Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lake Erie Oil – Then & Now

Here's a photo (above) that may bring back some memories of traveling down Route 254 in the 1950s and 60s.

It was part of a full-page ad for the Lake Erie Oil Company that ran in the Lorain Journal on June 21, 1955. The photo shows the company's complex that was located at Route 254 and Pearl Road, consisting of the Fleet-Wing Bulk plant, and warehouse/office.

Remember when that area looked like that?

According to the ad, there were 16 Fleet-Wing gas stations around Lorain County. By 1959, the brand of gasoline produced by the company had changed from Fleet-Wing to Sinclair (which I had explained back here on this blog).

Besides the gasoline, the Lake Erie Oil Company also provided fuel oil for heating purposes for domestic and commercial accounts.

According to the city directories, it looks as though Lake Erie Oil was at that location until around 1972, when its address was listed as "vacant."

Here's the "today" shot of the same property.

Another photo (below) from the ad shows a close-up of the office building. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it was previously an old train depot, considering its proximity to the tracks.

I believe the office building is still in use today (below) – although it has been extensively renovated. It sure looks like the same building to me, especially since the doors are still raised above ground level.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Alpine Village Inn

4375 Oberlin Avenue today
Another restaurant listed on that vintage Lorain brochure from last week was the Alpine Village Inn. Its address was 4375 Oberlin Avenue, which puts it down there on the southern stretch of that road.

It first showed up in the 1960 city directory, but it didn't seem to last very long, which is too bad.

By 1963 – and until around 1970 – it was the Tic-Toc Lounge. After that, it enjoyed a long spell as Bodnar's House (or Bodnar's Bar) from 1972 on.

Around 1980, another firm shared the same address with Bodnar's: Your Bedroom. A variety of firms came and went during the 1980s including Norbert Wagner Photography (1985).

By the early 1990s, the Bodnar's listing disappeared and other companies appeared at that address. North Coast Bedding had the address to itself in 1993, and Family Rec Center (which sold billiard equipment) in 2003. (There were others too judging by the variety of signs in the last few years.)

Today the property is for sale. The real estate listing says the building was built in 1960, so I guess it's the same building after all these years.

If anyone has an memories of the Alpine Village Inn or Bodnar's, be sure to leave a comment!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Town Crier Inn in North Ridgeville

Vintage postcard courtesy of CardCow.com; photo by Frank Leslie
One of the 'places to dine' in that vintage Lorain brochure was the Town Crier Inn in North Ridgeville. Its address was 38890 Center Road, which put it right across from the Ridgeville Shopping Center.

The back of the vintage postcard above reads, "On U. S. Route 20, a mile East of Elyria, featuring Early American Atmosphere and serving the finest Beef, Chicken and Ham from our open buffet. Steaks broiled over the Open Hearth. Party facilities available."

Another vintage postcard (also courtesy of CardCow.com) shows another view of the exterior, as well as a little of the inside. It sure looked like a great place.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information out there about it.

I found an image of one of their placemats online, and it features the restaurant's town crier advertising mascot.

The mascot was also featured in telephone book ads. Here's the 1961 ad that appeared in the Elyria phone book.

It's hard to determine how long the place was in business; it looks like up to the late 1960s at best. It appeared that the focus later was on the catering aspect of the business as opposed to the restaurant. The last listing of any kind that I could find was in the 1968 Elyria phone book under 'Catering.'

The popular Tudy's chain of restaurants had an outlet at that same location in the late 1970s.

Anyway, today the restaurant's building is sadly gone. Either a used car dealership or a car wash seems to be on the property today, according to various online sources. If anyone knows for sure, let me know. ( I rarely make it out to N. Ridgeville!)

Update: Just got an email from Owen, who has been reading this blog for about a year. He confirms that the property is definitely a car wash now. Thanks, Owen!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

That Windmill on Kolbe Road

The view from Kolbe Road this past weekend
It was surprising to see the windmill on Kolbe Road listed as a point of interest on that early 1960s Lorain brochure. The brochure referred to it as the "world's largest tower type windmill."

