Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, it's the end of another year! Hope 2010 was a good one for you, and that 2011 is even better! (Sure is strange to see those numbers and realize we don't have those flying cars yet!)

The above photo is of our family's 1972 New Year's Eve party. My parents never went out for New Year's Eve, preferring to have our own get-together at home. (Dig those party hats!) That meant shrimp cocktails and other once-a-year goodies, and a big jigsaw puzzle to keep us all busy until midnight! Then we would watch the ball come down in Times Square on TV. Once in a while, Dad would open up the window or front door to listen for church bells.
It was a good year for this blog. I had a lot of nice and interesting posted comments and emails from regular readers and fellow bloggers, and that makes it all worthwhile and a lot more fun. I'll be highlighting some of that feedback in the next few days.

Special thanks to Tom Skoch, Editor of the Morning Journal for his invitation to join the Community Media Lab lineup of local blogs. He's working hard to make sure the Morning Journal continues to evolve and thrive in this digital age, and I'm happy that this blog has a home on the Lab page of the hometown newspaper.

I've got some great topics in store for 2011 that I've been researching, although I never got around to all the topics that I mentioned in last year's year-end message. Oops! Maybe I'd better do some of those first!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Then and Now: the House on North Ridge

I mentioned back here how my Admiral King High School art teacher, Mr. Frank Hicks, had us keep a sketchbook around 1974. He would give us a list of addresses of homes and businesses, and we could pick and choose which ones we wanted to draw.

I've kept the drawings all these years, and once in a while I drive by some of the locations to see if the buildings are still there. A few of the businesses are gone, but the homes tend to still be around, like the one above.

It's on North Ridge Road just west of Elmwood Cemetery. I've admired this stately home since I first drew it. According to information on the Lorain County Auditor website, the house dates from 1874 (a century before I drew it).

Anyway, here is my recent photo. I had to wait until it snowed, and for the sun to be just right, so that it would match the setting of the original.

It's still a beautiful home and well-maintained.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sights of the Season

Although Christmas has come and gone, it's still the holiday season! So here's a few shots from around Lorain on Christmas Eve. Click on each for a closer look.

I was bummed to see that this Lorain Rotary Club sign has a big crack in it! (I was tempted to retouch the photo – but I decided to go with raw realism!)

I see the nativity scene in Veterans Park still has to be protected from vandals with a wire screen. Too bad.

At least if I jam the camera through an opening in the screen, I can get a nice, clean image. By the way, I wonder what happened to Joseph?

Driving by this place on Christmas Eve, I couldn't resist taking a shot. Yala's is still the number one thing that ex-Lorainites miss the most about their hometown.
The annual Light Up Lorain Christmas decorations are still a big morale booster, even if some of the decorated buildings are empty. This Santa is in a window of the Broadway Building on the US 6 side.
And seeing Lakeview Park all decorated makes a Lorainite feel good too.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The 18-cents Hills Nativity Set

Here's one of my 'foist material possessions' (as Stimpy the Cat would say) – a small, plastic nativity scene. My parents bought it for me in the mid-1960's or so, and I've kept it all these years.

Since I put up so many little pine cone elves, snowmen, Santa's etc. around my house, it's good to have at least a couple of things related to the birth of Christ.

I still have the box for this thing, and it's pretty battered. It has a reasonable facsimile of it on the outside of the box. What's interesting is the Hills price tag on it!

Marked down from 34 cents to 18 cents – now that's a bargain!

What fun it was as a kid to go to Hills out in South Lorain (especially on the way out, if Mom bought us a frozen coke or box of popcorn)!

Anyway, I still like to look at this thing up close and enter its little world. Actually for something that old and made in Hong Kong (it's No. 427T in case you're wondering), it's pretty nice.

Give the photo a click for that 'you are there' experience!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Faces of Christmas Past

Here are a few close-up photographs of some of my vintage Christmas decorations. A few of them (the pine cone elves, the cloth Santa, the cigar-chomping plastic Frosty) are identical to ones that my parents had when I was a kid.

