Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Januzzi's Shoes

It's back to school time, when parents traditionally might have to buy their kids some new shoes among other things. Which brings me to today's topic!

Here's a Lorain icon that everyone will recognize: Januzzi's Shoes, which was located at 26th Street and Broadway. The photo is from a Lorain Journal business section ad that ran on July 21, 1969.

At the time, the store's ad boasted that it was Ohio's largest independent shoe store and that it carried more than 60 of the top names in fashion shoes. Everyone in Lorain shopped at Januzzi's at some time or another.

When shopping for shoes, my family would always include Januzzi's along with all the other stores around town and at Midway Mall, such as Regal Shoes, Picway Shoe Stores or Nobil Shoes.

It's funny to think about the shoe shopping experience back then. Upon entering the shoe display area, you would be paired with a shoe salesman. He would measure your foot to begin the process, with one of those gadgets shown at left.

Once your shoe size was established, the salesman was at your beck and call, bringing out different styles and sizes.

I really hated shopping for shoes back then. New shoes were usually uncomfortable, and the endless tramping around the store to make sure the shoes fit seemed silly. Curiously, the left shoe never felt or fit the same as the right shoe. Plus, the salesman always seemed to crush your big toe with his thumb when he was feeling around trying to determine if the shoe fit!

Little did we know that forty years after this ad ran, almost all of the old-time shoe stores would be gone, along with customized, personal service. You're mostly on your own now.

But, the Januzzi legacy continues with Januzzi Shoes for You on Leavitt Road in Amherst. The company website has a short history of the company here.

As for the former Januzzi building on Broadway, it had a variety of purposes after being a shoe store, including a craft store, a thrift store and a carpet store. Here's a current view; the menacing sky makes it look even more forlorn.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Own a Lorain Mom & Pop Motel on US 6

The short commercial strip of motels on US 6 as you approach Lorain from the west has always fascinated me.

I think back about Lorain's glory days of the 1950's and wondered what it would have been like to be passing through Lorain on old '6 and 2' (US 6 and State Route 2 as it was known back then) and need to find a room for the night. If that was the case, or perhaps if you were spending some of your vacation in Lorain doing some fishing or boating, then you might have stayed in one of these motels.

There's several of them that were there in the 1950's and are still there now.

Well, if you ever had a hankering to run a motel in Lorain on US 6, one of those vintage motels is currently for sale. The Shoreway Motel and Mobile Home Park went up for auction at the beginning of August and still is for sale.

This particular motel has been there since around 1953. Back then the motel was known as the Beth-Shan Motel and Trailer Court and its address was merely "Stop 109 West Erie Avenue". By 1957, it was one of the listings described as being on the 'dead end' and had 4000 West Lake Road as its address. By 1960 the motel had its current name.

The real estate listing notes that it has had the same owner for more than 20 years and includes a 2-bedroom owner residence. It occupies a 1.12 acre lot and includes not only the 12-unit motel, but 20 mobile homes.

For me, the best part is the vintage COLOR TV by RCA sign. It's a classic!

For the real estate listing on the Barck Auction & Realty website, click here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Lorain County Fair

Well, my vacation and the 2010 Lorain County Fair were both winding down late in the week, so the wife and I made a beeline out to Wellington Thursday night. For a change, we got out there nice and early to walk around and work up an even bigger appetite.

As usual, the Fair was great, and we had our usual treats: dinner at the Midway Oh Boy booth under the Grandstand, a delicious Rutana's Apple Dumpling (hold the ice cream) for dessert and other goodies.

I don't know why, but the Oh Boy's were particularly good. They're always good at the Fair and at the restaurant on Lake Avenue, but every once in a while you get one that is perfect. Mine certainly was; it was all I could do to hold it for this photograph without taking a big ol' bite out of it.

I never get tired of the Fair; even though it's kind of the same thing every year, it's always enjoyable. There's usually a little hint of autumn in the air, as it gets a little chilly out there later in the evening.

It's also heartwarming to see all kinds of people there. We always marvel at the fact that many of the fairgoers are senior citizens who might be moving a bit slow, or perhaps might even be in a wheelchair. But they're there having a good time, and that's terrific. I hope I'm still going there in another thirty years.

Anyway, here are a few more shots of the 2010 Lorain County Fair. If you're a relocated Lorain Countian, plan to be in town for next year's Fair!

Friday, August 20, 2010

On Vacation!

Well, after spending the last several weeks on and off blogging about Vacationland and its various points of interest, it's time for me to go on vacation! But instead of Vacationland, the spouse and I will be heading up to one of our favorite places – Niagara Falls, Canada. When you're married to a Canuck, you tend to spend a lot of time in Canada, which is fine with me.

