Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween 1961

Here's what my older siblings and I looked like for Halloween 1961. (Sorry, Ed – you were only seven months old and too young to join this rogue's gallery!)

It's interesting to me mainly because of my older brother's costume (certainly not because of mine!) Remember back here a few days ago when I mentioned that TV cartoons would soon take over the kid's Halloween costume market in the late 1950's? Here's a good example.

The Flintstones had debuted a year earlier in September 1960 as an adult show, but it didn't take very long for the show to begin influencing children's products.

Thinking back, we must have accumulated more than a dozen of those flimsy plastic masks through the years, including Woody Woodpecker, Huckleberry Hound, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Casper, etc. Every year a few more new ones came out and were added to the stash.

I still remember the masks cracking easily and rubbing against our face. Sometimes the mask would split where the hole for the rubber band was, so that it wouldn't keep it on your head, and you had to just hold it up with your hand (making it hard to maneuver your trick or treat bag).

The bottom part of the costume always had the character's name, as well as an illustration of them. I always thought that was a little bit strange. Why would Fred Flintstone wear a shirt with his name on it and a picture of him? The bearskin rug that my brother wore was a much better solution (and warmer too.)

Ebay is a great place to find these old masks. I looked a few days ago, and there was the Fred Flintstone mask, looking just like I remembered it.

In later years, we grew out of the plastic cartoon masks. The last time I went trick-or-treating was as a hobo (a costume which in today's economy will probably be making a big comeback). I had the whole burnt cork bit around my mouth not unlike Fred Flintstone's muzzle.

I think I was in junior high, or almost, and my younger brother and I were racing around the Masson School area, trying to squeeze in as many houses as possible.

The reason I remember that night is because at one of the very last houses, the guy that answered the door (I still remember the house) took one look at me and sneered, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating?"

I was crushed, and that was the end of my trick-or-treating career.

Now, decades later, I've seen kids with real facial stubble trick-or-treating. Oh well.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed

In honor of Halloween, I'd like to tell you about a great book that I borrowed many times from the Masson Elementary School library in the late 1960's. It's called The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales by Maria Leach, first published in 1959.

This book left a huge impression on me, and I recently bought a battered copy of it online. More than forty years after I first read it, it still gives me the creeps. Why?

First of all, it really wasn't a typical children's book. It's filled with gruesome beheadings and horrible murders. Oh, the title story is amusing enough, and there are a few other funny tales. But the rest of the book still makes me uneasy.

Maria Leach is actually a well-known authority on folklore, and she compiled these stories from all over the country, as well as the world. She provides an explanation of the origin for each tale in the back of the book.

The thing that I remember most about the book are the haunting illustrations by Kurt Werth. They are drawn in a loose, sketchy style that perfectly complement the subject matter and greatly enhance the enjoyment of the book.

The book is divided into six sections, categorized by the type of stories: FUNNY ONES, SCARY ONES, REAL ONES, GHOST GAMES, WITCH STORIES, and DO'S and DON'TS ABOUT GHOSTS. (The DO'S and DON'Ts have been burned into my memory since I first read the book!)

So, if you have fond memories of this book as I do, perhaps you'll enjoy a few of the stories. Here's the title story. (Click on each page for a readable version.)

Okay, that was a funny one. Here's one a little more... gruesome.

Here's a story from the REAL ONES section of the book. In the back of the book, Mrs. Leach explains that this tale is a variation of one of the most popular and widespread ghost stories in the United States.

Here's one from the WITCH STORIES section. I always found this particular story (Singing Bone) kind of shocking and poignant.

Lastly, here are a few useful tips that might come in handy this Halloween!

Hope you enjoyed these selections from the book! Happy Halloween – and don't forget to cover your mouth when you yawn!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ebenezer Gregg/Myron Foote House

Sometimes when I select a topic for this blog, I bite off more than I can chew. Such is the case with today's topic, the Ebenezer Gregg house.

I first saw the above picture in a 1959 souvenir book commemorating the 125th Anniversary of Lorain. Its caption read, "First big house on the East Side was the home of Ebenezer Gregg, who came to Ohio from Dorchester, New Hampshire in 1835. The house still stands at the corner of E. Erie Ave. and Idaho Avenue."

