Friday, March 24, 2023

Wellington Sugar Bushes – March 1963

Do you like maple syrup?

I actually work with a few people who really don't like it at all. That's unheard of for me, because I love the stuff. Years of regular trips to Canada (where maple syrup is practically a condiment) has caused me to always have a container of it in the fridge, and a few cans of it in the pantry, eh? I put it on pancakes and English muffins and in my oatmeal. I even have a few spoonfuls as a dessert now and then.

I'm not picky about what kind I buy, either. I usually have some of it from Quebec (in the cool can with the vintage design on it shown above) and some from Ohio. I'm working on a bottle of it from Stumpwater Farm in Sullivan, Ohio that's excellent. In general, I think Ohio Maple Syrup is as good as any I've ever tasted.

Anyway, March seems to be the month that the maple trees get tapped, so it's not surprising to see the full-page article below about two Wellington sugar bushes (where the maple sap is processed into syrup). The article is by the well-known Journal reporter and Society Editor Lou Kepler. Lou grew up in Wellington and was a lifelong resident.

The article appeared in the Journal on March 28, 1963 and provides a detailed explanation of the maple syrup production process, with great photos by Jack Graeff. The two sugar bushes were run by Joe and Ed McConnell on Route 58 in Pittsfield Township, and Gus Knapp, whose maple sugaring setup was located on the Roscoe Campbell farm.


For more information on that classic 1950s Canadian maple syrup can (shown at the top of this post) that's still used in Canada today, follow this link.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Oak Hills Country Club Ad – March 29, 1963

One of the things you learn when you're a kid is that there are different classes of people – rich, poor and in-between. 

In our block on E. Skyline Drive in Lorain, it was all solid, middle class families. Many of the fathers worked in a factory, either Ford Motor Company, U. S. Steel or BF Goodrich. The homes were all ranches and split levels built about the same time. It was a nice neighborhood (except for the occasional rock fights).

But no one was rich. The only example of the wealthy was the Davidsons, whose property bordered almost the whole length of the north side of E. Skyline Drive. We could see their mansion between the trees, and hear their peacocks in the early morning. It wasn't until many years later that I learned that Mr. Davidson (a well-known local lawyer) graduated from Lorain High School with my Dad's Uncle Ben).

Since the fathers in our neighborhood were mostly blue collar workers, I don't think the ad below for Oak Hills Country Club would have interested any of them. The ad promoting New Memberships appeared in the Lorain Journal back on March 29, 1963.

The ad is interesting, with the private club accepting "a limited number of memberships for 1963." The prices weren't cheap; adjusted for inflation, the "Man & Wife Golf Membership" would run about $2,113 bucks today.

Memberships for the swimming pool and cabana club were separate from that of the country club. And the Oak Hills Restaurant and Bar was operated as a Supper Club (meaning it was only open at dinner and was a little more formal that the average beanery, with a limited menu).
The whole thing kind of reminds me of the movie Caddyshack. Even the Membership prices included a special rate for clergy, reminding me of the Bishop in that movie who gets struck by lightning.
Anyway, if there were any golfers among the dads on Skyline Drive, I'm guessing that they would have more likely golfed at Emerald Valley, just a few minutes away on Leavitt Road.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Old Quaker Bourbon Ad – March 25, 1963

I mentioned several times on this blog how the Lorain Journal used to run ads for hard liquor almost every day in the 1940s and 50s, in addition to daily beer ads. You would think that the average Lorainite had a major drinking problem.

The daily parade of booze ads finally began to taper off in the mid-to-late 1960s.

But in 1963, the national and regional distilleries were still doing their best to get Journal readers to have a snort, judging by the ad below for Old Quaker Bourbon. It ran in the paper on March 25, 1963.

I find the ad interesting, because it employs the image of a Quaker to promote bourbon exactly as Quaker Oats does to promote its oatmeal. The Old Quaker mascot looks pretty happy, much more enthusiastic than his lookalike on the breakfast porridge package.

Ironically, for years actual Quakers practiced teetotalism. I understand that's not the case today; drinking is discouraged, but allowed in moderation. (I'm assuming they can eat all the oatmeal they want.)
Anyway, Old Quaker Bourbon bottles are pretty ubiquitous on eBay as well as other online sources. In fact, it was fairly easy to find pretty much the exact bottle.

At least I didn't have to hit some Lorain garage sales to find one.
One of the Old Quaker advertising gimmicks was the inclusion of the age of the bourbon right on the bottle in big letters, such as "THIS WHISKEY IS 4 YEARS OLD." As the Journal ad notes, Old Quaker had just added "Two Extra Years of Aging... At No Extra Cost!"
Exciting news for local boozehounds, no doubt.
I've posted a lot of whiskey ads on this blog, including these for Old Log Cabin WhiskeyPM Blended Whiskey, Schenley, and Corby's.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

On Area Movie Screens – March 23, 1963

Sixty years ago there was a veritable smorgasbord of movie fare on area screens, with something to satisfy everyone's taste. Above is the movie page from the Lorain Journal of March 23, 1963.

