Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Meet Franc Powell of Avon Lake – Part 1

You might not have ever heard of Franc Powell of Avon Lake, but if you spent any time in that city over the years, you probably encountered some of his well-known artistic creations. These include the mosaic tile palm tree scene on the front of the former Tropicana Lounge, as well as the etched-glass King Neptune at the long-gone Aqua Marine resort.

Franc Powell is also the first person who hired me after I graduated from college.

That’s why I was happy to find this fine profile of him that appeared in the Journal back on November 7, 1971. It was written by Staff Writer Bob Cotleur.

After the transcribed article, I reminisce on how I first met Franc.


Avon Lake Man’s Ideas Sell for More Than $10 Million

Franc Powell: The Profile of a Successful Artist

By BOB COTLEUR, Staff Writer

IT COSTS to know Franc Emerson Powell of Avon Lake. In the past 20 years, business people have paid over $10 million for the ideas Powell gave them.

HE IS AN ART DESIGNER, a graduate in Fine Arts from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology, in 1949, and once taught art to fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in Lakewood.

Today he lives in a $48,000 home on Vinewood in Avon Lake, and “never worries about the mistakes of yesterday. Only today is important,” he philosophizes, “because I have a kind of confidence that whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll find an answer here.”

He tapped his chest over his heart. Not his head.

Yet it is the creative mind of Franc Powell that takes a dusty warehouse or old factory and turns it into a fairyland for a special trade show.

It is his mind that creates glamour for a simple pipe wrench from Ridge Tool Company, in Elyria.

But it is his heart he lives by.


POWELL WEARS TWO HATS. He is a free-lance consultant with his own firm, Franc Powell Design, and operates a studio in Lakewood. A year and a half ago, National Displays on Triskett Road in Cleveland hired him. Today, though still a freelancer, he is their general manager.

The firm is relatively small and doing about $300,000 annually. Franc sees a fairly quick rise to  $500,000 a year. Business is good and getting better.

Powell, small, slight and handsome at 51, uses his creative talent for a singular purpose.

He sells desire.

The price tag might be just a few bucks. A small, static billboard for example. His biggest job to date cost some $85,000. Over all the exhibitor may have spent $120,000 for a single annual show. But, if he’s a national firm, the show may travel to a number of key major cities in the nation. Costs soar, but the product sells.

At this moment Powell is in Nashville, Tennessee, re-constructing his latest exhibit for Ridge Tool Company of Elyria.

How do you glamorize a pipe wrench or a bolt threading machine?

Powell does it two ways. He embellished the annual Ridge Tool calendar – 12 months of pretty girls photographed in Hollywood by Peter Gowland, each in a brief but snappy outfit and each holding some special Ridge product – by using life-sized transparencies of the girls in an illuminated display.

RECENTLY IN NEW ORLEANS, two of the girls were on the scene. And Powell was impressed with their “wholesomeness.”

“You get a lot more skin in Playboy or almost any magazine today for that matter,” he says. “These girls were really sharp, nice and well turned out. Customers came around to see them.”

The other technique is a live demonstration of how the product works. Not just tell how it works.

However, Powell’s creative ability is as much the total scene as it is a minor detail. And there are three major Powell accomplishments in Avon Lake which demand more than a casual glance.

Powell, in 1961, conceived King Neptune as a front lobby “greeter” at the Aquamarine in Avon Lake. “From the sketches I made,” he said, “it seemed like it ought to be made of glass...”

King Neptune was born in two dimensions, with a suggestion of a third, in a half-inch thick piece of greenish crystal, four feet by eight feet. He was sand-blasted by a skilled craftsman under Powell’s supervision. Some cuts were deep or scoured. Others were light and feathery.

Photo of the Tropicana Lounge
with Franc Powell’s tile design  
(Courtesy of Avon Lake Historical Society)
At the Tropicana Lounge, Moore and Lake Roads, Powell designed a tropical scene for an outside corner of the building. It soars two stories high.

“I did it in mosaic tile, on my hands and knees in my garage. I taped the tile in place on panels 2 feet by 10 feet, rolled them up and marked them. A tile contractor installed them on the building,” he said of the task he completed in 1965.

JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO he finished yet another project. The tower near the sidewalk in front of the United Church of Christ, on Electric Boulevard across from Blesser Field, is sculptured concrete.

Faintly reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, cut short and ballooning where the tower caves, the end result is unique, singular. Twin spotlights sharply etch it against black of night. 

Such concepts are typical of Powell’s type of work.

“It is very rare,” he says, “when you can use an idea for a trade show more than once. In our business we are constantly looking for new ideas, new materials, new approaches to things.

“I guess it’s a business where I fit.”

“The concept of a trade exhibit has to be arrived at quickly, as almost a ‘flash’ sort of thing. I have to design quickly, never labor over it. One of my features as a designer is that I work fast.

“I’m a bad finisher. I have to work almost as though I’m under pressure to finish immediately or it doesn’t get done. That doesn’t mean I don’t give things the proper consideration. But it does mean you can’t force yourself to be creative, to think creatively...”

