Friday, September 30, 2011

Perkins Pancake House

1966 Phone book ad
I don't go to very many chain restaurants, but there is one that I enjoy visiting every so often: Perkins. Nostalgia has a little to do with it, but I also really enjoy the food.

Like many other Lorainites, I grew up going to the Perkins Pancake House on North Ridge Road near Route 57. That particular location opened in the mid-1960's.

For my family, Perkins was a special occasion type of place. We usually went there when it was one of our birthdays – because if I remember correctly, the restaurant used to have a policy that your birthday dinner was free. They even sent reminders in the mail.

I ate a lot of pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream there as a kid in the 1960's. (Now as an adult, I rarely order it – and when I do, halfway through I regret it! But I'll order it again, no doubt.)

As the years went by, my family went there less and less, and I more or less forgot about the place. The parent company tinkered with the brand a bit in the 1980's, even changing the name to Perkins Cake & Steak to entice the carnivore crowd. But the name change didn't help, and the N. Ridge Road restaurant closed around 1985. (It's George's Family Restaurant now.)

Later, I got reacquainted with Perkins by stopping at the one on US 250 near Ashland on the way home from Columbus. I've been to the one in Sandusky (which is very good) as well as the one in Avon – but the Ashland one is still the best. It's got the best service, best food and best servers. They've had the same hustling manager for years, and it shows. (Plus, I like the local clientele there – interesting country folk who pack the place on a Sunday afternoon and ask to sit in their favorite server's section.)

Anyway, I found this vintage postcard on the website. If my memory serves me right, the one on N. Ridge looked something like this.

We stopped at the Perkins down in Ashland over the weekend, and enjoyed a fine meal as usual. It's the perfect Sunday autumn drive – about an hour one-way. Plus, you get to stop at Fin, Feather and Fur outfitters next door to the east, and Grandpa's Cheese Barn just behind the restaurant.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Vintage Century Park Postcards

Here's a few more vintage pictures of Century Park, courtesy of the Black River Historical Society.

The beach shot (above) is scanned from the BRHS's Lorain Images of America book. The one with the view from the street-level vantage point of the (at left) is from the BRHS website.

It looks like that bath house was huge.

For a nice history of the park and dance hall, with special attention paid to the fact that the park was a stop on the Lake Shore Electric route, click here to visit the Lake Shore Rail Maps website.

When I lived on the east side of Lorain during the 1990's, Century Park was a handy destination for a walk or jog. It's a nice little lakefront park, kind of a poor step-sibling to the better known Lakeview Park.

It's a little surprising that Lorain needs help maintaining such a small park.

Incidentally, the postcard publishers must have realized their error with the "Lake View Park" label on the Century Park postcard that I posted yesterday. A properly labeled postcard (below) turned up in a Google search.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Century Park Then & Now

I had seen this postcard before on several occasions, either online or in an antique shop. It's labeled "LAKE VIEW PARK BEACH, LORAIN, OHIO" and I had always thought that it depicted the pre-tornado Lakeview Park bathhouse.

However, the recent article in the Morning Journal about residents having to maintain Century Park on Lorain's east side (because the city wasn't) sent me looking for a vintage postcard of the park online. When this one came up, I disregarded it as being Lakeview Park – until I took a closer look and realized it was Century Park all the time.

Here's my shot from last night. (I couldn't duplicate the postcard view exactly because I was already at the far western end of the park.)

Here's a closer look at the Harbor House beach house to compare with the vintage postcard.

According to the above article, the beach house has been there since 1928.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Admiral King High School Memorabilia

During the dedication of Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary School, there was a nice display of Admiral King High School memorabilia, including an original dedication program (above). I like the simple layout and design, with the Admiral 'looking on' in spirit.

There was also an architect's rendering of the school (below).

Last but not least was a list of the school staff during that inaugural year (below).
I was surprised to see how many of my teachers during my years there (1973-1977) were there right from the very beginning, including Frank Hicks, Ben Cotton, Keith Larimore, Esther Lankenau and Ralph Pisanelli.

It was also interesting to see that the Lorain City School Superintendent that I remember as doing a great job, Dr. Joseph F. Calta, was the first very principal of Admiral King High School. Hopefully my beloved hometown of Lorain will get back to the idea of promoting from within – someone with roots in the community who cares about the city – as they search for a new superintendent.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On Cherry Street Part 2

For me, the most memorable part of On Cherry Street (besides its name) was its great illustrations. Each one is a nice little slice of life, full of warmth, but without being corny. They really were a nice window on the world for first graders, showing kids interacting with kind, understanding adults.

