Friday, February 23, 2024

Lorain Journal Front Page – Feb. 23, 1924

One hundred years ago today, this was the front page of the Lorain Journal on February 23, 1924. The vantage point of a century always seems to have at least a few things of interest.

The headline story about impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Harry Daughtery somewhat demonstrates that things haven't changed that much in Washington, D. C. in the last hundred years. If you want to know what that was all about, here's the link to the Wiki entry about Daugherty.

As usual, the more interesting articles are the small ones: the one about "Lorain's Meanest Man," who struck a newsboy in the mouth whose only offense was asking the man if he wanted to buy a paper; the two articles about streetcars (one above the other), with one article about an accident at Reid and 20th Street, and the other about streetcars being replaced by buses in Akron; a story about Lorain's booming economy; a notice about a meeting of the Lorain County Beekeepers' association, which is still around today (here's the link to its website); and another "Abe Martin" comic panel.

An interesting item at the top of the page reveals that the Lorain Journal "wired Henry Ford suggesting that the new freighter which he will come here to christen within the next two weeks be named THE CITY OF LORAIN." As it turned out, Henry Ford was unable to come to Lorain and the ship ended up being named "Henry Ford II" anyway.

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I'm still getting over monkeypox whatever it is I've got, so I haven't been able to devote a lot of time to the blog. Since I got sick on a holiday (Groundhog Day), maybe I'll be back to normal on St. Patrick's Day. In the meantime, I think it's time for another banana.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Oberlin IGA Robbery – Feb. 22, 1964


I've been working in Oberlin for more than two years now. After almost forty years of commuting to Cleveland, it's been a welcome change. There's plenty to see as I drive through the heart of the Oberlin College campus twice each day – whether it's the quaint buildings or the students dressed in retro 70s fashions.

Right near where I turn off Route 511 onto the industrial parkway where I work, there is the Oberlin IGA grocery store. 

It's pretty convenient to stop in there after work once in a while. It's a little pricey but at least it helps me accomplish my objective of not giving all my grocery store money to Giant Eagle.

And sixty years ago today, the Oberlin IGA store was a center of excitement, thanks to a robbery (in which thankfully no one was hurt and the thieves were captured). Above is the front page of the Feb. 22, 1964 Lorain Journal with the story.

As the article notes, "An alert Oberlin area restaurant owner was the key man in the capture of two men early today within an hour after they had robbed an Oberlin supermarket manager of more than $5,000 at the point of a sawed-off shotgun.

"Virgil Kidder, owner of Virgie-Killies Truck Stop, Rt. 20, three miles east of Oberlin, called sheriff's deputies when he observed three men hastily abandon a station wagon and drive off in a sports car, which had been parked at the rear of his restaurant.

"About a minute after Kidder's call, Oberlin police reported an armed robbery at the Andy's and Bob's IGA Foodliner, 331 E. Lorain St. noting that three men were involved and used a station wagon in the get-a-way."

It sounds like it was some pretty good police work, with the two men quickly in custody and more than $4,000 recovered. Both men were from Cleveland, and charged with the shotgun robbery four days later. But it appears (after a review of online Journals) that the third man was never apprehended,

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Cigarette Red Cellophane Strip Hoax – Feb. 19, 1954

That red cellophane tab was the foundation of an urban legend

Most of us are familiar with urban legends, those oft-repeated stories of a folklore nature that are handed down over the years and believed to be true – but have no real basis in fact. Most of the times, they're of a creepy nature and are merely entertaining. But it's all in fun and nobody gets hurt.

But sometimes, belief in an urban legend can have unhappy consequences.
Here's an example – what folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand refers to as 'the redemption rumor.' For decades, people collected and saved those red cellophane opener strips on cigarette packages with the belief that they could be redeemed for some useful medical device or services to help the unfortunate. It was actually a cruel hoax as it was simply not true.
It even made the front page of the Feb. 19, 1954 Lorain Journal, with a photo of some Lorainites and their collection of cellophane strips to donate.
"Stop saving the red cellophane strips from cigaret packages," the article notes. "They have no value at all.
"A check into the astoundingly widespread habit of saving the tabs revealed today that hundreds of misguided Lorainites have been accumulating the strips. Suffering from the delusion that they are worth money, or are exchangeable for seeing-eye dogs, March of Dimes donations, cigarets for hospitalized veterans and other charitable contributions, people in this city and others across the nation are avidly collecting the tabs.
"In an effort to track down the basis of the stories that a hundred, a thousand, a sackful or boxful of the strips will result in any of the above handouts, The Journal contacted representatives of major cigaret companies and Ohio veterans hospitals.
"The result: the tabs are valueless. The only victims of the cruel hoax are the blind and crippled who thought they could get a wheelchair or seeing eye dog for enough of the tabs."