Although he couldn’t technically describe how his ideas emerge any more than you can medically describe how you blink when raindrops fall toward your eyes, he gave some meaningful clues.

“I ALWAYS WORK WITH MUSIC around. Music turns me on more than art, far more. And I noticed when I’m hearing classical music, I think classically. When I hear Rock ’n Roll (which I like because of the beat and instrumentals, right up to the point where someone sings) I think this way. If it’s a rollicking show tune, I’m influenced. It sets my thinking for the time.”

But he doesn’t “program” his mind with music. It’s usually a radio that’s playing and he has no control. Yet he added reflectively, “maybe that’s something I should do. Up to now it’s been background. I didn’t look for inspiration in it (the music). I just allowed it to be there.”


FRANC POWELL never tried to win an award. Yet his very first exhibit, for Youngstown Kitchens in the 1957 Cleveland Home & Flower Show, won first place for show design.

But at a 1968 exhibit for the industry that makes printing presses similar to those in use at The Journal, Powell’s exhibit themed the show and was extensively written about and labeled “Display of the Month” in the national Displays Magazine.

“It’s about as big an award as you can get,” he said.

His theme was based on “The Printed Word – Documenting the Destiny of Man.”

He built a four-segment, carousel stage. As you stood in one spot, the first segment went by. It was a caveman scene with a Chicago art student dressed as a cavemen and drawing antelope and mammoth on the walls.

The second segment featured a specially constructed press, dating later than Gutenberg and on into Ben Franklin’s time. A movable screw came down and pressed the type on a page. The printed pages were given away as handouts.

The third segment was a monk in a monastery carving a woodblock and the fourth, a Paris art theater with a young man working on a lithograph stone. “We had stone samples,” he said, “but I don’t know where you’d find an artist now who could produce a lithograph on an actual stone. It’s just not done anymore.”

But the point of his exhibit, which he said didn’t attempt to cover all ages of printing, was to interest and intrigue the Print Show visitor. And that it did. But in other areas of the exhibition hall, some presses and been set up and made operable while others were simply “static.”


POWELL, WHO VOTES REPUBLICAN and occasionally attends the United Church of Christ, once had a major struggle for economic survival right at the time he was committed to building his $48,000 home.

Following a disagreement with an employer, he launched “a thing I always wanted to do – my own company.”

It was 1957 and the road to success would take seven or eight years. In those early days he sometimes told his wife, the former Betty Hays, and their three children, Gregg, now 22; Janine, now 20; and Sherry, now 18, “we have $40 in the checking account. That will have to do us for the next week. And they were great about it.”

The sum might not seem too much of a hardship, but a home was under construction and Powell, the artist in him rising up, must have driven the builder nuts. He ultimately changed everything except the four walls.

To help, his wife Betty went to work at B. F. Goodrich in Avon Lake. She continues to work, even today.

“And that,” said Franc Powell, “really made a difference.”


FRANCIS POWELL was born in Elwood City, Pa., “a little steel town,” and grew up in time to march off to service. His entire formal education came from the GI Bill of Rights, he said, and it wasn’t until four years after he was married that he graduated from the college which has since changed its name to Carnegie-Mellon Institute.

He moved to Avon Lake even though he was teaching at Lakewood Madison Elementary School and attending Western Reserve University in search of a master’s degree in art.

“But halfway through I decided I didn’t need it.”

He had a five-year plan. It terminated after three years when two fine job offers came along. He joined Andrews - Bartlett, a Cleveland-based company, and handled general decorations for the firm that handled the the entire conventions.

“Convention buildings were generally unsightly,” he said, “and we transformed them into things of beauty. We did it with brightly colored drapes, ceiling hangings, all kinds of sham. But sometimes we went too far.

“Sometimes they came out gaudy,” he laughed.

During this era, from the time he moved to Avon Lake to the early 50’s, Powell designed stage sets for the Avon Lake Players. Those who remember Walberg Brown as the portly bishop in “See How They Run,” were looking at a Powell-designed set. Other plays he handled included “Heaven Can Wait,” “George Washington Slept Here,” “Leave Her to Heaven,” to mention a few.

“It was an avocation,” he smiled. “I did it for fun.”

A few years later he joined Gallo Displays in Cleveland and began designing exhibit displays. His first, for Youngstown Kitchens in 1957, won an award. But he left Gallo in 1961 to form Franc Powell Design.

And almost go broke.


THE HISTORY of trade shows, Powell says, “dates from almost the end of World War II. Prior to that, an agent came in, rented a small booth and piled a table high with product. When you stopped by, he talked about it.

“Today a thousand square feet is pidling. Companies rent 150 by 50 feet and set up machinery that works. Some shows are vast. At the recent Tulsa Oil Show, companies came in and set up huge equipment right before the customer’s eyes.”

He enjoys the pomp and pageantry, the challenge of a new concept in display and the competition of others. Back in service days, his IQ was rated 136, which isn’t genius, but it’s far from a dummy. It only took a 115 IQ then to qualify for Office Candidate School.

Although Powell says music turns him on the most, he doesn’t play despite both a piano and organ in the family living room in the four-level home at 151 Vinewood. His son “dives into the piano when he’s home from the University of Michigan, and Jan plays the organ when she’s home from Thiel College at Greenville, Pa. Betty (his wife) plays a little...”

