Monday, December 3, 2012

The E. 37th Street Oval Christmas Tree

What do you call a short dead-end street with a circular turnaround at the end of it?

On the west side of Lorain, where I grew up, they were called courts. Loretta Court and Carmelita Court were right behind our house on W. 30th Street. Decades later, when I was watching Knots Landing, I learned they were also called cul-de-sacs.

But here's another name for that same kind of street: an oval.

Which brings me to today's post. I'd never heard of the E. 37th Street Oval in Lorain until I read the article below by John MacLeod, which appeared on the front page of the December 23, 1955 Lorain Journal. It's a neat little story of how a group of South Lorain neighbors did something annually to make their holiday season more enjoyable that not only embodied the true meaning of Christmas, but also the spirit of Lorain, the International City.


Neighborhood Melting Pot
Families on Oval Share Holiday Spirit

By John MacLeod

Families on the E. 37th Oval achieve annually what eludes nations: the ability to live together as civilized human beings should – with complete community cooperation. And it extends past Christmas into the entire year.

FOR THE past three years, seven families have tossed money into a pot to buy a Christmas tree, which is placed in the center of the circular street for all to enjoy.

They all get together to decorate and light it, and the expenses are distributed evenly.

During the time the tree is there, one man, who has a loud speaker system, plays carols nightly for the enjoyment of all.

THE UNUSUAL event is the product of an idea by Fred Fulgenzi, one of the members of the small circle of friends.

Fulgenzi is of Italian extraction. In the group of families, Croatian, Italian, Polish, German, Swiss, Hungarian and Mexican origins are represented, as are several religions.

It all goes to prove a man's extraction and religion have nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas or the ability to love his neighbor.

THE TREE is placed and lighted about one week before Christmas, and stays up until the day after New Year's Day. That way, each family takes charge of the lighting for two nights.

It is no electric drain on anyone that way. Each family pays for the purchase of one string of lights for the tree, and the cost of the symbol of Christmas is divided. Frank Septaric spends his own electricity to play the carols.

The families include 17 children.

Mr. and Mrs. Fulgenzi have a daughter; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sulkoski, Mr. and Mrs. Manuel J. Martinez, Mrs. Mary Schneider and Mr. and Mrs. Don Matzke each have one daughter and one son.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Petty have two sons and a daughter, and Mr. and Mrs. Septaric have four boys and a girl.

THE FAMILIES visit each other throughout Christmas Day, and they all get together for a party on New Year's Eve.

But, during the rest of every year – most of them have lived in the oval for about six years – they extend the welcoming hand of friendship to each other.

They truly represent an international settlement.


I drove out there recently just to see where this all took place. It's hard to tell from the vintage photo, but it looks like originally there was a grassy island in the oval. It's gone now.

Here's the oval today.

I don't know how long those families were able to keep up their wonderful tradition. It sure would be great if the current residents of the oval are still doing it.

I suppose, though, that it would be difficult to try and do something like that today – in the E. 37th Street Oval, or anywhere for that matter. Many families, especially in Lorain, are struggling to make ends meet on an ongoing basis – and a neighborhood Christmas tree would be a real luxury.

But it's a nice idea anyway.


Lisa said...

East 37th isn't on the East Side.
Nice story about your find, though. I'd never heard of the Oval before. I wish people would carry on simple traditions like this instead of going all "Griswold family Christmas" on their houses.

Dan Brady said...

How silly of me--thanks, Lisa! Fixed--South Lorain it is!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the story. I lived in Loretta Court from 1966-1979 and we always have a "Block Party" every summer. Every family in the court brought out their grills....picnic tables and we would set up in the middle of the court and have an all day picnic. I miss those days!

Jeff Rash

-Alan D Hopewell said...

That's the day I was born, Dan! A really cool tradition.

crowryche said...

Speaking of Christmas traditions, Brownhelm township has been doing their Community Christmas for decades. "Santa" visits every house in the township on Christmas Eve, bringing presents to the children and fruit baskets and goodies to the seniors. I used to drive a route and my mother is still a route chairwomen. Through good times and bad, the community has supported this tradition that is done strictly with donations from the community.

Dave Beko

Ron said...

I grew up on 37th St and the oval was where we gathered to play baseball when we were little. The families were all great and we loved the traditions we all shared in that neighborhood. Thanks for rekindling those precious memories!


Dan Brady said...

Hi Ron! Thanks for leaving the comment about growing up on 37th Street.