Although it was only a few days into Spring, the drive-ins were open. Over at the Lorain Drive-in, a cinematic blood bath was taking place with a trio of old Dracula movies: Blood of Dracula (1957), Brides of Dracula (1960) and Horror of Dracula. If that wasn't enough to lure them in, according to the ad there was a "free gift worth 95 cents to each car."

At the Tower Drive-in (with its in-car heaters), Jimmy Stewart was taking a vacation from his normal movie roles by starring in the comedy Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) along with Maureen O'Hara.

Other family-friendly fare included the bloated comedy Son of Flubber, playing at both Amherst Theatre and Avon Lake Theater.
The Courtship of Eddie's Father starring Glenn Ford was at the Ohio. It sure looks different than the version with Bill Bixby that was on TV. Hey, the movie version had Ron "Opie" Howard as Eddie!
If racy movie fare was your thing, there was The Bellboy and the Playgirls featuring June Wilkinson at the Palace. Somehow I suspect that Francis Ford Coppola wouldn't mind crossing this flick off his cinematic resume.
And lastly, if Westerns are your thing (that's me), then there was one at the Tivoli with a gimmick. Young Guns of Texas (1962), starred the offspring of several famous movie leading men. There was Jody McCrea (son of my favorite Joel McCrea); James Mitchum (son of Robert Mitchum); and Alana Ladd (daughter of Alan Ladd).
Hey, want to check out the movie right now, pardner? Just grab yourself a tin cup of hot coffee, a big ol' plate of beans and watch it below online on YouTube!

Monday, March 20, 2023

Puss 'n Boots Ad – March 20, 1963

Are you a dog person or a cat person?
We had neither in our house when I was a kid. I think it was because my mother had her hands full raising four kids and didn't want to add an animal to the mix. I did have a goldfish ('Frank' was his name during his too-brief life on Earth) and a hamster (Rufus).
The cats came later, when my older brother Ken brought a kitten home from the steel mill – in his lunch box. When Ken joined the Army a few years later, 'Kitty' became my parents' beloved cat. After that, all of the Bradys seemed to have cats; I brought one home from my workplace in Cleveland as well, and there have been three cats since then.
Anyway, the Journal used to carry a lot of national ads, including pet food ads. Below is an ad that ran in the paper back on March 20, 1963 – sixty years ago today – for Puss n' Boots Cat Food .
Lorain Journal ad – March 20, 1963

So what was the story behind the Puss 'n Boots cat food? 

Here's an advertising article that I wrote back in the early 2000s for the HKM Grapevine that tells the tale. The second Shrek movie featuring the Puss in Boots character had just come out at that time.

The Nine Lives of Puss ’n Boots® Cat Food
By Dan Brady
One of the highlights of the newer Shrek films for me was the addition of Puss in Boots to the cast. The suave cat stole the show with his swashbuckling antics and proved to be so popular with audiences that he will reportedly star in his own spin-off film. 
Although fans of this feline may not realize it, there has been a cat food called Puss ’n Boots® since 1934. The story of this cat food may seem a little fishy, but it has a happy ending anyway.
According to the book Brands, Trademarks and Good Will by Arthur F. Marquette, Puss ’n Boots cat food started out as a dog food! Coast Fishing Company in Los Angeles had created a dog food made entirely of fish and named it “Balto” after the famous Husky sled dog. Despite the product’s name, it was more popular with cat owners than dog owners. So Balto was renamed Puss ’n Boots and marketed as the first canned cat food.
The can’s label featured a charming illustration of the boot-clad fairy tale cat carrying his belongings (including a can of Puss’ n Boots cat food) on a hobo stick. It is interesting that the literary Puss in Boots, unlike the Shrek movies’ sword-wielding cat, was a clever conniver who made his master rich through a series of schemes designed to curry favor with the king.
In the early 1950s, the Quaker Oats Company attempted to create its own cat food to compete with Puss ’n Boots, which by that time was America’s largest selling cat food. Much to Quaker Oats’ frustration, taste tests showed repeatedly that cats still preferred Puss ’n Boots to any new culinary creations from its kitchens! Eventually Quaker Oats gave up and bought the Coast Fishing Company, adding Puss ’n Boots to its product line. (Quaker Oats already had the leading canned dog food, having bought the manufacturer of Ken-L-Ration back in the early 1940s.)
During the 1950s, Quaker Oats promoted Puss ’n Boots cat food with full color magazine ads. The ads touted the product’s nutritional benefits and featured beautiful cat photography, as well as testimonials from happy cat owners. Perhaps in response to increased competition from other brands, during the mid-1960s the Puss ’n Boots label was redesigned to look more modern. The fairy tale cat mascot was greatly reduced in size before eventually being relegated to a tiny spot on the back of the can.
Eventually Quaker Oats decided to get out of the pet food industry, and the Puss ’n Boots brand was sold to the H.J. Heinz Company during the 1980s. In 2002, Puss ’n Boots became part of Del Monte Foods Company when Del Monte and Heinz merged, joining other cat food brands including 9-Lives® and Kozy Kitten®. According to the Del Monte website, Puss ’n Boots is still produced at the Bloomsburg, PA cannery.
Today, Puss ’n Boots is in very limited national distribution according to a recent email inquiry to Del Monte Foods Consumer Affairs. Recently I found a bag of Puss ’n Boots Choice Blend Dry Cat Food at a local Apples grocery store and was pleased to see that the advertising has returned to its fairy tale roots with a handsome new rendering of Puss in Boots adorning the package. Although this cat may not resemble the debonair movie character, it is still great to see the ‘star’ of the original canned cat food back in the spotlight more than 70 years after his debut.
Since the above article was first published back around 2005, Puss 'n Boots Cat Food has been discontinued. In 2011, there was an attempt by a company called Retrobrands U.S.A to revive it (presumably to cash in on the popularity of the movie franchise) but this ploy was apparently ignored by a finicky public. 
And as for the sword-wielding Puss in Boots, he has continued to star in his own popular film series, most recently in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022).

