Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1964 Lorain City Airport & LSE #149 Photo

One of the best things about doing a blog is hearing from someone who actually reads it and found something interesting. And when they send you a photo or clipping related to the topic, it's like getting an early Christmas present!

My blog posts about the Lorain City Airport are still generating some nice emails and photos from readers, who have been kind enough to grant me permission to post them here.

The photo at left (click on it for a closer look) is from local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont, who has helped me out on several occasions (such as providing the vintage aerial photo of Lorain that solved my Gregg/Foote House mystery). 

As Dennis related, the photo is of the Lake Shore Electric wood coach #149, shown at the Lorain City Airport in 1964. The photo is looking north towards the hangar. Leavitt Road would be to the right of the photo.

Apparently this car's history is very well documented. According to Dennis, #149 was disassembled in Sandusky in 1938, and from there was trucked to a bar in Birmingham, then to the Lorain City Airport, then to Paul Eckler's Farm outside of Norwalk, then to Delta, Ohio, then to Lions Park near Sylvania and then to its final resting place (which I'll reveal at the end of this post).

The great Arcadia Publishing Lake Shore Electric Railway book (by Dennis Lamont, Thomas J. Patton and Albert Doane) includes this photo of #149 with the following caption. "Car No. 149, one of the "big" Niles cars, was extended to 60 feet in 1923 so it could handle the large passenger loads necessary to work the Cleveland-to-Lorain runs and school bus runs. The Cleveland-to-Lorain operation was the most profitable service ever handled by LSE, and it was profitable right to the end of the line."

Today #149 is part of the Northern Ohio Railway Museum in Chippewa Lake, Ohio. Click here to see #149's page on the Museum website.

And if you're looking for more online information about the Lake Shore Electric Railway, be sure to drop by Drew Penfield's Lake Shore Rail Maps website.

Thanks again to Dennis Lamont for the great photo.

And I'm not through with the airport yet – the photos's are still a-coming in!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1959 Bill Long Article

A few weeks ago while blogging about growing up on Lorain's westside, I mentioned the Lorain City Airport and received a few comments and emails about it. It seems to be a topic that many people besides me find interesting.

I noted that on some maps back then, the airport was still referred to as Long's Airport. Well, the photo above is of Bill Long, who operated the airport. The photo accompanied an interesting article that I found in the 125th Anniversary of Lorain edition of the Lorain Journal at the Lorain Public Library.

Here is the article, as it appeared in the July 18, 1959 Journal. It was written by Edward Brown.


Began 50 Years Ago
Old Flier Finds Beard Gets More Attention
by Edward Brown

Bill Long, 74, doesn't much care for the attention he gets as "one of the older fliers in the country still active," and now he is getting more than ever since he's grown a Gabby Hayes beard for Lorain's anniversary celebration.

"Why they've asked me to be judge at the antiques show on Harry Griffin's place in Sandusky," Long complained. "But I don't want to. I want to get out and mix with the boys."

Just about every Sunday in summer Long downs a little oatmeal and garlic, drives over to the Lorain City Airport in his "Continental Bentley" and tunes up one of his four planes for a jog to Fostoria, Bryan or Cedar Point.

"Some of the boys don't like to fly with me," he said. "So I usually go alone, but there's quite a crowd that comes for breakfast." The "drive-in, walk-in, fly-in" breakfasts are held Sunday at private airports around the state.

Once in a while in the afternoon there's a plane show or a flying meet at another town, maybe 100 miles away – "wherever the boys can get someone with a field big enough to land –" and Long has to take off again to get there in time for lunch.

Most of the time that Long hasn't been in the air – and he has logged over 4,500 hours in the last 50 years – he has been collecting old photographs, violins, cars, land and a lot of good memories.

"I got stuff my dad and grandfather had," he said. "You don't know what kind of a junk house I got."

The house is at 172 N. Broadway where Long lives with his sister, Mrs. Jenny Jack. Dad Long brought his family from Edgerton to Lorain in 1897 when the community's population was only 3,500.

One of the prize "junk" pieces, a racing car driven by Barney Oldfield, stands in the hangar at the Lorain City Airport. Long says he bought it from a patent medicine man who drove it to Lorain in 1902 "to attract a little attention" for his sales pitch.

