Friday, January 31, 2020

Groundhog Day in Lorain – 1950 & 1960

Well, Sunday is Groundhog Day – and regular readers of this blog know I like to post about it each year. It's interesting seeing how the newspapers treated it in the past. Sometimes they ignored it, other times it was big news.

On this post, I showed what the Lorain Day News reported for Groundhog Day 1906.

On this post, I featured various Groundhog Days in Lorain, including 1942, 1943, 1951, 1952 and 1962.

I wrote about Lorain's own weather forecasting groundhog in 1959 here.

My 2017 post included the 1947 Journal mention of the holiday. The 2018 post had the 1968 coverage. And last year, my Groundhog Day post highlighted the 1969 celebration, as well as a bunch of vintage postcards.

Onward to this year.

Seventy years ago, the Journal seemingly snubbed Punxsutawney Phil in favor of his Pennsylvania rival: the Quarryville groundhog. Here's what ran on the front page of the Lorain Journal on the eve of the holiday.

But on Groundhog Day itself, the newspaper apparently went with a local groundhog's forecast, noting, "the ground hog failed to see his shadow in Ohio today." Here's the front page article.
Ten years later, Punxsutawney Phil was once again on top, probably thanks to a savvy agent. His forecast was featured in this story that ran on the front page of the February 2, 1960 Journal. However, a local groundhog owned by Ron Clapper of E. 29th Street received photo honors.
Anyway, Happy Groundhog Day!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Lorain Mail Clerk Finds Own G. I. Check – January 1950

Here’s a nice little “slice of life" article that ran on the front page of the Lorain Journal back on January 18, 1950 – 70 years ago this month.

Vintage postcard of Lorain Post Office
It’s the story of Laurie Miller, a mail clerk at the Lorain Post Office and how he found his own G. I. check in the mail he was sorting.

Laurie Miller’s check was for $165 (which is worth about $1,750 today, according to one of those online inflation calculators).

Anyway, Mr. Miller passed away in August 1977. According to his obituary in the Chronicle-Telegram, “he retired in 1968 from the U. S. Post Office where he had been employed as an accountant. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and a member of First United Methodist Church, Lorain, and the Lorain VFW.” 

At the time of his passing, his address was the same as it was when he appeared in the Journal photograph.

Here’s a photo of Mr. Miller in his Naval uniform.

All in all, a nice story of a Lorainite who served his country as a soldier and as a postal employee too.

Reading this story reminded me of when the Lorain Post Office on Broadway was still open. Remember going in there and seeing the clerk behind the tiny window, and the wall of ancient post office boxes?

Also, I realized when I wrote the last line of Mr. Miller’s story that my older brother Ken’s career fits that same description.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Vermilion River Flood Threats – January 29, 1970

It’s been kind of a mild winter so far, with not a lot of snow – which is fortunate, because January seems to be a traditional month for the Vermilion River to flood.

A year ago on the blog I featured the infamous flooding that took place in late January 1959 on this post. Unfortunately, last year the Vermilion River flooded, requiring the rescue of many riverfront residents.

Fifty years ago today, the river was being watched closely. The front page of the January 29, 1970 Journal tells the story. As usual, there are other things of interest on the front page, including Charles Manson refusing to enter a plea in court.

Two days later, things were a little better, as described on the front page of the January 31, 1970 Journal. That is, unless you were planning to travel by rail.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tower Boulevard Now Towerless

It was only a couple of years ago on this blog when longtime contributor Dennis Thompson solved the mystery involving the photograph above, showing farm buildings and high voltage towers.

It was originally thought to have depicted the Neuman Dairy Farm at the corner of Meister Road and Oberlin Avenue. But through his usual relentless research efforts, Dennis discovered that the photo was actually of the Anna Martin farm, which was located on Leavitt Road near where Tower Boulevard intersects with it.

Here’s a corresponding 2017 view.

The whole story was covered in a four-part series beginning here.

