Monday, September 30, 2019

Huron Kiddieland

For those of us that grew up in Northeast Ohio, the word ‘amusement park’ instantly brings to mind thoughts of Cedar Point, Geauga Lake and King’s Island. Our parents might even have talked about Crystal Beach in Vermilion, or Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland.

But did you know that for several years in the 1950s that was a tiny amusement park on the western outskirts of Huron? It was called Huron Kiddieland and the small ad for it shown above, which ran in the Lorain Journal on September 2, 1959 was the first I’d heard of it. It was located on what today would be considered the old 6&2 route out of town before the bypass was built.

Of course, Huron Kiddieland was just a small, neighborhood-type park compared to its gigantic competitors. But it probably brought just as much pleasure as the big parks to those families who spent a day enjoying the rides and ambiance.

The park was the brainchild of Harry Suhren. According to the article below, which appeared in the Sandusky Register on May 20, 1954, shortly before the park opened, Suhren “had long operated rides at fairs throughout the neighboring states, retired two years ago but found that doing nothing was not for him. Then and there, he decided on the Kiddieland.”

The park was unique in that there was no admission and parking was free. A miniature New York Central diesel train circled the park, which included a beautiful picnic grove.

Here is another publicity item and ad from when the park opened. They both ran in the Register on June 11, 1954.

Here are some more ads from the Register between 1955 and 1956.
May 6, 1955 ad
July 1, 1955 ad
August 10, 1956 ad

Harry Suhren passed away in July 1957.
However, the park continued on for several more years.

July 7, 1959 ad from the Register
July 11, 1959 ad from the Register
July 24, 1959 ad from the Register
August 10, 1960 ad
Sept. 3, 1960 ad
After the 1960 season, it appeared that Kiddieland was going to be sold to a church. 
From the Sandusky Register of Nov. 26, 1960
But the deal apparently fell through. The park was finally sold in 1962.  
From the Register of March 9, 1962
Here’s a list of the rides as described in an ad from when the property was listed for sale.
Today the former Kiddieland property is the location of an apartment and townhouse complex, on the south side of the street opposite the shopping center on Cleveland Road West.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Harry’s Men’s Wear Ad – Sept. 1959

Bowling and Harry’s Men’s Wear have both been regular topics over the years, so when I saw this ad, I knew I had to post it.

Art from another King Louie
ad from 1959
The Harry’s ad ran in the Lorain Journal on September 8, 1959 – sixty years ago this month – and features King Louie blouses for lady bowlers. Contrary to the name of the store, Harry did carry some clothes for women and girls (such as Levis).

The ad announces a clever promotional contest to draw in the lady bowlers. If they shot 275, they won $275.

And we all know bowling was wildly popular in Lorain and the surrounding areas. There were many bowling alleys to choose from, including Rebman’s (on the west side), Andorka Lanes (on the east side), Broadway Lanes, Lake Erie Lanes (in Vermilion), Shoreway Lanes (in Sheffield Lake) and Aqua Marine Lanes (in Avon Lake). Plus many social clubs and bars had lanes as well.

My parents actually met in a bowling alley in Avon Lake that was located in the rear of the shopping center on Route 6.

As the story goes, my mother was bowling there one evening with a girl friend. They had been given a ride there by another friend. But when it was time to go home, their ride back to Lorain was a no-show. Fortunately, my father was bowling there at the same time. He knew Mom’s friend, so he gave them both a ride home – even finagling to take Mom home last. And that’s how they met.

Later, when they were engaged to be married, they were still bowling at the same alley in Avon Lake. Dad even told the owner that they were considering getting married there. The owner thought it was a great idea.

Mom and Dad kept right on bowling for many years. Still later, they bowled in the “Tuesday Twosomes” B. F. Goodrich league at Aqua Marine Lanes.

My parents tried to make bowlers out of my siblings and me, even signing us up for a Saturday morning league at Shoreway Lanes. But that went about as well as Dad trying to make fishermen out of us.

I’ve tried bowling as an adult, but usually end up with about the same scores that I did when I was a kid. But now that I live about a mile from Pence’s Lake Erie Lanes, maybe it’s time to try again.

