Monday, May 30, 2011

The Veterans Monument

I stopped by Veterans Memorial Park this past Friday to see what kind of shape the park was in after the recent vandalism (reported here by the Morning Journal). It looked pretty much the way it did when I stopped by a week earlier, except this time the fountain was working (see photo at top).

At first glance, the scene is attractive until you get closer. Then you can see the damage pretty well, with one piece of the monument missing and one torn loose. Strangely, the piece that was dislodged by the vandals is still on the ground in front of the monument (see photo below).

Veterans Monument on May 27, 2011
It's hard to understand why someone would do that. It's obvious they either didn't read the top of the monument (below) or if they did, they didn't care. I'd like to think they didn't read it.

Sadly, the park has a history of vandalism even though it is right across the street from the police station. I've been busy the last few months researching and compiling of a comprehensive history of the Civil War statue that used to be in that park for the Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette. The vandalism to that monument was pretty disgraceful as well, and the main reason you don't see it in the park today. More's the pity.

Anyway, here are the Lorain Journal articles that ran at the time the Veterans Monument was first installed and dedicated in May 1967. (Click on each for a closer view.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day, May 30, 1949

Here's a full-page ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on Saturday, May 28, 1949, detailing Lorain's Memorial Day observances. (Click on it so you can read the roster of old-time Lorain businesses that sponsored the ad.)

The ad really gives me the impression of a Lorain unified in its reverence for its war dead.

Lorain still has the parade ( I marched in it as part of Admiral King's Marching Band) but the holiday seems to have lost some of its original meaning: to remember and honor those who gave their all while in service to their country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Was Playing at the Palace on May 29, 1951?

What was playing at the Palace sixty years ago this week?

Here's the answer: a great double feature of Ghost Chasers featuring the Bowery Boys and Tarzan's Peril, the latest in the ape-man's adventure series. (You might remember that I'm a big Bowery Boys fan, which I first mentioned back here.)

As opposed to the usual comedy plot in which a ghost is revealed to be a villain in disguise who is attempting to scare off the protagonists, Ghost Chasers featured a real ghost that only Sach (Huntz Hall) can see.

Whenever I'm looking at old Lorain Journals on microfilm, I'm always amazed at the number of Bowery Boys features in the Lorain movie listings of the 1940's and 1950's. The Boys must have been pretty popular in working-class Lorain.

I remember as a kid watching them on Sunday mornings on one of the local UHF channels. Consequently my brothers and I would imitate Sach by turning up the brim of our baseball caps and running around saying, "Hey, Chief!"

Anyway, to visit the website of the Lorain Palace Theatre, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Charcoal Pit Part 2

Here's another Lorain Phone Book ad for the Charcoal Pit, this time from 1956. It's interesting to me because there's a couple things going on marketing-wise.

First of all, there's an advertising mascot  – a chicken dressed like an artiste, with beret, paint brush and – spats? I'm not sure if he is just a piece of clip-art that was added to the ad, or if he is a bona-fide mascot.

Also of interest is the reference to King Henry Family Style Chicken Dinners. I've scoured the internet to no avail trying to find some other mention of this brand. (All I could find is the claim that King Henry IV of France believed that everyone should eat chicken on Sunday.)

The whole ad is probably a template, supplied by the oven manufacturer, which the restaurant could customize with their city, phone number, menu, etc.

The ad is intriguing, though. Imagine broiling a chicken to a golden brown in two minutes! At that rate, in five minutes you'd have a pile of ashes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Charcoal Pit

I was poking around the vintage postcard website when I saw the above image of the Charcoal Pit restaurant at 31st and Pearl out in South Lorain. It really intrigued me, as I had never heard of it.

After spending a little time in the Lorain Public Library, I discovered that the Charcoal Pit first appeared in the city directory in 1954, with Alex Horvath as the owner/operator.

Its phone book ads make it look like a terrific place. Look at that menu – roast duck & lobsters? Wow!

1955 Lorain Phone Book advertisement
Here's another ad from a few years later. The menu kept getting better. At this point they even had chicken paprikas.

1959 Lorain Phone Book advertisement
It looks like around 1968 the restaurant disappeared from the city directory. By 1970, a church apparently took over at that address.

Today, the Charcoal Pit's building is gone from the 3059 Pearl Avenue location. However, landscaping and the wonderful, well-known South Lorain mural keep the scene from becoming just another vacant lot.