Maybe it’s a good thing that Dennis researched the towers with the Ohio Department of Transportation, and photographed them when he did, because they’re gone now – soon to be replaced with monopoles by Ohio Edison.

You can read the story here on the Chronicle-Telegram website. There’s some nice photos too, of the towers being disassembled. (Here’s the Morning Journal’s version, although you might not be able to access it.)

It’s a strange sight indeed, driving down Tower Boulevard from Leavitt to Oberlin Avenue (and beyond) and not seeing the familiar namesake towers. It’s too bad the new monopoles have to go up, it looks great as is.

The book Looking Back on Lorain County by Ernie Henes included a short article about the history of those towers in Lorain County. Just as Dennis discovered in his research, they dated back to the 1920s.

Monday, January 27, 2020

George Sweet House at 32345 Detroit Rd., Avon

Journal Staff Writer Hermaine Speigle wrote some terrific articles about historic homes in the Journal in the late 1960s and early 70s. Each writing assignment is a treasure, containing interviews with the homes’ owners at the time, as well as little-known details about the history of the house that otherwise would be lost to time.

I’ve posted a few of Hermaine's articles on the blog, including one about the stone house at Nagel and Schwartz in Avon; the Budmar Farm in Amherst; and the Steamboat Inn house in Vermilion.

Well, here’s another one of her great articles. It's about the historic Avon home at 32345 Detroit Road that was originally built by George Sweet in 1833-1835.

It ran in the Lorain Journal on January 25, 1970.

And here’s a ‘drive-by’ photo of the house today, courtesy of Google Maps.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Father's Day Ad Mystery – Solved at Last!

Remember that 1954 Hart's Father's Day newspaper ad (above) I posted way back in 2013 (here)?

At the time, I was unable to identify the blond starlet holding a Shavex shaver in the ad. Then, in 2018 (here), I was positive that it was actress Jan Sterling after watching the movie Ace in the Hole.

Well, I goofed. It's not Jan Sterling. Sorry about that, Chief.

How do I know? Let me explain.

A few months ago I had a temporary subscription to an online newspaper archives service. During that limited time period, I tried to research anything and everything I could think of to get my money's worth. And one of those things was that original Shavex ad with the mystery model.

Looking at the 1954 Hart's ad, I reasoned that the ad artwork was something that was provided by an agency and then modified perhaps by the Journal art department to add the Hart's logo and pricing. So my thought was perhaps the original ad (before being modified for use by Hart's) contained her name.

And I was right. Here's the same ad as it appeared in the South Bend Tribune on December 22, 1953.

Right next to the picture of Der Bingle is her name. It reads, "Lovely Mary Ellen Kay, currently starring in "The Long Wait," says "SHAVEX will be the most appreciated gift in his Christmas stocking."
So now we know why her name wasn't in the Hart's Father's Day ad: the text had a Christmas reference.
Here's another version of the ad. This one ran in the Los Angeles Times on December 21, 1953.
It turns out that Mary Ellen Kay is a fellow Buckeye – born in Boardman, Ohio (near Youngstown). 
Happily, she's still with us. Here's a link to her Wikipedia entry.
She didn’t make a lot of movies, but at least one is a cult favorite: Voodoo Woman. Here are two publicity photos from the movie.
And here’s the trailer.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Pit – Part 4

The Pit as it looks today.
Like many restaurants, the Pit eventually changed hands a few times.

As Steve Pinkley explained, the business was sold to a long-time employee and it became an Italian restaurant. However, it did not last long.

During this turbulent time period, the Pinkleys actually got the business back. Twice.

The current menu
Today, however, the Pit has had new owners since 2011. The Pinkleys still own the building, and the hope is that the three new owners will eventually purchase the building as well.

The current name of the restaurant is Your Pit BBQ.

The new ownership has reinvigorated the restaurant menu, introducing a variety of popular and creative new items.