Friday, March 17, 2023

Oberlin Inn St. Patrick's Day Ad – March 1973

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Are you having corned beef today? Fifty years ago, you might have decided to celebrate with a special meal at Oberlin Inn, with its famous Buffet, "the Best Buy in the County." The above ad ran in the Journal back on March 15, 1973.

Of course, you won't be chowing down on corned beef at Oberlin Inn today. It was torn down in 2016 (which I documented in this 3-part series here, here and here) and replaced by the much swankier and modern The Hotel at Oberlin.

St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated on this blog almost every year since I began writing it back in 2009. And I devoted one post to my Irish heritage, and another to good ol' corned beef in a can.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Downtown Lorain St. Patrick Day Ads – March 1963

In honor of St. Patrick's Day on Friday, here's a full page of ads from the Journal of March 15, 1963 with that theme, promoting Downtown Lorain stores. Participating stores included the Style Center, Ted Jacobs, Penney's, Kline's, Ohio Edison, Smith & Gerhart, Jupiter Discount Store, Harry's Men's Wear, Lee Furniture, Sears, Lorain Hardware, Bear's, Allen's Shoes, Sylvester Drugs, Bazley's, McKee's Shoes, Skylite Bar, and Jax.

It's odd realizing that every single one of the local stores is long gone. 

Even the national stores that once had a presence in Downtown Lorain are in sad shape, with Sears having dwindled down to about forty stores in the whole country. JCPenney is trying to make a comeback, and still has 670 stores. (And to think that we used to order a lot of things out of both companies' catalogs.)

The ads are a grab bag of generic sales items, with few illustrations to show what's exactly being promoted. The Jupiter Discount ad, however, includes a photo of the Hy-Fry Cooker Fryer. (You can pick one up on eBay fairly easily for about thirty bucks.

The only real St. Patrick's Day deals are Green Ties ($1.50) and Green Sox ($1.00) at Harry's Men's Wear, and Corned Beef for 39 cents a pound at Bazley's.

The one thing that caught my eye was the small logo for Red Goose Shoes. 
It's interesting remembering how shoes used to be marketed to kids, with brands like Red Goose as well as Buster Brown and his dog Tige.

I remember seeing this kind of sign in shoes stores when I was a kid and thinking that Buster looked strange, with his hat and bangs. Buster's dog was kind of bizarre too, with his toothy grin.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Waiting for a Sign – Part 2

Note Fazio's at the far left end of the shopping center
(Photo courtesy of David Howat)
A 2016 view of the shopping center
In March 2021, the former Westgate Shopping Center in Lorain had been sold again. Would this help or hinder David Howat in his effort to salvage an old Fazio's sign in the shuttered store?
"I had read that the shopping center had been sold," said David in an email to me.  "Your blog highlighted the fact that the old Grant's store was being demolished, so I took a trip over there."
"I stopped by Westgate today to get some pictures, and was lucky enough to be able to talk to the new owner, Yaser Etayem and find out what his plans are for the old place," said David. "The first thing that I did was thank him for doing what he’s doing, but I immediately told him that I’d love to have that old Fazio's sign that’s still in the store.
"He told me that as soon as he gets the keys, he’s going to call me and let me in to get that sign – which totally made my day! Unfortunately, I never heard a word from him and I began to lose hope again."
"In September, I heard about all of the work that was being done on at the shopping center, so I took a drive over to investigate for myself. By luck, the owner was there and I approached him about the sign again.  He told me that I could have it, but he never made any offer as to when I could come get it. 
The months ticked by and soon the year 2022 was almost halfway over – with David still hanging in there.

