Thursday, August 31, 2017

Homestead Inn – Part 2

I drove out to Sandusky a few weeks ago to check out the Homestead Inn property. The restaurant appears to be closed.

It’s strange to see the motel buildings down, and the land used for storage and other activities.

The former Gulf service station – expanded over the years – seems deserted as well.
Although it is sad to see the fate of the Homestead Inn, at least it is pleasant to think that there are many who have fond memories of a fine dinner at the restaurant, or a night of restful comfort at the motel.
A recent Bing Maps view taken before motel was demolished

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homestead Inn – Part 1

Just a few miles to the south of the Milan Travel Park on U. S. 250 was the Homestead Inn.

The back of the vintage postcard above describes the Homestead Inn: “40 Unit Motel – Victorian Restaurant serving excellent food and stockyard steaks – Cocktails – Antiques – Swimming Pool – Aircraft landing strip – Farm Animals – Auto Service Center – Route 250 at Ohio Turnpike Exit 7.”

Here’s another vintage postcard view (below). You can see how the property had evolved over time.

The back of this postcard reads, “HOMESTEAD FARMS – Homestead Inn Restaurant, Motels (75 Units), Cocktail Lounge “Some Place Else,” Auto Service Center. Farms raise Polled Hereford cattle for prime beef in the restaurant. Purebred Arabian horses and other farm animals. Antiques, swimming pool, aircraft landing strip.”
By the time of this 1990 postcard (below), signage had been added to the wall near the motel. As described on the postcard, the property was now called Homestead Inn Motels. It states, “This complex has 75 rooms for Lodging, Pool and Restaurant. Homestead is near Lake Erie, fishing, beaches and Cedar Point. Historic Milan with Thomas Alva Edison’s Birthplace and 6 Museum Bldgs., 2 miles. Mfgs. Outlet Mall 1/2 mile.”
Meanwhile, the restaurant – which held its Grand Opening in August 1958 – was being featured on its own postcards. This postcard (below) from 1962 advertises steaks, chops, chicken and sea-food, as well as a coffee shop, select wines and private dining rooms. It mentions that "motel & aircraft landing facilities” were available.
Here’s a newer version, dating from when the motel had 75 rooms. The postcard (with photograph by Tom Root) mentions that they raise their own beef. It also promotes the “Some Place Else” Cocktail Lounge.
Here's a slightly different version.
And here's the aforementioned Cocktail Lounge (below). Looks pretty cozy.
Lastly, here's a menu currently on Ebay.
Click here to read about Jeanette Russell Henry, founder and general manager of the Homestead Inn Restaurant from 1957 to 1974.
Next: the Homestead Inn today

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Milan Travel Park on U. S. 250

A recent view of the main building of the Milan Travel Park on U. S. 250 near Milan
I’ve driven by Milan Travel Park (shown above) on U. S. 250 near Milan for years, originally mistaking the campground for an RV store. That’s because there were usually RVs parked in front of the main building, and you couldn’t see the park from the highway anyway.

That’s why it was interesting to see the 1970s postcard below on Ebay recently. The postcard shows the campground when it was known as Holiday Trav-L-Park. Back then it had a little breathing room around it – as opposed to now, when it is crowded by motels.

Here’s another vintage postcard view of the campground.

The back of the postcard reads, “HOLIDAY TRAV-L-PARK. Clean – Friendly – Family Fun. Ohio Turnpike at Exit 7. Swimming Pool, Propane, Convenience Store, Laundry, Playground, Horseshoes. Near Cedar Point, Many Historical Sites, Lake Erie and Islands. One and a half hours from Sea World.”
Actually, the campground has an interesting history. It was originally connected with one of the best known names in the lodging business: Holiday Inn.
Although it may be hard to believe, at one time the motel chain had its own chain of campgrounds, known as Holiday Inn Trav-L-Parks®. This Holiday Inn wiki page indicates that franchising began in the 1960s.
It was a good idea to try and get some business from travelers that rarely stayed in motels and preferred the great outdoors instead. Holiday Inn positioned the campgrounds as resorts where campers could relax in comfort and not ‘rough it’ too much.

Here are some early advertisements.

There were a lot of Holiday Inn Trav-L-Parks around the country, judging from the various postcards and brochures found on Ebay. Locations were carefully selected to be near popular tourist destinations, including Las Vegas, Wisconsin Dells, Nashville, Myrtle Beach, Jamestown, Virginia Beach and of course, Sandusky. There seemed to be the most Trav-L-Parks in Florida.

