Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Sheffield Lake Road That Didn’t Get Built – 1947

As a Sheffield Laker, I find this kind of interesting – a kind of “what might have been” scenario.

Back in March of 1947, there was a proposal to extend Walker Road in Avon Lake through Sheffield Lake, all the way to Root Road in Lorain. The idea, as explained in an article in the March 25, 1947 Lorain Journal, was that it might help alleviate congestion on Lake Road.

But it was a dead-end proposal.

Today, Walker does extend into Sheffield Lake a little west of Abbe Road, but that’s about it. I’m not sure if the plan was to try and utilize some of the old Lake Shore Electric right-of-way or not, but it must have been deemed impractical.

The road would have sliced through an awful lot of properties, and it wouldn’t have been particularly far from Lake Road anyway, with the southwestern slope of Lake Road. So it probably wouldn’t have accomplished very much.

You can see from this current map of the city that there just wasn’t any natural route for Walker Road to follow through town.

So maybe it’s just as well for me that the road wasn’t built, as it might have run right behind my house in the Mariner’s Watch development. But then again, it might have been nice to have a direct route to Dairy Queen on Walker in Avon Lake.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Acco Appliance & TV Ad – March 20, 1952

Acco Appliance & Television was located at 1943 Broadway in Lorain. The store specialized in televisions, ranges, small appliances, washers, driers, sewing machines, refrigerators and built-ins.

Ruth and Maurie Amon were the owners, and as they explained in a 1955 ad, “Five years ago, we decided that we wanted to become a part of this community. Neither one of us are natives of this area, yet we, by chance, lived here and came to know some wonderful people. We felt it was a good place to call “home.”

“It seemed our abilities and interests would lend themselves to the appliance business and on June 16, 1950, “Acco Appliance” came into being."

While you might think that the Acco ad has a Christmas theme (since it shows a woman dressed in a Santa suit and holding a fishing rod), it ran in the Lorain Journal on March 20, 1952 – 64 years ago this month.

The ad promotes Crosley televisions, which promised “full room vision” via the wide-angle theater screen. You can see the two models shown in the Acco ad in this full-page ad from the December 4, 1959 issue of Life magazine.

Courtesy Google Play

Acco moved to 521 Broadway in the late 1950s. The company continued to appear in the city directories until the 1968 edition, when the 521 Broadway address was listed as vacant.

Like many other families in the late 1950s and early 60s, we had one of these types of televisions (although I don’t know what brand it was) – a huge wooden box that took a while to warm up. Plus, when you turned it off, you saw a little white light for a while.

I’m going to have to scrounge up a photo of that thing that had such a big influence on my life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

100th Anniversary of New York Central Railroad Wreck Near Amherst

Willis Leiter postcard of the 1916 NYC railroad wreck
Today is the 100th anniversary of the disastrous collision of three New York Central Railroad trains near Amherst, Ohio that took place early on the morning of March 29, 1916. Twenty-seven people died and almost 50 were injured in the horrible tragedy.

You can read excellent local coverage of the anniversary observance in the Amherst News-Times here, and in the Chronicle-Telegram here.

I thought it would be interesting to see how some of the local newspapers covered the disaster at the time it occurred, so I retrieved them from library microfilm. Below you will find the front pages of the Amherst Weekly News, the Evening Telegram and the Lorain Daily News. (Click on each for a larger version.)

If you look closely at the bottom photo on the front page of the Lorain Daily News of March 30, 1916, you can see that it is the same photo shown on the Leiter postcard at the top of this post.

“Ghost Driver" Haunts Lorain County Highway – March 1952

Did you know that a spooky “Ghost Driver” – also known as “The Phantom" – haunted Ohio highways in 1952? And that he paid a visit to Lorain County in late March of that same year?

But before we get to his Lorain County appearance, let’s learn a little bit about the man (or ghost if you prefer). The Chicago Tribune of Friday, March 7, 1952 included the background story below.

The Phantom Rides Again – on Ohio Road

Dayton, March 6 (AP) – A motorist who wears a macabre mask and a luminous skeleton suit has been frightening truck drivers and eluding police on U. S. 40.

The Phantom, as the truckers call him, has been appearing on stormy nights for three months. Roy Fitzwater, 30, a Greenville, O., trucker described his encounter with the Phantom:

“About three weeks ago I was driving down route 40 at about 3 a. m. It was spitting snow and freezing rain, and it was very dark. I saw a car approaching and dimmed my lights. He dimmed his too.

