Thursday, February 29, 2024

Oberlin College Leap Year Day Antics – Feb. 29, 1936

Leap years are something that most people probably don't even think about until February 29th arrives. If you're older (like me), you might even think, "Gee, it doesn't seem that long since the last one."

Fifty or sixty years ago, newspapers seemed to always celebrate Leap Year by (sigh) trotting out the same gimmick each time: profiling someone on the front page born on that day who consequently only had a birthday every four years. They may still do this.

But every once in a while, the newspaper would remind the readers of some of the Leap Year Day traditions, such as women being allowed to propose marriage to men on that day.

Oberlin College had its own Leap Year Day tradition, as featured on the front page of the Feb. 29, 1936 Lorain Journal shown above. "As per an old Oberlin custom, Oberlin co-eds took full advantage today of "Leap Year Day," the article noted.

I'll bet those Oberlin College professors probably saw
this movie when it came out a few years later!
"Professors, young and old, traipsed thru the streets of this college town on the arms of their girl students today.

"Bright and early the leap year parade began in keeping with an Oberlin college tradition that women students shall "date" their instructors on quadrennial Feb. 29.

"Faculty wives, widowed while their husbands were taken to breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and the theatre, planned their own "stags" party.

"A flurry at the faculty club and between-class conferences of co-eds and their professors suggested that some of the latter, whether gallant or graying, would have at least five "dates" between dawn and midnight.

"Undergraduate men growled because they were deprived of female company or waited with amusement for the evening. Blushing co-eds who asked their professors too late will escort their younger friends.

"Women students asked their usual escorts or their unrevealed heroes to a leap year dance tonight. They will call for the men, see them home and pay the bill."

It sounds like a pretty good racket for the professors (who I assume were all male). I wonder what their "widows" did at their stag parties?

Elsewhere on the same front page were a few other Leap Year Day stories. 

One story was about Tom and Harry Wallace, twins from Elyria who were celebrating their sixth birthday. Tom was in the Navy and Harry was an employe of an Elyria bottling company.

The other article was fairly humorous and explained how unmarried girls took over all executive jobs for Leap Year Day in Aurora, Illinois. They apparently drew up a list of "Public Enemies" (eligible bachelors) and served notice that they would go to jail unless they proposed to a girl. They could weasel out of their sentence by paying their fine of 'one silk dress.'

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Judson S. Masson Passes Away – Feb. 1954

Masson School, named for educator and civic leader Judson S. Masson

The naming of buildings, highways, parks and other public properties by governments in honor of someone to honor their legacy has been going on for a long time.

It's a tricky business, not without its pitfalls.

In Lorain, the replacement of many of the old school buildings starting in the early 2000s as part of a $216 million project created a naming issue: would the new buildings retain the name of the ones they replaced – or receive an entirely new name?

As it turned out, the designation of new names was the preferred solution. And, the school system even abandoned its longstanding policy of not naming a school after someone that was still living.

Thus some local history was lost, even as new honors were bestowed. 

One of those names – Masson School, named for Judson S. Masson – was abandoned when the old school was demolished and a new school went up in its location on Lorain's west side.

And it was back on Feb. 22, 1954 it was reported in the Lorain Journal (shown below) that civic leader Judson S. Masson had passed away two days earlier, paving the way for a new school to be named after him. 

"Mr. Masson served 52 years in the teaching profession until his retirement in the summer of 1947," the article noted.

"His career in Lorain began as principal of Garden Avenue School in 1916 and he became assistant superintendent in 1922.

"Mr. Masson had a leading role in many community affairs but it was his enterprise in promoting good citizenship through the annual "Coming of Age" ceremonies that won him a place on the city's "Roll of Honor" in 1940.

"Mr. Masson was also responsible for the start of the "Town Meeting" in Lorain several years ago, which brought persons well versed in world affairs to Lorain as speakers.

"He has served continuously as a member of the board of trustees of the Lorain Public Library since 1944 and has served as president of the board since 1946."

As noted on a previous blog post, Mr. Masson had many other civic accomplishments, including helping to organize the Lorain Musical Arts Society and the Lorain Philharmonic Orchestra. He also wrote the first Lorain history book.

It sounds like Masson spent his life working to improve Lorain, first through his work as a teacher and school official, and later by way of his civic activities that included enhancing the city's cultural environment and strengthening its library.


I've written a lot about Masson Elementary and Masson Junior High School, seeing as my siblings and I received a fine education there.

I did a four-part series about "Masson Memories" here, here, here and here; wrote about the school's demolition here and here; and reminisced about those infamous 'half day' sessions here and here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Admiral Ernest J. King Highway Proposal – Feb. 27, 1953

After World War II ended, there was an effort to honor Lorain's very own Admiral Ernest J. King, the Commander in Chief of the U. S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations.

In the late 1940s, for a time it looked like there would be an Admiral King State Park, located roughly where Beaver Creek empties into Lake Erie west of Lorain. This proposal fell through because of a legal problem related to purchasing the land.

Later in the early 1950s, there was an attempt to name the Ohio Turnpike after him, which is what you see above on the front page of the Lorain Journal of Feb. 27, 1953. 