Its Wiley Burger most recently was awarded ‘Best Overall Burger’ in the Annual Lorain County Burger Battle sponsored by Visit Lorain County.

But of course, the barbecue items remain as menu mainstays.

And to come full circle, last year the Pinkley family introduced Pinkley’s Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce. Featuring a photo of Neil and Alma Pinkley on the label, the bottled vinegar-based sauce was briefly available locally at Your Pit BBQ before quickly selling out.

But you can request it as your choice of sauce at the restaurant on your BBQ sandwich or entree.

Special thanks to Steve Pinkley for sharing his memories of his parents’ restaurant with me. My apology for the long delay in publishing this post.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Pit – Part 3

Vintage photo of the Pit
(Courtesy of Your Pit BBQ)
Change came to the Pit restaurant fairly early in its history.

“About a year into it, Mr. Tedford decided it wasn’t for him, “ explained Steve Pinkley. "So Mom and Dad bought their portion out.”

Steve has many great memories of his parents running the Pit. One was the creative way in which his father drummed up business for the restaurant.

As Steve recalls, his father would take him and they would walk down the line at the Ford plant, visiting his friends. Just seeing him (Pinky to his friends) would remind them to stop in at the Pit if they hadn’t for a while. “They’ll come eat here tomorrow,” his father would say.

Another funny memory involved his mother and the monthly ritual of paying the bills. 

“My mom was such an organizer,” laughed Steve. As he explained, a bill would be stuck on a nail on the wall until it was paid. They would grab a bill off the wall to pay it.

Mrs. Pinkley was particular about sorting and counting the money in preparation for deposit in the bank. “I had the job of doing that,” said Steve. His mother wanted it all nicely organized for the bank.

One time, when Steve was just a boy, he saw the big pile of money that was being counted and said to his mother, “We’re rich!”

Then his mother had to explain that first all those bills hanging on the wall had to be paid, as well as the employees. Then they could keep whatever was left after that.

Steve remembered how well his parents treated the employees. My Mom and Dad were amazing owners, he said. "Employees would stay for 10 to 12 years. They kept them for a long time.

It was really a family, said Steve.

Many things contributed to that family atmosphere. There were Christmas parties, and the Pinkleys would even treat their staff to a day at Cedar Point on a Wednesday.

Why Wednesday?

That was the day that the Pit was closed. You see, the Pinkleys originally wanted to close the restaurant on Sunday to honor the Sabbath. But as Steve noted, “People want to eat out.” So the decision was made to remain open on Sunday but be closed on Wednesday, which was a Baptist Church day. So Wednesday became the day that they would clean the restaurant.
Vintage Pit flyer drawn by Steve Pinkley
Christmas was special at the Pit. That’s because since the age of 16, Steve began selling Christmas trees behind the restaurant with his mother. “I did that for 40 years,’ said Steve.

Steve’s parents had a big influence on him. “It was an honor to work with my Mom and Dad,” admitted Steve. “I loved those lessons. 'Use your gifts,' they would say.”

Those gifts and lessons learned would help Steve with his own endeavors in the hospitality business later, which included a grocery store and a restaurant.

Next: The rest of the story

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Pit – Part 2

Advertisements for the Pit became a familiar sight to readers of the Journal in the restaurant’s early days.

In addition to the original ad above, which ran in the Journal on March 3, 1969, special feature articles ran regularly in the newspaper’s local advertising section. Today, these articles help fill in a little background history of the restaurant.

This March 3, 1969 ad (below) article points out that the restaurant actually opened for business on the last day of 1968. The photo also provides a nice view of how the restaurant looked before it was remodeled over the years.