I didn't remember ever seeing this house on E. Erie Avenue, but I realized that sometimes old homes get renovated. So I headed over there anyway with my camera, hoping the house would still be there.

Eastlake Apartments at 960 E. Erie Avenue
However, the house was apparently gone. A large apartment house stood on the southwest corner of Idaho and E. Erie, and a very old house was on the southeast corner. Where Idaho Avenue crosses on the north side of E. Erie, a closed convenient store was on the west side and another old house was opposite it.

Neither of the two remaining old houses looked much like the illustration, unless extensive renovations had taken place. So I concluded that the Gregg house must have been where the apartment house was now. But I had to be sure.

Using the city directory, I checked all of the residential listings in the area from 1958 on, looking to see if any of them had disappeared before being replaced by either the apartment house or the convenient store. It turns out that before the Convenient Food Mart appeared in 1980, there had been a gas station or auto repair shop at that location dating back to the late 1920's. So the Gregg house definitely wasn't at that location.

I discovered that only one homeowner's address, 954 E. Erie, had disappeared around 1972 – and had been replaced by the Eastlake Apartments at 960 E. Erie in 1974. A gentleman named Myron Foote had lived at the 954 address, sometimes with other tenants, at least since 1919.

I was ready to conclude that the Gregg house had been at that location, but then I ran into trouble.

While checking the earliest city directories, I had found several listings of Greggs – but none of them at the 954 E. Erie Address. There was Mrs. E. Gregg at 93 E. Erie (1891), Arthur and Anna Gregg at 921 E. Erie (1903 & 1905), and Warren A. and Anna Gregg (the same couple?) at 1007 E. Erie (from 1912 to 1920). All on the north side of the street. And the 1007 E. Erie house was on the corner of Idaho and E. Erie!

The house at 1007 E. Erie
So I did some more research, and found out that according to Early Days in Lorain by William Wickens, Mr. Gregg had opened subdivisions on his farm in anticipation of the railroad coming to town in the 1870's. A book of county maps from the 1960's indicated that the lots that were part of the Gregg subdivision were on the lake side of E. Erie. 

So if the Gregg farm was on the lake side, would that include his house as well? Thoroughly confused, I decided that I was going to need some help with this.

And then a happy coincidence occurred. 

While visiting Loraine Ritchey's always thought-provoking blog, I happened to notice that someone left a comment on October 18th regarding a "beautiful 'older' home on the corner of Idaho Avenue and East Erie Avenue." The comment mentioned that "it was purchased and torn down to make way for an eyesore apartment building."

I excitedly emailed Loraine, asking her if she had ever heard of the Gregg mansion, and she kindly put out the word on her blog that I was looking for information.

Boy, did she get results – and fast!

The emails started pouring into my inbox, each one with another fantastic attachment.

Dennis Lamont provided an aerial view of the area from the 1920's, which enabled me to positively confirm that the house (with its distinctive roof and chimney) was where the apartments are now located.

Here's the "then (at top) and now" aerial view using Dennis' photo. (Click on it for a closer look.)

But it got even better. Renee Dore did extensive research and found an article with this great photo of the house and Mr. Myron Foote. It's amazing how little the house had changed over the years.

According to the March 2, 1966 newspaper article, Myron Foote and his wife were trying to get a zoning variance for the property so that they could sell it to a prospective buyer. (Foote and his wife were moving into the Kennedy Plaza apartments.) A neighborhood group, however, objected to the property being rezoned for business and circulated petitions.

A few days later, the Building and Lands Committee denied a City Planning Commission recommendation that the property at 954 E. Erie be rezoned from residential to business.

Just when I thought I had seen it all, I heard from Loraine again a few days later. "Did you get the picture with the bulldozer in front?" 

I couldn't believe it. I told her that finding that photo was like finding the Holy Grail! Renee had hit the jackpot!

Here it is.

At the time of this photo (May 16, 1969), the zoning change had finally been approved and the apartments were already planned for the site. A committee had been formed to try to save the house, but it was obviously to no avail.

I should also mention that other people also posted comments on Loraine's blog to help me out.

