Anyone who reads this blog has heard of Alan Hopewell. He’s the gentleman – formerly from Lorain and now a Texan – who for years has regularly posted comments on this blog.
|Alan Hopewell (left) and his brother Mike|
He once mentioned that his nickname for a while was ‘Funwell.’ And indeed, several readers have said that his comments make the blog more fun and more interesting.
Alan grew up in Lorain in the 1960s just like I did. But as an African-American who moved around and lived in different part of the city, he saw Lorain from a different perspective, which he is happy to share.
Here’s what he wrote in 2012 about the Huddle, a long-gone but not forgotten bar in Downtown Lorain: "The Huddle was one of those early 60's style lounges you see on detective programs, dark, lots of indirect lighting, padded bar, smokey/whiskey/perfumey scent in the air, music constantly playing. My brother Mike and I shined shoes there as kids, and I was an occasional customer when I got older.”
As you can see, Alan has a knack for painting pictures with words.
Anyway, in honor of his upcoming birthday in a week (December 23rd), I thought I'd feature a few of Alan’s reminisces about Lorain, gleaned from a series of emails we exchanged earlier this year. He also explains how he ended up in Texas. Enjoy!
Memories of Lorain
By Alan Hopewell
I was born on December 23rd of 1955, at St. Joe
You won't find my birth notice in the Journal's archives, because they didn't list children born out of wedlock back then. I'm the oldest of three boys, the youngest of which, Phillip, was born after the death of my grandmother.
|Alan and his mother – NYC 1961|
My grandparents were a mixed couple, who moved from Pittsburgh to Lorain in the year of the tornado, 1924. They had five girls and one boy, the youngest, with my mother being the next oldest.
For obvious reasons, race wasn't really taught in our home, although we were certainly aware of it. My personal experience of it was, and still is, to not take it personally. Besides, it's just a physical attribute, nothing more, with about as much real significance as the length of my index finger.
I count myself blessed to have grown up in the days of the Kennedys, Dr. King, and those who affirmed that people who made an issue out of race were the ones with the problem. This view has gotten me in trouble at times, most often with my so-called "brothas and sistas.”
Of course, my growing up with light skin, blond hair and blue eyes probably confused a lot of people... go figure.
When I was born, we lived at 1867 Elyria Avenue. If you turned east on 19th Street from Broadway, and crossed Elyria Avenue, you'd wind up in our driveway. My family lived there for thirty years, until eminent domain forced us to move into the house next door, where we lived for about a year, as the houses on the block were being torn down to build Giant Tiger.
|Alan (at right), his cousin and his “Papa"|
In 1965, while we were still at 1867, my grandfather had a stroke, his second. The first caused him to retire from the National Tube in 1948. The second stroke meant he could no longer work at the Central Bank on 20th and Broadway, where he'd been custodian since leaving the mill. I was the one who found him that morning, the day before Easter, sitting on the floor in his pyjamas, slumped against the bed, unable to move or speak.
We had to move to Leavitt Homes in 1966, because we couldn't afford anything else. My mother was on welfare, had been since the birth of my brother, Michael, in '58, and she had health problems of her own.
Now I may have left the impression that my childhood was bleak, and if so, I apologize.
|Fourth Grade at Boone School, Lorain - March 1965|
(Alan is in front row, far left)
I loved being a kid in Lorain in the Sixties. Most of my memories of those days are of fun times with my family and with friends; going to school at Boone, Charleston, and Hawthorne; visiting Lakeview, Oakwood, Central, Cascade, Findley, Mill Hollow; double features at the Dreamland, Tivoli, Palace, and Ohio; summer nights at the Tower and Lorain drive-ins; riding Sting-Ray bikes around Westgate Shopping Center; catching tadpoles and praying mantises; comic books, television, climbing trees, rock fights, Cub Scouts.
So what did I enjoy the most about Lorain? That covers a lot of ground.
But if I was to pick one particular thing that I enjoyed the most over the years, it would be going to the movies.
We lived about a block and a half from the old Dreamland when I was little, and we went every weekend, sometimes during the week, watching everything from monster movies to Westerns to comedies, from Boris Karloff to Doris Day. There we were, my brother Mike and I, having the time of our lives.
Sometimes, we'd see a movie downtown, at the Tivoli, the Ohio, and my favorite, the Palace, with its cool decorated interior and that wicked chandelier. I sat under it once... but just once. One of my earliest memories was being led into the Palace's auditorium by an older cousin, and seeing "Duck Dodgers" on that big screen.
The best of all were the drive-ins, the whole trip, staying up late, driving out to the Lorain or the Tower, movies under the stars, concession stand munchies, really great stuff!
How I Met Tracy
Dan asked me how I ended up in Texas. That's easy.
In 2006, a friend suggested that I get a Yahoo account to help with finding a job. Soon, I had the email addresses of several family members.
One afternoon, I was at the Main Library in Cleveland, and I was going to send a still from a monster movie to my younger brother, who's also a horror fan. Well, I messed up, and wound up sending the email to everyone on my list.
When I checked my emails the next day, there was a message from a cousin, telling me about a website that dealt in nostalgia, movies, comics, toys, like that.
I signed up, and began getting into discussions with other members, including a lady who went by the name Beatles 4Ever. She intrigued me from the beginning, and I looked forward to talking to her online.
|A "selfie" of Alan and Tracy|
She told me about herself: her real name (Tracy), where she was from (Whitney, Texas), and other things that became a lovely conversation. Posts becoming emails, emails becoming eCards, which turned into phone calls, which became long, long
We both realized that we had to do something about this.
Summer of '08, she spent a weekend with me in Cleveland, and after several months of missing each other, we decided I'd come to Texas, to be with her, and to escape the North Coast winters.
I've never regretted it, and I don't see that I ever will.
Special thanks to Alan for sharing his reminisces and photos.