I'm assuming that it's the windmill in question because of where the arrow is pointing on the map.

For many years, whenever I was on Kolbe Road, I'd seen that structure peeking out of the trees and wondered about it. Years ago it was much more run-down, giving it a haunted look. Now it's looking pretty nice.

I couldn't find anything in the city directories to offer a definite history of how long it's been there. According to some online sources, an architect and bricklayer by the name of Joe Ule constructed it in the 1950s using plans that he brought from Europe.

There are a few stories on the internet about the windmill, mainly consisting of the current owner's attempt to restore it and get the permission from Lorain in 2007 to install the blades. 

Lastly, here's some interesting YouTube video from 2007 showing the owner talking about his renovation project.

I'm not sure what the status of the renovation is, but I hope he gets it done.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Early 1960s Lorain Promotional Brochure Part 2

Here's the large map of Lorain (above) that is included in the brochure. Remember how I said it was unbelievable? Well, what else would you call a street map with only six street names on it? Don't bother looking for Leavitt or Meister Roads, or Reid Avenue for that matter – they're not there.

Whoever did the artwork for the map didn't worry about the points of interest listed in the brochure either. The Rose Garden, the Giant Flower Basket, and Admiral King's birthplace are all left off, but BOBS PLACE on the east side is listed prominently.

Want to see the World's Largest Tower Windmill? "Too bad," the mapmaker seems to be saying. "It's off the page somewhere – go find it yourself!"

Moving on, the brochure includes a spread for Recreation.

There's a few interesting items, such as auto racing at Cromwell Park at Root Road and Colorado. Sadly, only the Palace Theater and Rebman's Recreation remain of the listed Lorain recreation establishments.

Lastly, a page lists some facts about the area and lists the area's industries, including both big (American Ship Building, FordNational Tube, Thew Shovel, Fruehauf Trailer Co.) and small (Arvay Potato Chips and Faroh Candy Co.)

It's pretty apparent that what made Lorain such a great place back then was the wide variety of businesses, both large and small in the area. The brochure pretty much drives home why the city in 2012 is in the sad state it is: most of the businesses listed are gone.

Hopefully, Lorain can reinvent itself in the years to come as part of the "Vacationland."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Early 1960s Lorain Promotional Brochure Part 1

I bought this vintage Lorain promotional brochure on eBay a few months ago. My best guess is that it dates from the very early 1960s. (That's because McDonalds on West Erie – which first showed up in the 1960 city directory – and the Ford Assembly Plant – which opened in 1958 – are both mentioned, and there are no zip codes listed in the business address listings, since zip codes weren't introduced until 1963).

The brochure is kind of a snapshot of the Lorain of my youth – and yours as well, probably.

The 'Points of Interest' page is interesting because mixed in with the usual Lorain attractions is one I've never seen promoted before: the world's largest tower type windmill. I'm assuming that the brochure is referring to the one on Kolbe Road that's just north of Jaeger Road. (More about it in a later post.)

Next is the "Places to Dine" page.

Plenty of well-remembered Lorain establishments mentioned on this blog are represented, such as the Airport Tavern, Brady's Restaurant & Drive-in, Castle-on-the-LakeHeilman's Marine Room & Grill, Hoop Drive-in, Howard Johnson's, McDonald's, McGarvey's and even Urbas Cafe (which I blogged about last week).

Sadly, almost every single Lorain restaurant is either long gone or renamed. Of course, the Castle is still around as El Arrierio Mexican Restaurant. And Rosie's Pizza is still in the old location of the Pizza House. (By the way, I had a Rosie's pizza this past weekend and it was great!)

Note how someone really liked Merkle's Kitchen – enough to pencil it in on the brochure!

The "Places to Stay" page is similar in that with the exception of Motel Plaza in Vermilion and Kayann Apartments in Lorain, most of the businesses are gone; only a couple are still around with new names or new functions. (The Grandview Motel is now the Parkview Motel; Beth Shan Motel & Trailer Court is now the Shoreway Motel & Trailer Park; the 5100 W. Lake Road address of Johnson's Trailer Court is now the home of Jack & Diane's Lounge.)

