Friday, June 29, 2012

June 1957 Spitzer Used Cars Ad

It's almost the end of June, so I might as well post this Spitzer Used Car newspaper ad from the pages of the Lorain Journal of June 1957 – a mere 55 years ago.

It caught my eye because whoever did the layout on the ad used up 1/3 of the space with a cartoon. Now that's my kind of layout artist.

It's also kind of interesting because of the now obsolete brands: Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Studebaker and Hudson. According to this Wiki entry, the Hudson brand was phased out by the end of 1957.

If I had been shopping for a used car back in 1957, I'm not sure that I would have been interested in that '54 Studebaker listed in the ad – devilishly priced at $666 dollars!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lorain's Civil Defense Siren - May 1954

Here's another vestige of Lorain's Civil Defense program of the 1950s: a small newspaper clipping from the May 4, 1954 Lorain Journal about the civil defense siren.

Few Hear Faint Siren

The siren blew but few heard it.

Civil Defense and city officials today awaited reports from emergency police to determine dead spots in the city where the new siren cannot be heard.

Mayor Jaworski said today the siren is "not powerful enough to cover the whole city." The siren was tested at 6 p. m. yesterday.

He said numerous calls came in at police headquarters from people "even close to the siren" who were listening but heard the warning device only "faintly."

The mayor said he will meet with the Civil Defense Administrator Zimmerman and city electrician Gaylord Tucker to decide where to place nine small sirens. The small sirens are expected to take care of the dead areas.

You're probably wondering about the photo above. As you can see, it was pretty dark on the library's microfilm and despite my Photoshop work, I couldn't lighten it enough to reveal a face. But the caption for the photo stated, "Connie Smith, 1172 Seventh Street, holds ears while whistle blasts."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lorain Ground Observer Corps PD Article 1954

Yesterday I featured a vintage postcard of the old Coast Guard Station in Lorain (above). If you look closely at the circled portion on the postcard, you might recognize the tower that was later located behind the old city hall and used by Lorain's Ground Observer Corps as part of the cvil defense effort.

I wrote about this tower a few times in the blog, including this post, which included an interesting article about the volunteers who took turns manning the tower in the 1950s to keep an eye out for enemy aircraft.

Well, here is another great article about Lorain's Ground Observer Corps, this time from the Cleveland Plain Dealer Pictorial Magazine of June 27, 1954. It also mentions how and why the tower ended up being used by the Ground Observer Corps.


Sky Watcher Doubles as "Matchmaker"

Forest J. Greenshields.
Man of the Year," he's director of the
Lorain Ground Observer Corps,
auditor-tax consultant, pilot
and "Dan Cupid."
Lorain's Forest J. Greenshields is a man who has played many roles.

The shiny-scalped ex-marine of World War I, selected recently as the steel city's "Man of the Year," has added still another – that of "Dan Cupid" – as director of the Ground Observer Corps.

Greenshields' chest swells, too, when he tells you his G. O. C. unit is one of the finest in the nation and one of a handful of those still on 24-hour duty since their inception on July 14, 1952.

Surprisingly enough, Lorain's observation post was one of 500 set up in Ohio two years ago when the cold fact of Russia's capabilities of bombing United States cities was made known. Ohio was among the 27 states alerted to maintain around-the-clock sky watches.

Today, though, Lorain's post under Greenshields is believed to be the lone 24-hour unit in Ohio. Within three months it received the air force's first unit citation for the Buckeye State.

When the post was first organized, Greenshields, an auditor and tax consultant in private life, obtained use of the roof of the Lorain Eagles Building and with donated materials and labor erected a heated, glass-enclosed structure.

Recruiting personnel from all walks of life, Greenshields signed up 147 observers from among steelworkers, teenagers, mothers, grandmothers and veterans. It was then that Greenshields' "Cupid" role came into being.

Dan's arrow once again found its mark when Miss Ann Miller, now chief observer in charge of the night shift, began dating George A. Gall, another observer. Gall, a brakeman with the Lake Terminal Railroad at Lorains' sprawling National Tube Co., scanned the heavens from noon to 4 p. m. once a week. Miss Gall served the next four hours. They first met last December, have been dating since March and expect to be married within a few weeks.

In between loving glances the observers spot and report all jet and multi-engined aircraft. As soon as such an aircraft is observed, it is logged, then reported to the air force filter center at Canton. With a direct telephone line, the procedure takes but about 10 seconds – thanks to Greenshields' employment of the best possible equipment and facilities.

