Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Although many people believe Memorial Day is a day to remember all of the nation's dead, the holiday actually honors those who fell while in service to our country. Here's a great website (maintained by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) that is dedicated to restoring the original meaning of the holiday.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lorain Drive-in Closing Day, 1986

My last few posts were about opening weekends of the Lorain Drive-in through the years. This one's about the closing weekend.

(Before I could post anything, though, I had to figure out exactly when it did close. There's not exactly a lot of sources for things like this. Even my morgue of newspaper clippings through the years only indicated it was either 1986 or 1987. So I headed back to the microfilm reader at the library and slowly began take note of when the theater was in the theater listings and when it wasn't. One stiff neck later, I had my answer!)

I can now safely say that the Lorain Drive-in's final weekend was September 5, 6 and 7, 1986. Here is the ad that ran in the Journal's entertainment tabloid on Friday, Sept. 5

Actually the double feature for Screen 1 looked like a pretty good one: Armed & Dangerous with John Candy and Eugene Levy, and Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield. I'm not so sure about Screen 2's double feature of No Retreat, No Surrender with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Runaway Train with Jon Voight.

I looked at the Journals from before and after the drive-in's closing to see if there was any sort of article about it. As far as I could see, there wasn't. Which was too bad.

Strangely enough, the Lorain Drive-in did show up the 1987 city directory, seemingly just to make it tougher for me in my research. But the show was definitely over by then. My stiff neck confirms it.

Lorain Drive-in Opening Day, 1948

Here's an ad for the 1948 opening weekend of the Lorain Drive-in. It ran in the newspaper on April 16. (Sorry for the rather crummy quality of the ad, which is from the library's microfilm.) At least the 1948 opener was probably a little bit warmer than it was on the 1955 opening weekend, which I told you about here.

I'm fairly impressed with the marketing that the Lorain Drive-in employed to generate interest two years after it opened. The fireworks are a great idea.

It's easy to forget that drive-ins didn't always show monster flicks and teenage epics as popular culture and nostalgia seem to imply; that came later. In the early days, they showed a lot of B-movies. In this case, the drive-in's feature was The Bachelor's Daughters, a movie that was already 2 years old!)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lorain Drive-in Opening Day, 1946

As I wrap up this series on local (and regional) drive-in theaters, I thought I would do a little more on the Lorain Drive-in.

Last night at the library, I decided to try and find out the exact date when it actually opened. I was pretty sure it opened in 1946, so I popped in a microfilm reel from June, reasoning that it probably opened after school was out.

Lo and behold, I had only scrolled a little bit through the reel when I hit pay-dirt and found this ad on the movie listings page of June 19, 1946:
This kind of thing makes you happy when you don't feel like sitting and staring like a zombie at microfilm for hours! It was only a few days later when this article appeared on Friday, June 28.

The clipping's kind of nice in that it provides a little information as to who was behind Lorain's 'first' (and only) drive-in theater, namely Wilbur F. Ptak.

And so, on Saturday, June 29, this huge ad appeared in the paper, promoting the grand opening of the Lorain Drive-in Theater with a double feature of Guest Wife (with Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche) and A Thousand and One Nights (with Evelyn Keyes and Phil Silvers). Click on the ad so you can read it!

I like the ad a lot, because it does a great job of introducing what was probably a foreign concept to Lorainites back then. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Madison Skyway Drive-in

To close out this online collection of my old drive-in theater photos (unless I can dig out some more), here's one of the Madison Skyway Drive-in. (Click on it for a closer look.) I know it's not in Lorain County, but I'm casting a wider net on this topic – plus I like seeing all my drive-in photos in one place!

According to this website, which is an index of Ohio's forgotten drive-ins, it was located on Route 20, two miles west of Geneva. I shot it back in August of 1995, a mere fifteen years ago, during a road trip to Geneva on the Lake.