There's Merkle's again – this time as scribbled in as Merkle's Manor. By George, that place must have had a good P.R. agent!

Next: the rest of the brochure, along with an unbelievable map

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lakeland Lodges Motel & Cottages

I love driving west out of Lorain along U.S. Route 6, mainly because it's a trip back in time if you're an old road enthusiast. Various small cottages and Mom-and-Pop motels dot the lakefront side of the road between Vermilion to Sandusky. No big motel chains here, and that's the way it should be.

About a year ago I mentioned Mari-Dor Beach lakefront cottages on this blog. Another one of those Mom-and-Pop places is Lakeland Lodges, located just 1.5 miles west of Vermilion. I've always admired their classic nautical sign (shown above) and I'm glad that they haven't modernized the sign or, in fact, their name. A garish, modern sign would spoil the whole effect.

Their website features photos of their sandy beach, as well as their cute cottages, which are available in two sizes, one for 1-2 persons and a larger size that will accommodate a maximum of 5 people. There are also motel units.

I emailed the owners for a brochure last year and received one in the mail promptly with a handwritten note. Since I live in Sheffield Lake (a former cottage community itself) I'm not planning a stay at Lakeland Lodges anytime soon, but it looks like a great place for some rest and relaxation.

Here's an aerial view of the property. As their sign says, it's "the place with the beach" and it looks like a good one.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tiller's Treasures: Spanky's Mug

It's been a little while since I featured items from Jack Tiller's vast collection, so here's one that should look familiar to local Baby Boomers: a Spanky's night club mug.

I really don't have any history or timeline of the former popular night club out in North Ridgeville. All I remember is that it was the place to go for disco dancing whenever I was home from Ohio State in the late 1970s. (In Columbus, the Dixie Electric Company was the disco of choice; if you're interested, here's a link to a great reminisce by another blogger about that place.)

The name "Spanky" still makes me think of the chubby leader of the Little Rascals, since those short comedies were a staple on Cleveland television in the 1960s. Now a whole generation has grown up without ever seeing those shows on TV and thus have probably never heard of Spanky McFarland.

Anyway, here's a Spankys newspaper ad from August 31, 1979. Note local favorite Fayrewether was playing there the following week.

Fayrewether also performed at my Admiral King High School Class of 1977 Prom to Dawn.

Although I barely remember this, Spanky's later became Cadillac Beach.

Finally, here's some YouTube video showing Spanky's after it was demolished.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Urbas Cafe Part 2

The Urbas Cafe (circled) was next door to Heilman's Ranch House (at far right of photo).
Heilman's Ranch House closed on April 1, 1974.
Here is the conclusion of the article about the Urbas Cafe's closing that appeared in the Lorain Journal on June 9, 1974.

Lorain's Urban Renewal Dooms Popular Urbas Cafe (Part 2)
Staff Writer

PATRONS of the Urbas Cafe all have their own anecdotes to tell about their experiences drinking low-priced beer (30 cents for a large mug of Duquesne) and eating hard boiled eggs and beef jerky.

Like the time one city councilman, not long ago, stood up in the middle of the barroom and dropped his trousers to show how extended soaking in a bathtub to ease the pain of his hemorrhoids had affected the skin of his legs.

"Look at that," he exclaimed as news reporters and city officials sat incredulous around the table. "It's giving me pimples."

Or another recent incident where one slightly inebriated official had to be physically restrained from pounding on another after a hot exchange of insults and opinions about each other's duties.

All in all, however, the Urbas Cafe is a nice, sedate, friendly bar. It's the kind of place you can go to have a quiet drink. Where you can talk if you want or just sit and watch TV if you don't.

AND THE CLIENTELLE is not made up of exclusively of politicians and government officials.

"All kinds of people come in here," Helen Urbas said. "It's every kind of a bar. I think people like to come here because they see the same faces behind the bar. They don't see strangers."

