Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Route 58 Farm House

It's always an interesting drive going south on Route 58 heading out of Amherst. There's so many great old farmhouses – some that are still part of active, productive Lorain County farms, and others that look like time forgot them.

The one above is one of the latter, I'm afraid. But it's still appealing and photogenic.

The Lorain County Auditor website lists the house – located on the west side of Route 58 just south of Russia Road – as being built in 1876. The Auditor report says that it has 10 total rooms (excluding bathrooms) with four of them being bedrooms. It's part of a huge tract of land that mainly fronts on Russia Road.
Aerial View Courtesy of Bing Maps
The house may be even older than that.

I looked at the 1874 map of Russia Township. If I've properly identified the roads, a small black box on the Caroline Schenck property appears to correspond with the modern-day location of the ramshackle farmhouse.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pittsfield Civil War Statue

It was sunny (but freezing) on Saturday morning, so I jumped in the car first thing and headed down Route 58 to Pittsfield. I wanted a nice photo of the Civil War monument with the morning sun hitting it, seeing as I had just written about it on Friday.

As you can see, there was a lot more snow in that part of the county than what we had up by the lake in Sheffield Lake. It was up to the top of my shoes as I slogged across the grounds to get this shot.

It was nice to get a close look at the statue (below). You can still see the seams where it was damaged by the tornado and then repaired. The brim of his Civil War kepi hat, though, looks like it's been through, well, a war.

I suspect that with the official 50th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado coming up on April 11, Pittsfield will be visited by a few TV news crews.

Sunday was a nice day too, so I went back for another shot. The clouds were a little more interesting this time (below) and the shadows deeper.
To read about the history of the statue, click here to visit the Historic Landmarks page of the Lorain County Historical Society's website.
However, I'm confused about the date that the monument was dedicated. One history of the statue states that it's been there since 1898, and another says 1896. According to the Lorain County Historical Society's website, it was dedicated on August 13, 1894.
I checked the two available newspapers on microfilm at the Elyria Public Library (the Elyria Republican and the Elyria Democrat) for that August 1894 time period and couldn't find a mention in either one about the dedication. (Granted, the type is pretty small in those hard-to-read microfilm versions.) 
Perhaps some Pittsfield historian in the know will leave a comment.

Friday, March 27, 2015

1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes

The front page of the Journal the next day
Palm Sunday is this weekend, and for many people, the Sunday before Easter always brings back bad memories of 1965. For it was on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965 – 50 years ago next month – that an outbreak of 47 deadly tornadoes struck the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. 271 people were killed (60 in Ohio) and 1500 were injured.

The front page of the April 12, 1965 Journal is shown above.

In Lorain County, eighteen people died. Pittsfield was practically wiped off the map, and nine people loss their lives there. It's still impossible to drive through Pittsfield on Route 58 and not think of the devastation that the small community suffered.

Here's the continuation from page 1 of the April 12, 1965 Journal. It includes a well-written article by Lou Kepler about the damage at Pittsfield.

Here's a small article from the Plain Dealer from April 19, 1965 about how Pittsfield was beginning to rebuild a week after the disaster. It's interesting that the Civil War statue was the first priority.

A year after the deadly tornado, the Plain Dealer published an article by James L. Grisso (below) that explained some of the improved weather warning devices that were now in use. The article also included a few great photos, including one of Pittsfield's damaged Civil War monument and an update on the community since the disaster.

April 3, 1966 article from the Plain Dealer
The 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes only reinforced my childhood fear of tornadoes (that had already been nurtured with tales of the one that struck Lorain in 1924).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

More Sheffield Lake Fire Department History

2015 is the year of the big Sheffield Bicentennial, so I'm trying to post historical content about Sheffield Lake whenever I find it.

Since my post last month about the Sheffield Lake's Emergency Squad ambulance, I found this photo in the archives at the Domonkas Branch of the Lorain Public Library. It's a formal group portrait of what I'm assuming is the fire department, posing in front of the old station on E. Lake Road.

I'm hoping that someone will see this post and provide some names, as the vintage photo was not labeled or dated.

I also recently found two photos with a corresponding caption on microfilm showing a proposed Sheffield Lake Fire Station. The photos appeared in the Lorain Journal on August 7, 1957.

The caption read, "NEW FIRE STATION – Discussing plans for a proposed new fire station for Sheffield Lake yesterday were (seated), from left, Mayor James C. Markley, Clarence Huebmer, assistant fire chief; Peter Cifranic, fire chief and William Kennedy, chairman. Standing, from left, are Sam Wilson, Charles Miller and Warren Ruff. The proposed station, pictured at top, will depend on a $110,000 bond issue for land, building, truck and equipment. The plans will be presented to council. A public meeting is to be held Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. in St. Teresa School on Harris Rd. to discuss plans and specifications.

