Friday, August 31, 2012

Can't Bear the "New" Smokey Bear

Classic Smokey Bear Poster
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I have a real fondness for classic advertising mascots. And one of my all-time favorites is Smokey Bear.

It's probably because my family camped so much at National Parks, as well as State Parks, in the 1960s. Inevitably, there would be Smokey Bear signs in the ranger stations, on park kiosks and even on some trees in the camping areas.

Although Smokey had a very serious message, the bear was so gentle and likable that it was easy to see why he was a favorite of kids.

That's why I was so disappointed to see a billboard last week on the way home from work featuring the brash "new" Smokey Bear that's currently featured in a TV campaign.

What's that? You didn't know there was a new version of the beloved fire prevention spokesbear? Sadly, there is – and I pretty much dislike him. Here's what the billboard – seen from I-90 Westbound just past the W. 117th Street exit – looks like (below).

This "new" Smokey has shaggy, computer-generated fur and realistic eyes. But what he doesn't have is heart. He looks like he could rip you apart limb from limb with his bear, uh bare hands – and then scoop up the remains with his shovel!

Not to be completely negative, I think the current TV commercials are somewhat clever and entertaining. But I still think Smokey looks far too menacing – and needlessly "realistic" – especially his muzzle.

The "new" Smokey is also featured exclusively on the Smokey Bear website (below) with the classic Smokey relegated to the history section.

Anyways, I prefer the old panda-like Smokey. Remember when he looked like this (below)?

You could tell right away that he was a friend of children and his fellow forest animals.

Through the years, Smokey appeared on countless posters, and in a variety of books and comics that reinforced that strong connection to kids.

He also appeared in animated TV commercials like this one (below) that appealed to kids. Smokey makes a cameo near the end of the spot, which is narrated by Paul Frees.

The "new" computer-generated Smokey is annoying to me because the creative team involved makes no attempt to breath life into the beloved character that all of us have known throughout our lives using the wonderful technology that is available. Instead, they redesigned Smokey's classic, well-known appearance and personality (that have been consistent since the 1940s) into something more "hip" and realistic – thus removing almost all of the goodwill and equity in the original image.

I can barely bear this new bear.

However, all is not lost. The "new" Smokey's appearance seems to be limited to the TV campaign and the website. You can still purchase lots of items featuring the classic Smokey Bear through a quarterly catalog published by Woodland Enterprises (below) by special agreement with the U.S. Government.

Here's the link to the company's website, where you can shop online or request a printed catalog.

Anyway, here's hoping the new CGI Smokey attracts some attention with the TV campaign, and then quietly disappears into the woods.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Readers Reminisce about Giant Tiger & Gaylords

Since my posts on Giant Tiger and Gaylords, I received a few emails from friends about shopping at those two stores.

Sandy from Sheffield Lake emailed me to tell me about her 1967 Giant Tiger memory. "I remember being in the checkout line at Giant Tiger with my Mom, Dad and brother," she said.

And then it happened: her brother accidentally sprayed automotive de-icer into his eyes.

"I didn't see it happen," she said, "but all of a sudden, my brother was whisked away to the emergency room at St. Joe's. I remember the massive eye patch that he came home with."

Sandy was only four at the time – and she can't remember if her father ever bought the de-icer he needed!

"Now stuff is so securely packed you almost need an engineering degree to get things open," she notes.

Meanwhile, historian and archivist Dennis Lamont emailed me to tell me about a memorable purchase from Gaylords.

Dennis worked in management for many years at the steel mill. "It was very convenient having a store like that right outside the plant gate," he noted.

"I bought my first pocket calculators there for $9.95 each. One for me and one for our department clerk," he remembered. Before the calculators, Dennis pointed out that they "still had the ancient mechanical calculators" where you had to "turn the crank toward you to add and away from you to subtract."

"With the pocket calculator, it was instant and we were amazed, it took so little" he remembered. "This was back in the days when spreadsheets were 11x17 blue ruled paper with a red double line column marker to the left, carbon paper and #2 pencils, no xerox machines, etc."

