Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Don't Let Death Take Your Holiday – 1961

It's New Year's Eve – so longtime readers of this blog know what means! It's time for yet another grisly and gruesome "Don't Drink and Drive" ad.

This full-page ad – from the December 30, 1961 Lorain Journal – doesn't feature the Grim Reaper himself, but still packs an emotional punch.

As usual, half the fun is seeing how many of the ad's sponsors are still in business decades later. There's a few in there this time, including Lucas Plumbing and Fritz's Garage.

Anyway, have a safe and Happy New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Auburn Flexible Building Bricks

From the Brady Toy Collection
Courtesy WorthPoint.com
While discussing my Christmas Day blog post with a co-worker, we got into a discussion about various toys we had as kids. Lincoln Logs were a favorite that we both had, as they provided hours of creative entertainment. (Do kids still play with Lincoln Logs?)

Another 'construction-type' toy that I remember – and still have, for that matter (although I haven't played with it recently) is the set of Auburn Flexible Building Bricks shown above and at right. As depicted on the package, the set included lots of small rubber interlocking bricks, as well as windows, doors and roof sections.

I wonder how many kids became architects as a result of playing with them?

Unfortunately, although my siblings and I played with these bricks a lot, I don't remember ever having enough materials to actually complete the house in progress. Plus, I could never figure out how to construct the roof.

Strangely enough, a few years ago I was watching an old Gumby episode ("Lion Drive") on videotape and in the background was the very same set of these building bricks!

A few moments later, the camera panned the whole room and provided an even better shot of the container (below).

Anyway, today when I dumped out the contents of the container onto a table to take a look, I noticed some plastic palm tree fronds mixed in with the bricks – from our Marx Flintstone Play Set. I guess we were pretty sloppy and mixed all these various sets together.
No wonder I could never finish a brick house – the bricks I needed were probably serving as Fred Flintstone's barbeque pit!
For more information about the Auburn Rubber Company, the people who manufactured these bricks, click here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Popeye and Peanuts Christmas – 1959

Here's wishing all of my readers and fellow local history buffs a most Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! After all the activity here for the last few weeks, I'll be taking a much-needed break from blogging between now and New Year's Eve.

In the meantime, here are a couple of memories from Christmas 1959 direct from the Brady photo album.

Above is a shot of my older brother and sister (sorry Ed, you weren't born yet) and me on Christmas Day 1959. I'm holding a Popeye toy while my Charlie Brown Hungerford doll stands guard. (By George, I'm beginning to understand my preoccupation with cartoons and comics – it started when I was less than a year old!)

Below is my older brother and his Popeye Punch-Me bag. I remember playing with that thing in our basement, (although I was reluctant to punch a character that I liked).

By 1959, the theatrical Popeye cartoons had been shown on television for a year or two, and thus the spinach-eating sailor had enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. I'm sure that's why we received Popeye toys that Christmas.
That particular style of Popeye punching bag toy is hard to find. I did locate one shot of it online (below). 
As for my Popeye toy, it seems to be even harder to locate a photo of it on the internet. I did find a 1950s Popeye squeeze toy on Ebay that seems to match up color-wise (the yellow pipe, can of green spinach and blue pants) with what I yam holding. It looks like Popeye has a five o'clock shadow.

The Charlie Brown Hungerford doll (below) is much easier to find. It seems to show up on Ebay frequently, as well as the Hungerford dolls of the other Peanuts characters.

The Peanuts dolls came in two sizes, one just slightly smaller than the other, and it is difficult to assemble a full set.
Courtesy WorthPoint

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa Claus Comes to Brownhelm Twp – 1963

Tonight, just as he has since 1932, Santa Claus will literally visit every home in Brownhelm Township, keeping the township's Community Christmas tradition alive, and bringing smiles to the faces of all residents, especially the children.

This article (above), which appeared in The Lorain Journal in late November 1963, explains the whole heartwarming story. It tells how Rev. Ralph Albright and a small group of citizens had the idea of a Community Christmas in which St. Nick would visit every household to make sure that no child would go without a gift.

The tradition continues today and is a wonderful thing indeed. It's enough to make you want to move to Brownhelm Township just to be part of it! But even without Santa, the township's friendly citizens, natural beauty, rural flavor and fascinating history as one of the area's oldest settlements make it a great place to live.

