Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Fun in Lorain 1969

Here's an interesting article about the ambitious playground program Lorain used to have in the 1960's. It's from a Lorain Journal of early June 1969. (Give it a click so you can read it.)

I've blogged before about growing up on Skyline Drive. I remember walking down to Willow Park with my siblings so we could take part in some of the summer activities going on down there. I remember it was a lot of fun, with some great college kids running the whole thing. Besides the organized games, there were lots of crafts too.

Willow Park was such a great setting. The woods used to be dark and thick, and great to explore, although you could only go west along the creek so far. I know we used to catch a lot of minnows and crayfish in there. What we did with them, I don't remember!

As for today, Lorain's website makes reference to a youth summer playground program, but on the schedule page it says,"The summer playground program will not be held in 2011 unless funding is received."

I feel sorry for the kids.

Willow Park

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remember the Original "LORAIN" Hedge?

I saw this photo in a book at the library celebrating Lorain's 1984 Sesquicentennial and just had to post it here. It's the original LORAIN hedge in Lakeview Park on the south side of West Erie, adjacent to the tennis courts.

According to the online Lorain Public Library System's History of Lorain, it was clipped in time for Memorial Day, 1950.

If I remember correctly, it was in the early 2000's during his first term that Mayor Craig Foltin, tired of the by then shabby appearance of the half-century-old hedge, had it replaced by the one currently facing West Erie, a little bit to the east. (That one is looking a little weather-beaten as well these days!)

The original LORAIN hedge was another one of those things, along with the giant Easter basket and the Victory Park big "V", that made a drive along West Erie Avenue interesting to a kid growing up in Lorain in the 1960's.

Here's the same view today.

And here's the newer version just a few hundred feet to the east.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Before Taco Bell, There Was... Taco Boy!

Seeing the 'Taco Boy' listing in the small City Directory section that I posted yesterday reminded me that I had this clipping from newspaper microfilm. It's from a June 1969 Lorain Journal, announcing the opening of the two Taco Boy restaurants in Lorain.

I don't remember this fast food chain at all. As I've mentioned before, that stretch of West Erie from Leavitt Road west to the 21st Street undercut was kind of a mystery to me in the 1960's. My family rarely went that way, because we tended to go west on 21st from Leavitt to hook up with US 6. Plus, my first acquaintance with Mexican fast food was at the Amherst Taco Bell in the 1970's. (It used to be a much-anticipated treat when I was a kid.)

Nevertheless, as Lisa noted in her comments on yesterday's posting, today the former Taco Boy building at 2625 West Erie is home to Chapman's Food Mart. According to their Facebook page, they've been there since 1981.

The building doesn't appear to have changed very much, unlike the home next door!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wild West Sarsaparilla Follow-up

Last week I mentioned that there had been a big sign for Wild West Sarsaparilla (featuring the cartoon cowboy at left) down on West Erie Avenue just west of Leavitt Road on the side of a building in the 1970's. I remembered that you could see it from McDonald's. Unfortunately the building with the sign is long gone.

Fellow blogger Lisa posted a comment that the sign had been on the side of a beverage store – and wondered if the store had been an early version of Rite-Nau Beverage.

Well, I looked it up in the library tonight and she was right! Beginning in 1970, Rite-Nau Beverage was listed in Polk's Lorain City Directory at 2506 West Erie. For decades before that, it had been a private residence going back to at least the early 1940's. But by the late 1960's there seemed to be a front and back address designation with the property, with the front being the store and the rear continuing as a residence. The store later became Lakeside Beverage.

Here's the 1970 address listing of that area from the City Directory.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lorain's Summer Movie Theaters

My post last week about Lorain's 1960's-early 70's summer movie program for kids got me to thinking. The Palace theater is still around (and still shows some Summer Fun Movies) but where were the Ohio and Tivoli theaters located?

For others like me who have forgotten, the Ohio Theater was at 549 Broadway, just north of the Eagles building. The photo at left (from the Black River Historical Society's Lorain book) shows the theater with Ben Hur on its marquee and holiday decorations across the street, putting the photo around Christmas of 1959. The Palace theater can be seen to the right of the Eagles building.

Today the Ohio Theater is long gone, having disappeared from the Lorain phone book in the 1971-72 edition, right after the glory days of the summer movies.

Here's the same view from this weekend.

As for the Tivoli, it was located at 642 Broadway on the other side of the street and down just a bit in the next block. Here is its location today.