As the caption for the illustration of the Admiral against a backdrop of the State of Ohio asks, "Will Ohio give proper recognition to one of her most famous sons... during his lifetime? Admiral Ernest J. King, whose brilliant strategic leadership of all U. S. naval operations during World War II was a major factor in final victory, ranks with the nation's greatest war heroes. Ohioans would do honor to the state by giving to the Ohio Turnpike the name of a great man – Admiral King Highway."

Two years later, the renaming of the highway looked like a done deal.

This article appeared in the June 28, 1955 Lorain Journal in which it was announced that Mayor John Jaworski of Lorain was soon to meet with the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

As the article noted, Governor Frank Lausche of Ohio offered "full support to the proposal" and urged James W. Shocknessy, chairman of the turnpike commission, "to take action before the dedication of the highway in October."

By July 17, 1955, an editorial in the Lorain Journal noted, "Ohioans, almost by acclaim, have signified their desire to have Ohio Turnpike No. 1 named Admiral King Highway. It remains only for the Turnpike Commission to give the final nod of approval to make definite this worthy recognition of a great man.

"Many individuals and groups throughout the state, including city councils, veterans organizations, civic groups, the State Junior Chamber of Commerce and a number of newspapers have voiced their approval of the proposed action.

"The final and most important stamp of approval came when both houses of the Ohio Legislature endorsed the proposal by resolution, almost unanimously.

"Earlier this year, James Shocknessy, chairman of the Turnpike Commission, told a Lorain delegation that public approval of the proposed name for the turnpike would be a factor in helping the commission reach a final decision.

"Now that the General Assembly, which represents citizens of the entire state, has spoke out clearly in favor of the proposal, it can be hoped that the commission will act promptly in adopting the name."

So why isn't there an Admiral King Highway today?

This editorial from the May 23, 1956 Lorain Journal explains. James Shocknessy, chairman of the Turnpike Commission, scuttled it. "He is unalterably opposed to any name other than Ohio Turnpike," the editorial noted.

Remember that each time you drive the James W. Shocknessy Ohio Turnpike today.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Harmon-Nielsen TV Ad - Feb. 24, 1954

Regular readers of this blog know that the early days of television interest me. Why? Because I was born at the end of the 1950s and thus able to witness the evolution of television over the years.
I've written before about Mom and Dad's first TV (here). It was a Philco 4109 – a huge, heavy cabinet-style model that had to warm up. I'm sure Mom selected it because it fit in with her French Provincial design theme in the house (which I teased her about in later years as being somewhat incongruous as the choice of a woman of German heritage living in Lorain, Ohio).
Here's a photo of Dad standing next to that first television.
Dad and the TV circa 1955
And here's my sister in front of it. By George, she was only about a year old, but already seemed to understand its entertainment potential.
"How do you turn this thing on?" she seems to be thinking.
How long did my parents have it? They bought it in the early 1950s and had it in their first house. It made the move to their second house (which they built in the late 1950s) but I don't remember it coming with us to the third house (on Skyline Drive) in December 1965. So they had it for about twelve years.
Now for those people who liked to trade in their television for the latest model, then the ad for Harmon-Nielsen Company, would have been of interest. It ran in the Lorain Journal back on Feb. 24, 1954.

It's kind of interesting in that it might seem early to be trading in a TV in 1954. But since some people may have run out and bought one in the late 1940s, their TV might have been ripe for replacement by then. TV design was evolving pretty quickly and of course, bigger is always better.
Note that RCA is the brand mentioned in the ad. Is the RCA brand still around today? It sure is, and it's still possible to buy an RCA television. Click here to visit the history page on the RCA corporate website. (Nipper, the dog mascot always shown memorably listening to "His Master's Voice," is still around too, on the home page.)
But the ad is amusing in some ways. The gimmick of showing only half of the man and woman's face is unusual and probably due to limitations of layout space. And I like the image on the TV screen of what's probably supposed to represent some Shakespearean actor.
I think they should have shown a wrestling match instead. Or a cowboy.

Friday, February 23, 2024

"Lorain's Meanest Man" – 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.)

But the most interesting article is the one about "Lorain's Meanest Man." 

So who was this meanie? According to the article, "he is the man who yesterday afternoon in a downtown department store, struck in the mouth a 12-year-old newsboy, unfortunate enough to ask him, "Paper, Mister?"

"He is the same man who, a few seconds later, while the boy stood crying in the corner, his spirit broken and his lip bleeding, flung, with an angry oath, into the face of the young girl clerk, the money in payment for an article purchased."

One hundred years later, the whole thing would have been captured on someone's cell phone, and an angry mob would have held him until Lorain's finest arrived. And a judge would have given him a creative sentence, perhaps carrying the newspapers for a week for the injured young entrepreneur.

Anyway, other items of interest on the page include: the two articles about streetcars (one above the other), with one 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.


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."
Grand Opening Ad for the New Lorain Store - May 23, 1958
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.

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.
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: a set of ads from that campaign dating from the fall of 1953 into the spring of 1954. I've posted a few before but I think this is all of them.

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.