So I won't be here for a week or so, although I will post some shots next week from the Lorain County Fair, yet another of our favorite things.

Hope you are enjoying what's left of summer and I will see you soon – hopefully with some interesting topics closer to home!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prehistoric Forest Postcards

Here's the vintage postcard I was referring to in my previous blog.

As you can see from my photo from over the weekend, he must have molted or something!

Here's a postcard that I picked up in the office/gift shop at Prehistoric Forest/Mystery Hill last weekend. 
The back of it looks like this. 
At first when I saw the deer, I thought that somehow Deer Park had muscled its way onto the back of the postcard as some kind of cross-promotion. But then I saw the name of the printing company in small print.
I thought it was strange that the postcard only mentioned Mystery Hill and not Prehistoric Forest. But at least I now know the name of the piece of furniture that I was standing on: the Mystery Table!
I wonder if they'll put the Mystery Table up for sale when the attraction closes? I don't know, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to put a lamp on it! Or a bowl of candy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Farewell Trip to Prehistoric Forest Part 3

I was pretty excited about going through Prehistoric Forest one last time, and I wasn't disappointed.

Here are a few of the sights from the beginning of the trail through the Forest. I think these are some of the newer additions to the attraction, since the colors are kind of gaudy.

I'm not sure what a giant parrot has to do with prehistoric times, but he did appear on a vintage postcard.

And I have no idea what this thing is, but he looks pretty creepy.

For me, the best ones were the old classics that have been there for a long time. Like these guys.

Another classic is the mastodon, who also appeared on a vintage postcard. When you approached him and leaned in close, you got a big surprise – a faceful of water from his trunk!

The last and probably best was the T-Rex. He still moved around and growled, which was a nice nod to Prehistoric Forest's past, when most of the primeval critters moved (if I remember correctly.)

These are only some of the creatures that you see out in Prehistoric Forest. (I don't want to give it all away.) So make sure you get out there one more time before it's extinct!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Farewell Trip to Prehistoric Forest Part 2

The last time I was at Mystery Hill (back in the 1980's), guides stayed with you every step of the way to demonstrate the various mysterious phenomena and entertain you with rehearsed patter. But it's a self-guided tour now, which is fine with me, because you can loiter!

After my brief dizziness spell, we approached the Mystery Shack. Outside, water was indeed running uphill and downhill!

There are signs in each room explaining what mysterious phenomena is taking place and instructions telling you what to do. First up was a chair with its back legs resting on a beam and its front legs suspended in the air.

When you sat in it, it looked something like this. It's a little hard to see, but the front legs of the chair aren't touching the ground!

Next was a strange table on which we were instructed to stand. I climbed up on it for the photo op and here is the mind-boggling result!

This is the classic gag that appeared on several vintage postcards for sale in the gift shop. It's a great illusion!

The rest of our tour of Mystery Hill was fun. Walking through the rest of the shack was a challenge, like walking on a ship that was leaning to one side. Or if you prefer, it felt like being drunk!

There was a display outside where you could roll a tennis ball uphill. Again, a pretty good gag! (I'm a sucker for these examples of good clean, wholesome American Roadside hokum!)

But with the Mystery Hill part of our journey over, it was time for the part that I'd been waiting for: Prehistoric Forest!

Next: Into the Forest!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Farewell Trip to Prehistoric Forest Part 1

Over the weekend, I took a little trip in a time machine. Actually two trips – one to One Million B.C. and at the same time, a shorter jaunt back to about 1965. I'm talking of course about my visit to Prehistoric Forest and Mystery Hill out in Marblehead.

I had mentioned earlier that my family had gone to Prehistoric Forest back in the early 1960's and the visit had left a big impression on me. The attraction had reached mythological status in my mind, and when I found out that it was closing this year, I knew I had to go back one last time. I wasn't disappointed!

When you arrive, you are greeted by the site of a volcano with an impressive waterfall, along with a huge dinosaur (like on a Sinclair Oil Company sign) nearby. Other years, I seem to recall that the volcano was more gaudy-colored, almost pink.

After purchasing our tickets, we waited in a holding area outside (near a giant turtle) to await the arrival of our 'guide' – who turned out to be a boy of about ten years old. (I couldn't resist asking him is there wasn't some sort of child labor law violation taking place.) Our young guide then led us to the Mystery Hill area of the complex.

Mystery Hill is similar to other attractions around the country (with names like the Mystery Spot) where all sorts of strange natural phenomena take place. At these places, the laws of gravity have been revoked; water runs uphill, balls roll uphill etc.

Our young guide enlisted our help in the first demonstration of mysterious happenings by having us stand, facing each other, on two seemingly level short concrete pedestals. (He even put a level on them to prove he was on the level.) The idea was that two people of the same height would actually appear to be different heights depending on which pedestal they were standing on. Unfortunately, since I am taller than my wife, I was taller than her no matter which pedestal I stood on! (I tried to help the illusion by secretly squatting.) Our guide was not amused.