Recently, when the life-saving tower from the United States Coast Guard station in Lorain was removed to make way for a new small boat harbor, Greenshields obtained it for his sky watchers. A 12-foot section was added to its base and now the 42-foot tower is in operation at a new location adjacent to Lorain's antique city hall.

His observers now number only 97, but Greenshields needs more observers. He has impressed two service clubs, the Sertomas and the Lorain Civic League, so much with the importance of a constant vigil that they have each volunteered to man the tower for a four-hour period once a week.

Should Greenshields' observers ever run out of planes to report, he can solve that, too. For Greenshields – "Whitey" to his friends – has added the role of private pilot to his long list of accomplishments.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

U.S. Coast Guard Station Then & Now

Here's a vintage postcard from Ebay featuring a classic Lorain icon of yesteryear: the old Coast Guard Station that for years was a recognizable landmark in the harbor.

According to the Black River Historical Society's Lorain, Ohio book, the station's construction began in 1908 and it was in full operation around 1910. The postcard above was postmarked 1915 so it's a pretty early view.

Here's another view.

And here's a later postcard view showing the whole harbor. Note the tiny image of the lighthouse off in the distance.

The Black River Historical Society's book notes that the station was replaced with a new, larger building in 1989. But however much the new building was needed, it's still not the same – more than twenty years later – for us old-timers to look down from the Bascule Bridge and not see the familiar, quaint original building.

Here's the "now" view from a week ago. It's quite a different scene with the Lorain treatment plant in the background. I remember when you were allowed to drive all the way around the plant and fish from its perimeter. But no more.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Masonic Temple Then & Now

I haven't done a 'Then and Now' of any Lorain landmarks for a while (I'm running out of easy-to-locate subject matter), so here's one that every Lorainite should recognize.

It's a vintage postcard of the Masonic Temple at Washington Avenue and Fourth Street. It was the home of Lorain Lodge #552.

The building was planned in an exact proportion of King Solomon's temple, and is constructed of terra cotta, brick, marble, concrete and steel. It's 60 feet high and 132 feet deep with a frontage of 55 feet. Construction took one year.

The main floor featured an auditorium and gallery. The lodge rooms were on the second floor, and the organ loft was on the third.

It was dedicated during the weekend of October 15-16, 1927. A huge celebration accompanied the unveiling of the building, including a parade on Sunday afternoon featuring many visiting lodges from other parts of Ohio.

Here's the "now" photo.

As I've mentioned a few times before, my grandfather was a Mason. For years, every time I passed this building I thought of him and also of following in his fraternal footsteps. Plus I really wanted to see the inside of that building!

Alas, the building was eventually sold and Lodge 552 was combined with Sheffield Lodge #628 to form the Black River Lodge #786.

Building detail
Today the building is home to New Life Deliverance Ministries.

Bill Fobell, one of the members of Lodge 552, passed away recently. Bill was a nice guy who used to chat with me where he worked as a cutter in the meat department at the then Giant Eagle in Sheffield Lake in the late 1990s. He did a lot to convince me of the merits of becoming a Mason.

Friday, June 22, 2012

George Wickens and the Civil War Soldiers Monument

I first became interested in George Wickens when my research revealed that he was the original driving force behind Lorain's long-gone Civil War soldiers monument and fountain (shown above in a vintage postcard).

In May 1901, Lorain's Public Square was a weedy, unkempt mess – and George Wickens, the former mayor and now a member of City Council, was unhappy about it. As reported in mid-May in the Lorain Times-Herald, Wickens stated that the park was a disgrace to the city, and he felt that it should be fixed up before the Fourth of July. At Wickens' urging, a motion was passed by City Council to take money from the park fund to accomplish this goal.

Work began on the Public Square at once. The grass was mowed, and plans were prepared by Chief Engineer Loofbourrow for paths to be built, curving from each corner of the square and meeting at the bandstand in the center.

The soldiers monument and fountain
as it appeared in the J. L. Mott catalo
But Wickens thought something else was needed for the Public Square: a fountain. He began to try to get Jason B. Hoge, a former resident of Lorain (and later a director of the Lake Shore Electric Railway Company) to donate one. Hoge was about to order a fountain when the Lorain Post of the Grand Army of the Republic made it known that they wished to combine the fountain with something they also felt was needed: a soldiers monument.

Mr. Hoge offered to contribute one quarter of the amount of a fountain and soldiers monument costing not more than $1,000. The balance of the sum would have to be raised by the citizens of Lorain and turned over to the G.A.R. for the actual purchase.