Joe, Bernie and Helen all take great pride in the fact that their family has been in the tavern business for many years. "We're the third generation," Joe explained.

Their grandfather, the father of Mrs. Anna Urbas, was Alois Virant, and he built the popular old Virant Bar at 1700 E. 28th Street, now known as the Greenwood Inn.

The family lost the Virant Bar after the depression years brought hard times. "Mother and dad took a chance and relocated here in 1940," Helen explained.

WHEN THEY moved from E. 28th Street, the Urbas family brought with them part of the old Virant Bar. The dark, wooden cabinets where bottles of liquor now sit are from the old tavern, as are some partition walls with leaded glass windows.

Before the Urbas family bought it, the W. Erie Avenue building was a pool hall and restaurant. It was originally built in 1913, according to Joe Urbas.

Bernie maintained that they would like to relocate downtown if possible. "We wanted to get the option to buy the property," he said.

The Community Development Department, however, wants to sell the entire 17-acre downtown renewal project to one developer who would build and then lease out space to people interested in opening small businesses.

Prudoff said he is pleased to hear that the Urbas family is interested in coming back into a redeveloped downtown, but added that it would probably not be "economically feasible" for them to restart a small operation like they now have.

"RATHER THAN it being a town bar, they might change into a cocktail lounge and restaurant with room to serve more people and a broader clientele," he said.

Bernie said that if they do relocate they would like to save as much of the interior of the old Urbas Cafe as possible to retain its atmosphere.

"Customers keep telling us they want sections of the bar when we go," Helen said. "We just have to tell them it's going with us."

Special thanks to the Morning Journal for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Urbas Cafe Part 1

BERNIE URBAS serves up two beers at Urbas Cafe in downtown Lorain.
(Journal Photo by Chief Photographer Tom Whittington)
Here's another vintage article about the closing of a longtime Lorain business. This time the business is the Urbas Cafe, which was located at 205 West Erie Avenue. The article ran in the Sunday, June 9, 1974 Lorain Journal.

Lorain's Urban Renewal Dooms Popular Urbas Cafe (Part 1)
Staff Writer

BERNIE URBAS filled another huge stein with draft beer and set it in front of a customer. He swabbed with a rag at the top of a battered table in the Urbas Cafe his family has owned and run since 1940 in downtown Lorain.

"Broadway on a Saturday night then was so busy you couldn't even find a parking place," he said recalling when the bar on W. Erie Avenue across the street from City Hall first opened its doors. "There wasn't even room for walking on the sidewalks."

Today, though, the downtown is dead. Most of the rundown buildings around Broadway north of Fourth Street are closed and boarded up. Soon they will be joined by the Urbas Cafe, as yet another Lorain landmark succumbs to the relentless process of urban renewal.

The Urbas Cafe will leave a particularly rich heritage, especially for the many government officials who through the years have made it their favorite watering hole.

"WE'VE GOT some second generation politicians who come in here now," said Miss Helen Urbas, who along with her brother Joe lives above the establishment. Bernie, another of her brothers, lives at 1432 S. Lakeview Boulevard.

"Mother always was active in politics," she explained, referring to the late Mrs. Anna Urbas. "She was a charter member of the Lorain Democratic Women's Club."

Joe Urbas, who is 63, is today still politically active, having just been reelected to another term as secretary of the Lorain City Central Democratic Committee.

"They all come in here," the 62-year old Bernie asserted about the bar's political customers. "Lausche, when he was a governor he was in here. I think they come because they know they can meet their friends in here."

(Frank J. Lausche of Cleveland, a former five-term Ohio governor and U.S. Senator, is of Slovenian origin, as is the Urbas family."

LEGEND HAS IT that there has been much wheeling and dealing in the bar by local politicians after their meetings across the street. Miss Urbas gestured to one scarred table where some of these secret deals are rumored to have taken place.

"They want that for the new Council Chambers," she said, laughing. "Elio (Jacobozzi, city service director) talked to Joe. He said, "We've got to have this table."

