Monday, August 31, 2015

August 18, 1947 -– Dreamland Theater, Elyria Country Club Burn

To close out August, here’s the the front page of the Monday, August 18, 1947 Lorain Journal and the Lorain Times-Herald. There’s a lot of news crammed onto the page, with fire destroying the Dreamland Theater in Lorain earlier that day, and the Elyria Country Club on the day before.

On that same news-filled day, Admiral Ernest King’s health takes a turn for the worse, a body is recovered along the New York Central railroad tracks in Brownhelm Township and a traffic accident claims the life of an Elyria man near Griswold Road.

Perhaps to take our mind off the somber headline and page filled with tragedy, the Journal featured front and center a huge photo of leggy, warm weather ski bunnies in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lorain High School Class of 1957B Looks Back – August 1976

Here's a great article written by Michele Rice that ran in the August 29, 1976 edition of the Journal – 39 years ago this month. It profiles the Lorain High School Class of 1957B and its upcoming reunion at that time.

It also provides a nice window into what high school was like in the 1950s in Lorain. There's plenty of nostalgic references to the Lorain we all remember, too.


Lorain High Graduates Recall The 50's An Age of Innocence
Staff Writer

NORMA VOLAK with the Class of 1957 B's yearbook.
THOSE WERE the days.

Hanging out at Sutter's to watch the girls go by, going to beach parties, dancing at Vermie's, necking at Lakeview Park and going to Club.

That's what the old gang from the Lorain High School Class of 1957B will be remembering at their class reunion next year. They'll laugh about the styles back then – long skirts, dirty saddle shoes and bobby socks for girls and baggy suits with (always) white shirts and skinny ties for the guys. Ivy League sweaters matched Princeton haircuts.

The 50's – that innocent naive time of life when everything was looking up – is being immortalized by a new generation. The generation of the '70s, through the weekly exploits of "The Fonz" on TV, and watching movies with a '50s theme like American Grafitti and The Lords of Flatbush, trying to capture some of the nostalgia that class of '57 enjoys.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the Korean War was over and nobody paid too much attention to a little county called Vietnam.

FALLOUT SHELTERS were the neighborhood status symbol, and the teenagers could recall the McCarthy hearings on television just a few years earlier.

A mushroom cloud covers an entire page in the 1957 Scimitar, the school yearbook.

"This is a symbol of our age – the age of the atom," the caption read. American technology was booming and the future looked good. Then the Russians, in 1957, started the space race with their successful launching of Sputnik, a shock to the world. And, the Edsel failed.

Teenagers (an age classification that just started in that decade) listened to songs like "Splish, Splash, I was taking a Bath" on their transistor radios, Elvis appeared (from the waist up) on the Ed Sullivan Show, James Dean, Kim Novak, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando drew crowds at the movies.

"It was a good time to grow up," reminisced Jim Watling, "because there were no world problems. You didn't have assassinations. You didn't have the economy blowing out of proportion."

WATLING, who now works in the warehouse at Lake Erie Electric, remembers, "I graduated one day and punched the clock the next." He later enlisted in a peacetime Navy.

Back in the 1950s, Lorain High graduated two classes a year. The January class was the "A" class and the June graduates were the "B" class.

"When we were in high school, those were the good times," said his wife, the former Gerry Karney. There were no wars, jobs were plentiful, girls graduated from high school, got a job and then married. They weren't encouraged to go to college, she said.

Jim and Gerry, although both graduates of the same 1957B class at Lorain High (the only public high school in town then) didn't date in high school. They married 10 years after graduation.

She went to college, but remembers her father getting flack from the family for sending a girl to college. Now, she is a home economics teacher at Masson Junion High School.

Their high school lives were similar.

"AT THAT TIME, we had Crystal Beach (in Vermilion) on a Sunday night," Watling said. Acts like the Four Lads or Jimmy Dulio would play there. (Crystal Beach was an amusement park that was torn down.)

"Not too many kids had cars and downtown was a thriving center," he added. Movies were well attended. 'Rebel Without a Cause', 'Oklahoma', and the 'Wild Hunter' would pack them in.

Shopping in downtown Lorain was a big pastime.

"The stores used to be open on Friday until 9," said Mrs. Watling… "The thing was to go past Firestone's or Sutter's to see what fellas were there, and they would stand outside and watch the girls go by."

School functions – either those sponsored by the school or sponsored by a variety of social clubs – were held often," he said.

THERE WAS LOTS of double dating, dances, and hayrides. And necking at Lakeview, Little Lakeview or Oakwood.

"Oakwood Park, wow, that was really the place," remembered Watling.

He remembers being more naive than boys his age are now. Movies were more censored.

"You'd go to the Roxy in Cleveland then and you didn't even see complete nudity. Now the shows are more risqué," he said. "I think Brigette Bardot was in a movie and you saw her backside and you REALLY had to see that."

There was a strong drive to conform in those days, they both agreed.

"IF YOU WERE your own person you were socially flakey, you know," said Watling."

"There was a very strong tendency to conform to the group," she recalled. "We were more conscious of group pressure and group acceptance."

The Watlings live at 3840 N. Hogan Sr., and have two children Jimmy, 8 and Steve, 5. They've noticed a difference already in the education their children are getting – as compared to the education they received in the late '40s and '50s. Jimmy, for example, is already getting career education – something that wasn't promoted even when Jim and Gerry were in high school.

graduation picture
Planning for the class reunion of 1957B is currently under way. It will be held next summer. The Watlings will be there, and so will Norma (Caruso) Volak, with her husband Anthony, a graduate of 1956A.

