Friday, June 28, 2019

The 1924 Lorain Tornado from a 45 Year Perspective

It seems strange that in only five years, it will be the one hundredth anniversary of the infamous 1924 tornado that changed Lorain forever.

Even in 2019, it is becoming rare to find anyone in Lorain who lived through it or has any kind of memory of it.

That wasn’t the case fifty years ago in June 1969. It had only been 45 years since the tragedy and it was still fresh in the minds of many Lorain citizens. Thus it was easy for the Journal to find someone to interview for their perspective.

In this article that ran in the Journal on June 28, 1969, the paper mainly focuses on the reminisces of Antone Ujhelyi, the City Auditor at that time.


75 Died, 1500 Injured
The Lorain Tornado:
45 Years Ago Today

Staff Writer

At dawn it promised to be a pleasant summer day.

But at five in the afternoon it turned into a day of terror and tragedy for Lorain residents. That was on this day 45 years ago when a tornado swept off Lake Erie and into downtown Lorain.

Many survivors still remember June 28, 1924. Two people who lived through it were Norman Siegfried, 1377 Nichols Ave., Lorain, and his wife Ethel – a couple married two hours before the disaster.

Siegfried recalls that the twister struck without warning just as the family was finishing taking pictures of the newlyweds in the bride’s house at 1246 W. Erie Ave., Lorain. “I was just too stunned to move,” Siefried says. “I just stood there with my wife taking in all we could through the window. The house was lifted about an inch off the ground.”

A few moments later the funnel had passed through the city’s business district into South Lorain where 13-year-old Antone Ujhelyi was talking to his father who had just returned from St. Joseph Hospital after an operation.

“I remember looking out of my house at the National Tube Company across the street,” says Ujhelyi, who 45 years later is Lorain city auditor. “I saw one of these bridging cranes collapse. Billboards were ripped off their frames and blown across the town like cards.

“THAT WAS only the tail end,” Ujhelyi adds. When he inspected the area’s damage the next day, he found cars blown across the street and a large house turned on its side “just as though someone had tipped it over.”

Siegfried recalls the terror of the storm’s fury: “I thought it was the end of the world to tell the truth. It was as dark as at ten. I saw telephone poles flying around. Then in five minutes it was all over.”

Siegfried said all the house’s windows were smashed in and part of the roof was blown off. Several homes in the neighborhood were lifted off their foundations, and the roof of the plush State Theater on nearby Broadway caved in, killing scores of movie viewers.

The Siegfried had to postpone their honeymoon as the young husband aided in rescue operations. Siegfried found that Lorain High School had been converted into a morgue and hospital for some of the city’s 75 dead and 1,500 injured. “We never got out of town," Siegfried remembers. “We had planned to take a trip.”

Because of looting and fallen power lines, it was a week before the National Guard re-opened the main business district which was decimated by the tornado. Damage to Lorain was so severe that 7,500 residents were left homeless. It was one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history.

The damage was exaggerated by the press, Ujhelyi said. Ujhelyi notes that it was more than a week before relatives in Budapest found out it was untrue that “the entire city of Lorain was demolished and there were no survivors.”

A huge, front-page headline in the August 1, 1924 Journal read: LORAIN WILL INFORM WORLD SHE IS HERE YET – To Rectify Incorrect Information.”

For Ujhelyi the first intimation of unnatural weather came during his violin lesson at noon at 711 W. 5th St., Lorain, when a “tremendous rainstorm and cloudburst broke. Then it got hot and muggy. It got so hot that it was almost unbelievable after the storm. Then there came some yellow clouds and it got so eerie... Then it got so dark it was almost like night.”

“It’s amazing what ordinary air – forced air – can do,” Ujhelyi says. “Because when you get down to it, that’s all it is."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

McDonald’s on North Ridge Grand Opening – June 1968

McDonald’s has long been a favorite topic on this blog, even though it’s not my favorite place to grab a quick bite to eat.

My lack of enthusiasm for eating there is probably because it’s really not a fast food place anymore. You can tell that by the number of parking spaces reserved for drive-through customers who ordered something that might take a while to prepare. The food is still good – perhaps better than ever – but it’s not cheap.

