Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trouble at Lincoln Park – April 1967

Since the last two days’ posts have been about Lincoln Park Ballroom, I might as well post this article, which ran in the Journal on April 1, 1967. It details some of the unhappy problems that were going on at that time between the nightclub and the neighborhood surrounding it.

It's nothing to be nostalgic about, but still, it's part of the history of the property.


Lincoln Park Is Talking About…
Battle Plans
Staff Writer

Inside, Lincoln Park Ballroom throbs with the sounds of electric guitars and snare drums.

Outside, neighbors seethe with resentment.

Inside, young people sway with the beat of rock-and-roll bands.

Outside, home owners shake their fists and curse.

Discord between area families and ballroom owners is mounting and does not promise to diminish even when the last chords of popular songs fade away.

In fact, the rift promises to erupt at any moment into a legal showdown.

THE PROBLEM at Lincoln Park is an old one – but the recent fuss, which culminated at a public hearing last week, began when ballroom owner Richard Yepko petitioned the City Planning Commission for a rezoning ordinance.

The private park is one block west of Broadway, nestled between mobile homes on the west side and Lincoln, Jefferson and Josephine streets on the east.

Last summer, Yepko asked that seven acres of his property be rezoned. Yepko said he needed the new classification to build a swim club at one end of the park.

HIS PLANS call for pool and clubhouse that would shelter a dining room and bar, at one end, and bathhouses at the other. The club would be private with 500 members and would be operated independently of the ballroom.

The swim club would take up only a small portion of available land in the park. The remaining area, between the club and ballroom would be used for parking, tennis courts and picnic facilities.

Although the presence of the ballroom upset Yepko's neighbors, it was his announcement of swim club plans that really riled them.

They felt it would only be another headache – creating more traffic congestion, more vandalism and more noise.

In the past, they say, windows have been broken by flying wine bottles, yards have been torn up by passing cars, mail boxes have been knocked down, noise has kept them awake at night, and streets have been clogged with cars that file in and out of the park.

THEY DIDN'T fight it before but with the announcement of the swim club, they feel their headaches will double.

Some of them are pretty upset.

Said Mrs. Junior B. Haller of 194 Lincoln Ave.: "When I first moved out here my taxes were $38 a year. Now I pay $100 a year and all I got to show for it is a busted street."

"The speeding out here is terrible," said Mrs. Michael Yuhas Jr. of 202 Lincoln Ave. "We have 36 children who live out here in this area and someday one of them is going to get killed."

Donald R. Jordan of 198 Lincoln Ave. agrees.

"THE STREETS out here are pretty narrow and there aren't any sidewalks. With all these cars coming in and out, there isn't even room for a teenager to ride a bicycle on them," he said.

"It's not that we object to a swimming pool," said Robert M. Bernhardt, leader of the opposition group. "As a matter of fact, I think it's a great idea. But this just isn't the place for it."

BERNHARDT, who lives at 230 Jefferson Ave., recently gathered his neighbors in an organized band to fight the rezoning measure. They appeared before city council at the public hearing and presented a petition signed by 27 residents who were against it.

Yepko, on the other hand, gave council a petition with names of 37 people who were in favor of it.

Yepko says he fails to see what neighbors were complaining about.

"I don't know," he said, shaking his head, "you try to do something nice and look what they do to you."

Yepko pointed with pride to the inside of the night club.

"We run a good place here. No trouble, and no complaints until I proposed this swim club," he said.

Yepko said he kept a careful watch on young patrons who come to his place to dance. He pulled out a list of rules.

ANYONE WHO violates the rules or misbehaves could be banned from the club anywhere from six months to six years. The list of offenses ranges from abusive language to possession of a false identification card to possession of fireworks.

"We've kicked out more than 200 kids for rule violations," he said.

He said he takes special care to see no one carries drinks in or out of the building.

"If bottles of beer or pop are thrown on these people's lawns (and I don't believe they are), they don't come out of my place."