As you can see, the chain had its own mascot, “Charlie Chipmunk,” who looks like a cousin to Disney's Chip ’n Dale. The cute critter was even featured in his own coloring book.

At some point, however, Holiday Inn decided to spin off the campground business, resulting in the truncated name, “Holiday Trav-L-Park” for the remaining parks, such as the one on U. S. 250. “Holiday Trav-L-Park” still seems to exist as a brand.

A few of the campgrounds became affiliated with the K.O.A. campground chain.

Anyway, today the Milan Travel Park is for sale. It’s got some pretty nice online reviews, so hopefully a new owner can be found.

A recent view of the park entrance
Aerial view of the park today (Courtesy Google Maps)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Downtown Sandusky – Then & Now

I saw the above vintage postcard of Downtown Sandusky on Ebay last summer, and knew it would make a good subject for the “Then & Now” treatment. Finally – almost a year later – I finally made it out to Sandusky a few weekends ago.

The back of the vintage postcard reads, “OHIO’S LAKE ERIE VACATIONLAND, COLUMBUS AVENUE, SANDUSKY, OHIO. Columbus Ave., and downtown Sandusky facing the Bay. Main Street of the business section which offers a compact shopping district of up-to-date stores, markets and hotels.”

The postcard was published by Gainsborough Studio, Sandusky, Ohio and was “made direct from Kodachrome.” (We’re not going to read that on the back of a postcard anytime soon. Heck, we may never see a new postcard again, either.)

Anyway, here’s my “now" shot.

While many of the buildings on the east side of the street are the same in both photos, the former Lasalle's department store building is quite different. It was renovated in the 1990s to become the Erie County Office Building. (For a history of Lasalle's, including a great 1955 photo, click here to visit its page on the Erie County Historical Society website.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Passing Scene – August 19, 1967

Well, the Lorain County Fair runs through Sunday, so here's a final tribute. And since I started the week with a Gene Patrick cartoon, I might as well finish the week with one too!

The "Passing Scene" comic strip above, with the last panel devoted to the Lorain County Fair, ran in the Lorain Journal on August 19, 1967. Other news items mentioned in the strip include a Wellington reunion of descendants of Archibald Willard, painter of the famous Spirit of '76.

Anyway, to wrap up my fair coverage, here's a final piece of 1967 Lorain County Fair advertising art that was featured in the Journal.

Next week on the blog, things will go back to normal. I'll be heading out to Vacationland for a couple of days devoted to a few Sandusky topics. Summer is winding down, after all, and I'm running out of time for some of these posts!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

1905 Lorain County Fair

Well, I've done a few days about the Lorain County Fairs of the 1960s. Leave us go back in time to a much earlier edition when the fair was still young.

From the pages of the September 19, 1905 Lorain Times-Herald comes the article above about the opening day of the sixtieth annual Lorain County Fair. The 1905 edition was still being held in its original Elyria fairgrounds location along the west branch of the Black River.

Judging from the article, it sounds like it was do-or-die time for the fair. In fact, the article noted that the fair president and other officials “have worked hard to make the fair this year a success and should they fail this time it is doubtful whether another one will be held. For several years back it has not been a paying venture.”

Happily, the Lorain County Agricultural Society were able to turn things around.

I was out at the fair on Wednesday night. The weather was perfect (although it clouded up pretty well at one point) and there was a nice crowd. The Oh-Boys were excellent, as were the French Fries, and the Rutana Apple Dumplings, so I’m a happy man with a full belly as I write this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 1967 – Lorain County Fair Schedule

It's kind of neat seeing what was going on at the Lorain County Fair fifty years ago today. The tall ad shown below ran in the Journal the day before and provides a nice glimpse of what was then a five-day fair. (Is that Beaver Cleaver standing next to his prize bull?)