I’m in the minority, however, because the chain is still the worldwide leader in fast food.

Anyway, I’ve posted the 1960 Grand Opening for the McDonald’s on West Erie here, and the 1963 Grand Opening for the Colorado Avenue store here. So in the interest of being historically complete, above is the ad for the opening of the store on North Ridge Road across from Sheffield Center. It ran in the Journal on June 28, 1968 – 51 years ago this week.

The ad is interesting because good ol’ Ronald McDonald is front and center. It’s a nice reminder of the days when eating at McDonald’s was fun and its advertising was focused on kids.

Today, Ronald has been pretty much invisible, especially since the wave of clown sightings back in 2016.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Passing Scene – June 1969

June 2019 is just about history, so I’d better post this month's serving of Gene Patrick’s The Passing Scene strips, for a glimpse of what was going in Lorain County fifty years ago.

The June 7th edition includes a hilarious panel referencing how the Lorain Police Department’s vice squad was going to be determining if a movie being shown locally was obscene.
A week later on June 14th, the strip pokes fun at Robert M. Beaudry, the International Festival’s guest speaker at the kickoff breakfast. The Journal described him as a “topnotch diplomat” and “international trouble shooter” for President Nixon, for whom he served in the State Department. The problem? Apparently he wasn’t quite a household name like, say, Henry Kissinger.
Vermilion makes it into the June 21, 1969 strip twice. Also mentioned: the Lorain International Center, another great idea that never quite happened.
Lastly, the June 28, 1969 edition reminds us that – as strange as it seems now – Avon used to be a small, rural community. Also, Gene pokes fun at one of his favorite targets: hippies.

George Washington's Coffee Ad – June 1919

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I enjoy writing about vintage advertising mascots. And this page (above) of the Lorain Times-Herald from June 20, 1919 – one hundred years ago this month – has a really offbeat one.

The advertisement is for G. Washington’s Coffee, which was an early instant coffee. Its mascot is an anthropomorphic can of the stuff. He’s in military garb because he’d been overseas during World War I, supplying the soldiers with an easy-to-prepare cup of coffee, (which they referred to as their ‘Cup of George’).

Here’s a closer look at the little guy.

You can read more about George Washington, the inventor (not the President) of the ‘prepared’ coffee here.
Anyway, as usual, there are other things of interest on the newspaper page, including ads for Whistle, McKee’s Shoes, the Boston Store, and a boat ride from Lorain to Put-in-Bay 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Frankie the Keener Wiener Ad – June 25, 1969

Did you cook out over the weekend? I seem to eat a lot of hot dogs these days. (I’m hoping all the preservatives in them help me live longer.)
Vintage wrapper
I’m not too picky when it comes to which brand I buy. I have Sugardale (a favorite topic on this blog) Hot Dogs in the fridge right now. I also buy Oscar Mayer or Ball Park Franks.

One brand that I never see (although it's still around) is Superior’s. I’m not sure why I don’t run across them, because they are Ohio-based. If I ever see them, I’ll have to try them.

Anyway, above is an almost full-page ad for Superior’s Frankies featuring its well-known mascot, Frankie the Keener Wiener. It ran in the Journal on June 25, 1969. Although the ad is great, I’m not so keen on the 7-Up promotion, as that particular pop was what we drank as kids when we were sick.

The Superior’s website has a nice history page, with a graphic showing the evolution of Frankie, the winking hot dog mascot.

Frankie was so popular that some promotional items were produced in his likeness, including these condiment containers.
I vaguely remembered a bit of music with the tagline “Frankie the Keener... Weiner!’ And here it is, courtesy of YouTube.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Miss Vermilion Crowned – June 1964

Part of Vermilion’s annual Festival of the Fish is a princess pageant with the winner crowned Miss Vermilion. But back in 1964, it was still three years before the first Festival of the Fish would be launched in 1967. However, the Miss Vermilion contest was still part of the summer celebration.