What turns Powell off – the most – is bigotry.

“Not so much in the field of art.  You see it, but there it’s relatively easy to overcome. You see it as well in politics, racial problems and even the generation gap.

“Pespective in a painting depends upon where you’re standing. I see a father here (not himself) watching what his children are doing, and not seeing the same scene from around the wall. Nor does he see it from his children’s eyes. To him, it looks awfully plain.

“But it isn’t.”

He is dismayed that whites are prejudiced against blacks “because of what a few wrong blacks have done. And blacks are prejudiced against whites because of the whole history of wrong things done.

“But it doesn’t mean the differences can’t be worked out if both sides were willing to look at the situation from the other’s viewpoint.”

He cited another case of twisted perspective.

“I heard a radio interview with one of the (Cleveland) Juvenile Court caseworkers fired by Judge Walter Whitlach when the court employees went on strike. The man was complaining the judge’s decision had ‘deprived’ the kids of counseling.

“I say the man going on strike deprived the kids himself, yet here he was complaining about the judge...”

But he sees our biggest national problem today as a selfish side of man, a demanding of rights “regardless of who gets hurt. I think racism is only one manifestation of this.”

Powell isn’t a strongman type. He sees many other ills in society but says “they’re not for print,” although he’ll talk about them in private conversation.

IN SHORT, HIS PUBLIC LIFE is bright and beautiful. It spills over into his magnificently decorated home – his own work from teakwood carved as a heron, to abstracts in a host of media. He prefers sculpture and has an acre in back for his Japanese garden, objects of art and little brick walks. On the north wall of the living room is his sailboat painting which offers multiple reflections as though it’s in motion.

He has no windows in front, or on the street side. He moved them all to the back except for one tall church-like side-window which reaches more than 12 feet toward the cathedral ceiling.

But, within the perspective of this beauty and originality, Franc Powell remembers all is not in perspective with the world.

And, where it touches his heart, he makes his protests known in quiet, conversational ways. Never in his art.

Recent view of the United Church of Christ
sculpture on Electric Boulevard


It's kind of funny how I ended up working for Franc Powell back in the early 1980s.

I had graduated from Ohio State in December 1981, right into the recession that was underway at that time. After many months, I wasn’t having any luck finding a job with my degree in Visual Communication Design. Potential employers looked at my art portfolio (consisting of my student projects with an illogical Swiss design flavor, courtesy of OSU’s European professors) and couldn’t quite figure out what I could do.

That’s when my father stepped in to help. Dad mentioned that Betty Powell, a secretary at BF Goodrich (where he worked) had a husband who was a successful artist. Dad had talked to her about my difficulty finding a job, and she said that perhaps her husband could give me some career advice.

And that’s how I met Franc Powell. He invited me to come out to his house in Avon Lake and show him my portfolio.

I remember being pretty nervous sitting in his very formal living room, looking around at all of the pieces of art that he had either carved or painted. He looked at my portfolio very politely, but was confused as anyone else as to what I could do.

"Can you do marker renderings?” he asked. I replied that, yes, we had used magic markers in school.

“Well, I don’t see that in your portfolio,” he explained. He suggested that I find some common objects around my house to render with markers and create some new samples. 

Franc offered advice on other ways to improve my portfolio and wished me good luck with my career. During the next few weeks, I added several new marker renderings to my portfolio, including one of my parents' Revere Ware coffee pot.

I was very surprised a few months later when Franc called, and asked if I was interested in freelancing at his company for a while. And thus launched my career at National Displays on Triskett Road in Cleveland, where I continued to work for the next few years.

While employed there, I was Franc’s extra set of hands. I did perspective drawings of proposed trade show exhibits that he designed, rendering them in magic markers. He then used the drawing to sell the concept to the prospective client. I also did construction drawings of the exhibits for the carpenters in the plant to follow. I was responsible for coordinating the creation of all graphics, whether I had to cut a frisket by hand with an X-Acto knife, or order a huge color transparency from a commercial photo lab.

Franc was a great guy to work for, and he was usually very low-key and amiable. I only remember him getting mad at me once, when he didn’t like the kerning I did on some vinyl lettering that I had applied on a sign board.

Working at National Displays was an interesting job, but after a few years I realized I really didn’t have a knack for exhibit design. Plus, the industry seemed to be leaning less towards custom built displays and more towards systems bought out of a catalog. 

When I finally gave my notice in late 1984 that I was leaving, Franc was happy. He revealed that he had just signed the papers that week to merge National Displays with Ohio Displays, one of our competitors in Cleveland. The combined company would retain the Ohio Displays name. But with the duplication of staff, Franc hadn’t been sure that I would still have a job. So it was a good time for me to move on.

I ran into Franc several years later at the Dairy Queen in Avon Lake, and he was happy to see me. Our chance meeting gave me another opportunity to thank him for giving me my first job out of college.

The former National Displays property at 12250 Triskett Road
was demolished several years ago 

Franc Powell passed away in February 1994.

