Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My "Link" to Bob Berstling (1959-2013)

Bob's 1977 AKHS Yearbook photo
It was sad and strange to go to the wake of my Admiral King High School classmate Bob Berstling last night.

Although I hadn't seen Bob in a long time, I'd known him all my life. The Berstlings lived on Carmelita Court, and the corner of their backyard butted up to the yard of our W. 30th Street home. So we played together as little kids in the early 1960s and were in the same kindergarten class at Charleston Elementary.
One terrible memory from that era that I'll never forget is the time Bob got hurt while playing at our house. We were both running, going from the house into the yard, when Bob accidentally put his hand through a glass storm door. I still remember Bob sitting on a stool, crying, while my Mom bandaged him up. (Fortunately this was back in the era before people became sue-crazy.)
When I was halfway through first grade, my family moved, so I didn't seen Bob again until we met up at Masson Junior High. It was at Admiral King, though, where I began to hang around with Bob again. Bob and I had mutual friends, and we all ate lunch together every day at the same table.

Some of the silly things we did at lunch – such as daring one of our gang to toss a piece of food at a cute girl at a nearby table – still make me laugh. Bob was usually the instigator in these hijinks, good-naturedly threatening to "cream" someone if they wouldn't carry out the dare.

It was during this lunchtime tomfoolery that I first heard Bob's funny laugh. It was a gleeful giggle that slowly erupted into an explosive "HAW-HAW-HAW!!"

Around junior year, I joined a polka/wedding band that Bob was in called The Four Links. The band consisted of four high school kids: an accordion player, a drummer, an electric guitarist (Bob) and me (on trumpet & trombone). The bookings, etc. were handled by a few of the parents, usually by Bob's father (Robert), a great guy who was a musician himself.

Thinking of my time with Bob as a "Link" makes me smile to this day.

The Four Links all wore big burgundy bow ties and matching checkered black and white vests (which our mothers sewed from a pattern) that made us look like an underage barbershop quartet.

We were all so shy that we never sang on any of the tunes. Every song we performed was an instrumental – except for Tequila.

We were so afraid of the audience that we were even afraid to address them. I remember him once that the accordion player had to threaten Bob with bodily harm to announce over the microphone that "The Four Links will now take a short break."

We played at the Saddle Inn in Avon Lake, Emerald Valley nightclub in Lorain and many other halls and venues. I feel sorry for the people who hired us to play at their wedding receptions. But it was fun to play out and be around Bob.

That's the thing I remember most about him from those high school days. Bob was a kind soul who was fun to be around and who could make you laugh. And it was even better if you could make him laugh, just to hear that distinctive guffaw.

I didn't see much of Bob after I came back to Lorain after college. Sometimes it's hard to keep high school friendships going. But I was always glad to see him when I ran into him at Willow Hardware or Fligner's or some other place.

Bob was a great guy and will be missed.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Brookside High School Mystery

Okay, I'll admit it – I'm stumped. I sure hate to introduce another (groan) mystery to this blog, but here goes.

Several years ago I bought a copy of the 1937 Brookside High School The Leader yearbook on Ebay. It had this great old photo of how the school looked back then, and I looked forward to using it in one of my 'then and now' pairings.

In the yearbook, it reads, "A very beautiful lawn borders the school on the south and west." So I assumed that the view above is looking at the west side of the building in late afternoon.

So last fall I drove over the the building complex at Harris and Colorado to shoot the 'now' photo. But when I went to post it a few days ago, I had cold feet. Here's the photo of the current west side of the building fronting on Harris (below).

The problem? It just doesn't match up with the vintage photo. The building seems to be about the same size, but the windows, doors and chimneys are all in the wrong places. Could the building have been modified that much? I don't know.

Here's another vintage view of the building. Note the shrubs spelling out BHS; it would make sense for the letters to face either Harris Road (to the west) or Colorado Avenue (to the south).

Here's another view showing school buses (this is from the 1937 yearbook). Based on my theory, they are pulling out onto Harris Road.

And here's another view. Based on the chimneys, this view is the 'back' of the building – facing east.

Anyway, all of this bothered me – not knowing for sure, that is – so I studied an aerial photo of the current school complex (below).
I began to wonder. Perhaps the building with the chimneys shown in all these vintage photos isn't the smaller building with the white roof (facing Harris) but instead is the larger white roof building at the top of the photo.

The spouse went to middle school in that larger building in the 1970s and remembers the shoe scrapers mounted on the back steps of each classroom (you can see one in the photo below at the far right).

Anyway, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea! Could the view of the building shown in the vintage photo no longer exist because it's covered up by the various additions?