Another old relic is the propeller to the Curtis Flying Boat Long piloted at Cedar Point during the twenties. In those days the "Admiral of Cedar Point" had a booming business taking vacationers on short flights. (Blogger's note: click here for a link to an article about the recent sale of this plane)

"I probably had more takeoffs and landings than any other pilot in the country," he said. "With a mechanic and a ticket taker we hustled'em through, sometimes 12 flights an hour, 12 hours a day during the season."

But in 1932 he quit his rugged summer schedule. It was towards the end of the season, and the pilot and his mechanic were out for a lark swooping across the end of Cedar Point toward Sandusky Bay.

"The wind was blowing hard," he said, "But I hadn't a drop to drink all day. Over the woods a down-draft caught us and dragged the ship into the bay."

Long, who said he couldn't swim a stroke, managed to hold onto the wing until someone fished him out. As he lay on his back 3 1/2 months with a busted pelvis and ankle, he learned he had crashed in four feet of water.

It was his first and only accident in nearly 50 years of flying. The bug initially came in the 1890's, when Long began reading his "crazy" uncle's five-cent novels about Frank Reed Jr. and his flying machine.

In 1906 his friend, Frank Miller, went down to Dayton to learn to fly and got killed. "That kind of took the wind out of me," he explained.

Then Glenn Curtiss made history flying 65 miles from Euclid Beach to Sandusky in 1910, and the young Lorain garage mechanic was ready to give it another try.

"We didn't have any flying lessons in those days," he said. "We'd just get in a plane, start taxiing across the field, let her take off a little bit and then shut the motor off."

Like the old racing car, the wooden propeller, the Stradivarius violin and the property down in Florida, there are too many memories associated with the airport for Long to think of getting rid of it.

"I've been operating an airport in Lorain as long as anybody's been flying around here," he said. "I like it and don't intend to sell it until I have to."


Bob Kovach, one of the regular readers of this blog, used to live right across from the Lorain City Airport while he was growing up, and he spent a lot of time over there. He was nice enough to send me this great photograph of Bill Long's Ercoupe. The photo is from 1972.

Seeing the hangar in the background brings back a lot of memories. Thanks, Bob!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you were heading down the aisle of your favorite Lorain County Food Fair back in November 1967, these are some of the Thanksgiving bargains that you'd find! (Give it a click so you can read it!)

I think it's interesting that the newspaper ad states that "Your Food Fair Store will have a large variety of selected FRESH POULTRY for your Thanksgiving... CAPONS, ROASTING CHICKENS, GEESE, DUCKS, and TOM or HEN TURKEYS..."

For years my mom fixed two birds for our family: a duck and a capon – rarely a turkey. When I mention this to people now, they inevitably ask, "What's a capon?" If you don't know, click here.


For those of you who like to go out on Thanksgiving, back in 1955 you could saddle up and head to the Saddle Inn on Lake Road in Avon Lake for a great dinner!

Since I'm a Sheffield Laker, back in 1955 I probably would have headed over to Vian's Barbecue for my Thanksgiving feast! It would have been only a mile from where I live now.

And of course after a delicious dinner either at home or at a fine restaurant, what could be better in 1955 than going dancing on Thanksgiving – especially to the music of Lorain's future Mayor Joe Zahorec?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1955 Lorain Arena Aerial Shot

Here's another ad from that Clem Rice newspaper ad from 1955 that I mentioned yesterday. It's a nice aerial view of the Lorain Arena, which opened that year.

The caption of the photo read, "Mr. Rice is proud to be the builder of this million dollar Arena. It is one of the most up to date in this part of the country, located on Routes 2 & 6, just west of the city limits."

(Back here in June, I did a series of blogs on the Lorain Arena, and was given a tour of it by Bill Latrany of Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty. Bill has been a great supporter of this blog, providing me with all sorts of ideas, personal anecdotes and vintage photos. Thanks, Bill!)

Anyway, a comparison between the vintage photo and one from this past May (below) reveals some minor structural modifications of the former Baetz Dairy Bar building (consisting mainly of reducing the two large windows in front and expanding the left end of the building).

