Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oakwood Shopping Center Halloween Party Ad – October 26, 1959

Here's yet another glimpse of a Lorain Halloween of long ago, this time from 1959. The above ad –  announcing a South Lorain Community Halloween Party to be held at the Oakwood Shopping Center – appeared in the Lorain Journal on October 26, 1959. The shopping center had opened in November 1958.
It's funny how I had the misconception that Halloween events held at shopping centers – such as the trick or treat event held at Crocker Park last Saturday – were something new. But as you can see, it's an old idea used by savvy store owners for a long time. 
In this case, the Oakwood Shopping Center went to a lot of effort to make it nice, including a parade, a contest for best costumes and a talent show. Unfortunately, for a Lorain West Sider like me, Oakwood Shopping Center was one of those places we just didn't go to. (We did go to Hills in South Lorain, though.)
Hey, I just noticed that the Oakwood merchants forgot to include Pearl the Squirrel in the above ad!

Tomorrow: How the scare associated with the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds played out in Lorain

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

1930s Halloween in Lorain

Since the Postwar era of the 1950s, most communities have celebrated Halloween by designating a night for Trick or Treat, on which costumed kids go door to door collecting candy and goodies. But it wasn't always that way.
Halloween in Lorain was very different eighty years ago.
1930s Halloween Decoration
How do I know? I recently talked to someone who grew up at 1216 Sixth Street in Lorain during the 1930s – namely, my 87-year old mother.

The way Mom remembers it, there was no designated night or time for Trick or Treat in Lorain back then. And, it was much more about the tricks, than the treats.

"We went trick or treating for a couple of weeks," Mom reminisced. "It wasn't just one night." She said she and her friends pretty much stuck to the houses on Sixth Street – her neighbors, the people she knew.

I asked her what they did for tricks.

"Oh, we rang doorbells, and banged on people's porches with a stick," she said. "They'd come to the door and then we'd run like hell. I also remember soaping windows and throwing leaves on people's porches."

I kidded Mom as to whether or not the statute of limitations on those crimes had truly expired, or if she could now expect a knock on her West Side door by one of Lorain's Finest.

The funniest trick Mom remembered was seeing two boys standing on the opposite side of a street, both pretending to be holding an end of a rope extending across the road. A car would approach, and the driver couldn't tell if the pranksters were really holding something or not. (After hearing this story in the late 1960s, my brothers and I tried it on our street. It is a good gag, except for the annoyed driver of the car!)

Apparently, Mom's tricks were mild compared to what Dad's Uncle Ben got into when he was a kid in Lorain, twenty years earlier. "Dad said that his Uncle Ben told him that he and his friends used to put people's outhouses on their roofs as a prank."

What about costumes back in the 1930s? I asked Mom about what kind of costumes she and her friends wore when they went trick or treating. "Everyone wore black masks, like the Lone Ranger," she said.

She remembered that there really weren't a lot of store-bought Halloween costumes, or at least no one could afford them anyway. "It was Depression times – people were hurting. You had to make up your own outfit. Sometimes we wore our costumes from our dancing routines." (Mom and her sister Helen were tap dancers, and the duo performed in costume at a variety of local shows during the 1930s.)

The newspapers did mention that Lorain had an annual Halloween "Mardi Gras" parade for the kids to march in while they wore their costumes. (I'll have more about the 1938 parade later this week.)

Lastly, how were the Halloween treats back then?

The former Hawkins house at 1172 Sixth Street
Mom has one specific memory about a special treat on one Halloween. There was a house on Sixth Street just across Oberlin Avenue to the east. "An auto dealer named Hawkins lived there," she remembered. One Halloween he was handing out ice cream cones."

That's a pretty nice treat – much better than the tiny "fun size" candy bars being given out now!

The auto dealer was Edwin J. Hawkins, President of Hawkins Motor Sales, and his house – still a magnificent one – is at 1172 Sixth Street. (It is a great house. The spouse and I attended an Open House there back in the late 1990s, and the realtor who was there that day became a family friend. She not only found our current house in Sheffield Lake, but sold our house on Nebraska Ave as well.)

Anyway, special thanks to Mom for sharing some of her 1930s Halloween memories. It was a simpler time back then, and a poorer one – but still a lot of fun for Lorain's youth.