To find out, I drove around to the other side of this building (visible in the aerial photo) to find out. Here's what's left of that view (below) after all the additions. Could this be the original 'front' of the building?
Unfortunately – I don't know! This view doesn't seem to jive with the original, vintage photo at the top of this post either. Once again, doors are in the wrong place and plus, there is an ornate architectural feature above a door.

So – if any of you Brookside grads or Sheffield Village historians have any theories, please leave a comment!

I'm going to keep on looking (what else would I do with my time, edge my sidewalk?!).


This is actually the south side of the building –
(not the west side as I originally thought)
Ah, that was fast. I've been informed by Sandy Jensen that Ed Herdendorf of the Sheffield Historical Society (and author of the book Images of America – Sheffield Village) has my answer).

I had it all wrong (no surprise there).

As Mr. Herdendorf notes, "Anyway, there is really no mystery, the first view that he shows is looking at the south side of Brookside facing Colorado Avenue. On page 75 of the Images of America Sheffield Village book I show a similar view with Colorado Avenue still as a dirt road. In the mid-1950s the new gym was added which totally changed the south facade of the school."

At least it makes sense as to why I couldn't figure it out; the vintage view of the building no longer exists. The chimneys should have provided me with a clue! Oh well.

Special thanks to Mr. Herdendorf and Sandy for their help!

Friday, April 26, 2013

In Memory of Terry Emerick

For many years, when I drove down Colorado Avenue past the former Brookside High School, I would notice a small sign mounted at the base of the announcement board in front of the school.

It read: In Memory of Terry Emerick

For years, I wondered who Terry Emerick was, and what had happened for his name to be posted on the sign. Although the spouse graduated from Brookside in the early 1980s, she didn't know, and no one else I asked did either.

I can't tell you how long I wondered about this – even after the sign was taken down.

Finally, last August I asked Brookside graduate and Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Board of Education member, Sandra Jensen. She suggested that I pose the question to Mark Cizl, a 1972 BHS grad who is currently a music teacher and video club director at Sheffield/Sheffield Lake Schools.

About a month after I contacted him, Mr. Cizl replied back with the answer. "Terry Emerick died in Canada in a swimming accident while [his] family was on vacation," he wrote. "He would have graduated around 1964, give or take a year or so."

With that information, I was finally able to find the sad mention of it in a 1964 copy of The Leader yearbook.

Terry Emerick
A whole page was devoted to Terry. Under the words "IN MEMORIAM" was a large photo of him. Beneath the photo was a simple sentiment:

"Terry Emerick, a member of the class of 1964, was a typical teenager, but he was also an individual with a warm personality that was all his own. Among his many activities were Basketball, Baseball, Freshman Football, Band, B-Club and Hi-Y."

Anyway, I was able to find the account of the tragedy in the Lorain Journal. It appeared on Monday, July 1, 1963.

Brookside Boy Drowns In Canada

What started as a vacation ended in tragedy Saturday when Terrell A. (Terry) Emerick, popular Brookside High School senior, drowned in Canada.

Terry and his family had traveled to Muskoka, Ontario, Canada, for their yearly vacation Friday. The accident occurred when Terry and a group of friends went swimming off the dock in Macey's Bay on Highway 501, five miles south of Honey Harbor.

Terry waded into the water to a depth of about five feet and started to call for help. A friend, Nick Schiau of Brooklyn, Ohio, grabbed Terry and went down with him three times before giving up. Other boys then attempted a rescue but failed.

Terry and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Emerick, 3096 E. River Rd., had gone to Canada for their vacation with five other families. His father stated that Terry knew how to swim and had been in the water earlier in the day with no trouble.

Terry was a senior at Brookside High School where he played varsity basketball. He was secretary of the varsity band and had played in the school band for four years. Terry was also a member of Hi-Y. During the summer Terry played and umpired Little League baseball.

He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Emerick; his grandmother, Mrs. Mary Emerick, Lorain; maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Vance, Sheffield; and an aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. George Oniga, Brooklyn, Ohio.

Friends may call after 7 p.m. at the John R. Dovin Funeral Home. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the funeral home, followed by a Mass at 9:30 a.m. at St. Teresa Church. Burial will be in Cavalry Cemetery.

Special thanks to Sandy Jensen and Mark Cizl for their help with this post.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Original Brookside High School Then & Now

It was great to read about the ceremonial groundbreaking last month (here) for the new Brookside High and Sheffield Middle School building on Harris Road. It will be the third Brookside High School (the spouse graduated from the second one).

Since the original Brookside High School (currently serving as Sheffield Middle School) will eventually be raised, it's not a bad time for it to get the 'then and now' treatment. Above is a photo that appeared in the 1966 Brookside High School The Leader yearbook, showing the original building that soon would be replaced with the second one.

