dairy Best to Sheffield Lake

Although I've lived in Sheffield Lake for ten years, I haven't given it too much attention on this blog. As a result, when I do stumble upon something with a Sheffield Lake connection that's even mildly interesting, I try to get it onto this blog ASAP to ease my guilty conscience.

Here's something that fits into that category. It's a 1959 newspaper ad for a Dairymens facility in Sheffield Lake. (Click on it for a larger view.) It appeared in a Lorain anniversary edition of the Journal, so consequently the focus of the ad is that Lorain is growing so rapidly that Dairymens added a Lorain County delivery station.

It's interesting that a Cleveland dairy would make such inroads into Lorain County, since there were already so many dairies out here at that time, such as Home Dairy, the Lorain Creamery and Clovervale Creamery. I guess since home delivery was still big at that time, there was room for everybody. Now, more than fifty years later, all of the local dairies are gone, and only Dairymens in Cleveland is still around. Here's a link to the Dairymens website (although it doesn't seem to work very well.)

I drove up Abbe Road in Sheffield Lake in a futile attempt to see if the building pictured in the photo was still there. According to the address listed in the city directory at the time, the facility was located near or just south of where the railroad tracks cross Abbe Road. Today of course there is a huge overpass at that location, so apparently the building is long gone.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oberlin Avenue City Directory Listings 1952

Here's a snippet from the 1952 Lorain City Directory, listing all of the Oberlin Avenue addresses south of W. 29th Street. As you can see, it's a pretty short list, and all of the addresses are on the west side of the street.

By 1952 the Airport Tavern had been around for about ten years, and there were finally some other addresses listed between it and the Oberlin Avenue farmhouse (that I blogged about here.)

Several of the private residences listed were built in 1950, according to the Lorain County Auditor website. Curiously, the 3644 address is shown to have built in 1930.

Of the most interest to me is the driving range on the east side of Oberlin Avenue, roughly across from where Lorain National is now. It's strange to imagine one in that location.

In 1952, there still was no Lorain Shopping Center, no Willow Hardware, etc. And (gulp!) no Yala's Pizza – it was still two years away!

Speaking of Yala's Pizza (as I usually am), be sure to visit their new website, The website has a nice little history of the pizzeria in the 'About Us' page.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Anchors Away, Admiral King High School

A few days ago, the Lorain school board announced that the name of the new high school to be built will be Lorain High School. (Click here to read the Morning Journal's online article.) 

I have no problem with this; it makes sense. My only objection is that the current Admiral King High School will be "rebranded" (see, there's my advertising background coming into play) as Lorain High School this fall, before the new school is even built.

In my opinion, the Admiral King name should have been retained for now out of respect for any surviving King family members. And during the first week of school, there could have been an assembly to welcome the new students and a presentation made to remind all of the students who Admiral Ernest J. King was.

The school board may still attach the Admiral King name to another school yet to be built. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I agree with the comments posted here by my brother that a much better idea would be to honor the Admiral with a lakefront park.

And before it was the Airport Tavern...

The very first topic on this blog (almost a year ago) concerned Mutt & Jeff's (one of my favorite restaurants) and how it used to be the Sherwood Inn. I followed that up a few days later with a second entry noting that before it was the Sherwood Inn, it was the Airport Tavern beginning around 1942.

Well, it took almost a year, but I can now add another nugget of information to the history of Mutt & Jeff's building. I discovered that the 3700 Oberlin Avenue address first showed up in the city directory in 1940 as a place where tourists could rent a room for the night. (See city directory entry at left.) It kind of makes sense, since at time there wasn't much on Oberlin Avenue in that neck of the woods, and besides, it was outside Lorain city limits. (The 3650 Oberlin Avenue address disappeared from the directory by the time that the Airport Tavern was in business, leaving just the tavern and the farmhouse on Oberlin Avenue near the city limits.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oberlin Avenue Carpet and Drapery Shop

Here's yet another photo from that 1968 Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce booklet that I first mentioned here. It shows the Oberlin Avenue Carpet and Drapery Shop, a landmark Lorain business at 1705 Oberlin Avenue that many of us passed on our way to the Lorain Creamery nearby.

I always liked this building. It had a real stately appearance with the vines growing up the front and sides of the brick building, and its tidy appearance seemed to mesh well with its decorating-themed business.

