Friday, February 28, 2014

Sid Caesar 1922 - 2014

My autographed photo of Sid Caesar
I couldn't let February end without doing a post on Sid Caesar, who passed away a little over two weeks ago. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a huge fan of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and have devoted several posts to both the movie and its stars who passed away.

Strangely enough, my parents were never big fans of Sid Caesar or Your Show of Shows. Dad preferred Ernie Kovacs and his zany brand of comedy. He also thought Jackie Gleason was "The Greatest."

Thus, as a kid I only knew Sid Caesar from the 1960s movies The Spirit is Willing and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But that was quite enough for me to become a fan.

His character in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – Melville Crump, the dentist – is one of the more sympathetic and appealing ones. He and his pretty wife Monica (played by Edie Adams) are on their second honeymoon, when they are drawn into the race to find the $350,000 buried in a state park.

Crump is the rational character who tries unsuccessfully to convince the others that they should search for the money together, and share it equally amongst themselves. But he fails to convince them of the merits of his proposal, and the result is a comic free-for-all.

What makes the Crumps' segments of the movie so funny is the fact that unlike the other treasure hunters, they are a true husband-and-wife team. The married members of the audience can identify with the Crumps as they end up in ridiculous situations of their own making. What husband can't relate with Melville Crump, watching him fail – hilariously – time and time again in front of his adoring wife?

Here's a selection of scenes from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World featuring Sid Caesar and Edie Adams as Melville and Monica Crump. Check out Caesar's great facial expressions.

Crump scoffs at his wife's suggestion that the dying man who told them about
the $350,000 might have been a practical joker
Crump tries to explain to a skeptical Lenny Pike (Jonathan Winters)
why the buried money – if they find it – would be tax-free
Trying to get there first, it's up, up and away as the Crumps
are ready to take off in the 1916 biplane piloted by actor Ben Blue
The Crumps manage to get themselves locked in the basement
of a hardware store; they spend much of the film trying to get out
After blasting their way out of the basement with dynamite, the Crumps
hire a cab driver played by Peter Falk – once they get him off the phone
Near the end of the movie, after falling from an out-of-control fire truck ladder,
Crump crashes through a window and down a flight of stairs
Sid Caesar came to Northeast Ohio back in July of 1981 when he appeared at the Front Row Theater with his old Your Show of Shows co-star Imogene Coca in "With a Touch of Burlesque." The revue was later filmed and shown on cable television.

Caesar and Coco recreate a sketch from "Your Show of Shows" for "With a Touch of Burlesque"
Anyway, it's been sad to watch the great comedians of the 1950s and 60s slowly pass away, especially the stars of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Sid Caesar, one of the earliest and greatest TV giants, will be missed.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

6th and Broadway – Then & Now

Add caption
I haven't done any 'Then and Nows' lately – probably because I've used up all of the most obvious (and easily obtainable) ones! (Either that or everything else that I have an old photo or postcard of has been torn down – so there's no "Now" to shoot!)

So that means that I have to start scraping the bottom of the barrel and really dig to find some to do – which leads me to this one. It's a photo of the Lorain Banking Company from an ad that ran in The Lorain Journal back on Saturday, July 18, 1959.

Accompanying the photo was this copy providing the history of the Lorain Banking Company:

54 years ago a former lake captain founded the Lorain Banking Company. He was Richard Thew, also vice-president and general manager of the Thew Shovel Company. It was natural that Mr. Thew should draw on his marine experience in selecting a trade-mark for the new bank, a ship's wheel and a lighthouse. The part that the bank will play in The Lorain of the Future is told best by the success of the many pioneer industries aided by it. The young Lorain Banking Company gave generous aid to individuals as well. Richard Thew was president of the Lorain Banking Company from 1905 to 1923, and the Thew Shovel Company grew during this time to be one of the leading companies in the United States.

The Lorain Banking Company merged with National Bank of Lorain to form Lorain National Bank in 1961.

And here's the uncropped "now" shot (actually from last year – before the snow hit).