Here's the matching shot from last fall (below).

By George, those shrubs are huge!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What's he doing with that boot, anyway?

Have you ever driven through Downtown Sandusky and noticed the little fella above – Sandusky's beloved Boy With the Boot – in the fountain in front of the Courthouse, and wondered what his story was?

Vintage postcard
Well, wonder no more. The Boy With the Boot is the subject of my article in the Spring edition of The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette. It's on the newsstands now – and its free!

The Boy With the Boot has been a part of the Sandusky community since July 1895. He's been through a lot – everything from the infamous 1924 tornado that leveled Downtown Lorain to various attacks, including a shocking 1991 beheading. But he's endured to become the very symbol of Sandusky.

You locals can pick up your copy of The Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette at the Vermilion Farm Market, the Oberlin Public Library and the Sandusky Library.

If you can't get to any of those places and would really like a copy of the article now, let me know. I have some extra copies of the newspaper and would be happy to send you one. But more than likely I'll do a future post with much of the same content as my article.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

There's that little guy again!

Last November (here), I posted a few late 1950s car ads from the Lorain Journal that featured a little clip art guy that's the current mascot – "Ed" – of Ed Tomko Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Avon Lake. Whoever designs the ads for Ed Tomko puts the vintage mascot in all kinds of amusing situations. (Most recently he was dressed like the Easter Bunny.)
While trolling through rolls of microfilm at the Lorain Public Library recently, I noticed that the little mascot appeared in more than just auto ads. Here he is (above) in an April 1957 Lorain Journal ad for Peter Chula, a Lorain painting contractor. (To learn more about Peter Chula, click here.)

I still like the idea that a piece of 1950s clip art is finding new life in the 2010s.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What used to be there?

Subway restaurant at 301 E. Erie Avenue
I got an email the other day from Jeremy with a pretty good question. "I was wondering about what used to be where Subway is on E. Erie," he wrote. "Was it a bakery of some sort? I've been trying hard to think of what it was and nothing comes to mind."

Nothing came to my mind either, which is not that surprising, so I hit the city directories at the library to find out.

As to be expected, the businesses at that prominent corner were almost all service stations going back to at least the mid-1920s. Some of their names include McConnell Auto Service (late 1920s to early 1930s), John Schmauch (late 1930s), Ohio Oil Company (1940s), and Lorain Marathon Service (1950s).

The building was vacant for a while in the 1960s.

The listing for the early 1970s turned up a nice surprise for me. For a few years it was Little's Texaco Station, run by James Little. Based on his home address listed, I'm sure this is the same Mr. Little who also worked at the B. F. Goodrich plant in Avon Lake. For years he worked on the cars of fellow B. F. G. employees and their families at his home garage on W. 14th Street. He was a very nice guy.

By 1980, the 301 E. Erie address was listed as the Gross Plumbing warehouse. The listing continued throughout the 1980s until it was listed as 'vacant' in the 1989 book.

Subway took over the address in the early 1990s ( a few books were missing and I don't have an exact year).

Thanks for the question, Jeremy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Grand Opening of Westgate – April 1958

Here's a Grand Opening ad that may be of interest to Lorain west siders. It ran in the Lorain Journal on April 22, 1958 to announce the opening of the Lorain-Westgate Shopping Center at W. 21st Street and Leavitt Road (Route 58) – 55 years ago this month.

It's interesting to note that the shopping center's ads originally had that great cowboy theme. It was used in a few other ads for the shopping center but was eventually dropped.

Note the celebrities they had lined up: Captain Penny, KYW DJ Joe Finan, Mr. Banjo from WJW, and Cleveland Indians Minnie Minoso and Dick Tomanek (who was born in Avon Lake). Safari Jack had top billing, but I haven't been able to find out anything about him.

Anyway, many of us have great memories of shopping there over the years. The center was a regular stop for our family on Saturday mornings in the 1960s because of the Hough Bakery outlet there; we also shopped at the grocery stores that were located there.

And of course later the shopping center was home to Jeff & Flash's Monoplies as well as Stars Disco.

Today the center looks nice but is pretty much deserted except for the Family Dollar store which will soon be replaced by a brand new one to be built nearby.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Columbus Clippers, ring your bell!

Why did I save this for more than thirty years? And whatever happened to SuperX drug stores?
Although I look back fondly at going to Indians games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium with my dad and brothers back in the 1960s, I must confess I'm not an Indians fan anymore. A variety of factors  – players with bloated salaries whose names I couldn't pronounce, a stadium with no memories, a diluted American League, inter-league play – all ruined it for me. And to think I used to sit around and score the games in the late 70s and early 80s.

But I do root for one baseball team purely out of nostalgia: the Columbus Clippers of the AAA International League.