And now for a little history. The first business to occupy this building with the big "1923" on the front was Marks' Cleaning Works. The company first turned up in the city directory at this location in 1924, after having been located previously on Seventh Street. The company's specialties included rug manufacturing and cleaning, mattress and feather renovating, and upholstering.

Marks' Cleaning Works was in business at the Oberlin Avenue location until around 1946, when it disappeared from the phone book. Within a few years, however, Oberlin Avenue Carpet and Drapery Shop appeared at that address and continued to occupy the building for more than four decades.

Oberlin Avenue Carpet and Drapery Shop may have been the only local company in the carpet and rug field that didn't use a flying carpet-riding genie or sultan in its telephone directory ads, an observation that I made here over on my other website that honors local advertising mascots. (The funny thing is, in the back of my mind, I vaguely remember a sign on the side of the 1705 Oberlin Avenue building with a guy on a flying carpet!)

Anyway, Oberlin Avenue Carpet and Drapery Shop vanished from the Lorain phone book around 1998. About a year later, the building became the home of The Board Room, a company that sells a complete line of both unfinished and finished furniture. Here's a link to their website.

While it's sad to see a longtime Lorain business go away, it's always good to see a new firm enjoy success at the same location. And speaking of the location, here is what it looks like today. It looks pretty much the same – even the sidewalk!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's wishing everyone a terrific St. Patrick's Day from your humble Irish blogger! And in honor of the occasion, here's a quaint newspaper ad for the Lorain Telephone Company from March 16, 1974.

Looking at the ad brings back a lot of memories. Remember when you actually bought your phone from the phone company, and it had a little sticker on it with your number on it? (Don't forget, it also had the mixed letters and numbers prefix such as AVenue-2 instead of 282!)

The whole concept of party lines is pretty funny as well. Imagine picking up your phone to use it, and instead hearing someone else yakking! If that was still the norm in 2010, there would probably be cases of 'phone rage' due to impatient callers.

Lastly, think of all the kids growing up today who will never have had a land line phone with a cord in their house. (I still have a few in my house; I gotta have at least one phone that I can't lose!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Oberlin Avenue Farmhouse

Here's an interesting photo that was part of a huge ad for the Kucirek Construction Company that ran in the Lorain Journal on July 18, 1959. (Click on it for a super-sized view.)

According to the ad copy, the company had recently renovated the 'old farmhouse' at 29th and Oberlin Avenue and included the photo as the 'before' shot. Since the ad did not contain an accompanying 'after' shot, I drove over with my camera to take one. (Actually I drive by the house all the time, since the house is on my 'flight path' to Yala's Pizza.)

Although my library research revealed that the house first appeared in the city directory in 1940, the Lorain County Auditor's website has the year of construction listed as 1900, which usually means it was before 1900. Nevertheless, if one was driving south on Oberlin Avenue in 1940, this house was probably the last one you would have seen before you hit the city limits at Meister Road, as well as the last one on either side of the street before the Airport Tavern (the present day Mutt and Jeff's) at 3700 Oberlin Avenue. (It's hard to tell if there were other old homes out there with no address.)

It's hard to imagine a time when there was nothing out there in that part of Lorain – no Lorain Plaza, no Willow Shopping Center, no St. Peter's – but this old photo helps to visualize it. The Lorain Images of America book (that I refer to so often) says that there used to be a big dairy farm at the northwest corner of Oberlin Avenue and Meister Road.

The house changed hands a few years after it was built, but by 1947 was curiously back with the earlier owner. By then, another house had been built in the 3400 block of Oberlin Avenue. So now there were two houses on Oberlin Avenue in that neck of the woods!

Around the early 1950's, Kucirek Construction Company acquired the house and renovated it by the time of the 1958 advertisement.

And here is what it looks like today. Through the years, I knew that this house didn't quite fit in with all the 1950's ranches in the area. Now I (and you) know why!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Admiral Ernest J. King Historical Marker

I guess I'll bring this blog series honoring Admiral Ernest J. King to a close with a look at this fine Ohio Historical Marker erected in 2003 in front of Admiral King High School. I photographed it a few Saturdays ago in February. (Click on it for a closeup view.)