The ad reflects the popular culture of the times. For entertainment, we have Myron Floren and Jack Imel of the Lawrence Welk Show, which my grandmother enjoyed.
Note that on the same bill was J. Fred Muggs! 
His biography for a similar appearance at the 1965 Clearfield County Fair sums up his career nicely. “You've seen him on television . . . On the Today Show for four and a half years . . . On The Jackie Gleason Show, The Martha Raye Show, The Perry Como Show, Howdy Doody, Ding Dong School, with Winchell and Mahoney among others as guest star. He's a trap drum expert. . . A fencing champ ... A punching bag artist ... A rifle drill monster ... A ball player . . . A rock 'n roller. He's J. Fred Muggs, the world famous chimpanzee."
Happily, J. Fred Muggs is apparently still with us, according to this Wiki page.
By the way, did you notice the glaring typo in the ad?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

New Lorain County Fair Buildings – 1964

I still love going to the Lorain County Fair each year and to me, much of its appeal is its timeless quality. It doesn't change very much from year to year and seems to be frozen in time – which is fine with me.

But at some point, the fair buildings were new – and the article below, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on August 1, 1964 – provides a clue as to when some of them were built. It mentions how the office building, pony barn, rabbit building and dining hall were all new that year. Also, the walking area of the fairgrounds were newly blacktopped.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Aug. 21, 1967 – Journal Front Page With Lorain County Fair Art

Well, it’s Lorain County Fair Week! And since last Friday’s post featured one of cartoonist Gene Patrick’s “Passing Scene” cartoons, today’s post appropriately highlights more of his artwork, this time with a Lorain County Fair theme.

It’s a special header he designed for the Lorain Journal that ran on Monday, August 21, 1967 – 50 years ago today. And as a bonus, he also scored another cartoon on that same front page.

It’s the Erie-Huron County edition of the paper (remember when there were multiple editions of the Journal?) and it includes sad news of a drowning in Berlin Heights, as well as other news items from Norwalk and Wakeman.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Passing Scene – August 6, 1966

To finish out this third week of August, here's yet another edition of Gene Patrick's "Passing Scene" comic strip that ran in the Lorain Journal back in the 1960s and 70s. This strip appeared in the paper on August 6, 1966 and is a little timely in view of what's going on in Lorain right now, school-wise.

In addition to recent U.F.O. sightings, the comic acknowledges the Lorain City Schools having recently hired Dr. Joseph F. Calta to be the Superintendent. Dr. Calta would have the job from 1965 - 1975. (You can read more about Dr. Calta and his long career in the Lorain school system here.)

Some younger blog readers may not recognize Dr. Calta's dropping into the car as a parody of the old Hertz commercial below.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

“Coffee at 10” in Elyria – August 1947

Elyria was in the news lately as it celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding, so maybe it’s a good time for this post. It features an article that appeared in the Lorain Journal on August 14, 1947 – 70 years ago this month – and it’s about a topic dear to my heart: coffee.

The article, written by Rhea Soper Eddy, examines the fondness of Elyria’s business community back then for taking mid-morning coffee breaks at local eating establishments. The story also includes a little history of a restaurant run by brothers John and Spero Valassis.

‘It’s Coffee at 10’ For Folks in Elyria
Brothers Recall ‘Good Old Days’ When Prices Were
Lower; Eating Habits Changed


ELYRIA – Instead of “cocktails at 5” it’s “breakfast at 10” here in this county-seat.

Unlike some of the larger communities with their swanky afternoon cocktail hour, when friends meet to chat over an ice cold beverage which doesn’t necessarily have to be cocktails, many Elyrians declare recess around 10 a. m. and dash out for coffee and rolls.

Stop in at any of the many eating places around Elyria’s “square” and you’re lucky to find a place to sit down if it’s mid-morning.

“See you at So-and-So’s for coffee at 10” is a popular expression in this inland city, summer or winter. And that goes for office workers as well as the bosses.

Business As Usual
Of course, that doesn’t mean that offices and business places close just so the executives and their helpers can go out for a mid-morning snack. On the contrary, business goes on as usual, all taking turns at storing away a cup of coffee and a roll or doughnut sometime around 10 a. m.

According to John and Spero Valassis, brothers, who have operated an eating establishment on the square here since 1907, when most of their patrons were farmers who hitched their horses to posts out in front of the restaurant, many changes have taken place in man’s eating habits and the mid-morning snack is one of them.

But you cannot get either of the Valassis brothers to testify that the extra meal in the forenoon has anything to do with adding weight. In fact, they agree that most persons were even heavier back in the early 1900’s when they only ate three meals a day.

Eat More Salads
“Perhaps it’s because they eat more salads, fruits and non-fattening foods than they used to,” declared one of the restaurant partners.

“More likely it’s because they’re more weight-conscious and do more exercising,” contradicted the other.

