Friday, May 22, 2015

Crystal Beach Park 40th Anniversary Ad – May 28, 1947

Crystal Beach Park in Vermilion first opened on Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) 1907. Thus, the 40th Anniversary of the park was a big event, and was heralded in this ad, which appeared in the Lorain Journal on May 28, 1947.

The ad is a nice snapshot of all the rides and attractions that Crystal Beach offered at that time: Crystal Thriller, Tumblebug, Dodgem, Rocket Ship, Merry Go Round, Loop A Plane, Caterpillar, Miniature Railway, Kiddie Rides, Ponies and Miniature Golf.

Amusements listed in the ad included a Fun House, a Shooting Gallery, Bingo, Dart Game, Balloon Bust, and a Fish Pond.

Crystal Beach Park was well known for the popular Big Bands that performed there. Upcoming bands listed in the 1947 ad include Frankie Masters, Stan Kenton (one of my father's favorites), Carmen Cavallaro and Vaughn Monroe.

For a really terrific history of Crystal Beach Park that includes many wonderful photos and postcards, be sure to visit this link on Rich Tarrant's Vermilion Views website. Crystal Beach Park has been a regular topic on the Vermilion Views website over the years, so if you type in "Crystal Beach" in the search box at the bottom of the page, it will bring up the links of additional posts that mention it.

Courtesy Ebay
Drew Penfield has a nice history of Crystal Beach Park on the first page of the Vermilion section of his Lake Shore Rail Maps website, including some great photos.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rigbee's Bargain Town Ad – May 21, 1964

Here's a vintage ad for Rigbee's Bargain Town that ran in the Lorain Journal on May 21, 1964 – 51 years ago today.

The ad caught my eye because of the 99 cent Beatle dolls. But more on that later in this post.

Rigbee's Bargain Town at 852 Broadway (across from the post office) was the successor  to Rigbee's Kiddieland at the same address. Both companies have their roots in the Rigbee Company, which was based in Elyria and run by the Evenchik family.

The company seemed to evolve over the years. In the 1925-26 Elyria City Directory, it was called Rig-Bee Supply Company and specialized in auto accessories. J. A. Evenchik was the manager. Through the years, the popular store at its longtime home in the 500 block on Broad Street eventually added electrical supplies, hardware and toys to its product selection.

By the early 1950s, the business had expanded into Lorain with Rigbee's Kiddieland, run by Harvey Evenchik. The store specialized in baby toys and furniture.

By 1964, the Lorain store had taken the Rigbee's Bargain Town name, and Harvey Evenchik was joined at the store by Isadore Baer, who was co-manager. Strangely enough, the store reverted back to its Kiddieland name around 1968. It also moved to 663 Broadway.

Rigbee's Kiddieland in Lorain made it into the 1970s with a new manager (Shirley A. Frey) before the company disappeared from the city directory in the 1971 edition. The Elyria store (which by that time was managed by Marvin Evenchik) had already closed in 1969.

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Courtesy iGavel Auctions
Now back to those Beatle dolls in the ad.

The popular dolls were manufactured by Remco. Each Beatle was about 4 3/4 inches tall, and came with a plastic instrument with his name on it (which the doll's owner would usually lose).

My sister and two brothers and I each had one of those Beatle dolls. I had good old Ringo – whose cartoon likeness provided so much of the comic relief on those Beatles TV cartoons that we watched regularly on Saturday mornings.

Anyway, since my siblings and I each had a favorite Beatle, we were doomed to be associated with that particular Beatle in perpetuity. This resulted in lots of ribbing later in the 1960s, as the Beatles lost their clean cut image in favor of the hippie look, and certain members of the Fab Four began getting into trouble with the law for drug possession.
As time went on, my brothers and I eventually turned our fairly beat-up Beatle dolls over to our older sister so that she would have a complete set. She'd been the big Beatle fan anyway, owning and playing the albums that provided a sort of soundtrack for my early childhood years.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lorain County Speedway Ad – May 1964

Here's a vintage ad for Lorain County Speedway from the May 14, 1964 Lorain Journal – 51 years ago this month.

According to various online sources, the auto racing track opened in 1949 as a 1/3 of a mile dirt oval, and was paved between the 1960 and 1961 racing seasons.