The paintings were done in a realistic style that you don't see very much any more.  Unfortunately, realistic illustrations done in the style of Norman Rockwell or Lorain's Stevan Dohanos don't seem to be very popular these days in childrens' books. Instead, very cartoony and stylized illustrations are used instead – with none of the heart of these vintage examples.

The Acknowledgments page of On Cherry Street indicates that the illustrations were by George Garland, Bob Candy, Art Saaf, Phoebe Erickson and Catherine Scholz.

From what I can tell from the available samples of work on the internet, George Garland was the heavy hitter of the bunch. Like Lorain's Stevan Dohanos, he contributed excellent covers and illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Here's a sample of Garland's art from the July 16, 1949 issue.

Courtesy of
Here's one of his covers; this one is from the March 13, 1943 issue.

Courtesy of
After looking at a few examples of Garland's work, it's easy to pick out his detailed illustrations in On Cherry Street.; they're just a little more detailed and realistic than the others, which are still nice.

Here's one of Garland's from the very first story in the book. (If you look just below the mother's dress, you can see part of his signature that managed to sneak into the live area of the page.)

I almost forgot to mention that Alan Hopewell isn't the only one who remembered the names of the children in the book! (By the way, Alan's got a nice post about Lorain's Boone Elementary: check it out here.) 
I brought On Cherry Street to work last week and our Sally, our Human Resources manager saw it, and said,"Hey, isn't that book all about Tom, Betty and Sally?" I was dumbfounded until she reminded me that her husband's name is Tom, and she remembered the book because both of their names are in it as main characters. 
Here I thought I was doing well just remembering the title and the organ grinder!

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Cherry Street Part 1

The 1964 world of On Cherry Street is a wonderful one indeed.

On one hand, it's a charming depiction of how innocent life used to be in the late 1950's and early 60's – or at least how we wished it would be.

Stay-at-home moms sent their kids off to school. Well-dressed teachers gently encouraged their pupils, who were always polite and respectful. Fathers sat in a big chair after dinner and read the newspaper or a favorite book, but were not too busy to stop and read a story to their kids. Friendly policemen were always nearby and ready to help. Congenial shopkeepers knew their customers and their children by name.

But on the other hand, the world as seen in the book is a bit strange sometimes.

An organ grinder and his monkey strolling down the street is an everyday occurrence and nothing unusual. Three little boys coincidentally are all sent by their mothers to the same store at the same time to buy a loaf of bread. The appearance of a street sprinkler on Cherry Street is a major event.

The most obvious departure from reality is the lack of any diversity. This problem would be solved with a revised edition that came out in 1966. That edition's cover also jettisoned the organ grinder and monkey and instead depicted children of various races playing together.

The book does do a good job of showing that everything in life isn't perfect. In one story, Tom (one of the book's protagonists along with his sisters Betty and Susan) wants a new sled because his friend Jack has one. But his father states, "We cannot get a new sled just now," and helps his son paint the old one instead.

Of course, Tom's sled wins the race down Cherry Street Hill against the other boys.

In another story, Betty and Susan are sent to Mr. Mac's store to buy eggs and apples. Not only does Betty forget the eggs in the store, but she drops the bag of apples on the way home, and Susan accidentally leaves her Bunny doll at the store as well (setting up another story plot).

To spice things up a bit, a story or fable featuring anthropomorphic animals is tossed into the mix here and there, using the clever plot device that the children in the book are reading the same story. The tales have the added zing of various characters plotting to eat other ones, such as the "Story of the Little Lamb" (in which the title character is invited to dinner by a pair of wily foxes) and "The Pancake Man" (in which a pancake takes it on the lam to try and avoid – unsuccessfully –  being eaten).

Strangely enough, the villains in these tales aren't always the obvious choices. In fact, in one story, a fox is just minding his own business, trying to enjoy a picnic lunch while he fishes, when his basket is swiped by a pair of squirrels. They are then robbed of it by a rabbit, who loses it to a bear, who stumbles and accidentally drops it in the brook, where it is commandeered by a pair of frogs. The fox finally gets his lunch back when he hooks his basket with his pole and the frogs abandon ship.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Remember this book?

The human mind is a strange thing. (Mine is, that's for sure.)

How else can we explain why we remember things from long ago, but forget what we did last week?

A good example is the book shown above: On Cherry Street. It was one in a series of books called the Ginn Basic Readers that were used to teach reading to elementary school kids. The books all had similarly designed covers in different color schemes (depending on the grade level), with realistic illustrations of children. This particular edition was copyrighted 1964.

More than 40 years later, I still remembered the title of this specific book. Why? I guess because it made Cherry Street seem like a great place to be a kid. After all, it had its own resident organ grinder and monkey!