I need some help from someone knowledgable about Sheffield Lake history on this as well. The photo of the proposed fire station sure looks different than what is there now (below). I'm not sure if the design was completely changed, or if the building was later modified.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Late March Blizzard – 1947

The first day of Spring was a few days ago, so winter is technically over at last. But anything can happen in Northern Ohio, and just because it's spring doesn't mean we can't have some more winter weather.

That's what happened back in 1947 – 68 years ago today – when a blizzard struck Lorain on March 25, 1947. As the article from the front page of the Lorain Journal the next day noted, "Lorain today was gradually recovering from the effects of its worst blizzard in many years which struck with paralyzing force yesterday, and the weatherman promised it would be warmer tomorrow.

"Elsewhere in Lorain-co, however, schools remained closed today and traffic was still halted as workers continued efforts to dig out from the winter's heaviest snowfall.

"Similar tie-ups were reported thruout Northern Ohio, with 1,500 motor cars still stalled in snowdrifts in the Cleveland area, 8,000 made idle in Canton and interurban bus service suspended on some lines.

"Altho winds, which reached a velocity of 65 miles an hour yesterday, had abated today, most roads in central and southern Lorain-co were piled high with snowdrifts today. Only the Lake-rd, the Lorain-Elyria-rd and the Lorain-Amherst-rd were reported entirely open."

Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dairymens Easter Packaging – March 1955

Easter was still a month away in 1955 when Dairymens launched a special holiday promotion.

During Lent, Dairymens Whipped Cream (yum) Cottage Cheese came in special cartons. As shown in the ad, the carton – when empty – could be converted into a mini-easter basket with the addition of a cardboard or pipe cleaner handle. There were six "gayly colored baskets" to collect.

It's a cute idea. Nowadays, though, I'm sure companies would avoid this kind of marketing gimmick, being too afraid to offend someone.

As you can see from the ad, pineapple was the upcoming 'special flavor' of cottage cheese. (By the way, I almost never eat plain cottage cheese. I prep it first by throwing some grape jelly into it, making a sort of "poor man's yogurt" out of it. I learned that culinary trick from one of my Ohio State roomies.)

I had forgotten all about pipe cleaners, though. I wonder if they were ever used to clean pipes?

Anyway, the ad ran in the Lorain Journal on March 10, 1955 – 60 years ago this month.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Easter Bunny Arrives at O'Neil's – Twice – 1955

Over the years, I've done a few posts highlighting the arrival of Santa Claus at O'Neil Sheffield Shopping Center by helicopter – but I had no idea that the Easter Bunny used the same extravagant mode of transportation.

But here are the ads that tell the rabbit's tale, which ran in the pages of the Lorain Journal at Easter time 1955.

The first ad was full-page and ran on March 23, 1955 – 60 years ago today. It announced that the big event would take place on March 26, 1955. The ad has a nice roster of the current stores at that time.
Strangely enough, a second ad appeared a little more than a week later, announcing the same thing. Perhaps the weather was bad for the first go-around.
I wasn't born yet in 1955, so I have no memory of these events. In fact, I don't remember ever going to see a department store Easter Bunny. What could you ask him to bring you besides candy and hard-boiled eggs, anyways?

The whole "Easter Bunny's Arrival" gimmick must not have clicked with kids, as I don't remember seeing another ad like this. The idea of this holiday hare probably works best (and is most believable to kids) as an unseen force of good. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lorain Public Library Scale Model – March 9, 1955

Sixty years ago this month, the Lorain Public Library was making plans for its new building on Sixth Street. As the article above – which ran in the Lorain Journal on March 9, 1955 – explains, the buildings currently on the future library site were to be demolished on August 1, and construction was to begin a month after that.

The photo shows the scale model that Meyer and Fauver Associates used in their presentation to the Library trustees. (Do architects still build scale models now, or do they merely present soulless computer generated renderings?)

You might remember my 2012 post showing what was on the library's site originally: a Sunoco gas station (shown at left).

Apparently in 1952 the fact that the Sun Oil Company's lease on the property was for four more years really gummed up the works, although it appears that the library managed to get them out a year early.

I'll bet the Cities Service station nearby on Reid didn't mind a bit that one of its competitors was sacrificed in the name of knowledge.

Courtesy Chronicle-Telegram

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lorain Auto Show Ad – March 21, 1955

The Cleveland Auto Show just ended (I went for the first time ever), so this post is kind of appropriate.