As you can see in the ad above, which ran in the Vermilion Photojournal on May 13, 1964, the Miss Vermilion contest was a tie-in with Miss Putt Putt. Romp’s Putt Putt (now Romp’s Putter Port) was the main sponsor of the contest.

The ballot below with three lovely ladies appeared in the Photojournal on June 17, 1964.

An article in the same edition of the newspaper noted, “With only three more days to go it is expected that the voting in the Miss Vermilion contest will really speed up.
“Not only will the winner reign at all local civic events, but her picture will also be entered in the National Miss Putt Putt Contest where the top prize is $1,000. A spot check at some of the ballot boxes showed the voting to be heavy. If you haven’t voted yet be sure to stop in at any member firm of the Vermilion Business and Industrial Association and pickup a ballot, or you may use the ballot in last week’s and this week’s Photojournal.”
So who won?
As reported in the June 24, 1964 Photojournal, “Vermilion’s third annual early summer celebration, dubbed the Summer Send-Off this years, proved up to expectations.
“Starting Saturday off with the Mayor’s Conference at the Library in the morning, through the luncheon at McGarvey’s to the crowning of Miss Vermilion in the afternoon, it was a busy day. Honored guest was Mr. Frank Briggs, Assistant Secretary of the Interior who was accompanied from Washington by his wife and daughter.
“Secretary Briggs crowned Carol Radde as Miss Vermilion, winner of the popularity contest sponsored by Romp’s Putt Putt Golf Course and the Vermilion Business and Industrial Association. Over 4,500 votes were cast for the three finalists. The other two contestants, Barbara Cantrell and Linda Lane served as Attendants.
“The new Miss Vermilion and her attendants started their duties early Sunday as they attended the Community Breakfast at Vermilion Harbor Yacht Club.

From the front page of the June 24, 1964 Vermilion Photojournal

Friday, June 21, 2019

Pick-n-Pay Ad – June 18, 1969

Although you might not be aware of it, June is National Dairy Month, and has been since the late 1930s. The designation started out as a way to promote drinking milk.

The ad for Pick-n-Pay above, which ran in the Journal on June 18, 1969 features the then-reigning American Dairy Princess, Elaine Marie Moore.

The christening of dairy princesses has long been part of the advertising for the dairy industry. Potential princesses come from a dairy background (such as a family farm) and compete at county and state levels. Princesses crowned at the state level would compete for the title of American Dairy Princess. The yearlong reign as official spokesperson for the industry would include making media appearances and giving interviews.

At the time of the Pick-n-Pay ad, Elaine Marie Moore was actually wrapping up her year as the 14th American Dairy Princess, according to an article in the June 10, 1969 Eau Claire Leader. It noted, “Elaine Marie Moore’s memories of the past year include meeting the President, running into difficulties with a recalcitrant scissors, and keeping very busy indeed.

“It’s been the year she reigned as the 14th American Dairy Princess, “First Lady” of the multi-billion dollar U. S. dairy industry, and chief “speaker-up” for milk.

“A big job for a 19-year old college sophomore? Perhaps, but as the daughter of one dairyman and sister to three others, Elaine knows the dairy business. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Moore of Bradenton, Fla., have a mixed herd of 500 cattle producing 5,160,000 pounds of milk a year on their 320-acre dairy farm.

"Her three older brothers have followed in their father’s footsteps (a younger brother is still in college), and her sister is married to a dairyman.

“Elaine, dark blonde and blue-eyed, has attended Manatee Junior College for the past two years. Previously, at Southeast High School in Bradenton, she gained royal experience and poise as Miss Southeast Court, Miss Cinderella and Desota Princess.

“After serving as Florida Dairy Princess for a year, she won the national crown in July, 1968, over 28 other contestants in a competition sponsored by the American Dairy Association.

“Her most memorable moment of the year was meeting and being photographed with President and Mrs. Johnson at the first annual meeting of Milk Producers, Inc.  in San Antonio.

“The moment she’d like most to forget is quickly called to mind, too. Elaine’s official duties have included snipping many an “opening” ribbon. On one such occasion, the ceremonial scissors was not only ready but painted gold. The only catch: it wouldn’t cut the ribbon. After several futile – and embarassing – tries,  Elaine had to cast aside the specially prepared scissors and resort to a plain chrome model with sharper edges.