Anyway, please stop back here tomorrow when I crack open the battered cover of this memorable tome and we take a trip back in time – and return to Cherry Street!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Charleston Elementary Memories

Fall always brings thoughts of old school days...

Over the summer I had the need and opportunity to visit the Charleston Administration Center on Pole Avenue (thanks, Lisa!), and long dormant memories came flooding back again. Last year about this time (starting here), I wrote about going to kindergarten and part of first grade there when it was Charleston Elementary. I still have a soft spot in my heart for that place, since it was my introduction to Lorain's public school system.

Lorain's S. Dohanos Elementary
(Photo courtesy Lorain Schools)
I gotta admit, I still like that boxlike 1950's style of school. The one-story design made sense, and the building was probably easy to empty during fire drills or actual emergencies. Today's typical Ohio public school design (at left) to me is a strange style – like a prison – and the multi-story layout seems kind of dangerous.

Anyway, during my visit to Charleston, I walked down the same narrow hallways that I did back in 1964 and '65, and it was eerily familiar after all these decades. I even found my old kindergarten room, number 7. It was a strange feeling, and when I peeked into the room, I half-expected to see a vision of my old classmates sitting there. I guess I've seen too many Twilight Zone episodes.

"Come in, Dan" said the ghostly voice. "We've been expecting you for 45 years!"
I also stuck my head into the auditorium (or was it the gymnasium?) to get a look at the stage, where my kindergarten class posed for pictures all those years ago. It sure shrunk over the years!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Admiral Ernest J. King Highway Sign

Here's a clipping from the October 24, 1959 Lorain Journal that I found in the Special Collections file of the Lorain Public Library. (Click on it for a larger view.) It shows an Admiral Ernest J. King highway marker that used to be on Route 58 (Leavitt Road) on the southern approach to the city. One of these signs is now down at the Admiral Ernest J. King tribute space.

When I saw this, I thought, "Oh, yeah--I kind of remember that!" since this was my neck of the woods while I was growing up. Check out two-lane Leavitt Road in the background, along with the farmhouse!

I wonder why the sign was taken down in the first place?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Admiral Ernest J. King Weekend Wrap-up

Rear Admiral Jay A. DeLoach, USN (Ret.) addresses the crowd
It was a busy Sunday attending the dedication of both the Admiral Ernest J. King Tribute Space as well as the new Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary. Thankfully the weather was perfect.

For me, one of the highlights of the Tribute Space dedication was hearing the Lorain High School Titan Marching Band play 'Anchors Away', the fight song of my alma mater, the old Admiral King High School. Having the band march down Hamilton Ave. in front of Admiral King's birthplace was also a nice touch.

Admiral King's birthplace also looked its best in years.

Over at the dedication of the elementary school, it was good to both the bust and the painting of Admiral King from the old high school on display. Both will hopefully serve as inspiration to the students.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Big Admiral Ernest J. King Weekend!

Well, it looks like good weather this weekend for what promises to be the biggest celebration of Lorain's own Admiral Ernest J. King since his namesake high school was dedicated back in October 1961.

The Admiral Ernest J. King Tribute Space (located across from his birthplace at 113 Hamilton Avenue) will be dedicated on Sunday at 1:00 in the afternoon, followed by the dedication of Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary at 2:00 at the site of the former Lorain High School.

If you haven't been down to the Tribute Space yet, here's a sneak preview. (By the way, the final name of the space has not been decided yet.)

Be sure to stop by That Woman's Weblog to read about how the idea for the Tribute Space was hatched by Loraine Ritchey and Renee Dore.

Things are also looking ship-shape over at the Admiral Ernest J. King Elementary. It's good to see one of the old anchors from Admiral King High School, as well as the Ohio Historical Marker, back in action.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Admiral King Painting Mystery – Solved!

Since I just spent three days talking about one painting mystery being solved, I guess I'd better blog about the other painting mystery that's been solved as well. The mystery originated on Lisa Miller's Buster's House blog back in June (and I first mentioned it here). Although Lisa has already talked about this on her blog a few weeks ago, I realized that I'd better post it here as well, since I recently discovered that the word hadn't gotten out completely, and there were still people trying to help.

We finally have the name of the person who painted the portrait of Admiral Ernest J. King, thanks to the volunteers at the Black River Historical Society and a little luck. The artist's name: Chris Lewis.

During one of my Sunday trips to the BRHS to research the painting, one of the helpful volunteers had pulled the file of photos on Admiral King. He was flipping through them when I recognized the painting in the background of one of them (below).