With each passing year, it's harder to imagine the Lorain of yesteryear that my parents always talked about, with all of those theaters on Broadway downtown (plus the Dreamland further south on Broadway in central Lorain). I'm glad I caught the tail end of that era at least!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Remember Wild West Sarsaparilla?

Here's a newspaper ad for Wild West Sarsaparilla from the June 28, 1970 Lorain Journal. (Click on it so you can read it.) It caught my eye because of that cartoon cowboy. I seem to remember seeing him in the same pose in a huge ad on the side of a building near the McDonald's on West Erie Avenue; it's one of those iconic images (like Oakie the Squirrel) that still haunts me from childhood. Strangely enough, the cowboy didn't appear on the pop can.

However much I liked the cowboy illustration, though, I don't remember ever drinking this stuff. My family was too set in our ways when it came to pop. We had Pepsi with Yala's Pizza, and 7-Up or Vernors when we were sick. Other than that, we usually had Hires Root Beer (for floats), and the odd bottle of Cotton Club Ginger Ale now and then.

Looking at the sketchy cartoon cowboy makes me think that it is the work of the late well-known Plain Dealer cartoonist Dick Dugan, creator of the Cleveland Browns brownie. (Here's a link to a nice article about him, and links here and here with samples of his work.) What do you think?

Photo of can courtesy of

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remember Summer Movies?

June 13, 1971 Lorain Journal Newspaper Ad
One of the funnier memories I have of growing up in Lorain in the 1960's and 70's would have to be the summer movie program for kids. Although Downtown Lorain was already in decline then, there were still several downtown movie theaters.

Just to see if my memories were correct, I asked my older brother Ken what he remembered about these summer movies. "Ah, the old dank theaters, the crummy movies, the popcorn flying through the air! Also the obviousness of the fact that Mom just wanted to get rid of us for a while, so we got to watch Elvis movies!"

That's a pretty good description.

The theaters were old and stinky, especially to a kid. Ken also noted, "What creepy places they were – dark bathrooms in the basement with fixtures that made it through the tornado. I think we even went to the pre-renovation Palace. Yikes!"

The kids were pretty rowdy at these movies. I remember being shocked at the noise, and at watching popcorn boxes being tossed around, silhouetted against the screen. That sort of thing just didn't happen at the Amherst Theater, where my family usually went to see a movie. That made it even more hilarious to me.

They always showed some really bad cartoons at these movies, including such classics as Loopy DeLoop ("the Good Wolf"), and Bunny and Claude ("we rob carrot patches"). I think they even threw some TV cartoons in there as well, such as Richochet Rabbit. It was a real grab bag.

The movies themselves were pretty memorable, although I don't think they were as bad as Ken remembers. What's interesting to me now is the strange "P.T.A. - P.T.U.-approved" mix of comedies.

I can still rattle off almost a whole summer's worth of them from memory.

The Spirit is Willing (1967) - with Sid Caesar and Vera Miles
You've got to love a movie that starts out with three murders with a meat cleaver! I haven't seen this movie in years, but I still remember the cute girl ghost. And although I didn't know who Sid Caesar was when I saw this movie the first time, now I'm a big fan!

Eight on the Lam (1967) - with Bob Hope
This one was pretty good too, if I recall. Any movie with Bob Hope, Jonathan Winters and Jill St. John can't be all bad! (Hmm... I wonder if they have it at the library?)

As kids, we watched all of Bob Hope's old movies that were on TV, as well as his TV specials. So seeing this movie would have been a big deal.

Spinout (1966) with Elvis Presley
This is the movie that my brother referred to earlier. I hate to say it, but even seeing this at a young age didn't make me an Elvis fan.

With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) - with Brian Keith and Doris Day
The strange title of this movie made it easy to remember as one of the summer movies.

Hellfighters (1968) - with John Wayne
I'm pretty sure this was one of the summer movies, because I remember seeing the title on the movie schedule, and wondering what it was going to be about.

We saw almost all of John Wayne's current movies at Amherst Theater back then. I guess a steady diet of John Wayne and Bob Hope as a kid is bound to make you a Republican when you grow up.

Looking back at these movies creates sort of a 1960's snapshot in my mind, of a time that was still fairly conservative but on the verge of going full-blown mod.

Anyway, be sure to post your Lorain summer movie memories in the 'Comments' section!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vacation Time!

Yup, it's that time again. I'll be on vacation next week – so I probably won't have time for any updates – sorry! (I may squeeze one in about mid-week, though.) But please do come back for some more nostalgic fun.