It took a summer-long community effort to raise the money, but the fountain was finally ordered from J. L. Mott & Company.

With much fanfare and an onlooking crowd of 5,000, the combined soldiers monument and fountain was dedicated on the Public Square on Labor Day, September 2, 1901.

Undated photo of the statue
after the fountain had been removed
The fountain was removed in 1933 because it had become a safety hazard due to corrosion, and it was feared that it might topple in a storm.

The Civil War soldiers statue was then placed on a pedestal at ground level surrounded by flowers, where – for the next thirty years – it suffered abuse at the hands of vandals as well as the elements. The soldier had his rifle stolen, the brim of his cap broken off and he even lost his head when he was knocked off his pedestal in 1959.

Repaired and repainted for many years, the soldier was finally removed from the park along with the Honor Roll in 1967 when both were replaced by the new veterans monument.

In 1968 he was sent out to his final home: the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Sheffield Lake.

At that time, the Lorain Journal acknowledged George Wickens' contribution towards the acquisition of the civil war statue and fountain with a simple statement describing why he felt it was important.

"Because he wanted to do something to beautify the city."

I forgot to mention that since I began this blog, I have posted several times specifically about this statue – with this post being the first, followed by this one, and then this one.

It's taken a while, but I feel that I finally have the statue's timeline documented from its installation in the park to its removal.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Meet George Wickens Part 2

When former Lorain mayor George Wickens passed away on March 19, 1908, it was a major event in Lorain, even though today – 104 years after his passing – his name is never mentioned when the honor roll of Lorain's greatest and most famous citizens is read. And that's a shame – because it isn't necessary for someone to have achieved national prominence to have been of great importance to Lorain.

Excerpts from the newspaper coverage surrounding his funeral provide a glimpse of how beloved he was to the city.

On the front page of The Lorain Daily News of Friday, March 20, 1908, the funeral arrangements were described. "The funeral arrangements for the burial of George Wickens have been completed and indications are that the funeral will be the largest ever held in Lorain," the lead article stated. "All business houses of the city will be closed from 12:30 until 2:30 on Monday out of deference to the deceased."

A public viewing was scheduled for Saturday between the hours of two and nine. "At this time Lorain and vicinity will be permitted to look upon his face and render this tribute of respect," the article stated. Sunday was reserved for the family to be alone with the body.

The family had a special wish regarding floral arrangements. "Carrying out the habit of our beloved one, we have arranged that a vast number of floral contributions be delivered to as many of the sick and unfortunate of the city as can be found," they asked.

Elsewhere on the same front page under the heading WICKENS IDEAS BE CARRIED OUT TO THE LETTER,  it was noted that Wickens' final ideas "as to beautifying the cemeteries and the city will be carried out as far as possible by the service board, and improvements inaugurated by Mr. Wickens and now under way will be carried out to the letter."

In addition to the cemetery improvements, there was a specific idea that George Wickens had for the area around City Hall. As the same article stated, "The comfort station to be erected on the square, another improvement which Mr. Wickens fathered, will no doubt be carried through, as the service board has already asked that an appropriation be made for the construction of the station."

The business community also made their feelings known by passing resolutions of respect that were printed on that same page. It noted, "George Wickens, our fellow citizen was a true American, actuated by noble impulses and desirous of performing in full his duties to society, loved by all his friends and appreciated by all who knew him.

"The City has lost a valuable citizen whose place cannot be easily filled, and we, his associates feel that in thus publicly recognizing his worth and merit, we do but extend him his just due.

"His memory too, will be an inspiration to all those who work for the uplifting of our City."

The Lorain Daily News of Saturday, March 21, 1908 continued the coverage. WHOLE CITY WILL MOURN FOR WICKENS was the heading under a front page article. Every business house was to be closed on Monday afternoon for the funeral, as well as city offices. Schools were to be closed Monday afternoon. The shovel works was even working on that Saturday so that the plant could be closed from twelve to four on Monday.

Willis Leiter photograph of George Wickens' funeral procession
Members of the fire department planned to attend the funeral services as a body, as well as the police department.

The trustees of the public library issued a special resolution that was part of that same article. It stated, "Resolved that in the death of Mr. Wickens this Association has lost one of its most useful members. Identified with the earliest efforts to establish a free public library in Lorain, Mr. Wickens gave his time and thought most generously to promote the cause. He was never called upon to assist in the work that he did not promptly respond, often at great inconvenience and sometimes actual loss to himself.

