Thursday, May 23, 2024

Up the Black River With Robert Tate – May 1954

There's a lot happening on the front page of the May 14, 1954 Lorain Journal: the French army taking a beating in Vietnam in the Indochina war, and attempting to get the United States to intervene; a janitor at National Tube winning a $25,000 judgement against the company for being forced into retirement; and Lorain County officials getting ready to set up county civil defense operations.

But the article that I found most interesting is a tongue-in-cheek travelogue written by Robert Tate, as he explores the Black River, starting from the Erie Avenue Bridge and continuing until he runs aground at 31st Street. It's mostly written in an amusing style (he shares that his provisions consist of two cheese sandwiches on white) but there are serious comments sprinkled here and there. Tate also contributes a few photos.

It's surprising when he discovers how polluted the Black River is. He points out that "the river is filthy dirty and stinks." He observes 'two warnings of death' early in his journey: a drowned rat floating by on its back, and a deceased fish trailing it by a few feet.

His log is at its most whimsical when he writes, "Pushing on upstream, I came to the country of a tribe known as the Steelworkers. They are noted for their handicraft, round metal tubes, especially. They make these in big campfires that burn day and night."

Tate notes that "The water is red brown with pollution. Any fish in it should have its fishhead examined. The only waterfalls are sewage pipes discharging."

He ends his journey at 31st Street, aware that "further on lived people known as Elyrians and others named by the civilized lakeshore peoples as "downstaters.""

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Making Room for the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music – May 1964

Demolitions of old buildings are a regular topic on this blog, usually involving my hometown of Lorain. But today, the buildings being knocked down are (or were) located in the city that I work: Oberlin.

I drive through the Oberlin College campus each day to and from work, and the occasional detours (which seem to be more frequent now) allow me to see different areas of both the college as well as the city itself. It's always interesting and enjoyable.

Although much of the historic downtown is intact, some of it was lost over the years due to the college. Above is an article that ran in the Lorain Journal back on May 21, 1964 that talks about a couple of buildings that were sacrificed in the name of progress.

"The last of the wooden frame buildings in the downtown business district are slated to fall before the bulldozers in the near future to clear the way for the completion of the site work around the new Oberlin College Conservatory of Music complex," it notes.

"The building at 42 1/2, 44 and 46 S. Main St. will be razed to facilitate an entrance and exit to the conservatory parking lot and also provide a passageway from Main St. to S. Professor St.

"When the old structures bite the dust, they will carry with them more than 100 years of Oberlin history, except for the 42 1/2 site, which was built about 40 years ago to close off an alley.

"It was in this tiny structure 20 years ago that a barber shop was conducted by a group of Oberlin College faculty members and townspeople, as an outgrowth of a racial dispute.

"The shop was purchased from William Winder, by a non-profit organization, formed for the purpose of operating a bi-racial barbershop after local barbers had refused to integrate their shops.

"In 1949 after the shop had growth from a one-barber business to a flourishing two-barber shop serving all regardless of race, color or creed, the business was sold to Gerald Scott, one of the barbers, with the stipulation that it must continue to serve all races.

"Four years ago, Scott moved the shop to 44 S. Main St., next door to the original shop, and has continued to successfully operate on a bi-racial basis.

"However, he has received a notice from Oberlin College, owner of the building that he must find new quarters by Aug. 1.

"Unless he is successful in relocating, the destruction of the buildings may be the death knell itself for a business which was successful in spite of critics who said it couldn't be done.

"Mrs. Rose Marley, 127 S. Main St., Wellington, proprietor of the Pizza Shop at 44 S. Main St., could not be reached Tuesday, but reportedly she is hopeful of finding another location in Oberlin to continue her business."

"For many years the quarters now occupied by the barber shop housed a laundry operated by a Chinese, and the rooms occupied by the Pizza House were used for several types of businesses including dry cleaning establishments."

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Black River Bridge North of Wellington – Part 2

The Black River Bridge on Route 58. The view is looking south.
Note the billboard for Buckeye Beer.

Almost exactly a year after the bridge on Route 58 over the Black River north of Wellington was renovated, it was announced that it was finally going to be replaced.

Here's the article making the announcement in the Lorain Journal on March 17, 1954.

A day later, the paper ran a photo of the bridge.

A little over a year later, the replacement of the bridge began. Here's the blurb about the closing of Route 58 that ran in the Journal on May 12, 1955.
The actual demolition of the bridge was covered in two Journal photo features, one that ran on July 13, 1955 and the other a little over a week later on July 23, 1955.
The new bridge was constructed to the west of the old one. You can see the location of the old bridge relative to the new one in this photo (courtesy of Dennis Lamont). The view is looking south.
This aerial view shows the old bridge route in red, superimposed over the newer bridge route circa 1959.
And here's a modern view of the new bridge, looking south. Sorry, no Buckeye Beer billboard.


