Friday, April 24, 2015

Amber Oaks Closes

According to some comments posted on the "You know you're from Sheffield or Sheffield Lake if..." Facebook page, Amber Oaks quietly closed for good at the end of last weekend.

I saw the sign on Monday during my commute and didn't realize that it was the owners' way of saying goodbye to the community.

A 1971 view of the original building
It's very sad. The restaurant had been part of Sheffield Lake since it opened in 1963. (I wrote about its Grand Opening here and here.)

Although I hadn't eaten there in a while, for many years it was our preferred choice for family celebrations and New Year's Eve dinner.

The restaurant obviously still had many fans, judging by the many cars in the parking lot.

Here's wishing the owners a Happy Retirement, along with my thanks for providing a backdrop for so many of our family get-togethers.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lake Shore Electric Railway Ad – April 1, 1931

At left is an attractive ad for the Lake Shore Electric Railway, which ran in the Lorain Journal on April 1, 1931 – 84 years ago this month. It's a nice reminder that there was a time when you could board an interurban car and enjoy a carefree ride to destinations all over northern Ohio. As the ad says, "Big comfortable steel cars operated by experts get you there safely and quickly and with the greatest ease and comfort."

It's a real pity we don't have anything like that today. Over the years during my daily commute to Cleveland, I've taken the bus and driven my own car. Neither has been very satisfying, although I could at least sleep on the bus (much to the annoyance of the person next to me).

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If you're interested in learning more about the Lake Shore Electric Railway, spend some time on Drew Penfield's Lake Shore Rail Maps website. He has the route from Cleveland to Berlin Heights broken down into separate sections (such as Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, etc.)

Each section has interesting and informative text along with rarely seen photographs, some from the archives of local historian and archivist Dennis Lamont.

Best of all, each section has its own Google map link with all the stops indicated, as well as a list of the stops. It's a handy reference for historians when the only address available for a long-gone local business along Route 6 is a stop number such as "Stop 109" (which happens to be the location of both the Pueblo and the Lorain Country Club).

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My father was born in 1921, so he remembered the interurbans well and used to talk about them. On the other hand, my mother was born in 1927 and rarely got out of Lorain in her early years. So she has no memories of riding the interurbans before they went out of business in 1938, and were replaced by buses.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lorain City Hall to Undergo Face-Lifting – April 22, 1947

This painting of Lorain's former city hall hangs in the current city hall
The announcement that Lorain's city hall was going to be spruced up was front page news in the Lorain Journal of Tuesday, April 22, 1947 – 68 years ago today.

Here's the story (below). The fixing up of city hall was part of a larger "spring cleaning" campaign in Lorain, in which councilmen were charged with making sure their wards were "the cleanest in town."

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Lorain City Hall to Undergo Spring Face-Lifting

The residence that has served as city hall nearly 40 years will definitely get a much-needed face-lifting operation this spring.

That assurance was given by city councilmen last night as they enthusiastically joined in the spirit of Lorain's "spring cleaning" campaign slated May 12 to 30.

In addition to promising their whole-hearted cooperation in the drive, the solons authorized Service Director Wallace Chapla to take on bids on painting and repairing city hall inside and out at a cost not to exceed $1,200.

The director sent out an S. O. S. to council in the form of an ordinance, after the old building showed signs of "splitting her seams" during a recent rainstorm.

Not only has the hall sprung leaks in many places, but her "plates have been buckling" due to the ravages of time and the elements.

The building now used as city hall was built by William Jones for his private residence during the last century. It was the most pretentious house in Charleston village.

Jones died Jan. 15, 1888 after a record of building 40 vessels at his local shipyards. After Jones' death, John Stang purchased the property and resided in it until his death in 1899 in the room now used as the auditor's office.

Records show the city bought the building in the early 1900's from Herb Little, Stang's son-in-law, and in 1908 an architect was hired to remodel the structure.

The last time the hall was given a re-painting was in 1944 during the administration of Mayor Harry G. Van Wagnen.

Council voted full cooperation with next month's clean-up, paint-up, and plant-up drive, after Mayor Patrick J. Flaherty asked appointment of a special committee comprised of councilmen to take active part.

Council President John Jaworski responded by designating the committee of the whole–which consists of all councilmen–to serve as the special panel. He urged each ward representative to strive to make his district the cleanest in town.

Carl Eversman is chairman of the executive committee in charge of the campaign. He is assisted by James Colgan and Fire Chief Elmer Stough, co-vice chairman.

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Elsewhere on that same April 1947 front page of the Journal was a small item with the title, "DRIVE-IN CAFE IN LORAIN OPPOSED." It read, "Protesting anticipated use of former W. Erie-av service station as a drive-in eating place, a petition was presented to city council last night and referred to the building and lands committee. The petition was signed by 15 alleged property owners who wanted the area surrounding the former service station near W. Erie-av and 5th-st to be classified for residential purposes only.

The only filling station in that area at that time was a Gulf station located on the southwest corner of West Erie and Brownell Avenues, just a little east of the park with the Big V at Fifth Street. So I'm guessing that was the property in question.

The anticipated drive-in restaurant never came to pass, because the location apparently had some life left in it selling gas. It became one of the stations operated by Fred Hunger and lasted at least into the 1960s.

The residents who signed the petition back in 1947 would be happy today, as the service station at 1301 West Erie Avenue is long gone.