Special thanks to Sandy and Dennis for their anecdotes!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gaylords is Destroyed – April 1974

(Journal photo by Michael Pugh)
I did a post about the former Giant Tiger/Gaylords building on Monday, and a few of the comments (including one by Alan Hopewell) mentioned the storm that "blew the roof in."

Well, here's a photo (above) of just that. It ran on April 15, 1974 (just as Alan remembered) on the front page of the Lorain Journal with headline, "Gaylords Store Destroyed As 'Hurricane' Wind Hits." No one was in the building when the roof caved in because the store was closed as it was Easter Sunday.

The article included a brief interview with the builder, Alex Fodor of Alex Fodor Realty Company, Cleveland. He stated that he had "absolutely no idea" why the roof toppled under the winds.

"The construction was 100 percent correct," said Fodor. He added, "It was architect supervised and built according to plans."

Strangely enough, at the time of the disaster the building was owned by the Journal.

The article also had a photo of the building as it looked prior to the disaster (below).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Giant Tiger Mascot

One of the funnier aspects of the regional Giant Tiger chain (for me anyway) was their appropriation of the most famous and beloved cartoon tiger used in advertising to moonlight as their mascot.

I'm talking of course about Tony the Tiger.

I can't imagine that Kellogg's would have approved, but nevertheless Tony the Tiger himself appeared in many Giant Tiger ads that appeared in the Lorain Journal during 1967 and 1968. The first time I saw it, I imagined that it was just some lowly paste-up artist's idea of a gag. (After all, I was a paste-up artist at one time and I would have thought it was an amusing thing to do.) But then I saw that Tony's appearance in the ads was a regular thing that went on for quite a while.

There was even a logo arrangement with Tony right next to the company's name (see above).

No doubt Kellogg's provided newspapers with clip art sheets for use when laying out one of their cereal ads; perhaps in this case, the Giant Tiger artist – fighting a last-minute deadline – thought,"Oh well, a tiger's a tiger!" and then slapped the Gr-r-reat One onto the ad.

Anyway, about a year ago, I happened to be scrounging around in a thrift store in Cleveland (appropriately enough called the Unique Thrift Store) where I found this scrap of paper in the records section (below). It reveals that maybe at one time, another tiger prowled around in the Giant Tiger ads.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Giant Tiger Grand Opening August 1967

Here's an ad for the grand opening of a store that many of you longtime Lorainites will remember: Giant Tiger, at 20th and Elyria Avenue. The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on August 23, 1967 – 45 years ago – announcing the store's opening the next day.

The ad artwork is a little jangled looking; the words DISCOUNT STORE are jammed in there pretty good. But's a nice illustration of the building.

A small, front page Journal article that same day read, "Mayor Woodrow Mathna and Miss Lorain County, Jan Musarra of Avon, will assist in brief ribbon-cutting ceremonies, which, in turn, will launch a three-day spree of special events, prizes and gifts.

Captain Penny
"Tomorrow at 7 p.m. Captain Penny, Cleveland television personality, will chat with youngsters and provide free autographed photos. Saturday afternoon Cleveland Browns football stars Paul Wiggin and Dick Schafrath will visit with customers.

"There will also be live bands, surprise guest stars; free gifts for everyone with a color television topping the list."

I don't think we ever shopped at Giant Tiger. There were just too many other stores closer to us (such as Big Town) or on the way to Midway Mall (such as Ontario). It would have been fun to meet Captain Penny at the grand opening, though!

Giant Tiger was sold to Gaylords in 1968. I don't think we shopped there either, although I remember at least one TV commercial for Gaylords that featured Cleveland Indian pitcher Gaylord Perry.

Here is a photo of the former Giant Tiger/Gaylords property on Elyria Avenue today (it's for sale).

Here's an interesting link with some additional information on the former Giant Tiger building on a blog called Dead and Dying retail! If you look along the left side of the blog, there is a listing of Ohio links.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Penfield Grocery Store Then and Now

Shortly after my post a few weeks ago about the August 1967 closing of the Penfield Grocery Store, I got an email from blog buddy Drew Penfield, who let me know that the former grocery store building was indeed still standing on Route 18 in Penfield Township, at the intersection with Route 301.

I should have known to ask a Penfield in the first place!

