Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Johnny Risko and Joe Friday

I’m a big, big fan of Jack Webb, well-known as the creator of Dragnet and for his portrayal of no-nonsense Sergeant Joe Friday on radio, TV and even in a theatrical movie. I have the whole 1960s TV revival of Dragnet on DVD.

However, you might not know that Webb also produced, directed and starred in several movies in which he played other characters. I happened to pop one of them – Pete Kelly’s Blues – in my DVD player this past Saturday night.

Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955) is about a bandleader and cornet player (played by Webb) in Kansas City during the 1920s. He gets mixed up with a party girl (Janet Leigh) who loves him, and a gangster (Edmond O’Brien) named Fran McCarg. The movie also features Martin Milner (later of Adam-12) in a small role as the band’s hot-headed drummer.

Not surprisingly, it’s hard to watch Webb as the stiff, straight-laced band leader who is good with a gun without thinking of Joe Friday. Time magazine thought so too. In its review, it said the movie might as well have been called Young Cop With a Horn (in a reference to a similar 1950 movie called Young Man With a Horn.)

By now, you’re probably wondering. “But Dan, what the heck does this have to do with Sheffield Lake's Johnny Risko?”

Well, early in the movie, the gangster character McCarg stops in at the nightclub at which Pete Kelly and his band are performing. McCarg summons the bandleader into the nightclub’s office to tell him he’s taking over management of the band, as well as a cut of their earnings.

When Kelly enters the room, McCarg is studying a photo on the wall with his back to the movie audience. While looking at the photo, he murmurs, “Quite a fighter, Johnny Risko.”

Webb replies, “He’ll do.”

When McCarg turns around, you can see the photo of Johnny Risko just over his left shoulder.

Anyway, it’s a nice tribute to Johnny Risko, who had only passed away in 1953, and a reminder of his success as a heavyweight boxer in a career that spanned 1924 - 1940.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bringing Down the Sveden House

Another day, another demolition.

I was out by Midway Mall over the weekend. It’s very strange not to have to drive over the 49th Street Bridge (which was demolished last November) to get across Route 57.

It’s an improvement, but as a result, there are a lot of new traffic lights. But that’s progress.

There’s other changes going on out there as well, including the ongoing demolition of the former Sveden House Smorgasbord.

You might remember that I did a two-part post on the well-remembered buffet (here and here) and another about its promotional postcard (here).

Anyway, here’s a photo of the building from about a year ago, when winters actually brought a little bit of snow.

And here’s the view from sunny Saturday afternoon.
Looks like the excavator has been customized with a unique sunshade (below). Either that or the operator was watching me as I took my photograph.

So it’s goodbye forever to memories of the Sveden House, a reminder of the good old days when we used to get all dressed up with suits and ties (the males, that is) to go out to dinner on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sheffield Middle School Brick-a-Brac

I didn’t attend Sheffield Middle School, but I couldn’t resist rescuing a few souvenir bricks from the demolition pile.
It’s interesting how bricks from demolished schools are becoming popular collectibles. It seems to be something that has caught on in recent years, especially as a fundraising gimmick.

There are several different types of bricks (below) from the Sheffield Middle School demo site. (By the way, I had to chisel the mortar off those bricks for them to look so clean. I guess that makes me a chiseler.)

Some bricks have holes in them; others are lighter in color with a unique stamped pattern on the face of them. I have no idea which ones are older.
However, the most interesting bricks are darker, with METROPOLITAN stamped into them, along with CANTON, OHIO. Sometimes they have MADE IN U.S.A. on them too.

According to this article from the Canton Repository, the Metropolitan Brick Company was at one time the nation’s single largest producer of paving brick, producing 93 million pieces in 1923.

Vintage ad
For information about collecting bricks, click here to visit Bricks of Ohio Blog: Tales and Trials of Brick Harvesting. It’s a great resource for collectors of vintage Ohio bricks.

And if any of you Sheffield Middle School alumni missed out on the free bricks and would like one of these, just shoot me an email.

The demolition of the former middle school/original high school continues. The original 1923 portion is down; all that remains to be torn down is the newer section.
The view from Colorado Avenue will take some getting used to (below).

