Friday, August 30, 2019

Lorain YMCA on E. 28th Street Opens – August 1925

Local YMCAs used to be an important part of communities dating back to the mid-1800s. They provided recreation, social activities, educational classes and low-cost dormitory housing in a safe, wholesome Christian environment that fostered good citizenship.

Thus it was big news back in August 1925 when the new Lorain YMCA facility on E. 28th Street opened, replacing the old one at the same location that was destroyed by fire in March 1920 (see front page at right).

At the top of this post is a page from the August 29, 1925 Lorain Times-Herald, containing articles related to the dedication of the new structure.

One article notes that the opening of the steel mill hastened the need for a YMCA in Lorain. The selection of South Lorain for the YMCA's location enabled it initially to serve the needs of Lorain and Elyria.

Another article describes the new building as "one of the finest of its kind in the middle west.”

“Built of brick and sandstone, the new “Y” replaces the former structure which was all but destroyed by fire. It is four stories high and is modern in every respect.

“The basement, or first floor contains the auxiliary gymnasium, the swimming pool, bowling alleys, check and locker rooms, “Dug Out” showers, pool and billiard tables, heating system and water filters.

“The pool is 20 by 60 – regulation for aquatic needs. White tile was used in the pool proper with racing lines on the bottom painted in blue. The border is lined with brown Flemish non-slip tile and the sides are of salt-glazed brick.

“Four regulation bowling alleys illuminated with 3 flood lights are one of the recreational features. Automatic pin setters are part of the equipment.

“Separate locker rooms have been provided for the mens and boys and the check room has 800 compartments.

“The auxiliary gymnasium, which was the only portion of the old building which was not raised, will be used for banquets, meetings and for gym work when the regular gymnasium on the second floor is in use.”

I never went to the YMCA on W. 28th Street, but I know someone who took swimming lessons there in the late 1960s: my brother Ken. Unfortunately, by the time he was going there, the facility was in decline, and kind of scary to a kid.

Ken described what he saw when he entered the building through the outside door on the left. “It was like a large sitting room type lobby, with down-on-their-luck guys sitting around,  he recalled. "I think it was the old kind of YMCA, that rented cheap rooms. Nobody was too friendly, said Ken. 

Getting to the pool area was an adventure.

"The door to the pool area was like a closet door to the right. They had to buzz you in. It opened on stairs leading down into dark dinginess. Once you got down to the pool level, it stayed dark and dingy. There was nothing fun-looking about it. 

"You had to walk the length of the pool to get to the locker room, which was labyrinthine and dilapidated. I was used to going into big old dark buildings in Lorain; for the dentist, for example, and to Mr. Visci’s for trumpet lessons, of course, but the Y locker room was extra-creepy."

So how was the pool, some forty-odd years after the facility opened?

"I remember the swimming teacher didn’t think the water was clean enough, so he poured in a couple bottles of bleach and had us get in, hold onto the side and kick our legs to mix it up,  laughed Ken. "I remember it burning my skin, which must have made everyone kick harder."

So did Ken learn how to swim?

"What I learned, answered Ken, "was that I wasn’t much of a swimmer. The instructor was just some grumpy Dad. I dont think he was much of a teacher, either, since I almost drowned in his class. But at least he knew how to pump me out."

Ken explained how it happened. Apparently the instructor was getting impatient with how the class was doing and decided to try an experiment.

"We weren’t progressing fast enough; we had little floaty boards we all relied on, he remembered. "I knew I would be okay if I always had my floaty board. But the instructor said that most kids swim naturally, so he was going to have us all jump off the diving board at the deep end to find out we already could swim. 

"We lined up, and I was second or third in line. The first one or two survived. Not me. I can remember my feet touching bottom a couple times, thrashing around, catching glimpses of people at the side of the pool. Then I was waking up, flat on my back, coughing up water, with the teacher kneeling next to me and all the kids standing around. 