Yepko said he employes four special patrolmen to check rowdyism, illegal drinking, reckless driving and to park cars in the lot."

"I DON'T think these people have anything to complain about," he said, "and I still can't see why they oppose my swim club."

Yepko said he had received few or no complaints from the 106 families who live in two mobile home parks on the ballroom's west side.

"Most of them favor the swim club," he declared.

Mrs. Neal Szabados, a member of the neighborhood opposing the club, disagrees with Yepko.

"I don't think many of them are well-informed about how it is going to be operated or what they are going to charge. Most of the people in the trailer park won't be able to send their children to the pool every day."

Mrs. Szabados, who lives with her family at 3945 Josephine St., said the neighbors finally decided to fight the proposal after taking "all we could stand."

"WE'VE TAKEN it all – car jams, vandalism, noise – everything – without a whimper. Now we're going to stick up for our rights," she said.

Her husband has been helping the effort by taking pictures of alleged offenses and plans to display them at next Monday's meeting with City Council.

At the neighborhood powwow last Monday night, Bernhardt laid out the strategy for the skirmishes ahead.

"We've had all kinds of complaints. We've bent over backwards and went along with all this wahoo. Now we're going to fight back.

"We're going to make him obey all parking violations. If a car pulls into your driveway," Bernhardt told the group, "call the police. If the police give you a run-around, keep calling them back.

"Anytime you have any vandalism, call the police and then call Yepko. Get him over here and confront him with it.

"If you have any bottles and cans on your yard, don't pick them up," he continued. "Let it sit there until it gets nice and thick. Then call the city service director.

"KEEP COMPLAINING until something gets done.

"If we have to get nasty, let's get nasty. We'll tear city hall apart if we have to But, above all, stick together."

Bernhardt confided the group may hire an attorney, "if worse comes to worse," adding that his group would fight to have their ward declared "dry" by voters if Yepko's swim club is approved.

Yepko, in turn, says he'll exhaust all legal possibilities until he gets approval. It's either sink or swim for him.

UPDATE (October 1, 2015)
According to an article sent to me by Rick Kurish that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on June 28, 1967, Lorain City Council’s building-lands committee "recommended unanimously that rezoning to permit the club be denied.” That apparently scuttled the swim club for good.

In May, the Planning Commission had voted to approve the request to rezone the area from a residential classification to one that would allow for the swim club. But Council refused to agree with the Commission’s recommendation, due to the objection of the nearby land owners.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

1906 Grand Opening Ad for Lincoln Park’s Predecessor

In yesterday’s post about the Lincoln Park Ballroom, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure how long a business had been at that location.

Well, as it turns out, longtime blog contributor Rick Kurish had already done the research to answer that question. In fact, he shared it with me last year!

He had read my old 2013 post about Lincoln Park, and wrote, "Boy, did that bring back memories! In the 1960s it was the place to go; it was always packed. Several of your readers mentioned that the place is currently kind of decrepit and creepy, in its abandoned state. I think the place has a longer history than most people are aware of.

"It originally had its grand opening as "Baerenwald Park" on May 13, 1906. Its address was listed as Lincoln Ave. Stop 48 on the Green Line.

"I've attached a scan (below) of the grand opening advertisement which appeared in the Elyria Republican newspaper of May 10, 1906.
"Reading the description of the size of the dance floor, and the types of people and activities that were allowed, was hilarious --- especially the part that no liquor of any description will be for sale on the grounds, and disreputable parties will not be admitted to the park. I venture to say that a lot of people who frequented the club in the 1960s, myself included, may not have made the cut!

