By: Linda Jean Limes Ellis
My mother said it looked like a big cigar box because of it’s long and low appearance. Such was her initial description of my parents’ first and only house located at 208 Arizona Avenue on Lorain’s East Side. Also according to my mother, our house was under construction during the time of Lorain’s Great Tornado which struck on June 28, 1924.
My parents, Harry and Virginia (Zagorsky) Limes, were married on December 7, 1944. I was born on January 5, 1948. By the summer of that year house shopping became my parents top priority – to move out of their apartment at 307 West Ninth Street in Lorain and find a home that met all our needs. In July of 1948, the deal was closed and they became the new owners of 208 Arizona Avenue.
Our house was the first house on the southwest corner of the intersection of Arizona and East Erie Avenues. On that actual corner of the street (244 East Erie Avenue) stood a small white building which was The Peerless Laundry and Dry Cleaning (Worthington Dry Cleaners) with a large empty lot behind it that bordered our property. “Our side” of Arizona Avenue was actually a dead-end that stopped at the American Ship Building Company property. However, the Bowditch Boat House and boat dockage area sat at the foot of the street along the Black River. That fact certainly appealed to my father whose passion was fishing. What a dream to be within walking distance to where your boat is docked! But, my mother wasn’t so sure…
Mother said she was “ready to move out the day she moved in” because of some of the critters she found crawling in the corners that had to be cleared out of the house. Then, there was the matter of Mr. Frank Schaefer who my parents agreed to keep on as a border in order to save some money on the purchase price of the house. Again, another attractive idea for my father. But, mother and I could walk over the big bascule bridge to go shopping on Broadway in downtown Lorain, which gave us something to look forward to when my father was fishing.
We soon learned who our neighbors on the street were, and I remember well the names of most. Next to us, at 210, were Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Catalano who, as of this writing, reside there still today. Their two children are Loralee and Robert. Next to them, at 214, lived Mrs. Mary (Fern) Alger. She had a large two-story house which accommodated renters upstairs. Next to Mrs. Alger, at 218, were Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Orseno. I remember the names of their two children were Lenny and Virginia. At the very end of our side of the street lived Mrs. Lloyd Sevits who later married Mr. Leonhard after she became widowed. The Ralph Connone family resided at 229 Arizona Avenue. Their children were Denny, Marcy and Shelley. Their neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. William Paterson. Mrs. Perkins lived at 215 and I also remember Mrs. Kerstetter. The Mutchmore family resides at 219 and has been at this address for a number of years. The 1958 Lorain City Directory, for example, lists 14 addresses for the south of East Erie Avenue side of Arizona Avenue. Just to our east, at 228 East Erie Avenue, lived John and Mary Tackas. Their daughters names are Dorothy and Carol. I remember Mrs. Tackas’ father, Mr. Hnilicka, lived with them.
The colors of the trim on my parents’ house were always “chrome” green and cream. The house was built of glazed yellow bricks. The wood storms and screens had to be put up and taken down according to the dictates of the changing seasons. I know the storms must have been quite heavy, but I remember my mother somehow managing that chore by herself, standing on a ladder outside each window – while my father was on yet another fishing trip, of course!
A favorite spot for me in my parents’ home was the lovely stained wood archway that separated our living room from the dining room. Each side of the archway was supported by a pair of square shaped solid oak columns that boasted solid wood bases. It was over this archway, facing the living room, that each Christmas I would hang up all our Christmas cards. By the time Christmas arrived each year only the cards could be seen as the entire archway was covered over with them. I tried to be as creative as I could with the arrangement, which may or may not have impressed my parents.
Originally, my parents’ house was heated by a coal burning furnace and so the basement had a coal bin. But, since the furnace was converted to gas at some point, my parents installed shelves in the coal bin and stored canned goods there.
My father had two work benches in the basement and a special long bench where he cleaned his “catch of the day.” I would do my home work using my grandfather’s old Underwood typewriter while sitting at the desk my parents bought and put in another part of the basement. It would be described as an “unfinished basement” by today’s standards, but we made good use of it just the way it was.
My bedroom did not have a closet! It contained the doorway to the attic so there was not enough space in the room for one. My parents put in a double door metal cabinet for my hanging clothes, but it stood in front of the attic door. When it came time to go up into the attic for any reason, they had to move my cabinet, which my father would agree to do (after all mother couldn’t do everything!).
The two “back rooms” as mother called them, were added on to the house after it was built. But because there was no basement underneath them, they were mighty cold in the winter. My mother would iron clothes in the one, and the other room was an entrance with our back door. Our huge freezer stood in this room. This was where my father kept frozen the fish we hadn’t eaten fresh or given away. Needless to say, it was almost always full.
Changes took place over the years in our neighborhood. In 1967, the Clark Gas Station was built on the corner in front of our house. The dry cleaners building was torn down. Not only did we lose our view of East Erie Avenue when a big billboard was erected, but my father lost his horseshoe court that he had made on the property behind the dry cleaners. Our old garage had to be torn down (that faced East Erie) and a new one built at the back of our property because the only access driveway left came from Arizona Avenue.
Later, The American Ship Building Company sold out to Spitzer Great Lakes and some of the houses were torn down not long afterward. Due to my father’s death in 1988, and my mother having to move because of ill health, I sold my parents’ house to Spitzer that year. The talk at the time was that a casino was planned for the area if it could be approved by voters. But that never happened. I really wished I could have kept my parents house, but it just wasn’t feasible. Now, as of this writing, it is boarded up awaiting demolition from what I am told. Hence, a motivating reason for sharing some of my experiences while living there with my parents.
For twenty-four years I lived with my parents at 208 Arizona Avenue. It was more than a house for us, it was the only home we ever had together – and now I can only say that I am glad my parents will not be here to see its demise. We didn’t have a lot materially, but we had each other and that’s all that mattered. Most of my memories of my parents center around our time in our home at 208 Arizona Avenue, on Lorain’s East Side, and as long as I live it will remain just that way.
Note: 208 Arizona Avenue was demolished in June of 2003.
Me, (Linda Limes) standing on the top step of the front porch of our old homestead at 208 Arizona Avenue a few days before it was torn down in June of 2003.
I had tried to force a smile, but it wasn’t easy. The house was boarded up by then as it was a rental house for 15 years by that time.
I rescued a few shiny bricks from the pile after its demolition, the house numbers, and the old mailbox.