Part of the 1937 Lorain City Directory Listing for Sixth Street

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Grant's Halloween Ad – October 28, 1964

Here's a Halloween-themed ad for the well-remembered W. T. Grant Company (or just plain Grants) chain of dime stores. The ad ran in the October 28, 1964 Lorain Journal – 50 years ago today – reminding readers that they'd better stock up on candy – and get some costumes if they hadn't already – before the big day.
Lorain had several Grants stores, in the Lorain Plaza, Oakwood Shopping Center and Westgate Shopping Center. (I only remember going to the one at the Lorain Plaza, which was always fun and interesting – especially looking at the pet turtles for sale.) The Grants store in the Lorain Plaza appeared in the city directory until 1975; after that, the space went vacant until Revco moved in during the early 1980s. The space is still currently vacant since CVS built their own store at the former Willow Hardware location.

The Grants ad above is interesting in that the only licensed character costume is Yogi Bear  – a favorite of mine. The "smarter than the average bear" was introduced on The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958, and had received his own TV show in 1961.

I supposed his visibility had received another boost in 1964, thanks to the release of his full-length movie Hey There It's Yogi Bear earlier that year.

I like that little witch icon done in the style of a child's doodle in the Grants ad. Apparently it was used on the Mars candy bar packaging that year, since it seems to be visible in the candy illustrations as well.

But what about the other costumes in the ad?
I finally figured out that the costume the young lady isn't wearing a princess mask – it's a Cleopatra one. (Of course, after I found the photo of the mask at left, I looked more closely at the ad and finally saw the word CLEOPATRA plastered in all caps across her costume.)

As for the generic Frankenstein monster outfit, I couldn't quite find an exact match. But here's a link to a great blog featuring a variety of vintage Ben Cooper monster costumes that probably includes the one shown.

And for a hilarious look at kid's Halloween costumes of the 1950s and 60s, click here to visit John Kricfalusi's blog.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lawson's Halloween Ad – October 27, 1959

Here's a cute, timeless ad for Lawson's that ran in the Lorain Journal on October 27, 1959 – just a few days before Halloween – 55 years ago today.

As noted back here, the first Lawson's in Lorain opened in June of 1959.

I love the simplicity of the above ad. Back then, stores designed their ads to feature just a few items to get you to visit. You can tell at a glance what's going on. The small ads in today's newspapers are so cluttered and over designed, with tiny type reversed out of black (can you tell I'm a graphic designer?) that they don't have half the selling power of the Lawson's ad.

That kid in the bunny suit looks kinda like Ralphie from A Christmas Story – except he isn't wearing spectacles.

Then as now, Brach's candy is still the dominant brand of classic candy corn. (I've already munched my way through 1/2 a bag!)

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Visit to Swift's Hollow – June 1948

Here's an interesting article that ran in the Lorain Journal on Tuesday, June 8, 1948. It's about a visit that the Silver Buckle Riding Club paid to the Swift House ruins, and provides a nice, capsule history of the place.

Riders Pay Swift's Hollow Visit

Swifts Hollow by state route 113 on the Vermilion river near Birmingham began after the war of 1812 when it was given to Joseph Swift, a war veteran as a bonus for his services to this country.

On the grant which comprised 150 acres of rich bottom land beside the river, he cut large oak, cherry, and whitewood trees to clear a field for planting.

He produced excellent crops of corn and wheat which were readily marketed in the lake ports nearby. He bought more land, cleared more fields and raised more crops and his wealth grew.

Dogged By Trouble
In 1841 he moved from his pioneer homestead into a house he built of Pillared Greek revival style, one of the finest in pioneer architecture ever erected in Ohio.

Altho only a few of the foundation stones can be found now in a tangle of weeds people still talk about the Swift house and how it became haunted after the Swifts left it.

Misfortune beset the Swifts after they moved in their new home. Swift lost money in an early railroad venture through here. He over-extended himself in land and lost money signing notes for friends. His four children died of black diphtheria and were buried along the river's edge.

Headstones Gone
Headstones were erected but all traces of them are gone and patches of myrtle have covered the burial ground. The property went to ruins and ghost stories began to spring up about the place which kept anyone from living there. The home stood vacant for years and in the 1920's fire broke out and destroyed it.

Northwest of Swift's Hollow is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pelham Blossom, which was built from lumber torn down from an old Mennonite orphanage which once housed 68 children. The orphanage failed because of lack of funds and the children were sent to a home in Indiana. Later Mr. and Mrs. Blossom bought the property.

The early days of the region were recalled at a recent outdoor get-together of the Silver Buckle Riding club in the hollow. Joe Bickel of Birmingham told the story of the ill-fatted Swift.

Meet At Home
The members who are from Birmingham, Henrietta, Florence, Wakeman, Kipton, Brighton, Elyria and Rochester met at the home of Howard Greene east of Birmingham on route 113 and rode down the Gore Orphanage-rd, named after the orphanage, to the hollow.