“When he got about 200 feet from me, he put his lights out. Then a little light came on inside the car, and I saw this thing. It was horrible looking. It scared me. I jammed my throttle down and got out of there fast.”

Reports to State Police
Fitzwater told his story to the Ohio highway patrol. For a long time the truckers didn’t report the Phantom. They were afraid the police would scoff.

The stories truckers exchanged in restaurants were all similar. The dim light appears inside the car. The car glows luminously. The driver wears a rubber mask. Sometimes he gets out of the car and reveals his skeleton suit, with bones outlined in luminous paint.

Three truckers cornered him a week ago on the nearby Englewood dam across the Stillwater river, but he zoomed away, scraping his car against one of the trucks.

5 Tell of Encounters
State Highway Patrol Cor. William Harrell said encounters with the Phantom have been reported by five truckers at the Vandalia patrol post in recent weeks. Patrolmen have been alerted from Springfield, O., to the Indiana border, a distance of 57 miles.

Harrell was at a loss for a motive. Maybe the Phantom is mentally ill, or maybe he just has a weird sense of humor, he said.

“We have a man under suspicion and may make an arrest,” he said.

The Sandusky Register also covered the story.

In its March 13, 1952 edition, the newspaper reported, "The ghostly skeleton who danced on Route 40 may have moved to Route 7. A nervous truck driver, Louis B. Martel of Pawtucket, R. I., stopped in Yorkville last night to tell his story to Police Chief Roger Lollini. Martel was driving north on Route 7. which follows the Ohio river. Near a small airport, he saw an automobile approaching. It veered toward him and its lights went out. Then a figure jumped from the car. Glowing in the lights of the truck was a skeleton, topped by some sort of mask in the shape of a skull and crossbones. The skeleton danced. Martel departed."

The spooky story eventually achieved national prominence. The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Massachusetts also include the story about the Phantom in its March 14, 1952 edition. 

About a week later, the small item below appeared on the front page of the Lorain Journal on March 20, 1952. Apparently, the “Phantom Driver” had been seen on Route 18 near Wellington.

So what finally became of the Phantom Driver? Apparently he was never caught, or perhaps an arrest was never publicized.

Chris Woodyard, author of the seven-volume Haunted Ohio series, has a section of (here) that includes reports of even more Phantom sightings on Ohio highways. There’s also an interesting psychological opinion as to why a person would dress up like a skeleton and scare complete strangers.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Oberlin Avenue Commercial Strip Pioneers – March 1952

Anyone familiar with Lorain history knows that Meister Road used to be the southern City Limits, and that for decades there was very little out that way except for farmland (including the Neuman dairy farm), some scattered homes, the Airport Tavern and, at the very end of Oberlin Avenue, the Old Stone Villa nightclub.

Well, that all started to change beginning on Thursday, March 6, 1952. That’s the day that Jay’s IGA Foodliner celebrated its Grand Opening at 3270 Oberlin Avenue. It was followed by the Grand Opening of Lezber Floors the following day on March 7, 1952.

Both were built by Steve Navalinsky, who also built Willow Hardware (which opened exactly a year later).

Here’s the full-page Grand Opening ad for Jay’s. As you can see, the small building was originally all by itself.

A year later in March 1953, Jay’s was joined by neighbor Willow Hardware (below).
And in 1955, Jay’s moved into a new and bigger space within the shopping center (which I wrote about here). (This space would later become Willow Hardware’s home.)
By 1961 Jay would leave the shopping center and construct a new store further south on Oberlin Avenue (that would later become a Meyer Goldberg store).
Lezber Floors was owned by Ralph Lezber. It was located at 2311 Oberlin Avenue prior to its move to 3300 Oberlin Avenue.

Here’s its Grand Opening ad, which ran in the Lorain Journal on the eve of its March 7, 1952 opening.

Here’s a 1956 Lorain Telephone book ad, with a nice line art rendering of the building.
And here's a 1957 ad from the phone book with another nice illustration.

By the time of the 1954 City Directory, Lezber Floors and Jay’s had been joined in the listings by Willow Hardware, Willow Tavern (run by Edward Toth), RCA Service at 3330 Oberlin Avenue, and the Knights of Columbus Council at 3350 Oberlin Avenue.
Lezber Floors appeared in the city directories until its listing disappeared beginning in the 1984 edition. Today its distinctive building is the home of DiFrancesco Garage Doors & Openers. (Click here to read about the late Paul DiFrancesco, the man behind the business.)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

The color scheme of the giant Easter Basket at Lakeview Park is particularly nice this year – kudos to whoever came up with it. The pastel colors are bright and cheery and the effect really reminds me of the classic Easter baskets we had as kids.