Mrs. Volak doesn't see the nostalgia surrounding the '50s as a new phenomena. She was interested in her mother's high school years. Were the '50s as innocent as portrayed through television and movies now?

"AS COMPARED to the troubles of the '60s and the disillusionment of the 70s, then the 50s was a time of innocence," said Norma, who is currently a fulltime history major at Oberlin College.

The problems of growing up as a teenager in the '50s were "petty trivial things," she explained.

"There was a lot of pressure to be feminine, a lot of pressure to be married young," she said, adding that the '50s was "a step back for women in that sense."

"I'm glad my daughters (Andrea, 9, and Renee, 13) are being formed and growing up in the '70s," she said. "Young girls make statements now that were unheard of in the '50s, such as then a girl would say "When I get married" and now she can say "If I get married."

"There's much much confidence in young girls today," she said. "My children are much more aware of what's going on in this county and around the world. Well, it's forced on them. It's right in the living room…

"SOME of the optimism about the future is gone from some," she added.

Mrs. Volak, who comes in contact with today's student everyday at college, said her ideas in high school were "very unpolitical" as compared to today's teen and young adult.

"The closest we got to politics was being forced to take part in a debate between Stevenson and Eisenhower as a social studies assignment in junior high."

"You couldn't teach economics and mention Marx in the '50s," she added later. "You couldn't teach government and mention Lenin in the '50s."

She remembers the social life in the '50s more than the academic side of high school. Clubs took a big part of the social calendar. She was in the Echos.

"WE'D RENT a college every summer in Vermilion for a week. And we'd have some dances, raise money for things," she said.

Her group was competitive with the other girls' groups – Y-Hi Jackets, Y-Hi Sweaters, Jr. Gems – but the girls were also friendly with the other groups. The guys belonged to the Whistlers, Dukes, Barons, Cavaliers and the Southerners.

"Every Thursday night we had club meetings at someone's home. "It was like a status symbol to be in one of the clubs.."

"Young people now are much more receptive and open to people whose lifestyle is different than theirs," she said.

"If you were a homely girl in the 50s, you were lonely," she recalled. The '50s, she said, were "very cliquish, very exclusive.

"IT DID TEND to be a little cruel. I'm sure a lot of people were hurt by that."

To get into a club, you had to be asked.

"You went to a Coke party on a Sunday afternoon and then you'd go home and wait to get a phone call," she explained. At the Coke parties, the club members would decide whether a girl was good enough to join the club.

"You'd be on display, on trial," she said.

After a girl would leave the Coke party, the club members would discuss her and vote on letting the girl in. There was a lot of politics in the voting.

"IT WAS A LOT of fun to be in a club. "If I had to do it all over again, I don't know what I'd do. I had a lot of fun. But I'm ashamed of the cruelty – the fact that I blackballed girls."

Norma and her husband, a Lorain Fire Department lieutenant, live at 3346 E. Erie, Lorain. Besides, the two girls, they have a son, 15-year old Christopher.

SHAROL KNIEPPER who remembers the '50s
as a fun time. (Journal Photos by Kurt E. Smith)
The big team to beat in sports was Elyria High. Everyone went to the games back then, remembers Sharol (Grunda) Kniepper.

She's active in planning the big reunion, and got a taste of nostalgia last fall when she and her husband John (class of 1956A) went to a '50s party, dressed in the styles of back then.

"Of course, when we were in school, we thought that we looked so cool. When we got dressed up (for the party) we had a good time just laughing at ourselves," she said.

"I HAD A D.A. (duck 'tail' hairdo) in high school, she added.

The typical style for girls at school was a baggy sweater, a long skirt, bobby socks, and saddle shoes, "but they had to be dirty." Only about one inch of the leg showed, she said, chuckling.

"In the summer, the girls would wear full skirts, with several crinolines to make it stand out," she said. After school, blue jeans and a baggy sweatshirt would be stylish.

Class rings would hang on chains around a girl's neck. Engraved ankle bracelets would be worn on dressy occasions.

"There were about three big formals a year, Sharol remembers. The dresses would be "always strapless, fitted and real full."

THE JITTERBUG was the dance to do. Rock 'n Roll was just born.

Sharol and John have two daughters, Kyle, 7, and Karyl, 6. Another child is expected in October. The family lives at 364 Hafely Drive.

The '50s were more simple times. Parents were more strict, she said.

Not too many kids had cars. If they did have them, they would be old junkers, or a guy would borrow a car from his folks to go out on a date – mostly a double date, she explained.

"There was not much drinking and of course, there was no such thing as drugs," she said.

"We had a lot of good, clean fun."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pete D'Agnese Interview – August 1976

Way back in October 2010 (here), I did a post about the well-remembered D'Agnese's Restaurant and Pizza businesses. (I still think about a great sub I had once from the Root Road store.)

Well, here's a nice article about Pete D'Agnese Sr. that tells the story of his businesses and also offers some of his thoughts and advice about Italian cooking. It was written by Bill Scrivo and ran in the Lorain Journal on August 15, 1976.

Bill Scrivo's People
Lorain's Pete D'Agnese Sr: He Speaks Universal Language of Good Food

IF THERE IS a universal language in this world, it has to be food. Everyone understands a juicy steak, a tasty dish of chicken paprikas, a good cheese blintzes or a succulent serving of spaghetti.

No one appreciates good food more than Peter D'Agnese Sr., who certainly has to rank as one of the premier Italian cooks of Lorain County, if not the state of Ohio.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of a baker who came to America from Italy, Pete D'Agnese learned his profession at the side of his father and mother. He cooks in the Neapolitan tradition which some say is the finest example of the Italian cuisine.