The mouse reminded me of Topo Gigio (from The Ed Sullivan Show). I picked him up in Suite Lorain in Cleveland a few years ago.

Click on each for a super-sized version so you can see some of the craftsmanship that went into the making of them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Memories of Believing in Santa Claus

Nowadays it's, uh, fashionable for some parents to discourage their kids from ever believing in Santa Claus.

I'm sure that these parents mean well. They're probably uncomfortable lying to their kids, or maybe they have an unpleasant memory of finding out the truth themselves, and want to save their children from the same fate.

At the other end of the spectrum were my parents, who went to almost ridiculous lengths to make us believe in Santa Claus.

And I'm sure glad they did.

Years later, I'm still impressed at how much trouble they went to.

There were benefits in having us believe. During the whole year, Santa's name would be invoked if my brothers and I were misbehaving. "Santa Claus can see what you're doing, you know," admonished my mother on a few occasions. I remember wondering just how good a memory he had, if he witnessed something that happened in the summer.

As it got closer to Christmas, my siblings and I made up our list of presents that we wanted. The understanding was that Santa Claus would bring some of it, and my parents would buy some of it.

It never occurred to me to question why we were supposed to look through the Sears catalogue when making our lists.

My parents also deftly handled the most confusing aspect of the whole Santa Claus mythology: Why are there so many Santa Clauses all over the place, and why do some of them look so phony? My parents convincingly explained that Santa Claus couldn't be everywhere at once, so he has helpers.

I bought that explanation hook, line and sinker. I imagined an army of these anonymous Santa look-alikes, all on-call to fill in for the Big Man, but sharing none of the glory and definitely not living at the North Pole. (They were just out there in America ready to be summoned for action, in the pre-beeper 1960's.)

As far as my brothers and I were concerned, the only real Santa Claus was in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and we had to sit through the whole thing just for a glimpse of him at the very end.

But as expected, it was Christmas morning when my parents really shined in their effort to make us believe.

My brothers and I would wake up, and sit up in bed while we heard lots of footsteps and rustling coming from the living room. I can still see my younger brother Ed looking at me in awe and exclaiming, "Santa!"

My parents were quite cagey. Before we could come out and possibly 'catch' Santa Claus in the act, we had to get up, go to the bathroom and wait until we were all in our robes. I remember being annoyed and impatient that my sister (who was older and a non-believer by then) didn't seem to be as enthused as us.

But once my siblings and I were all ready and waiting for the sliding door in the hallway to be opened, it was SHOWTIME!

My father would ring the doorbell several times, and let out a very convincing "HO HO HO" as my mother opened the sliding door and we all rushed through the hallway to the kitchen. "Look out the window!" my mother would say, as we ran from window to window hoping to get a glimpse of Santa Claus in his sleigh. "No, look over here – is that him?'

One year, a plane happened to be going over the house (don't forget, our house was on the approach to the Lorain City Airport) and we mistook a red light on the plane for Rudolph's nose!

After we excitedly ran around for a few minutes, we would finally realize the futility of our effort and settle down to open presents.

But before that, we would check to see if Santa Claus ate the cookies we left him. Not only would we find an empty plate, but also a handwritten note done in a very flowery style that I've never seen my mother use since. (I know it wasn't my father's handwriting because we never would have been able to read it.)

Thus with the note, we had actual forensic evidence of Santa Claus' existence!

At some point, the time finally came for my mother to tell me there was no Santa Claus. (It's not true that I was already in high school.)
She pulled me aside in the living room and told me the news. I remember being crushed and angry and a little embarrassed for being so gullible. "No Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either?" I asked.
My mother shook her head.
"But why?"I asked. "Why did you tell us all that if it wasn't true?"
I remember her exact words. "To make it more fun for you."
I then thought of the Christmas lists made up of things from the Sears Wish Book. "You mean, you and Dad bought us all that stuff?"
She nodded.
Then I really felt like crap. "I thought all that stuff was free!"
Anyway, my mother pointed out to me that my younger brother still believed in Santa Claus, and that she was counting on me to continue the charade, to which I agreed. Ed got to enjoy a few more years of Santa Claus.
Looking back, I now see that creating that magical fantasy world for us – of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy – was one of the best gifts that my parents ever gave me. It broadened my mind and imagination, and well, was a lot of fun that I'll never forget.