The Morning Journal has a nice article online by Jon Wysochanski (here) that provides a history of Lorain County Speedway, as well as Summit Motorsports in Norwalk. The article includes interviews with the people currently involved with the operation of both area tracks.

Here's an aerial view of Lorain County Speedway, courtesy of Bing Maps.

Be sure to visit the Lorain County Speedway website to learn about upcoming promotional events.

I haven't been out to the Speedway since the 1980s; maybe it's time for a visit!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Workshop Players Part 2

While doing a little research on Workshop Players, I found a few early clippings and articles that might be of interest to fans of the acting troupe. (Click on each for a larger, readable version.)

As you remember from yesterday's post, the origin of the Workshop Players was a group of Clearview High School students who wished to continue to present plays even after their high school graduation. The Lorain Journal had a small article in its August 19, 1947 edition about their very first play.

By 1951, Workshop Players had not yet moved to their current home in the former one room schoolhouse on Middle Ridge Road. Here's an article from the Amherst News-Times (below) from that era highlighting Jean Schaeffer's role in The Valiant.

May 4, 1951 article
Here's a pair of articles from December 1952 from the Amherst News-Times. The first one is about the one-act Christmas plays that the group was presenting for the holidays, and the second mentions the upcoming move to the Middle Ridge location.
December 12, 1952 article
December 19, 1952 article
By 1953, Workshop Players were in their new home. Here is a small promotional article (below) about their upcoming play, Ladies in Retirement that appeared on the front page of the April 24, 1953 Amherst News-Times. The photo features Bunny Ross and Duane Hinds.
April 24, 1953 article
Here's a front page 1955 article (below) from the Amherst News-Times of January 28, 1955 about the upcoming production of Would-Be Gentleman. The photo features Bill Penton in his role as Mr. Jourdain, and Dan Strauss as the Son of a Grand Turk.
Bill Penton also enjoyed some publicity for his acting career in the April 1955 issue of American Motorcycling. The article below mentions that the 1954 National Jack Pine Champion probably was making his last stage appearance for a while because "Uncle Sammy slated him to play a role in the armed forces."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Workshop Players Part 1

Workshop Players Theater – May 2015
I've driven by and admired the theater home (above) of Workshop Players for a long time. So, I figured it was long overdue for me to find out something about the history of the acting group, as well as their theater building.

Hickory Tree Grange Hall today
Ernie Henes' Looking Back on Lorain County (1978) has a short article about Workshop Players. It reads, "A 1948 Clearview High School drama teacher, Valerie Jenkins, launched Lorain County's first community theater, The Workshop Players, Inc. Her students that year presented a one-act Christmas play for various groups. They became so interested they decided to continue stage work. They found a temporary home in Amherst's Hickory Tree Grange Hall in 1949 and in 1953 moved to the century old one-room schoolhouse on Middle Ridge Road. They presented plays of excellent quality and in the years following entertained several thousand persons."

Some information about the building can be found on the Workshop Players website. It states, "The current home of Workshop Players is the one-room school house on Middle Ridge Rd. in Amherst Township. The original school house was a wooden frame structure built in 1876. When the current sandstone building was erected in 1898, the wooden school house was dragged down the Ridge to its current location at the corner of Middle Ridge and Hidden Valley. Our stone building was used as a school until 1951. Surprisingly, some of our current patrons actually attended school in this building!! In the fall of 1952 Workshop began remodeling the interior of the building and the first show at this Middle Ridge location was FIVE TRAVELING MEN in February of 1953."

The Amherst News-Times ran a great article on April 4, 1988 to celebrate the Workshop Players' 40th anniversary. It included a comprehensive history of the theater group. Here it is as it appeared in the newspaper (below).