After this demonstration, we were led to the fenced in trail leading to the mystery shack, where we were promptly abandoned by our guide. (Other years, the guides would accompany you the whole way, but now it is a do-it-yourself tour.)

I gotta admit, when we first approached the mysterious shack, I got a little bit dizzy! Maybe this place wasn't for 50-somethings after all!

Next: Inside the Mystery Shack

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Blue Hole

I spent a lot of time out in Castalia a few months ago while researching the Crystal Rock Caves, and thus grabbed this shot of the entrance to the Blue Hole as it looks today.

It's kind of sad that the Blue Hole isn't open for tours anymore. I remember seeing it as a kid with my family, and later on in the 1980's before it closed in 1990. It was just a nice relaxing thing to do on a sunny Sunday.

Here is what the 1940 Ohio Guide said about the Blue Hole:

On State 269 is the BLUE HOLE (adm. 10 cents–15 cents), 2.1 m (L), a beautiful spring, 75 feet in diameter, that daily exudes 7,000,000 gallons of water into the winding race near by. The spring's blue measureless depths reveal iridescent wonders: the simulacrum of an Alpine village, or a mountainside farm, or a medieval castle. The Indians believed the waters were medicinal, and white men marveled at the spring as early as 1761. Visitors have come to it from all parts of the world. When Cold Creek was dammed in 1819, the regurgitant river enlarged the Blue Hole to its present dimensions.

I remember the ubiquitous round signs for the Blue Hole along Route 6.  To me, the Blue Hole made Castalia a magical place – along with the Crystal Rock Caves and Deer Park.

Anyway, here are a few postcards to rekindle some Blue Hole memories.

For more information about the Blue Hole, click here for a Wiki entry that also mentions the 'other' Blue Holes in the area. To read some reminisces, you can check out the Roadside America's website or click here for some more interesting recollections on another website.

The best source for information and fantastic photos, however is the Arcadia Publishing book by Glenn C. Kuebeler, Castalia, Cold Creek and the Blue Hole. It's a terrific book and a must-have for your book shelf.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crystal Rock Memories

Did you ever visit the Crystal Rock Caves out by Castalia when you were a kid, maybe as part of a fun day spent enjoying all the local attractions, including Deer Park and the Blue Hole?

Were you a big fan of Crystal Rock Beer and felt bad when it wasn't being made any longer?

Did you ever camp at Crystal Rock Campground?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then by all means go out and pick up the August issue of the Black Swamp Trader and Firelands Gazette. In it, you'll find my latest article, Crystal Rock Memories of Caves and Beer, in which I explore all things 'Crystal Rock'.

I start with the history of the caves and underground spring, which led to the introduction of the well-known Crystal Rock Beer. Along the way the article also discusses the Crystal Rock Castle, the community of Crystal Rock, and much more.

Finally, I finish up with an interview and a trip down into the caves with the longtime owner!

The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette is free and available at many stores, including Toft's Dairy & Ice Cream Parlor on Venice Road in Sandusky and the Vermilion Farm Market on US 6. It's also available at many antique markets; for the closest location near you, contact the editor via the website.

Vintage photo courtesy of the Charles E. Frohman Collection, Hayes Presidential Center

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vacationland Postcards

Here's a few more vintage postcards from Vacationland.

This (below) is the original 1929 two-lane Sandusky Bay Bridge (which was later replaced by the Thomas Edison Memorial Bridge that we all know so well). You can still drive on part of it today, since it is still in service as two separate fishing piers. A better blog than mine tells the whole story of this bridge with some great pictures, if you click here. But be sure to come back!

Here's a vintage postcard of downtown Huron. I picked up this postcard at the Wileswood Country Store (remember it?) back in the 1980's. I was going to try and do a 'then and now' treatment, but I believe that most, if not all of this is gone now. I've driven up and down the street here and have been unable to do a positive I. D. on any of the buildings. If I'm ever in a library out there, I'll get the address of that Food Center from an old city directory and see if any of the buildings are still there.

Here's a postcard of a place that is on the way to Prehistoric Forest (which I mentioned a few days ago.) It's Fort Firelands. I've driven by here several times each summer, wondering what it is. Its website reveals that it is actually an RV resort that just happens to have a full-scale replica of a frontier fort as part of the complex. This page of the website has some great vintage photos of the fort as it looked through the years.

Lastly, here's one from downtown Port Clinton of the Island House. According to the 'history' page on its website, it was built in 1886. It's now a condo-tel, with 38 rooms that are individually owned. I love its long-gone triangular sign!