"It should therefore be known to all the people of Lorain that the Public Library as it now stands is in a sense a monument to the public spirit and noble character of George Wickens."

George Wickens' grave in Elmwood Cemetery

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meet George Wickens Part 1

In the history of Lorain, George Wickens was a giant of a man. It's a shame that in 2012, I'll bet that very few people in Lorain even know who he was.

Quite simply, he was a mayor of Lorain and a successful businessman who loved the city and worked tirelessly to improve it. He was one of the city's biggest supporters and most beloved citizens.

As is often the case, the best way to get a measure of a man is to read his obituary, and George Wickens' was quite extensive. I present it below as it ran in the Lorain Daily News on Thursday, March 19, 1908.

After reading it, I'll think that you'll agree that, sadly, Lorain probably has had no one to compare with him since.



End Came at 7:45 This Morning, Caused by Pleuro Pneumonia
George Wickens Was Lorain's Most Active Advocate of Optimism for Its Future

March 19, 1908 front page
George Wickens, Sr. died at his residence, 142 West Erie Avenue at 7:45 o'clock this morning after a four days illness with pneumonia.

Mr. Wickens, whose death came as a great shock, was one of Lorain's most highly respected and prominent men and his demise is mourned by all. In his death the city loses a man who took a great interest in all things pertaining to the welfare of the city and her citizens and whose place Lorain will be unable to fill.

Mr. Wickens was as prominently identified with the growth and development of Lorain as any man now residing in the city and for years has been prominently connected with the public life of the town. He was a self-made man, one who from absolutely nothing had, by intelligence, energy, business acumen, and unquestioned probity, worked his way from the bottom rung of the ladder to prosperity and comparative affluence. He was a leader in both branches of his business and was well and favorably known throughout the state. In all local matters he was always to be found on the right side, aiming constantly to build up and improve the interests of his fellows and his city.

Mr. Wickens was one of the few of Lorain's citizens who was able to accomplish what he set out to do where the interests of the city was at stake and was a man of action. While working for the interests of the city from all standpoints his one great hobby was civic improvement, and towards beautifying Lorain he has done more than any other man. He was an enthusiastic member of the Civic Improvement league, and only yesterday, with the welfare and beautification of the city still uppermost in his mind, he called City Engineer Schickler to his bedside and gave him instructions towards improving several of the city parks and changes that he desired to be made in the plans for the new cemetery to be opened adjoining Elmwood.

In municipal affairs as well as in his private life he was a staunch advocate of Roosevelt's policy of a "Square deal for all" and his life was lived on those principles.

Taken ill on Sunday, Wickens' illness was not thought to be serious, but on Monday he grew suddenly worse and sank slowly until he passed away this morning. Yesterday it was thought that his condition was slightly improved.
The deceased, who was fifty-five years of age, was born in Basingstoke, South England on July 19, 1852. At the age of ten years, he commenced working in a furniture store learning the trade of cabinet maker and joiner. Completing his apprenticeship he came to America in 1871 and for a time lived at St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada. He came to Lorain in 1872.

For ten years he was engaged in carpentry work, contracting and building, and in 1883 embarked in the undertaking and furniture business, with which he was identified at the time of his death.

While engaged in the carpentry business in Lorain, Mr. Wickens built many of the older houses now located on the east side and was the contractor that built the old lighthouse which now stands at the end of the west pier of the river. In 1886 he became a member of the Funeral Directors' association of Ohio and on June 2, 1892, he was elected its president.

In 1875 Mr. Wickens married Miss Celia E. Chapman and one child was born, George B. Wickens. This wife died the following year. In 1877 Mr. Wickens married again and this time in England to Miss Mary A. Colly and three children were born, William A., Elizabeth and Edward M. A little over a year ago, Mr. Wickens was married to Miss Elizabeth Wallace. Surviving him other than his wife is his three children, George, Edward and Mrs. L. M. Lewis.

In 1878 the deceased was granted a preachers license by the second London district of the Methodist church and for many years was a member and preacher in the Lorain M. E. church and superintendent of the Sunday school. He has visited his native land many times, returning at one time in England for four years. Only last summer he spent several months in Europe with his wife and daughter Elizabeth.