Pure Service Station at Oberlin & Meister

Here's a photo that ran as part of a 1955 newspaper ad for Clem Rice, "Builder of Beautiful Homes." The full page newspaper ad for the company had a nice assortment of photos of both residential and industrial construction projects that the company had recently completed.

Here's one of them. The caption for the photo read, "Located on the corner of Oberlin Avenue and Meister Road, this is one of the eight Service Stations Clem Rice has completed in the past three years."

The 1955-56 Lorain City Directory identified the station as Jack's Pure Oil at 3217 Oberlin Avenue. It was the first gas station at that intersection, predating both Super's Sohio Station and Bill's Sunoco Service Station by a year in the City Directory.

It also predated the Lorain Plaza Shopping Center, which I assume was constructed where all those trees are in the photo. The Sandy's hamburger drive-in at the same corner came a decade later in 1965.

Jack's Pure Oil became a Union 76 station in the early 1970's. (This wiki entry explains why.)

Here's what the same corner looks like today. The Valero gas station has the same 3217 Oberlin Avenue address.

By the way, the PURE brand is still around. Click here to visit the official website. Remember the great "Firebird" logo?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

F. C. Whitmore House Then & Now

Here's another photo from that Lorain, Ohio 1903 Souvenir and 1924 Tornado book at the library. This one is identified as the residence of Mr. and Mrs. F. C. Whitmore.

A 1912 City Directory at the library had the Whitmores living at 225 6th Street – meaning their house was right across the street from the library! I just didn't recognize it right away because of the extensive changes to the exterior.

Here is how the house looks today. Looks like a few of the original trees are still there, more than a hundred years later.

A funny side note: the photo above was my second attempt to shoot this house. On my first try, while I was focusing (from across the street) a passerby walked into the photo and planted himself in front of the house. Apparently he really liked that spot, because he stood there with his back to me for 15 minutes! Wary of shooting anyone without their signed permission (and reluctant to say, "Hey man, would you please get out of my shot?") – I gave up!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tornado-damaged House Then & Now

Here's another photo from that Lorain, Ohio 1903 Souvenir and 1924 Tornado book at the library. I recognized this house too and knew it was near Lakeview Park.

It's still a chilling sight to look at old photos showing the extent of the 1924 Lorain Tornado damage.

It's funny to think of it now, but as a young kid in elementary school, I used to worry about tornadoes a lot because of the 1924 Lorain Tornado. It probably didn't help that the The Wizard of Oz was on TV every year either, with its terrifying cyclone sequence! (The 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado made it even worse – and proved that it could happen again!)

Anyway, here is the corresponding present-day photograph. Looks like that part of town healed pretty well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Geo. L. Glitsch House Then & Now

Remember how last month I was looking through an old book at the library and saw the vintage illustration of the Gregg/Foote house? Then I decided to photograph how it looks now – and before I knew it, the whole thing escalated into something much bigger, involving a half-dozen fellow bloggers, researchers and history lovers. (The whole story is here.)

Well, recently I was thumbing through a copy of the Lorain, Ohio 1903 Souvenir and 1924 Tornado book at the library and saw some photographs of homes that were good candidates for a 'then and now' shot.

But this time, I knew for sure that the homes were still around. (No sense stirring up a big ruckus again!)

Here's the first one: the Geo. L. Glitsch House. Mr. Glitsch was with the law firm of Thompson, Glitsch & Cinniger, located in the Century Block.

I recognized this house immediately. I drive by it all the time, and strangely enough, it was across the street from where the Foote House was located.

Here is how the house looks now.

The house looks to be in well-maintained and in great shape. Except from a few porches that were enclosed, the house looks exactly like it did in the 1903 book.

Here's another shot taken a few days ago on a sunnier day so you can see some detail.

After the unhappy ending of the Foote House, in this case it's nice to see a grand old Lorain house survive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lorain High School Time Capsule

The whole 1914 Lorain High School Time Capsule story that has been unfolding during the last week is pretty interesting, don't you think? Here's the link for the original Morning Journal story.

Over the weekend, I hit the microfilm at the Lorain Public Library to see if there was anything interesting in the papers at the time the cornerstone was laid. The small article (below) appeared in the Lorain Daily News on Thursday, November 12, 1914. (Click on it for a readable version.)

According to the short article, originally there wasn't even going to be a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone.