One of my souvenirs
I know it makes no sense, but I still have a soft spot in my heart (and my head apparently) for the Clippers. During my last few years at Ohio State, when springtime rolled around, it meant it was time to head out to Franklin County Stadium on W. Mound Street to catch some games.

Back then, the Clippers were the farm team for the Yankees, so they always had pretty good players (such as fan favorite Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni) and were inevitably league champs each year. Tickets were cheap (two bucks for general admission) and so were the hotdogs and beer.

They had lots of promotions at the games, including plenty of freebies and fireworks. The San Diego Chicken used to come around a few times during the season too; I saw him perform there a few times and he was always hilarious.

Although it was corny, the Clippers had their own theme songs too. Here's some of the lyrics to one of them: "Ring Your Bell."

Columbus Clippers, our team is number one!
Columbus Clippers, our fans are half the fun!
No matter who they're playing, they'll always play'em well!
Columbus Clippers ring your bell!

My Columbus Clippers retro cap
At the mention of "ring your bell," fans who had official Columbus Clippers cowbells would shake them and it created quite a ruckus. (Of course, my roomies and I made up our own lyrics to the song, which we sang while chomping on smelly cigars. I feel sorry for the people who sat near us.)

I have many happy memories of those games and those days.

Now, more than 30 years later, the Clippers are no longer the farm team of the Yankees. They're now affiliated with the (groan) Tribe. They've played in a new stadium since 2009, and I understand that they've pretty much phased out the goofy 'ring your bell' song.

But I'm still a fan, and still root for them. I even had my keys on a Columbus Clipper keychain up until a few years ago when it literally fell apart – just like I'm starting to.

What's left of my Clipper keychain
Nevertheless, during the Clippers' last season at the old stadium, I dragged the spouse down to Columbus for a game. We had a nice dinner at Schmidt's in German Village, and then headed over to the stadium.

The San Diego, er, uh I mean the Famous Chicken performed that night, the Clippers won, and it was just like old times.

Except for no smelly stogies.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cherikee Red Soda

Vintage can from Cotton Club era – currently on Ebay
While writing about local soft drinks during the last few weeks, I mentioned Cherikee Red – a pop that I remember from my youth, mainly because of its distinctive can and the unique spelling of its name.

Vintage cans
It wasn't a pop that we drank very often. Mom was much more likely to buy Pepsi, Vernors or whatever root beer (Hires, A&W) was on sale. But since Cherikee Red was produced by the Cotton Club Bottling Company in Cleveland back then, it was probably available locally at a good price, so Mom must have picked some up once in a while, along with the other assorted Cotton Club flavors like 50/50.

Recently, I was surprised to see Cherikee Red on the shelves at one of the ubiquitous mom-and-pop convenient stores in Cleveland. I hadn't seen or thought about the brand for decades, but there it was – with the same Indian chief on the can (although he was no longer printed in full color). It's no longer made by Cotton Club either.
The current can design

So why I am writing about this? Because apparently the brand has been rediscovered and is now wildly popular in Pennsylvania. They can't keep it on the shelves – customers come in and buy all they can.

You could probably make a bundle buying up the stuff and selling it to Pennsylvanians – at least until the novelty wears off.

Here's the story.

Anyway, it's amazing that the brand has bounced around from company to company and is still popular. It tastes the same too, if you're curious. (I just drank a can of it.)

Now, inevitably, some Native Americans aren't very happy about the soda pop brand. They point out that the misspelling of the word 'Cherokee' doesn't make it any less racist. They also note that the plains style warbonnet worn by the can's mascot was never worn by Cherokees.

It just goes to show you that what may evoke warm feelings of nostalgia and childhood to one person may trigger painful pangs of racism to another.

I never liked Cherikee Red all that much anyway despite the great can design. (But I am looking forward to the can of 50/50 that I bought at that same "Kwik-E-Mart" in Cleveland!)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sam Klein Company: the Rest of the Story

A graphic Jan. 22, 1942 newspaper ad
Here's a few more ads and information about The Sam Klein Co. and its successor stores that I found since my post (back here). After reading some of the great reader comments, which filled in the gaps in the store's later history, I realized I'd better go back and do some more research about that era of this well-known Lorain icon.

I was surprised to find out that Sam Klein had a store out at Midway Mall in 1966, the same year the mall opened.

Here's a 1968 ad for Sam Klein (below). If you're a fan of Mad Men like the spouse and me, the show is up to 1968 right now. Based on this ad, I guess it's appropriate that Don Draper is still wearing his fedora.
Feb. 1, 1968 Journal ad

Both the Downtown Lorain store and the Midway Mall store continued to appear in the Lorain phone book until the 1975 edition, when only the Midway Mall store was listed.