In public life Mr. Wickens was a most potent factor. In politics he was a Republican but not a radical. His ideas were broad upon public questions, which gained for him unbounded popularity. He was elected mayor of the city in 1894 and served the city as its chief executive for two years. He was mayor of the city when the plant of the National Tube company came to Lorain and had in his possession at the time of his death the first piece of steel ever turned out by the plant. In '97 Mr. Wickens was elected as a member of the council from the second ward and later was a member of the boards of cemetery trustees and water works trustees. He was elected a member of the first board of public service in 1903. At the last municipal election he was again elected to the office of member of the board of public service by a large majority. He was also a member of the board of library trustees.

In his business life Mr. Wickens has been most successful and in the last twenty-five years has built up one of the most extensive furniture businesses in this section of the state. In 1900 he erected the three story business block on Broadway now occupied by the Boston Store. In the spring of 1899 a branch store was opened on Tenth avenue. In 1904 the five-story building in which the business in now located was erected, the store opening for business on December 13, '95. The Parkside Chapel, identified with the undertaking business of Wickens and Ransom, was erected in 1903.

Vintage postcard showing the Parkside Chapel
Last summer Mr. Wickens was the delegate sent by Ohio to the International convention of funeral directors held in one of the southern cities and up to his death was one of the three members of International committee on embalming, representing the United States.

At a meeting of the Ohio Furniture Dealers' association held in Cleveland recently, he was elected president of the association.

Mr. Wickens belonged to many secret societies and was a charter member of the Ohio Anti-Saloon league organized at Oberlin a number of years ago. Among the numerous lodges of which he was a member are the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, K. O. T. M., Rathbone Sisters, Red Men, Protected Home Circle, National Union, Modern Woodmen, Woodmen of the World.

The death of Mr. Wickens has caused a wave of regret from one end of the city to the other. He was probably one of the most charitably inclined men of Lorain and there has been hundreds of little deeds of kindness that have gone unnoticed by those not intimately connected with him. No one wanted if Mr. Wickens was aware that help was needed and he did not wait until some charitable institution had taken up the case but furnished immediate relief.

Funeral arrangements have as yet not been completed.

On that same page, an article with the headline A WICKENS HOBBY MAY BE LOCAL INSTITUTION tells how an idea of George Wickens foreshadowed Lorain's modern Pride Day. The article stated, "If the suggestions of the board of trade are carried out, Lorain will have regular days set apart each fall and spring as holiday clean-up days. Health Officer Hug, at the meeting last night spoke of the necessity of such a move. "To those who have occasion to pass the alleys and back yards about the city it becomes at once apparent that the conditions are decidedly unsanitary, unsightly and very offensive to aesthetic natures. Clean-up days was a hobby with George Wickens, and a mighty good one, too, and I think it would be an advisable thing to have the city carry out his suggestions. Clean-up day should become a regular institution each spring and fall.""

The suggestion by Dr. Hug was to be presented as a resolution to Mayor King.

The Elyria Chronicle of March 19, 1908 also reported the passing of George Wickens in a front page article. GEORGE WICKENS, PROMINENT LORAIN CITIZEN IS DEAD was the headline. The article noted that he was a well known popular business man with "many friends in Elyria."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wickens Place

The recent controversy regarding a new Family Dollar store across from Lorain City Hall once again thrust Wickens Place – that short stub of a road running along the eastern border of Veterans Memorial Park – in the news. One of the reasons the Lorain Zoning Board rejected the variance for extra-wide driveways (here) was because of the traffic safety concerns of people getting in and out of the store from West Erie Avenue and Wickens Place.

Wickens Place was last in the news last September (here) when Lorain City Council considered renaming the street in honor of Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes, who was killed while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Iraq. According to the Morning Journal's article, the idea was dropped when Mayor Tony Krasienko noted that the street was named for "a founding family of Lorain" and that the proposal could face some opposition.

I think it was a wise decision not to rename Wickens Place. It's a link to a part of Lorain's history, and a memorial to a civic leader – George Wickens – who doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

Who was George Wickens? Stop back here next time to find out!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Honor Roll in Washington Park

Back in June 1964, Lorain was making plans to replace the aging Honor Roll that used to stand in Washington Park (now Veterans Memorial Park). That's a photo of it above by Journal photographer Norm Bergsma.