Unlike the Carlisle and Sandusky Drive-ins, the Madison Skyway is still there apparently. When I photographed it, it was already getting obscured by foliage; it's even worse now. If you're interested, this website has some more recent shots, an aerial shot and a few vintage ads. And some nice color shots of the overgrown marquee are on this flickr site.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Midway Auto Drive-in Theater

As long as I've wandered out of the confines of Lorain County with my photos of long-gone drive-ins, I might as well keep going. This photo is of the Midway Auto Drive-in, which was located on US 42 about, uh, midway between Ashland and Mansfield in Richland County. I shot it during the summer of 1987.

There's not much information about this drive-in online. The official address was 3124 Ashland Road in Mansfield.

I was driving by it fairly regularly for a few years in the late 1980's as I was driving up and down US 42 a lot. Each time it looked a little worse until finally there was some kind of "gentlemen's club" located in what was probably the refreshment stand.

Here's a link to the Cinema Treasures website, which has a little information about the drive-in’s history, including its opening on September 18, 1947.

UPDATE (June 1, 2021)
Here’s a Google Maps view dated Sept. 2019 of the property, as seen from U. S. 42.
And here’s a Google Maps 2021 Aerial View. That’s Bowen Road running alongside the property.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sandusky Drive-in

Staying with my drive-in theme for a while, here's another photo of a late, great drive-in (although technically it's not in Lorain County, as the name of this blog would have you believe.) The photo is of the Sandusky Drive-in, which was on US Route 6 along the eastern approach to the city. I took the photo back in June 2007.

By that time, the drive-in had closed and I believe it was for sale (I managed to compose my shot without the unsightly 'For Sale' sign.)

Back in the summer of 1991, I had also snapped a shot of it (at left). The theater was still open then, as the marquee was promoting The Perfect Weapon as well as The Flight of the Intruder. The screen tower was in slightly better shape than it was sixteen years later. (Click on either photo for a closer look.)

Looking at these photos, I wonder: Why I was out shooting on such crummy days? Somehow, though, the dismal weather in each of the photos seem appropriate, kind of a visual metaphor for the state of the drive-in industry.

Anyway, I have no memory of ever seeing a movie at this theater. It was just something that my family drove by on the way home from Cedar Point, along with the Lorain Drive-in, which was further east and along the final stretch before getting home.

Here are a few links with a little information. The Agilty Nut, always a great source of information and photographs when it comes to classic roadside Americana, can be found at this link.

A little more information can be found here, and some great photos shot by someone on a sunny day can be found here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Carlisle Drive-in

As long as I'm talking about drive-ins, here's a photo of one in Lorain County that I shot back in the spring of 1990 – 20 years ago. It's the old Carlisle Drive-in on Oberlin - Elyria Road in Carlisle Township. It was located out in the country, just west of the Elyria Country Club.

According to several articles in the Chronicle-Telegram at the time, the 550-car drive-in was built on 62 acres back in 1949 for the sum of $200,000. It closed in 1985, mainly due to competition from cable TV and the growing popularity of video rentals. It was the second drive-in theater in Lorain County, after the Lorain Drive-in.

Eventually, Browning-Ferris Industries, the company that owned the property, deemed the old drive-in to be an eyesore and decided to tear it down around late June 1990.

I had stumbled upon the old drive-in while shooting around Lorain County, and really liked the lettering on the 18-foot-high marquee. I was planning to go back and try to get a better shot (the late afternoon sun made it difficult on the day I was there) and I was disappointed to read that it was being demolished.

I'm sorry I never had an opportunity to see a movie there.


UPDATE (February 5, 2015)

I received an email in October 2015 from Dennis Thompson. Dennis wrote, "I know you did a couple of stories about the old Carlisle Drive-in, torn down in 1990. I happened to be driving by when they started to demolish it, and I snapped a few last photos."

Here is Dennis' photo (below).

Thanks for sharing, Dennis! It's good to see it in color.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Night at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-in

Well, on Friday night we made it out to the Aut-O-Rama Drive-in in North Ridgeville for the first time this season. It was a good night to go. A little brisk, but with no chance of rain and it being too early for mosquitoes, it was too good to pass up. (Plus I wanted to see Iron Man 2.)