So while it was sad to know for sure that this great old building (and a big part of Lorain's history) fell victim to the wrecking ball more than four decades ago, it was great to find out that there are so many friendly people out there with a love for local history that were willing to help me. 

In conclusion, I want to thank Loraine RitcheyRenee DoreDennis Lamont, the reference librarians at the Lorain Public Library, and the volunteers at the Black River Historical Society for their help with the research on this subject. Because of their help, this short history is a lot more complete – and for that I am grateful!

Now, what should I write about next? Something easy, I hope! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween at the Castle-on-the-Lake 1958

Here's an October 23, 1958 newspaper ad for the Castle-on-the-Lake and its Halloween Masquerade Dance.

Earlier this year (right here) I had a short series of blogs on the Castle-on-the-Lake. I had tried to find a listing of the building in the Lorain City Directory before it became a restaurant, but since it was outside the city limits for many years, the address wasn't included in the early books.

The ad is kind of quaint, promoting the restaurant as a 'supper club'.

The band mentioned in the ad, Gene Krugman and the Dukes, was a popular local band led by Eugene E. Krugman. Mr. Krugman had a nice career, having played with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Charlie Barnet Orchestra and the Sammy Kaye Orchestra, as well as the well-known local favorite Jimmy Dulio Orchestra. Here's a link to Mr. Krugman's obituary.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 1955 Lakewood Bakery Ad

Here's another vintage Halloween newspaper ad, this one from late October 1955. This ad is for Lakewood Bakery, which at one time had two locations in Lorain, including one on Broadway (the above ad announces its Grand Opening) and one at O'Neil Shopping Center. There was also an Elyria location listed.

The original Lakewood Bakery was founded in Lakewood, Ohio by Stefan Lodzieski.

I guess the other well-known bakeries in town such as DeLuca Bakery, Central Bakery and Bob's Donuts were too much competition for Lakewood Bakery, despite the fact that their baked goods in the ad sound pretty good to me. Old habits are hard to break, and I guess any new bakery would have had a tough time competing against those longtime Lorain favorites.

Lakewood Bakery on Broadway lasted until around 1960; the O'Neil Shopping Center store had already disappeared about a year earlier from the phone book.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1958 Kresge's Halloween Ad

Here's a great Halloween-themed ad for Kresge's, the forerunner to today's Kmart stores, that ran in the Lorain Journal on October 22, 1958 – fifty-two years ago today.

As the ad notes at the bottom (click on it for a larger image), the Kresge's stores were located at 630 Broadway as well as at the O'Neil Shopping Center. According to this wiki entry, Kmart stores were still a few years away.

The ad is interesting to me, because it illustrates the evolution of kids' Halloween costumes from purely generic fantasy characters (pirates, cowboys, etc.) to that of the TV characters (so beloved by many Baby Boomers) that took place from the late 1950's to the early 1960's.

In the fall of 1958, Hanna-Barbera was just launching The Huckleberry Hound Show, as well as the whole made-for-TV cartoon craze. So there really weren't all that many original TV cartoon characters on which to base costumes at that point. That explains why in the ad you have costumes for Popeye, Droopy and Sylvester the Cat – all big screen cartoon characters – and Superman, a perennial favorite.

It's kind of interesting that the kids in the ad wearing the costumes are shown bobbing for apples. I wonder if kids still do that at Halloween parties?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1960 Paul A. Miller Circus Ad

I see that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in Cleveland right now (click here for the story), and that made me think of this ad for another circus that I had on file.

It's an ad for Paul A. Miller's Wild Animal Free Circus, appearing at the Ridgeview Shopping Center that ran in the Lorain Journal on June 1, 1960.

There's not much information online about this circus, but one website,, contained a post that shed a little light on it. A gentleman named Ben Brigham left a message on January of 2009 that contained the following information:

Every boy dreams of running away and joining the circus and I did just that In 1960. I was 25 and ringmaster of a small circus (Paul A Miller circus) that promoted shopping centers. I had the honor and privelege of presenting the Great Arturo along with his son and niece. I can't remember their names but maybe someone can tell me. The son and I ran around together and maybe he would remember me. We were about the same age. I left the circus later that year and have not seen them again. I did run into The Hannefords again at Pomona fair in 1961. Would love to hear from anyone that remembers me. 
– Ben Brigman

Another website,, contained another reference to the Paul Miller Circus, referring to it as the Paul Miller Free Merchant's Circus. And a blog, Pat Cashin's, contained another post by Mr. Brigham about his time working with Bumpsy the Clown.