Dismantling of the Honor Roll - May 1967
(Courtesy Loraine Ritchey)
The short caption that accompanied the photo in the June 17, 1964 Lorain Journal read, "Bearing the names of Lorainites who died in the service of their nation during World War II and the Korean War, the Washington Park Honor Roll is rapidly deteriorating and in need of replacement. Anthony J. Murello, inspecting the Honor Roll, and Michael Repas, foreground, looking over proposed plans for a permanent memorial, are co-chairman of a committee of the Lorain Memorial Association which will present plans at a meeting of the association at 7 p.m. tomorrow at VFW Post 451 Hall, 112 E. 19th Street. The present Honor Roll was erected by the Lorain Moose Lodge. Others on the committee with Repas and Murello are Mrs. Peter J. Carp, president, American Gold Star Mothers; Andrew Gall, a retired U.S. Army colonel representing the Moose Lodge; Joseph Stejno, clerk of the Lorain Park Board, and Francis (Toto) Kovach, veterans leader. The association meeting will be followed by a session at 8 p.m. of the Lorain Veterans Council at the VFW Hall."

It would be another three years before the Honor Roll was finally dismantled and replaced with the 12 foot monument that still stands near the fountain in the park today. (I wrote about it here.)

Here's a few other pictures of the Honor Roll through the years. It's a shame that it was taken down; it seems like a much more personal memorial to the fallen.

Amvets Joseph Mihalik and Joseph Nemeth standing guard in front of the Honor Roll on Memorial Day 1951
(Courtesy Lorain Journal)
That's Mrs. Louis Sivinski (left) and Mrs. Joseph Mihalik standing guard on Memorial Day 1963
(Courtesy Lorain Journal)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Father's Day – 1964!

Here's a Faroh's Candy ad that ran in the Lorain Journal in June 1964, just in time for Father's Day. There's quite a selection of candies mentioned, including – flying saucers!

I like the clip art representing what a dad apparently looked like back then.

Anyway, please consider a gift for your dad from Faroh's in Downtown Lorain for this Father's Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1960s Huron Frostop Drive-in Ads

May 26, 1961 newspaper ad
Many local Baby Boomers probably remember the Frostop Drive-in stand that used to be on U. S. 6 just a little bit east of where the highway crosses the Huron River.

The huge, rotating root beer mug really left an impression on me. Little did I know at the time that I was living in the tail end of the Golden Age of roadside architecture and signage.

Strangely enough, I really don't remember if we ever stopped there. We were always on the way to or from somewhere else, it seems – probably Cedar Point. (Besides, we were more likely to stop at the A&W Root Beer stand in Vermilion, which was closer to home.) But the iconic Frostop mug remains a childhood memory.

That well-known mug is nowhere to be found in the ad at left, however, that appeared in the Sandusky Register on May 26, 1961 announcing the impending opening of the drive-in.

Here's another Sandusky Register ad from a few years later; it ran on May 29, 1964. It's funny how root beer always tastes better in one of those frosted mugs.

I'm not really sure when the Frostop Drive-in closed in Huron. Its former location has been the home to Berardi's since 1979.

Courtesy Berardi's
For some history about the Frostop chain, visit the official website. And to find out what some of the old Frostop Drive-ins look like today, stop by the website of

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sheffield Lake's Dutch Treat

It's starting to get hot again, and of course that makes me think of ice cream...

Remember way back here when I asked if anyone knew anything about the Dutch Treat drive-in that for years used to be on the southeast corner of East Lake and Abbe Roads in Sheffield Lake? (There's a vacant lot there now.)

Well, here's an ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on April 3, 1953 that announces its transformation from a Dairy Queen to Dutch Treat. Since it had only opened as Dairy Queen on May 4, 1952, it's surprising that it didn't even make it to its one-year anniversary. DQ licensing fees must be pretty stiff.

Nevertheless, the ad above is amusing for a few reasons, specifically the vapid, soulless eyes of the Dutch girl mascot, as well as the creepy, demented look of the "Bad Seed" clone attacking her ice cream cone. The little boy clip art is great, though and they managed to crop the 'Dairy Queen' sign from the photo of the building.

I have a few questions though: what the heck are Boston Coolers and Brown Derbies?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That House by Lakeview Park Part 2

After finding out that this house at 1405 West Erie was one of the most expensive kit homes featured in the Aladdin catalog, I wondered: Who had it built?

Naturally, I hit the Lorain City Directories in the library to find out.

The 1915-16 directory did not include that 1405 West Erie address. The two nearest addresses were 1348 West Erie (H. O. Wurmser – gee, this blog is becoming his P.R. machine) and 1422 West Erie (the address for Capt. Richard Thew, founder of the Thew Shovel Company). Now that's good company.

The next available directory in sequence at the library was the 1919 book, which revealed the home's owner as being Allison H. Babcock, the president and manager of The A. H. Babcock Company (which specialized in real estate, insurance and surety bonds) and his wife Minnie. So his is the earliest name that I can find that is associated with the house.