Here's a link to the official Ohio Historical Society website page with the Admiral King marker so you can read both sides of its inscription. 

Since I'm pretty sure that AKHS is getting a new name (especially after reading this today), this marker may have to be moved. Hopefully the marker will be moved to a higher visibility location, perhaps along the Lorain lakefront near his birthplace.

No matter where it ends up, this marker will continue to commemorate Lorain's No. 1 son well into the future. This marker, along with the war memorial in Lakeview Park bearing his name for which he laid the cornerstone, will hopefully ensure that he is not forgotten by his hometown.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Admiral King's Birthplace

Here's a picture of the cottage on Hamilton Street in Lorain in which Admiral Ernest J. King was born on November 23, 1878. (The picture is from the book Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record by Ernest J. King and Walter Muir Whitehill, published in 1952.)

This cottage later became a topic of discussion, and was mentioned in the following Lorain Journal editorial that was published on September 21, 1966.


A Plan Worthy of Admiral King


That was the question of one listener during a group discussion of a recent suggestion that the house in which Admiral King was born in Lorain should be moved to Elyria and there enshrined. That idea was broached by Mayor Leonard Reichlin of Elyria.

Councilman Alex Olejko of Lorain added to the frivolity by stating that Lorain would be happy to turn that old house, and others, over to Elyria, including the Lorain City Hall building, which is itself an ancient residence.

It's all in the spirit of good clean fun. But there is a serious note which is brought to the surface when a citizen innocently asks: "Who was Admiral King?"

Not enough has been done to preserve and to honor the name of this great naval leader who stood shoulder to shoulder with General Eisenhower in mapping and executing the military design of World War II. A local high school bears his name, it is true. But the recognition should be more widespread.

Some 12 years ago, the Ohio Legislature adopted a resolution proposing that the Ohio Turnpike be named Admiral King Highway. The Turnpike Commission turned down the proposal on the grounds that "Ohio Turnpike" was already established as a name.

That objection would not apply to the new Route 90 which eventually will be a busy expressway running across the state from east to west and beyond. How about the proud name, Admiral King Highway, for this route – with a small state park along the route in Lorain County containing a monument and a museum devoted to the Admiral.

For those who are indulging in banter over an insignificant old frame dwelling, here is a project whose accomplishment would be worthy of the effort.

People everywhere would hear the name "Admiral King Highway" and be reminded of the great man.


Fast forward to 2010. It's too bad that in 1966 the Lorain Journal considered Admiral King's birthplace to be "an insignificant old frame dwelling," and that then-Councilman (and later Mayor) Olejko was only too happy to offer it to Elyria. It sure would have been nice for King's birthplace to have been purchased back then and converted into a museum. The state park, monument and renaming of I-90 to honor Admiral King never happened, and now even the high school will very likely lose the Admiral King name, ironically with the newspaper's blessing.

Oh, the street running in front of the new school will probably be named "Admiral King Way," but it is a small gesture compared to the grand plan that the Journal envisioned back in 1966 to honor Lorain's greatest hometown hero.

Anyway, here's another view of the King birthplace, from a 1959 Lorain Journal article. And below it, a view of the cottage today.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Victory Day Celebration 1945 Part 2

Here's the front page of the Monday, October 1, 1945 Lorain Journal with the coverage of the Lorain/Lorain County Victory Day celebration. (Click on it for a closer look.) A portion of the Journal's account went like this:

"All Lorain and Lorain-co settled back to a normal life today after a Victory Day celebration yesterday that proved beyond a doubt that the city and the country are proud of their No. 1 son and their men and women who helped bring victory and peace to the nation and the world.

It was a great day, one that will long be remembered by Admiral Ernest J. King, honored guest of the day, the 10,000 persons who marched in a gigantic two-hour parade and by the 150,000 to 200,000 who lined the parade route and jammed Lakeview Park for brief ceremonies late in the afternoon."


Today is the deadline for the Lorain City Schools to accept submissions for a new name for AKHS, made necessary due to the fear and concern that consolidating the Southview and current AKHS students under the Admiral King banner would result in violence.

If there is still any doubt as to whether the Admiral King name should be retained, please read the following editorial that ran in the September 29, 1945 Lorain Journal, two days before the edition shown above.