Members of the club are Mr. and Mrs. Guy Radecliffe, Mrs. Stella Sharp and son Eldon, Mike Polansky and son, Mr. and Mrs. Green and family, Roy Radecliffe, Mr. and Mrs. William Jackson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bickel, Earl Smith and son, Jerry Howe.

Fourteen horses began the ride. Kenneth Bell brought his tractor and trailer.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

John Grandetti 1958 - 2014

Admiral King Marching Band Trumpet Section with John Grandetti circled
(photo from the 1975 Trident Yearbook)
It was very sad to see that fellow Admiral King Class of 1977 Graduate John Grandetti passed away on October 18th after battling cancer for six years. I only knew John from Admiral King Marching Band (he did a great impersonation of Curly from the Three Stooges) and had no idea of his illness.
Here is the link to his obituary in the Akron Beacon Journal.
John had quite an impressive career in sports after his marching band days. He played basketball and baseball at Admiral King High School. He then attended Kent State on a full basketball scholarship and after graduation, played basketball in Europe. He came back to Lorain and coached basketball at Admiral King High School, and later was head coach of the girls basketball team at Rittman High School. (Click here for an article from the Wooster Daily Record about his hiring as coach, as well as the story of his cancer.)
He finished up his coaching career as assistant basketball coach at Canton McKinley High School.
John was a nice, funny and talented guy when I knew him in Band, and I offer my condolences to his family.

1923 Swift House Fire as Reported by the Mansfield News

Driving out on Gore Orphanage Road over the weekend reminded me that I had this old article. It is about the fire that destroyed the Joseph Swift House on the evening of December 6, 1923 – and ultimately gave birth to the legend of Gore Orphanage.

The article (at left) appeared in the Mansfield News on Friday, December 14, 1923. Unfortunately, it contains much misinformation – so much that I was a little hesitant to post it. (It's similar to one that appeared in the Chronicle, which I posted here.)

The Mansfield News article implies that Mill Hollow and Swift's Hollow are the same place. It identifies Joseph Swift as a Virginia planter – a Southerner – instead of a New Englander. It also includes a few fanciful ghost stories that have little to do with the actual history of the house.

But the article does have some kernels of truth, so it's evident that the author of the piece probably did visit the house, or at least was familiar with it.

Here is the article (below) as it appeared in the Mansfield News.



Many Mansfield people will remember the old colonial house – said to be haunted – which stood in Mill Hollow, or Swift's Hollow in the Vermilion river valley, several miles south of Vermilion. The place was visited yearly by cottagers from Ruggles Beach and Mitiwanga, as well as by other people from the country round. The house was destroyed by fire recently, according to news from Lorain.

The mansion was said to have been erected about 1818 by a Virginia planter, and was built in typical colonial style. The timbers were hewn out of heavy wood, largely walnut with much of elaborate carving which ornamented the beautiful doorway and full length windows, was carried there on ox carts all the way from Connecticut. Four imposing pillars, which gave the place a southern atmosphere, graced the porch extending across the front of the house.

There were about twelve rooms in the place, all on one floor. Most of them contained large fireplaces. The ceilings were very high, and the halls spacious and dark. Large cupboards and numerous closets contributed to the spooky atmosphere of the house. Names of visitors from all over the country, including autographs of some of the Mansfield young people had been written over the walls.

The colonial house was the only one left standing in the valley, a very lonesome but beautiful place. High hills, once river banks, overhang the hollow. A stately entrance to the estate has its traces left in the old stone posts that stand at the edge of the yard now overgrown with brambles.

At this place many years ago, the young folks of the whole country round used to gather to enjoy the hospitality of the Swift family. The commodious residence was well fitted for entertaining of all kinds, and help was so plentiful, if one may judge from the large servant quarters built, southern style, at the rear of the mansion.

There are several stories as to the ghost that "haunted" the house, and had kept people from living there for many years. One tale runs that the southerner who built the house and brought his family there lost three of his children soon after arriving, when they contacted a contagious disease from handling goods of a peddler's pack. The family were said to have left the place immediately afterward, and never to have been heard of afterward.

Another story is that the Swift family, of prominence in that part of the country, occupied the farm a great while ago, Mr. Swift owning many acres of rich river bottom land. His son, only a short time before his wedding day, went to his new home in that same valley to clean the well, and was overcome by "black damp" and died. The whole hollow was said to have been haunted from that time on.

The mansion in ruins was a famous spot for tourists as well as people living nearby. Several artists have used it in studies. College hikers from Oberlin were fond of the place. All will regret to hear of its destruction, as it was indeed an unusual spot of northern Ohio.

Tomorrow, I'll post a newspaper article about a 1948 visit to the Swift house ruins.