In June 2022, David noted in an email to me, "It's been a while since I've been in touch, so I wanted to bring you up to date on what's happening. As of today, I still haven't heard anything back from him yet, but I haven't lost hope, and still have faith that I will. 

"I was in Lorain yesterday, so I stopped by for a quick look. As luck would have it, I was able to get a clear view of the sign that I want. 

"Luckily, there happens to be two, but one isn't in the greatest shape. They're not so much a sign as they are decals, but I am still hoping that the owner will allow me to get at least one of them and I'll be very happy!  

"The entrance to the Fazio's store is unboarded, and you can clearly see inside. What a spooky, scary sight! If I can remember correctly, I think that the whole chain closed in 1988 and that store remained vacant ever since.  

Once again, David was beginning to lose hope that he would ever get that sign. Then, in the beginning of December of 2022, he again paid a visit to the shopping center. 

"By luck, Yaser was there, and we had a great conversation," said David. "He was telling me about everything that has had done to the shopping center, and how much money he has already put into the place.  

"The Fazio's store entrance door, which has been boarded up since 1988, had been uncovered and there was access to the store. When I asked him if he would allow me to have the sign, he said, "The door is open, go get the sign!" 
"After years and years of wanting, my weird dream was going to become a reality. I got the cordless saw out and went to work. He even came to help me cut the sign out and the rest is history. I thanked him for his generosity, and we talked briefly in the abandoned store. We had a great talk and I got my sign."
So why did David want the sign in the first place? Oddly enough, he pointed out that his mother didn't even shop there, preferring the Pick n Pay on the east side because it gave Eagle Stamps. But his great aunt and uncle shopped at the Fazio's at Westgate regularly, so that was probably one of the reasons he wanted it. 
David summed up his philosophy very simply. "I don't know if it's a good or bad thing, but I am very sentimental and I try to hold onto memories as long as I can. The memories I have – from shopping at Pick n Pay in the 70's with Mom as a little kid, to spending the whole day at Midway Mall – will be things that I will always cherish."
David never gave up. He was rewarded for his patience and faith in the goodness and generosity of others. Today, the framed Fazio's sign occupies a special place on the wall of his home.
Framing by Burning River Boutique in Vermilion, Ohio

Special thanks to David Howat for sharing his story.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Waiting for a Sign – Part 1

One of the best things about doing this blog is that I’ve met a lot of nice people with a similar affection for local history. Many of them have fond memories of growing up in Lorain County, which they’ve shared with me via email. 

Sometimes a memory, however, just isn’t enough. Often a reader embarks on a personal mission to find an old photograph or piece of memorabilia of something that no longer exists (which isn’t easy).  

One of these nice people is David Howat. You might remember from a past blog post that his quest is to find photographs of the Midway Mall Woolworth’s and its Harvest House cafeteria, as well as locate former employees. 

David has had another ongoing project for the last ten years that recently came to an end. But in this case, he wasn't searching for something; he could see it – behind a locked door, beyond his grasp. 

So what's the story?

“About 10 years ago, retail photographer Nicholas Eckhart did a blog on Flickr and had some photos featuring Westgate Shopping Center," said David. "I was instantly intrigued.

“He had some photos of the old Fazio's store and a picture of this sign." It was inside, near the entrance to the store.

"From that point on, I was determined to do what I needed to do to get that sign.  
"I did internet searches to try and find the owner and I was able to find the owner who was in Ashtabula. 
"After numerous emails, phone calls and even a letter via U. S. mail, I never got a response – so I had given up," explained David.
During this time, the shopping center was still trying to attract new tenants, especially since the Family Dollar store had moved out.

"When the 'Bargain Bargain Bargain' store was open on the east side of the shopping center, I stopped there one day when they were open," said David. "I had a nice chat with the gentleman that was working there. 

"By luck, he was friends with the owner and I expressed my interest in acquiring the old Fazio's sign. He said that he would relay my interest to the owner, but I knew that nothing would transpire from it. This was during the point where the owner and the city were battling with each other [see below] so I took it for face value."
"Nothing would come from it – and I was right."
But the story's not over yet. 

Fazio's was the successor to Fisher Fazio, which itself was predated by Fisher Foods. Fisher Foods had a long history in Lorain dating back decades; it was also an original tenant of Westgate Shopping Center when it opened in 1958. By the late 1960s, however, after a merger it had become Fisher Fazio.

But by the 1980s, it was just Fazio's. And David wanted to preserve that Fazio's sign representing a piece of Lorain grocery store history.

Tomorrow: Hand me that hacksaw.

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Journal's Page of Opinion – March 17, 1973

Do you still read the comics each day?