Next: In Part 2 of this series, we fast forward to January 2005 to learn how two of Franc Powell’s Aqua Marine etched glass creations found new homes.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Dying for a Seat on an LSE – Nov. 27, 1905

Here’s an amusing (but macabre) little article that ran in the Elyria Reporter back on November 27, 1905. It ran under the heading NEWS FROM LORAIN and is the jolly little story of some riders on the Lake Shore Electric – and a dead body.


“Excuse me, ladies, you are sitting on a corpse.”
A Lake Shore car was rushing toward the city and, as it was crowded, seats were at a premium.
Just inside the door of the baggage car was a rough pine box, such as is used to enclose a coffin. Two women got on the car and, seeing no seats, sat down on the box.
They were scared almost to death when the conductor told them that they were sitting on a corpse. They hurried to the rear of the car to get as far as possible from the “corpse."
Later two other women sat down on the box. They jumped up when the conductor told them they were sitting on a corpse, the two women who were first told to move watching their actions with great interest.
Then the four women and nearly everybody on the car watched to see if any other passengers would “sit on the corpse.” Soon two other women made themselves comfortable when the conductor told them the box contained a corpse. They jumped up in alarm.
It sure sounds like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, particularly The Trouble With Harry (my favorite Hitchcock film).

Friday, November 26, 2021

Ohio State vs. Michigan – Nov. 1971

Courtesy bleacherreport.com
Fifty years ago, Ohio State lost to Michigan 10-7 in the infamous game with the controversial interception call late in the fourth quarter. 

Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes believed that interference should have been called on a pass interception play that helped Michigan defeat the Buckeyes. Michigan’s Tom Darden intercepted a pass that was intended for Avon Lake’s Dick Wakefield, and that ended any hopes of Ohio State coming back to win in the final minutes.

Woody was pretty upset. As the above article noted, “Hayes wasn’t satisfied with merely expressing his concern vocally, although that alone drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty followed by his being hustled off the field by his own players.

“While many in the crowd of 104,000 booed loudly and threw litter in his direction, Hayes stood boiling on the sidelines.

“Moments later his team drew another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the volatile veteran coach exploded. He snapped a down marker in half across his knee and threw it onto the field. Then he tore down the two bright orange 10-yard chain markers held by officials.

“Hayes was screaming incoherently and hard to be restrained further by two of his assistant coaches.

“He did not shake hands with U-M Coach Bo Schembechler afterwards, nor did he allow newsmen in the locker room."

Hayes was still fuming in an article in the sports pages of the Journal a few days later on November 23.  In a story by UPI Sports Writer Gene Caddes, (which included the photo at right), Hayes said that officials didn’t call interference because they were cowards.

As Caddes noted, “Hayes said he rushed onto the field because he was ‘positive’ Wakefield had been interfered with.

““If I can see the interference from almost 50 yards away,” Hayes asked, “why can’t the officials, two of them, who were right on the play, see it?”

““I’ll tell you why,” Hayes answered his own question, “because they’re cowards.”

“Hayes earlier had charged the officials were intimidated by the record crowd of 104,000, mostly Michigan rooters.

“Hayes said the films showed Darden moving in on Wakefield from the rear, and with the ball still several yards away, Darden hit Wakefield in the head with his arms, bending the Buckeye receiver’s head forward so he was unable to make an attempt to catch the ball.

“Darden caught the ball and the officials awarded it to Michigan.

““I was ashamed of myself for going onto the field,” Hayes said. “But after looking at the films, I would have been more ashamed of myself if I hadn’t gone out.

Here’s footage of the play, courtesy of YouTube. If you’re a Buckeye fan, you might want to watch it with the sound turned down. The audio is from a Wolverine football radio broadcast – and it's not very sympathetic to Woody.

Here’s hoping tomorrow’s game turns out better. Go Bucks!

For more Ohio State/Woody Hayes fun, visit these old posts!

Ohio Turnpike Toll Booth Article – Nov. 28, 1971

If you spend any time on the Ohio Turnpike, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are many unmanned toll booths when you exit the highway – such as the lonely one at Baumhart Road. It’s an annoying trend, in which people lose their jobs to machines, and the public loses the personal touch of human contact. (You can also lose money; once in the past year I dropped two or three dollars worth of coins in the bin to pay my toll; none of it registered.)

That human touch is important. I’m sure many people have gotten directions from a toll booth worker, or perhaps picked up a useful brochure or map.

I still chit-chat with toll booth workers quite often, and a few have mentioned that the eventual goal of the Ohio Turnpike Commission is to eliminate them entirely. I can’t find confirmation of this online, but I would tend to believe it.

Anyway, this is all a prelude to the great article below, which appeared in the Journal on November 28, 1971. It profiles two “lady toll collectors” on the Ohio Turnpike, and what may eventually be a vanishing bit of American life. It was written by Staff Writer Glenn Waggoner.

Incidentally, the photo caption of the woman toll booth collector is incorrect. Her name (which is correct in the article) is Cathy Hales. At the time of her passing, her obituary noted that she had worked for the Ohio Turnpike for 20 years before retiring in 1982.