"I don't know exactly when the name of the park was changed to Lincoln Park, but in an advertisement in the Chronicle Telegram newspaper of April 2, 1921, it is Lincoln Park. A much more marketable name than Baerenwald Park!”
Thanks to Rick and his uncanny research skills, we now know that the Lincoln Park property began as a summer resort and was already open at least as early as 1906. We also know that the building there – whose dimensions mentioned in the ad are practically identical to those on the Lorain County Auditor website – was new in 1906 as well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lincoln Park Ballroom Grand Opening – September 1946

Back in February 2013, I did a short post on Lincoln Park Nite Club. At the time, I mentioned that the earliest listing in the Lorain Phone Book that I could find was in the 1947 edition.

So it makes sense that the above ad advertising the night club’s Grand Opening ran in the Lorain Journal on September 14, 1946. Apparently the business had existed in some form before, but according to the ad, it was now remodeled and under new management.

The ad promotes the appearance of Morrie Alexander and His 10 Piece Orchestra, featuring Alex Megesy, “the Lorain Boy Who Made Big Time.”

“Plenty of Free Parking” is also mentioned in the ad. (We all remember the trees in the parking lot and what a challenge it was to dodge them.)

Lincoln Park is another one of those Lorain businesses that are almost impossible to research, since it had a Stop (Stop 48) for an address, and was on the outskirts of town.

A teaser ad for the Grand Opening had appeared in the paper on Friday, September 13 (below).

Also on the page are ads for Eddie’s Blue Castle Sandwich Shop, the Sam Klein Company and two different ads (Eddy’s Market and Steve Polansky’s) pushing Kirkman Flakes at 26 cents a box.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kreamery Kitchens Ad – September 1975

Most of the fine people who read this blog remember getting ice cream cones at the Lorain Creamery, and later, enjoying great sundaes and milk shakes at the Old English Parlour there as well. It was an iconic Lorain business and a real symbol of Lorain’s glory days.

I suppose it will take at least another generation for those memories to completely fade.

The Lorain Creamery was a favorite topic on this blog in its first year. I did a multi-part series of posts that year beginning here, and following through here, here, here, here and here.)

Somehow in that blog series, I missed the fact that the Creamery's little dairy store was called Kreamery Kitchens – the subject of the September 19, 1975 ad that ran in the Lorain Journal 40 years ago this month.

The ad sure makes its goodies sound good: donuts, chocolate milk and farm-fresh dairy products. Nice light, hearty fare.

Anyway, time marches on – and in the past few years, the Creamery complex has been used as a used car lot (below) and more recently, a used appliance store.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Those Fishing Shacks on Lake Road

Last summer, I had the opportunity to interview Alice Carter, the owner of Skate World. It was a chance to not only learn about the history of Skate World, but also the trailer park just west of the roller rink. That's because at one time, Alice owned it and all of the surrounding land as well. Thus during our conversation she was able to shed some light on what the property was like back in the 1970s.

Courtesy Lorain County Auditor
Of particular interest to me were the two cottages (above) at the western edge of the grounds. Although after our conversation I no longer believe they were part of the Green Lantern Camp (which I wrote about here and here), they still have an interesting history.

Alice says that when she first owned the trailer park, she was told that the two small cottages were fishing shacks. She said that they looked very much then as they do now. However, they had no electricity or water; Alice had to run power and water lines to them.

Since then, the property has been separated, and one cottage is by itself. Alice still owns one of them.

She also said that the small brown shack (seen in the photo below) was something she put up, so it is not a leftover from an old camp.

The two cottages certainly fit in with the thought behind HGTV's Tiny House, Big Living show. They're really cute and 'on the lake' to boot.

Alice also told me about the white building that sits in the middle of the trailer park. You can see it in this vintage 1950s aerial (below). (The two cottages are a little obscured; you can see part of one of them.)