Of course, that's assuming you still take a newspaper, or at least have a digital subscription. I have neither right now.

Which is strange for me, because I used to look forward to reading the funnies every day. I've written many times about how I used to enjoy Li'l Abner and a few others (including Gasoline Alley) while I was growing up.

Both of our local newspapers used to have the comics right in the back section, which was appropriate since they were sort of the 'dessert' to what was served up (and choked down) before. Now, when I do splurge and buy a paper, I never know where the comic section is. Not that it matters, because most of them aren't 'cheater-worthy' (meaning not worth putting on my glasses).

But fifty years ago – when everyone still read a newspaper – comics were still big business and part of the national cultural scene. So it's not surprising that the classic strip Blondie was mentioned on the Journal Page of Opinion. Chic Young, the creator of Blondie, had just died and the Journal was acknowledging his passing. Here's the clipping from March 17, 1973.

I like the illustrations of the Bumstead family as they looked in 1935 compared to 1973. 

Blondie has showed up on this blog before. In July 1939, the Bumsteads saluted the Journal on its 60th Anniversary in a special cartoon, along with Popeye and his friends. And in April 1941, the Journal held a special contest to help Blondie name her new baby daughter. 
At the top of the Page of Opinion column, there's a proposal to install crossing gates at the infamous "Killer Crossing" at Beaver Park. Sadly, it would take many more years (and deaths) before it actually happened (which you can read about on this post).

Friday, March 10, 2023

Lawson's Ad – March 3, 1963

Lawson's seems to be one topic that I have endless milked during the past year.

Why? For one thing, the convenient chain sponsored the ill-fated Issue 1 in the fall of 1962, attempting to do away with the Blue Law so the firm could be open on Monday. And Lawson's was a company that believed in the power of advertising, with huge ads pushing one main sales item, such as the ever-popular Dutch Loaf. 

The full-page ad below is a little different in that it's not selling milk, orange juice or lunch meat; it's selling an idea – specifically that everyone was enjoying lower milk prices because of Lawson's. It appeared in the Lorain Journal on March 3, 1963.

Lawson's makes the case that because of its efficiencies in production, its streamlined distribution system and low container costs, the cost of any brand of milk in a market where Lawson's was doing business was lower than the national average.

It's an interesting feel-good ad, but I'm not sure if it won any new converts. I think they'd have been better off pushing hard salami on sale.
It's funny how I feel nostalgic about Lawson's, despite the fact it probably helped put the local dairies out of business.
We drank a lot of milk in the Brady House when my siblings and I were kids. We had a glass of it with breakfast and lunch, and of course we put it on cereal, which we we had not only at breakfast, but also as a snack.
We were still having Home Dairy deliver milk in the late 1960s/early 70s. I can still see the wire milk holder in our garage next to the steps. But at some point, our milk man had come into the house (without knocking) and startled Mom. I think the story was that it was hot out and he wanted to put the milk in the fridge. 
At that point, the time was ripe to drop home delivery and just buy it ourselves – probably at Lawson's, which was only a few minutes away.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Lorain N & W Train Depot – March 1973

Although this week's previous blog entries from March 1973 reflected the cultural changes that were occurring at that time, at least one vestige of old-time Lorain made the news that month.

Above is a photo (by Michael Pugh) of Lorain's train station that ran in the Journal back on March 18, 1973. The caption notes, "The weather outside was frightful and wind pushed the snow around outside the Norfolk and Western train depot in Lorain. Inside, it was cozy and warm for N & S employe Bob Moes and his dog, Ben. Bob, who lives in Vermilion, kept the lonely vigil at the station through the night."

It's interesting knowing that even as late as 1973, there was a person inside the train depot all night.

I've written about the train station a few times on this blog. This post (with photo) tells how the depot (then affiliated with the Nickel Plate) was getting a facelift back in September 1949.

This post includes a neat "Then & Now" photo comparison of the depot in the 1980s and the same property (sans depot) in 2011. Another "Then & Now" photo study, this time of the Reid Avenue railroad crossing shows the depot off in the distance in the late 1940s/early 50s "Then" shot.

And I sketched the train station as it looked from the Broadway railroad crossing back in Frank Hicks' Art Class at Admiral King High School around 1974 or so (below).

Yup, I've said it before how jealous I am that other cities (like Amherst and Vermilion) still have their train stations, while Lorain – as usual – relegated a piece of its history to a smoking, steaming pile o' rubble. (It's close to St. Patrick's Day, thus the 'o.')

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Remember Clarkins?

From the March 1, 1973 Journal
Younger residents living in Lorain would probably be surprised to find out that the industrial park currently located on the west side of Leavitt Road just north of Meister used to be home to the Lorain City Airport. They'd be equally surprised to know that the airport was replaced by Clarkins, a popular discount department store.

And fifty years ago this month, that store was getting ready to open.