The Women Who Man the Collection Booth

The Busy Life of an Ohio Turnpike ‘Toll Cookie’


TRAILER number 893B8, wherever you are, the license plate you lost is resting in a window at Ohio Turnpike Gate 8 in Elyria.

“Somebody lost it on the pike,” says toll collector Mrs. Cathy Hales. “We put it up there so if they see it, they can claim it.”

Mrs. Hales seems like a gray and green uniformed lady matador, without sword or cape.

Armed with a smile and 37 kinds of turnpike toll tickets, she sees that the hundreds of hard-charging vehicles get the right tickets or change while passing through one of the plaza’s four traffic lanes.

Her long, narrow toll collector’s booth is an island in a continuous two-way stream of cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles all intent on getting somewhere else and viewing the toll stop as an inevitable, though brief, nuisance.

“DO YOU KNOW what we’re called?” Mrs. Hales asked, drawing a blank look from the reporter.

“Toll cookies. That’s what a driver once told me.”

Mrs. Hales, who has been a toll cookie for three years, says in a good day she will take 900 vehicles off the pike, if she’s working in an exit lane, and put perhaps 1,300 on if working an entrance lane.

“We can put them on faster, because we just hand them a ticket. Making change takes a lot longer,” she said.

Mrs. Hales has been handed a $100 bill by a motorist getting off the pike.

“It just looked like a ten with another zero.”

Working an exit lane, she may handle $600 or $700 in an eight-hour shift – and that’s a lot considering it’s mostly nickels, dimes and small bills.

And getting 900 vehicles off the pike means at least 900 reaches out the booth window, not counting bends for MG Midget sports cars and stretches for Mack diesel trucks.

Mrs. Hales finds that as a toll collector, she’s expected by motorists to know how to get about anywhere from anywhere.

“I ALWAYS GET Mansfield and Massillon mixed up,” she noted. “The other day I sent a lady east who should have been going west.”

Her lunch break over, Mrs. Hales left the roomy office area of the brick toll plaza building and resumed handing out tickets in the first entry lane.

Plaza supervisor Robert Cooper and his assistant, James Macartney, came in. Besides handling the paperwork and administrative tasks at Gate 8, both spell the toll collectors during breaks.

No “unauthorized personnel” are allowed in the toll booths during working hours, which are 24 hours  a day, year round.

Cooper pulled some figures from his files showing the exit ranked fourth of 17 Ohio Turnpike interchanges in amount of traffic handled in October – 260,956 vehicles got on or off.

To illustrate the increasing traffic, he said in October of 1958, 76,391 vehicles used Gate 8. Summer has been the high turnpike traffic season.

Cooper said 302,413 vehicles used the gate in August, considerably more than use the pike now.

Plaza 8 has 10 full-time collectors and five who work part-time. Each week the toll collectors change among three shifts, which are from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

And each day, the toll collectors rotate from one lane to another, never spending two consecutive days in the same booth.

OF THE FOUR LANES, two are usually entrance lanes and two are exits, unless heavy traffic calls for an extra exit, leaving only one lane for entrance.

Another of the three lady toll collectors, Mrs. Ella Madden, came in for her lunch break as Macartney manned her lane.

Mrs. Madden was hired in 1968, the first woman toll collector at Gate 8. She was quoted by The Journal then as finding her job both interesting and enjoyable.

“It has been interesting. I like it just as well now as then,” she said.

Mrs. Madden was at a loss to point out an experience on the job that might be called her most unusual or bizarre.

“People are funny, period,” remarked Cooper.

“They do some strange things when they get in a car,” added Mrs. Madden.

She recalled one motorist who got off wishing to know if Akron was east or west – refusing to believe he was not at the Akron exit.

“There’s a man from North Olmsted who commutes here on a motorcycle and has a TV dinner on the back of his seat every day,” she said.

THE VEHICLES are classified for toll according to weight, although if a scale breaks down classification by number of axles is used.

Stowing her lunch box and heading for the door, Mrs. Madden added, “I’ve never run into a vehicle I couldn’t classify, and I hope I never do.”

Both Cooper and his neighboring supervisor for Gate 7 at Milan, Claude Latham, agree that motorists view the toll collectors’ job as dull, but say they’ve found it anything but bland.

“There’s something crazy every day,” said Latham. He told of a traveling circus that took a roadside rest by a turnpike plaza several years ago. An elephant was taken for a short walk, and he promptly sat down on the hood of a Volkswagen.

“Imagine trying to explain that to your insurance adjuster,” Latham joked.

Entrance lanes for cars have ticket dispensing machines, and Latham related how a toll collector at another exit was refilling the machine when two women in a car approached.

“Too bad there’s nobody here,” remarked the driver as she reached for her ticket. “I wanted to ask which exit to take for Cedar Point.”

“Take exit 7,” said the toll collector, who was unseen to the motorists.

LATHAM SAID the driver, slightly aghast, looked at the machine and then turned to her companion and said, “Isn’t that amazing?”

When wintertime auto trouble strikes on the pike, Latham said he’s had 10 people sitting in the plaza office, “waiting their turn with the wrecker.”

“But I’ve been with the turnpike since it opened, and only once was it closed that I know of,” said Latham.