Anyway, I really like the ad – its fun layout and use of illustration really grabbed my eye. Plus, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a blog entry on North Ridgeville, one of the many Lorain County cities neglected in this blog!

UPDATE (February 27, 2015)
Here is the link to my post describing the Paul A. Miller Circus visit to Billy Nahm's Lorain home in September 1963.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Food Fair

While looking at some old October 1955 Lorain Journal microfilm at the library, I saw a huge ad for a grocery store called Food Fair. Above is a portion of the ad, showing the various locations of the stores in Lorain, Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, Avon and Vermilion.

I found this interesting because although Food Fair had a lot of locations in the area, the chain disappeared without a trace locally in the early 1970's.

Image courtesy of
An online search for information about the forgotten grocery store chain proved inconclusive.

According to this wiki entry, there once was a national chain called Food Fair that had over 500 units. And this blogger even has some great images of a chain of Food Fair supermarkets. (A promotional Food Fair needle pack is shown at left.)  But the huge, sleek Food Fair stores on those websites don't seem to correspond with the Mom & Pop stores in the Journal ad.

To prove my point, here are how a few of them look today. (Click on each for a larger view.)

Shown below is the former Jacoby Food Fair at 1149 Oberlin Avenue. In the early 1950's it was Jacoby Brothers Meats before becoming a Food Fair around 1954; by 1972 it was the Oberlin Eagle, part of the Eagle chain of small supermarkets (not to be confused with Giant Eagle.)

I think of a false-front movie set western saloon when I look at this store.

Here's Jeancola's Food Fair, located at 2402 West Erie, at the end of Leavitt Road. It was just listed as a grocery store before becoming Jeancola's Food Fair around 1955. Similar to the Jacoby store, this market dropped its Food Fair affiliation around 1972 and became Jeancola Market.

Lastly, and closest to my home, this is the former Gang's Food Fair at 4646 E. Lake Road in Sheffield Lake. It appears to have been built as a grocery store and appeared as Gang's Market in the city directory for the first time in 1954. It became a Food Fair the following year and lasted until around 1970 when the building became vacant. Two years later it became the well-remembered Ilg TV and even later became Schuenemann Television Appliance Center. After that small chain of a appliance stores closed, it has had a variety of uses in the last decade. The latest proposal? It is tentatively slated to be the location of the first internet café in Sheffield Lake.

As you can see, none of these stores seem to have any sort of visual connection with the national Food Fair stores seen on the websites indicated above. Also, none of them share a strong Food Fair brand strategy. Each simply listed the owner's name or some other identifier, followed by the words 'Food Fair'.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this Food Fair group of stores was a small regional chain that got around the legal aspect of sharing the name with a national company by tacking on the owner's name, etc. Whatever the case, the name Food Fair disappeared locally by 1972.

Perhaps someone associated with one of these local stores can shed some light on this subject. If anyone out there does have some connection with the Food Fair chain, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn in Lorain County Part 2

Well, since last weekend the autumn color has improved a little bit up here by the lake. There's still a lot of green leaves, but today I noticed some really brilliant colors while going about my normal Saturday routine.

This was on Missouri Avenue, just a hundred feet south of E. Erie.

And here's one from Willow Park (at the intersection of Palm Springs and Skyline Drive), a place where I spent a lot of time playing as a kid. If you walked to Admiral King High School from the Masson School area, you pretty much had to cross this bridge, unless you were willing to walk all the way to Ashland Avenue to the east.

Lastly, here's one from Elwood Cemetery (a place I'll be spending a lot of time at someday).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Gel Pak Building

Last week, I read in the Morning Journal (and in the Chronicle Telegram as well) that the old Gel-Pak Building on Broadway will be renovated. Lorain County Health & Dentistry is going to receive $6.6 million of federal funds to fix up the old warehouse and use it as its main site to provide medical and dental care for low-income and uninsured residents of Lorain.