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UPDATE 
You can see a little bit of the old Route 58 pavement at the far right of this photo, which is looking north towards the bridge.


Monday, May 20, 2024

Black River Bridge North of Wellington – Part 1


Lorain County has long been a source of enjoyment for historic bridge enthusiasts.

Why? Perhaps because of the Black River, which extends south from Lorain to Elyria, where it splits into two branches and continues even further into the southern part of the County. Its presence in the two largest cities, as well as its meanderings into the countryside, provides many opportunities for bridges to span it. Many bridges over the Black River have been built and replaced over the county's 200 year history.

One of these bridges is one my father told me about years ago. He explained that there used to be a one-lane bridge on Ohio Route 58 north of Wellington that used to have a traffic light at each end so cars would know when to cross. Dad noted that it was where the highway makes a big sweep to the east when you're heading south. (It's the section of Route 58 just south of Merriam Road).

Since Dad told me that in the 1980s, every time I drove through that area, I wondered if the bridge was still there in the woods, bypassed and left standing. As it turns out, there is an old auto bridge in the woods (the subject for another post) but it predates the one that my father told me about.

I never thought I'd see a photo of the bridge Dad mentioned until historian and archivist Dennis Lamont provided me one. That's it at the top of this post. His caption for it noted, "Water bound slag macadam, finished in 1914 using the National Tube Co. crushed blast furnace slag produced at Lorain, Ohio." It was taken June 18, 1918.

So how long did the bridge remain in place? Fortunately its replacement was well-covered in the local newspapers. A January 14, 1950 editorial in the Lorain Journal mentions the long-needed improvements of Route 58, including "a new bridge north of Wellington."

Three years later, an article from the February 20, 1953 Lorain Journal indicated that the traffic light that my father mentioned was about to be installed on the bridge.

Some confusion resulted, however, since the article mentioned that "the light on Route 58 will be placed on the new bridge and will control one-way movement of traffic."
Three days later in the newspaper, columnist Luella Kepler expressed her confusion in her column about which bridge was getting the new traffic light. "It can't possibly be my bridge they are talking about, because The Journal clearly stated it is to take place at the NEW bridge north of Wellington, and my bridge has been there practically before me."
But it was the same bridge after all. It was getting readied for handling the excessive traffic that would re-routed onto it due to the construction on Route 18. Thus it would be somewhat 'new' with the improvements.

This article from the March 28, 1953 Chronicle-Telegram explains.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Tim Hortons 60th Birthday


Anyone who has spent time in Canada over the years is familiar with Tim Hortons, the ubiquitous restaurant chain founded by the great Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman and Hall of Famer Tim Horton

From the chain's humble beginning as a coffee shop in a remodeled gas station in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964, Tim Hortons has grown to more than 5,000 restaurants today. It's the largest quick service restaurant chain in Canada. And it has more than 800 locations in the United States, including more than 100 in Ohio.

The first outlet in Hamilton

And today, Tim Hortons celebrates its 60th Birthday.

In honor of the occasion, and since I had a hankering for some Timbits (the small 'donut hole' delicacies), I headed down to Ashland, Ohio last weekend to visit that city's Tim Hortons, located on Main Street not far from I-71. Since I only make it up to Windsor, Ontario once a year, it's nice to be able to visit a Tim Hortons whenever I want.

The sign outside the Ashland, Ohio restaurant
Many people aren't aware that Tim Horton was a well-known professional hockey player that played in the NHL for 24 seasons. So it's nice to see that the store has a framed reminder of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs hanging on the wall.

I love Tim Hortons coffee (I drink it at home and at work) and I was happy to see that the paper cup it came in had some special 60th anniversary graphics.
I picked up my usual 10-pack of Timbits (Birthday Cake flavor, appropriately enough) in its little cardboard carrying case, and it too had some nice birthday graphics.
It was a nice surprise to see that Tim Hortons invited its long-retired Timbits mascot to the birthday party, giving him a place of honor on the side of the box. He has two big eyes (that look like olives) atop a body made of a Timbit, a small white nose, and two large, flat feet protruding out beneath him.
To many people (including me), Tim Hortons is Canada. I always feel like I'm enjoying a brief, pleasurable escape to our friendly neighbor to the north whenever I visit one of the Ohio restaurants, or sip a cup of the famous Tim Hortons coffee.
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I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the passing this week of Toronto Maple Leaf forward Ron Ellis, who played 16 seasons in the NHL with the Leafs, many of them with Tim Horton. 
For the last month or so, I've been reading his autobiography, Over the Boards: The Ron Ellis Story. It's a great read, and not only covers his fantastic hockey career, but also his bout with clinical depression. By becoming a spokesperson about this particular disorder, he helped remove much of the stigma about it. He was quite a guy.