The Charcoal Pit's former location today
If you compare the 'now' photo above with the vintage postcard, you can just make out a little bit of the distinctive roof of the house on the right.

If anyone remembers the Charcoal Pit, please be sure to leave a comment!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sheffield Lake Businesses of Long Ago: the Family Inn

Although I live in Sheffield Lake, unfortunately I don't do a lot of blog posts about it – mainly because it is difficult to come up with interesting historical items relating to the city. That's why when Dennis Lamont brought this postcard to my attention (it's currently on Ebay), I knew it would make a nice topic.

The postcard shows the Family Inn, and it looks like a nice friendly little roadside restaurant. I don't see any address on the building in the photo, so I had to rely on the city directories to try and figure out where it is.

The first listing of the Family Inn by name in the city directory was 1955, with the owner being Mrs. Erma Sidway. The address was 5128 E. Lake Road.

Working backwards, the earliest listing of a restaurant at that address was 1940. (Lorain has no 1938 or 1939 books.) There was no restaurant name listed, but it was the same owner – so I'm assuming it was the same business.

The Family Inn continued to show up in the city directory until 1967, when it disappeared. For the next two years, Gladys' Pizza was at that address. Then in 1970 the address was vacant, and it disappeared entirely from the listing in the 1972 book.

If the postcard above does indeed show 5128 E. Lake Road, then that would put it across the street from the Erie Shore Apartments, on the south side of U.S. Route 6. (See the orange marker on the Bing map below.)

If the building was torn down around 1971, I would have expected to see a vacant lot in the photo, not a heavily tree'd area. So I guess it's impossible to know exactly where this place was located.

Here's hoping one of my Sheffield Lake readers remembers this place, and will leave a comment!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Miss Victory Mystery

Here's a photo of Miss Victory that appeared in the Lorain Sunday News on Sunday, August 17, 1947. As you can see, the statue was still missing its sword and palm frond.

What's interesting is the fact that the weekly newspaper had no idea how the statue got there or when! Above the photo was the headline "Statue is Mystery" and under it was the following caption:

Faintly reminiscent of the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace, although that poor lady is without a head, this symbolic figure stands in the tiny v-shaped park at the intersection of 5th Street and West Erie avenue. Although inscriptions on the four panels of her base dedicate her to the Lorain men who served in the first World War, who caused the statue to be erected and when it was done seem to be lost in city records. Perhaps some Lorain citizens with a good memory or complete diary will solve the mystery.

The lesson here is that if you're going to erect a monument or memorial, it's a good idea to include a plaque that includes the dedication date, as well as the name of the organization responsible for it! The above incident took place a mere 25 years after the dedication.

Recommended Blog Reading
Be sure to drop by Loraine Ritchey's That Woman's Weblog for her great multi-part comprehensive series on Admiral Ernest J. King, currently underway!

Loraine and the Charleston Village Society are working hard to get the Admiral Ernest J. King birthplace memorial park ship-shape in time for Pride Day. The weather has not cooperated but they are making progress. Don't forget, it's not too late for a donation! Click here for details.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Miss Victory With Her Sword

Seeing as how I was talking about the Big V yesterday, I might as well stay in Victory Park for this post as well. Here's something I never thought I would see: a photo of Miss Victory with her sword!

The photo comes from the amazing photo archives of the Black River Historical Society. (If seeing this kind of thing interests you, please consider becoming a member! They would love to have new volunteers to help maintain their ever-growing collection of photos, research and memorabilia!)

I'm pretty sure this photo shows the winged statue after it was repaired by August Nabakowski in 1948. There were no trees at all behind the statue when it was dedicated in April 1922, judging by photos of the event. And a mere two years later, the sword and palm frond were lost in the 1924 Lorain Tornado.

Unfortunately, I understand that vandalism claimed the new sword and palm frond later.

You might be saying, "Palm frond? I thought that was an olive branch!" Well, a 1949 article from the Lorain Journal explained that it was a palm frond – a symbol of victory – as opposed to an olive branch, which is the symbol of peace.

And one look at this statue with her sword tells you that she's no peacenik!

Anyway, Lorain's winged victory monument isn't the only one from the 1920's that seems to be losing the battle against vandalism. Click here to read about a similar one from the same time period in Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Mystery of the Big V

One of my favorite movies is It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and in it a group of treasure hunters are competing against each other on a quest to find a stash of loot that is buried under a "Big W."