Here’s one from April 14, 1969 that reveal some of the Pit’s special preparation of its meat. As Mrs. Pinkley explains in the article, “the only way to obtain this special taste is the way we do it here – we barbecue all our meat from 10 to 12 hours over hickory smoke."
This alliterative article from the May 26, 1969 Journal demonstrates just how much of a family affair the Pit was, showing members of the Tedford and Pinkley families at work.
And here’s roughly the same article, without the photo. This ran in the Journal on June 30, 1969.
Here's an ad (below) that ran in the Vermilion Photojournal on May 21, 1970.
The Pit also benefited from ads in the Lorain Phone Book yellow pages. Here’s the ad from the 1969 edition of the directory.
Here’s the 1971 ad.
Next: More of Steve Pinkley’s reminisces

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Pit – Part 1

The Pit restaurant has been a Lorain County landmark on U. S. Route 6 in Vermilion since its founding in 1969.

While many national and regional BBQ restaurants have come and gone, the Pit has found a long-lasting recipe for success. It continues to serve up its genuine Southern barbecue year after year, in addition to award-winning new favorites.

To find out about the early history of the restaurant, I spoke by phone with Steve Pinkley, son of Neil Pinkley, one of the founders of the Pit.

Steve explained that his parents were from Memphis, Tennessee. His father, a Ford worker, transferred here to work at the new Lorain Assembly Plant on Baumhart Road, along with several other workers from that area.

When they got here, as Steve noted, they discovered that there were no Southern BBQ restaurants. “You oughta open a barbecue,” was the refrain that Neil heard many times from his friends.

So Neil Pinkley and a good friend, Noah Tedford, decided to do just that in 1969.

Now, as Steve Pinkley explained to me, Southern Barbecue is unique. “They smoke the meat first. The BBQ sauce is vinegar-based. And they put cole slaw on the sandwich!”

In preparation for opening the restaurant, Steve noted that his father “went home to Tennessee and trained at the Three Little Pigs Barbecue for a few weeks.”

What about the building that would become the home of the Pit?

“It was a car wash when they bought it,” said Steve. “There were big doors in front and on the sides. A big garage door was where the front dining room is today.

"There were big fluorescent lights hanging there so they could see to wash the cars.” Steve says if you look in the corner of the dining room ceiling today, you can still see some of the angle left over from the lights.

A stained, vintage photo of the restaurant building from its car wash days (below) hangs in the foyer of the restaurant today.

Quite a difference from the how the enlarged building looks today.

The Pit officially opened for business in early 1969.

At the beginning, the barbecuing was done indoors. “The smoker was originally inside the restaurant,” said Steve. “The brick chimney was the original pit.

“Bu the drippings from the pork would catch on fire and it became a safety issue." By 1980, the pit was moved to the outside. They just cut a hole in the back of the building for access.

The new rotisserie-style pit came from Mesquite, Texas. "It can do 1,000 pounds of meat at one time,” said Steve.

As for the restaurant dining area, Steve notes that originally there was just counter service, where people sat on stools. “The whole thing was open,” he said. "There were just the two pillars."

Next: Promoting the Pit

Friday, January 17, 2020

Reddy Kilowatt Ohio Edison Ads – January 1960

By 1970, our old pal Reddy Kilowatt wasn’t showing up in too many Ohio Edison ads in the Lorain Journal. His heyday of the 1950s and 60s – in which he appeared in newspaper ads seemingly almost every day – was definitely over. It comes as no shock to you (heh-heh) that customers no longer needed to be encouraged to use more electricity.

But as readers of this blog know, I like to post vintage ads with the famous electric sprite. So I’ll merely go back another ten years to the beginning of the 1960s.

In January 1960, Reddy was still peddling a lot of electric products. In the ad shown below, it’s an ‘electric bed covering.’

It seems relatively inexpensive at $19.95, but if you use one of those online inflation calculators, the price for the same item in today’s dollars (or clams if you prefer) would cost $111.85!

No wonder Reddy had a payment plan with $5 down. (Today, five bucks is just about what you pay for one of those Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches that I mentioned yesterday).