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cedar Point Totem Pole

I saw this 1965 Cedar Point postcard on Ebay recently, and thought I’d post it here as a nice reminder that spring – and the opening of Cedar Point – is getting closer every day. It’s also a quaint reminder of the Cedar Point of my youth.

Here’s another shot of the totem pole, courtesy of the Retro Postcard Gallery on

Seeing these two postcards reminded me of something (rather conveniently) that I hadn’t thought of for decades. It happened during one of my family’s visits to Cedar Point in the 1960s.

It was late in the day, and we were walking along the Midway. Suddenly, a dollar bill blew into my field of vision, and I quickly snatched it off the ground.

Now, a dollar bill is a lot of money to a little kid who is too young to earn an allowance. Did I bring it home so I could think about what I was going to do with it?


That dollar immediately burned a hole in my pocket. I bought a small wooden totem pole with "Made in Japan" stamped on the bottom of it.

I had that thing for a couple of years, until we made one of our 60’s Western camping trips, and I came home with an souvenir totem pole made by a real Indian. Then, the Cedar Point one seemed kinda chintzy, so I got rid of it. I still have the other one.

Anyway, you can also see the Scamper ride in the postcard at the top of this post. That was such a great ride for a little kid.

Courtesy Cedar Point History Facebook page
Click here to visit a Wiki page with a list of former Cedar Point attractions, along with the years of their opening and closing.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

“Guest" Then & Now: Fifth Street in Elyria

I “meet” a lot of great people through this blog who share my interest in local history. Some of them write me with their reminisces. Others help with research, sending me vintage articles and clippings.

One regular reader even sent me a ready-to-go “then and now!” Here is his story.

Late last year, Dennis Thompson wrote to tell me about a photo mystery that he had recently solved.

He wrote, "I had a great find a few weeks ago that I know you will appreciate. As I have become more familiar with the places my family lived and worked, I like to look over old photos to see if I can notice something that didn't mean anything to me before. 
"In one photo album, the last 8-10 pages are just blank, no photos. You know, those old photo albums of heavy black paper. But, I spotted something tucked in the crease of the spine. It was an old negative and blended in with the paper, no one had spotted it. 
"I held it up to the light and nearly shouted! It was a great close-up of my grandfather's American Bantam panel truck, with his advertising on the side.” (His business was R. E. MacDonald, which was located at 248 Temple Court in Elyria.)
Dennis took the negative to Dodd's and had it blown up. Here is the photo (below).
He continued with his story. "At first I thought it might be his shop in the background, but then I noticed there are tree lawns on the street, and Temple Court was like an alley, just pavement. So where was it taken? There is a steeple that can be seen over the building, so I drove around downtown Elyria to find it.”
Dennis eventually determined that the steeple was St. Mary’s, and began driving around the various blocks until the steeple could be seen. Then he remembered that his grandfather lived at 510 Fifth Street at that time.
"I drove to the site of the old house (the new high school is there) and parked in the school lot and turned around. Bingo! It took me a few minutes to realize that the old building in the photo is still there, heavily disguised."
Here is Dennis’ “now” shot (below).
So who are the people in his charming vintage photo? "That's my Uncle John, 7, and Aunt Betsy, 12, in the photo,” he wrote. "Both are doing well today, 79 and 84 years old."
But what about the dog? "The little charmer is Sandy.”
Dennis also identified the building in the background. "The brick building was the site of Harry Brown Motors at that time," he noted.

Dennis has been pretty busy this week, doing a lot of field research regarding the various bridges that crossed the Black River north of Wellington during the last century. I’m sure his findings will be part of a future post on this blog, as those bridges are another one of my long-delayed topics.
Special thanks to Dennis for sharing his photos and reminisces.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

1443 Colorado Avenue in the News

1443 Colorado Avenue this past weekend
No, you’re not experiencing déja vu.

I did a post on the unique building at 1443 Colorado Avenue waaaay back in November 2011 (here) as a “What used to be in that building?” feature.