Although Harry’s is but a memory, King Louie is still around! You can visit the company website here and download a catalog.
You can revisit some of my other bowling-themed posts if you like. I wrote about Sheffield Lake’s Sully Bates, inventor of two bowling grips here. And I wrote about Rebman’s and its AMF Automatic Pinspotters here.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Camp Iss-See-Kes Toboggan Chute – Sept. 1969

September is rapidly winding down, so I’d better post these September 50-years-ago items pronto.

Chronicle-Telegram ad from June 1947
A few days ago, one of my posts dealt with the damage that the flooded Vermilion River did to one couple’s property during the infamous July 4, 1969 storm. Even though more than two months had gone by since the storm, the cleanup continued.

Well, here’s another item along those same lines.

The article and photo above, which ran in the Journal on September 22, 1969, describes the damage that the storm did to the popular toboggan chute at Camp Iss-See-Kes on the Vermilion River, and the steps being taken to repair it.

It’s interesting that the Ohio Defense Corps was involved with the repair. This article on the Ohio History Connection website explains the relationship of the Ohio Defense Corps (now known as the Ohio Military Reserve) and the Ohio National Guard.

Anyway, I’m always happy to post anything about Camp Iss-See-Kes, because the people who camped there as kids have such fond memories of the place. If you are a Facebook member, be sure to visit the Camp Iss See Kes Facebook page here; if you scroll down, there is a comment by Dean Rader that includes a photo of the toboggan chute.

And click here to visit my past blog posts on the Camp.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Comer’s Oasis, Hering’s Tavern and Philbo House

Since I live in Vermilion, it’s only a short jaunt over to the neighboring city of Huron. Every once in a while I head over there (usually to go to Berardi’s) and I pass the Angry Bull Steak House each time. Its location at the intersection of U. S. Route 6 and State Route 61 is kind of remote, and I sometimes think about the various businesses that preceded it at that location.

I’ve written about a few of them before, but let’s take a trip back in time and revisit a few of them.

Comer’s Oasis is one of the earliest businesses that was situated there. It’s not hard to imagine how it got its name, since it’s situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields.

The business seems to date at least to the late 1930s. (An announcement in the August 19, 1959 edition of the Sandusky Register of the 50th anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Fred J. Comer noted that they had been at their present location, Comer’s Oasis, for the past 20 years. )

Here’s an ad for Comer’s Oasis that ran in the Sandusky Register on Sept. 11, 1946, advertising music provided by the South Shore Four every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Comer’s Oasis truly was an oasis. An October 6, 1947 news article in the Sandusky Register about an employee who was swindled referred to Comer’s Oasis as a “combination grocery and bus station.”

This ad from the Register of Sept. 16, 1948 advertised dancing to the music of Stardusters featuring Elaine Meyers.
The business changed hands in March 1949. Joe and Bela Hering, who had previously owned and operated Hering’s Bohemian Tavern in Lorain, were the new owners.

Here’s an ad from the March 17, 1949 Amherst News-Times announcing the new name of the business: Hering’s Tavern.
And here are a few ads and articles from the pages of the Sandusky Register. We even get a view of the building.
Sandusky Register – April 28, 1959
Sandusky Register – April 28, 1959
Sandusky Register – June 23, 1959
Sandusky Register – June 23, 1959
Sandusky Register – Sept. 8, 1959
In 1961, the business changed hands again and became the now well-remembered Philbo House. The name ‘Philbo’ was a combination of the names of the two new owners, Phil Provenzano and Bob Arheit.

Here are some Sandusky Register clippings from the early days of the Philbo House.
Sandusky Register – July 25, 1961
Sandusky Register – August 15, 1961
Sandusky Register – Sept. 19, 1961
Sandusky Register – October 10, 1961
Sandusky Register – October 24, 1961
Sandusky Register – March 13, 1962
In December 1964, the Philbo House suffered a fire. Here is some of the news coverage.

Sandusky Register – December 10, 1964
Lancaster Eagle Gazette – December 11, 1964
Sandusky Register – December 11, 1964
Sandusky Register – May 22, 1965
On September 8, 1969 – 50 years ago this month – fire once again struck the Philbo House. Compare the photo below with the photo of the building when it first became Hering’s Tavern.