Another article (below) had appeared a few days earlier in the same newspaper. It sheds a little light on the contents of the time capsule.

The Lorain Times-Herald included this article on Thursday, November 12, 1914. (Sorry it's a little grubby – but it's still readable.)

Apparently it was a pretty bad day weather-wise when they laid the cornerstone, according to this account in the Lorain Times-Herald.

And here's the story from the Lorain Daily News about the ceremony.

Lastly, there seems to be a controversy brewing about the whole discovery of the time capsule last week! Click here to read the story in the Chronicle-Telegram!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Talkin' Turkey in the Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette

I was out at the Vermilion Farm Market this past weekend and noticed that there's still a short stack of free copies of the November issue of the Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette. In it, I have my latest article entitled The Wild Turkey: Fine Feathered Friend to Ohio's Pioneers. It traces the history of the bird in Ohio, and includes some interesting anecdotes by some Ohio pioneers about trapping and encountering wild turkeys.

In the article, I tell the story of how one pioneer watched the feathers fly when three hundred of the gobblers brawled right in front of him! (Hope he invited some of the losers to dinner!)

Anyway, if you're interested –  head out to the Vermilion Farm Market on US 6 soon and grab your copy! Or better yet, subscribe and you won't miss an issue! (My editor loves it when I say that!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Wrap-up

Hope you didn't find my look back at growing up on Skyline Drive in the 1960's too self-indulgent! It was a pleasant walk down Memory Lane (East Memory Lane, heh-heh) for me, and it was nice to get it all down here before I forget even more. Thanks goodness my siblings have better memories than me – they're still coming up with stuff that I forgot to mention.

My sister recently emailed me and asked, "Remember hearing the peacocks over at the Davidsons'?"

I had to laugh. I had forgotten all about those peacocks. Yet we heard them every day for years!

Speaking of the Davidsons, I remember that sneaking onto their property (only to be chased off by their gardener) seemed to be a hobby of many of the thrill-seeking kids in the neighborhood.

Then there was the Skyline Drive Block Party, which my younger brother Ed remembered. It was shortly after we moved in, during the warmer months. The street was blocked off at Marshall Avenue, tables were set up and we had a big cookout.

It's funny to think of that now – a very quaint thing, the idea of getting to know your neighbors better.

But I'm sure my memories of Lorain back then aren't too unique. Every development and neighborhood has a history, a story to tell, by its longtime residents. It's a pity that we don't always remember to take pictures of things before they're gone.

There's been more change in many parts of Lorain County in the last few years than in the last thirty combined. You can drive by an old farmhouse for decades, and then all of sudden – it's gone! I've kicked myself time and time again for not snapping a shot of something that was demolished.

Anyway, be sure to document memories and stories of your neighborhood, especially if you have young children. They might find it interesting some day.

They might even use it in their blog!

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Part 5

So far, I've talked a lot about things at the west end of East Skyline Drive. It's about time (as this blog series is drawing to a close) that I get to the east end of the street! That would be where E. Skyline Drive meets Palm Springs Drive at Willow Park.

This part of the neighborhood has gone through a lot of change since the mid-1960's. Back then, E. Skyline Drive did not connect up with W. 35th Street to the east. Since it didn't connect with Leavitt Road either, you had to access it by Palm Springs Drive or Marshall Avenue.

The aeroplat map from the early 1960's (below) shows why it didn't connect up with W. 35th Street. (Click on it for a larger view.)

The property outlined in red was in the way.

And what was on that property? It may seem hard to believe now, but that is where the Louis Hait Stables were located. The earliest city directory listing I could find was in 1964 at 1475 W. 35th Street. The last listing was in 1969.

I can still see the large barn on the property in my mind. It was towards the W. 35th Street end and the top of it was visible from Palm Springs Drive. I remember seeing horses there too, perhaps from some Willow Park vantage point.

Although I never ventured in close to get a good look at the barn, I happen to know someone who did – my brother Ken! He and a few pals checked it out on a few occasions.

Here are Ken's observations (right from the horse's mouth)!

"They referred to it as "Doc Heights' [sic] Horse Barn." It was dark, had stalls, and was full of horse crap.  As I recall, the building was in pretty good shape. We only went in a few times, it was hard to get to but I don't remember why, a lot of brush or barbed wire maybe. Also there was absolutely nothing to do in there, no horses.  It was pretty well hidden in the brush.