A Salute to the Admiral

There is honor and glory for all the members of our armed forces who fought the magnificent battles which resulted in the defeat of Germany and Japan.

Lorain is justly proud of Admiral Ernest J. King, commander-in-chief of the United States Fleet, whom it is honoring at the Victory day celebration Sunday. But it is proud of him not so much because of his high position as because he is a symbol of all the boys, living and dead, who left homes and families in Lorain and went to fight the enemy.

War is a grim business which requires the utmost effort of every soldier and sailor, as well as every civilian. Not all can be leaders. It is given to some to occupy the spotlight, and to others to fill subordinate positions in which they may serve with equal energy and sacrifice.

What thrills Lorain about Admiral King is that he is a man's man, a sailor's sailor who embodies the highest virtues attributed to the individual American serviceman who successfully carried the nation through its greatest crisis.

Admiral King's story by now is well-known to practically every Lorain resident. Hardly a national magazine but has published at least one highly laudatory article about the admiral since he assumed command of the nation's naval forces.

He is generally credited with taking the U. S. Navy at its lowest ebb and whipping it into shape for a grueling four-year campaign which would have been considered impossible a few years ago.

From every standpoint, Admiral King is the ideal representation of military strength and greatness. In his middle 60's, he is tall and straight, and his chin is firm. He has a reputation for strict discipline. As a ship's captain he always "ran a taut ship," as the naval saying goes, and this spirit soon spread into all naval operations. It is said that the man who does his work to the best of his ability never has trouble with Admiral King. The man who doesn't never has anything else.

He knows intimately and at first hand problems and capacities of all three branches of the fighting navy. He served during his earlier years with the underseas fleet, the aviation branch, (qualifying easily as a pilot), and the surface Navy.

He has had the benefit of a keen, practical brain and wide experience. He was fourth in his class at Annapolis and attained a cold, objective mastery of the art of war.

He thinks in straight lines that produce superb organization. He has had at his command a wily sense of strategy that has assisted him in laying many traps, such as that at Midway for the unsuspecting Japanese Navy.

With all this, he is eminently human, has a saving sense of humor, and takes genuine pleasure in coming back to the home town – which he has managed to do three times during the busy war years.

We are proud to welcome back Admiral King at the end of the war which he assisted so materially in winning, and at the same time to pay tribute to the thousands of boys who fought the fight with him.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Victory Day Celebration 1945 Part 1

After World War II ended, Admiral Ernest J. King paid another visit to Lorain for the Victory Day celebration honoring all men and women in Lorain County who had a part in the Allied victory. The celebration took place on September 29-30 1945. (Japan had signed the surrender documents in early September.)

It would be the third time in three years that the navy chief had visited Lorain.

The following article speculating about the Admiral's retirement ran September 22 in the Lorain Journal, and the ad for the upcoming Victory Day luncheon ran on September 25.

The Lakeview Park War Memorial

This photo of Admiral Ernest J. King laying the cornerstone of the Lakeview Park memorial to Lorain men and women of the armed forces appeared on the front of the Lorain Journal on the Monday, August 31, 1942 edition (shown in my previous blog entry.)

The caption of the photo read, "Solemnly declaring that many more names would be added to roll to be inscribed on the shaft, Admiral Ernest J. King lays the cornerstone of a war memorial dedicated to Lorain men and women in service during the last war and the present conflict. Predicting a long and costly war, the "Cominch" (commander-in-chief) said he could offer nothing but "blood and sweat, toil and tears," as he dedicated the shaft that will memorialize Lorain's sons and daughters who are serving their country."

During the ceremony, Admiral King noted, "Unfortunately, there will be many names inscribed on this shaft. For this will be a long war, a long war and a costly one."


I'd forgotten all about this monument through the years, and decided to stop at Lakeview Park a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning and check it out. I was surprised to see that there were no names on the shaft. I guess the original intention was to honor the fallen soldiers with their names on the shaft, but I can imagine that it would have been a difficult task to coordinate.