Anyway, I happened to be in Wellington last week during my vacation, and decided to take a drive down Route 18 and see what the building looked like these days. It looked slightly run-down in the vintage photo (at left).

To my surprise, the building was still in great shape and currently for sale, listed by Lisa Eyring of Russell Real Estate Services. The online listing describes it as an updated Century home that is zoned both residential and commercial.

Driving by the place today with its grassy front yard, you would never know the place was a grocery store and gas station, and very important to Penfield at one time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Route 18 Wellington Businesses Then & Now

While I was out in Wellington during my vacation recently, I thought I would shoot a "then and now" for my blog.

The problem was, there weren't too many vintage Wellington postcards on Ebay, and I had none in my file. But I found the below above on the Herrick Memorial Library website, which has a terrific collection of vintage photos of the town.

The caption for the photo read, "Businesses on the northeast side of Wellington's Business district during the 1960's. Identifying signs such as Wellington Hardware, Furniture, Dry Goods, and Bevier's are shown."

Route 18 runs from east to west in front of the buildings, which are on the north side of the street across from the Herrick Memorial Library. In the foreground is Route 58.

Here's the "now" shot.

It was a busy traffic day when I shot this, and it was a challenge to get the shot without a bunch of cars in the foreground. I'm surprised my hanging around the square with a camera didn't attract too much attention.

Anyway, I still remember a great store – the Goodie Barn – that was a lot of fun to explore during the late 1980s. It used to be in the second or third building from the corner and was packed with good deals.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shoreway Shopping Center A&P Opens – August 1959

I don't get to post too much about my current home – Sheffield Lake – in this blog, so when I do find something of interest, I try to get it up here pronto.

The Sheffield Lake store in the 1960s
Here's a full page ad that ran on Tuesday, August 18, 1959 in the Lorain Journal – 53 years ago – heralding the opening of the new A&P in the Shoreway Shopping Center.

From the ad, it looks like the store gave away a lot of goodies during the grand opening celebration. Also notice in the ad that Lake Breeze Road was designated Route 301 back then.

It's strange that the mighty A&P grocery store chain seems to have faded away, except for stores in New York and the surrounding states.

My mom shopped at A&P in Lorain for years. I still remember seeing those Ann Page products in the cupboard, never realizing that the name's initials stood for A&P!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Lorain County Fair time!

Readers of this blog know that Lorain County Fair time is just about my favorite time of year. It's one last blast of fun before the end of summer, and a great kick-off to fall.

The photo above from August 12, 1953 is courtesy of the Herrick Memorial Library's website, and shows Lorain County Fair secretary C. L. Hill observing Doc Caywood, who is painting a large sign advertising the fair.

That's some great lettering. Sign painting is a real art, with a distinctive look that just can't be duplicated by a computer. In fact, some of the most popular fonts with designers are those that resemble those hand-drawn fonts, such as many of the fonts produced by this company.

Anyway, I'll be heading out to the Fair after work tonight for some good eatin' – so it looks like Midway Oh-Boys on the Midway tonight! Not to mention Rutana Apple Dumplings (hold the ice cream)...

See you there!

*** UPDATE ***

A welcome sight for hungry apple dumpling lovers
Well, I didn't have my usual Midway Oh-Boy at the fair tonight – the spouse talked me into a stromboli (which was terrific) – but I did get my Rutana's Hot Apple Dumpling. It was delicious as usual – fresh and flakey and with that great sauce. Of course the stromboli filled me up so much I was too full to enjoy my usual french fries drenched with salt and vinegar. Wahhhh!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cedar Point Revisited

The space spiral in early retirement
I made it out to Cedar Point during my vacation last week. It had been decades since I had been there just to ride the rides, and not attend some company picnic or corporate function at the same time.

I must confess, though, that it was with some trepidation that I went, knowing that I was 53 years old and not a high school kid any more. Would my middle-aged carcass survive the park's modern, intense rides? Sure it would!