“Elaine will give up her American Dairy Princess crown to a successor in Chicago this July.”

So in honor of Elaine Marie Moore’s reign as American Dairy Princess fifty years ago, be sure to enjoy a nice, cold glass of refreshing milk soon.

Pick-n-Pay is another one of those Northeast Ohio grocery stores that we all remember but is no longer around. It (along with Edwards Food Warehouse and Finast) all became part of a company based in the Netherlands. Read all about here on its page in the online Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lorain’s First Factory Built Home – June 20, 1969

A couple of years ago at the Great Big Home + Garden Show at Cleveland's IX Center, I toured a factory-built ranch home. It was really nice, as well as being moderately priced. I remember thinking that it was the perfect successor to the 50s and 60s homes that many of us grew up in on Lorain’s west side.

Of course, factory-built homes are nothing new. Back in June 1969, one was the subject of an article that ran in the Lorain Journal on June 20, 1969. It was the first one in Lorain, making it something special.

But as you will see, it had a mixed reception.


First Factory-Built Home
Gets a Trial in Lorain

Staff Writer

THE FIRST factory-built home in Lorain is on a lot on the 1800 block of Tower Boulevard. It almost certainly is the first of many such homes Lorain will see in the next few years.

“You are looking at a new type of building,” said Lorain builder Anthony Murello yesterday. “Definitely, there will be more, subject to public acceptance.”

Murello has resolved his differences with city officials who initially expressed concern about the construction standards of the new home, exhibited for the first time in this area last month at the Midway Mall Home Show.

EIGHTH WARD City Councilman Robert Hritsko says he has received complaints from “about a dozen neighbors of the white, one-story rectangular house. He has asked Building Inspector James Romoser to see if the building can be stopped, but Romoser said the only argument against it – that the home “does not conform to neighborhood standards – is not grounds for him to take action.

“We are not an architect’s board,” Romoser said. He added that any attempt to pass legislation limiting the design of buildings in Lorain could probably be challenged as discriminatory.

“We are very much aware of the criticism, but at the same time, the number one problem in America is housing,” replies Murello. “And if the people will give us a chance, why when we’re through landscaping they’ll say, ‘what were we griping about?'”

BESIDES, with 1,248 square feet of floor space, the house is bigger than 50 percent of the other homes in the area, Murello said. “I ought to know – I built them.”

Murello received a variance from the Lorain Zoning Board of Appeals to place the house on a lot at West 23rd Street and Pole Avenue after the board ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the type and construction of the building, as long as it met the zoning code standards.

Murello later decided to use the Tower Boulevard lot instead.

At the time of the board hearings, both Romoser and City Electrician Arthur Manichl said they had doubts about approving the construction of the home because they would not be able to follow the usual procedure of inspecting on site during various stages of work.

But Romoser has resolved the problem by stipulating that a contractor can have a licensed inspector certify at the factory that the home has been inspected and meets Lorain’s standards for construction, wiring and plumbing.

ROMOSER ALSO has Murello’s agreement that spot checks can be made by Lorain inspectors. “We did make some changes in wiring and plumbing on the house at Tower Boulevard to meet Lorain standards,” Murello said.

“The next one we ship will exceed all of Lorain’s standards.”

The completed home, with prepared lot, on Tower Boulevard is selling for $22,900. A factory-built home without lot will cost $13,956. With soaring construction and interest costs for conventionally built homes, “I venture to say we won’t get requests for more than a dozen applications the rest of this year for conventionally built single-family homes from contractors,” Romoser says.

Lorain Community Development Director Walter Benedict says he is definitely interested in using factory-built homes in the South Lorain urban renewal project, but only after he is satisfied that they have quality and will go well in the area.

Murello says the Nixon administration’s new housing program, called “Project BREAKTHROUGH,” encourages factory-built homes in low income areas as a means of quick rebuilding without the usual relocation headaches. Residents of the Cityview area of Lorain are interested in the idea.