It was easy to identify the photo as being from the September 1945 Victory Celebration that took place in Lorain after World War II. (The photo showed Lorain Mayor Harry Van Wagnen seated to Admiral King's right. To his immediate left was his aid, and then Ohio Governor Frank Lausche.)

Since the painting was at that event, it was a matter of finding out why. So I went back to the microfilm and re-read the Lorain Journals from a month before the event, hoping that there would be a photo of the painting and the artist. There wasn't – but I kept reading.

Finally, in the Saturday, September 29, 1945 edition, an article about King's arrival in Lorain mentioned that on Sunday there was to be a special luncheon at 12:30 p. m. in the Jayteen auditorium (of Hotel Antlers) with the admiral and the governor as principal speakers. It also mentioned the presentation of a portrait (painted by Chris Lewis) to King.

During the luncheon the next day, Dr. Ernest Hatch Wilkins of Oberlin College had some fun with the presentation of the painting.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out anything about Chris Lewis. The name is not in any Lorain city directories from that time, so I do not think Lewis was a Lorain resident.

I have also spent several hours in the Oberlin Public Library, and it does not appear that Chris Lewis was an Oberlin College student, faculty member or alumni. The few phone books from the late 40's and early 50's do not contain the name either.

Perhaps someone will read this and make the connection as to why the president of Oberlin College presented the painting and who Chris Lewis was. Perhaps Lewis was an old friend of the president who did the painting as a favor.

Anyway, Lisa Miller had a great tale to tell me about having a professional art restoration expert look at the painting, and going over it with a black light to examine it closely. The expert's opinion was that whoever painted the portrait was quite experienced and confident in their technique. So Chris Lewis was no amateur! We only wish we know who Lewis was!

Thanks once again to everyone who helped solve this mystery, including my old Admiral King art teacher Frank Hicks and of course the Black River Historical Society. I also bugged many other people and organizations in search of leads (such as the good people at the Lorain Elks) – so thanks to them as well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stevan Dohanos House Mystery – Solved! Part 3

So where was the Dohanos house on First Street? Was the house number (above) on the painting accurate? After some research, I can say that it doesn't look like it.

I did a little digging at the library in the few available Lorain City Directories from the early 1900's. The Dohanos family – listed in the 1905 directory as 'Andy and Lizzie Dohanas' – lived at 111 Lake.

Lake was later renamed 'First  Street' and appeared that way in the 1912 directory. But by then, the Dohanos family had moved – and the house was being rented.

But there was one family that lived on First Street that appeared in both the 1905 and 1912 directories: Joseph Majesie Sr. So, his 117 Lake address = 501 First Street.

In 1912, there were only 4 houses with addresses on First Street between Broadway and Washington Avenue: 211, 501, 701 and 803. So it makes sense that the Dohanos family probably lived at 211 First Street, next door to the Majesie family. In the 1924 directory, John Doehonos – a relative? –  lived at 211 First Street – so it's a good chance indeed that it's the right address.

And now – courtesy of Dennis Lamont  here's a 1936 aerial view of First Street and North Broadway showing what I believe is the Dohanos house. (Click on it for a larger view.)

Here's a final look at the house as painted by Stevan Dohanos for comparison. It looks like all the elements are there in the photo, including the trees, and even a little shed in the back.

Those first four houses on First Street between Broadway and Washington continued to be listed that way for decades, until the 1947 directory, when 211, 501 and 701 disappeared, torn down by the B&O railroad.

A Final Thought
Hey, remember the little voice in my head that I mentioned in Part 1, telling me where the house was? It had said, "It's on 11th Street."
Maybe the voice wasn't that far off. After all, the house was at 111 Lake – also known later as 211 First (1st) Street. With all those 1's, it was bound to be confused!
Maybe I'll start buying lottery tickets.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stevan Dohanos House Mystery – Solved! Part 2

Very early in this mystery, I couldn't believe that there wasn't any mention in the July 20, 1946 Lorain Journal that a Lorain house was on the cover of the latest Saturday Evening Post. It just doesn't happen every day – so why wasn't it in the paper? Why was there no photo of the house with its current owners grinning and clutching a copy of the Post?

So I went back to the microfilm a few days ago and read from that date forward almost two weeks.

What did I find? Nothing.

So with the Lorain Public Library closing in 15 minutes, I decided to backtrack from the July 20th date and see what I could find. I had already done a few weeks earlier, but I figured I had nothing to lose by retracing my steps.

Here's what I (groan) found in the Thursday, July 18, 1946 Lorain Journal.