As usual, however, my most humble goal was to be denied. I knew that the Space Spiral – one of the last holdovers from the 1960s – was going to be gone after this season, and I wanted to catch one last nostalgic ride on it. Alas, the park management must have deemed it too much of a snoozer for today's park patrons to worry about; the ride was not even operating and it was enclosed behind construction walls. I knew something was up when from outside the park, I could see that it wasn't going up and down. Oh well.

To my surprise, I had a great time at the park. It had something to do with the fact that the spouse had her young, high-school age niece with our party, and we were able to see and experience the park through her eyes. In fact, with her encouragement, I rode many more of the newer rides – maXairRaptor, Wicked Twister, Mean Streak, Iron Dragon, Power Tower and Mantis – than I ever expected or intended to. I even rode the Top Thrill Dragster, as well as the WindSeeker (twice)!

The WindSeeker was my favorite, although I'm relatively scared of heights. It was a relaxing ride in a way (once I managed to suppress my panic attack), reminiscent to me of the Space Spiral with the fantastic view of the park.

One of the views from the train
The park crowds were light the day I went, and most of the waiting times for the rides were 15 minutes or less.

Of course, any visit to Cedar Point puts me in a nostalgic mood, and I had to point out to the niece that there used to be a Pirate Ride, and that at one time, the Blue Streak was the park's signature roller coaster. (By the way, the Blue Streak was still an intense ride!)

After spending more than ten hours at the park, we finished up with an old favorite: a ride on the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad. I'm happy to report that the train still goes through Boneville.

This sign just reeled me in for dinner
Dinner at Pink's was very good too. I'm a sucker for a good chili dog with cheese, and that was my dinner fare there. It was air-conditioned too, which was a plus.

So even though I got a little nostalgic remembering my family's fun trips to Cedar Point in the 1960s, I had to admit that I had a good time there in 2012.

The park was impeccably clean and tidy, the landscaping was flawlessly manicured, the lines were short and the number and variety of rides was incredible. The ride operators were friendly, talkative and focused on safety and fun. What more could you ask for in an amusement park?

We're lucky to live so close to the best one in the country.

So after a day of fun, I bid adieu to Cedar Point, and – more or less – vacation time and summer time as well. It was a bittersweet feeling, not unlike leaving the park as a kid and knowing it was going to be a while before you went back.

The end of a long day

Friday, August 17, 2012

1965 South Dakota Vacation Revisited Part 5

That's me in front of the entrance to Wind Cave National Park – 1965
One of the goofier aspects of that 1965 South Dakota trip was my personal contribution: suggesting that we stop at Wind Cave National Park. Now why would a six-year old suggest that?

Blame Tennessee Tuxedo.

That's right, a cartoon penguin planted that thought in my brain. You see, earlier that year, General Mills ran a promotion on its boxes of Kix cereal for a Tennesee Tuxedo National Parks coloring book & stamp album. (The company also sponsored the penguin's cartoon show on TV.)

I really can't remember whether we sent away for the book or not. But right there on the Kix box, there was a picture of Tennessee Tuxedo and his pal Chumley driving around the United States. Near the very stylized drawing of Mt. Rushmore was a sign for Wind Cave National Park.

That sign apparently intrigued me enough to bug my parents to go there, with the result that we ended up making a side trip to that park. I even got my picture taken at the entrance (the photo's at the top of this post).

The park itself was great and worth the trip. The cave tour was pretty memorable, and a maybe even a little creepy, as it seemed we just kept going further down into the ground. We also enjoyed the buffalo (appropriately roaming about the park) as well as the prairie dog town.

I even saved my little souvenir book all these years (below).

And the brochure from the place as well (below).

I always liked the simplicity of the design of those National Park brochures of the 1960s.

Finally, I wondered if the park sign looked the same after all these years. A quick look online confirmed it: yup, it does pretty much – except the arrowhead logo is now crowded onto the updated sign.

Anyway, hope you didn't mind this "vacation" from my regular topics. I'll be back from vacation next week with some more nostalgic treats from Lorain and the surrounding county. Plus it's Lorain County Fair Week – one of my favorite weeks of the year!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

1965 South Dakota Vacation Revisited Part 4

My father poses with my siblings and me; I don't think I've worn red socks since.
Like I said at the beginning of this special "vacation" blog series, my family's trip to South Dakota in August 1965 was my favorite of all of the family vacations. Seeing Mt. Rushmore left such an impact on us that when we made another trip West a few years later, we made a slight detour to stop and see it again.