I've written about Clarkins before, including this post about the opening of the Elyria store in 1971. 

But today's post features an excellent article by Mark J. Price about the history of Clarkins and its humble beginning as a war surplus store. The article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal on December 20, 2021, and appears here courtesy of that publication. (I'd link to it but over the years, links are eventually broken, especially when they involve newspapers.)


Local history: Clarkins was king in Akron area before Kmart and Walmart
Mark J. Price
Akron Beacon Journal
Published December 20, 2021

You name it. Clarkins had it.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic jammed the streets in all directions. Nine police officers handled the flow of traffic to 300 parking spaces on the 5-acre site. Hundreds of shoppers lined up outside Akron’s new store.
More than 27,000 people arrived for the December 1961 opening of the Clarkins department store at 1465 S. Hawkins Ave. just north of Wooster-Hawkins Shopping Center.
The crowd was so large that guards had to be stationed at all doors to allow only a portion of the waiting masses to enter until other shoppers had exited the 12 checkout lanes. Radio stations issued bulletins for motorists to avoid the area.
The 53,000-square-foot store was more popular than its owners had anticipated. Never again would they build a Clarkins so small.
When older residents reminisce about Christmas shopping in Akron, they often mention going to O’Neil’s, Polsky’s, Yeager’s, Federman’s and other stores, but no trip down memory lane would be complete without a visit to Clarkins.
A surplus of business
It all began 75 years ago when Elza E. Hopkins (1921-2004), a mechanical engineer at Firestone, and his brother-in-law William W. Clark (1912-1995), a production worker at Goodrich, pooled their money in 1946 to open a store in an abandoned gas station at Grant and McCoy streets. 
They stocked the 300-square-foot shop with $600 worth of Army surplus materials and called it the Surplus & Supply Co. After World War II, the federal government was eager to unload military surplus.
“I’m telling you, the mountains of stuff they have at these ordnance centers staggers you,” Hopkins once told the Beacon Journal. “Even after you see it, you don’t believe it.”
The Akron store sold canteens, shovels, sleeping bags, chisels, pup tents, knives … you name it. Especially popular among customers was military apparel such as jackets, boots and gloves.
Surplus & Supply initially had little organization. Hoppy Hopkins and Bill Clark dumped hand tools into bins. Customers had to pick out shoes from a barrel and clothes from a pile on the floor.
The government disposed of millions of screwdrivers, hand drills and pickaxes. Of considerably less interest was a massive quantity of athletic supporters.
“They’ve been trying to peddle them for months, but nobody seems interested,” Hopkins explained.
The store’s simple formula for success was to buy the best quality merchandise, price it to sell at the lowest possible discount price and then let the public know about it.
“Most of our customers would rather do business here because they have learned that we stand back of everything we sell,” Hopkins noted in 1948. “If you do business with an out-of-town concern, you cannot always be sure of quality. If everything does not work just right, it involves a lot of long-range correspondence and consequent aggravation.”
Business was good. Surplus & Supply soon leased a building in a former restaurant at 892 S. Main St. in Akron and opened an outlet in a former barbershop at 217 Cherry Ave. in Canton.
In 1954, Hopkins and Clark built an 11,000-square-foot store at 1466 S. Main St. near Archwood Avenue in Akron. The grand opening drew thousands of customers who purchased everything from fishing tackle to electric fans to house paint to garden hoses.
Five years later, it established a store in the University Plaza Shopping Center at 1600 S. Water St. in Kent and opened a warehouse at 285 Northeast Ave. in Tallmadge.
The company’s name no longer seemed to fit. By 1959, government surplus accounted for less than 30% of sales.
Origin of Clarkins name
Hopkins and Clark decided to rebrand their stores as Clarkins, a combination of their surnames.
“You Name It, Clarkins Has it,” the company advertised. “Almost Anything You Want to Buy — All Discount Priced.”
The Wooster-Hawkins store, the fourth in the Clarkins chain, opened in 1961 a year before Kmart debuted in California and Walmart opened in Arkansas.
The next Clarkins store dwarfed its predecessors and became a template for those that followed. The 150,000-square-foot Clarkins Carrousel, the size of 3½ football fields, debuted Oct. 4, 1962, at 3200 Atlantic Blvd. NE in Canton near Harmont Avenue Northeast.
The gleaming new store had 62 departments and a “cartoon theater” so housewives could leave their children with an attendant while shopping. It even had a 25,000-square-foot supermarket.
“Here the shopper can park his car on the black-topped parking lot that covers 16 acres and do all his shopping inside in air conditioned comfort,” Clarkins advertised. “No walking in and out of 20 different stores.”
Consumers could fill their carts with claw hammers, candy bars, motor oil, tennis shoes, ground chuck, shock absorbers, record albums, blue jeans, baby beef liver, toy soldiers, television sets, cotton pajamas, fruit punch, model cars. You name it. Clarkins had it. 
In Akron, the small outlet on South Main Street was renamed the Surplus Junk Store, later shortened to the Junk Store, whose orange, finned sign looked very much like a flying bomb to wide-eyed kids passing in cars. Bill Clark’s son, Denny, operated the store, which remained in business until 1989.
Akron stores purchased
In 1966, Unishops Inc. of New Jersey acquired Clarkins, exchanging 100,000 shares of stock, or the equivalent of $2.5 million, for the company’s assets. Hopkins continued to lead Clarkins as an autonomous unit as the chain enjoyed its greatest expansion.
Over the decade, the chain added locations at 3200 Arlington Road at Interstate 77 in Green (1967), Route 8 and Steels Corners Road in Northampton (1968) and 2905 Whipple Ave. NW in Jackson Township (1970). 
“In the early days with four or five employees, we had few problems,” Hopkins told the Beacon Journal. “Today, with over a thousand employees, it is more complicated but I like it as it is today.”
It grew to a 12-store chain with new stores in Youngstown (1970), Euclid (1971), Bedford (1971), Elyria (1971), Brookpark (1971) and Lorain (1972).
Expansion came at a price. Embroiled in financial difficulties, Unishops filed for Chapter 11 protection in December 1973. Clarkins officials assured customers that operations would not be affected, but the chain closed its Wooster-Hawkins, Youngstown and Euclid locations at the end of the month, putting 300 people out of work.
Unishops emerged from bankruptcy and returned to profitability in 1975. A year later, Clarkins opened a store in Meadows Plaza at 1970 Lincoln Way E. in Massillon.
Herbert I. Wexler, president and chief executive of Unishops, hailed the “complete reincarnation” of the company.
“Where we were fighting then to keep the wolves from the door, now we’re cautiously expanding. And this has been a great morale booster for our employees,” Wexler told the Beacon Journal.
“You just don’t go from a $300 million a year volume to $100 million without a lot of people getting dropped off. Now that’s in the past. It’s a lot more fun to be opening stores instead of closing them, and a lot more profitable, too. We take pride in our accomplishment.”
In October 1979: Hopkins announced his retirement as president. Arthur Blackburn, a former Lafayette Radio Electronics Corp. executive, took over the reins in March 1980.
Signaling an investment in the future, Clarkins completed a $200,000 remodeling of the Arlington Road store in October 1980.
Six months later, the chain went belly up. 
End of an era
Clarkins announced April 29, 1981, that it would shut down all 11 of its stores, throwing 1,050 people out of work. 
A Unishops spokesman cited the “poor economic climate and the intensity of the competition” as reasons for closing. He said the New Jersey company decided to “redeploy its assets into other areas.”
The news was completely unexpected. Workers cried in store aisles.
The shelves emptied of products during clearance sales. One by one, the stores closed. Akron’s discount giant was gone.
Some of the buildings have been torn down over the past 40 years, but others continue to stand, housing such businesses as Target, Acme, Giant Eagle and Walmart.
You name it. They have it. But there will never be another Clarkins.
Mark J. Price can be reached at