His biography in A Standard History of Lorain County Volume 2 states that he was born in Lorain on January 21, 1874 and was the son of Allison H. Babcock and Mary (Hill) Babcock. The elder Babcock was a Civil War veteran, and later a merchant and large owner of real estate in Lorain; he also served several terms as mayor. The younger Babcock organized the A. H. Babcock Company in 1898; he was a member of the Masons as well as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and was "one of the leading and influential citizens" of the community.

The house at 1405 West Erie continued to be listed as the address for A. H. Babcock until the 1926 edition, which indicated that Morris M. Atkin, the president of the Benmor Electric Company was the current owner.

Judging by my emails, in the latter part of the century the house seemed to be mostly identified with the Cooper family, with several people emailing me to share a reminisce about the house or family.

Ironically, the spouse and I were even interested in the house when it went up for sale in the early 1990s. We called for an appointment to see the house, but if I remember correctly, the house sold shortly after it was listed and we were never able to get in to see it. We were told that someone in that neighborhood who had admired it for years snapped it up immediately.

That's not too surprising. It's still a grand looking house with a lot of class.

Monday, June 11, 2012

That House by Lakeview Park Part 1

I think everyone in Lorain at one time or another has noticed this stately home at 1405 West Erie Avenue, across from and slightly to the east of Lakeview Park. It was featured on several 1924 Lorain Tornado postcards due to the damages it suffered.

The house today
I gave this house the "then and now" treatment on the blog back here in November 2010.

This week, I was pleased to see that some brand new and fascinating comments had been posted about this house.

Rachel Shoemaker made the discovery that the house was in fact an Aladdin kit home known as the "Villa." How did she do that? I emailed her to find out.

It turns out that Rachel is an expert on Sears and other kit houses, and she has a knack for making these kinds of discoveries. "I was nosing around Lorain, Ohio looking for Sears houses or any kit houses," she explained. "It's a hobby of mine."

A rendering of the Aladdin Villa as shown in the 1918 catalog
(Courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker)
As she lives out of state, Rachel uses Google maps to "tour" a neighborhood. What a great idea!

"I did some reading on Lorain and saw tornado stuff in various places and stumbled on your blog and I was just scrolling through the photos and saw that tornado damaged house and I knew it was an Aladdin Villa."

After leaving a comment, Rachel (who is a retired firefighter) contacted her friend, Rose Thornton. Rose is also an authority on Sears and other kit homes, and has even authored several books, including The Houses That Sears Built (2002), Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2204), Montgomery Wards Mail-Order Homes (2010) and her newest, The Sears Homes of Illinois (December 2010).

Line drawing of the Aladdin Villa house
(Courtesy Rose Thornton)
In her comments left on my blog about the house being an Aladdin Villa kit home, Rose noted, "That was one of their biggest and best homes, and I had no idea there was one in Lorain.

"This house was shipped in 12,000 pieces by train, and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homemaker how all those pieces and parts went together!"

Rose even left a link that will show you the identical house – sitting in a Kansas cornfield!

I'm thrilled that Rachel and Rose were able to provide some fascinating history about a Lorain house that all of us have driven by hundreds of times through the years. My special thanks go out to both of them.

To visit Rachel's webpage on Facebook in which she highlights more of her discoveries, click here.

To visit Rose's website all about Sears homes, click here. And to buy inscribed versions of all her books, click here!

The house was even featured on the inside page of the 1918 catalog!
(Image courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker)
Tomorrow: a little more history of the house, culled from the City Directory

Friday, June 8, 2012

More Tornado-damaged Homes Then & Now

Clarmont Doane's house was on the left; at far right is the bungalow
I recently found online a terrific eyewitness account of the 1924 Lorain Tornado, as it was handed down in the Doane family of Lorain. It's called The Lorain Tornado of June 28, 1924 by Emily Grace Doane, as told to her daughter Jane Meitzke MacDuff. It's extremely well-written and really captures the fear and shock of what happened that day.

Of particular interest in the story is the fact that Clarmont Doane's house (which was destroyed by the tornado) was right down there by Victory Park at 5th and West Erie – the area that seems to always pop up on this blog.

The story also includes several interesting photos of the tornado damage, such as the one above. It shows the destruction of two homes – the Williams house as well as the Doane house to the right of it. Emily Grace Doane's story refers to the surviving house at the far right of the photo as "the bungalow" and marvels at how little damage it suffered.