Santa Claus & Pearl the Squirrel

It's almost Christmas, so here's an ad for Oakwood Shopping Center announcing Santa's arrival that appeared in The Lorain Journal on November 27, 1958 – the same month that the shopping center opened. But the ad is interesting to me for another reason.

The ad caught my attention because its copy reveals that the purse-carrying squirrel shown in the ad – the one that I thought was named Oakie – is actually named Pearl! As stated in the ad, Santa Claus "and his helper, Pearl, the Oakwood Shopping Center Squirrel, will meet, greet and thrill youngsters of all ages."

I've spent a lot of time on this nutty controversy – both on this blog (here) and on my other website (here) as well!

The confusion started right with the Nov. 1958 Grand Opening ad, which made reference to "Oakie" – but included no definitive picture of him.

Meanwhile the purse-carrying squirrel was used in almost every ad, and on signage as well – so I assumed that squirrel was Oakie!

A few years later, some Oakwood Shopping Center ads appeared in the Journal with this vest-wearing squirrel along with the words, "Oakie says...”
I just assumed that the owners of Oakwood had decided to make Oakie the first transgender squirrel.

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell – Oakwood Shopping Center used two named squirrels in its advertising: Oakie, the little guy with the checkered vest, and Pearl, the "thrifty" girl squirrel with the purse. They were there right in the very first ad for the shopping center (a portion of which is shown below).

So that wraps up yet another Lorain mystery on this blog.

Hey, wait a minute... I wonder if that third squirrel with the beret had a name?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rusine's Christmas Ad – Dec. 15, 1956

Here's a nice Christmas-themed ad for Rusine's from the pages of the December 15, 1956 Lorain Journal that should bring back some pleasant memories.

As you probably remember, the popular store at 822 Broadway was the local outlet for Russell Stover Candies, and that fact certainly dominates the ad. (I posted Jack Tiller's photo of his ultimate Rusine's collectible – the store's Russell Stover Candies sign – back here.)

I recently heard from Jennifer, the granddaughter of Michael and Elizabeth Rusine. Jennifer wrote, "This 2013 Christmas, I am sending out Christmas cards to family and friends that were sold long ago at Rusine's store."

On each card, Jennifer was also adding the link to the two-part blog post (here and here) containing the excellent and touching tribute that Robert Rusine wrote about his father Michael.

Jennifer is also making sure a part of Rusine tradition lives on. As she wrote, "Tomorrow, I will be making Grandma Elizabeth's spritz cookies with her other granddaughter, Lindsey. As a surprise to Lindsey, I will have Grandma's Christmas apron all ready for her to wear."

She also posted a special holiday message. "Merry Christmas to all. I love you, Grandma and Grandpa."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Early Days of Mary Lee Tucker Part 4

Looking at these articles, it is pretty impressive to watch the 1926 Mary Lee Tucker campaign unfold in the pages of The Lorain Journal and watch the community come together for the charity ball at the Coliseum, as well as the show at the Lorain County Home.

Click on each article for a large, readable version.

The front page of the December 16 Lorain Journal (below) included a photo of dancers Doris and Thelma Streicker of Elyria, who were on the program for the charity ball and headed for jobs with the Ziegfeld Follies after high school.

The December 17 Journal included a photo (below) of Chauncey Lee's  orchestra, who were the stars of the gala event to be held at the Coliseum. The article also built anticipation for the charity ball to be held that evening, and noted that florist Lou Carek had given the interior of the Coliseum a holiday appearance.
According to the article below which appeared in the December 18, 1926 Lorain Journal, the benefit ball was a huge success. Mary Lee Tucker extended thanks to Chauncey Lee and his orchestra and entertainers for "the very fine program they arranged." She also noted the cooperation of the Loyal Order of Moose, and the extra street car service provided by the Lorain Street Railway.
This December 21 Journal article (below) described the wonderful show performed for the residents of the Lorain County Home.
Amazingly, Mary Lee Tucker adopted three more families which she wrote about in this December 22 article (below).
Finally, on Christmas Eve, the article below summed up the happy and heartwarming results thanks to the generosity of Lorain Journal readers and hard work of the Journal staff. It's hard not to get teary-eyed reading it.
All in all, it was an amazing and impressive effort put forth by the Journal – not only providing help and yuletide cheer to some needy families, but also showing what could be accomplished through the power of the newspaper. 
Today, in 2013, the Mary Lee Tucker charitable program continues, approximately 90 years after its beginnings. It would be quite difficult to 'adopt' families in this day and age, and The Morning Journal wisely has instead focused its efforts on making sure that the area's needy school aged children have warm coats.
Let's hope that the Journal continues the program for another 90 years and beyond, and keeps alive the spirit of the original Mary Lee Tucker. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Early Days of Mary Lee Tucker Part 3

Just as it does today, the 1926 Mary Lee Tucker campaign played out very effectively in the pages of The Lorain Journal. Each day added another poignant story and a heartfelt appeal to the community for help.