Maybe Don Draper of the Sterling Cooper ad agency originally
conceived a promotional rebate program involving the red tabs

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Driscol Music Co. Article – Feb. 20, 1972

I still have a bottle of genuine Driscol Music Co. slide oil
For a period of almost 75 years, if you were a musician in Lorain County, then you probably spent some time in one of the two Driscol Music Co. stores in Lorain County. The stores sold everything a musician needed, including the instruments. In Lorain, the store was conveniently located right downtown at 445 Broadway.

That's why I was happy to find the article below about the Driscol brothers, Paul and Ted, and their company. The article ran in the Journal on Feb. 20, 1972, and provides a nice history of the firm.

As the article notes, "The history of the two present Driscol music stores can be traced back to a little piano store in downtown Elyria founded in 1941 by Paul Driscol, Sr., the brothers' father, who is now president of the Driscol Music Co.

"After the war, a Lorain store was opened in the 1000 block of Broadway and was later moved to the present location. The Lorain store has been remodeled and expanded several times, and the Elyria store was moved to its new location in April of 1971."
It was a sad day when Paul Driscol passed away in late June 2014. The Lorain store closed its doors forever about five months later in mid-November 2014.

Today the former Driscol Music building is home to a Domino's Pizza outlet.
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For many years, the Driscol Music store was a regular stop for the trumpet-playing Brady brothers for our valve oil, mutes, music, etc. And it was only a short walk from Mr. Visci's trumpet studio on Broadway. For many years, Mr. Visci received a lot of instrument repair work from Driscol's.

When I switched to trombone (due to getting braces), I bought my slide oil there as well. Many times I would see Mrs. Ksenich, the wife of Richard Ksenich, one of my Masson School elementary teachers there as she managed one of the departments. She was always a friendly, familiar face there.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Al Capp's Column Comes to the Journal – Feb. 1961

One of the recurring themes on this blog is the death of newspapers in the modern era. It changed the American way of life for the worse, and society has suffered for it, becoming much less informed. 

And I experience the melancholy and regret every time I post a page from the Lorain Journal of the past.

Capp and his famous creations
I've mentioned several times how reading the Journal each evening was a ritual in our house after dinner. Dad sat in the living room and seemingly read every page, top to bottom. Mom sat at the kitchen table after dinner and read whatever sections Dad was done with.

As for me, in the late 1960s I remember bringing in the Journal (after the paper boy delivered it in the late afternoon) and sneaking a peek at what was going on in Li'l Abner by Al Capp – especially when the story concerned "Fearless Fosdick."

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that for a time, Capp wrote a humor column for the Journal. It's pretty impressive, considering that besides producing Li'l Abner and running the huge organization merchandising the famous characters, Capp was also involved in a few other comic strips behind the scenes. But it makes sense, seeing that at that time, Capp was one of the country's greatest satirists.

Here is the announcement on Feb. 17, 1961 that the Journal would be carrying his new three-days-a-week column.

And in that same edition of the Journal, the paper wasted no time in drumming up some hype for the new column by inserting some tiny ads throughout its pages. It's kind of fun seeing these ads surrounded by well-remembered Lorain businesses.

On Feb. 18, 1961 the Journal ran this large ad.
On Feb. 20th, 1961 this ad ran.

And here are a few samples of the column. The first one is from the first week the Journal carried it.

Feb. 22, 1961
I like Capp's idea about judging a man by the type of necktie he wears. According to Capp, since I preferred to wear the same tie to work for years (a navy blue one), I was a coward and a sneak, who should be kept away "from the petty cash, the car-keys and your daughter."

And here's one from about a year later (March 10, 1962).
It doesn't appear that Al Capp's column was a long-term venture. It seemed to disappear from the Journal's pages by the summer of 1962.
I was too young to remember any of this, but when I was older and working in Cleveland, I enjoyed the syndicated column by Mike Royko in the Plain Dealer. I liked Royko's easy to understand style of writing. Later, I enjoyed the columns of Bob Greene.
Today, I don't subscribe to any newspaper – preferring to occasionally pick one up at the newsstand (whichever looks most interesting). Unfortunately, humor columns seem to have been one of the casualties of these humorless times for newspapers.
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Li'l Abner and Al Capp have been the subjects of many of my blog posts.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Big Boy on Brookpark Revisited