It was sunny and nice today, so many families were getting a head start on their traditional photos with the basket.

To review some of my many, many posts about the history of Lorain's Easter Baskets, and to check out some color schemes of the past, click here.

Here’s hoping that you have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, March 25, 2016

O'Neil Sheffield Shopping Center Easter Ad – March 14, 1956

Here's a nice full-page ad that ran in the Chronicle-Telegram on March 14, 1956 – 60 years ago this month – promoting a variety of Easter events at the O'Neil-Sheffield Shopping Center.

First, they had the Easter Bunny arriving by helicopter on March 17 at 1 p.m., met by Mrs. Bunny and their 24 (!) children in "a grand and glorious reunion.” (Where had he been, anyway?) This was followed by the Bunnys' handout of free candy eggs. The grand finale was a Big Easter Egg Hunt on March 24.

Last year on the blog, I featured an ad for the 1955 O'Neil-Sheffield Shopping Center Easter Festival. That year, the bunny also arrived by helicopter – twice.

But by 1957, the beloved rabbit was apparently a victim of cutbacks, and consequently stripped of his whirlybird. In this ad (below), which ran in the Lorain Journal on April 5, 1957, we see that he arrived by housetrailer!
At least the wife and two dozen offspring were still there to greet the well-traveled Easter ambassador. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Passing Scene – March 1, 1969

As March slowly draws to a close, I figured I’d better squeeze this in. It’s yet another serving of the classic "Passing Scene" weekly comic strip, created by Journal Staff Artist Gene Patrick and appearing weekly in the Lorain Journal during the 1960s and early 70s.

As usual, the strip – which ran in the Journal on March 1, 1969 – humorously covers a variety of local events of recent weeks.

Courtesy Oberlin College
The reference to Oberlin College protesters in the first panel seems to be the most timely, since protesting is in the news almost every day now.

In this case, the Oberlin College students were demonstrating against Marine recruiters on campus. As explained on the Oberlin College website, "An estimated 200 students jammed Peters Hall on February 20, 1969, for a sit-in to prevent 13 classmates from meeting with Marine Corps information officers about careers in the armed services. The commotion forced the officers to leave.

"Oberlin’s then president, Robert K. Carr, said rather than call local police, he chose to handle the matter in house and “let the situation run its course.” Administrators threatened to bring charges of improper behavior in an academic community against the students who participated.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hoy-Lo-Mae Allotment – 1941

I lived on the East Side of Lorain for almost ten years during the 1990s.

401 Nebraska Avenue
in the early 1990s
While going through the process of buying the house at 401 Nebraska Avenue,  I remember looking over the paperwork and seeing the words, “Hoy-Lo-Mae” on a layout drawing of the street.

"Gee, our subdivision has a cool Indian name!” I remember thinking. (More on that later in this post.)

Shortly after moving in, I was told by a neighbor that the house was probably built by O. A. Hafely. I later discovered it was.

That’s why the small item below, which appeared in the June 28, 1941 Lorain Journal caught my interest. It reported that a new allotment, to be known as the Hoy-Lo-Mae allotment, was announced by O. A. Hafely, Lorain contractor and real estate dealer.

It describes the allotment as being west of the Euclid allotment, and south of E. Erie Avenue, with 162 sites available for home building. All lots were 50 feet frontage with trees to be planted in front of each.

It also noted that “outlet to E. Erie-av will be thru Euclid-av to the east and Nebraska-av on the west.”

On the same day as the article, this ad (below) appeared in the Journal as well.
Anyway, it turns out that the Hoy-Lo-Mae allotment did not owe its name to an Indian tribe that roamed the East Side of Lorain before the White Man came and cut down all the trees. The explanation for the unique name appeared in the "Log of Lorain" column in that same Lorain Journal on June 28, 1941.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Modern Bungalow – Then & Now

I found the above Open House ad recently while scrolling through microfilm at the library. The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on July 16, 1938.

The Modern Bungalow, located on the East Side of Lorain on Concord Drive, was built by Wilbur Huffman, and offered for sale by the A. H. Babcock Company.

I wondered what the house looked like today – 78 years later.

But there was no numerical address provided in the ad, just directions as to how to get there: “Drive Out East Erie Ave. to Euclid Avenue.”