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Players celebrate 40 years
Players Workshop Players, Inc. counts its years from the 1948-49 season in which they adopted a constitution. However, the original incentive of this group really started when active dramatics students from Clearview High School approached their director, Valerie Jenkins, about forming a group to present plays. These students were very interested in all phases of theatre and disliked facing their forced inactivity after high school graduation.
It was their great enthusiasm at a meeting in the spring of 1947 that persuaded their dramatics director to consent to presenting a play the following summer. That first meeting was held at the home of Waite Staller's parents on North Ridge Road. 
The result of that meeting was a proscenium production of a comedy, "Western Union, Please" by Hackett and Goodrich in the Clearview High School Auditorium on August 19, 1947. Those involved in that first venture were Frances Gluvna, Jim Mason, Mary Hoch Rebman, Robert Lenhard, Rosemary Montagnese, Robert Amstutz, Waite Staller, Gerry Staller, Hazelle Perkins, Nola Jean Waters, Dorothy Yurovich, Alvira Grell, Steve Hodovan, Sam Marotta and Rosa Perkins. Only one performance was presented.
By November of 1948 a board of eight members was established. Rather substantial plans were make for the future. So much time and effort had gone into the establishment of the group that there was no time for a full-length production before the holidays. A one-act Christmas play, "The Small One," was prepared and performed twelve times at various organizations throughout the area. These performances took place mostly in private homes and church basements. 
One of the problems confronting the group was the construction and storage of scenery. The director's association with Gerald Marans of Karamu in Cleveland prompted the idea of an arena theatre. It occurred to her that this might solve the scenery problem along with being a unique style for local audiences.
A location for such a performance was the next hurdle to conquer. Before long the Hickory Tree Grange was rented for two performances of the play, "Smilin’ Through," by Allen Langdon Martin. On January 31, 1949 prior to the opening night, Dr. Roy Schaeffer of Amherst who had attended school with the director, and his wife Jean were invited to the preview performance. Shortly thereafter Jean Schaeffer joined the group and became an active member, trustee and promoter of the Workshop Players.
Of the early founding members and charter members only Yvonne Alford, Jean Schaeffer and Valerie Jenkins remain members. 
Honorary membership was established for distinguished persons in the theatre who had taken an interest in Workshop. Of these Gerald Marans was the first to be named followed by a succession of playwrights, performers and special friends. 
The first constitution stated that the name of the organization be called the County Workshop Players because players from all over the county were welcome to take part. 
The purpose of the organization as stated in the constitution "is to promote a larger measure of interest and appreciation for dramatic art through production of worthwhile entertainment and to make available to its members an outlet for artistic appreciation and effort. The aim shall be to serve the communities of Lorain county and the surrounding area in the field of drama and its related arts to the best of its ability by making available programs which are high in character as well as in entertainment value."
The usual problems of any new group were also a part of Workshop Players early years.
A problem unique to the early players was one of space. They rehearsed in private homes until the week of the performance and then moved all props and furniture on Sunday to the Grange Hall on Milan Avenue in Amherst.
In the second season three performances of each production were given instead of two. By 1953 there were four performances of each show and they kept increasing every few years until in 1976 there were twelve showings of each production. The number has now been reduced to seven.
In 1951 the second floor of The Party Shop, then known as Kline's Beverage on the corner of South Main Street and Tenney Avenue in Amherst, was offered to the players as a rehearsal and meeting hall. 
In 1952 the late Superintendent F. R. Powers suggested that the one-room school on Middle Ridge would be available. This sandstone structure, built in 1898 which was no longer going to be used by the board of education was found to be satisfactory for the needs of the group. It provided an opportunity to rehearse and perform in the same location and thus would improve the quality of their work.
The new location required much work.
Lighting seemed to be the first obstacle. General fluorescent lights were used in the school room and these are unacceptable for performance lighting. One small transformer and six spotlights had been purchased for the first production, but these were not sufficient for the effects desired. One more transformer was added and two more spotlights, a far cry from the twenty-six to thirty lights and light board now in operation.
The second improvement to be made was acquiring real theatre seats from the abandoned Globe Theatre on Madison Avenue in Cleveland. These replaced the folding chairs borrowed from a local funeral home. Bill Penton assisted by Roy Schaeffer and other men from the theatre built risers to which the new seats were bolted. The basement of the one-room school had one coal bin, two restrooms and a coal-burning furnace.
When overhead heating ducts were installed by Gene Ross, the single register in the middle of the acting area was converted to a trap door. This has provided many convenient and interesting stage effects.
Drinking water was taken to the theatre in jugs by the actors, a practice abandoned when a water line was installed.
The small theatre on Middle Ridge Road in Amherst Township is located between Oberlin Road that goes toward North Ridge and the section of Oberlin Road that goes to Route 113. Seating capacity is 100-107 depending on the demands of the production.
Workshop Players is the oldest arena theatre in the area and now that we are celebrating the fortieth season of continuous performing it can also claim to be the oldest community theatre in Lorain County. As part of this celebration beautiful new seats were installed in September, carpeting was added, and the acting area was widened. The project was financed through the generosity of friends' and members' generous contributions.
To complete a celebration year, the Workshop Players, Inc. is attempting to locate addresses for everyone who acted or did backstage work in these forty seasons. There will be a banquet on May 15 to culminate the year's activities.
It will be an evening for reminiscing and celebration.