I hope today's parents never think it's too silly to give their kids that same gift of magic.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1963 Lorain County Savings & Trust Christmas Club Ad

Here's one last Lorain Journal Christmas-themed ad from December 1963. This one is for the Lorain County Savings & Trust Company. (Seeing as this blog is supposed to cover all of Lorain County, it seemed only right to include this ad.)

Nowadays you don't see very many ads for Christmas Clubs. (By the way, I did end up raiding this year's Christmas Club stash to catch up on next year's!)

Anyway, since I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to Elyria and its businesses, I had to do a little online research to find out what eventually happened to this bank. It appears that it is now part of FirstMerit Bank

Research also revealed that Lorain County Savings & Trust Company had one of the first office towers in Elyria for many years. To see a postcard of it and other Elyria landmarks, click here to visit a great local website, Classic Elyria Postcards.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Memories of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

I ran across this Lorain Journal TV listing for Friday, December 13, 1963 while reviewing microfilm for all those Christmas ads I've been posting.

Of course, the thing that caught my eye (besides the TV listing for I'm Dickens... He's Fenster) is the photo promoting the broadcast of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, one of my all-time favorite holiday specials.

What a lot of people may not know is that Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol was the very first animated holiday special produced for television. It first aired on NBC-TV in 1962, beating the perennial favorite Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) by two years, and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) by three.

Back in the 1960's, it was a big deal waiting for these specials to show up on the TV schedule. You had one chance to see them and if you missed them, too bad – you had to wait another year to see it again. That made them really special.

And Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol really was special. It's an excellent adaptation of the classic tale, complete with memorable characters and wonderful tunes.

The concept of the special was unique, with Mr. Magoo starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge in a Broadway stage presentation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." And I didn't know it at the time, but popular cartoon character Gerald McBoing-Boing – known to audiences from his big-screen animated adventures – played Tiny Tim.

The beginning of the special had Mr. Magoo on his way to the theater in his familiar old-fashioned jalopy (and driving the wrong way on a one-way street). I think this sequence was designed to allow kids to see him in his familiar comic, near-sighted persona, because once the play started, he would be playing the role of Scrooge straight. And, many of the scenes in the special were so scary that I think kids needed to be reminded that it was only a play-within-a-cartoon.

For example, I remember being really scared when the ghost of Marley began to clomp and clank up the stairs before confronting Mr. Magoo. (For years after, I would race up the stairs from our basement, imagining Marley being right behind me.)

Other parts of the TV special also pack an emotional wallop. After watching Mr. Magoo's regular cartoons on TV (with his Chinese houseboy Charlie and funny talking pets), it was hard for me to watch him being sad while he visited himself as a lonely child in the boarding school scene.

It was even harder watching him be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, which was also pretty scary, with its bony fingers! And when the creepy, cloaked spirit leaves Mr. Magoo alone in the cemetery, I still get a lump in my throat. Fortunately for kids, several times during the show the camera pulls back to show an audience watching Mr. Magoo on stage, reminding kids it wasn't "really" happening.

Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing
But these touching vignettes give the show a lot of depth, and help tell the story of Scrooge better than most live-action versions I've seen. That's a real tribute to the people who produced the special, and to Jim Backus, whose performance as Magoo was always good but was particularly great here.

While Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol hasn't had a major network broadcast for many years, it is enjoying renewed popularity due to its availability on DVD, as well as a recent book about the story of the making of the TV special by Darrell Van Citters.

To visit the official website of the book, click here. It's got a nice history of the special and some great images.

And for an interesting comparison of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol versus the Jim Carrey big screen version, click here to visit the Paley Center for Media website.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

1963 Lorain Christmas Parade

Here's a nice ad promoting the Downtown Lorain Christmas Parade of 1963 that ran in the Lorain Journal on December 4. (Give it a click for a closer look.)