And that’s what I did – via Bing Maps, of course. But I had to “drive” up and down Concord Drive for quite a while, because I just couldn’t find it. The problem was that the house’s unique roof line was perfectly obscured by a tree.

And here’s the “now" view of the still-handsome house at 405 Concord Drive.
Courtesy Lorain County Auditor

Monday, March 21, 2016

“Civic Beauty” Home – Then & Now

I saw the above postcard recently on Ebay, identified as one in a series of 20 promotional postcards produced by the Lorain Times Herald.

The back of the postcard had the instructions as to how to acquire the whole set of 20 cards. It read, “A Post Card Coupon cut from the Times-Herald gets you one card; 18 coupons get you the entire series. No charge.”

The typeset caption of the postcard – “South View, a “Civic Beauty” Home – made me think that the house was somewhere out in South Lorain, and I groaned at the thought of driving around looking for it. But then I peered closely at the handwritten caption in the photo and recognized part of a name, “Wick.”

Then I knew exactly whose house it was and where it’s located (below).

Former Lorain Mayor and Councilman George Wickens lived there. It’s appropriate that his house was featured on a postcard, as he was one of the city’s champions when it came to promoting civic beauty.

You can find a sampler of my posts about George Wickens by clicking here.

But it’s kind of sad, and a little ironic, that this “civic beauty home” (now the home of Walter A. Frey Funeral Home) now sits on a four lane federal highway, wedged uncomfortably between Lorain’s monstrous City Hall and Muzik’s Auto Care.

Friday, March 18, 2016

All Star Show Featuring Alex Visci - March 1952

Here’s an ad for the All Star Show at the Hotel Antlers Auditorium benefitting the Lorain Jaycees Youth Activities Fund. The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on March 8, 1952.

It was quite an impressive musical lineup, including the Four Aces as the headliners. (I previously mentioned the Four Aces in a post about their November 1954 appearance at O’Neil Sheffield Shopping Center.)

Also appearing on the All Star Show bill were Chicago singer and pianist Al Morgan, known for his  big hit, “Jealous Heart”; singer Bill Darnell; the Four Lads, the popular Canadian singing quartet; and singer Dolores Hawkins, who recorded with the Four Lads in 1952.

But the main reason I wanted to post this ad was that my old trumpet teacher Alex Visci and his Quarter were backing up the four acts mentioned above.

Other local talent appearing at the show were Bob Nickoloff and His Band, the Gene Krugman Trio, impersonator Joe DeSantis and pantomime artist Russ Owens.

You might remember my weeklong series on the Old Stone Villa last week. Well, while trading emails with Linda Harding about her grandparents and how they came to build the Villa, she casually mentioned that her Aunt and Uncle were Visci’s.

When I mentioned that my brothers and I had taken trumpet lessons from a Mr. Visci, she emailed back, “Yup, that’s him! He and my Dad were very close.

“Alex and Kitty [his wife] would come over every Friday night to play cards with my parents. He was amazing.”

It turns out that Linda’s father is a musician too – a sax player – and that he played with Alex Visci. Linda noted, “They played a lot together, along with my Uncle Louie who played accordion and trombone. Lots of musicians in my family.”

In fact, Linda’s son is a singer/songwriter in New York.

Linda also mentioned Mr. Visci’s favorite nickname for people: Erbs. Linda explained that her father told her “that he [Visci] would call anyone Erbs when he didn’t know their name."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patrick's Day at the Hoop – 1956

If you were looking for a place in Lorain to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in 1956 – 60 years ago today – then one option would have been to head for the Hoop on Henderson Drive.

As the half-page ad above shows, which ran in the Lorain Journal on the eve of the big day, there were a lot of tasty things going on at the Hoop, with your choice of either Irish Stew or Corned Beef & Cabbage for 80 cents.

The ad copy also mentions Irish Milk Shakes, predating McDonald's Shamrock Shakes by about 14 years. (According to this Huffington Post article, McDonald's Irish-themed shakes have been around since 1970.)

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Landmark Vermilion Restaurants Run by Busy Lorain Mother – 1964

Since I’ve been writing about Erie County restaurants this week, here’s an interesting article about Mrs. Thelma Wise,  a Lorain woman who was running one of Vermilion’s landmark restaurants in 1964: Leidheiser’s Restaurant. She was also about to add the former Okagi Restaurant to her Vermilion restaurant portfolio.

The article below ran in the Lorain Journal on March 9, 1964.