"So endeth the lesson. He went back to teaching the normal way."

Ken never did learn how to swim. "Avoiding deep water seemed the way to go, stated Ken. "And it’s served me well in the fifty-odd years since.

"For me, the old Y is best left forgotten... a childhood memory where you’re glad you made it out alive!”

But the Bradys weren’t quite done with the YMCA on E. 28th Street yet.

My mother later worked in that building. You see, after the Y was replaced by the new one on Tower Boulevard, U. S. Steel used part of the building for offices, including the Employment Office. That's where Mom worked.

"U.S. Steel had the front half of the building,” recalled Mom recently. “ I used to go down to the basement because that’s where the oldest records were kept. It was very dark. I think I saw the pool once.”

Speaking of that pool, Mom had her own memories of taking swimming lessons at that Y when she was a kid. Her memories aren’t much better than Ken’s.

“The guy who was the instructor liked to pick the kids up and toss’em in the water – whether they could swim or not!” said Mom.

Ironically, when Ken got a job at the mill in the late 1970s, he had to go into the offices at the former YMCA a few times. Mom offered to take Ken on a tour of the building, including the basement, so he could see the pool again.

"No, thanks," was Ken's answer.

Heres what the former YMCA on E. 28th Street looks like today.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Old Dutch Beer Ad – August 29, 1969

Well, it’s been almost a year since I mentioned Old Dutch Beer on this blog, so here’s a long overdue frosty serving of my Dad's favorite beer.

It’s an ad that appeared in the Lorain Journal on August 29, 1969 – 50 years ago today.

It’s an interesting campaign. Market research must have shown that Old Dutch was popular with a lot of people’s fathers and/or grandfathers in Northeastern Ohio. Thus the shaming tone of the ad copy.

However, I don’t think the tactic worked then, and it certainly wouldn’t work now. Beer drinkers (except for me, of course) are more particular than ever as to what they pour down their gullet, in this era of craft brews.

Note that the Old Dutch ad makes a sly reference to our old pal Mabel of Carling’s Black Label Beer fame, with the unfair observation that some people choose their beer “because some pretty girl winks at them over the tube.” 
But while Old Dutch Beer is long gone, Black Label is still around – and that’s what’s in my fridge right now.
UPDATE (Nov. 10, 2021)
Here’s another 1969 Old Dutch Beer Ad. This one ran in the Journal two months after the one shown above, on October 24, 1969. It continues the ‘What was good beer for your father is good beer for you’ theme.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Richi’s Tavern and the Dewey Road Inn

Here’s a great ad for the Grand Opening of Richi's Tavern (later known as Dewey Road Inn), which was located on Dewey Road in Amherst, just a little north of North Ridge Road. Dominic Richi was the owner and proprietor.

The almost half-page ad ran in the Lorain Journal on August 28, 1945 – 74 years ago today.

Featured performers for the Grand Opening event were the Moonlight Ramblers, associated with Cleveland radio station WHK.

Richi's Tavern was actually the new name for a business that was previously at that location: Country Gardens. Dominic Richi was the proprietor of that establishment as well.
Amherst News-Times ad from June 11, 1942
Unfortunately, Country Gardens was destroyed in a fire in early November 1944.

Article from Chronicle-Telegram of Nov. 11, 1944
Less than a year later, the tavern was back in business in a new building and under a new name. A series of ads in the Amherst News-Times announced the comeback.
April 19, 1945 Ad
May 3, 1945 Ad
August 23, 1945
Here are a few late 1940s newspaper ads.
October 3, 1947 ad from the Chronicle-Telegram
June 23, 1948 ad from the Sandusky Register
Some time in the early 1960s, Richi's Tavern changed its name to Dewey Road Inn.

December 28, 1963 ad from the Lorain Journal
July 1, 1966 ad from the Lorain Journal
August 7, 1969 ad from the Lorain Journal
Sadly, just like Country Gardens, the Dewey Road Inn was lost to a fire. A short article in the January 20, 1977 Amherst News-Times told the story.