Courtesy Lorain Historical Society
Alice says that the white building was a house when she first owned the property. It had two apartments in it. She converted it into a utility laundry and kept the upstairs apartment.
Here is the building today (below).
Courtesy Lorain County Auditor
Lastly, Alice was also able to tell me about the dark colored house that used to be located near the front of the property. It was visible in the vintage photo (below). 
She revealed that it was still standing in 1976. But it was not worth saving so she had it torn down. Today, some landscaping consisting of evergreens and shrubs marks the spot where the old house was located. You can see it in the Bing Maps aerial view below.
My thanks to Alice Carter for filling me in on the history of the property adjacent to Skate World. It’s nice to get the information from someone who was there when the area was going through massive changes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Edna’s Restaurant Revisited

One of the handicaps of trying to research old businesses located on the western outskirts of Lorain on US Route 6 in the 1930s, 40s and 50s is that you usually don’t have a street address to go by. These businesses were located in Black River Township and thus not officially in Lorain.

For decades – lasting right into the late 1960s – the only addresses available for many of these businesses were their designated “Stop" on the old Lake Shore Electric Railway (such as Stop 108).

Making it even trickier is the fact that in the old City Directories, US Route 6 west of Lorain seemed to go by a different name in every edition: Lake Road, West Lake Road, West Erie, etc. It got even more confusing when the cloverleaf near the undercut was built in the 1950s, creating small bypassed chunks of road.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s books that the highway’s name and numerical addresses became standardized from Leavitt Road to the Vermilion border. The small bypassed segments were given new names (such as Pueblo Drive).

Which is a very roundabout way of leading me to today’s topic – Edna’s Restaurant again – and how I goofed when I did a post on it back in May 2013.

Remember this great 1957 map showing the various Lake Road businesses?

Edna’s Restaurant (run by Edna Mitchell) was listed as being at Stop 111. Here’s a closeup of its map listing, which reveals that the restaurant was brand new at that time.

Stop 111 was used in the restaurant's ads for the first few years. Here’s its 1958 phone book listing (below).
In the city directory from the 1961, I finally found an address for Edna’s: 4875 W. Erie – which is located on the south side of the road. So naturally I assumed that Edna’s was always located there.
But while watching the old 8mm footage posted on yesterday’s blog, I thought, “What the heck is Edna’s doing on the north side of the road?”
So I went back to the city directories to try and figure out how I goofed.
In its first listing in the city directories, Edna’s was indeed lumped in with Ed’s Place Motel and the truck stop. Here’s the 1959 listing below (same year as the 8mm footage).
Edna’s phone number is even numerically close to the motel. So that makes sense.
But in the 1962 city directory, Edna’s Restaurant had a new phone number and was now located next to a Texaco gas station on the south side of the highway, opposite Garwell’s. So the business had moved – and I had missed that fact.
In this July 4, 1963 Journal ad, Edna's even had a new name and promoted the fact that it was “newly remodeled.”
I wouldn’t have known except that I saw the sign for Edna’s in that old footage.
So you can see what a challenge it is to do research sometimes. Businesses (like Edna’s) often pick up and move nearby or even across the road, creating confusion 50 years later for hapless researchers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A 1959 Drive Along Lake Road to Edna’s Restaurant

Yesterday I mentioned how Bill Latrany had explained to me that Skate World had been built around the old Ed’s Place Motel.

Well, a few years ago Bill sent me a fantastic link to some unbelievable movie footage from showing the motel. The 1959 footage is part of the YouTube collection of Johnny Sharp (former organist at Skate World).

Here’s how Bill explained it to me in an email:

"Johnny Sharp was the original organist at the Lorain Skate World, and stayed on with the new ownership in 1976, as the venue expanded from live organ music to DJ entertainment during the disco era.  The lines to get in on Friday and Saturday nights would wrap around the building to the restaurant parking lot to the east back in the day.  

"Anyway, somewhere in this link I'm providing you, you will find actual 8mm movie footage from the mid 1950's coming down West Erie Avenue from Lakeview Park, passing the former Lorain Arena, and very ironically pulling into the parking lot of the Benny's Motel where Skate World now sits! I haven't seen the video in about 2 years, but Johnny Sharp has it here in his YouTube collection. “

Here is the link to the footage for you to copy and paste into your browser. (YouTube won’t let me embed it here on the blog post.) One of these should work.