Well, I've been on a quest for a few years now too, but instead of a "Big W", mine involves a "Big V." You know which one I'm talking about – it's down at Victory Park, at the intersection of West Erie (Route 6) and Fifth Street.

For a couple of years now, I've been trying to figure out when that sculpture was first installed at the park. It wasn't at the park's 1922 dedication. It wasn't at the big Lorain Victory celebration in 1945 (which I discussed here) either.

I've checked newspaper microfilm for many holidays since from the mid-1940's until the mid-1960's (Memorial Day, Veterans Day, etc.) and there is never any mention of the Big V being installed, dedicated or refurbished. I've bugged the fine people at the Black River Historical Society, the Lorain Public Library and several of the area's most knowledgeable historians – and nobody knows!

What we do know is that the V presently at the park is not the original. As fellow blogger Alan Hopewell pointed out in a blog comment (which the Black River Historical Society confirmed), the original V was damaged in a car accident – but we don't have a date for that either! Alan thinks it was the mid-1960's.

We do know – thanks to Frank Sipkovsky of the BRHS – that Baldo Campana is the person who generously constructed the present Big V. But who made the first one?

Why do I want to know? Well, because the structure is kind of like the Lakeview Park Easter Basket, the Lorain Lighthouse, or the Bascule Bridge. It's a symbol of Lorain that thousands of people recognize and remember. And I think it's important to get the story behind it on record while people who might know are still alive.

So if anyone has any sort of lead as to when the first Big V was first constructed and by whom, I'd be eternally grateful if you posted a comment!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Greetings from Lorain Postcard Update

A few weeks ago, it was discussed in this blog as to whether or not anyone still sells postcards that promote Lorain.

Well, it turns out at least one place still does: the Black River Historical Society! They have a nice selection, including their version of the classic 'Greetings' format shown above (in which they have craftily inserted the Moore House – their home) as well as others including one featuring the Lakeview Park Easter Basket.

The above postcard design is also available in their gift shop as a large jigsaw puzzle.

The coming weekend would be a great time to drop in at the BRHS. On Saturday, May 21st they are having a big 30th Anniversary Celebration. According to their website, the activities are from 1 pm until 6pm and include Trolley Tours for $1, a Scavenger Hunt, goodies for sale (popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream and soft drinks) as well as a "Through the Years" PowerPoint presentation.
Incidentally, here's yet another "Greetings from Lorain" postcard variation that surfaced! It's a little on the generic side, though. And I'm a little skeptical that those are real Lorainites in that boat! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Look at That Diner

Here's a neat photo from the archives of the Black River Historical Society. Although the little boy was obviously the subject of the undated photo, in the background we get a nice shot of the diner that used to be in front of and slightly east of the old Lorain City Hall.

Back here in this post, I mentioned that it was actually a Ward & Dickinson Dining Car, and if you look closely at the photo above the boy's head, you can see a wheel. By the time the diner became Helen's Diner (at left) in the late 1930's, the wheels had been covered up.

It's a little tricky trying to figure out the time frame for this photo. I can't quite make out the year in the license plate of the car behind the little boy, and I'm no good at identifying antique cars either.

But comparing it to the above photo of Helen's Diner, as well as a 1937 photo (at right) confirms to me at least that this photo predates the other two. There is no visible shrubbery as in the two photos, and no billboard above it either. Plus the diner has a slightly rundown look to it, as opposed to the neat appearance it had as Helen's. So I'm guessing it's from the early 1930's.

Anyway, it's still strange to think that the diner ended its career as the Dew Drop Inn (below) decades later, and that its location is roughly the same as that of the steps to the current Lorain City Hall.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Don't Forget Dog 'n Suds!

A few days ago I was blogging about A&W Drive-ins and I realized that I hadn't made any mention of Dog 'n Suds yet this year! (If you use the 'search' box at the top of this blog and type in 'Dog 'n Suds', you'll see by the number of archived posts that pop up that, along with Bob's Donuts, it's been one of my favorite topics since this blog began!)

So here is my annual reminder that if you like the idea of an old-time drive-in with carhops, be sure to support our own local icon, Ilene's Dog 'n Suds on North Ridge Road. I was out there this week to pick up a jug of root beer (I already had the hot dogs at home – leftovers from a Mother's Day cookout).
Current ads say that the drive-in is celebrating their 50th Anniversary with specials that run May 9 - 21st. The surprising thing is that they have a lot of interesting menu items, including a kielbasa & kraut dinner and even rice and beans!