Big Boy
, the iconic double-decker hamburger with the distinctive white sauce, has been the subject of many blog posts over the years, usually as part of a post about Manners (who was the official licensee in our part of Ohio for many years).
After a blog post last fall featuring a Thanksgiving-themed Big Boy coloring contest, my taste buds couldn't wait any longer; I had to take a mini-road trip after work and visit a restaurant! There are two within a reasonable driving distance: one in Port Clinton and one on Brookpark Road in Cleveland. The Brookpark one was closer, so off I went.
The last time I had been there, it was well after dark when I arrived. So on this visit, it was nice to get a good look at the restaurant's exterior in the late afternoon sun. It's kind of retro. I like it.
And of course, the statue of Big Boy himself was pretty much all the signage anybody needed to determine which building it was.
I suppose having him on the roof is also a good deterrent to any wacky prankster who might be entertaining thoughts of taking Mr. Big on a road trip against his will.

Inside there was another statue. The restaurant was nicely decorated and clean.
I didn't have to wait long for my take-out, as it was not quite dinner time yet and it wasn't super busy. But I enjoyed hanging out there and watching the interaction between the friendly waitresses and their regulars. 

With my Big Boy and fries in tow, I headed back out to my car. I couldn't resist one last photo.
I'm sorry, but I was unable to get a photo of my Big Boy. (I'm sure there's an ordinance prohibiting driving while eating dinner and photographing said dinner with your phone.) But it was delicious!


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Old Log Cabin Fever

Vintage ad from 1949
Well, we've had a steady string of chilly days lately, the kind of weather that makes you cringe at the idea of taking out the trash (and believe me, mine is piling up). If you've got a cold, or worse (like me), you've probably been staying indoors a lot.

You might even be getting a little antsy being somewhat confined to the insides of your domicile. In the old days, we called this 'cabin fever.'  

The cure for cabin fever? Embrace it! After getting comfortable in your best fez and smoking jacket, grab your pipe, a snifter of brandy and the latest Morocco-bound literary volume by Don Hilton and curl up in front of a crackling fire. (Make sure you have a fireplace first.) If you're Mrs. Don Hilton, you might even curl up with Don Hilton himself.

But what if you've got "Old Log Cabin Fever?" 

Well, for that, the best thing is to pour yourself some genuine Old Log Cabin Whiskey. The current owners of the brand had been tinkering with the label design last year. I'm happy to say it's received the most wonderful makeover, that honors its heritage and is a thing of beauty. 

Here's a modern era, pre-design bottle for comparison. Not bad, but the redesign is better.

Your humble blogger, of course, takes full credit as I'm arguably the brand's biggest cheerleader. Google "Old Log Cabin Whiskey" and all of the vintage 1940s & 50s ads from my blog pop up. Some weaselly entrepreneurs have even made 'new' vintage metal signs for sale using the ad artwork that I meticulously cleaned up in PhotoShop!

But even if you don't have any Old Log Cabin Whiskey on hand, you can still get into the spirit of things. For those of you that are interested in increasing your vocabulary, this is for you: what I think is a complete set of ads from that 1953 campaign. I've posted a few before but I think this is all of them.

9-18-1953
10-2-1953
10-23-1953
10-30-1953
11-20-1953
12-18-1953

And to think my interest in this brand is all because of its regular appearances in ads in the Lorain Journal in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. A lot of people around here must have liked it enough to justify the expense of the various long-running campaigns.
Anyway, I have a good buddy in Seattle that I've been threatening to visit one of these years. When I do, I'll have to see if I can make a boozy side trip to where they make this stuff and have a scallywampus time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Perry Como Tonight at 7:45 – Feb. 5, 1954

Do you remember in the early days of television when some shows were only fifteen minutes long and were advertised as such? If you're a Baby Boomer, you probably remember. These programs (such as an evening news broadcast, for example) were right there in the TV listings. 
I guess that's why the small ad for Channel 5 above, on a page from the Feb. 5, 1954 Lorain Journal caught my eye. "Tonight at 7:45," it notes, "don't miss Perry Como on WEWS, Channel 5. Throughout the week, you can enjoy the nation's favorite shows over CBS television. For all the best entertainment in television, see the Cleveland listings in your paper every day." A small note at the bottom of the ad points out that the station is 'now brighter, clearer' thanks to a 'new tower, greater power.'
Here's a better look at the photo of the talented Mr. Como.
What's interesting is that WEWS-TV Channel 5 (the first TV station in Ohio) was at the time a CBS affiliate. For many of us TV viewers, it's hard to imagine Channel 5 as a CBS station, much like it was to accept WJW-TV Channel 8 (a longtime CBS station) becoming a Fox station in the 1990s.
Speaking of Perry Como, did you know about his Lorain connection? Back on this post, I wrote about how the city was the scene of his first appearance before a large audience – which is pretty neat.
Anyway, the WEWS ad suggests that the reader sneak a peek at the Cleveland TV listings. Here they are from that day.
There are plenty of national and local names. For the kiddies, there was Pinky Lee; Howdy Doody; Mr. Wizard. Locally, Dorothy Fuldheim was doing the news at WEWS. 