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Journal Front Page – March 7, 1973

Fifty years ago today, there were plenty of interesting things – some local, some national – on the front page of the Lorain Journal

Locally, the featured story was about an unfortunate boater from Sheffield Lake whose car ended up in the drink down at the Lorain Municipal Pier's boat loading ramp. It seems that his car's automatic transmission slipped out of the park position and into the water it went. Poor guy. And the Journal was right there to take a picture of him.

Lorain's Mascon Toy manufacturing plant had just been purchased by a group of investors along with two sister toy companies, including Flexible Flyer of Medina, manufacturer of the well-known sled. The new owners planned to continue operating the purchased plants and hopefully increase production.

Nationally, the ongoing protest and occupation by American Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota was triggering sympathetic protests elsewhere, in this case Lumberton, North Carolina.

And the hoped-for ratification in 1973 of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was stalled with less than half of the states approving the amendment – far short of what was needed.

Elsewhere on the front page was a capsule comparison of the contrasting points of view of two returning Vietnam POWs; an announcement of the closing of Lorain's draft board office; and a story of British man, heavily in debt, who had just solved his financial problems by winning "a big prize on the soccer pools."

Monday, March 6, 2023

Flood Jitters at Vermilion – March 3, 1973

One big difference between living in Vermilion and living in Lorain is the threat of flooding. 

I never thought too much about the Black River overflowing its banks while I lived in Lorain. After all, it's a long way down from the bridge deck to the river when you're driving over the W. 21st Street Bridge.

But in Vermilion (where I live now), the threat of the Vermilion River flooding is very real. It's an annual concern when the snow melts and the frozen river begins to thaw – making the evacuation of riverfront residents a strong possibility.