On October 21, 1983 the small article (below) appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram. It announced that the Sam Klein Co. store was going to close its Midway Mall store in January 1984 in preparation for its move to a new location nearby.

Oct. 21, 1983 C-T article

The new location turned out to be to the Midway Square shopping center.

Here's a January 1, 1985 Journal ad from that era (below).

Eventually the store became known as Warren Klein's Store for Men.

In May 1994, Warren Klein announced his retirement. In large newspaper ads he stated, "After 43 years in the business personally, I have reached retirement age. I am going out of business and closing the store, which has been in my family for 103 years."

He added, "My heartfelt thanks for your many years of support."

Here's a link to the obituary of Allan Klein, who along with his brother Warren Klein owned Sam Klein Company and its successor, Klein's Store for Men.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The "Best Ever" Oh Boy

Have you ever eaten something and decided that whatever it was (a steak, a salad, a pizza, etc.), it was the best you'd ever tasted?

The spouse and I do that a lot. A few years after we got married, we travelled to Connecticut for a wedding and while we were there, we had some bagels that we still talk about more than twenty years later.

I guess when you hit middle age, you start to reminisce about food – oh well.

Here's another example, closer to home. In the mid-1990s we bought some glazed fried cakes at Bob's Donuts on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and they were hands-down the very best donuts we ever had – anywhere. They were warm, and the sugary glazed coating didn't shatter when you bit into them. We still talk about those too.

So now, whenever the spouse and I eat something really, really good, we joke about adding it to this running list of "the best ever." And I usually add, "I might as well never eat another one, because it'll never be as good as this one."

Which brings me to the latest addition to this "best ever" list.

Last weekend the spouse and I stopped in at Midway Oh Boy. It'd been a while since we were there.

While I was enjoying my Oh Boy (we sat on stools at the counter since the booths were all full), I sensed something different. Now, to me Oh Boys are always good – some better than others – but this one was fantastic. The twin patties were cooked to perfection; slightly pink inside and literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious with plenty of Oh Boy secret sauce.

My Oh Boy was so good I had to flag down a longtime employee and pepper her with questions: Why is this Oh Boy so fantastic? What did you do differently? Is it just my aging taste buds?

She smiled and explained that they had changed their meat supplier and were now serving an even better quality of meat, delivered fresh daily from Amish country.

Needless to say, that Oh Boy was added to the "best ever" list.

But perish the thought that I would never eat another one lest it not measure up to the last one. I intend to keep on eating Oh Boys and looking for the next "best one ever."

Do you have a "best ever" food experience? If so, please leave a comment and tell me about it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jay's Food Center

Here's an ad from the April 28, 1955 edition of the Lorain Journal – 58 years ago this month. It highlights the continued grand opening festivities surrounding Jay's Food Center, owned by Frank "Jay" Jursinski. The store was located in the now long-gone shopping strip on the west side of Oberlin Avenue between Meister Road and W. 33rd Street that had Whalens Drugs at the northern end.

If the photo of the store looks familiar, that's because it was later the home of Willow Hardware.

On December 16, 1961, it was announced in the Chronicle-Telegram that "increased business has caused Jay's Sparkle Market to construct a new and larger supermarket south from its present Oberlin Ave. location. Construction has started on the new supermarket building at 38th and Oberlin Ave. on a three-acre site." It added that "the new building, with parking spaces for 200 cars, will be next to the First Federal Savings and Loan Association."

The article also mentioned that Jursinski was a World War II veteran who founded his business at 14th and Long Ave. in 1946. He eventually sold that location and leased his store space in the shopping strip before deciding to construct the new building.

In May 1964 the new building became the third outlet in the Meyer Goldberg Super Market chain.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Maples Motel

On many a Sunday drive, I've admired the sign for the Maples Motel on U.S. Route 6 just outside Sandusky. It's right where Perkins Avenue intersects with the highway by the railroad tracks.

A few weeks ago while driving to Sandusky to research an article for the Black Swamp Trader & Firelands Gazette, I finally pulled over and grabbed a shot. It's such a great sign.

The motel has its own website, which provides a little history of the place. Seventy years ago, the place started out by offering cabins to motorists seeking accommodations after a day of fun at Cedar Point. In the 1950s, the owners built the current motel, and retained a few of the cabins.

The Maples Motel is well-represented on tripadvisor.com. Most of its customers really love the place and its retro feeling, and come back again and again. The only negative seems to be its proximity to the railroad tracks.

The motel played a major role in a manhunt that took place back in August of 1960. Two escapees from the Soldier's Home reformatory honor camp held the motel's owners and family at knife point before forcing the son to drive them away in the family truck. The son drove them to Huron, and the escapees got off at the entrance to Huron High School. They were later captured in what was later described as the greatest manhunt in recent Erie County history, involving 100 officers and guards, as well as planes.