Being a good cook is no mean accomplishment in any ethnic culture. To be an acknowledged capo cucina in the Italian tradition is perhaps one of the most coveted of culinary accomplishments, since most everyone loves Italian food.

If you don't believe that, look at the vast pizza industry in the United States. Four decades ago, pizza was unheard of here, except in families of Italian immigrants who came here in the great migration some 30 years before. Pizza began as a sort of treat for the kids mothers made with dough left over from making bread.

"THEY ADDED TOMATOES and spices and that was the first pizza," says Pete D'Agnese.

It was not only the first pizza. It marked the beginning of the love affair of the American people with Italian food in general. And like any love affair, it has its secrets, some of which Pete D'Agnese is willing to share in the interests of good eating, or "Buon appetito," as they say in Italian.

"The best ingredient in good Italian cooking is honesty," says Pete D’Agnese. "You must use fresh vegetables when possible and good cheeses.

"Don't ever buy something because you can get it for a few pennies cheaper."

Most important of all, Pete D'Agnese says:

"The seasoning should whisper, not scream."

BORN JUNE 2, 1920 in Brooklyn, Pete D'Agnese was the youngest of four children of Fortunato D'Agnese and his wife, both immigrants from the south of Italy.

Pete's schooling was gained mainly at the side of his father in the bakery.

"Mother was an excellent cook," Pete recalls, "But Dad was even better."

At any rate, Pete came to Lorain in 1947, not as a cook, but to enter the lumber and construction business. It was a case of success without happiness and in 1963 he opened a restaurant on Broadway in Lorain.

"Cooking was always my first love," says Pete. "I was aware of the life giving qualities of good food."

HIS BROADWAY restaurant was acknowledged as one of the best and it was in operation until 1969 when rising costs caught up with Pete D'Agnese and he sold out to go back into the construction business.

After four years away from his chosen profession, the urge became too strong and Pete D'Agnese got back in the food business with a sandwich and pizza shop at 41st and Broadway. The business soon outgrew the small building there and Pete moved to a new location at 916 Root Road, Lorain, which he operates today with his wife, Barbara, and son, Peter Jr.

There he had space to carry a full line of imported and domestic foods, plus operate a pizza and sandwich shop and handle his growing catering business.

"IN ITALIAN COOKING, good is not enough, it must be superb," says Pete D'Agnese. And he means it.

Continuing with his secrets of good cooking, Italian style, he insists that fresh lean meat should be used and most important a good grade of vine-ripened tomatoes.

"The plum tomatoes, commonly called Italian tomatoes, are best," Pete says. If they are out of season, use a superior grade of canned tomatoes, imported from Italy or California plum tomatoes if the imported variety is not available.

"A good sauce can be made on the strength of the tomatoes," Pete points out. "No meat is needed." He used the following recipe for marinara sauce, which can be used "as is" over pasta or combined with chopped clams, lobster, shrimp or calamari squid to make a more exotic dish.

Brown garlic in pure olive oil
Add fresh plum tomatoes, crushed
Add salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
Add fresh Italian parsley and basil
Simmer gently for one half hour.

Use sauce over linguine, rigatoni, spaghetti or other pasta of your choice, cooked al dente (literally "to the bite," or not soft and mushy).

Pete D'Agnese has some definite ideas on how pizza should be made too.

First of all, he says, the cheese should be natural and well fortified with protein. Properly spiced tomatoes should be used on a freshly prepared pizza crust that contains no chemical additives, he goes on.

"After all, the Neapolitans originated pizza," he says proudly.

PETE MAKES all his own sauces, sausages, and dough in his shop on Root Road.

"In this way we can be assured of freshness and quality," he says.

Sausage is made from lean cuts of pork butt, not trimmings, and must be freshly seasoned, Pete says.

"I was happy to see the recent series in The Journal by Lelord Kordel," says Pete. "I makes people aware that they are basically what they eat."

"Women have been seeking the fountain of youth at their drugstores," he goes on. "It really lies in their food stores. The inner glow that they seek comes from within, not from a powder puff."

Pete adds that people in Europe – Italy, France and Greece especially – have known this for a long, long time.

"THIS IS THE reason they are far more food conscious and more attuned to gourmet cooking that we are," he says.

"To prove this, they have fought wars over spices. Our word 'salary' comes from the Latin 'salarium' which the Romans paid their mercenaries with."

Pete finds it odd that a nation such as the United States exists mainly on what he calls "junk" foods.

"Shakespeare summed it up when he denounced the eaters of 'broken meat'," says Pete. "That's what we know as hamburger today."

Pete D'Agnese caters to parties and dinners from his Root Road outlet but only when he is sure the facilities are adequate at the party site to insure that the food can be served with "a sparkling taste of freshness without no meal is complete."

"WE ACCEPT catering only if we feel we can do complete justice to the occasion," Says Pete. "Primarily we put accomplishment before profit."

The former D'Agnese outlet on Root Road today
(Courtesy Lorain County Auditor)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Ownership for the Castle – August 1976

The restaurant that many of us think of simply as the Castle changed hands recently, and because Castillo Real. I certainly wish them well. The new owners are to be commended for keeping open an iconic local institution.

The spouse and I planned to eat there last Saturday night, but the rapidly growing size of the curious crowd that was waiting for a table convinced us to seek sustenance elsewhere. But we'll try again sometime.

The Castle changed hands back in 1976 too. Read all about it in this article written by Bob Cotleur that ran in the Lorain Journal on Monday, August 9, 1976.

Carl Gumina Leads Group Buying Castle-on-the-Lake Restaurant
Staff Writer

LORAIN'S Castle-on-the-Lake Restaurant has been acquired by a trio of area businessmen "but that's only the beginning of the change," according to contractor - developer Carl Gumina, 52, one of the new owners.

