Friday, October 18, 2019

Milan Canal Article – October 16, 1956

Everyone probably knows that Milan, Ohio is the birthplace of inventor Thomas Alva Edison. But did you know that Milan was once a busy shipping port, thanks to a three-mile canal linking the tiny village to the Huron River and Lake Erie?

Read all about it in the interesting article below, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on October 16, 1956.

Milan’s canal made the Journal again a year later, when it the paper printed the article below. It’s about the village’s first apartment house, built on the banks of the old canal. The article ran in the Journal on November 6, 1957.
And here’s a view of the apartments at 61 E. Front Street today, courtesy of Google Maps.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Turnpike Lanes

While researching my recent bowling posts, I came across this ad for a bowling alley I’d never heard of: Turnpike Lanes. The bowling alley with the clever name was located out on Griswold Road at Route 57, a little north of the entrance ramp to its namesake highway.

The ad with the great architectural rendering above appeared in the 1961 Lorain phone book. Note that the special Enterprise 4040 phone number reflected the 40 Brunswick pinsetters.

Turnpike Lanes opened in 1961. Here’s another ad, this time from the Chronicle-Telegram on January 12, 1962. It reveals Dave Marks as the Manager.

It looked like Turnpike Lanes had all the ingredients for success. But an article in the September 13, 1962 edition of the Chronicle pointed out a discouraging trend when it came to bowling: people weren’t bowling as often, with a reported drop in the number of local leagues. The article noted, “One reason lies in the rapidity with which bowling emporiums have been built in the past 10 years. The result has been a slicing up of patronage among the houses, with a couple houses losing customers every time another is built.
“The opening of Shoreway Lanes, a 24-alley plant in Shoreway Shopping Center, Sheffield Lake, has affected the patronage at arenas in Lorain and Avon Lake.”
Although the same 1962 article observed that Turnpike Lanes had scheduled 36 leagues, which was more than the previous year, bowling was not destined to last at that important intersection with the coming of Midway Mall.
Turnpike Lanes continued for about three more more years before Furniture Land took over its address in the city directory around 1966. Perhaps the opening of the Mall simply made the property too valuable to waste on a sport that locally seemed to be declining in popularity.
Meyer Goldberg grocery store soon joined Furniture Land at the former Turnpike Lanes location, since the building and property were large enough to accommodate more than one company. 
A variety of businesses called that location home over the years. I’m sure many of you remember when Booksellers was in the western portion of the building from 1986 to 2001. Thinking back at that book-crammed space, I can now visualize a bowling alley (with its multiple levels) there.
Today the nicely remodeled building is home to J&M Interiors and Design.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Hoop Introduces Tel-Autograph Ordering – Oct. 1956

Ordering food at a drive-in back in the 1950s usually meant sitting in your car and waiting for a carhop to come take your order.

By the 1960s, technology had evolved so that it was possible to sit in your car at the drive-in and place the order through a speaker system; then, when your food was ready, it was brought out to you. The A&W Drive-in in Vermilion had a system like that.

But during the time period in-between these two scenarios, there was a unique option for drive-in restaurant owners  – and that’s the subject of today’s ad. The ad for the Hoop Drive-in on Henderson Drive ran in the Lorain Journal on October 2, 1956 and announced the restaurant’s new Tel-Autograph system of ordering.

So what was the Tel-Autograph? Much as its name implies, it was a machine that electronically transmitted messages in the sender’s own handwriting. It was invented in the late 1870s, and was the precursor to the modern fax machine.

Tel-Autograph technology seemed to be perfect for the restaurant business.

So how did it work at the Hoop? As the Journal ad noted, the drive-in customer drove by several menu boards (much like today’s drive-through lanes) before placing their order at the Tel-Autograph booth, where the "courteous attendant” took the order and transmitted it to the kitchen.

It was all very high-tech and modern for 1956.

I’m not sure how long the Tel-Autograph lasted in the drive-in world. But it's fascinating to look back and see that competition for customers was just as fierce more than sixty years ago as it is today, forcing restaurant owners to try every gimmick they could to increase sales.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four Winds Drive-in Grand Opening Ad – Oct. 1956

Many of us that grew up on the West Side of Lorain may remember that there used to be a Manners Big Boy down at the end of Oberlin Avenue where it meets Cooper Foster Park Road. The restaurant building was located on the northeast corner, where today there is a broad, sweeping turning lane for those heading north on Oberlin Avenue – with no evidence that anything was ever there.

Well, back in the mid-1950s, Four Winds Drive-in called that location home. The full-page ad (above) for the Grand Opening of the drive-in appeared in the Lorain Journal on Friday, October 19, 1956.

As you can see, the ad promotes the restaurant’s “authentic, old world recipe” pizza, “baked as it is in Sunny Italy... right before your eyes... not in pans, but on the tiles of our open hearth.”