Reddy made another appearance in the Journal less than a week later on January 26, 1960. An editorial had appeared in the paper a month earlier lauding a national Ohio Edison ad for including the Lorain-Elyria area as part of the “center of industrial America.” It was pointed out that Cleveland – which was not part of the area served by Ohio Edison – was not mentioned in the ad, and thus did not overshadow the two Lorain County cities.

Consequently, Ohio Edison returned the goodwill gesture by reproducing the editorial as well as the ad that triggered it.

Although Lorain is no longer an industrial giant, the concept of promoting what Lorain has to offer in a national forum is still a desirable goal in 2020.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Sandy's Gets a Chicken Sandwich – January 1970

It seems like chicken sandwiches were in the news a lot last year.

Popeyes rolled out their chicken sandwich in August, only to run out of chicken a few weeks later and remove the item from its menu. When the chain returned the popular sandwich to its menu in October, it did it on a Sunday, needling Chick-fil-A (whose restaurants are closed on the Sabbath). And McDonald's is reportedly working on a new crispy chicken sandwich.

Anyway, it seems like a lot of clucking over a fast food item that's been around for a long time.

Sandy's, the Scottish-themed fast food restaurant chain, launched its own chicken sandwich locally back in January 1970, as noted in the advertisement below. It appeared in the Journal back on January 5, 1970.

It's interesting that the details as to how the chicken was going to be prepared in the new equipment was a secret. Floyd Ferner, the manager of the Sandy's on Meister only revealed that "the chicken is prepared in a hermetically sealed unit."
Hey, isn't that how Carnac the Magnificent's envelopes were sealed in a mayonnaise jar on the Tonight Show?

Anyway, I personally think the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich is superior to the others. Why? It usually arrives hot and juicy in its little foil wrapper; the pickles are a nice touch and the sandwich is priced just right. Plus you get the famous Chick-fil-A courteous service (as opposed to the disinterested service you get at many other fast food joints with the exception of Taco Bell).

But I’ve also eaten and enjoyed the Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich for years too. To each his own, I guess.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Mid-America Boat Show Advertising – 1965, 1969 & 1970

It's a real sign of January when you start seeing TV commercials for the annual boat show. But the commercials I've seen are for the Progressive Cleveland Boat Show. What happened to the Mid-America Boat Show?

1965 flyer for the Mid-America Boat Show
(Note the appearance by the Harmonicats!)
I assumed that the old show went away and was replaced by a new one, much like what happened to the old Cleveland Home and Flower Show.

But it turns out that it's the same boat show; it's just been renamed.

The explanation (found here) is that the annual show had been loosely referred to as 'The Cleveland Boat Show' for some time, so the promoters decided to make it just that. (I dunno, I think Mid-America still sounds more impressive.)

I wonder if Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel will be there? I didn't see him on the commercials.

Anyway, it's a good time to post these ads for the Mid-America Boat Show that ran in the Journal. They're interesting because they take two different approaches.

First up is one from 1969. It ran in the Journal on January 19, 1969.

I suspect the attractive woman wearing a crown in the ad is Miss Boat Show 1969.
A year later, the show promoters decided to take a different advertising approach. They enlisted the help of one of the world's best known sailors – Popeye the Sailor Man (subject of a few posts here on the blog) – to advertise the show. 
This ad ran in the Journal on January 16, 1970.
I wonder if the spinach-munching sailor (known for packing a wallop) helped pack them in at Public Hall.
Looks like even good ol' Barnaby was enlisted to promote the Boat Show in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

You Go or Sohio Pays the Tow

Although it’s been a rather warm winter so far, much colder temperatures are undoubtedly ahead.

If you grew up in Northeast Ohio in the 1960s (like me), then you undoubtedly remember the winter TV and radio commercials sponsored by Sohio. They began with a unique sound, sort of a twitchy, high pitched electronic plucking effect that got your attention. This was followed by an announcer’s voice (over the echoing sound effect) stating the low temperature forecast for that night, and the promise that if you filled up with BORON gasoline with Ice-guard, you wouldn’t experience fuel line freeze-up. If you did, then Sohio would pay for the tow.