As part of that post, I did a capsule summary of the building’s history. As I noted then, Ashyk’s Interior Decoration (also known as Ashyk’s Drapery Shop) was the first tenant, although much earlier than I originally thought. The business run by Stanley and Mayme Ashyk first showed up at the 1443 Colorado Avenue address in the 1950 Lorain City Directory.

Here’s the ad (below) celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of the Ashyk's business. It appeared in the Lorain Journal on February 22, 1950.
You can read Mayme Ashyk’s touching obituary here. Her work resume prior to opening the drapery business with her high school sweetheart is a veritable Who’s Who of well-known Lorain companies, including Smith & Gerhart, Mascon Toys and National Tube. 
The business moved to another location on Colorado Avenue by the late 1950s (1373 Colorado Avenue to be exact), making the building available for its next tenant: Central Bank. The bank would call the building home right into the 1970s.
But it was on January 13, 1967 that the bank building was the scene of a scary daytime robbery. Here is the account (below) as it appeared in the Journal the next day.
Women Tellers Tied Up,
Bank Robbed of $10,000
THREE MEN ROBBED the Colorado Branch of the  Central Security National Bank of more than $10,000 yesterday afternoon after forcing three tellers to the basement and tying them with a clothesline.
THE TRIO entered the bank about 1:30 p.m. One walked to a counter and acted as if he was filling out a blank.
Another walked up to a teller’s window and displayed a pistol.
The third walked to the door to the basement and opened it.
BECAUSE THERE were no other customers in the bank, the tellers were working at a table rather than at the windows.
Mrs. Harold Tisdale, 48, of 2016 W. 14th St., wife of a vice president of the bank.
Mrs. James E. Strehle, 26, of 516 E. 41st St.
Mrs. Wayne Bryant, 28, of 3339 Dayton Ave.
As the one bandit brandished his pistol, the one who opened the basement door told the tellers, “Get down here.”
The women obeyed.
The man followed them down and tied their wrists together with a clothesline.
THE WOMEN UNTIED themselves quickly because they had been tied rather loosely.
When it became quiet upstairs, they ventured up and found a chair had been placed against the door to bar its being opened.
It was about this time that Glenn Evans, 30, of 1507 New Jersey, a customer, entered the bank.
“I heard the girls screaming when I walked in,” he said. "They wanted to know who I was so I called out my name and started for the basement door to let them out.”
Before he got there, however, the girls pushed the door open.
ABOUT 1:45 P. M., police arrived. Later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation entered the investigation.
The tellers described the bandits, all Negroes, to police.
The man who wielded the gun was five feet two, 140 pounds and 25-30 years old. He wore a light, checkered trench coat and has a goatee, they said.
The others were 25-30 years old, five feet 10 and weighed 180 pounds. One man had a round face and was clean shaven.
Gregory Sanders, branch manager, was at lunch when the robbery occurred.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Grand Opening Ad for Shields Rest Clinic - Feb. 11, 1950

If you’re familiar with Lorain’s West Side, then you’re probably aware that for many decades, there has been a nursing home on Oberlin Avenue near the intersection with Tower Boulevard.

Although today it is part of Sprenger Health Care Systems, it originally opened as Shields Rest Clinic. The ad above, announcing its Formal Opening and Dedication ran in the Lorain Journal on February 11, 1950.

Judging from the photo in the ad, I suspect that the building started out as a farm house. Unfortunately, the nursing home was outside of Lorain city limits when it opened, so its address is not in earlier city directories and I’m unable to determine for sure if it was a private residence originally. But it sure looks like it was, with farmland behind it in a 1952 Historic Aerial photo.

I drove by the facility on Saturday to try and see if I could get a matching shot of the building shown in the ad. But that building's been swallowed up by the expansion of the campus through the years. But in my photo below, you can see how the flat-roof portion of the building in the vintage photo has been given a second floor and a roofline to match the house.

And, you can still see part of the original brick house and its chimney in this Bing Maps aerial (below) that looks at the facility from the back.

Today, the facility's formal name is Autumn Aegis Retirement Community. Here is the link to its page on the Sprenger Health Care Systems website.