Anyway, it's nice to see a Mom-and-Pop motel – still in the same family after all these years – still thriving in the 2010s.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Canada Dry Bottling Co. on Colorado Avenue

May 9, 1957 Lorain Journal ad
Last week I mentioned that Canada Dry was one of the national soda pop brands bottled in Lorain. It was bottled by – what else? – the Canada Dry Bottling Company at 1251 Colorado Avenue (just west of the intersection with Kansas Avenue).

Coca-Cola's sprite boy
The ad above ran in the Lorain Journal on May 9, 1957. The layout with the kid's face peeking out from behind the bottle is vaguely reminiscent of ads featuring the well-known Coca-Cola sprite boy (at left).

But getting back to the Canada Dry ad. I love the look of awe on the kid's face as he eyes the bottle of pop. It's probably because pop was something that kids only got to enjoy occasionally back then. (While I was growing up, we only had pop on weekends – with Yala's Pizza on Friday night, and then maybe a root beer or Pepsi float on Saturday night.)

The ad's also interesting because I didn't know that Canada Dry made anything besides ginger ale and tonic water. By George, they slapped their name on a whole line of soda pop flavors!

Anyway, the Canada Dry Bottling Company first appeared in the City Directory around 1950. It continued at that address until the late 1960s. Edwards Garage and Towing took over the address around 1969 or so.

In the 1985 book, the towing company was joined by The Corner Store model railroad store (run by Jim Edwards) at 1249 Colorado. Then in the 1986 book the Edwards towing company disappeared and the model railroad store lasted until Jim Edwards passed away.

Here is the building at 1249 Colorado today (below).

I suspect that the Canada Dry Bottling Company was located there as well. Jim Edwards owned and operated both the towing business (which took over the bottling company address) and the model train company according to his obituary. Plus, the model train store sign was made out of an old Canada Dry sign (which is laying against the building in the above photo).

UPDATE (Dec. 14, 2017)
Be sure to visit this new post about Canada Dry and the bottling plant on Colorado Avenue!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wild West Sarsaparilla Wrap-up

August 1972 Wild West Sarsaparilla ad from the Billings Gazette
To wrap up this whole Wild West Sarsaparilla business, here's an article that appeared in the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram on May 13, 1979. It's a nice snapshot of World Trade Inc., the company that marketed Sarsaparilla and other beverages.


Lorain soft drink business fills 'old west'
'Firewater' isn't number 'Un", but hits spot

C-T Staff Writer

LORAIN – Cars and steel have made Lorain its name, but somewhere out in Wyoming a thirsty cowboy may be guzzling a tall glass of yet another Lorain product – Wild West Firewater.

Although the "Flaming Red Soft Drink of the Old West" – along with Wild West Sarsaparilla and the new Wild West Lemonade – are brewed elsewhere, company headquarters are here in an out-of-the-way office on West 12th Street.

"We're not in with the big three – Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and Seven-Up – but each year our volume increases, which tells you something when we have no national advertising campaign," says Gerald Strohacker, president of World Trade, Inc.

Currently, through a dozen franchises and "umpteen" distributors in many states, his firm markets several million cases a year of the three drinks in cans, syrup and bottles.

UNLIKE THE legendary Indian beverage, however, firewater is not alcoholic. Rather, it's a red cherry-strawberry-cream soda concoction aimed mainly at youngsters. And most weeks in the four years the company has been selling it, letters pour in from kids, their parents and grandparents extolling the drink's virtues, Strohacker says.

"We're small enough that we can respond to all the letters. We always try to oblige the request of a small boy collecting cans or someone else who wants a bumper sticker," he said.

The company's best selling and oldest beverage is Sarsaparilla – the "First Soft Drink of the Old West" – a sweetened carbonated drink from the root beer family that is also geared toward the younger set.

World Trade, Inc. began producing the drink 11 years ago, along with eight or ten other companies, but now has only one competitor, Strohacker said proudly.

Recently, the company introduced for the summer months Wild West Lemonade, which tastes "just like Mom made it in the kitchen with fresh lemons," Strohacker said.

1974 Skaggs store ad from the Joplin Globe
featuring Wild West Sarsaparilla
WITH A NAME like "Wild West," it's easy to guess that the drinks are most popular in the Wyoming area, but the trade name is registered in both China and Japan for eventual production there.

"Sarsaparilla is not new in Asia, and in some parts of the world, like Puerto Rico, is regarded as a very healthful drink," Strohacker said.