How to Waste 3 Hours, or Life of a Reporter
Newsman Puts in Hectic Day Trying to Track Down House That Wasn't There


Ah, for the life of a mayor or a reporter!

Shortly before noon yesterday a publicity man from a national magazine strode into offices of The Journal telling us that Stevan Dohanos, artist son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Dohanos, 1690 E. 29th-st, had drawn the cover picture now appearing on this week's issue.

"The picture's of a house," he said (we could see that ourselves), "and what's more, it's a picture of a house in Lorain."

We Start to Work
All well and good, we figured – it would make a good "local" story – you know, a picture of a Lorain house being distributed all over the country, and so we rolled up our sleeves and started to work.

We agreed that it would be a good idea that the publicity man contact Mayor Patrick J. Flaherty and have him "officially" inspect the house.

The promotion man started for the mayor's office and, within a few minutes, he telephoned that the mayor "is all behind the plan."

"Come right down, we'll go out there right away," he declared.

This is where all the trouble started.

At least 10 people were waiting to see "hizzoner" about matters ranging from paying for an ad in a picnic program to a woman complaining about the water at her house being turned off.

Another Half-Hour
After a weary half-hour, we started. The publicity man found the name and address of Dohanos' parents and we were headed there to see if the picture corresponded with their house. It didn't.

Mrs. Dohanos stated that the house in the picture was located on 1st-st. In fact, she said, it was the house that Stevan was born in 39 years ago.

Back to Broadway again, the mayor decided it was time to eat. The restaurant was jammed with people and it cost 45 minutes, besides the check.

Down to Business
The mayor then had to stop at his office and at the same time thought he'd better call City Street Supt. Albert McDermott to see if the house was still on 1st-st. We were getting down to business again.

A half an hour later and we were to start again. But 10 more citizens of our city greeted the mayor as we attempted to get back on the trail again so that was another half hour. It was now three hours since our search started.

We climbed back into the car and drove thru the alley behind the police station – a matter of 200 yards – and it was there that we found where the house was when Dohanos sketched the picture two years ago.

Yes, you guessed it. It was one of the houses that was torn down by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to make room for their new docks at the foot of Broadway.

Well, at least we know WHY Stevan Dohanos painted that particular house.

Next: Where was the house located on First Street anyway?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stevan Dohanos House Mystery – Solved! Part 1

The mystery of identifying the house that Lorain native Stevan Dohanos used as a subject for a Saturday Evening Post cover painting (shown above) back in 1946 (which I told you about here) is over. And only a few weeks after it started.

But before I reveal my findings (in Part 2), I'm going to drag it out a bit – for suspense!

Trying to find the house was one of the more offbeat things I've ever gotten involved with as a result of this blog. I began with the assumption that the house was still standing in Stevan Dohanos' old neighborhood – which, after a lot of driving around – I determined wasn't the case.

Then I thought that maybe the house belonged to a friend of the family. Or perhaps it was one that he saw while driving around Lorain and and wanted to paint.

Could this be it?
That meant that the house could be anywhere.

Thus, I was always on guard. And it really started to affect my behavior (which wasn't all that normal to begin with).

For example, while on the way home from grocery shopping at Sheffield Center a few Sundays ago, I was suddenly gripped by an irresistible impulse to detour down some random Lorain side street in search of the house. Of course, each time that has happened, I expected the house to magically appear, exactly like it does in the painting.

Here's another good example of nuttiness. While picking up a pizza, clear out of the blue, a voice in my head said "It's on 11th Street." So of course, I drove over there expecting to find it – with no success.

That'll teach me to listen to little voices in my head!

Fellow blogger Lisa tried to help by pointing out to me that there are a limited number of neighborhoods in Lorain where the sidewalk meets the street with no tree lawn, and that they are concentrated in the 6th, 7th and 8th Street areas between Oberlin Avenue and Washington Avenue.

It was a great clue, and it limited the search to a relatively small part of Lorain – which I drove around with no success.

Or maybe this one?
Of course, since the Post said that Stevan Dohanos had sketched this house a few years before he painted it – as opposed to sitting across from it and rendering it – I didn't know for sure if he used a little artistic license in his composition. I reasoned that he may have just used that particular sidewalk and curb combination so that the young ballplayers would have a place to sit, with little visual clutter to distract the reader.

Thus, I continued to think that the house might be in any old neighborhood, no matter what the sidewalk looks like. So I continued my search – driving, looking, scanning, etc.

I had seen a couple of houses where I practically slammed on the brakes and yelled, "THAT'S IT!!!" But after a closer look, there was always some major structural difference that either ruled out a match or made it a dubious proposition.

So I kept on looking.

Next: The mystery is solved!