The footage starts at Lakeview Park at the Easter Basket, and then the person operating the 8mm camera points it right through the windshield as the car makes it way along Lake Road west under the railroad undercut.

As the car makes its way up the hill past Franke Drive on the right, a lonely, long-gone house or cabin appears on the horizon.

A cluster of buildings (one of which must be Garwell’s) slowly looms into view.

The car then abruptly pulls into the parking lot of Edna’s Restaurant (what we know as the former Tiffany’s Restaurant), and past rows of gas pumps from the adjacent service station.

Suddenly, Ed’s Place Motel (the building with the long roof) is visible in the background as the car makes it way towards parking near the rear of the restaurant.

We then get a few good shots of Edna’s Restaurant as the driver looks for a parking space. (The building sure looks different without the windows all covered up like they are now).

Later, as the car prepares to head home again by pulling out onto Lake Road, the Edna’s Restaurant sign is clearly visible. The Lorain Drive-in is off in the distance on the left side of the frame.

Just for comparison, here’s a similar sequence of shots retracing the route of that 1959 driving excursion.

That’s Franke Drive coming in from the right.
Where the Edna’s sign was roughly located

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Motel Inside Skate World

The Morning Journal had a great article last week by Drew Scofield on Skate World’s 40th Anniversary. It included some nice quotes by Alice Carter, the roller rink’s owner, and she mentioned something very interesting about the building.

"Before it was converted into a skate rink the building previously was a motel and a truck stop,” she was quoted in the article.

The motel was originally called Ed’s Place Motel – Ed being Ed Blahay. You can see it in this photo below; it’s the long building with the white roof at the left hand side of the photo.

Photo circa mid-to late 1950s
(Courtesy of Lorain Historical Society)
Here’s its city directory listing from 1961 (below).

1961 City Directory Listing
It later was renamed Benny’s Motel when Ben Hart owned it beginning around 1963. 

1963 City Directory Listing
It continued being listed in the directory even after Ben Hart’s death until around 1970.

I had first heard about the Skate World’s previous life as a motel from Realtor Bill Latrany many years ago in a series of emails we exchanged about Lorain’s skating heritage. Bill worked at Skate World, and was the DJ there for more than fourteen years.

Bill was also a witness to the motel’s conversion to a roller rink. He wrote, "Bill Starbuck of Star Builders built the rink around 1973 or '74, but didn't finish and open until the first week of October in 1975.

"I remember my mother taking me down there while the rink was under construction as she knew one of the original owners (Joe Matuszak). He would give us the nickel tour of the place and the progress of construction.

Bill also explained how the motel and truck stop were integrated into the roller rink complex.

"As for the motel that is attached to the west end of the rink, which the rink was built around, it's comprised of the offices, skate room, skate shop and restrooms. They made very excellent use of the existing building in a very creative manner, even using the old window cutouts from each of the motel rooms as bulletin boards for promoting events in the rink itself.

"The rooftop serves as the balcony and storage areas.   There was also a Sohio gas station on the front portion of the lot, between the former restaurant to the east and the motel to the west.
"The parking lot was where the skating floor is now.” 
Here’s an aerial view of Skate World today to compare with the 1950s photo.
Here are some photographs I took inside Skate World last summer when I went there to interview Alice Carter. This one (below) shows how the former motel was integrated into the structure on the west side of the rink.
These shots of the hallway (below) shows the front front of the motel with the doors that previously opened to the parking lot. Alice told me that each room or office had its own bathroom.
Here are some closeups showing the windows that were converted to bulletin boards.
I thought this vintage Victor Selectorama candy vending machine in the hallway was pretty cool (below). These things are all over the internet in various stages of rehabilitation.
My interview with Alice Carter last summer was focused on the trailer park to the west of Skate World. That’s because I was still trying to learn more about the Green Lantern Camp. Alice was able to provide me with answers to some of my questions, since she used to own the trailer park. (Watch for an updated post soon.)