Nevertheless, it is a wonderful memorial to Lorain's fighting men and women, as well as one of the few permanent landmarks honoring Admiral Ernest J. King in the city of Lorain. My recent photographs are below. (Click on each for a larger view.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Admiral King Visits Lorain's 1942 Home Front Celebration Part 3

Admiral Ernest J. King's homecoming was the highlight of Lorain's "Blast the Enemy" home front celebration. He made several appearances throughout the day on Sunday, including laying the cornerstone of a Lakeview Park memorial to Lorain men and women in the armed forces. The grand finale was his appearance at the downtown parade, which he headed in an open car before 60,000 onlookers, before taking his place on honor on the reviewing stand.

The front page of the Monday, August 31, 1942 edition of the Lorain Journal contained several articles about the weekend's festivities, and it is shown above (click on it for a closer look.) In the same edition, the paper published the following excellent editorial.


'To Victory of Course'

"This is the people's war."

That was the theme of all the home-coming remarks of Admiral Ernest J. King to his fellow townsmen.

But Lorain got more than this from the visit of the commander of the fleet. It gained the firm conviction that in the Ernie King who grew up and went to school in Lorain, the people's war is being fought by a people's leader.

It was a homecoming such as could only happen in America, leaving Lorain thrilled and inspired by the greatest spectacle, the greatest demonstration in its history – a demonstration that was spontaneous, warm and sincere from the opening event at 10:30 in the morning until the closing pledge to the Flag at 10:30 at night.

It was a home-coming that we hope and believe gave the admiral assurance of the confidence, the esteem and the high admiration in which he is held by his fellow townsmen, his fellow Americans.

The beaming faces, the warm hand-clasps of old friends, the round-eyed adoration of boys and girls, the cheering crowds of workers who turned out at mill and shipyards to greet him, the friendly, approving throngs that almost mobbed him at the evening ceremonies all testified to that.

A visiting newspaperman best described it, writing: "Lorain is so terribly proud of him that it warms the heart of an outsider. He may be the austere commander in chief of the United States fleet and chief of naval operations. He may wear four stars on his epaulettes on dress parade. But here, glory be to God, he is still Ernie King, a home town boy who made good in a startlingly big way."

Thru it all the admiral, modest, unassuming, kept pressing home that we are still in the preparatory stage of the war, that a long, hard struggle still lies ahead.

Again and again, he stressed the need of "the tools of war," a message of special significance for an area engaged in the making of those tools.

"We have been able," he told the great crowd of men and women who gathered at the Lorain shipyards, on their own time, "to furnish to our enemies in the Solomons and in the Tulgai area a sample of what they're going to get. They'll get more as we get the tools, and it's up to you to furnish the tools."

All who heard him must have made a private pledge to do all in their power to see that their admiral had the tools that he, his men and all the others in the armed forces may need to speed the day of victory.

And no matter how long the road, no matter how rough the going, none will doubt that victory lies at the end.

All will echo the admiral's answer to the question: "Where are we going?"


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Admiral King Visits Lorain's 1942 Home Front Celebration Part 2

On Friday, August 28, 1942 Lorain opened its special home front celebration. The Lorain Journal included a special War Review Section that examined the first three years of World War II. (The cover of this section is shown above; click on it for a closer look.)

Special newspaper ads welcomed home Admiral Ernest J. King, two of which are shown below. It's nice to see a hometown hero being celebrated and appreciated.

Admiral King Visits Lorain's 1942 Home Front Celebration Part 1

In late August 1942, Lorain held a three-day home front celebration commemorating Lorain's sons and daughters in the armed forces, as well as the role that Lorain industries played in the war. The theme of the festivities was "Blast the Enemy."

The special guest, of course, was Admiral Ernest J. King. Here is an article that ran in the Lorain Journal on Thursday, August 27, 1942. (The front page of the paper is shown above; click on it for a closer look.)


Admiral to Arrive for Sunday Program, Parade

Assured that Admiral Ernest J. King will arrive here Sunday morning for the climax of the program, Lorain today prepared to open its three-day home front celebration tomorrow.

Lorain business sections were gaily decorated with flags and buntings today, "all set" for the celebration opening.

King is scheduled to arrive in the city shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday.

The Naval chief's mode of transportation and his travel itinerary cannot be announced because of Navy censorship.

With his day's activities planned to allow the Lorain-born head of the fleet an opportunity to spend some time with his family. King's official participation in the program will include an appearance at the Navy All-Star ball game, a position at the head of the Sunday evening parade, and dedication of the "war memorial shaft" in ceremonies at Lakeview Park.

