Monthly Archives: July 2013

State Road Shopping Center Memories

The shopping center on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

The (former) shopping center on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Alright, I’m going to diverge a bit from the sort of things I usually cover. As many of you know by now, I take a big interest in broadcasting from anywhere in the U.S., but at the heart of this blog is an appreciation for Northeast Ohio. For obvious reasons, this usually takes the form anything related to NE Ohio television. As you might guess, that’s the area I have the most fondness for, the M.O. of my whole hobby, you could say. However, that doesn’t mean I automatically dismiss anything that wasn’t shown on TV. Of course not. Like most people, I have nostalgic memories of my hometown, of places that are no longer there or no longer the same as they once were.

That almost-long-winded intro is my way of saying that lately I’ve been nostalgic for the now-demolished shopping center on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It’s only been gone a few years, but it feels like much longer. Probably because for the longest time, “hitting up the strip,” as I and probably I alone called it, was a weekly (and sometimes more) occurrence. It actually went beyond just the shopping center, as there were plenty of other places on State Road itself I liked to check out regularly. Most of those places are still standing, but the shopping center as seen in this post is looong gone.

A view from the car: a closer look at the deserted shopping center.

A closer look at the deserted shopping center. Also, notice the image in the rear-view mirror. I’m such a pro!

All of the pictures in this post were taken by me on March 24, 2009. In the grand scheme of things, the entire center would be demolished relatively soon after, but technically, everything was still standing until, I believe, August. You’ll notice a bluish tint to all of these shots; like a dope, I didn’t roll down the car window to take the pics. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) it was fairly cold that day, or 2) my brother and I were in his Firebird, an exceptionally cool car, except the passenger-side window liked to go down but not up. In retrospect, I probably could have put up with the cold, but spending half a day trying to get the window to roll up? “Nah brah!”

The first few former shops on the strip. Notice my highly skilled use of alliteration just now!

The first few former shops on the strip. Notice my highly skilled use of alliteration just now!

I don’t remember the exact order of every shop in the center, but I do know that these three were the first ones on the strip, provided you were going right-to-left, which I almost always did. The store on the furthest right was a restaurant I never went in, and the one next to it was a discount book shop I also never went in, though I now wish I would have visited both at some point. However, I did go into the VCR & TV Repair shop once. Not only did they do repairs, but they also had old electronics for sale. This was waaay before I had established this whole “buying old used blank videotapes” hobby, but even then, I wanted one of the Betamax recorders that was for sale there. Of course, this was long before I had any kind of regular income, so whatever amount of money I had, it probably wouldn’t have been enough for anything. I do know ths repair shop relocated, and since I now have two fairly-nice-but-not-currently-working Betamax VCRs, maybe it’s time to give them a call.

These last remnants of Goodwill stayed up until the very end.

These last remnants of Goodwill stayed up until the very end.

You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but this is Goodwill. Those Halloween pictures went up the last season they were there, and stayed up until the end. Or, at least they were up every time I went by. Of all the places in the shopping center, I probably wound up checking out Goodwill most. 30 cent vinyl records, $1.00 videotapes, and ancient clothes no one would be caught dead wearing? Now you’re speaking my language! Actually, while this Goodwill had a good selection, since they’ve relocated this store elsewhere on State Road, I’ve had even better finds.

Notice the forlorn trashcan, alone and abandoned. Never again will it happily collect trash or be the surrogate fire hydrant of passing dogs.

Poor forlorn trashcan, alone and abandoned. Never again will it collect trash. Never again will it play surrogate fire hydrant to passing dogs. Perhaps there’s a metaphor somewhere in this scene. Or maybe I’m just filling space.

I never went into Accent Ability. Aside from the declaration of furniture on the window, I have no idea what they sold. Google says antiques, and Google has rarely, if ever, lied to me. I’m sure it was a fine store. If they relocated, I’m sure that’s a fine store, too. it’s just that, frankly, there’s not much I can really say about Accent Ability. If they’ve relocated, please patronize them.

Best Cuts was/is kind of like Great Clips, in that both specialize in cutting you hair. However, there's a notable difference in the names of both places.

Best Cuts is not the same as Great Clips. I’m not sure why I have this self-imposed rule to have a caption for every picture, because I clearly don’t always have anything important to say.

Well now! I certainly do remember visiting this Best Cuts more than once! In my younger days, Mom would take my brother and I there for our regular haircuts! A lady that cut our hair in a way acceptable to Mom’s high hair standards worked there. Eventually she left to work at some other “hair place.” While I’m sure we continued to go to this location for a while afterwards, I seem to recall our visits to this particular Best Cuts dropped off substantially following her departure. Mom always took our hair seriously, which was why in grade school, while all the other boys had shaved heads, my hair looked positively Sam Malone-ish. In retrospect, I’m actually pretty grateful for that.