So here's hoping Ilene's Dog 'n Suds is around for another fifty years!
For those of you that were wondering on Friday morning – "Hey, where's the usual Friday post?" – Blogger (the whole website that so many of us use to create these blogs) was down beginning Thursday night and all day Friday, so I couldn't even log in or anything! Click here for details.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Ashland-Wooster Drive-in

If after reading yesterday's blog post you have a hankering to visit an A&W Restaurant, they're still around. The A&W website has a locator search engine, and it turns out there are still A&W's out there. Locations in Ohio include Kent, Tallmadge, Ravenna, East Liverpool and Orwell.

But if you'd like to experience the next best thing to a real vintage A&W Drive-in, why not take a nice drive down to Ashland and visit the Ashland-Wooster Drive-in? It was still a bona-fide old-time A&W Drive-in while I was in college, and every once in a while I would detour over to Ashland on the way home from Ohio State to get a chili dog for the last lap of the drive to Lorain.

According to their website, they've been there on US 250 since 1957, and were a franchised A&W until 1985 when the current owners took over. They still have carhop service (as well as drive-through service if you're in a hurry).

The drive down there is just a little over an hour.

And on the way home, don't forget a side-trip to Grandpa's Cheese Barn, as well as Fin, Feather & Fur Outfitters. They're both on US 250 as well, and only a few minutes from State Route 89, which you can take north to join up with State Route 58 again,

The photo of the Ashland-Wooster Drive-in above is from a flickr® site featuring great vintage sign photos, as well as other cool sets, by a photographer named Scott, who shot them all right here in Ohio. Click here to visit it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Remember A&W Root Beer Stands?

1962 ad for the Vermilion A&W
Now that it's finally nice out, my thoughts automatically turn to the old drive-ins that my family used to go to back in the 1960's. One of them that I remember is the A&W Drive-in out in Vermilion on US Route 6 (back then it also included State Route 2 – thus it was 6 & 2).

It was a real treat to go there, and it's probably where I started my lifelong love of chili dogs. If I remember correctly, the Vermilion drive-in had those speakers that you spoke into to place your order. When it was ready, the carhop brought it out to you.

Here's a 1965 ad for the A&W Drive-ins. I don't remember the Vermilion carhops wearing stewardess uniforms, though!

1965 ad from the book Drive-in Deluxe by Michael Karl Witzel

Today the Vermilion A&W is long-gone; in its place at 4372 E. Liberty is a Wendy's restaurant.


Strangely enough, there was an A&W stand in Lorain on US 6 that I don't remember it at all. It was located at 2600 W. Erie Avenue and first appeared in the city directory in 1960. It was right where Madison Avenue intersects with W. Erie Avenue.

I probably don't remember it because my father always took W. 21st to get to West Erie if he was going west, bypassing that area entirely.  Most likely, my family went to the Vermilion one because it was a nice drive and something to do. If other families thought the same way, maybe it had something to do with the Lorain restaurant disappearing from the city directory in 1969.

Anyway, here's a May 29, 1965 newspaper ad for the Lorain A&W.

And here's an ad from the Journal from a few years earlier that's probably a little politically incorrect!
August 20, 1963 ad from the Journal

Monday, May 9, 2011

Don't Forget to Donate for the Admiral!

I just thought I'd remind you all that Lorain Pride Day is slightly less than two weeks away – and that's the day that the Charleston Village Society and the Black River Historical Society hope to have their memorial to honor Admiral Ernest J. King in place on Hamilton Street, across from his birthplace.

You can read the whole story here, in case you missed it.

This little memorial park is pretty important in my opinion. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, several attempts were made by various civic leaders to honor the Admiral. But plans to rename Lakeview Park in his honor failed, as well as an effort to attach his name to the Ohio Turnpike and I-90. It was even proposed that a new lakefront state park west of Lorain be named in his honor, but the park proposal went nowhere as well.

Oh, Lorain did manage to name its new high school after him in 1959, but as we saw, that honor had an expiration date on it. And as for the new Admiral King Elementary School, who knows if it will even be in use in another twenty years, in view of Lorain's shrinking public student population?

In other words, this small lakefront memorial may be the only thing honoring Admiral Ernest J. King that lasts.

Please consider a contribution to this worthy cause.

The above link to the Morning Journal website has all the information.


Incidentally, the illustration of the Admiral above is taken from a famous World War II poster (below). A framed copy of it hangs in the Lorain Public Library upstairs in the local history section.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Deutschof Part 3

Here's a 'then and now' view of the Deutschof.