"We kid Elio when he comes in here and tell him they have to build around us here (for the urban renewal). They can't tear this building down."

The building will be demolished, probably within the next six months or so, according to Sanford Prudoff, community development director. Lorain councilmen, who are frequent customers there recently passed legislation clearing the way for the city to appropriate it for urban renewal.

"We know eventually we're going to have to move," said Bernie Urbas. "But we don't want to. We want to stay right here."

Tomorrow: Part 2

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Black River Postcard View Early 1900s

Recently I saw this photo (above) in a 1906 book at the Lorain Public Library entitled Lorain County Ohio Picturesque and Industrial Features and recognized it from a vintage postcard. The photo is copyrighted by K.G. Goddard, and the caption in the book was "Scene on Black River."

Vintage postcard postmarked March 1909
Actually the matching postcard was on Ebay back in May, resulting in a very brief email discussion between historian and archivist Dennis Lamont, Drew Penfield and myself as to whether or not the road in the background is the old Globeville Road that ran alongside the Black River.

The postcard is a cropped version of the above photo. What's interesting is what's written on the back of it.

Addressed to Miss Francis Anthony of Akron, Ohio, the postcard includes a brief comment about the photo. "Don't you think this is a pretty view? That's me in the boat "alone," the postcard's sender writes. (The name is illegible.)

The sender adds: "This is up around the island."

The Globeville Road in 1894
That observation at least introduces the possibility that the road seen in the background is the Globeville Road.

Compare the postcard to this 1894 photo of the Globeville Road (right), which I featured back here in March in a post about the birth of the steel mill. The view shown is also near the island, and later was the location of a reservoir used by the steel mill.

There's a definite similarity.

Anyway, it's fun (and frustrating) to try and figure out things like this.

Here's part of an 1874 map (courtesy of Drew Penfield) showing the Globeville Road dipping as it does in the photo, directly south of the island in the Black River. Also notice how Root Road comes down from the north towards the island.

And here's the modern day view courtesy of Bing maps.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pfaff's Grocery Store

JOHN AND HAZEL PFAFF are sorry they must close their 56-year-old store
next week. They recall many young faces which have greeted them as children
stopped to buy candy while going to and coming from nearby schools.
From Lawson's stores to Mom and Pop grocery stores...

I found this article in the August 18, 1967 edition of the Lorain Journal. It's a nice story written by Valerie Cocks about a grocery store run by John and Hazel Pfaff for 56 years at 312 W. 20th Street in Lorain. At the time of the article the Pfaffs were preparing to close it down for good.

Longtime Family Grocery Store Closing Next Week
Staff Writer

Remember when Log Cabin Syrup came in metal containers shaped like cabins and when candy could be bought by the penny?

You can still buy these items until Sept. 1. That is the day that Pfaff's Grocery Store at 312 W. 20th St. will be closed for the last time.

John Pfaff, 79, began his business 56 years ago. He first delivered groceries by bicycle, later by horse and buggy, and finally by automobile. Pfaff and his wife, Hazel, who will be 75 years old next month, both are in excellent health.

SO WHY has he decided to close their store? His eyesight has worsened during recent years, and his wife's hearing has been impaired. They really don't want to retire; they are forced to.

They have no definite plans for their retirement. There will be no party the last night, as there was six years ago when they celebrated their 50th year of business.

Next week their sons, Alvin and Marvin, will join them in the store for a final storewide sale.

PFAFF WORKED for five years at National Tube Co. after high school graduation before he decided in 1911 to go into the grocery store business with his first wife, Neva. She died when Alvin was born in 1923. Pfaff married his present wife in 1924.

Mr. and Mrs. Pfaff recall the days when they bought crackers, cookies, vinegar, sugar, dates and other foods in bulk. Their sons remember separating the dates and wrapping them in small packages. They also used to help prepare piles of cabbage for the homemade sauerkraut their parents made and sold for years.