The building looks to be in great shape (although I am not crazy about the sign obscuring the original inscription). It houses several attorneys and law firms, including Anthony Baker, Javier H. Armengau, J. Anthony Rich, Zachary B. Simonoff, Paul A. Griffin Co., L.P.A., John P. Kilroy, James J. Paterson, Susan Cruzado Burge and Bevan & Associates L.P.A., Inc.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aerial Photo Fun

Courtesy Lorain Historical Society
The last time I was down at the Lorain Historical Society, I found a stash of aerial photographs in their archives that were labeled as "unknown." One of them is shown at left.

Now anyone who reads this blog for any length of time knows I like a good mystery to solve (I just love wasting time) – so I was  determined to find out where this photo was taken.

Although I had studied the photo carefully – paying particular attention to the large building fronting the highway – I just couldn't place it. My guess was that the photo was taken way west of Lorain, perhaps out near Sandusky or Huron. (The lake is at the top of the photo, so that had to be Route 6 and/or Lake Road near the bottom – assuming the photo was taken in Northeast Ohio!)

Anyway, I was preparing this post with the intent of asking for help from my readers, when I suddenly realized that the smaller building to the right of the large building looked familiar to me.

Where had I seen that building before? Why, on Rich Tarrant's nostalgic Vermilion Views website!

And here it is – a 1950s era photo of the Elberta Inn (below) – which coincidentally burned down three years ago today.

Courtesy Rick Tarrant
That means that the larger building next door to the Inn in the aerial photo was the Elberta Beach Dance Hall.

(Click on this link, and scroll down for Rich's post about the history of Elberta Inn and how it was moved back from the highway in the 1950s.)

I'm not exactly sure when the Elberta Beach Dance Hall closed. According to an online newspaper article, its roof was heavily damaged by the wind – blown off, in fact – in January 1949.

I contacted Rich Tarrant about the dance hall. He explained, "It was partially destroyed during a tornado. Part of it still exists. It's the building just to the west of where Elberta stood until it burned."

Rich also revealed why the name "Elberta" was given to the inn, dance hall and road. The nearby orchards in the vintage photo are "Elberta Peach orchards."

Finally, here's the "now" shot of the area shown in the vintage aerial photo.

You can see the "footprint" left by the now-demolished Elberta Inn where Elberta Road meets Route 6.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Captain Aaron Root House – Inside

After reading some of the comments left on my post about the Captain Aaron Root house, I decided to go back and get some photos of the inside. This past Saturday morning was nice and sunny, and the snow was melting, so I headed over there with my camera once again.

After a brief confrontation with the adult son of the owner of the house next door (who wanted to know what I was doing), I went about my business getting the shots I wanted.

First, I went in the front door (or where the front door would have been if there was one). I had seen this view from the highway for many years and it was fairly exciting to walk right in.

Unfortunately, once inside, I couldn't do much more than poke my camera at each room from the entrance foyer. (I didn't dare climb the stairs.) Here's the view to the left (below).

Years of neglect resulted in major structural damage, and I had no desire to go crashing through the floor in a slapstick manner – which is what might have happened if I had stepped onto the floor of the room to the right of the entrance foyer (below). You could see clear down to the cellar.

Sticking my camera in various windows revealed the sad remnants of a historic house.

Pointing the camera up allowed me to get an idea of what the second floor looked like, especially since the upper floor was gone.

Entering the house from the back was an impossibility, due to thick brush and years of debris which accumulated behind the house (below).
Here are a few random shots (below).
Reluctant to leave, I re-entered the house and tried to imagine what it was like living there. Here's the view looking out a front window onto Colorado Avenue.
All in all, it's a sad end to a historic house that played an important role in Underground Railroad history.
I sure wish some archaeological team was allowed to dig around the foundation of this house before its past is covered up with that new dollar store. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vintage Bus Shelter Update

The bus shelter looks out onto Colorado Avenue (Route 611)
I received a few emails and comments about my post concerning that vintage bus shelter on Route 611 and my request for information as to how it got there in the first place.

Sandy from Sheffield Lake had a hunch that AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association) might have had something to do with its installation originally, and helpfully contacted them. The Safety Advisor for AAA East Central responded by suggesting that perhaps the shelters were built by schools or volunteers.

Since I remember seeing a lot of shelters that looked just like this in Central Ohio, however, I knew there had to be a reason they all looked alike. Perhaps there were standard construction plans for them (not unlike the bomb shelter plans that the U.S. government made available to its citizens)?

I didn't find any plans. But I did find the company who designed and built these shelters – and gives them away FREE to whoever wants one.