I've compiled each of the articles and present them below. Click on each for a large, readable version.

The first gifts arrived on December 4 as the front page article from that day explained (below).

Two days later in the Dec. 6 newspaper, a benefit ball to be held at the Moose Coliseum was announced (below).
Two days later in the Dec. 8 Journal, one of the families to be "adopted" was profiled (below).

On December 9, Mary Lee Tucker was visited at her office by a woman whose family had been helped by the charity during the campaign the previous year (below).
On December 10, an "adopted" family was profiled (below).
On December 11, another "adopted" family's story was told (below).
On December 13, and ad promoting the gala benefit ball appeared in The Lorain Journal (below).
In the same edition of the newspaper, we finally learned who the name of the orchestra that would perform at the ball: Chauncey Lee and his orchestra, out of Cleveland (below).
On December 14, it was learned that also to be featured at the ball were two talented sisters from Elyria – Doris and Thelma Streicker – who were making a name for themselves through their dancing (below).
Meanwhile, the December 15 edition revealed that a host of local talent were to perform at the county home (below).
Next: I wrap up this look at the 1926 Mary Lee Tucker campaign.

The Early Days of Mary Lee Tucker Part 2

On December 3, 1926, ten months after the Mary Lee Tucker's Question Box first began appearing in The Lorain Journal, a major announcement appeared on the front page of the paper (above): the kickoff of the Mary Lee Tucker campaign.

I've transcribed the article (below) for easier reading. The article also sheds some more light on the history of the Mary Lee Tucker program.

Mary Lee Tucker Opens Annual Campaign 
to Fill Ragged Stockings in City

Welfare Organization to Adopt Friendless, Needy 
Families and Lorain-co Home for Chistmas; 
Aid of Readers is Asked


What are you planning to do Christmas?

In every Christmas corner of the globe the birthday anniversary of the Nazarene will be celebrated with merriment and rejoicing.

Holly, mistletoe, Christmas bells, undying symbols of the Yuletide season, will be hung in thousands of homes.

The United States, rolling in luxury, is spending millions on Christmas presents.

But there is another side to the situation.

Here is a Lorain father ill and unable to work for months. Many small children are in the family. One of them, perhaps, is crippled.

Bills pile up, grocery bills, doctor bills, more bills.

Empty cupboards.

Will there be a Christmas in such a home as this? Or will it just be Dec. 25.

With the cooperation of the Journal readers, the Mary Lee Tucker club plans to adopt a number of  needy families this Christmas. They will be selected soon.

It has been several years since the Mary Lee Tucker club was first organized. Hundreds of Lorain people have been helped by it.

Last Christmas, five families were adopted. The response was so favorable that it has been decided to add several more this year.

In addition to this, the club will adopt the Lorain-co Home.

The Mary Lee Tucker organization is asking the talented people in the county to volunteer to give a program in the home during Christmas week.

There will be no duplication in the work of the Mary Lee Tucker club. Adopted families will be entirely supplied through this agency. Other benevolent agencies will be asked to cooperate in this aim.

Every precaution to adopt families containing children, which are in need and worthy will be taken. In the same manner as last year, I will confer with school and authorities, the public health system, school; nurses, the Red Cross and other persons in close touch with poverty and the city. Adoption of the families will be based upon their recommendations.

Here is how you can help in bringing holiday happiness into the lives of friendless and needy Lorain families and to inmates of the county home:

First, money gifts will be received. The funds will be used for the purchase of foods, "sweets," clothing and toys. At the end of this article is a coupon for use in making contributions.

Second, you might buy a Christmas dinner for one of the adopted families. Nothing is quite so heartening to a family on the brink of despair as a variation in food, a hot, steaming Yuletide meal.

Third, canned goods and other staple foods are solicited for use in making up Christmas baskets; however, used clothing is not requested.

Toys or the money with which to buy them are in demand. All over the city are mothers promising their children that Santa Claus will come, altho they know he cannot come unless a miracle happens.