The Aut-O-Rama is a place that I don't remember ever going to as a kid. I remember seeing it from the Ohio Turnpike while on the way to or from something else, but my drive-in memories are pretty much limited to the long-gone Lorain Drive-in (on US 6) and the Tower Drive-in (on Lake Avenue in Elyria).

It has only been since the late 1980's that I have made it a point to go as many times as possible each season. The biggest problem has been finding a movie worth seeing, and believe me, my wife and I have seen some real cinematic dogs at the Aut-O-Rama through the years. (Space Balls, anyone? How about Howie Mandel in Walk Like a Man? My wife still hasn't forgiven me for making her sit through that one!)

Part of the fun of going to the drive-in for me is the preparation. Even though I'm a cub scout drop out, I believe in the motto: be prepared. Indeed, getting ready for a night at the drive-in is like going on a camping trip. I bring along chairs, a small folding table (to hold the goodies), a radio, flashlight, bug spray, several big blankets, a few small blankets, rain coats and an umbrella. I'm sure watching us set up 'camp' is a source of amusement for people parked next to us – especially when we bail out halfway through the movie due to the cold and head for the car!)

Oh I forgot to mention: I also bring Pic when I remember! I have yet to ever light one, but after watching the 'animated' commercials for years on the big screen there (saw it again Friday night) I felt obligated to buy this fine product! Any commercial that uses an animated mosquito that drops dead and immediately produces a lily in his hands is okay with me! (Watch the cartoon below!)

I really don't mind the Aut-O-Rama's restriction on bringing in outside food (no food can be brought in unless you purchase a special permit for five bucks.) The foodstuffs are part of the fun! It's the only time that I eat Snowcaps (nonpareils) with no guilt. And this time, we purchased the biggest size popcorn they had at the concession stand ("Glutton size, please," I told the concession worker.) To our surprise, we discovered that the huge plastic bucket with handy handle comes with a free refill. You merely bring it back whenever – even next season – and they will refill it once for free. So we have that going for us.

We still seem to have trouble tuning in the right FM station to get the sound. Even though the workers tell you the channel when you come in (91.9 FM for screen one, 90.7 FM for screen two), when the Star Spangled Banner starts playing and the 1940's era flag footage is projected onscreen, it's never the right channel!

I still prefer the old speakers that hung on the windows - it was part of the ambience. The Aut-O-Rama actually has a few of them in the parking spots close to the concession stand and they seem to be in pretty good shape. (See photo at left.) But most of them are just rusted relics.

All in all, it was fun sitting under the stars watching the flick, and there weren't even as many trains as usual going by to obliterate the sound temporarily (although Iron Man 2 was so confusing it really didn't matter!) For me the best part is that timeless feeling that you get when you're there. You forget that it's 2010 and you start to believe that you're back in high school again – which is a nice feeling when your carefree youth is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror.

See you at the drive-in! And don't forget the Pic!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

1955 Lorain Drive-in Ad

I'm planning on hitting the Aut-O-Rama Drive-in soon, so this ad caught my attention.

It's a newspaper ad for the old Lorain Drive-in on US 6 that ran on Thursday, March 24, 1955 for the upcoming opening weekend for the season. (Click on it for a larger view.) Considering it was only the end of March, I'll bet it was a wee bit chilly at the Drive-in that weekend!

Looks like it was a pretty good double feature, though. If you're a Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall fan (like I am), then you might enjoy seeing the trailer for Jungle Gents! Here it is – and see you at the drive-in soon!

From Dairy Queen to Dutch Treat

Yesterday I posted the newspaper ad for the Grand Opening of the Sheffield Lake Dairy Queen that was at the corner of Abbe and East Lake Road back in 1952. I imagine the scene back then looked a lot like the blissful illustration above (poached from this site).