“That was during the July floods in 1969, and water 2 1/2 feet deep came over the roadway just east of here. It washed a Greyhound bus off the road, so they closed it down,” he said.


Here are a few vintage Ohio Turnpike postcards, courtesy of eBay.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving – 1971 Style!

It’s Thanksgiving – so here’s hoping all my readers enjoy a wonderful day celebrating with their family and friends. Despite everything going on in the world today, there is always plenty to be thankful about.

And in honor of the holiday, here’s yet another one of those full-page ads that the Journal used to run with a list of sponsoring companies. (Why doesn’t the Morning Journal continue this tradition today?)

There’s a nice sentiment in the ad copy as well, with nary a mention of Communism.

As usual, the art accompanying the ad is of its time and not too diverse. It’s somewhat amusing that the two Pilgrims resemble their modern day equivalents somewhat. (Click here to visit the clean-shaven 1965 version of this ad, or here to go back even further for the 1959 edition.)

Anyway, the roll call of ads contains the usual suspects – that is, many long-forgotten local firms, and the local predecessors of today’s banking institutions. But at least the Journal and Discount Drug Mart are in there (along with Ridge Hill Memorial Park).

Nov. 25, 1971 Ad for Brady’s Chuckwagon

For more Thanksgiving blog fun, click here to read about the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of 1937. Or click here to revisit those days in the late 1960s when the day after Thanksgiving was an all-day cartoon feast for kids on TV. 
Or click here to bring up ALL of my past posts about Thanksgiving. It’s a real corny-copia of Thanksgiving memories. When you scroll down, be sure to click “Older Posts” in the lower right hand corner to bring up the rest of the posts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

HIll’s Thanksgiving Ad – 1971

I had thought that it was only during the last few years or so that stores started opening on Thanksgiving Day as a way of getting a leg (or drumstick, as the case may be) up on the competition for shoppers on Black Friday.

Well, as Li’l Abner once said: “It hain’t necessarily Moe.”

The above ad for Hills – which ran in the Journal on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1971 – proves that the custom of store hours intruding on the holiday itself started long ago. As you can see, Hills was going to be open that day from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

As the ad innocently notes, “So before or after your turkey dinner, come see all the new gift ideas for 1971 at Hills LOW CASH PRICES!” 

I wonder if the snack counter was open that day, to ruin people’s appetite with frozen Cokes (Yum!!) and popcorn.

Note that Santa Claus was arriving that day as well, in a ‘big, shiny fire engine with the siren blaring.” The jolly old elf was going to be handing out coloring books for the kiddies “with details inside on Hills annual Coloring Contest.”

I guess things don’t really change that much over the years after all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving at Lawsons – November 1971

Fifty years ago, having Lawson’s prepare Thanksgiving dinner was one of the options for families that didn’t want Mom to spend all day in the kitchen.

No, I’m not talking about picking up a sumptuous ready-made feast of Dutch Loaf sandwiches, a bag of chips, a container of Lawson’s Chip Dip and a half-gallon of milk. 

I meant going out to enjoy a fine meal at Lawson’s Family Restaurants.

Below is an ad that ran in the Journal back on Nov. 23, 1971.

You might remember that I wrote about the Lawson’s Restaurants back here. The one in our area was located at 900 N. Leavitt Road in Amherst (the same building that Denny’s is in today).

The menu looked pretty good for that 1971 feast: roast turkey with dressing, broasted chicken, baked ham with raisin sauce, deep fried rainbow trout. After all, everybody doesn’t like turkey.

For side dishes: whipped white or baked sweet potatoes; mixed vegetables.

And, of course, your choice of pumpkin pie, apple pie or an ice cream sundae for dessert.

The ad didn’t include an address or phone number, so I hope nobody accidentally made the trek to a regular Lawson’s. They might have had to settle for some turkey loaf sandwiches, washed down with a glass of Big O Orange Juice.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Lorain Telephone Thanksgiving Ad – 1950

Here’s a Thanksgiving ad that seems a little quaint in these times, when everybody is offended about something. 

The ad, sponsored by the Lorain Telephone Company, encourages Americans to celebrate their First Amendment right by regularly attending worship services with their families.

The ad ran in the Lorain Journal on November 22, 1950. 

Admittedly, some of the copy in the ad is a little odd, with the suggestion that the Pilgrims needed to carry firearms on the way to church because of the ‘painted Indians’ flitting like shadows in the woods. 

(The headline – “We Don’t Carry Guns To Church Any More” – may or not be true either. Most state laws allow for concealed carry in churches, but churches are private property and may restrict firearms as they wish.)

But the basic message of the ad – that practicing our faith was the best weapon against Communism propaganda and misinformation – is a good one.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Reddy for Budget Appliances – Nov. 22, 1960

Sixty-one years ago this month, Ohio Edison was still running ads almost every day in the Lorain Journal. Many of these ads featured our old pal Reddy Kilowatt, cajoling readers to consider purchasing an electric appliance from the Ohio Edison stores.

The ad above, which appeared in the Journal on November 22, 1960, promotes simple items that everyone needs: an iron, a toaster and a coffee pot.