Mary Lee Tucker wants to place the order for toys and other gifts for Lorain's needy children with Santa Claus in Lorain stores. No substitute for Santa will answer the purpose in the heart of a child.

Bring or send your gifts to the Journal office, 209 7th st.

The Mary Lee Tucker organization apparently predated the advice column. As the article above noted, "It has been several years since the Mary Lee Tucker club was first organized." It also stated, "Last Christmas, five families were adopted. The response was so favorable that it has been decided to add several more this year."

Unfortunately, the back issues of The Lorain Journal for December 1925 are not available on microfilm, so I am unable to research the Mary Lee Tucker effort for that Christmas. And I could find no mention of Mary Lee Tucker in the December 1924 pages of the Journal either.

In an oral history posted online (here) on the Lorain Public Library website, longtime Journal staffer Jim Mahoney credits a particular Journal employee with really getting the Mary Lee Tucker program going. Her name was Rhea Soper Eddy and she was Society Editor. According to Mr. Mahoney, "She took it upon herself to write stories so that people would donate cash, and drop off boxes of food and clothing at the Journal. It all worked out so that they could help the needy."

I've recently discovered that Rhea Soper Eddy joined The Lorain Journal staff on November 18, 1924. So it all makes sense that 1925 was probably the first big year that Mary Lee Tucker launched a newspaper campaign, and that previous years were done quietly, and without fanfare.

Irregardless, it's safe to assume that the charitable good done in the name of Mary Lee Tucker dates back to the early 1920s. That's a heck of a streak, and a credit to The Morning Journal that they keep it going year after year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Early Days of Mary Lee Tucker Part 1

Every year when the holidays roll around, it's time once again for The Morning Journal to begin accepting contributions for its annual Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-a-Child program, which provides needy school-aged children with warm winter clothing. Clothes are paid for by donations from Morning Journal readers and various organizations, and The Morning Journal absorbs the administrative costs.

It's a great program that's been a part of the Lorain scene each Christmas for as long as I remember, so naturally I was curious: how long has the Mary Lee Tucker program been around – and who was Mary Lee Tucker anyway?

Quite simply, "Mary Lee Tucker" was the pen name of the Journal's local advice columnist.

It was on February 15, 1926 that a special article appeared in The Lorain Journal's Women's page (below) announcing a brand new column written by Mary Lee Tucker.

The article explained that while the Journal had carried a variety of advice columns in the past (offering advice on love, marriage, child rearing, etc.), the problem was that they were produced elsewhere and had no local Lorain angle. The new Mary Lee Tucker advice column would answer letters written and sent in by Lorain readers – which made it special and more relevant.

As you can see from the article, the philanthropic nature of the Mary Lee Tucker name was evident with the introduction of the column. "Who Will Aid This Family?" was the heading of a small box, which asked readers that if they, or someone they knew was in need, to contact Mary Lee Tucker at The Lorain Journal.

Mary Lee Tucker's Question Box began as a feature in the paper the very next day with two "canned" stories – one about a man who picked out a diamond ring for his fiancee – only to find out that she refused to accept it because it was too small – and the other about a young mother who was upset that her daughter had started smoking.

It was on Feb. 17 that the column received its first letter, and it was answered in the column on that date. The letter was from a Mrs. W. H., who asked if a husband had a right to open his wife's letters. It seems that her husband had opened a letter from her parents, and "because his name has not been mentioned he was angry."

Mary Lee Tucker's answer had two parts. The first part dealt with the legal aspect – that it was a federal offense to open first class mail not addressed to you. But she added that, "it is a serious offense against good taste to open another's mail without consent, even in the case of husband and wife. Society would be seriously demoralized if letters were habitually read, or censored, by a third party. The right to privacy in one's correspondence should be one of the privileges retained in the married state."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Steel Stamping Company/Mascon Toy Company

The former home of The Steel Stamping Company,
and later, The Mascon Toy Company at 3553 Broadway in Lorain
The Mascon Toy Co. division of Masco Corp. was located at 3553 Broadway in Lorain from the mid-1960s until the mid 1970s – but the original business at that location had much earlier roots.

1950 city directory ad
Before it became part of the Masco Corp. family, the company started out in the early 1920s as The Steel Stamping Company. Its earliest listing in a city directory was in the 1921-22 edition (although its address might have been outside of the directory's listing area in earlier editions).