It was a very effective ad that ran for decades. Eventually the BORON designation in the commercials was replaced by a more generic one (Sohio Super Gasoline).

Here’s a recording of one of those short radio commercials with the “Sohio Weather Sounder," courtesy of YouTube. This one ran in Columbus, Ohio. Hearing it really brings back memories.

There were print ads in the BORON Ice-guard campaign as well. This one (below) ran in the Lorain Journal on January 12, 1960. 
I’m guessing that it's an early ad in the campaign, because it doesn’t include the well-remembered promise to pay for the tow.
I wonder if Sohio ever had to make good on that promise?

Here's another Journal ad, from February 1, 1960.

Finally, here’s the Sohio Weather Sounder all by itself, just in case you want to pretend that you’re the announcer and talk with it reverberating in the background. (That echo really goes on for quite a while!)

Longtime reader and contributor Rae sent me this photo of a genuine vintage Sohio thermometer that she "picked up in her travels." Note that it has the famous Sohio fuel line freeze-up promise: "You Start or We Pay." 
Thanks for sharing, Rae!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Program – 1967

Sorry, but I think I’ll spend one last day in Hockeytown here on the blog.

On Friday I mentioned that I was a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs – so I just had to post this. It’s the October/November 1967 issue of Maple Leaf Gardens Hockey Magazine. This issue includes the program for the Saturday, October 21, 1967 game between the Leafs and the New York Rangers.

The magazine is a lot of fun to look at. It’s from a historic time period too, since the Leafs had just won the Stanley Cup in 1967.

To make it even more interesting, the 1967-68 season was the one in which the National Hockey League had just expanded from the “Original Six” (Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens) to include the six new expansion teams: Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals.

Anyway, here’s the cover and Table of Contents. The cover features Ron Ellis, one of the Leafs from that era who, happily, is still with us.

I mentioned that the Leafs had just won the Stanley Cup the previous season (unfortunately it’s the last time they won it.) Well, here’s a spread celebrating that victory, with a great illustration of some of the team members holding the Cup. That’s the “Chief,” team captain George Armstrong, second from left holding the trophy; donut king and Hockey Hall of Famer Tim Horton is at far right.
There are plenty of ads featuring Leafs as shills for various companies. Here’s an ad with Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender (and former Cleveland Baron) Johnny Bower.
And here are the team lineups for the game that night.
Other ads in the program feature well-known Toronto and Canadian institutions, like radio station 1050 CHUM (and well-remembered DJ Jay Nelson), Mac’s Milk convenience stores, and Le Coq d’Or Tavern.
I love this full-page ad for Shopsy hot dogs, with its great caricature of Sam Shopsowitz. Today, in addition to Shopsy hot dogs distributed through grocery stores, there's still a small chain of Shopsy deli restaurants in the Toronto area.
My favorite ad in the whole program is for the Canadian division of Post Cereals, featuring Sugar Bear and other mascots all suited up as Maple Leafs. Hey, that’s Linus the Lionhearted right next to the Honeycomb Kid.
Although I began making regular trips to Canada back in the late 1980s, I didn’t make it to a Maple Leaf game there until October 1998. Unfortunately, that was the season that the Leafs moved to the Air Canada Centre from Maple Leaf Gardens, their longtime home of 50 years. I still took a photo of the Gardens anyway.
Today, the lower levels of Maple Leaf Gardens are home to a shopping center and a Loblaws grocery store. However, there is still an ice rink on the third level, which is used by Ryerson University.
On that same 1998 trip, I took a photo of the CHUM radio station sign at the station’s home at 1331 Yonge Street. Since then, the station moved to a new location and is now known as sports radio station TSN Radio 1050. The old building has been demolished and replaced by condos.