Above is a great ad for the 1955 Lorain Auto Show that appeared in the Lorain Journal on March 21, 1955. The big event was held at the Lorain Arena and was the inaugural event for the about-to-be-opened venue.
The illustration of the family in the Journal ad really epitomizes the optimism and postwar prosperity of the 1950s. When I first saw it, it reminded me of something – and then I remembered.

Whether by design or coincidence, it's an updated version of the American family depicted in the famous 1930s billboard (below) that was part of a campaign for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

I wonder what the equivalent ad would look like today?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Friskies Dog Food Ad – March 3, 1955

I've had cats for quite a while now, and as many as three at one time. Currently, I only have one: Louie. Like his feline predecessors, Louie prefers Friskies® brand cat food – both the wet stuff that comes in cans, and the dry stuff in the bags.

But did you know that Friskies started out as a brand of dog food?

According to the Friskies Wiki page, Friskies dry dog food was first introduced in the early 1930s, and the canned version followed in 1948. It wasn't until 1958 that Friskies dry cat food was first sold. Eventually the canned cat food hit the store shelves as well.

Anyway, back to the dogs. Here's a very graphic, stylized ad for Friskies dry dog food that ran in the Lorain Journal on March 3, 1955 – 60 years ago this month.

The bag shown in the newspaper ad features the classic Friskies cartoon dog with the slurping tongue that symbolized the brand over the years. Here are a few dog-eared images of him from the internet.
Note that the serving directions on the vintage label below (courtesy of the collectologist2 flickr page) explains how the dog food – made of (yechh) horse meat – could also be served to cats. I thought old horses ended up at the glue factory – not in a serving dish!
Here's a great 1959 ad (below) from the flickr page of alsis35. Don't the Friskies Cubes kind of resemble pasta salad?
Now before this post goes entirely to the dogs, I'd better give the cats equal time. Here's an adorable 1963 Friskies cat food ad (below) showing the cat advertising mascot and can design. (I wonder how they got that cute shot back in those pre-Photoshop days?)

Courtesy Ebay
And here's a 1971 Friskies ad promoting both product lines – and canine & feline peace as well.

Courtesy atticpaper.com
Today, you can still buy both Friskies dog and cat food, but – alas! – the original advertising mascots are long-gone from the packaging. But Louie loves his Friskies Surfin' and Turfin' Favorites anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day at the Castle – March 1955

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, here's what was going on at the Castle in Lorain on that day in 1955. The ad above ran in the Lorain Journal on the day before, and makes some interesting references.

"Dinty Moore's own corned beef and cabbage" is mentioned in the ad. Dinty Moore was the name of the tavern owner in the comic strip Bringing Up Father, and (according to this Wiki entry) was the inspiration for both a restaurant chain by that name as well as the line of Hormel canned foods. I'm guessing that in this case, the corned beef and cabbage dish served at the Castle that day must be referring to the Dinty Moore restaurant chain. You can find a vintage recipe for it here at the food.com website.

The ad also makes a reference to Lace Curtain Irish and Shanty Irish (the lace curtain immigrants being slightly better off than the others). Also mentioned are many of the "Blarney Castle" employees.

Since it's still Lent, here's a 1955 Castle ad that ran in the Lorain Journal on March 4, listing the sumptuous selection of seafood items that were available.
Mmmm... giant Malabar shrimp (broiled in sherry or with drawn butter), sea scallops, filet of pike, frog legs, King Crab claws, Maine lobster... even Lake Erie Pickerel. Or do they mean walleye?

Anyway, have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2015

First Lutheran Rubble Shots

It seems like I'm always posting "steaming rubble shots" on this blog. Usually it's because of Lorain's belief in bulldozing the city back to prosperity, but in this case it's due to tragedy.

So, here are my shots from Sunday afternoon of the demolition of First Lutheran Evangelical Church, which finally took place on Tuesday last week. (You can read about it here on the Chronicle-Telegram website.)

The demolition went pretty quickly, that's for sure.

It's interesting that one small piece of wall remains standing on the Sixth Street side (below).

Here's the view from the other direction (below). Sixth Street is on the left.
It's certainly strange to be able to see Lakeview Plaza from this vantage point.
Here's the view from Sixth Court (below).
And a few more shots. 

I actually made two trips to the First Lutheran site on Sunday with my camera. My shots from earlier in the day suffered from a blah white sky – and thus look much more depressing. 
As a bonus from this photo shoot, here's a shot of Admiral King Elementary School across Washington Avenue to the west, showing the removal of part of the wall and the roof of the gymnasium so that a drilling rig could be brought in when the old gas well was capped. (The school finally reopened in late December.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tower Drive-In Ad – March 4, 1955

Back when drive-in movie theaters were young, it was apparently a big deal when they reopened for the season. Ads like the one above for the Tower Drive-in – which ran in the Lorain Journal on March 4, 1955 – were pretty common.