I appreciate all the emails, comments and topic suggestions – and I look forward to starting to research some of them!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The View from Eighth Street Then and Now

Here's the last ( I think) of that batch of 1986 Lorain images. It's looking north on Broadway from around Eighth Street. (Note the hood ornament. Now I know why I can't seem to match the angle of these shots exactly! Unfortunately my windows are too dirty to shoot through!)

And here's my matching shot from last weekend. It wasn't easy standing in the middle of Broadway trying to snap this.

By George, the 'now' shot actually looks pretty good compared to the 'then' shot. The trees have grown up and the sky is much bluer!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking Towards Lorain Monument Works Then and Now

Getting back to 1986... we already saw the view towards Gel-Pak. So here's the view in the other direction, looking north across the railroad crossing on Broadway.

And here's the 'now' shot.

I agree with Alan's comment from a few days ago. It's still strange using the underpass, especially since you hardly ever see a train. In my mind I still see it the way it was, with the Golden Dragon on my left as I rumble north over the tracks. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reid Avenue Railroad Crossing Then and Now

Today's vintage photo is not from 1986. It was sent to me by blog pal Drew Penfield, the man behind the website, which is the website to go to if you want to learn about the Lake Shore Electric interurban line.

The photo above is of the four track railroad crossing at Reid Avenue, looking east. In the background further down the tracks is the Broadway crossing, as well as the Lorain train depot that I featured a few days ago on this blog. Drew believes that the photos was taken either in the late 1940's or early 1950's.

And here's the 'now' shot – which is a lot less busy.

It's rather sad to see the one lonely track, a poignant reminder of the end of railroad dominance.
Incidentally, you may have wondered (like I did) what that steel tower is to the left of the tracks off in the distance in both photos. So I put the question to a man mentioned in this blog many times, local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont. According to Dennis, "It's the anchor tower for the 13.8kV AC line that runs through there down and over to the steel plant."
Oh. Thanks for clearing that up, Dennis!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The View Towards Gel-Pak Then and Now

Here's another 1986 view looking south on Broadway, just before the road began to be torn up for the construction of the Frank Nardini underpass. The old Gel-Pak building is on the left; all the buildings on the west side are already gone.

And here's my shot from last weekend, looking across the railroad tracks. Relocated Broadway swoops down to the right below them.

The Gel-Pak building was in the news quite a bit this year. Although the new high school will not be built behind it, the building is still going to be renovated to become the new home of Lorain County Health & Dentistry according to this story.

(For a neat look inside the Gel-Pak building, click here.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

The View From Broadway Feed & Pet Supply Then and Now

Since my blog pal and fellow ex-Lorainite Randall Chet of Octane Inc. left me a comment that he's enjoying these summer of 1986 then-and-now photos, I'm going to keep them going for a little while! (Special thanks to the unknown photographer and the owner of the photos for providing all these great 1986 images.)

Here's another one (above) looking north from the vantage point of Broadway Feed & Pet Supply, a great old store that was located at 1605 Broadway. It was another one of my central Lorain Saturday morning stops (along with Bob's Donuts and First Federal Savings) usually to buy my father some niger thistle bird seed for his feeder. It sure was an interesting place – and I hated to see it close.

Off in the distance you can see the former Mister S restaurant (which by the time this photo was taken had only been Gyro House for a year or so) as well as LaGana's, the big red brick building on the left far off in the distance.

Here's the shot from this weekend.

In 2011, Gyro House is now Gyros and More, and LaGana's is now Auto Color & Equipment. Off in the distance Broadway dips to the left because of the Frank Nardini Underpass. The Route 57 sign is moved out a little north, and the weeds are still a-sprouting from the curve.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lorain Train Station Then and Now

Here's another one of those Ebay photos that were shot by a gentleman who drove around Lorain in the summer of 1986 and captured the city as it looked back then on film. This shot is of the long-gone Lorain train station. I was frankly surprised that it had lasted that long, all the way into the mid-1980's.

Here is the current view.

Although you can't tell from the photo, I was standing on the short stretch of old Broadway pavement that was bypassed by the Frank Nardini railroad underpass. You can see a bit of the barricade right before the dead-end in the bottom of my photo.

I posted one of my high school drawings of the station back here.

It's a shame (gee, I say that a lot on this blog) that the old train station is gone. But unless the residents of a city decide that something old is worth saving, and organize to make it happen, then a lot of historical buildings will continue to be torn down, along with the city's heritage.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kayann Motel & Apts. Then and Now

Here's a nice vintage postcard of the stately Kayann Motel and Apartments on East Erie Avenue.