Reminiscing, Pfaff said he wore out a half dozen panel trucks during the 1930s and 1940s delivering groceries to all parts of Lorain and to some areas outside the city limits. He continued to deliver until about two years ago when he was forced to stop driving. His sons often make Saturday deliveries for him now.

PFAFF SAID from the beginning he has tried to have only the best brands of foods available for his customers. His dedication seems to have paid off because today some of his customers are third generation members of families he served years ago.

For more than 40 years, Mr. and Mrs. Pfaff supplied Hawthorne Junior High School cooking classes with the foods they needed.

At one time, the store had 12 employees, Those days are past. Next week, Pfaff, who believes he is the oldest active grocer in Lorain, and his wife will make their last sales in a neighborhood that has known the family for 56 years.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sheffield Lake Community Days 1972

Just in time for Sheffield Lake's 2012 Community Days, here's a newspaper ad promoting the same celebration back in 1972 – 40 years ago.

Graphic design-wise, the ad is a bit of a snoozer – but the creepy clown illustration and bizarre FUN! FUN, FUN! HO HO caption makes it a little amusing. Plus, the ad includes a listing of most of Sheffield Lake's businesses at that time so it has a little historical value.

Forty years later, several of those Sheffield Lake businesses are happily still around: Amber Oaks, Brownie's Market, and Risko's. Lake Shore Inn is now Dock's Tavern, and Ohio Canoe Adventures Inc. in Sheffield Village is now known as The Backpackers Shop.

Others listed above are gone, such as the Brunswick Shoreway Lanes, as well as Ilg T.V. (until earlier this year the home of an internet cafe).

Anyway, see you at Sheffield Lake Community Days!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

First Lawson's in Lorain – June 5, 1959

Back on July 4th, I posted an old Lawson's newspaper ad dating back from 1962. Well, here's an even earlier one announcing that chain's first Lorain store.

It's surprising to me that the first Lorain store was located in the Westgate Shopping Center. I sort of assumed that Lawson's had always built their own stores, especially since you see dozens of the former outlets all over the place in Lorain County. Even my doctor's office is located in a former Lawson's store!

The ad above has a nice little message from J.J. Lawson, the founder of the chain. The ad also reminds me of why the chain was so great: it was centered around quality Lawson's dairy products and other branded items stocked for convenience.

I like the little illustration showing the well-stocked, spacious store with friendly workers and happy customers. I sure wish that scenario still existed today. I find it depressing – and dangerous – to go into just about any convenience store in Cleveland these days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lorain's Street Renaming Plan – May 1908

A few days ago, I mentioned that in the early 1900s, most of Lorain's streets were renamed. Well, above you see the newspaper announcement explaining the renaming proposal, which was included in a report submitted by a special council committee. It ran on the front page of The Lorain Daily News on Tuesday, May 19, 1908. 
An adjoining article explained that the report "consists of a complete plan for the renaming and numbering of the streets of the city and is the outcome of long and careful consideration on the part of the committee." It noted that the proposal combined suggestions from council as well as civic bodies in the city.
The article also noted that "a large amount of special legislation would be necessary before the plan can go into effect and as planned now it will not be operative before January 1, 1909."
Of course, such a major undertaking was not going to be implemented without complaints.
A July 21, 1908 article on the front page of The Lorain Daily News was entitled STRONG OBJECTIONS VOICED TO STREET RENAMING PLANS. It noted that at the previous evening's council meeting, "the scheme at once met with considerable opposition and it is doubtful if the present plan will ever be adopted." It also stated that some parts of the plan "were condemned by members of the council and by Postmaster Bowman."
It appears that most of the objections were related to the changes that would occur on the east side of Lorain. The plan was for all streets running east and west were to be called "streets" and named for letters of the alphabet, and for streets running north and south to be called "avenues" and named after the states. Thus First Street would be known as Kansas Avenue and Second Street would become Iowa Avenue.
Councilman David Hatt objected, stating that "he saw no improvement over the present plan and that he did not see why Ohio Avenue was any better than Fifth Street as it did not tell him any more or as much."
"It looks more like a geographic contest to me than a street renaming plan," he stated.
The Postmaster – understandably – wasn't crazy about the proposal either.
According to the article, Postmaster Bowman "led the most opposition to the system" and said that it "was so faulty that if adopted it would mean much delay in the mails to the detriment of all."
Although the plan was referred back to committee, it appears that most of the proposal was eventually adopted.
It was a pretty incredible undertaking if you think about it. 
Councilman Hatt certainly had a point. I lived on the east side of Lorain in the 1990s and street names always seemed like a mishmash to me – a mixture of selected states, some letters, presidents, cities and other miscellaneous monikers.
For me, though, the worst part of the renaming "scheme" is that it sure has made it more difficult to research specific addresses from the 1890s forward!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Sears Home