Well, I did a little research and found out that the store wasn't a Dairy Queen for very long. By 1954 the store was Dutch Treat, with the same owner. The Dutch Treat lasted a lot longer, at least through the late 1960's, when they offered pizza!

So although it is unlikely that someone will remember the Dairy Queen, if someone knows anything about the Dutch Treat, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

1952 Sheffield Lake Dairy Queen Ad

Here's something that caught my eye on a newpaper microfilm roll: a 1952 ad for the Grand Opening of the Sheffield Lake Dairy Queen. The ad ran on Friday, May 2, 1952. (Click on it for a close look – sorry it's a little grubby.)

When I first saw the ad, I thought it was for Lorain's Dairy Queen on East Erie Avenue (now Terry's Dairy). But I was surprised (and a little impressed) to see that Sheffield Lake had a Dairy Queen franchise. This ad may be the only photo of what it looked like in existence!

I'm not sure how long the Dairy Queen branding lasted for this business. I know at some point it turned into Dutch Treat. But if you drive by the corner of Abbe Road and East Lake Road today, you won't see anything on the southeast corner but a parking lot for the long-gone The Spot nightclub.

Soft serve ice cream must be a tricky business. Some stores have the right ingredients for success, such as the newly remodeled K-Cream Corner (at the corner of Oberlin Avenue and West Erie) as well as the popular Avon Dairy Treat out on Route 611. Others struggle to stay alive.

The funny thing is, I can't even remember going to any Dairy Queen while growing up. My family would go to the Lorain Creamery for ice cream, but soft serve ice cream was a treat reserved for outings such as fishing. Much later, the Avon Lake Dairy Queen became a preferred high school destination because of their miniature golf course.

Does anybody out there remember the Sheffield Lake Dairy Queen? If so, be sure to post a comment!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Digital Lorain Postcard Collection

I used to spend a lot amount of time on Ebay looking for items to buy relating to local history (the more inexpensive, the better). I would usually try to find a vintage postcard of something that still exists, so that I could give it the "then and now" photo treatment.

I built up quite a collection of this sort of thing through the years, and since you can't take it with you, a few years ago I donated most of my collection to the Black River Historical Society.

Nowadays I still check out Ebay, which continues to be a great source for vintage items relating to Lorain and Lorain County. But rather than purchase more stuff that I will have to get rid of later, occasionally I am lucky enough to find nice big jpegs of the postcards that I can download for free.

This new digital "collection" is much easier to store and the price is right as well. Here are a few that I found recently (last week actually). (Click on each for a larger view.)

The Union School 
(predecessor to the original Lorain High School)

The Erie Avenue Viaduct (circa 1912)
(one of the swing bridge predecessors to the Bascule Bridge)

Black River and Tube Mills
Apparently this is the kind of view that Lorain hopes to recapture with the recently begun effort to clean up the banks of the Black River over by the steel mill.

Boat Launching
I still remember watching the launching of at least one freighter at the old American Shipbuilding yard in the 1960's. 

Boat House
I'm not sure which bridge that was behind the boat house, but that's got to be the east side in the background, since it is heavily forested.

One drawback to downloading the images is that many times, the seller doesn't post an image of the back of the card, so that you miss some of the identifying characteristics, such as the postmark or value of the stamp, which are sometimes critical to figuring out the age of the item.

Many of the above postcards are currently on Ebay – so if you see one you must have, you know where to find it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

1958 McGarvey's Ad

Here's another Lorain phone book ad for McGarvey's, this time from 1958. I really like the typography in the restaurant logo.

The illustration has a nice little reference to the restaurant owners in the form of the names on the boat: Charlie Solomon, who bought the restaurant from the McGarvey family (but didn't change the name), and Eddie Solomon, who ran the restaurant for more than forty years.

The unsung artist who created the illustration captured the restaurant pretty well.


More McGarvey Memories

Faithful blog reader Jeff, who often posts comments, remembered how the restaurant used to get flooded after the river thawed.