But Murello promises he is not going to flood the city with factory-built homes. “There’s not going to be any panic. There won’t be any 200 units put up overnight in one place. We don’t plan to cluster them, but to scatter them where the lots are available,” he says.

Today the house looks cozy and well-maintained

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Leduc’s Frosty Follies at Midway Mall – June 1969

Fifty years ago this week at Midway Mall, Leduc’s Frosty Follies was appearing. The ad above for the traveling ice skating troupe ran in the Journal on June 15, 1969.

Jean Paul Leduc was the man behind the show, which featured a transportable ice rink made of real ice that was brought to each performance.

I suppose the unusual spelling of “Winnie the Pooh” and “Tigger” were designed to avoid any hassles with the infamous Disney lawyers. No matter; I’ll bet the kiddies were thrilled to see them.

Anyway, Leduc enjoyed a long and successful career with his traveling ice skating show. Here’s an early ad, from Billboard Magazine in November 1958.

For a while, it appears that Leduc experimented with an “iceless” ice show. Here’s an article from 1971 that explains how he did it.

Lastly, here are some clippings from an appearance at the Ohio State Fair in the summer of 1984. By this time, Mr. Leduc – who lived in Ohio at that time – was back to transporting his rink of real ice.

From the July 10, 1984 Xenia Daily Gazette
From the August 18, 1984 Elyria Chronicle-Telegram
Jean Paul Leduc passed away in 2015. As his obituary points out, he "traveled the world and led an exciting and interesting life as a professional ice skater. He and his family awed audiences with their acrobatic moves on the ice as they entertained at children’s shows and other ice events. Due to the extreme conditioning required to perform some of his amazing acrobatic moves, Jean Paul trained and worked out with numerous professional athletes and movie stars. 
"At one point in his career was the owner/operator of his own Country Music Park with performers such as Roy Clark and Minnie Pearl. His work was his hobby. Jean Paul also had several other business ventures over the years including along with his wife Patty, as a decorator for parties and events held at malls and other public venues. Because of his world travels, Jean Paul also was fluent in several languages including French, Spanish, German and Creole. 
"He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was a member of the First Baptist Church of Palatka. To know Jean Paul was to know a man who truly loved life, his family and loved to entertain those around him with his humor and amazing acrobatics both on and off the ice. His wealth of life stories and experiences will be missed by all who knew him. "

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What was playing at the Lorain Drive-in on June 18, 1969?

What was playing at the Lorain Drive-in Theatre on Route 6 on this day, 50 years ago? Why, it was a double feature of Mad Doctor of Blood Island, (in "blood dripping color”) and Blood Demon (which was only in “blood curdling color").
Here’s the over-the-top trailer. Looks like a lot of fun!
Although the human/plant mutants drip green blood in the movie, the stuff splattered all over the monster in the movie poster below looks pretty red to me.
Anyway, I wonder what the “mystic potion” was that was given to all of the Lorain Drive-in patrons? 
By the way, Angelique Pettyjohn (the female lead in Mad Doctor of Blood Island) had an interesting movie and TV career, including appearances on Star Trek and Get Smart (as agent Charlie Watkins).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Avon Lake Sesquicentennial – June 1969

Although Avon Lake’s Bicentennial celebration has been a year-long event (concluding with a Jubilee Fireworks show this July 4th) its Sesquicentennial back in 1969 was a weeklong affair.

Above is a special two-page advertising spread that ran in the Lorain Journal on June 14, 1969. It’s pleasant to be reminded of some of the great local businesses that were around back then, including Saddle Inn and Ilg Radio & Television, as well as chains such as Ben Franklin.

The Journal covered the city’s celebration with the article below, which appeared in the paper on June 8, 1969.

Avon Lake Plans Big Week
To Celebrate 150th Birthday
Staff Writer

A TOWN is only 150 years old once, and Avon Lake is going all out to celebrate this milestone during the week of June 13 to 22.