Distribution is somewhat limited by state laws, according to Malcolm Hartley, former editorial editor of the Lorain Journal, the company's secretary and one of five stockholders. For example, Michigan's law of a 10-cent deposit per can forced the company out of the state.

Locally, the drinks are distributed through most beverage carry-out stores and highly visible at Al Gantose's concession stand in Lorain's Lakeview Park. Gantose, Allen Ashbolt of Lorain, and John Pappas of the insurance agency are the other stockholders.

Strohacker and Hartley are proud of the drinks' quality, which with no additives and no caffeine are as "wholesome and pure" as a soft drink can be, Hartley said. A diet drink hasn't been tested because the company prefers to shy away from saccharin.

AND THE company also has "the best cans in the business" graphically, Hartley says. The colorful Wild West scenes do indeed set the cans apart on a grocery shelf filled with soft drinks of every imaginable type.

Perhaps the only drawback to the drinks is "they don't mix with anything alcoholic, at least not that we've been able to find," Hartley laughed. When serving conventions where a mixer is desired, the company provides its own Seven-Up-type brand, Quaff, which hasn't been sold through distributors because of the direct competition with the powerful "Uncola."

The business has taken off so well that Strohacker, now a Lorain Port Authority member, was forced in 1972 to give up powerful positions as the vice chairman of the Lorain County Republican Central Committee and chairman of the Lorain Area Republican Central Committee because of the lack of time.

When the corporation was first formed in 1967, "we made a tremendous effort to do business overseas as a manufacturers representative, but the sometimes impossible government regulations made us decide to limit the business," Strohacker said.

ALTHOUGH the company could grow much larger with a national media blitz, Strohacker prefers the small-business approach.

"You can remain small and make a living or become big and face all the responsibility. Sometimes it's better to do one small thing well," he said.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wild West Firewater

Do you remember Wild West Firewater?

I've got to admit, I'd never heard of this soft drink until I saw it mentioned in Allen W. Ashbolt's reminisce about his father's company, World Trade Inc., and the various soft drinks it produced in Lorain.

I found a little bit of information about the brand online on one of those trademark websites. Apparently the name was registered with the United States Patent Office in 1976.

And I was pleasantly surprised to see a Wild West Firewater can for sale on Ebay right now (above).

As for its flavor, the can says it was a flaming red soft drink, so it must have been cherry-flavored. So I'm assuming it was positioned as a competitor to Cherikee Red (which by the way is still available in Ohio and Pennsylvania ).

I sure like the design of the label.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

From the E-Mail Bag #12: Wild West Sarsaparilla

Attention Lorain collectors: this classic can is currently on Ebay!
I've written about Lorain's hometown soft drink – Wild West Sarsaparilla – a few times in the last couple of years on this blog. The big advertisement for it (featuring a cartoon cowboy) that was painted on the beverage store that faced McDonalds is still imprinted on my mind.

A few days ago, the son of one of the creators of the drink left a great comment on my two-year-old post.

Allen W. Ashbolt wrote, "Wild West Sarsaparilla in Lorain was created and owned by my father, Allen D. Ashbolt and his counterparts Gerald Strohacker, and John Pappas, all of Lorain Ohio. World Trade Inc. was created by the three."

What was of great interest to me is that he confirmed my guess as to who the cartoonist was who created the great cowboy.

"My father did work for the Plain Dealer and the artwork was in fact that of Dick Dugan. Needless to say, we drank plenty of Wild West Sarsaparilla and Fire Water growing up," stated Allen.

Thanks, Allen, for sharing your story!

I always thought it was impressive that Lorain had such a great soft drink heritage. Besides original creations like Wild West Sarsaparilla and Seher's Old English Ginger Beer, there were several national brands bottled in Lorain, including Whistle and Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Sugar Castle

I mentioned the Castle yesterday, and it reminded me that I had this article. It was part of the popular Bill Scrivo's People feature in the Journal back in the 1970s. The article ran on January 19, 1975 and tells the story of Olga Blondyn, who operated the Castle during that time period. Here it is (below).


Bill Scrivo's People
Olga Blondyn and the 'Sugar Castle', 
Landmark on Lake Erie's South Shore

OLGA BLONDYN in front of The Castle
(Photo by Michael Good)
SOME BUILDINGS are just functional rectangles built to shelter people, house industries or businesses. Others have character, personality and yes, even heart.

Such a building is the fortress-like landmark on Lorain's lakefront. Most of those in the Steel City and surrounding communities know it simply as "The Castle." It started life some 50 years ago as "The Sugar Castle," a medieval fort-like home for an eccentric sugar baron of World War I, a man who made a fortune speculating in the commodity in that period.

Much of its history has been lost through the years, but the massive hand-cut sandstone blocks that make up the outer walls attest to at least part of the truth of the legend of the building and the man who built it.