I flipped on CNBC a few weeks ago and there was a special about the history of Sears, with a segment on Sears Homes featuring Rose Thornton (who posted a comment on my blog back here). That reminded me that I still had this post "ready to go."

So here's another great local Sears home, this time over in Amherst on Dewey road.

I had heard this was a Sears house several years ago, but I wasn't sure until it was confirmed for me by Rachel Shoemaker (who as you remember a few weeks ago identified the house by Lakeview Park as being an Aladdin kit home).

Rachel also provided me with the illustration at left, which is identified as The Vallonia and part of the Honor Bilt line. Honor Bilt homes, according to the Sears Archives website, were "the most expensive and finest quality sold by Sears."

It's great to see that so many of the architectural details of the home are still intact.

Thanks again to Rachel Shoemaker for the images as well as her expertise!

Monday, July 9, 2012

George Wickens Wrap-up

Although I concluded my series on George Wickens last month, I now realize I have a few more things mention – thanks to some great comments that were posted at the time, as well as some other loose ends that I had left hanging.

George Wickens' Home
One anonymous (but well-informed) commenter believed that the Walter A. Frey Funeral Home at 700 West Erie Avenue was the former home of George Wickens. The commenter was quite correct and I thank him (or her) for pointing it out.

At the time of Wickens' death, he was living at 142 West Erie, which was right next door to his undertaking business located in the Parkside Chapel at 140 West Erie. As Drew Penfield pointed out in his comment, Lorain's streets and house numbering system all changed in the early 1900s – with the result that the Parkside Chapel ended up with the address of 600 West Erie. To the east was City Hall at 500 West Erie, and right next door to the west was 700 West Erie, current home of Walter A. Frey Funeral Home.

An article in the Lorain Journal from August 15, 1968 about George Wickens' contribution towards the acquiring of the Civil War soldiers statue and fountain mentions that it was located "in the park across from his home" and that he "lived in the home which is presently the Walter A. Frey Funeral Home next to City Hall."

I haven't confirmed it with any research, but it also appears (thanks to a recent commenter's observation) that George Wickens' daughter Elizabeth lived in the house for a number of years until the early 1920s.

Wickens Place
I was unsuccessful in my attempt to locate some sort of newspaper article about the dedication of this short road in honor of George Wickens. I scoured the newspapers on microfilm for almost a year immediately following his death in March 1908, hoping to see some front-page mention of the naming of the street in his honor but it was not to be – for now, anyway.

I can say with certainty that in May 1908, Lorain introduced its new street renaming plan, which included specific instructions for how it would be implemented. One part of the plan called for "Short and blind streets running north and south to be named Places."

Although the library is missing quite a few city directories between 1900 and 1920, the 1912 edition did indeed  include Wickens Place. Thus that street has been named for George Wickens for at least one hundred years, and it was wise not to rename it last year.


Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista Co.
The law firm's Avon offices
Although the Wickens funeral and furniture businesses in Lorain are long gone, today the Wickens name lives on locally via the law firm of Wickens, Herzer, Panza, Cook & Batista Co. with its offices in Avon and Sandusky.