Citizens of Avon Lake have been caught up in a whirlwind of preparations which began in October of last year. Since then General Chairman Ed Mitchell, seven committee heads, city officials, civic clubs, industries and businesses have been hard at work, smoothing out the wrinkles and polishing up their exhibitions for the community-wide affair.
Already there are beards sported on every corner, and mini-skirts are going out of style for a while. Many women will soon be donning 19th Century floor-length dresses and municipal offices will wear red, white and blue bunting, proclaiming the town’s 150-year birthday.

CLEAN-SHAVEN RESIDENTS are warned to watch out for the “Keystone Cops,” who will be out this weekend to enforce their “beard ordinance.”
Shaving permits are being issued to persons not wishing to encourage a stubble growth, and any man who is caught clean shaven and without permit will be put in the pokey, an authentic, 100-year-old jail on wheels, said Mitchell.

A Historical Dress Ball at the Aquamarine will kick off the week-long festivities Friday, with men in derbies and frock coats and the women dressed in everything from 1819 style ball gowns to old-time bathing suits. At the ball the Queen of the Sesquicentennial will be chosen and there will be preliminary judging of the beards.

Throughout the week, the Huber Museum on Lake Road, the oldest house in Avon Lake, will be open for tours. The house has been cleaned and furnished entirely with antiques by the Lake Shore Women’s Club.

Avon Lake High School will accommodate the main fair grounds, with a 14-ride Carnival and a Fair Share Tent with booths by some 25 industries, businesses and clubs.

On Monday, June 16th, Houlihan and Big Chuck All-Stars of Cleveland will battle Avon Lake police and firemen, with the local rock group, “Sounds of Now,” providing background music to keep the All-Stars on their toes.

“The Avon Lake Brothers of the Brush also will be on hand to supply the police and firemen with oxygen during the baseball game,” Mitchell said.

A SKYDIVING exhibition and a show by Lorain’s “Up With People” sing-out group will be presented during the week.

And on Sunday, June 22, residents will give a final salute to another era with the Sesquicentennial Parade. The parade will include a covered wagon train with 22 wagons, four buggies, and 50 costumed horsemen, a procession of some 200 antique cars, and several bands, military units and floats.

But to make sure the event will not soon be forgotten, the entire week’s activities will be filmed to preserve a part of the history of Avon Lake today and as it seemed 150 years ago, when the first settlers arrived here on Lake Erie shores.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Hills Father’s Day Ad – June 14, 1969

Well, Father’s Day is Sunday – so let’s close out the week with an ad with that theme for the well-remembered Hills Dept. Store chain. It ran in the Journal on June 14, 1969.

The ad is kind of amusing in that it acknowledges what we all secretly admit: that finding a gift for Dear Old Dad probably did come down to the last minute.

I can’t remember what (if anything) we would buy Dad for his special day; he didn’t wear a tie to work, so I know that particular cliché was not his present.

Anyway, the not-too-diverse faces in the ad are interesting, in that at least one of them seems to resemble a popular character actor from the 1960s who appeared in countless TV shows and commercials: Edward Andrews (below). Can you find his lookalike in the ad?

Here’s Mr. Andrews in a commercial for Taster’s Choice coffee.

Here’s hoping all you Dads out there – including my two brothers – have a great Father’s Day!

Hills has been a favorite topic on this blog since its beginning. I posted some great illustrations of the store building here, and did a post on the day that Alvin and the Chipmunks visited here.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Vermilion Festival of the Fish – Vintage Ads

The 53rd Annual Festival of the Fish takes place in Vermilion this weekend, so it's a good time to look back at a couple of vintage full-page newspaper ads for the big event.

This one ran in the Lorain Journal on June 12, 1969. The ad sponsor block even includes some businesses that are still around, including Buyer’s Fair and (my favorite) – the Pit!

Gee, no Perky Perch (the festival mascot) in this ad, just some finny clip art.
Ah, but the full-page ad that ran in the Chronicle-Telegram on June 15, 1982 has our pal Perky with his sailor hat and (shudder!) knife and fork! There's also ads for the Candy Shop and the Harbour Store.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Brownhelm Congregational United Church of Christ Anniversary

I’ve mentioned many times how much I love Brownhelm Township, especially in the fall. I especially enjoy photographing its various landmarks, including the Brownhelm Congregational United Church of Christ on North Ridge Road.