It's a odd choice to blow taxpayer money on in my opinion. (Sorry, this is one old building that I'm not too nostalgic about!)

The Lorain School System was planning on tearing the Gel-Pak Building down, since the new Lorain High School is going to be built right behind it. The Gel-Pak Building is also in kind of a crummy location. It's on the little chunk of 'old' Broadway, stranded up there by the railroad tracks – not very accessible.

$6.6 million seems like a lot of money to spend fixing up something that was going to be demolished anyway. I wonder what it would have cost to renovate some of these old school buildings that were torn down (or will be torn down)?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ohio Edison 1966 Corporate Identity

With the demolition of its old Oberlin Avenue power plant taking place right now, I seem to have Ohio Edison on my mind. So it's a good time to post this photo and caption from the May 2, 1966 Lorain Journal. It describes the recent adoption of a new corporate logo for the company featuring the Reddy Kilowatt character. (Click on the photo for a larger, readable image.)

I like the fact that the company used Reddy so much in their advertising and corporate communications. He really did his job, giving the electric utility a friendly face. Nowadays, I view most of my utility bills with suspicion.

Readers of this blog know that  I never pass up an opportunity to feature Reddy Kilowatt here, since he is one of my favorite advertising mascots! I did a history of the character back here last year, and featured a few more images here.

I'm sure Reddy would be heartbroken with the demolition of the Oberlin Avenue plant!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Power Plant Demolition

Over the weekend I drove over to see how the demolition of FirstEnergy's Edgewater power plant was coming along and to snap a few photos. (FirstEnergy is the parent company of the old Ohio Edison.)

Click here to read the Morning Journal's article about the demolition and to view some video.

According to the Morning Journal article, the plant has been there since 1919. At left is a vintage photograph courtesy of the Black River Historical Society's website.

It's hard to believe that the plant is no longer being used. I used to feel pretty good knowing that right there at the end of Oberlin Avenue, we had our own local power plant. I had no idea it had even been decommissioned.

I guess the real winners are the people on Lake Place who will enjoy a terrific lake view. I'm happy for them.

Earlier this year I was out taking pictures and decided to grab a few of the power plant on a whim. Here's what it used to look like back in May. Remember how green our lawns were back then?

Here's a pre-demolition shot from that same day to match up with the one at the top of this blog post.

And here's one that I took from the Bascule Bridge on the same day. Soon this view will be just a memory.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Autumn in Lorain County

I hate to say it, but autumn around Lorain County has been disappointing this year. The storms of the past few weeks stripped many of the trees of their leaves before they even changed colors. The leaves that are still on the trees are mainly green, with some yellow here and there.

The right weather conditions just didn't happen to make those really spectacular fall colors. According to the U. S. Forest Service website (here), you need a warm, wet spring, favorable summer weather and warm, sunny fall days and cool nights. The warm period that we're in right now isn't helping anything either.

Nevertheless, I still went out with the camera this past weekend in search of color and have a few shots to post here. (Click on each of them for that 'you are there' effect.)

As usual, the area around Gore Orphanage Road didn't disappoint. Here's a view looking north at Sperry Road.

And here's a view looking south, with Gore Orphanage Road going into the valley on the left and Sperry Road on the right.

Another area that usually has some color is the French Creek Reservation. Here's a few pix from the main road through the park.

Here's one more of Gore Orphanage Road.

Fall puts me in a pensive mood. I'm not one for poetry very much, but I like this poem. It's from the September 1957 'Autumn' issue of ideals.

Country Lanes
by Ruth Fortney Maxwell

Country lanes are calling me
Now that autumn is here...
I know just how they all are garbed
Since grass is growing sear.

The sumac waves a crimson flag,
The oaks are russet hue;
The bittersweet has sunset tints
And wild grapes still are blue.

The goldenrod is faded gold,
The ivy leaves have turned
From apple-green to coral red
While weeds to brown are burned.

The milkweed seeds have blown away,
But still the thistledown
Is clinging to its withered stalks...
A hoary, fluffy crown.

A beauty feast is all prepared
For those whose eyes can see
The tints and shades, the tones and hues,
Those lanes are calling me.