I hope to see it again myself one of these years.

In addition to the four giant heads of the Presidents up on the mountain, there was the "fifth face" of Mt. Rushmore – namely a Sioux Indian named Ben Black Elk. He was sort of an unofficical ambassador for his Lakota people. According to this story, for more than 27 years until his death in 1973, he posed for photos in front of the monument. It was a way of providing for his family, and the tourists loved having their picture taken with him.

Here's our shot with Ben Black Elk. I really do remember that day!

He was such a celebrity that you could even get a postcard with his face on it.

I remember feeling bad when it was announced in the Lorain Journal that he had died.

Another attraction on our South Dakota trip included our trip through Badlands National Park. And for a change, my mother managed to get in front of the camera instead of always being behind it!

Incidentally, I asked my mother recently why she tended to dress us in like colors on these trips. She told me it was so she could pick us out in the crowd easier if we got separated.

But next to Mt. Rushmore, the best thing about the South Dakota trip was Deadwood – home to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Now in 1965, there were no casinos, modern motels, etc like there is now. Deadwood was still kind of a rough place and a really authentic Western town.

There were a lot of touristy things to see, including the Ghosts of Deadwood Gulch Historic Wax Museum (below).

I remember that we saw the Trial of Jack McCall live stage show (below).

And we even went up to Mount Moriah Cemetery to see where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane were buried (below).
My siblings and I in front of Wild Bill's grave. Calamity Jane's is right behind it.
By the way, I still have that bolo tie. I'll probably be buried in it someday!

And for the climax of the trip, we saw an authentic rodeo: the Days of '76, held in Deadwood on August 6, 7 and 8 in 1965.

Here's the program to prove it (below)!

UPDATE (Jan. 24, 2021)
Has reading this post got you a-hankering to visit the Badlands yourself?
Then be sure to visit “An Ultimate Guide to Badlands National Park, South Dakota” on the website. The well-written Guide includes all the information you need to plan a Badlands vacation including directions, a downloadable park map, where to stay, where to eat, things to do, nearby attractions and how to enjoy a safe trip, as well as a sample of the beautiful scenery that you will enjoy once you’re there. Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1965 South Dakota Vacation Revisited Part 3

Even though Mt. Rushmore was the highlight of our August 1965 trip to South Dakota, there were a few things to see on the way, including the Corn Palace in Mitchell on US 16. Here's the brochure from that trip.

According to the brochure, the original Corn Palace was built in 1892. There was another constructed in 1905, and the third one (which we saw) dates from 1921. The building covers almost one half of a city block. The brochure notes, "In a series of panels, there are pictures, composed entirely of corn, depicting a theme on wild game, hunting, pioneer history, etc. Along its roof are Moorish minarets and towers, which, with their bright colors, add greatly to the design and appearance of a palace."

Rockerville Postcard
Another place right on US 16 on the way to Mt. Rushmore that we stopped at was Rockerville. It was originally a mining town, named for the "rockers" (that looked like a baby's rocking cradle) that miners used to sift their gold from the gravel.

By the 1960s when we passed through, Rockerville was a tourist trap, er... uh... attraction that resembled a Western town movie set. It had a bunch of small shops as well as places to eat or see an old-time melodrama show.

I don't remember if we spent much time there or not; my parents only took one picture – and none of us were in it. There's a few strangers in the shot, though (below).

I looked on the internet to see how Rockerville was doing today. To my dismay, two-lane Highway 16 – which ran right through the center of town – was widened in the years after our visit. As a result, the "new and improved" divided highway bypassed the town and the attraction – stranding it in the middle like the hole of a donut.

As a result, the small town virtually "died", as well as almost all of the businesses.

Here's a look at the abandoned Western town attraction today (below). Sadly, it's become a real ghost town.

Here’s an updated photo (circa 2018) of the former Rockerville property, courtesy of Google Maps. As you can see, the site has been cleared.
And here are a couple vintage postcards of the attraction in its heyday, in case anyone wondered what was once there.