Gumina said today that he and Plumbing Contractor Ronnie Gold, 42, had bought a 50 percent interest and Rich Roman, in his early 30's and a son-in-law to Olga Blondyn bought the other 50 percent.

"Mrs. Blondyn, who bought the Castle with her late husband Walter back in the early 60's is retiring," he added.

Gumina said a number of plans have been made for renovating and updating the restaurant.

"We will pave the lakeside parking lot before fall," he said, "and next year we are going to provide parking in front as well.

"WE WILL ALSO have a front canopied entrance and someone to park your car on weekends. This place should have had a front entrance a long time ago."

He also said the wall between the present bar area and the main dining room will be removed and that considerable interior decorating is also planned.

"Rich Roman will be the manager,"Gumina said, "and our chief goal is to improve service. No change in the menu is planned nor are there any plans to change personnel."

What will Gumina take a personal interest in?

He laughed. "Lou Kepler said it the other day in her Journal column. She said I bought the Castle so I could sing in my own place.

"WILL I? Sure I will."

Gumina's main activity however is with Gumina Construction Co., Oberlin Ave. He had built numerous homes, apartments, the first condominium in Lorain County (in Avon) and other structures in a number of states other than Ohio.

He plans to continue his company and also his deep interest in area boxing and boxing shows.


The Castle is one of those topics that I seem to keep coming back to again and again.

I did a multi-part history of it beginning here back in 2010, and did several posts connected with specific ads, including one with 1941 and 1952 ads, a 1954 Thanksgiving ad, a 1955 St. Patrick's Day ad, a 1958 Halloween ad and a 1967 ad.

I also posted a 1975 Bill Scrivo interview with Olga Blondyn that included a nice history of the place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Make Some Real Lemonade

Summer is slipping away (judging by all of the school buses I’ve been getting stuck behind during my commute lately), and I realized last week that I hadn’t made a batch of real lemonade yet this year.

By real lemonade, I don’t mean lemonade made from a powdered mix that somehow you’re supposed to feel nostalgic about, either. I mean the kind where you squeeze the lemons and grate some of the peel to put in it. If you’ve never had it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

So I recently mixed up a batch of it, using up about six lemons. I use the recipe in this 1958 Good Housekeeping recipe booklet (below) that’s been in the family for years.

And here’s the spread with the recipe. There’s some other interesting recipes to try on there as well. An Orange Rickey sounds pretty good.
You’ll note that the lemonade recipe is not for making a pitcher of lemonade. It’s for making a starter concentrate that you then use to make one glass at a time.
Here’s another page from the book with a few more drinks, including Canadian Iced Tea. Just the thing to enjoy with some back bacon or poutine.
Finally, here’s the Good Housekeeping booklet’s photo of the lemonade, although you might not notice it in the picture because of the deliciously distracting Buffet Scrambled Eggs, Crunchy Kidney-Bean Salad and Spiced Crabapples.
Strangely enough, Country Time Lemonade has apparently taken its cue from these types of vintage recipes and is now marketing its own Lemonade Starter – flavored with 5% real lemon juice.
As for me, I’ll stick with the real thing that’s 100% real lemon juice. I guess that’s why I like those Lemon Shake-ups that they sell at the Lorain County Fair.

(I’m not a snob when it comes to orange juice, though. I’ll drink just about any kind, name brand or obscure store brand, with or without pulp – whatever’s the cheapest.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gene Autry and Annie Oakley at the 1957 Lorain County Fair

July 29, 1957 Lorain Journal ad promoting Gene Autry’s appearance at the Fair
It’s Lorain County Fair Week – one of my favorite weeks of the year! It’s the perfect time to look back at what kind of entertainment was featured at a past fair, in this case the 1957 edition – 58 years ago.

None other than Gene Autry, America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy was the headliner, along with his horse Champion. (Also appearing was Little Champ, a “well-trained trick pony” according to Champion’s Wikipedia page.)

As this ad below, which ran in the August 17, 1957 edition of the Lorain Journal reveals, there was something for everyone at the 1957 Lorain County Fair.
Musical acts included Mel Tillis (who is still touring), Minnie Pearl, the Smith Twins and the Great Scots barbershop quartet from Steubenville, Ohio. (The international finalist quartet performed in full dress Scottish kilts.)
For more Western fun, there was Annie Oakley (Actress Gail Davis) from the syndicated television series of the same name that ran from January 1954 to February 1957. Annie Oakley was produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, and Davis had also appeared in many films for Gene’s Autry’s production company.
Gail Davis as Annie Oakley
For thrills, there were Jack Kochman’s Auto Daredevils. Here’s a link to the website with some information about auto thrill show producer Jack Kochman.

And here’s a small sample of the type of show that the crowd at the Fair might have seen that day.

And for the 2015 Lorain County Fair’s entertainment lineup, click here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Massacre Mile

For decades now, whenever I've driven south on State Route 58 (Leavitt Road) past Jaeger Road, I’ve thought about the old "Massacre Mile” moniker for that stretch of the highway.

I’ve never really heard of anyone outside of my family call the road that, so I was surprised to see this article (below) from the August 27, 1976 edition of the Journal refer to it by that name. I guess the newspaper must be where my parents first heard of it. Consequently, they warned my siblings and me to be careful there as we each learned how to drive.

Since Massacre Mile is not exactly something to get nostalgic about, here, in the name of public safety, is the article. ( Hopefully things have improved safety-wise along Leavitt Road in the decades since.

Massacre Mile: A Busy Avenue of Death and Injury
Staff Writer

LORAINITES Terry and Joann Walczak, both 29, are very lucky people.