For entertainment, there was Life of Riley, starring William Bendix.
There was also Topper, the comedy about the fun-loving (but deceased) young couple could only be seen by Cosmo Topper. The show was still in re-runs in the 1960s, because I remember we used to watch it. 
Here's a photo of the cast. But the way, the St. Bernard was a ghost too.

It's always difficult to try and explain to someone in their 20s how we were just as happy when we were kids to have only 3 or 4 television stations as they are now, with hundreds of viewing choices. TV was a communal experience back then, and you could actually talk about a show the next day knowing that that the other person probably watched it too.

Now, with streaming, we're all TV moguls, doing our own programming. (Except for me, of course, still watching whatever GRIT-TV and the new Western channel OUTLAW are showing, even if it's the 10,000th showing of McClintock!.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Notes on My Time in a Lorain Salsa Band in the 1970s

From Journal's weekly Latin News column – May 22, 1976 
Did you know that for a time in the 1970s, Lorain was a hotbed of local salsa bands and other Latino musical groups?
I had a ringside seat for some of it, because during my junior and senior years at Admiral King High School, I was a trombonist in a Lorain-based salsa band.
It started when our old trumpet teacher Alex Visci called our house. One of his former students, Tony Delgado, had started a salsa band, Orquesta Charambo, and was looking to add another trombonist.
Would I be interested in sitting in at a band practice, asked Mr. Visci?
Since I was already in a polka band, I wasn't particularly interested in joining a Puerto Rican band. But Mom convinced me to at least go to one practice as a favor to Mr. Visci. 
I was a little anxious when I entered the rehearsal, which was in the basement of a house on Lorain's east side. Almost everyone there was Puerto Rican, and I didn’t understand a single word that was being said. But I was quickly put at ease by Tony. Dominic, the other trombonist (and the only other white guy in the band) also went out of his way to make me feel comfortable with a steady stream of funny remarks. In fact, all of the band members – including Anibal (piano) and brothers Elmer (on bass) and Ivan Arocho (on trumpet) – made me feel welcome
At my first practice, we ran through a few tunes in a way that became the standard procedure. Tony would pass out the music that he arranged. Then he would play a record of the tune, over and over again. By listening to it several times, everyone was able to learn their parts, including those band members who couldn't read music.
Here's one of the first salsa tunes I played at that practice: El Que Se Fe, performed by Roberto Roena y su Apollo Sound.
I quickly learned that salsa tunes had a definite structure. There was an intro, a main melody line and a series of repeated choruses separated by the singer’s improvised verses. There might also be a bridge and key change to another melody line, which was broken up by horn solos and more improvised verses by the singer. Whether to keep repeating a section or move on was communicated by hand gestures by the singer or the leader, such as an arm extended in the air. So you had to pay attention.
If I had any thoughts of just going to that first practice and then never going again, the idea was quickly abandoned. At that first practice, I discovered that I loved the catchy melodies, the bold horn parts and the sound of the percussion instruments: the timbales, conga drums, cowbell, etc. Thus I was very pleased when I was invited to join the band
When Tony found out that I was an art student at Admiral King, he had me do a drawing of the band for one side of our business card.
Many of our gigs were at Gargus Hall on Route 254, where huge holiday dances and fund raisers were held. Many other local bands often shared the bill with us on these jobs, including Latin Explosion and Trio Puerto Rico. We would also back up nationally known performers (such as Bobby Rodriguez) or share the bill with them and take turns performing. 
From Journal's weekly Latin News column – Nov. 20, 1976
Here are a few more samples of the music we played. These YouTube videos feature the original artists, but since Tony made his arrangements from these recordings (minus any saxophone parts) to me it sounds like Charambo performing. Hopefully you can get a taste of why I loved this music so much. You could hear it on WLRO on the weekends during special Latin programming segments.