Each item in the ad had a special feature that seems quaint today; the iron could both dry-iron and steam-iron; the toaster could adjust “to white, rye, whole wheat or even frozen bread;” the coffeemaker had a Flavor Selector “for mild, medium or strong coffee.”

Contrast those features with the myriad of choices that consumers face today when it comes to those same items. (Except for maybe the iron. Who irons clothes today?)

The brand name of all of the appliances in the ad were Corona – which apparently disappeared over the years, (except when it comes to beer or viruses). The Corona brand seems to have been featured only in ads similar to the Ohio Edison one, suggesting some sort of arrangement between the utility and the manufacturer.

Anyway, I could only find photos online of two of the products featured in the ad: the toaster and the coffee pot. They may or may be the exact same item, but the model number was the same.

That’s a good looking toaster; the coffee pot isn’t bad either. They’re definitely nicer looking than the plastic equivalents that I use to toast my bread and brew my coffee.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Midway Mall Ladies’ Day Sale – Nov. 1971

Fifty years ago this month, Midway Mall featured a Ladies’ Day Sale on November 9th, 1971. 

The above ad, which ran in the Journal on the eve of the special promotion provides a snapshot of some of the stores at the Mall at that time, including Higbee’s, JCPenney’s, Winkelman’s, Andre Duval, Lane Bryant, Cleveland Fabric Shops, Woolworth and Sears.
There are some nice deals in the ad. Harvest House Cafeteria offered frankfurters and sauerkraut (with a choice of two vegetables, roll & butter and a beverage) for only a buck; Clown Town featured kiddie portraits starting at two dollars; and Goodyear was giving away a free window scraper “for any lady who stops in our store Ladies’ Day.”
Walden Book Store has an ad featuring Jack LaLanne’s Slim & Trim Diet and Exercise Guide, as well as The Family Knitting Book.
Do stores still have Ladies’ Day Sales in these gender neutral times?
Interestingly, Midway Cinema (it hadn’t been twinned yet) offered a free movie: Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970), starring good old Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacClaine. Happily, both of them are still with us.
I suppose it was a good choice for women to see, but that movie has always bugged me, with Shirley MacClaine’s phony nun character having fooled Clint throughout much of the movie.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

New Rt. 58 Overpass at NYC Tracks – Nov. 1960

Sixty-one years ago this month, a new bridge over the New York Central Railroad tracks at Amherst on Route 58 (Leavitt Road) was being completed. It was part of a new highway replacing the old two-lane road from State Route 113 to N. Ridge Road.

The above photos showing the completed overpass appeared in the Lorain Journal on November 25, 1960.

A few days later on November 29, 1960 the newspaper ran the aerial photo below.

The view of State Route 58 with its new railroad overpass is looking north from Middle Ridge Road.

Here’s a modern Google Maps view for comparison.
As mentioned in the comments section, here are a few images showing where the lakes were located. First up is this recent Google Maps view. The lakes are shown, but are no longer there.
Next is this Historic Aerials image showing the area in 1962.

Last is this image (courtesy of Dennis Thompson) that apparently shows the lake just north of Sliman's in the process of being filled in, circa 1986.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Sandy’s Souvenir Glass – Nov. 1971

Back in November 1971, the Sandy’s chain of fast food restaurants was featuring a special promotion for its customers. For only 59 cents, the purchaser received a 14 ounce, reusable plastic glass filled with a milk shake, along with a cheeseburger and an order of ‘golden brown French Fries.’

Above is the ad that ran in the Journal on Nov. 17, 1971.

It’s appropriate that the glass is referred to as a souvenir, because the Sandy’s era of the hamburger chain was winding down and soon the Hardee’s name would replace it. 

According to this Wiki page, “On November 30, 1971, a Hardee’s purchase of all of Sandy’s stock was announced, and Sandy’s plaid berets were soon to be seen no more.” As originally planned, the Sandy’s restaurants were supposed to retain their own identity, but they eventually were all converted to the Hardee’s brand.

I never felt the same way about Hardee’s as I did about Sandy’s. Chalk it up to the Scottish lassie, I guess.

By the time Hardee’s took over a year or so later, McDonald’s and Burger King already had a strong presence in Lorain County. Their national advertising campaigns helped them to completely overshadow the smaller burger chain.


Unlike the small glasses with the original blonde Sandy’s lassie, the souvenir plastic cups with the brunette version mentioned are much harder to find. But a few exist today and found their way online. There are a couple on eBay right now.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Clarkins Comes to Lorain County – Nov. 1971

Do you remember the Clarkins chain of discount department stores?

Longtime residents of Lorain and the neighboring cities probably remember the store on Leavitt Road, where the Lorain City Airport (Long’s Airport) used to be.

But the honor of the first Clarkins store in Lorain County goes to Elyria. The store opened on Wednesday, November 17, 1971.

The Journal did its part by dedicating two full pages to the Grand Opening. The first page ran on November 15, 1971 and featured photos of several Clarkins employees, including Pam Justin, Rosemary Drayler and Jose E. Torres.

The second full page highlighting the new store ran the next day on November 16, 1971. This one featured even more Clarkins employees, including John Scott, Marie Paynowski and Jean Murry.