And here's the Lorain Journal's account of the fire.

From January 19, 1977 Journal
The burned-out tavern was vacant for more than 15 years before it was finally torn down in the early 1990s.

Today its location on Dewey Road is an empty lot just to the south of Amherst Village MHC.

Dominic Richi passed away in 1997.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Ritter Library’s Spooky Pedigree

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I moved to Vermilion in 2018. I really like it out here.

One of the amenities of living here is the Ritter Public Library. It’s a beautiful, well-stocked library – and it’s open on Sunday too.

One thing that I never knew about the library until recently is that the architects who designed it modeled it after the Joseph Swift home of “Gore Orphanage” legend.

Read all about it in this article that appeared in the Sandusky Register on January 17, 1958.

There is an excellent, well-written history of the library (delving into much more detail) that can be found on its website here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Elsie the Cow Mooooves Back to Ohio

I commute to Cleveland each day on I-90. On Fridays, I get off the highway one exit early so I can pick up a dozen donuts at the Giant Eagle on 117th Street. Then I take the side streets over to where I work, which takes me right past the Dairymens plant on W. 106th Street.

I like the Dairymens brand of products. I figure it's the closest thing to a local dairy that I'm going to find these days (except for Toft’s products, which aren’t in the grocery stores where I shop).

Earlier this year, though, I knew something was up when I noticed that the tall stacks of the Dairymens plant were now emblazoned with the iconic image of Elsie the Cow, the Borden advertising mascot.

As I soon discovered, the Dairymens brand was being replaced here in Ohio by that of Borden, which owns and operates the Dairymens plants anyway. (Here’s the news story.)

As much as I like classic advertising mascots, I don’t feel very nostalgic about Elsie the Cow. We drank Home Dairy milk – which was delivered to our house – when I was a kid. Later, we probably drank Lawson’s milk.

Plus Elsie looked a little strange to me – kind of thin in the face, compared to what I remembered.
A quick Google search confirmed what I suspected: she’d been given a makeover (or at least an eyelift). In fact, she’s had several makeovers through the years. 
Here’s the “classic” Elsie with that strange ringlet of hair that looked like some kind of weird hose.
And here’s Elsie after a 1993 makeover.
Maybe Borden felt that Elsie needed to compete with the (ugh) Skinny Cow mascot, which by the way is no longer featured on its ice cream, candy or beverage products. Small wonder why... it’s udderly unappetizing!
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Elsie’s return, I’m probably more nostalgic about the glue product that still bears the likeness of her husband, Elmer. That’s right, in the Borden universe, Elsie is married to the gruff-looking Elmer.
Unfortunately, a bovine separation resulted when Borden spun off the Elmer’s corporate family of products. Here’s the couple in happier times. (Doesn’t Elmer look like he’s half in the bag?)
From a 1963 Borden calendar
Anyway, these days Elmer looks like he’s had a makeover of his own. For comparison, here he is in the early days of his namesake product. He looks like a Wallace Beery type.
And here he is now, wearing more of a smirk than his knowing grin.
Suddenly I have the urge to squirt a bunch of Elmer’s Glue in my palm, letting it dry and then peeling it off like a bad sunburn.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Captain Frosty Still Sails at Lorain County Fair

One of the things that I always watch for at the Lorain County Fair is the Dairy Clipper ice cream stand emblazoned with the friendly likeness of Captain Frosty at the wheel. I've seen that stand at the Fair as long as I can remember.

Here’s the 2011 version of the booth.

And here’s what it looked like in 2013.

In recent years, however, the booth has updated its graphics, and the Dairy Clipper name seems to have disappeared. But Captain Frosty is still there. Here’s the booth as it looked Thursday night.

So what's the seafaring story behind Captain Frosty and his Dairy Clipper?