On August 16, at 6:25 p.m. their car collided with a car driven by Rodney Bowling, 29, of Amherst, along the stretch of Leavitt Road by Jaeger Road called “Massacre Mile.”

They are doubly lucky. First, because neither the Walczaks, of 4247 Miami Ave., Lorain, nor Bowling, was injured seriously enough to need hospitalization, despite the fact that Bowling, of 5524 Virginia Dr., Amherst, was found guilty of driving left of center, and driving under a license suspension.

Secondly, they are lucky because that stretch of Leavitt Road is commonly considered one of the most dangerous sections of road in the city.

Altogether, there have been 31 accidents along Leavitt Road this year. Seven have involved injuries and two have resulted in deaths.

Most of the accidents have been near the major cross streets: Tower Boulevard, Cooper Foster Park Road, and Jaeger Road.

IT DOES not look like a particularly dangerous section of road to the average driver. It curves around Jaeger Road and SR 254, but not so drastically that a good driver can’t manage it without any problems.

Because of the road’s banking, 50 miles per hour seems like an easy speed to maintain.

Yet since the road was widened from two lanes to four more than ten years ago, it has been the scene of innumerable auto accidents, many resulting in fatalities.

Most recently, on Saturday night, July 31, a 17-year-old Lorain woman was killed and her sister, the car’s driver, was seriously injured, when their car collided with another car while she was trying to turn left onto Jaeger Road.

On July 16, a 29-year-old motorcyclist was killed by W. 37th Street and Leavitt Road when his bike was hit by a car.

BEFORE THAT, in November of last year, a 59-year-old Lorain woman was killed in front of 4945 Leavitt Rd. in a head-on crash.

Residents of Leavitt Road have made it a ritual to complain about the road as the accidents have continued. In April of 1975, they tried and failed to get Lorain City Council to vote to lower the speed limit from 50 to 35 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, the string of traffic deaths, injury accidents, and even car – tree or car – mailboxd crashes continue.

Police cite various problems with the road and its users. Alcohol, slippery conditions, and poor judgement all share responsibility, but the nature of the road itself, with its four lanes and sweeping curves, must share part of the blame.

POLICE ARE also careful to note that “Massacre Mile” is not the only road in the city to have a high accident rate, and often wonder why other trouble spots get less publicity.

For example, the major intersections along Broadway, West and East Erie Avenue, E. 28th Street, Oberlin Avenue, and the city’s numerous railroad crossings have claimed far more lives, and resulted in many more accidents.

But because this road was once a mere two-lane link between Amherst and Lorain, an infrequently traveled piece of asphalt compared to the present thoroughfare, people stand in front of their homes on Leavitt Road and wonder at what the road was, and what it is now.

One resident once sent the following description of an accident to The Journal:

“In less than 15 seconds, a man driving the same road I travel every day was unconscious, blood pouring out of holes in his head and neck, breathing spasmodically, twisted and jerking in his ripped, torn automobile. Another man lay on the side of the road in a huddled, fetal position. He must have flown through the windshield, smashed it with his weight at 50 mph (or more) when the cars hit.”

It would be very hard to tell that witness that “Massacre Mile” is just another traffic problem.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Firelands Country Store Reopens

September 2012 view
Remember the Firelands Country Store (above) on State Route 113 in Birmingham? It was the place to buy many hard-to-find and unique items from candy to cookware.

And then, without warning, it closed – with its stock still on the shelves, visible from the highway through the windows. I’ve driven by it for years, wondering what the story was behind the closing.

Well, as Lisa Roberson reported in the Chronicle-Telegram on Tuesday (here), the Firelands Country Store has reopened – for a limited time, that is. Her well-written story explains the reason that it closed so abruptly in the 1980s, and why it has suddenly opened its doors for a final close-out sale.

Her article reveals that the store has been there since 1958.

Anyway, it would certainly be interesting to make it in there for a last look, although its hours (Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm) make it a little difficult for those of us who work in Cleveland. I’ll have to see if I can make it there some time before it closes for good.

My mother shopped in there for years, and can still point to the items in her home that she purchased there. Plus, she bought a lot of candy there to bring on our cross-country camping trips for our family to munch on in the car.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

SR2 From Baumhart Road to Huron Opens – August 1975

The 1966 article in yesterday’s post about the construction of I-90 in Lorain County mentioned a portion of the highway from Baumhart to Huron that hadn’t been built yet. It stated that the stretch from Baumhart Road to Huron "hopefully will gain a high priority to maintain the continuity of the system. These plans are now in detailed design and there is no financing problem.”

How long did it take to finally finish that section of the highway, known today as part of State Route 2? The article below from the August 11, 1975 Journal tells the story.


Lorain-Berlin Heights Link Of SR2 Opening About Aug. 25
Norwalk Bureau Chief

VERMILION – The new portion of SR2 linking Lorain and the Berlin Heights - Huron area will be opened to traffic on Aug. 25, according to Bob Whidden, construction engineer at District III of the State Department of Highways in Ashland.

Contractor John Baltes said he’s figuring on completing work on Aug. 15 “plus or minus a few days.”

Baltes said the long delayed project needs a few signs and some final touchup work. The signs have arrived but must be put in place. There is also some insulation work and some painting to be done at the rest area building.

Baltes’ company was responsible for a 4.949 - mile section of the highway including 11 bridges from Baumhart Road in Lorain County to SR60 south of Vermilion. It was supposed to have been completed last October but State Transportation Department officials granted the firm an extension of time.

Another section from SR60 to SR61 in Erie County was completed on time by Peirce Construction Company and Mosser Construction Company. It involved 6.875 miles of highway and 13 bridges.