Luncheon Planned
City officials were assured today that Admiral King's two brothers, Norman J. and P. C. King, and his sister, Mrs. Vernon Wright, all of Cleveland, would be present on Sunday.

The Admiral also will be a guest at a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. for visiting dignitaries and former associates of the Navy chief.

The committee-in-charge also emphasized today that tomorrow night's mass civilian defense demonstration at the high school stadium is absolutely free, with no tickets of any kind required for admission.

Committee members have been besieged with calls during the past few days, inquiring about admission price for the mammoth demonstration.

Big Fireworks Display
It was also pointed out that the fireworks exhibition at the end of the program tomorrow night would be one of the largest of its kind ever to take place in Lorain.

Fire Chief David E. Hatt, who has been putting on fireworks displays for more years than he cares to remember, promised that tomorrow night's exhibit would be "one of the nicest" ever seen here.

The mass civilian defense demonstration at the stadium will show the effects of real fire bombs on three types of "dummy" homes, first aid practices, firefighting methods, and other home defense activities.

Children to Parade
Speaker of the evening will be Battalion Chief John P. Redmond of the Chicago fie department, who is also vice-president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and chairman of the dust explosion committee of the National Fire Prevention Association.

The three-day "Blast the Enemy" celebration officially opens at 4 p.m. tomorrow and one of the first of the program's highlights is a "Children's parade" in South Lorain. The parade forms at Lincoln school at 3:30 p.m.

Following the demonstration at the stadium, a street dance will take place on Pearl Ave. between 28th Street and 29th Street, from 10 p.m. to midnight, with prizes for the "best dancing" couple.

The above article is interesting because we get a glimpse of a united, wartime Lorain. The anticipation surrounding the homecoming of Admiral Ernest J. King is in stark contrast to the apathy that so many people currently feel in 2010 towards the renaming of Admiral King High School.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Admiral King Never Forgot His Hometown

As the Lorain school district prepares to make its decision regarding the new name of Admiral King High School, it's as good a time as any to look back at Admiral Ernest J. King, the person. This excellent article, written by Jean Weaver, appeared in the Lorain Journal on July 18, 1959.


Admiral King Never Forgot His Home Town
He Held Navy's 2 Top Posts At Once

By Jean Weaver

The names of great people in Lorain's history are many, but the greatest of these is Admiral Ernest J. King.

He was the first man ever to hold the double job of commander-in-chief of the U.S. fleet and chief of naval operations, a task assigned to him by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II.

He has been described as the only man who could have fought an eight-front war while building a five-ocean navy.

He was a tough old sea dog and a strict disciplinarian who always had a warm smile for his old friends and acquaintances in his hometown, which he never forgot and which he visited often.

The twinkle in his eyes when he talked with fellow Lorainites belied his hard-bitten exterior, which prompted the men who served under him to privately call him "Old Eagle-Eye Ernie."

Admiral King was born Nov. 23, 1878, in a modest home at 113 Hamilton Ave., the son of a railroad mechanic.

Ernie himself almost became a railroad mechanic. It was in the summer of 1895 when the 17 year-old sophomore at Lorain High School found himself a little disgusted with the classroom and decided to start earning his own bread and butter.

His father, James King, with a sly wink got him a job in the boiler shop, heating rivets – the dirtiest, hottest and most exhausting job on the railroad.

By summer's end, Ernie went willingly back to the clean, restful comfort of his classroom desk. A star football player, and a brilliant student, he graduated in 1897, receiving his appointment to Annapolis the same year.

At the Naval Academy, from which he graduated with the class of 1901, King made his mark both as a student and a leader.

In his senior year he was appointed cadet lieutenant-commander of his class, which made him its leader for all official Academy functions. He ranked fourth statistically in his class.

The Spanish American War occurred during summer vacation of his plebe year and the Naval Academy boys rushed to sea to take part in it. King was aboard the cruiser San Francisco, which was blockading Havana harbor, on the night before the armistice was to be signed.