The ad's interesting for a couple of reasons. It looks like it is probably a generic ad in which each city would drop its own local information. The dead giveaway is the ad copy 'written' by Santa that says, "here I come to open the Christmas shopping season in your hometown!"

Downtown Lorain at that time was being challenged by all of the local shopping centers, including Sheffield, Oakwood, Shoreway, Lorain Plaza and Westgate. The downtown merchants put up a good fight for many years, however, and having the Christmas Parade in Lorain's traditional place to shop was a good idea.

It was also a great idea to feature so many local marching bands, as well as 'high school beauty queens'. People like to see their kids in parades. I know my poor parents sat through a dozen parades over the years just to catch a glimpse of my brothers and I. (Lucky for my parents, I don't remember ever marching in a December parade, however!)

It's nice to see well-known Lorainite Pete DeSantis mentioned in the ad as donating potato chips 'for the kiddies.' Mr. DeSantis passed away this past September and was another true Lorain icon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

1963 Faroh's Candies Christmas Ad

Here's a nice tall ad for the original Faroh's Candies so fondly remembered by Lorainites. (Click on it so you can read it.) The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on December 11, 1963.

I stopped in at the current store at 657 Broadway this week and picked up some stocking stuffers (specifically the chocolate bells mentioned in the vintage ad). The store had a nice selection and seemed to be doing a pretty good business, at least when I was there.

From a marketing standpoint, I think it would be smart if the owners revived the original logo with the candy cane and get it onto their packages somehow. I think that logo has terrific nostalgia value that a generic typeset label just can't compare to.

Anyway, we had an out-of-state friend visit us in November, and one of her top priorities was to visit Faroh's and get some of her favorites, which she did. She swore that it tasted the same to her as it did decades ago, and she left town happy.

So if any of the local readers of this blog really like the idea of Faroh's having a store in downtown Lorain, by all means stop in and buy something. The candy is not cheap, but at least you are helping to keep a Lorain memory alive.

Friday, December 17, 2010

1963 Lorain Creamery Christmas Ad

Here's a newspaper ad from December 1963 for another Lorain icon, Lorain Creamery.

You might remember that back in July 2009 (starting here), I did a series of blogs on Lorain Creamery. It's still sad to go south over the railroad tracks on Oberlin Avenue and see used cars where happy ice cream-eating families used to be.

It's kind of interesting that the ad reflects how times have changed. While growing up, egg nog was an integral part of both Thanksgiving and Christmas in our house. We even had special glasses for the occasion.  Nowadays, I buy it out of tradition, stick it in the fridge – and then find that I'm the only one who'll drink it. Wife and guests and run away when I pull out the gaily decorated carton.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

1963 Cane's Surplus Christmas Ad

Here's a December 14, 1963 newspaper ad for a Downtown Lorain icon that is sorely missed: Cane's Surplus.

Cane's Surplus was another of those Lorain landmarks, like Bob's Donuts, that leaves an awfully big hole in the local landscape when it's no longer around. The store was part of that dying breed of army surplus stores, like the recently lost Dave's Army-Navy in Oberlin.

The above ad is kind of interesting in its claim of more than a thousand toys and gifts. I suppose that was true, especially if you were thinking of buying your wife an empty ammunition case for Christmas, or perhaps some MRE (meal-ready-to-eat) packets.

I have a couple of Cane's Surplus memories. In high school, my marching band buddies and I used to go in there and buy used work uniform shirts with names sewn on them, I think for a buck. Then we would wear them on the band bus to away football games and enjoy our exciting new identity as "Fred-who-works-at Sohio" instead of "Dan-the-trombone-player."

I also remember buying a great parka in Cane's around the early 1980's for about twelve bucks. I wore that thing for several decades, until my middle age spread spread a little bit too much and I couldn't close it anymore.