Mrs. Wise had been the owner and manager of Leidheiser’s since her husband passed away 14 months earlier, and according to the article had acquired the popular Okagi Restaurant, which was two doors down to the east. She was planning on renaming it, “Leidheiser’s Vacationland Room.”

You can learn about the Okagi over on Rich Tarrant’s great Vermilion Views website. There’s an article here about the restaurant’s original owners. You can also type the word ‘Okagi’ in the search engine at the bottom of the Vermilion Views website page, which will bring up links to even more articles and wonderful vintage photos of the restaurant.

Courtesy Rich Tarrant’s Vermilion Views website
Former Okagi Restaurant today

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Twine House in Huron

Vintage Postcard
Vintage Postcard showing the Twine House cocktail lounge
Another unique and popular Huron restaurant was the Twine House. Like the Showboat, it was also located on North Main Street in Huron.

It also had an interesting history, which was related in this article which ran in the Lorain Journal on March 28, 1964, a few months before the restaurant opened.

Landmark To Be Restaurant
History of Twine Becomes Entwined

HURON – A century-old river bank landmark on N. Main St. will soon start a new career as a two-level family restaurant, keyed to both vacationing and resident diners.

Seven local men have combined their efforts to develop “The Twine House,” the name derived from its most recent function as a warehouse for twine.

The building started as a maintenance facility for engines of the old Oxford-Tiffin Railroad, later was turned by the Wicham family into a small factory for making fish boxes, and still later was a planning mill for the V. A. Fries Lumber Yard.

It has been a twine house since 1913.

Dining rooms in the new restaurant will seat 220 people. There will be be a separate cocktail lounge and rooms for private parties. Ample parking space is planned, and 130 feet of dock space will be available for private boats.

A large wood burning fireplace will be at one end of the main dining room. The entire lower elevation of the building will be glass enclosed, with a view of the Huron river from any place in the split level dining area.

Goal for an opening date is the end of May or the middle of June.

The seven co-sponsors are John J. Hills, Franklin Wilkes, Donald Reese, Richard E. Hulme, Carl W. Klepper, George Krumlauf, and Amico (Cootch) Carmel.

The announced restaurant policy is moderately priced family and “special occasion” dining, with year-around service for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening snacks.

Ads for the Twine House ran in both the Lorain Journal and the Lorain Telephone Company directory.

Lorain Journal ad from October 10, 1964
1972-73 Lorain Telephone Book ad 
Sadly, the Twine House is no more.

According to the City of Huron website, a fire destroyed the Twine House on December 28, 2000. As the website noted, “About 75 firefighters, freezing temperatures and all night operations left a pile of charred rubble in between a bar and a hotel.”

The Clarion Inn next door was spared, according to this account of the fire on the Toledo Blade website.

Nevertheless, memories of the Twine House, as well as the Showboat, live on in the minds of their customers, their ex-employees and the families who ran them.

Modern restaurant entrepreneurs could learn a lot from the ambitious and imaginative people who thought of and created these Huron landmarks.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Showboat in Huron

Vintage Postcard
(Courtesy of
Although I’ve been blogging about vintage Lorain eateries lately, let's wander over to Erie County to look back at some of that area’s truly original restaurants. For some reason, that city’s nautical heritage inspired entrepreneurs to create unusual and ambitious places that attracted people from miles around.

One of these was the Showboat restaurant and cocktail lounge in Huron, located at 10 North Main Street.

An article (below) announcing its grand opening ran in the Lorain Journal on June 16, 1971.

The article explains how the restaurant’s location at the foot of the Huron pier was originally home to the Huron Fish Company in the early 1900s.

Jake Claus and Walter Mesenburg were the creative owners behind the landmark restaurant, which was designed to resemble an old river boat.

Vintage Postcard
(Courtesy Flickr)
Ads for the restaurant occasionally ran in the Lorain Journal. Here’s one that ran on June 16, 1972, on the one-year anniversary of the restaurant’s opening.
Sadly, the restaurant was eventually condemned and demolished. One website specifically points out that it was not destroyed by fire, as a few published articles have claimed.
On a happier note, a couple of years ago the Showboat was the theme for one of the Huron Chamber of Commerce’s recognition nights (which you can read about here). Members of the Claus and Mesenburg families, who ran the restaurant for more than 20 years, were honored. Photos and artifacts were displayed, along with the actual front door of the restaurant.
Today, the former restaurant’s vacant property is described as the city's best “first opportunity” for development.