Joe Deutch appears to have passed away around 1950. By 1952, the Deutschof was no longer in business  – but that wasn't the end of the good times at at 651 Broadway.

Around 1954, Danny's Bar took over the space, followed by a variety of other businesses, including Ben Hart (also known as Ben Hart Show Bar) from 1955-1963, The Tropics from 1964-1965, D'Agnese Restaurant and Lounge from 1966-1968, The Golden Nugget from 1969-1973 and The Angry Bull in 1974. (All dates are approximate and from the City Directory.)

Later businesses included Duffy's Lounge, Secrets Club and the current occupant, Old Towne Charleston.
I'm sure Lorain has a hundred stories like that of the Deutschof, in which a popular business thrives for a number of years, brings much enjoyment to its customers and employees, and then promptly disappears, leaving only memories along with some photos in a scrapbook.

I think it's important to try and tell as many of these stories as possible to keep those memories alive, and to let future generations know how special a place Lorain was during its 'golden years'.

If you have a personal connection to a business and/or some reminisces that you would like to see highlighted here on the blog, please send me an email. I have a couple of people already who are compiling photos and histories, and it is a pleasure to be able to provide a forum in which people can share special memories and good times.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Deutschof Part 2

The new location of the Deutschof at 651 Broadway
Brad Nitzke's father was a bartender at the Deutschof in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Brad was nice enough to allow me to post these photos from the family photo album.

The inside of the restaurant looked quite opulent.

The photo below is of special interest to Brad. "The man on the left clapping is my father," he notes. "He did sign painting on the side and I believe the sign above  them was done by him. He painted signs for a lot of the small stores around Lorain."

Brad's photo collection also includes many of the entertainers who used to perform at the Deutschof. The photo below shows Bob Veon at the piano & Solovox.

Check out the great steel mill mural behind Mr. Veon!

Special thanks to Brad for allowing me to share these photos.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Deutschof Part 1

On Friday, May 26, 1933 the full-page ad at left appeared in the Lorain Journal and Times-Herald announcing the grand opening of the Deutschof, which would take place the next day. (Click on it so you can read it.)

As you can see from the ad, the Deutschof's name comes not from Germany, but from its manager and host: Joe Deutsch. And it was much more than the mere bar that I originally imagined. Food specialties included broiled chicken, steaks, chops, lobster, fish, roast beef, corned beef and Virginia-baked ham.

What, no sauerbraten?

It also boasted "the best cup of coffee in town" along with homemade pastries.

The ad lists several old-time Lorain companies that had a hand in the Grand Opening or were suppliers for the new business, including the Lorain Creamery and the Lorain Crystal Ice Company.

At that time, the restaurant was located at 571 Broadway. According to the City Directory, the Deutschof moved down the street to 651 Broadway around 1947.

A 1949 newspaper ad (below) shows that the great menu followed the restaurant to its new location.  And, the new digs were not only air-conditoned, but also boasted something new: television to watch the ball games!

Tomorrow: Great Photos and Memories of the Deutschof!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remember the Deutschof?

Last November, I received some great vintage photos in my email from Bob Kovach, one of the regular readers of this blog, that he thought I might enjoy. They were of a bar in Lorain that I had never heard of: the Deutschof.

The name sounded so German that I imagined that everyone who hung out there wore lederhosen. But Lorain already had the Liedertafel – so what was the story of the Deutschof?

I decided to do a little research about the place and find out when it existed before I posted the photos. It took a little while, but with some dumb luck I was finally able to dig up some information.

I also learned that the photos that Bob sent me had come from his friend Brad Nitzke, who has an interesting personal connection with the Deutschof.

So stop by here tomorrow (pour yourself a nice chilled Old Dutch first) and read Part 1 of mein story about the Deutschof!

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Last Greeting From Lorain

Local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont emailed me this last "Greetings from Lorain" postcard to go along with the rest of the collection. It has the tagline that Lorain used for a while: An Industrial Empire in Ohio's Vacationland. 

I wonder if the real Vacationland region  – which includes Vermilion, Huron, Sandusky, Oak Harbor and all points south down to Norwalk and Fremont – would object to Lorain joining the party?

The postcard is great because it includes the Lakeview Park of my 1960's youth, with its skimpy beach and view of the B&O coal-loading docks in the background.

Thanks, Dennis! I think the postcard collection is complete!