Anyway, the property was developed in the 1970's. Edgewood Drive was extended north from W. 38th Street across the property to meet up with W. 35th Street, and W. 35th Street was finally connected to E. Skyline Drive.


Willow Park was the scene of a lot of memories in the late 1960's. There was the creek, that was fun to explore, and good for catching turtles, crayfish and minnows. Plus, Lorain had a really good Parks and Recreation Department back then, and I remember some great summer programs at the park. It seems there was always something going on – crafts, games, etc. –  to keep the local kids entertained. The summer employees at the park that coordinated the activities were really nice.

The playground equipment at the park back then (long since removed and replaced) was of the standard variety; a wooden carousel that you could spin around on (and get pretty dizzy) and the 'spring riders' that the small fry could bob around on.

The shot at left, while not from Willow Park, shows what I'm talking about. It's from a great flickr® site of vintage Ohio Spring Riders, which you can access by clicking here.

Willow Park, as many of you remember, was not only for play. The park and its well-known bridge over the creek was an important hub for getting to school.

Kids who lived over by Meister Road had to walk through the park to get to Masson Elementary and Masson Junior High; those of us who lived by Masson had to go through the park to get to Admiral King (unless you wanted to walk all the way to Ashland Avenue).

For those of you who walked to Admiral King through Willow Park, here's a 'virtual tour' down the ol' sidewalk, photographed this summer. (Click on each for a larger view.) Hope there's no bullies on the bridge!

Of course if you followed the sidewalk across Meister Road, you hooked up with the sidewalk that I knew as 'the blacktop' (discussed here).

You'll notice that the bridge looks a little different. Apparently it was replaced in the 1990's, judging by a dated plate mounted on it.

Willow Park is still an impressive neighborhood park, and it was well-maintained when I walked through it. Here's a view of the creek looking east from the bridge. (The creek looks like it's still in its natural condition, although not as deep as it used to be.)

And here's the view to the west from the bridge.

Here's what the park looks like these days.

And if you were going to head home, back up the sidewalk to Palm Springs and/or E. Skyline Drive, it looked like this.

The Louis Hait Stables would have been to the left of the white house at the top of the sidewalk, beyond its backyard and a wee bit south.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Part 4

When my family reminisces about the early years on Skyline Drive, thoughts and memories inevitably turn to a man we nicknamed, "The Farmer." I don't believe we ever met him, although we caught glimpses of him from time to time.

He lived at 3507 Leavitt Road (State Route 58) next to where E. Skyline Drive would eventually be built. It is my understanding that all of the land in the area had been part of his property at one time. The aeroplat map of Amelia Meadows seen in Part 1 of this series seems to confirm that all of the various lots were connected to each other and to where the Farmer lived.

He and his family lived in an old white house that was barely visible from Leavitt Road. We saw the back of it from our house, along with some ramshackle barns and other small buildings. The view to the west (across the field) from our kitchen window looked like this.

(Fortunately I had drawn it as a sketchbook exercise for my high school art class.)

Since the whole area was part of Black River Township until the late 1950's, it is difficult to research the property and its residents. I did manage to find one listing of it in the 1954 Lorain County Farm & Business Directory:

DEMBEK Leo M (Amelia: Dolores 14, Leona 19) Owner; 111 acres - general livestock poultry, 35, State Route 58 3507 Leavitt Road Lorain

My guess is that his wife's first name was lent to the Amelia Meadows subdivision.

The view never really changed from the sketch above, even when the new homes replaced the field and Temple Avenue was constructed behind his house. The old house and structures were just something that you got used to seeing, year after year, until you didn't notice it anymore.

Then one day, I saw this in the newspaper and my heart sank. (Click on it for a larger view.)

June 9, 1999 Journal clipping

I felt almost sick to my stomach. Not because something that I associated with my childhood was being demolished, but because the house was apparently one of the oldest in Lorain.

Here, the first time I actually get a good look at the front of the house, it's being demolished. What I would have given to just walk through the house – or its grounds – before it was gone. I'm sure the property had a story to tell, through artifacts in the soil.

But that's the way it goes, especially in Lorain. Here is roughly the same view today. I wonder if the homeowners are aware of what was on that property before their houses?