Dairy Clipper was the brand name for the soft serve ice cream trucks leased through Mobile Dairy Bars, Inc., headquartered right here in Ohio in Washington Court House. The company dates back to 1957.

Here's an early classified ad that ran in the Lancaster Eagle Gazette on June 2, 1958.
Here's a great 1962 newspaper ad designed to condition the kids to react in Pavlov's dog fashion to the sound of Captain Frosty's truck.
From the Marion Star  – March 31, 1962
Business was going well when the company decided to expand in 1965. Here's a newspaper account of the expansion that ran in the Washington Court House Record Herald on May 12, 1965.

Here's an ad featuring the classic Dairy Clipper truck that ran in the Times-Recorder on April 7, 1967.
By the end of 1973, the company had changed its name to Sales Unlimited, Inc. and was planning to move operations to Grove City, Ohio.
From Washington Court House Record Herald – December 21, 1973
Today, it's hard to tell if Sales Unlimited is still around. Captain Frosty seems to be a captain without a port to drop anchor in, except at the Lorain County Fair once a year.
Thus during the rest of the year, not unlike the Flying Dutchman of nautical legend, Captain Frosty forever sails the suburban streets of our childhood memories, perhaps on the trail of his arch enemy Mister Softee.
Captain Frosty does wash ashore on Ebay every once in a while. Currently on the online auction site there is a tin toy that you click to make noise – in other words, a Dairy Clipper Clicker (say that fast, matey).

Thursday, August 22, 2019

1969 Lorain County Fair – Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean was the headliner at the Lorain County Fair back on Saturday, August 23, 1969. Here’s the write up in the Lorain Journal the next day.

The article notes that the singer was branching out into other areas of entertainment, with upcoming acting appearances on the Daniel Boone television show.

Strangely, the article does not mention that Jimmy Dean had just launched his sausage company in May of 1969  – and thus missed an opportunity for the headline to read "Jimmy Dean Packs Them in Like Sausages at the Lorain County Fair Grandstand."

Anyway, let’s pretend we were in the Lorain County Fair Grandstand back then on Saturday night, and listen to Jimmy Dean’s first Number One Hit: Big Bad John (1961).

And here's a vintage commercial of Jimmy Dean plugging his popular sausage.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

1969 Lorain County Fair Ad – August 19

Continuing our look back at the 1969 Lorain County Fair...

Here's the fair schedule for Wednesday, August 20th, 1969. As you can see the Grandstand attraction that day was the Hurricane Hell Drivers featuring Dan Fleenor.

1969 Program (Courtesy of WorthPoint)
As I noted in a past Fair post, Lorain Countians must have really enjoyed the Hell Drivers, since they appeared at the Lorain County Fair many times, including the 1956 edition (where Jack Kochman's Hell Drivers appeared) and the 1966 fair (where Dan Fleenor and his crew performed). Fleenor and his drivers would be back for the 1972 Lorain County Fair.

Here’s a little taste of the Hurricane Hell Drivers courtesy of YouTube.

There's an abundance of newspaper clippings of Dan Fleenor and his Hell Drivers online, which provides a nice description of the act over the years. Fleenor's career with this kind of daredevil entertainment dates back to the 1940s. In the mid-1950s, he was General Manager of Calvacade of Canadian Hell Drivers. His name was also associated with Dan Fleenor's Parisian Hell Drivers during that time period.
(Courtesy Flickr site of Randy Regier)
This article from the Feb. 5, 1963 Tampa Times explains the corporate relationship between the various Hell Driver thrill shows. With one corporation in control, it keeps them from competing with each other and overlapping appearances at the various venues.

And here are some more vintage newspaper articles dating from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.
The Times and Democrat - Sept 22, 1962 
The Escanaba Daily Press - Aug 9, 1963 
The Morning Call - June 22, 1969
The Escanaba Daily Press - August 10, 1976 
Kingsport Times News - October 3, 1976
Dan Fleenor passed away in November 1989.