We also played some novelty songs, like this one from Bobby Rodriguez, who as I mentioned, we backed up at one dance. Sunday Kind of Love is an old standard from the 1940s, and one of the few tunes we played with English lyrics. 
For some variety, we also played hits like Santana's "Oye Como Va" and "Low Rider" by War.
I also remember going into the Rebman recording studio (which was in a house next to the bowling alley on Oberlin Avenue) and recording a demo tape for the band. It was all very exciting.
Although my time as a member of Orquesta Charambo was brief, it made my senior year of high school very memorable. Wherever there were cities with large concentrations of Puerto Ricans, there were bookings, and we would travel there to perform, sometimes renting an RV for the trip. Besides many gigs in Lorain and Cleveland, we went on road trips to Detroit, Youngstown, and Rochester, New York. It was fun and exciting and often we were treated like minor celebrities.
We were paid well too. I remember making a hundred bucks on some of these out-of-state gigs.
Looking back, I'm surprised that my parents allowed me to go on these overnight gigs, seeing that I was only 17 or 18. But they had complete confidence in Tony, who kept an eye out for those of us that were still in high school and made sure we were always safe and out of trouble.
From Journal – May 28, 1977
Besides the music, I became very fond of Puerto Rican culture, especially the food (pastelitos, alcapurrias, etc.) served at the dances. I also came to appreciate just how beautiful Latino women are. The language barrier was a problem, though; at one dance, I tried to talk to one particularly cute young lady – only to learn that the reason she could only giggle and smile was because she didn't speak a word of English! (Maybe I should have taken Spanish instead of French all those years.)
But in the fall of 1977, I was heading off to college and my secret life as a member of a salsa band was drawing to a close. The band gave me a generous gift towards my college expenses, and I was sad to have to quit. I did get one last opportunity to perform with them during my freshman year when they played at Ohio State for a Hispanic function at the Ohio Union. 
I would rejoin Lorain's Latin music scene after college with another band. But that's another story.
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Charambo carried on well into the early 1980s, becoming more and more popular and performing alongside even bigger name acts out of New York. By the time the band was winding down, it was generally advertised and accepted as the best salsa band in Ohio.
Dec. 17, 1977 Journal ad
From Journal of July 28, 1978
From Journal of July 20, 1979
Today, a few members of Charambo are still performing! Former Charambo leader Tony Delgado and bass guitarist Elmer Arocho are members of the popular Latin City Soul (of which Elmer is the band director). Click here to visit the band's website.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Lorain Journal Front Page – Lincoln's Birthday, Feb. 12, 1924

Did you know that Lincoln's Birthday has never been a U. S. Federal Government holiday? It's easy to assume that it was, until being mashed together with the birthday of the Father of Our Country to form Presidents Day. Nope, Honest Abe never had his own federal holiday.

And the Old Rail Splitter still doesn't. The 'third Monday in February' federal holiday that many states refer to as Presidents Day is officially called Washington's Birthday by the U. S. Government. (This website has a good explanation of the whole thing.)

Sorry, Abe. You might get a mention in the news on your actual birthday – February 12 – if you're lucky. And one hundred years ago today you did, on the front page of the Lorain Journal (shown above). It was a legal holiday in Lorain back then.

Front and center is our martyred President. What's interesting is that the Lincoln Memorial (shown behind him) had only been dedicated two years earlier. So it was relatively new at that point.

Here's a postcard from 1927 showing the still-new monument.

For more Lincoln's Birthday fun, visit some of my past posts: "The Woman Who Saw Lincoln Twice"; "They Both Saw Lincoln"; "Are You in There, Honest Abe?"; and the story of a Lorain County man who wrote The Lincoln Encyclopedia.

As for the rest of that front page, there are plenty of interesting stories: the saga of the three gunmen who robbed the store in Lorain a few days earlier and then fled to Brownhelm, where they divided the loot amongst themselves at the farmhouse of Henry Standen; the discovery of a body in the ruins of an apartment in Cleveland that had burned down; the gruesome discovery of body parts in a carload of cinders in a railcar at Weirton Junction, W. Virginia; the opening of the lid of King Tut's tomb; and the promotion of Helen Steiner to the state chairmanship of the Women's Public Information bureau of the National Electric Light association.
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I appreciate the well-wishes and concerned comments last week when I took time off from the blog. It's very frustrating to practice healthy habits at home and at work, be current on all recommended shots and vaccines – and then still get sick anyway! I'm nostalgic for the days when being sick meant it was either a cold, the flu or (worst case) pneumonia. Nowadays, it's almost always some sort of infection where you have to wait for it to go away. And I've got a lot of waiting to do.
But even though Mom's been gone for almost a year now, I'm still taking her advice and opened up a jar of the favorite Brady remedy (below).