"MOST OF WHAT I know about it is what people have told me," says Olga Blondyn, who operates The Castle as one of the better known restaurants in the area. She came here with her husband, Walter, in 1960.

Walter and Olga, both of Ukrainian descent, were from Akron. Walter had been a newspaperman, a wine merchant, supermarket and restaurant owner and manager of restaurants on the Ohio, New Jersey and New York turnpikes before he came to Lorain to find his dream on the South Shore of Lake Erie.

"The Castle was built by a man named Hagemen," says Olga. "He had workers from the quarries come out and cut the stone and fit it together by hand. No two stones are the same."

It is a dark, solid building with exposed beams, a big fireplace in the main dining room and many rooms. What is now the kitchen was the stable.

"They say he (Hagemen) had dogs running around the place and kept chickens in the basement," says Olga Blondyn. At any rate, he built a sturdy place, for the only thing that really shows any signs of wear are the wooden framed windows, which tend to vibrate when the wind whips off Lake Erie and send a chill through winter diners.

The Castle had numerous owners after the Sugar Baron departed and for many years was the "in place" to go. It had a reputation for good food and people came to dine from many miles around. When Walter and Olga Blondyn took it over in 1960, it needed many repairs and was on the downgrade.

WALTER BLONDYN and Olga Halamay were married on May 21, 1939. He was a man who drove himself hard at whatever he did and became ill with a high thyroid condition. He was given two weeks to live in 1958, Olga recalls.

When he bought the Castle, it was a dream come true. He added a room which houses the present bar and expanded the dining facilities. He developed an International Menu and the restaurant was once more back to regaining its former popularity.

Many business deal has been concluded over the Castle's bar or in one of its dark nooks in the lounge. It has seen sports stars and celebrities, the great and near-great.

The dream ended for Walter Blondyn on Aug. 9, 1971 when he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.

OLGA AT FIRST thought she would sell the Castle. But she delayed and today she is glad she did. She has enjoyed her role, the staff has backed her and the customers are again crowding the Castle. At lunchtime these days it's hard to get a seat.

"I intend to keep on going," says Olga. She keynotes her hopes for success on one thing.

"I think if you give people quality they are going to come back."

The Blondyns have two daughters, Mrs. Richard (Diana) Roman of Bay Village, with whom Olga now lives, and Patricia, who works for IBM. Her son-in-law plays accordion at The Castle on weekends. There are three grandchildren, Mark 9; Eric, 8; and Todd, who will be 6 in May.

OLGA CENTERS her life around the family and the Castle now and she's grateful she held on to Walter's dream.

"I don't know what I would have done if I'd let go of this place," she says. She gets a lot of help from Jean, the cook, Wally, the bartender, and the red bloused waitresses, many of them veterans at the Castle. They're all like "family" to Olga now.

She even opens the kitchen on New Year's Day to serve breakfast to the Red Barons, a group which meets on Fridays to talk and bend an elbow.

"Walter started that and after he passed away they asked me if I would," says Olga. So she serves the Barons and their guests at 9:30 a.m. even though she didn't leave the Castle until 2 a.m. New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

That 1953 Lorain Video

It's funny – in the last few days about a half-dozen people have kindly sent me the link on YouTube to that 1953 film about Lorain entitled LORAIN– An Industrial Empire in Ohio's Vacation Land. It's the same film that was shown at the Charleston Coffee House a few times back in February.

It's a great little film that's both fun to watch, and ultimately depressing – because you know those days are never coming back. I suppose I'm lucky I was born in 1959 and was able to catch the tail-end of Lorain's glory days.

I owned a copy of this video a few years ago, but loaned it to someone and it disappeared after that. So it's great to see it on YouTube.

Anyways, there's plenty of great things to see in the video if you pay attention.

Like this color shot (below) of Lorain's long-gone Civil War soldiers monument (which I wrote about many times, including here).

How about this gaudy neon sign for Lorain's iconic Castle on the Lake restaurant?

Here's a shot of a motel that shared its name with a famous chain: Holiday Inn Motel (below). It was located on Route 6 between Lorain and Vermilion at Stop 120 – which I think puts it between Baumhart Road and Sunnyside. I love that huge candle-shaped sign.

And of course, here's Lorain's Easter Basket decked out in an unusual color scheme (hope you made it down there for a photo this past Easter weekend!)

Anyway, in case there are some of you that have missed the video so far, here it is. There's a cute but rather long introductory sequence before the actual film begins.

I mentioned above that the Holiday Inn Motel was on Route 6 between Lorain and Vermilion. I kind of suspect that it was this place (below) that is just west of Baumhart on the south side of the street. Anybody know for sure?