Fifty years ago, the church was celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Journal covered the event with the article below, which appeared in the paper on June 13, 1969. The article is not so much about the church's history as it is a snapshot of how the anniversary was going to be observed.

As the article written by Staff Correspondent Ruth Bradford notes, the church was founded on the tenth day of June, 1819 at a house on “Whittlesey Ridge.”
The 200th anniversary was noted in the Morning Journal back in May of this year in this article by Jordana Joy, which also provides a nice history of the church.

B&O Engineer Retires – June 1969

If any of you are railroad fans, here’s something you might find interesting from the pages of the June 13, 1969 Lorain Journal.

It’s a short article about Joseph Mason of Lorain, a locomotive engineer who was retiring after more than 46 years of service with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Lorain. It’s a pretty incredible milestone, and it was nice that the Journal celebrated it.
According to the article, Mason's career with the B&O began in 1923, and he worked his way up to engineer in 1944. As he notes, “In the early days, firemen shoveled coal for the steam engines and I did a lot of that, too.”

In North America, the transition from steam engine to diesel had begun after World War II. The replacement process continued throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. By the time Mason retired, the changeover was pretty much complete.

The B&O would go through its own changes within a few years after Mason’s retirement. By 1973, the B&O officially became part of the Chessie System; the late 1980s would see its name disappear entirely as it was absorbed by CSX Transportation.

Anyway, it's nice that Mason’s retirement was made memorable with a photo in the Journal, with his grandson and the B&O trainmaster.

Here’s hoping that Mr. Mason enjoyed a long, happy retirement.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Of Robert Taylor and Grandma Brady

Robert Taylor in a late Western, Return of the Gunfighter (1967)
I watch a lot of GRIT TV – the nostalgic cable channel that runs mostly old-time westerns. Although many of the films feature John Wayne, there are many other fine actors whose pictures are highlighted.

I’ve grown quite fond of many of them, including Joel McCrea, Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott. But there’s one that I’ve come to appreciate because of what he meant to a member of my family.

The actor is Robert Taylor and he was Grandma Brady’s favorite. Taylor passed away this month back in 1969. Here’s a small article that appeared in the Journal on June 7, 1969.

Taylor died the next day on June 8, 1969.
As an article that appeared in the Journal on June 12, 1969, noted, “He epitomized an era of motion pictures: a time in the 30s, 40s and 50s when all leading men were handsome. During those decades the matinee idol was at his height.
“Of them all, Bob Taylor was perhaps the most popular in Hollywood."
Well, he was popular with Grandma, that’s for sure. She even had his photo taped to her cash register at Kline’s in Downtown Lorain, where she worked for thirty years.
Grandma lived a hard life. She was only eleven when her mother died in 1909, just a couple years after the family arrived in Lorain from Europe. Her brother Ben was killed at U. S. Steel in 1937. Her husband was out of the picture by the end of the 1930s; within a few years her son (my Dad) would be in the Army and away from Lorain for three years. In later years, she took care of her ailing and bedridden stepmother without complaining.
But despite Grandma's hardships, my own mother remembers her mother-in-law as sweet, kind and generous. She was practically a saint.
Maybe that picture of Robert Taylor taped to her cash register helped Grandma cope, like a little window into a private world where she could forget about her problems for a while – and dream.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Spring Lake Park

January 2, 1964 Ad from Amherst News-Times
Back in March, I wrote about Lake Haven Park in Vermilion, a recreational area centered around a spring-fed lake where member families could enjoy a variety of water-based amenities.

Well, Amherst Township had its own similar place for summer fun in the 60s and 70s: Spring Lake Park.

Spring Lake Park, located on State Route 58 at the Ohio Turnpike in Amherst Township, was owned and operated by Clarence and Geraldine Gerber from the early 1960s until 1982. The park offered member families a place for swimming, fishing and picnics. Amenities included sandy beaches, lifeguard stations, a covered outside picnic shelter, diving raft, slides, swings and wading area buoys.