Through the years, the company was usually listed as a toy and game manufacturer. A 1950 city directory ad listed its products as "steel toys, Hy-Speed wagons, wheelbarrows, automatic toy dial telephones, children's tubular chairs and tables, and tools and dies."

It was still listed as Steel Stamping Company in the 1963 book, although as a division of Masco Corp.

By the mid-1960s it was listed as the Mascon Toy Co. Division of the Masco Corp. By 1970, the parent company was now identified as Leisure Group, Inc., located in Los Angeles. By 1974 the directory listing for the company had changed to Blazon-Flexible Flyer Mascon Toys.

By 1975 the address was listed as vacant. Today it is the home of the Lorain City Garage.

It's pretty easy to go online and find photos of vintage toys made by the Steel Stamping Company in Lorain. They're usually phones – and here's a few of them (below).

Courtesy Mariana Roberts Photography
1940s Model (Courtesy Etsy)
1960s Model (Courtesy Etsy)

It's a little harder to find toys produced by the Mascon Toy Company, but here are a few (below). There are a couple of cute novelty banks, as well as the well-known Sticky Finger game.
Courtesy Etsy
Courtesy Ebay
Courtesy Ebay
Sticky Finger game

Just what is the Sticky Finger game, and how did you play it? Watch this vintage TV commercial and find out!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mascon Toy Co. article – Oct. 28, 1968 Part 2

Here's the second half of the article written by Bob Cotleur about Fred Donnell, the president of Lorain's Mascon Toy Company. It contains some interesting reflections by Mr. Donnell about what makes a good toy, as well as some thoughts about toy guns.

The article ran in The Journal on October 28, 1968.

The Mascon Toy Co.
Fred Donnell: He Makes Toys – Part 2
Staff Writer
Donnell said the industry today is American. "Before World War I most toys were made in Germany. Japan made some, but American manufacturers jumped at the chance created by the war. We ourselves, are an infinitely small part of the total toy market. We're only the largest in our own field."

He doesn't make gun-toys although he said guns were "a fifth of the industry." He also said war games and guns don't sell as well in wartime as during peace. He said this year some major department stores won't offer guns of any kind, even cowboys and Indian types.

"But I don't object to guns. Kids like them. And I'd want my own child to learn which end of the gun is the hot end."

DONNELL SAID the toy industry is like the auto industry. "A good idea must be kept under lock and key. This is the only industry where 60 percent of the annual sales result in packages being opened on one single day of the year – Christmas."

Because of that the plant operates from a production high of about 250 people in August to an unnumbered low in December.

The lines themselves are fascinating and what you might expect of Santa's workshop except the gnomes and elves are adult women, mostly wearing a blue smock. One sprays a color, another puts a spring inside, a third hammers two halves together, a fourth tests the toy (and how does she explain that job at home?).

"Toys," Donnell said, "are lovable. And some are socialized. This minibus has six riders. And who are the six? It's mother, father, brother, sister, Uncle somebody or another. The child names them."

He held up a fire engine with a four-man crew.

"Notice that one fireman is painted yellow. The rest are blue. The child knows the social order, that all aren't equal. The man in yellow is evidently boss.

"The best sellers in toys are those that mimic adult life. Give the child the right toys, one that stimulates imagination, and you are talking about the future leaders of the world. A child wants to be anything but what he really is. Toys give him that outlet."

FRED DONNELL AND his wife Patricia live at 425 Rock Creek Run, Amherst. Two sons by an earlier marriage include Fred III, 23, with the computer division of United Airlines on the west coast, and I'm [sic], 21, with the army in training at Ft. Knox.

Even toymaker Donnell knows that created toys aren't the whole answer. He once bought his sons $10 worth of scrap lumber "when you got something for the $10."

The boys built a fort with only a little help from dad. "It wasn't perfect, but what the hell..."

Donnell has another vantage point of viewing the toy world.

"The birth rate interests me. The death rate doesn't."

Lorain-made Mascon toy from the LCHS exhibition
(courtesy WEOL.northcoastnow.com website)
The Lorain County Historical Society (LCHS) is featuring a Vintage Toy Exhibition at the Lorain County History Center from December 3, 2013 through January 31, 2014. The exhibition features 30 vintage toys from the LCHS collection, as well as some from private collections.

Many Lorain-made toys made by the Mascon Toy Company are included in the exhibit. Click here for more information about the exhibition.