The ad copy certainly wins me over. It notes, “In any language it means just plain delicious, for Neopolitan pizza is truly royal pastry. Though originated in the 17th Century, no one really knows when the pizza came to America, but all know it is the most popular of all Italian creations. Crisp, succulent, flavorful, aromatic, the pizza is either a snack or a meal.”

Four Winds Drive-in was an early player in Lorain’s pizza wars. Although Yala’s had opened in 1954, there were only four pizza places listed in the Lorain phone book in 1956 in that category: Four Winds Drive-in, Lusca’s, The Pizza House (located where Rosie’s Pizza is now) and Motto’s Pizza & Spaghetti House. (By the time of the 1957 book, the listings also included Giovanni’s, Fior’s Lake Road Spaghetti House and DeLuca Bakery.)

Here’s the 1956 phone book ad for Four Winds Drive-in.
By 1958, the Four Winds Drive-in had become the fourth location of Richard Head’s burgeoning empire of Hoop Restaurants. But as you can see from the ad below from the 1958 phone book, the Hoop still featured the popular Four Winds Pizza.

So what was going on with the Hoop at this same time period? Stop back here tomorrow to see what high-tech gadget the Hoop was introducing over on Henderson Drive in October 1956.

Monday, October 14, 2019

What used to be in that building?

I haven’t done one of these types of posts in a while, so it’s about time.

Recently I noticed by the sign out front that this attractive brick building towards the southern end of Oberlin Avenue in Lorain had recently sold. (I always liked the fedora-wearing dog logo on those BARCK Realty signs.)

Do you remember what business was at this location for decades beginning in the mid-1950s?

Anyone who lived on the West side of Lorain would probably instantly recognize it as the home of Stanley’s Garden Center, owned by Stanley and Helen Zadekas.

Although it might seem a little unusual location for a business like this (in the old days you might have to go out into the country to find one), in this case it makes sense.

Back in the 1950s, this area was still “out of town” when it comes to Lorain. It wasn’t yet part of the city.

It was beginning to open up, however, with the explosion of homes that was beginning to occur on the west side (which my parents were a part of). Businesses began to pop up on Oberlin Avenue south of Meister Road to provide families with the things that they needed for their new homes.

So what was out in that neck of the woods around the time when Stanley’s Garden Center opened?

Looking at the 1957 City Directory, there were several businesses mixed in with the homes. There was the Airport Tavern (today’s Mutt & Jeff’s), Lenny’s Drive-in and Shield’s Rest Clinic (today’s Sprenger Health Care Autumn Aegis).

And although Tower Boulevard wasn’t built yet, the Lorain Animal Clinic was already there at 4205 Oberlin Avenue. Further down was the Italian American Veterans at 4645 Oberlin Avenue. Near the very end there was the Four Winds Drive-in (more about it tomorrow) and Stone Villa. (No Rebman’s yet.)

Stanley’s Garden Center had an impressive run until it closed in the early 2000s. Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning then called the location home for many years, followed most recently by Ink Shop.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Death of a Dome

Vintage postcards of the old Lorain County Courthouse with its stately, magnificent cupola and dome never fail to impress me.

While the newly restored former Courthouse is still very attractive, much of its beauty and character was lost when the stately dome structure – topped with a statue of Lady Justice – was removed.

In a comment that I left on my post about the former Courthouse last month, I briefly touched on how the dome came to be torn down. The commonly accepted version of the story is that the dome had been too badly damaged in a wind storm and became a hazard, thus necessitating its removal for the safety of the local populace.

But was that really the case? I decided to go back and read the story as it played out in the Lorain Journal in 1942 and 1943, and present the articles here on the blog. After reading them, it was easy to see that there was a coordinated rush to demolish rather than repair (especially in view of the later effort to replace the whole building via a county-wide ballot issue in 1944).

Here’s a report of the initial damage to the Courthouse dome caused by high winds during a terrible storm in which wind speeds were as high as 60 miles per hour. The article appeared in the Lorain Journal on March 9, 1942.

A day later, an article (below) appeared in the Journal in which the County Prosecutor expressed his opinion that the county legally didn't have to repair its buildings at all!

By March 17, 1942 the dome suffered more damage in a storm. Here’s the Journal report from that same day.
In this article from the March 20, 1942 Journal, it sounds like there was plenty of money available to either repair or remove the dome.
Meanwhile, the condition of the ornamental zinc trim at the top of the dome was getting worse. This article from the March 24, 1942 Journal explains.