On April 30, 1981 – a little less than ten years after the Elyria Clarkins store opened – it was announced in the Chronicle-Telegram that both it and the Lorain store would be closing along with all of the other Ohio stores in a few months. 
By June 19, the final closeout sale for all eleven Ohio stores was underway. More than a thousand Clarkins employees lost their jobs.
The Lorain Clarkins store was converted to a factory for the PC Campana group with the help of a $200,000 state grant that was approved by the Ohio Department of Economic Development in March 1987.
A recent view of the former Lorain Clarkins store

Friday, November 12, 2021

Agway Grain Elevator in Huron – Nov. 1971

Here’s a familiar landmark to motorists and boaters passing through Huron on Route 6 in the 1960s: the old Agway silos and plant on the river.
The photo and caption ran in the Journal on November 19, 1971.
Pillsbury had just recently purchased the Agway grain mill, and eventually the familiar blue Pillsbury logo adorned the structure. According to the Huron Historical Society, Pillsbury used the property "as a Great Lakes and international grain shipping terminal.
I remember thinking how neat it was that a big, well-known company like Pillsbury (home of the chubby Doughboy from the TV commercials) had operations in Huron. 
ConAgra Foods eventually acquired the facility in the late 1980s. It was closed around mid-2006 and the property was donated by the company to the State of Ohio for redevelopment.
Demolition of the iconic buildings began in January 2012.
A vintage view
(Courtesy OhioMemory.org)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Elvis at His Prime – November 1971

Back on this post, I featured an ad for Elvis and his movie documentary That’s the Way It Was, which was playing at the Lorain Drive-in on September 3, 1971.

The post generated some great comments from Elvis fans about what an amazing showman he was.

Well, that’s the theme of the article below, which appeared in the Journal on November 16, 1971. As one commenter had pointed out, Elvis was in the process of getting back to live performances again after his movie career. 

The article does a great job of describing what it was like to see Elvis in a large arena. Mary Campbell, the author of the piece, contrasts his November 1971 Philadelphia arena appearance (which had many families in the audience) with one he did in a Las Vegas nightclub in August 1969. It shows how much Elvis cared about his fans that he toned down his onstage gyrations in Philadelphia because he knew it was a family crowd.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Midway Mall Presents Jett’s Petting Zoo – Nov. 1971

A 1976 appearance of Jett’s Petting Zoo
at Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor, Michigan
(Courtesy of Ann Arbor District Library)
Kids love animals, especially getting up front and close with them. That’s why attractions (such as Deer Park in Castalia) where kids are able to pet and feed their animal friends are so popular.

Traveling ‘petting zoos’ have been longtime favorites as well. One of them, Jett’s Petting Zoo, visited Midway Mall fifty years ago this month. Above is the ad which ran in the Journal on November 16, 1971.

According to the ad, Gene Jett had quite a traveling menagerie, including: African Bush Goats, Persian Lamb, Muflin Sheep, Barboa Sheep, Anteater, Macaws, Emu, Baby Wallaroo, Aldabra Tortoise, Zebu Cow, Baby Donkey, Capuchin Monkeys, Llamas, Cameron Goats, and Misc. Sheep & Goats.

That’s Rocky the tortoise in the ad.


Rocky was the subject of a controversial custody case of sorts in the mid-1980s. 

During one shopping center appearance of Jett’s Petting Zoo, a local humane society confiscated Rocky after some complaints of animal cruelty. Jett denied the claim. 

Jett was convicted, however, and a judge ordered him to relinquish ownership of Rocky to Mesa College. However, Jett’s conviction was eventually reversed, and Rocky was returned to Jett.

I just don't believe that a man would spend his life around animals and not become attached to them, and concerned about their welfare.

I imagine that it would be quite a challenge to operate a petting zoo in 2021, when much more attention is paid to animal rights, and penalties for animal cruelty are much greater. But petting zoos are still around (including one at Cedar Point), so apparently things are working out to everyone’s (including the animals) satisfaction.

Click here for a full list of "the best petting zoos in Northeast Ohio."

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Lorain’s Urban Renewal Plan – Nov. 1971

Urban renewal has been a frequent topic on this blog, especially its effect on the cities of Huron and Lorain in the 1970s. What seemed like a good idea at the time (particularly with the availability of government money to make it happen) has yielded controversial results.

Back in November 1971, Lorain was in the process of planning the demolition of 55 buildings. The article above provides a detailed inventory of the parcels that needed to be acquired, and the buildings that needed to come down. It’s fascinating to read the list and be reminded of what was eventually lost. I had been in many of the buildings and remember them well.

As the article points out, many buildings really weren’t in that bad a shape, and it was a shame that they had to be demolished. But as the article notes in the opening paragraph, “The idea behind urban renewal in Downtown Lorain is to get together large chunks of cheap land which will tempt private developers to come in and rejuvenate the area.”

Lorain was actually pretty lucky (unlike Huron) that only a relatively small portion of its historic downtown was destroyed. While a few landmarks were lost, there is still of lot of character in what buildings remain. And with the streetscape improvements made in the last few years, the Downtown has never looked better.