Courtesy Google Maps

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My First Texas Burger at Dog 'N Suds

The scene on Saturday night
After writing about Ilene's Dog 'N Suds on Friday, I was looking forward to my first visit to the drive-in this season. So when it turned out that I was on my own for dinner Saturday night, I knew where I was going to end up.

Plus, I was looking forward to trying something new there. I'd been working my way through a huge pot of homemade chili all week, and had even made chili dogs at home one night. So coney dogs were off the menu that night.

The view out my window
I decided to try the Texas Burger instead. And I'm mighty glad I did, pardner.

For the uninformed, the Texas Burger has been a regular on Dog 'N Suds menus all over the country for decades. It's basically a double-decker charco-broiled hamburger with the famous Dog 'N Suds coney sauce on it. Based on what I've read online, each Dog 'N Suds outlet makes it a little different, customizing it for local taste buds.

The Texas Burger has shredded lettuce and a white sauce on it, making it sort of the Midway Oh Boy's Texas cousin. The burgers tasted just like they were cooked over charcoal – just how I like'em.

Here's what mine looked like (below).

My Texas Burger
I really enjoyed my Texas Burger, and this cowboy is already looking forward to his next one. I think I'll even recommend that the Texas Bradys try one when they roll into town this summer on their annual visit.

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By the way, the Lorain Morning Journal recently ran a very nice article by Drew Scofield about the Dog 'N Suds on N. Ridge Road (which you can read here). It has a nice profile of Ilene Sowards Hampton, the owner, as well as a discussion of–you guessed it–the Texas Burger.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lorain Sokol Society Hall – Then and Now

Rick Kurish is a regular contributor to this blog, helping with research and offering suggestions for topics. He recently sent me the link to the above postcard, which is currently for sale on Ebay.

The real photo postcard (which was postmarked 1909) has an unusual Ebay description because of its hard-to-read inscription. It's listed as "LORAIN SOUTH HOLLORAIN SOKOL CLUB HOUSE BUILDING."

I thought that the building was in South Lorain, until I found a mention of it on the Lorain Public Library's online history. For the year 1908, there is a line that reads, "The Czechoslovak Society of America builds Sokol Hall on Kelly Place." That put the building on the west side, west of Reid Avenue between W. 23rd and W. 25th Streets.

I consulted the Lorain Public Library's city directories to learn about the building. The earliest available book with the building listed was the 1912 edition, which simply lists the building as "Dance Hall." Subsequent books list it as Sokol Lorain (1915) or Sokol Hall (1924).

The 1947 directory still had the building listed as Sokol Hall, but as of the 1950 edition, the listing changed. It was now identified as Youth's Center for a few years before the address went vacant through much of the 1950s. The building returned to its roots by the early 1960s, when it became home to the Czech Society of America Hall. It continued with this listing until 1967, when it became Wings of Faith Church.

Today (below), the 2400 Kelly Place address is home to Ministerio Pentecostal Luz De Salvacion.



Friday, April 17, 2015

Cat Burglar at Dog 'n Suds – October 1963

Dog 'n Suds has been open a few weeks now, and it reminded me that I had this little news item about the iconic drive-in. It appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on October 18, 1963.

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'Skinny' burglar cuts mustard

Lorain County Sheriff's deputies are looking for a skinny burglar who broke into the new Dog-n-Suds Drive-in, 2050 North Ridge Rd., Wednesday night by slipping through the slats of a jalousie window at the side of the stand.

Deputies said the slats were only about 12 inches apart. The burglar got away with about $170, according to Manager Dick Tomanek, former Cleveland Indians pitcher.

Deputy Charles Bulger said he discovered the break-in while on a routine check this morning at 3:20. He said the burglar must have made his escape through a rear door just as deputies arrived, but a search of the area failed to turn up anyone.

Bulger said the  burglar seemed to know where the cash box was hidden behind a gallon jar of mustard. The jar had been swept off the counter and the mustard was all over the floor, he said. The burglar forced one of the slats on the window, cut through the screen inside, then was able to reach a crank on the inside to open the jalousie, Bulger reported.

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From the book,
"Pitching to the Pennant:
the 1954 Cleveland Indians"
It's interesting that in the article, the restaurant is referred to as the "new Dog-n-Suds Drive-in," further supporting my belief that it really hasn't been there as long as everyone thinks. (I did a whole post on the inconsistencies associated with the dates that the drive-in originally opened.)

I also didn't know that Dick Tomanek (at right) had once been the manager of the place. It makes sense, since the former Indians pitcher (1953-54) was born in Avon Lake and had just finished up his Major League Baseball career a couple of years earlier.

He had also appeared at the grand opening of the Lorain Westgate Shopping Center (which I wrote about here).

Early Passing Scene Cartoon – April 17, 1965

To finish out this week, here's one of the earliest "The Passing Scene" cartoons (above) by Gene Patrick that I've ever seen. It ran in the Lorain Journal on April 17, 1965 – 50 years ago today.

Although you might not notice it, the style is a little different from his later strips. It's a little bit simpler, with less Zip-a-Tone (the rub-down adhesive-backed film that adds dots to an area to give it a tone) and solid black inked areas. But the style is still effective and compliments the humor.

For comparison, here's one from June 1974 (below). It's just a little more polished.