Lorain Journal – September 8, 1969
Elyria Chronicle - Telegram – September 8, 1969
The business eventually reopened.

Lastly, here’s a 1970s era photo of the Philbo House, courtesy of the Huron Historical Society’s Digital Collection at

I first wrote about the Philbo House and the Angry Bull back here in 2009. I did another post incorporating longtime blog contributor Rick Kurish’s research here in 2015.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

July 4, 1969 Flood Uncovers a Mystery in Birmingham

Here’s an interesting article that ran in the Lorain Journal on September 24, 1969. It explores the possibility that the infamous July 4, 1969 flood washed away enough trees and soil on the property of a local couple to reveal the remnants of an old stagecoach stop in Birmingham.

Read all about it in the article below by Charles Gray and Ruth Bradford.

Larue Biddinger’s Home on Vermilion River
Did July 4 Flood Uncover Old Town?
By Charles Gray and Ruth Bradford

BIRMINGHAM – Flood waters from the rampaging Vermilion River, which did still uncalculated damage in the district, might have uncovered foundations and remnants of the old town of Terryville, which consisted mostly of an overnight coach stop and tavern for travelers in the pioneering days.

An article in the early June edition of The Journal described the Larue Biddingers’ 8-acre, park-like home along the Vermilion River next to the Garfield Road bridge. It told how the Biddingers had retained the natural beauty of the area while installing rock gardens, a pond, picnic shelter and playgrounds and a bird sanctuary and adding a variety of trees to the many species left there by nature.

The storm-swollen river swept over about three-fourths of the Biddingers' acres. The house escaped, but the woods and the picnic area were flooded. About three acres of huge old poplar and sycamore trees – some of them 80 feet tall – were swept downstream and deposited horizontally along the bank and in the woods that remain. The picnic grounds were completely destroyed. Tons of rocks were left in their place and the landscaped banks of the river were washed away.

“My wife named the place 'Rock Haven’ many years ago,” Biddinger said. “She has twice as many rocks now.”

As he looked over the area where eight to 10 feet of the river bank has been washed out, Biddinger discovered what appears to be a wall, part of a building or an old foundation. Further examination showed parts of three such walls formed of old-style brick, some of it mortared to chiseled sandstone rectangularly-shaped pieces. The mortar still clings to several pieces of sandstone. A rectangle of stones which show heat defects was perhaps a fireplace. Some pieces of old iron were found in the same spot.

ALL THE REMNANTS of walls were under the soil on which had stood trees that must have been 100 years old before they were swept away by the flood. Biddinger said that the stump of a sycamore tree three feet in diameter that still balances atop one of the walls, was dead when they moved there 15 years ago.

He says that some area residents who are interested in the history of the district told him there was probably a sawmill, woolen mill or tanner there in 1839, the earliest records available.

The walls may be part of a town called Terryville, Biddinger believes. He wonders whether a similar flood, maybe 150 years ago, covered the buildings with soil and that trees later came up on the spot.

An interesting artifact uncovered is a piece of wood, probably oak, well blackened from its years of burial on the river bank. About 52 inches long, two inches thick and perhaps 20 inches at its wide end, it is drilled in several places and contains 11 wooden pegs – the pioneer method of fabricating. A cut out area in it is tapered as though it might have been part of a shelf which held a large kettle or sink.

Just west of the Biddingers' ranch-type house is an old gazebo-type building he calls a spring house. “There’s a large foundation under this and there’s a spring down there. The foundation is big enough to have supported a tavern, if this is where it was,” Biddinger said.

Biddinger added: “This verifies rumors that something was here, but these are all hand-me-down stories. The records don’t go back that far.”

IF THE TAVERN did exist on the Biddingers’ land, the buried structures now uncovered on the rider bank might also have been a forge where stagecoaches and wagons could be repaired and horses shod. This would account for the stones which are burnt to a pink on the tops.

Describing the July 4-5 flood, Biddinger said he and his wife watched the damage from the house. “You’d hear a tree snap and see it topple. Then another. We kept watching the picnic shelter. When the water got to the top of it, it went.” Their 30x30 foot shelter contained a kitchen with serving window and tables and benches nearby for seating 100 people. All were washed away.