Next: Clippings from the early years

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Ernst's Frozen Custards Ad – May 1948

Do you prefer real ice cream or frozen custard? For many years, anyone looking for an ice cold dairy treat on a hot day had to make that choice. (Actually, real frozen custard made with eggs is fairly hard to find these days.)

But back when the above ad ran in the Lorain Journal on May 27, 1948, it appears that frozen custard was the trendy choice. The ad was announcing the grand opening of Millie and Bob Ernst's Frozen Custards stand at Kiddieland.

What, you've never heard of Kiddieland? Neither had I. But it was located at the southeast corner of Colorado Avenue and Henderson Drive.

Kiddieland first appeared in the Lorain phone book in the 1947 edition. (In the back of the book it was listed under "Amusements.") It was also in the 1948 edition, as Kiddieland Park, but disappeared by the time of the 1949 book.

The ad also notes that the Mills Master Freezer used to manufacture the frozen custards was installed by the Chestnuts. R. L. and Charlotte Chestnut had a refrigeration sales and service company at 928 Broadway in Lorain.

Anyway, the ad is fairly amusing. Much like the 1952 ad for Sheffield Lake's Dutch Treat that I posted back here, this ad includes both a photo of a creepy little girl (actually, just her disembodied head with a puckered expression) and clip art of a little boy. Strangely enough, the Beaver Cleaver lookalike is shown eating a cone with real ice cream.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rancho Pillow Motel

I had this postcard for Rancho Pillow Motel for years before I decided to drive out to Sandusky to see if it was still around. The motel is still there, with a new name, located one block east of the entrance to Cedar Point.
Rancho Pillow was apparently named for an old tune recorded by Gene Autry, as well as the Andrew Sisters. The lyrics quite naturally conjure up tranquil images:
Oh, how I love my rancho pillow
Ay-yaaaay I do.
I count my sheep on rancho pillow
While rounding up a dream or two.
Halfway between old Amarillo
And heavens blue
I lay me down on rancho pillow
While twinkling stars play peek-a-boo.
To match the western motif of the song, Rancho Pillow's sign had a great illustration of a cowboy riding a huge pillow like it was a bucking bronco. 
1955 ad from the Sandusky City Directory
The cowboy can also be seen on the motel's matchbook.
The Rancho Pillow Motel is quite different now. 
Besides being renamed the South Shore Inn, another floor has been added to the original motel structure, as well as a huge modern addition. The number of rooms has increased from 24 to 100, and the motel now features Jacuzzis, high-speed Internet data ports, meeting rooms and a full service restaurant and pub.
Here is the matching "now" shot (below) of the motel that corresponds to the vintage postcard.
2007 View
The pool area shown on the vintage postcard is now a picnic area. Here is the "now" shot (below).
2007 View
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Back in 2007, I visited the South Shore Inn to find out about the history of the motel, and to show the owners the vintage postcard. (I was doing "then and nows" back then for my employer's company newsletter.) 
Before I even uttered a word, a member of the family let out an excited yell upon seeing the postcard in my hand. Soon I had several family members surrounding me, fascinated that I had driven all the way there just to see if the motel was still in business.
I was given a brief history. The current owners had purchased the motel from the original owners back in the 1960s. In the mid-1980s, they decided to modernize the motel and change the name. Interestingly, they said that they probably should have kept the original name, since “Rancho Pillow” was a much more memorable name. They also showed me a framed display in the lobby with several artifacts and photos from Rancho Pillow days.
Of course, I donated the postcard to their collection as I had scanned it already.
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Are you wondering what the Rancho Pillow tune sounded like? Wonder no more! Here's the Andrews Sisters' version.