In football, King would have been called a triple threat man – and not because he fought for his country in three wars. He served aboard surface vessels. He commanded the submarine base at New London, Conn., and he learned much about undersea vessels that helped in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Then he transferred to naval aviation, going to Pensacola to qualify as a pilot despite the fact that he was 49 years old at the time and experts said he was too old to learn to fly. Not only did he learn how to fly, but he learned quickly and became an expert.

Subsequently he captained the Lexington, when it was queen of the aircraft carriers. He later became chief of the navy's Bureau of Aeronautics and inaugurated a program that made patrol bombers an essential naval arm.

During the First World War, King saw the first Battle of the Atlantic at close range. After the war he was head of the naval post-graduate school at Annapolis for two years before going to the submarine base at New London in 1923.

It was while commanding this base that he set a record by salvaging the submarine S-51 from 132 feet of water off Block Island, for which he received the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1927 he salvaged the S-4 off Princeton, Mass.

Following his service as chief of the aeronautics bureau, King served as commander of the base and subsequently assumed command of the aircraft scouting force, and later of the aircraft battle force, with the rank of vice admiral.

In August 1939, when the war clouds presaging the Second World War hovered over Europe, King was a member of the General Board of Washington. He became commander of the Atlantic Fleet with the rank of admiral on Feb. 1, 1941, and was appointed commander-in-chief of the U.S. Fleet Dec. 20, 1941, just 13 days after Pearl Harbor.

He assumed the double role of commander-in-chief of the U.S. Fleet and chief of naval operations on March 12, 1942.

The two jobs were combined by executive order and Admiral King was nominated by President Roosevelt for a four-year term.

When President Roosevelt summoned the Admiral to Washington and told him what was planned, the admiral spoke frankly.

"I'd rather be at sea," he stated, "but if that's the way it is, all you'll get from me is a cheerful 'Aye, aye, Sir'."

The President insisted that was the way it was. He wanted King as commander and as chief of operations because Admiral King knew intimately and at first hand the problems and capacities of all three branches of the fighting navy.

Admiral King established residence on his small flagship, the USS Dauntless, at the Washington Navy Yard on the Potomac River. He took over the most exacting, unspectacular, much-blame-and-little-glory job any American had to tackle.

The unhappy truth is that the navy was not ready for the big war of the seven seas. It was the admiral's task to prepare for that war while already fighting it.

Experts have said that the U.S. Navy was lucky to have had so varied an admiral as King, that it would have been difficult to find in any navy a high officer with such eminent qualification to command the operations at such a history-making period.

Throughout his long naval career, Admiral King frequently visited his old friends and former classmates in Lorain, many times slipping in and out of town with no one knowing about it except those he visited.

In 1942 he came as a special guest for a home front celebration and in 1945 he returned to help his hometown pay tribute to the men and women who helped bring victory and peace to the nation and the world.

At that Victory Day celebration on September 30, 1945, Admiral King spoke of the coming atomic age, urging that America not become stampeded.

"We are just on the fringe of the field of atomic energy," he said in one of several talks he made that day. "There is a vast unknown and unexplored territory. Our military methods may be due for great changes, but let us not scrap what we have until we know what we are going to get."

Admiral King's last public appearance in Lorain was in June, 1947, when he returned to celebrate with his classmates the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Lorain High School.

It was two months later after that visit that he was stricken with a brain hemorrhage which made him a semi-invalid. His health failed gradually and he died on June 25, 1956, in Portsmouth Naval hospital in Kittery, Me.

Fifty-nine Lorainites were among the thousands who paid final tribute to Admiral King, a great but modest man who never forgot his hometown, at Episcopal funeral services in Washington Cathedral, Washington, D.C. on June 29, 1956.

They were flown to Washington and back in two navy planes and they heard Ft. Rev. Angus Dunn, bishop of Washington, who officiated at the services, refer to their beloved admiral as a "staunch mariner who led us to a haven of peace."

They stood with hands over their hearts in salute as they watched the flag-draped casket bearing the body of Lorain's No.1 son move down Constitution Ave. toward the Capitol building on a shrouded caisson.

They remained standing silently as the casket was transferred from the caisson to a hearse which took it to Annapolis for burial in the Naval Academy Cemetery.

Accompanying the body in the final procession were the Admiral's widow, the former Martha Rankin Edgerton whom he married in 1905, and his six daughters and one son.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph courtesy of the National Archives