By early April 1942, the County Commissioners were still waiting for an opinion from the state building inspector as to whether the dome should be repaired or removed. This article appeared in the Journal on April 3, 1942.
Almost a year later, the decision to either remove or repair the dome was not yet resolved. The article below appeared in the Journal on February 20, 1943.
A few days later, the small article in the Journal on February 23, 1943 noted that Judge Webber was threatening a lawsuit if a decision was made to remove the dome.
On Feb 24, the County Commissioners voted 2-1 to remove the courthouse dome. The article below appeared in the Journal that day.

By February 25th, when the article below appeared in the Journal, demolition was already underway. The article describes how the statue of Lady Justice atop the dome was unceremoniously decapitated by a member of the demolition crew. The rest of her body was allowed to fall and crash from its longtime spot atop the dome was well.
Incredibly, while the demolition was in progress, the Common Pleas Judges had not yet made a decision as to whether the dome should be removed. The article below from the March 10, 1943 Journal explains.
The article notes that the demolition was already into its fourth week, and that the contractor bristled at the suggestion that "the delay was caused by workmen running into 'more substantial' construction than expected." It hardly sounds like the structure was ready to collapse as it had been claimed.
A day later, the two Common Pleas Judges Cook and Findley dismissed the lawsuit brought by retired Judge Webber to halt the demolition. Here's how it was covered by the Journal in its March 11, 1943 edition.
As a sad footnote to this whole affair, Judge Webber made one final, poignant plea to save the dome in a letter to the County Commissioners. 
As the news item below from the March 18, 1943 Journal noted, "Declaring that it has taken workmen four weeks to remove one-third of the dome, Webber's letter said that "it must now be apparent to you that you have made and are making a mistake in tearing down the court house dome, constructed of solid brick masonry and reinforced steel.
"Webber cited a letter published in a newspaper in which a Grafton, O. resident reported that he had inspected the dome and that "only a direct hit by a 4-ton block buster" would have destroyed it."
When Did the Lorain County Courthouse Originally Open?
I was curious as to when the Courthouse actually opened, since I've never seen an official date of dedication. Checking an online newspaper archives website, I found two small newspaper articles that suggest it was October 1881. The first is from the Wellington Enterprise of Oct. 19, 1881 and mentions that the building was "nearly completed."
This second news item (below) appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday, November 1, 1881. It notes that the October term of the Lorain County Common Pleas Court opened in the new Courthouse on October 31, 1881. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Where are the Passing Scene Comics?

My regular readers have probably noticed that it's been several months since I posted any of Gene Patrick's "The Passing Scene" comics from 1969.

That's because after the two strips that ran in July 1969, "The Passing Scene" disappeared from the pages of the Journal after that month. I'm not sure why.

Gene’s own business, Gene’s Hobby Hub, located between Yala’s Pizza and Dom & Luigi’s Barber Shop, wouldn’t open for several more years. So that’s not the reason.

The funny thing is that I know Gene Patrick was still at the Journal during that time period. I found the cartoon below accompanying an article that ran in the paper on September 2, 1969 – ironically, about missing persons.

Gene did contribute a comic illustration to the Journal several times a month during late summer and early fall 1969.

Eventually “The Passing Scene" reappeared at some point, because I've seen strips from the 1970s. I’ll keep you posted – and hopefully some comics too, soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Memphis Kiddie Park

Last week I wrote about Huron Kiddieland, and expressed regret that these tiny, family-run parks have become a thing of the past, thanks to the public’s preference for the huge, mega-parks that promise much greater thrills.

The funny thing is, I forgot to mention that, locally, at least one of these small parks is still around and thriving in 2019: Memphis Kiddie Park. It’s located at 10340 Memphis Avenue in Brooklyn, Ohio (near Cleveland) and has been there since 1952.

It’s become somewhat of an institution since it has been there so long with many of the original rides, which have been lovingly maintained.

Here’s the link to the Memphis Kiddie Park website.

As the nationally distributed article below (from the Stevens Point Journal of April 20, 2000) the park caters to the "toddler and kindergarten set.” But that’s perfect for many families with very young kids for whom Cedar Point would be too big, too overwhelming – and too expensive.

Strangely enough, Memphis Kiddie Park is located a stone’s throw from my employer’s warehouse and distribution facility. When it looked for a while that we might consolidate our Cleveland operations at the Brooklyn property, I drove out there with some other company personnel to check it out, and we noticed the proximity of Memphis Kiddie Park. “Well, if we do move to Brooklyn, at least I know where I can get a corndog at lunch,” was my comment.

While preparing this post, I found an interesting news item about Memphis Kiddie Park from August 1955. “Cops Raid Kiddie Park, Confiscate Slot Machines” was the headline of the article which ran in the Lancaster Eagle Gazette on August 1st. As the article noted, “Suburban Brooklyn police today raided the Memphis Kiddie Park and confiscated three coin machines.

“The confiscated machines were a 10-cent target device, a 10-cent baseball game and a 5-cent “earth moving game.””