“The water covered the pond near the house and lapped at the foundation of a nearby new barn. I later took a house trailer top complete with chimney from that pond.

“Rugs were wrapped around the trees and parts of trailers which came down the river and hit the bridge and broke up are all over. There are stoves and refrigerators from these still out in the neighboring yards. I imagine if most of those trailer people hadn’t gone away for the holidays, somebody would have been killed.

The Biddingers have discovered some new rocks since the flood. There are many more bits of iron pyrite, the so-called “fool’s gold” which sparkle in your hand. There is a shell-shaped boulder with a regular wave pattern similar to those shown in geologist’s graphs of the ice-age formation of the beach ridges of Lake Erie.

He held up another. “This is a cone rock – made of limestone formed under pressure. A geologist told me there shouldn’t be any of this west of Rocky River. But after he saw it, he agreed that’s what it was.”

“This flood was higher than the 1913 flood. Rueben Wenzel, an old-timer around here, said the water in the 1913 flood was a foot below the bridge on Route 60. This one went over the bridge railings, so I figure it crested about 6 feet higher.

“OUR GARDEN is gone. In place of the soil and about as deep as I rototilled, there is just sand and shale. It seemed like wherever the land was disturbed, it went away and shale was left in its place.”

Mr. and Mrs. Biddinger are reclaiming their land. Using a tractor with a scoop and one with a blade, they have cleared much of the area. Biddinger will use a chain saw to clear the many fallen trees and bulldoze away the roots and shale as best he can.

Their loss, which was uninsured against floods, in unestimatable, but Biddinger says to him it is a challenge.

“The place will never be the same, but we’ll do something with it if we live long enough,” Mrs. Biddinger said. Right now there Biddingers are planning a series of Japanese rock gardens on the hardest hit parts of ‘Rock Haven.’

UPDATE (Sept. 25, 2019)
Courtesy of Dennis Thompson, here’s a March 1969 aerial view of the Biddinger’s property. Their house is the one to the right of the bridge crossing the Vermilion River. You can see how large their property was, and why it was so popular for their church picnics.

And also courtesy of Dennis, here’s a better view of the house and the bridge, circa 1975. Both have been replaced since then.
Finally, here’s an aerial view of the property today, courtesy of Google Maps.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Minnie Pearl’s Chicken Grand Opening – Sept. 1969

Strange as it may seen today, Colonel Sanders was not the one who first introduced fast-food chicken to Lorain.

It was Minnie Pearl.

And it was fifty years ago this month that Minnie Pearl’s Chicken held its Grand Opening at its location at 2130 Leavitt Road, near the intersection with W. 21st Street.

Above is the Grand Opening ad, which ran in the Journal on September 10, 1969.

Here are two more Journal ads from that time period.

Sept. 18, 1969 ad
Sept. 26, 1969 ad
It’s a strange tale. A group of Nashville businessmen and lawyers who saw how profitable Kentucky Fried Chicken was decided to go into the fried chicken business themselves. They hired Minnie Pearl (one of the stars of the Hee Haw television program at that time) to be the face of their fledging chicken business.

Vintage promotional postcard
But unlike Colonel Sanders, who had developed his own popular fried chicken recipe slowly in his own restaurant before franchising his business, the Minnie Pearl gang more or less put the chicken cart before the horse. They developed their recipe almost as an afterthought to the business plan.

This is what a typical outlet and sign looked like.

Here in Lorain, the Minnie Pearl’s Chicken opened a year or two before Kenny King’s (which featured Kentucky Fried Chicken) opened on Oberlin Avenue.

Not that it did much good. For a variety of reasons (which you can read about here), the Minnie Pearl’s restaurant chain failed very quickly. Then (as I pointed out here back in 2011) the shuttered restaurant on Leavitt became part of the Brady's Restaurant empire as Brady’s Chuckwagon Chicken House.

Today the location has been the longtime home of Marco's Pizza.

While preparing this post, I stumbled up the great movie poster below for Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1965). The cinematic country music jamboree featured a variety of stars, including Minnie Pearl, as well as two of my favorite comedians: Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, the stars of the Bowery Boys movies mentioned on this blog so many times in the last ten years.

And here’s the trailer for the movie.