Here are some aerial views (courtesy of showing the progression of the Spring Lake Park property from farmland to park.

1952 View
1962 View
1969 View
The article below, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on June 3, 1964, announced the opening of a new bathhouse and lodge at the park, boasting “rest rooms with shower facilities, a snack bar, and a 40 by 50 foot recreation hall with seating available presently for 100 persons.” Equipment for ping pong and shuffleboard was available to members, and there was also an area with a juke box for dancing.

The article also describes the new “Oxford Lodge,” an area of the hall that was equipped with a wood burning fireplace. Its rustic design featured paneled walls of natural birch, with trussed rafters.

May 14, 1964 Ad from Amherst News-Times
July 16, 1964 Ad from Amherst News-Times
All of this made the park a great place for wedding receptions, dances and private parties, in addition to its popularity as a place to swim and fish.

If you have pleasant memories of Spring Lake Park, be sure to leave a comment!

According to the article, Spring Lake Park owed its existence to the Ohio Turnpike.  It notes, “The lake was formed when springs were struck as dirt was removed for the building of the super highway.”

Here’s a photo of the land being cleared for the Turnpike, which appeared in the Amherst News-Times.

Courtesy of Amherst News-Times and Dennis Thompson
The News-Times noted that Clarence Gerber explained that the photo “showed clearing of land that was once his parents’ farm, on the east side of Rt. 58, where the Ohio Turnpike passes through. His parents were E. W. and Lelah Gerber."
“Clarence Gerber said the picture was taken about 1955, and he remembers well the removal of trees and layers of earth to make way for the turnpike construction. Once the top layer of soil was removed, sandstone was discovered. He said large machines were brought in to quarry the sandstone and then crush it to be used with concrete on the construction project.”
Regular blog contributor Dennis Thompson remembers the lake well. On the website (where Dennis has identified countless photos for the benefit of the websites visitors), he offers his charming reminisces, as well as his observations about the transitions that the area has undergone through the years. (Click here to visit that page, which includes a great photo).

He notes, "Around 1960, we used to hike down the abandoned RR tracks to this pond and fish here. I remember the huge snapping turtles that cast a wary eye on us from the safety of deep water. 

"Gerber opened the park in 1961 and sold family memberships for swimming, picnics, etc. Within a few years, they had a sandy beach on the far side of the lake and a large picnic pavilion plus a ballroom for dances and wedding receptions. 

"We joined, and I loved sliding down the long slide into the water. The park closed in the late 1980s.

"By the 1990s, the original 4-acre Mullinax lot across Rt 58 had expanded into a huge 67 acre dealership on both side. This area in front of the pond became an additional lot for trucks with its own showroom. 

"Mullinax was one of the largest Ford dealers in the nation. In 1996 the Mullinax brothers sold the entire Mullinax group of several dealerships to AutoNation. But the boom of car sales had dropped off. Within only a few years, the parking lot here, although it had grown to be over 800 wide, was no longer used. 

"Today the vast expanse of concrete that once held millions of dollars worth of trucks and cars has grass growing in all the cracks. In 2004, the Turnpike added the Amherst exit. If you are traveling east bound and exit at Amherst, you actually encircle this lake and can view the rusting buildings of the park. 

"And the snapping turtles? They have seen it all come and go - the yelling, the splashing, the music, the dancing, the bright lights, the cars and trucks - and they have outlived it all. Time and again, the bulldozers have ripped up the dirt and replaced it with concrete until they are surrounded. But perhaps the snappers have once again returned to their rightful position as masters of their domain."

Historian and longtime blog contributor Dennis Lamont identified the ‘abandoned railroad’ in Dennis Thompson’s reminisces as the Lorain and West Virginia, which was unfortunately a victim of the new turnpike interchange. "A huge RR bridge was destroyed, and the steel plant lost a railroad connection to the south, he noted.

Today the former Spring Lake Park property is indeed visible from the Turnpike. You can see the roof of the rental hall peeking out through the trees near the highway in the photos below.