At “breakfast at 10,” at one eating place here, 12 persons, both men and women, perched on stools at the counter, sipping coffee or soft drinks. The latter are substituted for the hot drink when the thermometer soars.

Occasionally a customer who is real hungry will add a roll or doughnuts. Many drink fruit juice along with coffee.

Population 6,000
Elyria was a mere infant back when the Valassis brothers started in the restaurant business in the same room they now occupy. The population then was less than 6,000.

But a more striking contrast than population are the food prices, then and now. According to the restaurant, eggs in those days sold at eight and nine cents a dozen, the best grade of country butter was obtainable at 16 cents a pound. You could buy bread at 2 1/2 cents a loaf, pork chops were 10 cents and steaks 15 cents a pound.

Is it any wonder they call them “the good old days."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Before Route 611 Was Widened

Back in the 1990s, Colorado Avenue (Route 611) was widened from two to four lanes with a turning lane in the middle, from Abbe Road east to the I-90 interchange.

The widening drastically changed the look of that area and stole a lot of frontage from the properties. It literally paved the way for much of the development out that way.

It’s strange to think of how the Route 611 exit off I-90 used to be. For many years, there was nothing out there but that lonely Sohio station by the highway – with no traffic lights in sight.

Anyway, shortly after construction was underway, I brought my 35mm camera along for my commute and grabbed a few morning shots of the highway view that would soon disappear. (The Camp Wa-Hoo sign mentions "Saturday, April 23" so I guess that means that these photos are from April 1994.)

Colorado Avenue at Route 301, looking east
Colorado Avenue looking east just east of Route 301
Entrance to Camp Wa-Hoo with Colorado Avenue in the background
Colorado Avenue looking east as it approaches Miller Road
Colorado Avenue looking west from the parking lot of Lorrie’s Floral Shop (now a vapor lounge)
The Wa-Hoo Tavern sign (which was wrecked this year in a storm I believe) got me to wondering how long Camp Wa-Hoo has been out there. I checked city directories and phone books, and it appears that the campground opened sometime around 1972 or so.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Grand View Golf Course Ad – August 20, 1965

It’s interesting how golf is generating so much interest on this blog recently.

On Friday’s post about the former Spring Valley Golf Course, a reader named Todd asked about a Par-3 golf course that was located on Lake Road next to the old Roman Villa restaurant. He noted, "You paid in what in what I think was an old gas station and they gave you a club and two golf balls for your round. 

"The short holes if I remember correctly, went behind the station and Roman Villa's parking lot and maybe a motel. My uncle took me there when he was teaching me how to play. That would have been in the late 60s.

Regular blog contributor Rick Kurish provided a good answer. Rick wrote,"Although I do not personally remember the par 3 golf course you mentioned since I was not in the area during the 1965 to 1969 time frame, I did run across an ad for the course a couple of years ago.

"In the C-T of August 20, 1965 was an ad for the new Grand View Par 3 Golf Course. It was advertised as the only course in Lorain County that was lighted for night play and was located at 4881 West Erie Ave., between the Grand View Motel and Roman Villa Restaurant.

"I wondered how a golf course could have existed in such a small space and your description of the layout of the course explains it. I'm guessing that the course was a short lived attraction, since I drove by there every day in 1970 without noticing it.”

Here is the Chronicle-Telegram ad from August 20, 1965 that Rick mentioned.
As Rick noted, the course wasn’t there very long. It first appeared in the 1965 Lorain Telephone Company directory, and was gone by the time of the 1967 edition.
Here’s an aerial view of the Grand View Golf Course circa 1969, courtesy of the Historic Aerial website. You can kind of make out where the holes were located.

Today the former golf course is home to apartment complexes accessible from Fulmer Drive.
Vintage Arnold Palmer
Putting Courses sign
(Courtesy flickr)
For a little while in the 1960s, that stretch of West Erie Avenue was apparently a haven for golfers. 
A little bit to the west of Grand View on the same side of West Erie Avenue was the Arnold Palmer Putting Course at 5007 West Erie. It first appeared in the phone book in the November 1963 edition. 
But it too was gone by 1968. (Today, an apartment house complex occupies the location.)
Perhaps the Arnold Palmer Putting Course suffered from the same handicap as Grand View Golf Course, being just a little too far out there in-between Lorain and Vermilion – and inconvenient to get to for residents of both towns.