Opening the entire new section will mean fast and easy access for people to and from central Erie County including the Huron and Berlin Heights areas.

In case you’re wondering if you're experiencing a case of déja vu, you’re not. I posted a photo about a year ago related to this very same topic.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When I-90 Was Being Built

Most of us from the Lorain area that commute to Cleveland probably rely on I-90 to get us there quickly and safely. After years of driving I-90, we now take it for granted.

That’s why it’s strange to think back to the days when I-90 was slowly being built. Like many interstates, I-90 was built in stages; a section here, a section there. It took years to get it finished. I still remember when it ended at SR Route 83 if you were heading east.

Did you know that when it was still a work in progress, the plan was for it to stretch across western Ohio separate from the Ohio Turnpike (which now bears the I-90 designation)? The divided highway that we now know only as State Route 2 was at one point going to be designated as I-90.

Read all about it in this interesting story (below) that ran in the Lorain Journal on Wednesday, August 10, 1966. It provides a nice progress report on the construction of the highway through Lorain County in the summer of 1966, pointing out that the highway (now known as Route 2) was still being built between Routes 58 and 57.

The officials interviewed in the Journal article were amazingly prophetic about the commercial and residential development that would eventually take place along I-90.


What Interstate 90 Means to Northern Ohio
Expect Highway to Attract New Industry and Business
By Charles Gray
Staff Writer

The $100 million, 77-mile “Main Street of northern Ohio connecting Sandusky and everything in between with downtown Cleveland will be completed in three years – or almost.

State highway planners say this beautiful highway will not take anything away from the Ohio Turnpike. In fact, they expect it to absorb much of the highway’s overflow traffic.

THE ROAD goes by many names now – Port Clinton By-pass, US 6, Sandusky By-pass, Jackie Mayer Highway, SR 2, Interstate 90 and the Northwest Freeway, the Lakeland Freeway and I-90-SR 2. But eventually, state highway planners expect it to be Interstate 90, which stretches from Boston to Seattle.

The new four-lane, high-speed freeway is now open to traffic from the western edge of Port Clinton to Huron, via the new Sandusky Bay Bridge, the Sandusky By-pass and the Jackie Mayer Highway.

A four-mile stretch through Amherst from Baumhart Road to SR 58 is to open to traffic this fall.

Work is progressing on the six-mile run from SR 58 to SR 57 and eastward from SR 57 to SR 254. Both of these will be open in the fall of 1968, and the route east from SR 254 to SR 611 may open the same time since highway officials hope to let that contract this fall.

The portion from SR 611 to the Cuyahoga County line will be awarded to a successful bidder in the late summer of 1967 and opened to traffic in the fall of 1969.

HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT officials said this week that it is hoped that the scheduling of the projects in Cleveland and the opening dates there will correspond with the timetable for Lorain County.

They complained that the Seven County Transportation Land Use Study has held the route up in greater Cleveland, but the road will be open to traffic downtown Cleveland by late 1969 or early 1970.

The 18-1/2 mile stretch from Baumhart Road to Huron hopefully will gain a high priority to maintain the continuity of the system. These plans are now in detailed design and there is no financing problem.

All municipalities along the route expect a burgeoning of industrial, commercial and residential growth.

Sandusky and the Lake Erie Island area expect a greater number of people, from Toledo on the west to Cleveland on the east to make use of the recreational facilities there.

Bill Evans, publicity director at Cedar Point, hailed the imminent opening of the new route as another fast access to that amusement park and hotel resort on Lake Erie. “And it looks like we’ll have 2 1/4 million visitors at the park this year, compared to 2 million last year,” Evans declared, adding that the Breakers Hotel is averaging 1,750 guests a day.
COMMUNITIES LIKE Huron, Vermilion and Amherst, which lie along the route, are looking forward to growth, particularly commercial, developing in all directions from the limited-access highway’s interchange roads.

Amherst Township, an almost sure bet to be gobbled up by annexation, sees the new route as hastening its demise.

And because of the route, Midway Mall has brought Cleveland shopping facilities within easy reach of Lorain Countians with stores which expect to attract shoppers from Sandusky to Cleveland.

Lorain County Auditor Joseph J. Mitock said the road will increase property value all along its route. “Some acreage considered agricultural has risen in land value from $200 to $800 per acre already and key acreages along the route are selling for as high as $8,000 per acre.”

“THE ROUTE will attract industries,” said Jacob O. Kamm, economist and head of the Cleveland Quarries at South Amherst. “Lorain County is already one of the fastest growing counties in Ohio and the road will make it grow even faster.

“Industries like to locate near freeways where they can get rapid delivery for their products and fast access for their employees.

“There will be less and less agriculture in the county and more and more homes and industries. There’s no doubt it will increase land values,” he added.

In Avon, Mayor Nicholas T. Mitock said “there is going to be a tremendous change for us here. This route will cut the driving time down between here and Cleveland from 45 minutes to 15 minutes. They’ll be looking here for homesites.”

MITOCK SAID Avon is on the throres of “literally exploding,” and that he is receiving daily inquiries from industries following the announcement of Norfolk and Western Railroad of plans to lease land there for an industrial park.

“We’re going to commit ourselves for sewers and water for the whole city,” he added.

The various political subdivisions along the route are now in the process of creating Motor Service Districts to control commercial growth at the road’s intersections.


A smaller article accompanied the article above on that same front page of August 10, 1966. This article tackled the issues associated with the designation of the highway as I-90.

What’s the Real Name?

WHAT’S THE name of the new freeway system which is being developed in separate stretches from Sandusky to Cleveland?