Southeast corner of E. Skyline Drive and Leavitt Road

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Part 3

One of the things I associate with those early years on E. Skyline Drive is something that many Lorainites will also remember: the airport at the northwest corner of Meister Road and Leavitt Road.

City directories at that time list it as being called the Lorain City Airport and it was also known as Long's Airport.

The reason that this airport is so much a part of my memories is because our house on E. Skyline Drive was directly in the line of approach for the landing strip. (If you look at the map at left, the runway points downward to the 'S' in SKYLINE which is where our house was.)

Consequently, my family would constantly see small planes coming in diagonally across the sky, coming in for a landing. It was a sight that we would get very used to. My brother Ken humorously compared it to watching a bunch of 5 O'Clock Charlie's (from the well-known M*A*S*H episode).

At least once, our proximity to the airport resulted in some excitement. A plane unexpectedly (and loudly) landed in the field a few hundred feet from our house. I still remember running over to the plane along with everyone else to see what happened. I can't remember why the pilot was forced to land there, but my family still talks about 'when the plane crashed by our house'.

The airport closed in the early 1970's, bringing to a close Lorain's long era of municipal and private airports. It was replaced by a Clarkins department store at the site around 1973 or so.

It was rather comical that a few years after the airport closed, we continued to see airplanes making the familiar approach for the runway that was no longer there!

The Clarkins store eventually closed as well. Today the airport site is the P.C. Campana Industrial Park, home for a variety of companies and organizations, including Fastenal Co., Skylift and the Lorain Preparatory Academy.

The former Clarkins store

Looking at the site today, a newer Lorain resident might find it hard to believe that an airport was there for so many years and that Lorain actually had a need for one.

Next: The Farmer

Sunday, November 7, 2010

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Part 2

When I turn onto E. Skyline Drive off of Leavitt Road these days, I sometimes have a hard time remembering the way it all used to be back in the mid-1960's, when my parents moved our family there.

Back then, the area around our new home was right in the middle of transforming from farmland to suburban neighborhoods, just like some of Lorain's west side had already gone through a decade earlier. But the difference is, this time we had a ringside seat to watch it all.

As the last house on the block, we had a unique perspective, because our yard was adjacent to the undeveloped land to the west and to the south. The road sort of ended in front of our house, and trailed off towards Leavitt Road as a dirt path.

To the west of us was a field, which was sometimes swampy and sometimes dry. The field extended north to Martin Run (the creek that ran roughly parallel to Skyline and Meister) and south all the way to W. 40th Street and beyond.

It is my understanding that this huge parcel of land had been owned by a gentleman who we had always referred to as "The Farmer". We could see his house if we looked out our west window across the field. (More on the farmer in a future part of this series!)


To kids used to a sterile post-war neighborhood of streets laid out in a perpendicular pattern, living next door to an undeveloped field was a veritable wonderland. The field was full of frogs and toads, which my brothers and I would eagerly catch and bring home as unfortunate pets.

Pheasants could be seen occasionally meandering through the field, and killdeer were a common sight. Their distinctive cry still makes me nostalgic for those days.

My brothers and I were always playing in the field, and we used a huge rock next to our yard as a sort of base of operations. We would set up our elaborate G.I. Joe camp around it, and use it as a mountain from which our G.I. Joe's could rappel down. My younger brother Ed remembers that the rock was covered with all kinds of unusual fossils. (I wonder what ever happened to that rock?)

Rabbits seemed to be everywhere. Strangely, I don't remember ever seeing any other kind of wildlife around there – no deer, raccoons, possums, skunks, groundhogs, etc. – just rabbits.

I remember several times trying to catch a rabbit with a homemade trap set up out in the field. Unfortunately, my research on constructing a trap was limited to watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. I tried both propping up a box with a stick (with a carrot tied to it) and digging a hole and camouflaging it with sticks and brush – with no success!

Exploring by the creek 'across the street' (there was no street yet) was even more exciting, because at the time, it had not been paved over and 'improved' for use as a storm sewer as it is today. Back then, it was still in its original form, and you had to slide down a rocky cliff to get to it. Once a kid got there, he could catch all sorts of things, including crayfish, turtles, minnows, tadpoles and small fish.