The proprietor of the park said he didn’t know he was violating the law. Brooklyn Mayor John M. Coyne said a Brooklyn ordinance holds any kind of coin-operated machine illegal – even cigarette machines.

The Mayor had the funniest line of the article when he said that Memphis Kiddie Park "has developed into a Las Vegas for children.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Wienermobile Returns to Lorain County

Last month I did a post about a 1959 visit to Lorain County by Little Oscar and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Stops at the Sparkle Market grocery stores in Lorain and Avon Lake were on the menu that day for the miniature chef and his hot dog on wheels.

Well, while I was in Avon on Sunday morning, getting ready to get on I-90 to go home, I did a double take when I glanced at the traffic exiting the highway.

Unfortunately, I was in the lane to get on I-90, which I did. But being the nosy type, I got off at the next exit (State Route 611) and doubled back so I could see where the thing was going.
I guessed correctly: Walmart.
Although the Wienermobile had only been there a matter of minutes, it was already attracting attention. But I managed to get a few photos.
Although I only hung around for a little more than five minutes, I watched at least five or six parents take a quick photo of their kids in front of it. Everybody seemed to get a kick out of seeing it up close, and it’s obvious that the goodwill mobile frankfurter was serving its purpose well.
I was sorry that I already had my dinner simmering in the crock pot at home, as I suddenly had the urge for a you-know-what with mustard in a toasted New England bun.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Remember Sparky the Fire Dog?

Sparky as he looked when launched as a fire safety mascot in 1952
On Friday I featured a 1950s cartoon dog on this blog. Well, here’s another one of Man’s Best Friends in cartoon form from that same era.

This is Fire Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to shine the spotlight on Sparky the Fire Dog, the longtime fire prevention mascot of the National Fire Protection Association. The cartoon Dalmatian wearing a firefighter’s hat and outfit been teaching kids about fire safety since 1952.

Here’s some of the publicity from Sparky’s launch as the symbol of home fire prevention. This ran in the Journal Times on April 16, 1952.

And here’s some early newspaper advertising art. This appeared in the News on October 4, 1952.
This article from the Casper Star Tribune of December 24, 1954 explains how kids could join Sparky’s Fire Department and send away for an official badge, membership card and manual. Note how Sparky’s design had evolved.
By 1958, Sparky was a familiar face in the newspaper during Fire Prevention Week. He also made personal appearances through the use of costumes which were made available to fire departments across the country.
Ad from the Allentown Messenger, Jan. 2, 1958
Ad from the Allentown Messenger, May 1, 1958
Article from the Progress Index, Oct. 1, 1958
This Sparky costume (below) is fairly terrifying – more like Sparky the Fire Possum. The photo ran in the Los Angeles Times during Fire Prevention Week on October 7, 1958.

Here's yet another Sparky costume. This one was used by the Montgomery Fire District in Wilmington, North Carolina; the photo appeared in the Star-News on October 11, 1959.

My hometown of Lorain, Ohio had a Sparky costume (or mask) that was similar to the one being used in the Montgomery Fire District. The photo below appeared in the Lorain Journal on September 30, 1959 in preparation for Fire Prevention Week 1959.
The article accompanying the photo noted, “The Lorain Fire Dept. is training its preventive eye on schools, businesses, industries and the homes.
“For the first time, Lorain’s school children will be competing only against others of their own ages for fire prevention prizes. The Lorain Fire Department Fire Prevention Committee, headed this year by Fireman Stanley M. Yourkvitch, felt that the old system of splitting children into only four age groups gave oldest youngsters in each group the advantage.
“Again, Fireman “Sparky,” familiar to the children for years, will travel from school to school to demonstrate safety rules and the workings of a fire truck.
“To provide variety, the featured fire truck on this year’s school will be a pumper. The children last year were shown a hook and ladder truck.
“As to the contests, first, second and third graders will compete in coloring 8-by-10 fire prevention posters.
“Children in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades will try their hands at free-hand drawings of any pictures they choose from a fire prevention comic book provided by the firemen."
It seems like the late 1950s were a busy time for Sparky in newspaper advertising. Here’s a newspaper ad with great illustrations from October 1959. It’s a shame they don’t run ads like this anymore; I think they are still needed. 
From the Port Angeles Evening News, October 3, 1959
I don’t know if today’s kids are still taught about fire safety by Sparky. Maybe they're too sophisticated to buy into the fantasy of an anthropomorphic Dalmation telling them to prevent fires. 
Sparky’s still around (here’s the link to his website) but he's a little less intense and has been redesigned to look less threatening. He’s also been given a new backstory (in which he is depicted as a cute puppy) in an apparent effort to make him more appealing to little kids. Ugh.
But if you remember Sparky from your school days, you’ll enjoy this short vintage film.
 I also featured Sparky and Fire Prevention Week 1959 on this blog back here.