UPDATE (November 30, 2020)
While looking at vintage newspaper microfilm at the library, I recently found this early ad for Cane’s that ran in the Lorain Journal on November 30, 1950. This is from when the business (run by Herbert L. Cane) was located at 539 Broadway.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas at VanWagnen's Super Service

Here's a great photo that I found in my copy of CENTURY: 100 Years of Lorain and Lorain Business History, published in 1983 by the Greater Lorain Chamber of Commerce. The undated photo shows VanWagnen's Super Service filling station all decked out for Christmas.

According to the 1945 Lorain City Directory, the service station was located at the northeast corner of E. Erie and Broadway, across from the Broadway Building at the approach to the bridge. Looking at the site today, it seems hard to believe that there was ever anything there.

The station is listed as being owned by Harry VanWagnen. I assume that it is the same Harry VanWagnen that was Mayor of Lorain in the early 1940's.

Here's another undated photograph (from the same book) that contains a partial view of the station. Note the old swing bridge in the background that was replaced by the current Bascule Bridge in 1940.

Incidentally, it's been a while since I've filled up at a Gulf service station and now I know why. There are only three in the whole state of Ohio – one each in Bridgeport, Ellsworth and Columbiana.

Guess I won't be filling up with Gulf No-Nox anytime soon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1963 Shoreway Shopping Center Christmas Ad

Here's an ad from the Lorain Journal of December 14, 1963 – exactly 47 years ago today. It highlights a special Christmas promotion by Sheffield Lake's Shoreway Shopping Center (which I've blogged about many times, including back here, here and here.)

By the looks of that rectangular chunk of meat, I'm not surprised that the word 'hams' is in quotation marks!

Note in the ad that Lake Road is still "6 & 2."

Anyway, it's nice to see a reminder that the Shoreway Shopping Center (which is a mile from my house) was once a thriving commercial development and, hopefully, will be once again when it is redeveloped.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1953 Lorain Banking Company Christmas Club

Here's another great 1953 Christmas Club newspaper ad, this time for the Lorain Banking Company.

I just love these old ads that used illustrations to catch the eyes of the readers. That's a particularly good-looking Santa Claus in the ad.

Nowadays, the trend in advertising (and even at shopping malls) is to use actors or male models with real white beards to pose as Santa. The problem is that they rarely have nice big cheeks or even a twinkle in their eye – they're just a guy with a white beard.

When I first read the ad, I couldn't quite place the bank (I'm a big First Federal Savings of Lorain customer, remember?) But a few minutes of online research revealed what many of you already know, that Lorain Banking Company merged with National Bank of Lorain to form Lorain National Bank in 1961.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

1953 First Federal Savings Christmas Club Ad

I haven't shown any vintage ads in a while, so here's one to put you in the Christmas spirit. It's a 1953 ad for First Federal Savings of Lorain, promoting their Christmas Club program. (Click on the ad for a closer look.) 

I really like the ad, because it hearkens back to a simpler age.

I've had a Christmas Club at First Federal Savings since the 1980's. I like the fact that they still have the old-time savings books that get inserted into a machine to be updated, instead of making the customer do it themselves with their own sloppy scrawl.

I still have many of the free gifts given out each year with the opening of the account. The oldest ones from the 1980's were kind of generic Christmas items (such as a candle holder), but during the last few decades the items always have a First Federal logo on them. The gifts can be just about anything: a cooking timer, a desk clock, a pie plate, or even a cutting board (this year).

At Thanksgiving this year, I pulled out my trusty First Federal Savings pie server to cut the pumpkin pie, and we set our beers on First Federal Savings coasters.

Now that's loyalty.

I still think Christmas Clubs are a great idea, although in recent years I must confess that sometimes I used the cashed check for something else (like a utility bill).

I also confess that I'm a little bit behind on next year's Christmas Club (about 4 weeks). Since I cashed this year's check and still have all the loot in an envelope for shopping, would it be so bad if I used some of this year's cash for next year?