Some present designations of the route:

The Port Clinton By-pass, U.S. 6, Sandusky By-pass, Jackie Mayer Highway, SR 254, Relocated SR 2, Interstate 90 and the Northwest Freeway, the Lakeland Freeway and I-90 SR 2.

Within 10 years the route will be designated as I-90, highway officials predicted last week.

C. F. Crissinger, assistant division engineer for the Ohio Department of Highways at Ashland, told The Journal that the designation of the route as I-90 is a predictable eventuality, and that after the road is completed, a public hearing will be held to formally designate it.

Interstate 90 presently comes into Ohio from the west on the Ohio Turnpike and runs to SR 57 at Lorain and Elyria. From there it is designated already for the new freeway, so far uncompleted into Cleveland.

Crissinger added that the I-90 designation will not be made until the bonds are paid off on the Ohio Turnpike.

Officials of that road said today that although the maximum maturity date of the $326 million worth of bonds issued in 1942 for construction of that super road is 1992, that if present rate of usage continues uninterrupted, the bonds may be paid off by 1979 or 1980.


As we know now, the western segments of the highway that were mentioned above – the Port Clinton By-pass, U.S. 6, Sandusky By-pass, Jackie Mayer Highway – are not part of I-90 today. Now, as then, I-90 comes into our area from the west as part of the Ohio Turnpike, and only joins up with Route 2 east of the Route 57 interchange.

Monday, August 17, 2015

That American Flag Overlooking Route 2

That American flag painted on a rocky ledge overlooking Ohio State Route 2 near Amherst is like an old friend that we never get tired of seeing. There’s something comfortable and reassuring about seeing the symbol of our country peeking through the brush there year after year. I’m sure that the flag probably stirs unexpected feelings of patriotism as well.

How long has it been up there? If you’re not familiar with the story behind the flag, this article from the August 6, 1976 edition of the Lorain Journal explains it all.

Amherst Brother and Sister
Painted SR 2 Flag as a Bicentennial Salute
By Michele Rice
Staff Writer

finished product, a 27 by 16 foot Bicentennial Flag.
(Journal Photo by J. Ross Baughman.)
AMHERST – A large Bicentennial flag greets eastbound travelers on SR 2 today, thanks to the work of an Amherst brother and sister.

Grant Thompson, 21 and his 19-year-old sister, Barbara, painted the flag on the ledge overlooking the roadway on July 4. For years, that ledge was used for graffiti.

“We were thinking of something to do for the Bicentennial a year ago, and never got around to it until then,” said Grant, a student at Western College of Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio.

“It looks better than those names, “ he said, and hopes the flag painting will stay.

“If somebody paints over it, I will be mad. I’ll just go down and paint over it again,” he explained.

GRANT said the state-owned property for SR 2 abuts his father’s 75 acres. The cliff is part of an old quarry there.

It took the two about eight hours to paint the flag, and four gallons of paint.

While working on the project, they attracted a lot of attention from drivers.

“All of the sudden the cars started honking and people stopped to talk to us. One guy stopped and gave us three Pepsi’s,” said Grant. “It was kind of neat.”

ALTHOUGH GRANT has a brother, and three other sisters besides Barbara, the others didn’t help with the painting.

“We wanted to do it ourselves,” explained Grant. “We called it OUR Bicentennial project.”

Barbara attends Akron University, majoring in art. Both of them designed the flag.

They reside at 6020 Oberlin Road, Amherst.

Photo Courtesy of the book
Sandstone Center of the World by James A. Hieb
The book Sandstone Center of the World by James Hieb includes a photo (above) of the flag and a capsule history.

It states, “Travelers on State Route 2 just east of Amherst witness the American Flag painted by Barbara (Brucker) and Grant Thompson in 1976 to celebrate our nation’s bicentennial. While the flag has occasionally also been painted with graffiti, good samaritans have always touched up the flag following these acts of ill-respect. Following the 911 attacks, Barbara and Grant, along with family members again gave the flag a fresh coat of paint as a testimony of patriotism.”

Grant Thompson later became the chief naturalist for the Lorain County Metro Parks. The Chronicle-Telegram interviewed him in 2011 and he talked about painting the flag with his sister, as well as what it means to the community 35 years later. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Memories of Tamsin Park – Part 5

In the summer of 1992, I made a trek out to Peninsula to see how Tamsin Park was doing. But the day that I went, I was unable to access the park property, due to road construction if I remember correctly. I did notice that the Indian Mill near the entrance to the park had been renamed Ye Olde Mille, and was now hosting events such as the Arts & Craft Fair held in August that year.

So how long did the park stay open? According to various online accounts, Tamsin Park was still hosting campers as late as 1997. Its glory days were passed, however, and the park eventually closed within a few years.

In 2003, according to the Cuyahoga Valley Arcadia Book, “the property laid idle awaiting annexation to Cuyahoga Falls and the construction of nearly 300 homes."

Indeed today, the former Tamsin Park property is home to a huge residential development called Hidden Lakes.

Although I haven’t had a chance to drive out there and take some pictures, some aerial views available online tell the story.

Remember the 1964 park map (below)?

Well, here are a few aerial views showing the progression of the residential development.

Courtesy of Bing Maps
Courtesy of Google Maps
And what about the Indian Mill featured on the postcard (below)?
It was listed for a sale just a few years ago, and some listings from that era still survive online. Here’s a photo (below) courtesy of
Happily, the Indian Mill found new life in 2014 as the Wine Mill (below). Here’s a link to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Well, that wraps up my weeklong series on Tamsin Park. Hopefully, other people that camped there in its heyday will find these posts and enjoy some of the postcards and brochures.