As the law firm's website points out, its roots are traced to the law firm founded in 1932 by William G. Wickens, grandson of George Wickens. William G. Wickens wrote an excellent history of Lorain – Early Days of Lorain – in 1927 that was published in the Lorain Journal in 1981. Its sequel – Birth of a City – appeared in the newspaper in 1985. Both articles are fantastic historical resources and are conveniently available online (for free!) in PDF format on the law firm's website here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 1964 – UFO Over Lorain!

Remember when Lorain was visited by a UFO?

The article above appeared in the Lorain Journal on July 20, 1964 and documents that event with a nifty illustration of the rocket ship-shaped UFO by Lorain resident J. Richard Lukovics.

The follow-up article on July 21, 1964 (below) notes that many people saw the same thing. But the FAA wasn't volunteering any information. Sounds like a cover-up to me!

I remember as a kid worrying about UFOs landing (that is, when I wasn't worrying about Lorain being wiped off the map by another tornado). It probably had something to do with my hearing the recording of the original Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast when I was very young. The radio drama is still scary if you happen to catch a replay of it around Halloween.

To add to my irrational fears, I remember my parents jokingly saying that our July 4th firework displays probably caught the attention of beings from other planets. Naturally, the aliens would want to see what the ruckus was all about, and would swoop into our atmosphere for a closer look.

I don't know if there are more UFOs reported around July 4 or not, but I still associate visitors from another planet with our country's birthday celebration.

Coincidentally, I watched some of the SyFy Channel's traditional holiday Twilight Zone marathon on July 4, and it seemed most of the episodes I saw had a storyline about invaders from Mars!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hills Department Store Ad Art 1966 & 67

Here's a few renderings of the Hills Department Stores that were featured in 1960s Grand Opening promotional newspaper ads that appeared in the Lorain Journal. The one at the top is from October 1966 and the lower one is from a year later.

The Hills store on Route 57 out in South Lorain was more like the 1966 version with the huge logo on the building. As a graphic designer, I still like the simplicity and style of that logo.

By the way, one of my early 1960s memories was of getting in the car because the family was heading out to "Hills" – and then upon arriving, being disappointed that "Hills" was a store and not a travel destination.

I guess I was kind of dumb!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lawson's Fourth of July Specials Ad 1962

Just in time for the July 4 holiday, here's a full-page Lawson's ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on Monday, July 2, 1962. It looks like they had all the ingredients for a great picnic covered.

Although I'm usually not too nostalgic about chain stores, I am about Lawson's. The ubiquitous stores were clean and well-stocked, and really set a standard for consistent quality.

Compare that to the some of the rather disgusting independent 'convenience' stores today that exist only to sell lottery tickets and liquor. (In Cleveland where I work, you would have to be insane to purchase any of the prepared foods in these filthy markets.)

Photo courtesy of Circle K
The Lawson's chain was eventually sold to Dairy Mart and re-branded. It's too bad, because Lawson's believed in the power of advertising, and the company had really created a strong and memorable brand.

There are still a few Dairy Marts in Lorain County, which is fine with me since I can purchase the original Lawson's Chip Dip there. It's also available at Circle K stores.

Here's a link to the Lawson's Wiki entry, which reveals that the store chain lives on today in Japan!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hills Fireworks Ad - July 3, 1962

If this was Tuesday, July 3, 1962 (50 years ago today), then you would have seen this ad in your Lorain Journal promoting the annual Fourth of July fireworks display at Hills Department Store. Remember those great fireworks?

Vintage Hills sign (courtesy Wikipedia)
Things like this are some of my warmest and fuzziest memories of growing up in Lorain... the whole family piling into the car to head to South Lorain to see those fireworks at Hills.

We shopped there too, regularly. My mom bought us a lot of clothes and toys there, usually putting them in layaway for a while (never charging them). And I've mentioned the frozen Cokes and popcorn that she bought us on the way out as an occasional treat.

I still remember staring at the wild display of blinking lights on the Hills sign as they chased themselves across the front of the building. It was almost hypnotic.

It's sad to drive by the building on Route 57 today and see it all closed up (below).

May 2011 photo