We were always going over there with our boots on, and coming home with something else as a pet. We would even have crayfish races in our driveway. (I've often wondered if my brothers and I wiped out that whole wetland ecosystem.)

We didn't go too far into the woods by the creek, because often there were 'big kids' in there smoking.

A house was built directly across the street from us a few years after we moved in. Later on in the early 1970's, homes were built to the west of us, and E. Skyline Drive was finally extended west from in front of our house to Leavitt Road.

Like all kids, we had to investigate these new homes as they were being built. There's something very interesting about tromping around inside a home under construction. But as interesting as that was, we hated to see the field disappear.

The eventual owner of the house next to us turned out to be a great guy and became a good friend to my father, truly the best neighbor we could ever ask for.

Today the area that comprised the field is a neighborhood that looks, well, kind of like what we left over on W. 30th Street!

Today the whole area by the creek that we used to explore (behind the Jehovahs Witnesses Kingdom Hall at 2330 E. Skyline Drive) is nicely graded, landscaped and is unrecognizable to me. But at one time, it was an exciting place for a kid to poke around.

Looking east from Leavitt Road towards Martin Run today

Next: The Airport

Friday, November 5, 2010

1960's Memories of Skyline Drive Part 1

Real estate ad from the Lorain Journal of May 15, 1954
Skyline Drive. 
The name still sounds vaguely chic to my ear. Maybe it's because the name suggests a trendy neighborhood on the western edge of a community, silhouetted against the horizon.
Before I get carried away here, however, I've got a confession to make. My family didn't really live on Skyline Drive. We lived on East Skyline Drive.
It makes a difference, which I'll explain. But first, a short history lesson of the area.
Skyline Drive first appeared officially in the Lorain City Directory in 1958, but the street and many of the homes listed had already been there for many years. A quick check of some of the homes on the Lorain County Auditor's website shows that the earliest ones were built in 1951. A few more were built each year until 28 homes were listed in 1958.
As you can see from the 1959 map (below), only the portion of the street west of Leavitt Road (Route 58) existed at that time. The eastern portion where we moved to in 1965 would follow later. (Click on the map for a closer look.)
The whole area east of Leavitt from the creek south to W. 40th and east to Edgewood Drive hadn't been developed yet.

Anyway, Skyline Drive in the 1950's must have been a fairly elite address. It was part of a brand new development with bigger lots and consequently, bigger homes. (It was still part of Black River Township in the 1950's.) Plus, it didn't conform to Lorain's standard street naming system of numbering the roads from north to south. That made the name a little bit special.

Thus when it was time to develop the portion of Skyline Drive on the east side of Leavitt, it was my parents' recollection that the residents on the west side objected to the use of the Skyline Drive name.

Whether that's 100% true or not, I'm not sure. All I know is that our street sign read E SKYLINE DRIVE and the sign on the other side of Leavitt Road read just SKYLINE DRIVE. Which makes East Skyline Drive the only 'east' address on the west side of Lorain.


Here's another map of the area a few years later – some time in the early 1960's. A lot of change occurred in a few years!

The map includes several iconic Lorain landmarks, such as the Westgate Shopping Center, the Lorain Plaza Shopping Center and the airport. 

Although the map shows E. Skyline Drive reaching Leavitt Road, it didn't happen until later.

For several years, Skyline Drive ended in front of our house, which in 1965 was the last one on the block. The street then trailed off towards Leavitt as a dirt road before disappearing in the field.

Temple Avenue didn't exist in 1965 either, only on paper.

Also note that Skyline Drive's eastern terminus was Palm Springs Drive. Since there was no access from Leavitt Road, we were kind of landlocked. To get to our house, we had to come in on either Palm Springs Drive or Marshall Avenue.

This map of the Amelia Meadows allotment from the same time period will give you a better idea of what it was like at the time we moved in. Notice that the streets are mapped out but in reality weren't built yet. And that was one big piece of property waiting to be developed.

We lived where the red 'X' was, and as you can see, we were indeed the last house on the block on the south side of the street. In 1965 there were no homes behind our house all the way to W. 40th and beyond. 

Well, I showed you all the maps. So what was it like for a kid living in that part of Lorain at that time? Stop back here next time and find out!