Ellis was on the cover of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey program I posted back here.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Arthur Godfrey Officially 'Opens' Pick-N-Pay Store at O'Neil's – May 24, 1954

Although he might not be very well known today among anyone under sixty, there was a time in the 1950s when folksy entertainer Arthur Godfrey was one of the nation's most popular TV and radio personalities.  And 70 years ago this month, Godfrey participated in one of the more unique promotional stunts associated with the grand opening of a grocery store. And it took place (so to speak) right here in Lorain County, at the Pick-N-Pay store at the O'Neil's - Sheffield Shopping Center.

The gimmick here is that Arthur Godfrey wasn't going to appear in person at the store. He was going to electronically unlock the door from his TV studio in New York by way of a historic telegraph key. This article from the May 17, 1954 Lorain Journal explains the whole thing.
To those who didn't know better, this ad from the May 22, 1954 Lorain Journal seems to imply that Godfrey was going to be there in person.
In the end, the promotion was a success and went off without a hitch. 
According to the front-page Journal article on May 24, 1954, "More than 5,000 persons jammed through the doors of the Pick-N-Pay store in O'Neil - Sheffield Shopping Center today at official opening of the store.
"Arthur Godfrey on his morning television show in New York pressed a telegraph key, the same one used by Samuel Morse in the first telegraphed message, automatically opening the door to the store.
"The key was pressed on Godfrey's television show at exactly 10:50 a. m. while Tony Marvin, announcer on Godfrey's show, stood by at the store and announced local proceedings.
"The entire affair was televised coast to coast.
"Godfrey's whole program today was devoted to the Pick-N-Pay opening here."
It was a pretty clever promotion, with the bonus of putting Lorain in the national spotlight.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Grand Opening of Hills in Lorain – August 18, 1960


The Hills Dept. Store in South Lorain closed back on July 31, 1982, replaced by a new store in Amherst. 

But when exactly did the Lorain store first open? I had never really covered it on this blog. So I hit the Journal's online archives to find out.

As it turned out, the Grand Opening was on August 18, 1960. There was quite a big build up in the Journal, as it really was a new kind of store. Here's some of the paper's coverage. Note that there are a few photos of the store. I had forgotten about those two large arrows with the blinking lights that seemed to memorize me as a kid.
August 15, 1960
August 17, 1960
August 17, 1960
August 18, 1960
August 18, 1960
August 18, 1960
August 18, 1960
August 18, 1960
August 23, 1960
Hills had a new concept for its time – a standalone department store. It was different from a downtown store or one occupying a space at a shopping center along with competitors. So it's not surprising that hundreds of Lorain area shoppers were in line for a half hour before the ribbon cutting took place.
It was kind of sad when the store closed in 1982. I had only come home from college about six months earlier, and it seemed like Lorain was falling apart, with Downtown stores closing and the steel mill laying off thousands. It was a depressing time indeed.
A 2011 view of the former Hills store on Route 57
A 2022 view
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UPDATE
The Amherst Hills store opened the week of November 5, 1981. So it was open for about 8 months before the store in South Lorain closed.
Ad from the Journal of November 5, 1981
And Ames Department Stores, Inc. purchased the Hills chain in mid-November 1998. Ames itself went out of business in 2002, although there are plans for a comeback in 2026.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Sherwood Allotment Aerial View – May 1954

Ad from the May 7, 1955 Lorain Journal

One of the nice things about growing up on the west side of Lorain in the 1960s is that you knew where many of your fellow elementary school classmates lived. How did we know? I guess from playing or walking to school with them, or socializing with them in some other capacity (like Cub Scouts or church). It seems quaint today.

But there was one group of kids who didn't walk to Masson School. They lived over in the Sherwood Allotment, and had to be bused, since it was too far to walk to school. Thus those of us who walked didn't know where they lived over there, and we didn't play with them, since they were across Leavitt Road/Route 58). I can look at a Masson class photo from the 1960s, and still tell you which ones road the bus. They may have been slightly more affluent too.

Anyway, the Sherwood Allotment was sort of a mystery to those of us who lived in the numbered and perfectly perpendicular-to-each-other west side streets. That's why I found the photo below so interesting. It appeared in the Lorain Journal on May 21, 1954, and shows the early stages of construction of the Sherwood Allotment, which was just getting underway. The caption even mentions that the streets were going to be winding, rather than straight.

Here's a labeled view so you can get your bearing.

And here's the area today. (Disregard the yellow border inflicted by Bing Maps.)
I've written about the area before. This post is about the uniquely named streets with a golf theme that are linked (pun intended) to the property's Lorain Country Club heritage; this blog post concerns the portion of the allotment fronting on Meister Road.