And that was the concern fifty years ago this month, as noted on the front page of the Lorain Journal of March 3, 1973 (below).

What's interesting is that the high level of Lake Erie was being blamed on our friendly neighbors to the north, the maple-syrup loving Canadians. As the article noted, "Congressman Charles Vanik, a Cleveland Democrat, said yesterday that he had been told by the State Department that if American property owners along Lake Erie have property damage because of the high lake levels they should file claims with the Canadian government.

"Vanik says he was told the high water was due to the Canadian government's closing of the Welland Canal, which links Lakes Erie and Ontario. The shipping canal is closed while a widening project is underway."

However, that viewpoint seems to be just one government official's opinion. The Journal article also pointed out, "Channel 5 Television in Cleveland produced a special at 9 last night and quoted lake authorities as saying that the Welland Canal closing would contribute, at the most, one inch to the level of Lake Erie. And this was expected to drop when the canal is reopening this spring."

(During one of my many trips to Canada during the 1990s, I took a short side trip to see the Welland Canal. It was worth stopping to see.)

Elsewhere on the Journal front page was the horrific murder of several American diplomats by Arab Terrorists, including Cleo A. Noel, the U. S. Ambassador to Sudan. His daughter was a student at Oberlin College at the time.


Click here to visit my post about Vermilion flooding during the infamous July 4, 1969 storm.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Betty Brady 1927 – 2023

It is with sadness that I pass along that my mother, Betty Brady, has died at the age of 95. 

Mom had been ill the last few years. A bad fall and a bout with Covid the same week put her into the hospital more than a year and a half ago. A stroke followed, which robbed her of the ability to walk and talk. Worsening dementia made each day a challenge for her.

Yet she remained Mom. She was always excited to see me when I visited her daily at Kingston of Vermilion. Although we couldn't hold a conversation, she listened intently to whatever I was talking about. She communicated mostly by nodding, and using her eyebrows to express surprise or displeasure. 

But despite the stroke, she could cobble together a few words now and then. Many times she surprised me by barking, "Hurry up!" if I wasn't moving fast enough to get an aide or return her to her room. And sometimes, clear out of the blue, she made me fall off my chair by blurting out something perfectly clear like, "You know, I've been thinking..." But best of all, she could still say "I love you too" once in a while.

Mom and I had a nightly ritual at Kingston. Each night after dinner, I would push her in her wheelchair around the building, just for entertainment. Almost every staff member we ran into knew Betty Brady, and they would stop and greet her warmly, which made her very happy. A few of the staff had cute nicknames for her, including "Betty Boop," "Grandma," (which she was), and, most hilariously, "Houdini," because of her ability to mysteriously escape from her bed.

The staff at Kingston of Vermilion has been great. Seeing how much the aides and nurses loved Mom was very comforting to me, and made dealing with her illness much easier. And despite her ill health, Mom still had a social life, interacting (and often hanging out late at night) with the aides who cared for her, and enjoying the company of her floor mates in the dementia wing.

Back in the fall of 2017, when Mom turned 90, I wrote a special tribute to her, which you can find here. It looks back on her life as a member of the Greatest Generation. And Mom's reminisces have been featured many times on this blog, including her memories of Halloween in the 1930s in Lorain, and of the small grocery stores in her neighborhood while growing up on Sixth Street. Then there were Mom's memories of being part of famous magician Harry Blackstone's act when he performed at the Palace Theater in Lorain. And of course, there were my memories of Mom taking care of my siblings and me when we were sick.

You've probably heard the old saying, "A Boy's Best Friend is His Mother." Well, in addition to being the best mother a fella could ever have, Mom really was my best friend. I'm going to miss her terribly.

I'll be taking some time off the blog to handle affairs, and will return soon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Jackie Snips a Ribbon – Feb. 28, 1963

Sixty years ago, Miss Jacqueline Mayer of Sandusky was reigning as Miss America of 1963. As part of wearing the crown, she had plenty of duties and special appearances. That included the ribbon cutting ceremony shown above for the dedication of the new Springs Mills Building in New York.

The photo appeared on the front page of the Journal on February 28, 1963 – sixty years ago today.

According to this Wiki entry, the Springs Mills Building is a 21-story office building in Manhattan, New York City. "The company was the United States' largest manufacturer of bedsheets and pillow cases when the Springs Mills Building was built," the Wiki article noted. "The Springs Mills Building opened in February 1963, coinciding with the company's 75th anniversary. A ten-day celebration with a fashion show and an art-and-photography exhibit was held."

With a fashion show as part of the celebration, it sounds like it was appropriate to have Miss America there to cut the ribbon.

During her reign as Miss America, Jacqueline Mayer was so beautiful and classy. It's a shame that times have changed so much in the last sixty years that it's somehow inappropriate or sexist to celebrate those qualities in the woman chosen to be a goodwill ambassador of our country.