Maybe I should just deposit the whole stash and save myself a weekly trip to the bank!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Get 'Reddy' for Christmas – Part 2

Yesterday I mentioned this booklet featuring Reddy Kilowatt and offered up some of its helpful safety tips. Well, today I'm serving up some of the recipes!

Click on each recipe for a super-sized readable version. And remember, they're from 1965 – so they're probably not so healthy, but very delicious!

Here's the recipes for Blueberry Nut Bread, Cranberry Citrus Loaf, Welsh Cakes, Swiss Treats and Quick Christmas Cookies.

Here's some more: Pecan Mounds, Mincemeat Cookies, Medallion Sugar Cookies, Butterscotch Almond Cookies, Corn Flake Cream Bars (just might have to try that one), Baby Orange Babas, and Orange Fruit Cake.

And here's a final batch with some really unusual names: Choco-Date Cake, Choffee Pie, Vanilla Nut Fudge, Williamsburg Pecan ConfectionsEisenhower (?) Fudge, and Creamy Fudge.

Hey, I almost forgot – here's the menu for a complete meal, featuring Chicken Loaf with Olive Sauce!

There's nothing like a loaf of chicken to make your holidays merry!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Get 'Reddy' for Christmas – Part 1

Regular readers of this blog know that Reddy Kilowatt is one of my favorite old-time advertising characters, probably because he was used in much of Ohio Edison's signage around Lorain County. Also, every time I look at old newspaper microfilm at the Lorain Public Library, I am amazed at the number of Ohio Edison ads that feature him – practically every day during the 1950's and 1960's.
I thought the Reddy artwork at left was not only great, but timely as well. It's from a small booklet that I purchased in a Mt. Vernon, Ohio antique shop a few years ago. The booklet was entitled "Entertain Better Electrically" and was published by the Monongahela Power Company in 1965. It features many holiday recipes, as well as tips for entertaining during the holidays.
Much of the book is devoted to both popular and strange recipes (such as Chicken Loaf with Olive Sauce). But there is a lot of useful information that is still applicable today.
Here's a scan (below) of some particularly relevant Christmas safety tips. Click on it so you can read it – and be safe during this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This and That

This past Saturday was a good day to go out and snap a few pictures. I already posted my endangered Avon/Avon Lake farmhouses, so here are a few other images of what was going on in the area. (Click on each for a nice, large view.) 

Lorain's downtown has been all decked out with its Christmas lights for a few weeks. This toothy fellow is at the western end of the Bascule Bridge.

I've always thought those nutcrackers had a sinister look to them, making it hard to accept them as a Christmas icon.

Meanwhile, just over the border in Sheffield Lake, the historic Root home (believed to be the oldest home on the present Lake Road) is also all decked out for Christmas. (This was an easy shot as it is about 500 feet from my house.)

Incidentally, the Root house will be the subject of its own post here very soon.

And lastly, I had to stop over and see how the demolition of FirstEnergy's Edgewater plant was coming along. There doesn't seem to be a lot of progress in the last few weeks, perhaps due to the weather.

I'm still wondering how the heck the demolition crew is going to bring down the rest of it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bye Bye Farmhouses Part 2

Here's another farmhouse and farm that I just had to document with a photograph this past weekend. I first noticed it a few months ago when I began to drop off some of my clothes at the dry cleaner on Pin Oak Parkway. However, I had to wait until a weekend with nice weather rolled around so I could get a nice morning shot, since the house is on the west side of the street, facing east.

The house is at the intersection of Moore Road and Pin Oak Parkway in Avon Lake,  just a few minutes away from the other farmhouses on Route 611 that I mentioned yesterday.

I kind of like the house – it has a lot of character. According to the Lorain County Auditor's website, it was built in 1930. It's interesting that none of the windows on the main house are centered on the wall (at least from the outside).

I was wondering how I was going to be able to find out its address to do a little research, since I couldn't detect any numbers on the house. Fortunately it still had a mailbox (of sorts).

Here's an aerial shot of the property, courtesy of the Bing website.

God willing, I'll revisit both of these 'doomed farmhouse' posts sometime in the future!