Tom Moore, the owner of Moore Signs/Ohio Shelterall Inc. explained the whole story to me in an email. He recognized the shelter as probably being one that his company built and installed. "Our company was founded in Ohio in 1961 as a franchise out of Philadelphia, Pa," he noted. "There were other franchises that were started in the 60's – mostly eastern states. I think there were 17 franchises at one point and 4 or 5 still operate in PA, NJ, NY, CT, VT and MD."

"My father was the first employee hired to lease, sell advertising and install the shelters in Ohio. My parents later purchased the company in 1980. My brother Steve started in 1978 and I started in 1981. We bought the company in 1995."

Tom explained why I saw these types of shelters all over the countryside outside of Columbus in the late 1970s. "The reason you saw them when you were in Central Ohio was that our office is located in the Columbus area," he noted. "We currently have over 425 shelters in Ohio and parts of KY and WV. We also run a full service sign business that produces the signage for the sides in addition to retail sales."

Amazingly, Tom's company makes these shelters available free of charge.

"We still put them in for free to whoever uses them, there is no charge to the parents or schools."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yala's Pizza Ad – February 2, 1957

Pizza was one of my favorite topics on this blog when I started it back in 2009.

That first year, I wrote about Yala's Pizza, the Pizza House, Pizza Hut, Rosie's Pizza and even held an online Favorite Pizza Poll that I intended to be an annual thing (but somehow forgot to ever do again).

So what pizza am I ordering these days?

If it's just me – batchin' it all by myself – it's got to be Rosie's. But if it's the spouse and me, the pizza of choice is Selenti's. We both like their nice, thick golden-brown pizza with that pleasant, slightly spicy sauce.

Another reason we like is Selenti's is their location near the northern end of Oberlin Avenue (which is convenient for a Sheffield Laker like me). Plus, I like chit-chatting with their friendly counter help and the owners (fellow Admiral King alumni) as well.

That's not to say we don't like Yala's anymore. In fact, we ordered a Yala's pizza a month ago and it was great as ever, tasting exactly as it always has. I've even gotten used to their drive-thru (although I still don't like being trapped behind someone picking up their pizza early).

And Yala's is still the pizza that transplanted Lorainites want when they come home to visit.

Which brings me to today's post – a simple Yala's ad from the pages of the Feb. 2, 1957 Lorain Journal – 57 years ago this month. Note the ad touts that "Wonder-Dough" mentioned back in this ad.

Do they still use "Wonder-Dough" at Yala's?

I'm still wondering. Does anybody know?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Captain Aaron Root House – Up Close

Last Friday was sunny and bright – and I had the afternoon off – so it was the perfect time to grab a few daytime shots of the home that Captain Aaron Root lived in until the mid 1800s. I had wanted to do this for a long time, but it had never seemed important before. But with a Dollar General proposed for that corner, I thought I'd better grab a few shots before I suddenly drove by the property some night and saw a steaming pile of rubble.

With the trees barren, the house was more visible than usual. It was interesting to see it up close.

I was surprised to see that what I had thought from the road was brick was actually some sort of shingle. 
Tempting as it was to think about entering the rickety structure, I was content to grab this view looking in.
Before I left, I grabbed a quick view of the rear of the house (below).
It's obvious the house is beyond repair (it's been wide open to the elements for years), but it's still nice to have a photographic record of what it looked like it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cascade Park in Vintage Postcards

The Ford
Cascade Park in Elyria has been featured on a variety of postcards through the decades, and they are a common find on Ebay. In fact, all of the postcards on this post are on Ebay right now. So if there's one you need for your collection – get your bid in!

I'm admittedly ignorant about Cascade Park. I've pic-a-nic'd there a few times, but it's been years since I walked a trail there to see the Falls. So these postcards are a nice reminder of its many features for me.

The Falls are a perennial favorite to be depicted.

Other park highlights featured on vintage postcards include the Black River and the Basin
This one is postmarked 1954
This one is postmarked 1910
The rock formations have also been the subject of a few cards through the years.
This one is postmarked 1912. Is that Huckleberry Finn?
I'm definitely going to plan a visit to Cascade Park this year to reacquaint myself with its natural beauty. I even know the way there now! (I stopped there last weekend to snap the shot of the sign.)