March 4th seems kind of early to kick off the drive-in season.

I posted the Tower Drive-in's 1956 Grand Reopening ad here.

That's a pretty unusual double feature – Women's World (1954) and Siege at Red River (1954). Something for both sexes I guess.

If you've got the time (and some popcorn) you can watch Siege at Red River right now below, courtesy of YouTube. It stars Van Johnson and Joanne Dru, who was in another similarly named movie – Red River – with John Wayne.

Siege at Red River has some great artwork during the opening credits.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sun Flash Gasoline Ad – March 6, 1955

It must be Lesser Known Gasoline Brands Week here on the blog! Here's another gasoline brand that I wasn't familiar with: Sun Flash.

According to some online references, Sun Flash gasoline was a private brand owned by Humble that was based out of Columbus, Ohio. The ad above – sponsored by the Sun Flash station located at Broadway and 13th Street – ran in the Lorain Journal on March 6, 1955.

The ad is interesting as it reveals that Sun Flash had its own stamp redemption program. And one of the items that you could "buy" with your stamps was a large, creepy doll! (Shades of Ol' Lanky Long?)

However, I had trouble coming up with photos of the "giant 30 inch doll." Just what would you call that guy? A clown? A jester?

Anyway, I think this might be him (below) – and he's currently on Ebay. He's described as a "vintage large jester clown sprite pixie gnome doll" – and I guess that covers just about everything.

He seems to be somewhat of a match, although much of the paint is worn off his face. He's 33 inches long and has the strangely shaped legs just like the drawing, as well as those weird ribbons tied around his ankles.

And like Ol' Lanky, he looks slightly diabolical.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cities Service Station at Eighth and Reid

While preparing yesterday's piece about the former Cities Service station on E. Erie, I remembered that it was during last year that I received two emails with the same suggestion for a blog post related to that gas station chain.
Photo Courtesy Jeremy Reynolds
In July 2014, blog contributor Jeremy Reynolds wrote to me and stated, "I noticed that Benny's Car Care at 8th and Reid is doing some renovations and in the process uncovering part of their former identity." Jeremy also attached a photo (at left) showing the transformation in progress. Jeremy then followed up his email with another, in which he wrote, "I noticed that at Benny's Car Care at 8th and Reid that all of the graphics are exposed now from when it was Cities Services. Cool seeing those old graphics."

In August, I received an email from Norm McNary. He wrote, "I just wanted to tell you to check out Benny's Carriage Shop on the corner of Reid Ave. and 8th Street. Benny is stripping all the paint that was covering the old original "Cities Service"sign from around 1930. He's also planning on installing some old time gas pumps out front. If you get the chance, check it out! It's very neat."

My apologies to both Jeremy and Norm for waiting so long to take them up on their suggestion. Ben Bonaminio's restoration of his building to its Cities Service roots is pretty neat.

I spent a little time in the library researching the gas station. As Norm noted, its Cities Service heritage goes way back. The gas station's Reid Avenue address wasn't even listed in the 1926 directory, but in the next available book – the 1929 edition – it was already a Cities Service station.

1929 Lorain City Directory Listing
The station seemed to maintain its Cities Service (and later, Citgo) branding throughout its entire run, and it had many owners through the years. A partial list of owners (with approximate dates) includes E. E. Widmer (late 1930s), Vern R. Wait (1940s), Wood Brothers (early 1950s), Paul Vincent (late 1950s), and Lee Nimon (late 1950s). In the 1960s, the station was known as Hunger's Cities Service (1965), Ryan's Citgo (late 1960s to early 1970s), and Joseph Szabo Citgo Service (1972) before briefly becoming vacant at the time of the 1973 directory. Finally, the station became known as Ronald Hunger's Citgo before going vacant again around 1977. 
After that, the building found new life almost immediately in the car care field. A few of the companies that called the former gas station home before Benny's include Quality Auto Reconditioning (1978), Miracle Shield (1980) and Trans Protection Systems (1982).
Even before Jeremy and Norm drew my attention to the gas station's new retro look last summer, I had photographed the building on one of my jaunts around town. Here's my shot from April of 2014 (below) – just a few months before it would be transformed.

And here are my recent shots (below).

One again, special thanks to Jeremy and Norm for taking the time to email me with their suggestions.

Incidentally, Benny's Carriage Shoppe Inc. has been in business since 1979 and specializes in under body protection, raw rust protection, and auto detailing (complete auto cleaning of interior and exterior, interior shampooing, buffing, waxing, pin striping, window tinting) and Miracle Shield Paint Sealant. You can contact the firm at (440) 244-2330.

UPDATE (August 2023) 
Here's a recent view of the building. It looks great!