Back here in the blog, I had mentioned these particular houses before. Local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont pointed out at that time that although two houses were destroyed at that location, three houses were rebuilt there.

Here's a slightly tighter "now" shot (below) of the same view shown above, showing the rebuilt Williams house, which partially obscures the two houses which replaced the Doane house.

The view is the south side of Fifth Street across from Victory Park
Here are the two homes that are crowded onto the former Doane property (below). The Doanes had sold the lot and built a new house on Parkview Avenue.

And here is a view of just the bungalow today (below). It's still a great looking house – and apparently tornado-proof.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

From the E-mail Bag #10: Missive from Israel

 Jewish Soldiers Monument at Salem Cemetery
After my recent series on and around Memorial Day about local veterans' monuments and memorials, I received an email about my blog that was out of this world.

Well, out of this country at least. Actually, the email came from the farthest location yet: Jerusalem, Israel!

Building at Salem Cemetery
The sender, Yisrael Bronstein, used to live in Lorain. "My father served as the rabbi in Lorain from 1977 until 1986," he stated. "I recall that there is a monument for the Jewish soldiers who died in action in the Jewish cemetery on Cooper Foster Road outside the Sheffield Shopping Center.

"As a child we used to help place U.S. flags on all the graves of the veterans who were buried there."

This past weekend I paid a visit to Salem Cemetery at 1459 - 1461 E. North Ridge Road to check out the monument, which is inscribed with the names of seven veterans. The monument is quite attractive, with a poignant inscription: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them."

Yisrael also had another Lorain reminisce. He attended Masson School from 1977 until 1983. "I actually needed to get documents from the Lorain City Schools to get USA citizenship for my children born here in Israel," he explained, "and they even had a picture from when I started school."

Yessir, former Lorainites are all over the world!

Special thanks to Yisrael for sharing his stories.

UPDATE – A few days after the above post, I received an additional email from Yisrael telling me about how his father used to meet with the Lorain Superintendent of Schools in order to keep the school system informed about Jewish holidays, and also about the Hebrew inscription on the bottom of the monument in the photo above. In case you were wondering what it says (like me), it reads, "They gave their souls for their country... Rest in peace."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

H. O. Wurmser House Tragedy?

It's interesting that H. O. Wurmser's first house at 1348 West Erie – that was destroyed by the 1924 Lorain Tornado – made it onto so many postcards. I guess it was because of the extensive damage done to the house, as well as its proximity to Lakeview Park, the scene of so much death and devastation. I first posted the above image back here before I had even heard of the famed Lorain architect.

On Loraine Ritchey's blog, a few more postcards have appeared.

Wurmser's house at far left
This one (below) is even tagged with his name.

So imagine my surprise when, while flipping through the Lorain, Ohio 1903 Souvenir and 1924 Tornado book at the library, I saw the photograph below.

It appeared on a page next to a photo of another house that was completely demolished. The book's author was making the point that the house shown above (obviously Wurmser's but not identified as such) was less damaged but that a tragic death had occurred in its basement.

The book did not identify the name of the unfortunate person who lost their life in Wurmser's basement. In the book's listing of the names of the deceased, there was no name that corresponded with the 1348 West Erie address.

All this really does is add another layer to the mystery surrounding the replacement of Wurmser's demolished house with the house that is there now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The H. O. Wurmser House: another (groan) mystery!

Take a good look at this house at 1348 West Erie (that's currently for sale down by where West Erie and 5th street meet by the Big "V"). It's ground zero for the latest mystery to occupy the minds (and blogs) of Lorain history buffs.

In a nutshell, here is the story, which originated over on Loraine Ritchey's weblog.

From 1903 Lorain Souvenir book
Famed Lorain architect H. O. Wurmser (that's him at left) lived in this house until he died in 1933. This house replaced Wurmser's other house at this location, which was destroyed by the 1924 Lorain Tornado.

The problem? The Ohio Historical Society says that the house shown above dates to possibly the 1840s.

So the question is: Is this house really that old and did it get moved here from somewhere else by Wurmser – or is the Ohio Historical Society simply wrong and the house merely dates from 1924?

Rest assured, the creme de la creme of Lorain's local history buffs are working on this (contacting the OHS, Wurmser relatives, etc.). But they can use some help!

So if any of you old-timers from that neighborhood remember anything about how the house got there, be sure to leave a comment here or contact Loraine Ritchey over on her blog.

And while I'm at it, I'll add my own personal request for help again. If anyone knows when that Big V first got installed down there at the nearby park – or when it was first knocked down by a car – please contact me.