I remember how the place flooded after the really bad storms, such as the infamous July 4, 1969 storm. (I do remember my family driving over to Vermilion to survey the damage after that storm, passing by McGarvey's as well as Mill Hollow.) That musty odor in the lower level of the restaurant became part of the ambience of the place!

Another thing I remember about McGarvey's was the 'GANGWAY' sign outside, which was a source of amusement for my siblings and me. We never got tired of yelling "GANGWAY!" as we shoved each other out of the way on the way into the restaurant.

Once the original McGarvey's building was torn down and replaced by Red Clay on the River, it was never quite the same. Red Clay was a pretty good restaurant, and we ate there quite a few times, but it's pretty difficult to try and replace a landmark.

Now Red Clay is gone and replaced by a chain restaurant. I'm glad something is in there that people enjoy, but I wonder if 30 years from now if anyone will wax nostalgic about Quaker Steak? (I gotta admit, that name has bugged me since I first heard it – talk about appropriating someone else's brand equity!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1957 McGarvey's Ad

Keeping with my restaurant ad theme, here's a 1957 phone book ad for McGarvey's, the late, great Vermilion restaurant.

Everyone went to McGarvey's at some time or another. For my family, a trip to McGarvey's was for special occasions only, and we had to dress up. I remember being annoyed (along with my brothers) that we had to sit there in a sport coat and tie, when many of the boating patrons were sitting there in comfortable T-shirts and shorts!

The well-remembered "toy chest" for the kiddies was always kind of a dud for me. I remember one time coming out of there with a plastic Ratfink-like molded monster. At the time I didn't even know what it was, but now (courtesy of the internet) I know that it was either a Weird-Oh or a Nutty Mad. I wish I had kept it, because it was probably pretty cool! (I should have been happy to get any kind of free toy back then; what restaurant does that now?)

Rather than just swipe the history of McGarvey's from other people's websites, I'll give you a link. You'll find a nice history of McGarvey's on this great Vermilion website, which is definitely worth visiting.

And if you're interested, here's a link to the recipe for McGarvey sauerkraut balls.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Yeager's Acres 1970 ad

Since I'm temporarily stuck on vintage restaurants again as the topic of this blog, it's a good time to post this clipping, which I found on microfilm at the library.

Last year in this post I mentioned a local restaurant that was a favorite of my grandparents, namely Yeager's Acres. It was located at the intersection of Kolbe Road and Cooper Foster Park Road, the current location of my family doctor's office.

Since then, I found this ad for Yeager's Acres in the business section of the Lorain Journal of September 21, 1970. (Click on it so you can read it.) It's one of those ads that masquerade as an actual article. I like those types of ads, though, because they provide a detailed window into the subject matter that you don't get from a simple boxed ad – and that's important when you're trying to research something that's been gone for almost forty years.

Anyway, the ad literally puts a friendly face on the day-to-day operations of Yeager's Acres and maybe a loyal patron of the restaurant will stumble upon this blog and get a kick out of it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Short Shelf Life of Wonder Burger

Wonder Burger, we hardly knew ye.

After all the wonderment expressed in my previous post, I decided to do a little research at the library over the weekend.  It appears that the Wonder Burger flamed out pretty quickly in Elyria – and maybe everywhere for that matter.

The Lorain Public Library has an incomplete set of Elyria city directories, but I was able to determine that before it was the Wonder Burger Drive-in, it was listed in 1962 as Larry's Drive-in and Sport Shop. Then for that brief period around 1965 it was the Wonder Burger Drive-in.

Although Wonder Burger didn't last long, at least the owner seemed to find the right formula for success for 506 Middle Street with the next venture. Around 1966 it became the Top Spot Dining Restaurant – which lasted all the way until the end of the 1970's, when Mr. Hero moved in.

I guess we'll never know whether Wonder Burger was just a short-lived idea, or whether it succeeded in other markets (if it was indeed a regional or national chain). I'm guessing it was an attempt to compete with the Big Boy, with its double-decker design. But most likely it didn't stand a chance against the beloved Midway Oh Boy on Lake Avenue.