The complex first showed up in the Lorain Telephone Book in 1957 as the Kayann Apartments Hotel. Here's the ad, with their unique 'motorist' hotel designation.

By 1960, the name had changed slightly, to the Kayann Motel & Apartments. For a look at their 1963 ad along with their competitors, click here.
It was only in the last few years that I noticed that the words 'motorist motel' was taken down from both of their matching signs. The place is still in business as an apartment house, however, and looks very much the same as it did when it opened.

It's nice to know that the place is still in business, although they apparently no longer beckon to tired, cross-country motorists on US 6 as a place to spend the night.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lorain Then (1986) and Now

Earlier this year, a local gentleman posted a series of photos on Ebay of Lorain, all from the mid-1980's. Apparently the photographer drove around Lorain and captured images of various street scenes and intersections during a time in which Lorain was experiencing a lot of change. It was a great idea – wish I'd thought of it!

Most of the photos were from the summer of 1986, including the one shown above (which I purchased). It's the view looking east at the intersection of East Erie (U.S. Route 6) and Colorado Avenue. Note the Lannie's sign on the right and the old Lawsons store in the distance.

Fast forward to now.

The Sunoco station is now Pecora's Wheels N Deals. Lawsons is now Dairy Mart. Lannie's is long gone due to the development of the eastside around the old shipyards.

Also, a turning lane has been added to East Erie sacrificing some of Lannie's frontage – making it impossible for me to precisely capture the same exact view of the vintage shot without getting run over.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

St. Joe's Then and Now

Dennis Lamont also sent me this vintage postcard circa 1936 of Lorain's St. Joseph's Hospital (since it was mentioned in the Morning Journal here that – alas – this part of the building is scheduled to be demolished).

Well anyone who reads this blog knows what happens when I get my hands on a vintage postcard of an extant structure: I have to go out and shoot it! And that's what I did on Sunday.

It certainly looks different; all of the ornamental architectural touches were removed, leaving... a big box. Still, it will be sad to see it go.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Grim Safety Reminder From the Days of Interurbans

Local archivist and historian Dennis Lamont sent me this great vintage safety advertisement. It's sort of an earlier version of the Grim Reaper-themed ad that I posted yesterday.

In the illustration, Death beckons the driver of a car (with Ohio license plates) to carelessly cross the tracks while an interurban approaches.

As Dennis, one of the authors of the Arcadia Publishing book Lake Shore Electric Railway ( a terrific book, by the way) pointed out to me, note that there are no crossing gates or flashing safety lights. I guess that's why there were so many terrible accidents involving interurbans in the early days of motoring. Fortunately undercuts became a priority to eliminate some of the more dangerous crossings.

Death seems to be especially diabolical in this case, flagging the car forward – while the occupants of the car don't seem to be speeding or doing anything reckless. I guess that's the message: Death is always lurking about if you aren't careful!

Here's hoping that you have a safe and happy July Fourth!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Grim Reminder From 1958: Stay Safe on July Fourth!

This full page ad promoting a safe July 4 holiday appeared on Thursday, July 3, 1958 in the Lorain Journal. (Click on it so you can read it.)

It's kind of creepy ad, befitting the 1950's era of teenage monster flicks. The Grim Reaper hovers over a young couple, roaring along in their tail-finned speedster. (I like the lookalike skull pendant that the Reaper wears around his neck – a nice touch!)

The safety tips still apply today, although the 'DON'T Swim after eating, ever!" art is mildly amusing, with the young man about to take a bite out of his hamburger as he distractedly eyeballs a diving cutie. Does the ad insinuate that he's going to quickly chow down and then – in violation of safety rules – join her in the pool? (Click here for an amusing explanation on the whole 'wait an hour after eating' rule.)

Be sure to click on the ad so you can read a veritable Who's Who of Lorain businesses from 1958!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canadian Soldiers of 1951

We recently had our first wave of lake flies in Sheffield Lake a few weeks ago. For the first batch of this year, it wasn't too bad. It certainly didn't compare with the old days that my parents talked about, when Lorain had to use front loaders to clean them up. Or when they were so thick on the sidewalks that they were slippery to walk on.

The article above is from the Lorain Journal of June 23, 1951 – almost exactly 60 years ago – and dates from those days. The article, by Richard J. Maloy, provides a nice explanation about the life cycle of this bothersome bug. (Actually the Morning Journal should just rerun it when the inevitable time comes that they have to deal with this annual topic again.)

All I know is last year's Canadian Solider attack was much worse (click here for a recap)!