Monday, April 6, 2015

In Search of Bessie Rider – Part 1

It was back in July 2012 that local historian Dennis Lamont forwarded me a few photos that Paula Shorf – one of the authors of the book Lorain: The Real Postcards of Willis Leiter – had sent to him. They had been corresponding via email about Glens Beach in Lorain, and Paula had generously shared some postcards that she had on that subject.

In case you've never heard of it, Glens Beach was a swimming beach and amusement resort run by Geo. Glendening that was located behind and to the east of the Coast Guard station on Lakeside Avenue. It consisted of a fine bathing beach, a dance hall, a roller skating rink, a bath house, a dock, a pavilion and a large platform. It was a popular place for picnics and parties, and it became the subject of several Willis Leiter postcards showing Lorainites having a jolly good time.

Two of the Glens Beach real photo postcards that Paula sent featured a haunting image of a pretty, young girl – Bessie Rider of Lorain – posing down at the waterfront in what looks like the off season. Both postcards were postmarked in Lorain on October 1, 1906.

The postcard above has Bessie's handwritten inscription: "View of Life saving station and Docks. I am on here also." She adds, "The wind was blowing when the picture was taken."

The second postcard (below) shows Bessie in a long shot in which she can be almost overlooked with all of the brush, sticks and driftwood in the foreground. Although her inscription at the top was cut off by the scanner, she says, "I am on this." She then identifies the postcard's subject matter as "View of Lorain Docks from Glens Beach."

Both postcards were addressed to Geo. Grafton, National Tube Company, McKeesport, Pa.

I was originally going to use these two postcards as part of a throwaway post – just some filler on a day when I had nothing else to write about. But I was intrigued by the girl. Whatever happened to her? Did she stay in Lorain? What was the McKeesport connection? Did she ever get married?

I knew it was a long-shot that I'd be able to find out much about Bessie Rider. But as you shall see, her story began to slowly unfold in front of me beyond my wildest hopes.


Anonymous said...

Oh Boy I love a mystery! I went to school w/ a Valeria Rider. Rae

Miss Merry said...

I am intrigued!! Can't wait for the rest of the story.

Mark said...

The suspense - Can't wait!

Bill Rees said...

any relation to "Red" ?

-Alan D Hopewell said...

One of the things I enjoyed about living in Lorain-mysterious, beautiful women.

Mike Kozlowski said...

Definitely looking forward to the story, but I'm also intrigued by the lighthouse in the background - I never knew Lorain had a second one! If I'm remembering my geography right, that pic puts it on the west side of the Black River, opposite the site of the water plant...