To some, it might seem silly to be nostalgic about a campground that’s long gone. But you’ve probably figured out that it’s not just about the campground itself, or the real estate it sat on. For me, it’s about memories of a simpler time when my parents were both alive and my siblings and I were young and innocent.

Happy memories of camping, shared by anyone who ever pitched a tent in a wooded meadow, helped set up a pop-up camper or sat in the darkness in front of the glow of a warm campfire with their family, toasting marshmallows.

Tamsin was the perfect backdrop for those kinds of memories.

UPDATE (August 12, 2020)
Be sure to visit my new 2-part series on Tamsin Park with additional postcards, as well as news articles!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Memories of Tamsin Park – Part 4

The Cleveland Plain Dealer published an excellent article about Tamsin Park and its new management in its June 25, 1971 edition. It’s written by James and Barbara Newman, and includes a detailed history of the park.

The article mentions that the park was founded in 1953 as a picnic park that quickly expanded into camping. It also states that Tamsin was Ohio’s first privately owned campground.

The new owners of the park at the time of the 1971 article were Bob Kruty and Ray Flegel. Bob Kruty had been managing the park for the previous owner, and Ray Flegel had worked there as well.

Here’s the article. (Give it a click so you can read it.)

Next: The rest of the story and Tamsin Park today

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Memories of Tamsin Park – Part 3

Here’s a rare Tamsin Park collectible that I’ve never seen online: a six-page brochure and a rate sheet from the 1964 season. I’m not sure why my parents kept them, but I sure am glad they did.

The brochure is loaded with great photos of the park, and includes some well-written text. Part of the copy reads, “Tamsin has the atmosphere of a western national park!” is a remark often heard from campers. The spaciousness of the beautifully wooded campground with great oak trees, hand-hewn log buildings and hand-carved signs, all combine to preserve and enhance your joy of the great-out-of-doors.

“The scenic grounds are large enough to accommodate thousands of people, yet the campgrounds are privately located away from daily park visitors. A variety of camping sites ranging from deeply wooded areas to sunny, “Deer Lick Meadow” is sure to provide you with a camp setting to your likings. You’ll also enjoy Tamsin’s complete and extensive recreational facilities which are all available to the camper and within short walking distance from your campsite.”

Here’s the front of the rate sheet (below). (Note it includes the same great illustration of the iconic totem pole as seen on the decal that I posted on Part 1 of this blog series.)
On the back is a great map of the park.
Next: Tamsin in the news, and some history of the park

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Memories of Tamsin Park – Part 2

Vintage postcards seem to be the only evidence that Tamsin Park ever existed. The top two postcards are ones my parents saved. Looking at them sure bring back some great family memories.

As I mentioned yesterday, the park had a rich, unique atmosphere tied in with American Indian culture that distinguished it from your average Mom-and Pop campground. The colorful, iconic totem pole, the Indian Mill with its collection of artifacts, and the Indian-themed park signage all contributed to a fun and memorable visit for kids.

Although we really weren’t that far from our home in Lorain, when we camped at Tamsin it felt like we were at a real National Park. The Ranger Station and the large, engraved sign at the park's entrance reinforced that feeling as well.

That sign is another one of those images that’s etched into my memory forever.

Anyway, here’s a June 1963 photograph (below) of Mom, my siblings and me in front of the totem pole seen on the postcards. We’re all wearing swimsuits, as well as hats for protection from the sun. You’ll note my brothers and I are wearing our Bar-X Ranch cowboy hats.

I'm the one wearing sunglasses.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at a vintage Tamsin brochure.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Memories of Tamsin Park – Part 1

Vintage decal
(Courtesy of
Was your family a camping family like mine?

Like many Northern Ohioans in the early 1960s, my family jumped on the summer camping bandwagon with great enthusiasm.

We towed our pop-up camper to a lot of parks around Northern Ohio in those early years, including Aurora Lake Park, East Harbor State Park, and Findley State Park. But it's the memories of camping at Tamsin Park on Route 8 in Peninsula, Ohio, that make me feel wistful.

Why? For two reasons. One: the park’s rustic Native American atmosphere and fine lakes made it a lot of fun for our family, and two: a housing development sits on the former park property, practically erasing all evidence that it was ever there.
So please join me as my blog takes its annual weeklong vacation from Lorain County, and I set up camp at Tamsin Park – if only in my mind – one more time.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lake Erie Lanes Ad – August 21, 1959

To close out the week and linger in Vermilion one more day, I thought I’d post the above vintage ad. It's for Lake Erie Lanes, and it ran in the Lorain Journal on August 21, 1959 – 56 years ago this month.

The ad announced the bowling alley's upcoming Grand Opening on Saturday, August 22, 1959. 1957 BPAA Champion Jean Schultz and 5 Times World’s Individual Champion Ned Day were the featured celebrity bowlers on hand to add some star power to the inaugural proceedings.

The ad has a nice roll call of the various companies that were involved with the construction, financing and outfitting of the building, including Crow Lumber, Wolf Electric, Dick West Plumbing, Oberlin Avenue Carpet Shop and Spaid Insurance.

It’s hard to believe that the facility has been there that long, especially since the building looks fairly modern. But with so many area bowling alleys gone (Broadway Lanes, Shoreway Lanes, Andorka's, etc.), it's nice to see that Lake Erie Lanes is still thriving out there on U.S. 6 in Vermilion.

Lake Erie Lanes was one of the places where I bowled with my buddies in high school, especially when we couldn’t find any open bowling in Lorain. (I’ve mentioned before that I was in the lounge at Lake Erie Lanes watching the 1978 Gator Bowl when Woody Hayes punched the Clemson player.)

The building looks pretty different from the architectural rendering in the ad; I can’t remember if the entrance was remodeled at some point.