Watch out for pedestrians!

Watch out for pedestrians!

I’m not sure what this is a shot of. I think it’s the start of Save-A-Lot. There’s not much I can say about it, except it looks exceptionally desolate. But, since the whole place is gone now, I might as well use every pic I can. Actually, I kinda like this shot. Very evocative of…something. Maybe?

I take solace in the fact that it's highly doubtful anyone's reading these captions anymore.

I take solace in the fact that it’s highly doubtful anyone’s reading these captions anymore.

This I know was the former location of Save-A-Lot, however. As far as our area goes, I think this was one of their earlier locations. While this store obviously closed, the other two listed on that sign seen in the pic are still around. I was never much of a grocery shopper, but believe it or not, I did go in there from time to time. Y’see, back then, they sold $1 VHS tapes, and while there was a lot of crap that no one in their right mind would buy, they also seemed to get, I don’t know, close-out lots, I guess? What I’m trying to say is that there were occasionally some really good tapes, sealed and new, for the low, low price of a buck! Several episodes of Magnum, P.I. were once released as standalone VHS tapes, and a couple found there way to this Save-A-Lot. You can bet I snapped those up right quick. Other neat finds included an episode of the Back To The Future cartoon series, an episode of Kid ‘N Play’s cartoon, and even some ancient PC games that probably wouldn’t run on any reasonably current computer then and would actually be laughed at by our super-smart PCs now. In other words, really old games (naturally, I bought one).

Is it just me or is the window seen on the far-left pretty trippy lookin'?

Is it just me or is the window seen on the far-left pretty trippy lookin’?

Falls Bootlegger was on “the strip” for years, but they’ve since moved practically around the corner and down the street from the former shopping center.

I don’t have a picture of the former-location, but Fishland Pets was also a regular stop for me. I loved the place; very reasonable prices and a really great selection of animals. A big, huge, long-lived cane toad (appropriately named “Beef”) came from there, as did a did a little bullfrog and a firebelly toad. The shop also had a big pool right up front under the window where a turtle named “Big Mama” lived, and once in awhile there would be kittens for sale (practically free, actually: you could get a kitten of your choice with the purchase of any cat-specific item).

America's driving to Firestone, just not this one anymore.

America’s driving to Firestone, just not this one anymore.

This now-former Firestone store closed out the first-half of the shopping center. If you think I had little to say about Accent Ability, I have even less to say about Firestone. I mean, it’s Firestone, there are a bunch of them. Really, without any other experience with the place, what can I say? I like cars, but I’m not exactly a “car guy.” However, I’m glad I grabbed this pic, because it makes a nice seque into the 2nd half of the center, where some of my fondest memories lie.

Can't go this way uh-uh no way!

Can’t go this way uh-uh no way!

Unfortunately, the 2nd half was roped off, barring me from any kind of halfway decent picture, unless we wanted to run through the barricade (hint: we didn’t). We’ll have to make do with pics I took from the road…

Does this shot remind anyone else of the intro to Hill Streets Blues? No? I'm the only one? Okay.

Does this shot remind anyone else of the intro to Hill Street Blues? No? I’m the only one? Okay.

As this was taken from the road, I’m reasonably sure this shot is from the roped-off half of the center. Why take it from the road otherwise? If it’s not, pretend it is, okay? Either way, it was in the second half that the old North Gate Bowling Lanes was located. I remember long ago, when I was only a few years old, my Dad taking me there. You had to walk down a flight or two of steps to get to the actual alley, and I recall that at the time there were pink elephants painted on the walls, which I, as a young fella, loved.

Many years later (it had to have been about 2005), my brother and I did our usual run of the center, and decided to check out North Gate. The elephants were gone, but the alley was still there. We didn’t bowl, but we did ask about prices, stopped and played a quick game of Ms. Pac-Man (NEO Video Hunter hot tip: Ms. Pac-Man is always best in bowling alleys. Trust me), and decided to come back when we had more money and time. Well, a little while later, we did just that, except North Gate wasn’t open. There was a paper schedule taped to the door, listing new times that weren’t all that accessible to us. The next time we went by, the place was closed entirely. Of all the places in the shopping center, North Gate is the one I wish I would have spent more time at. I love bowling (even if in reality I’m pretty awful at it) and North Gate seemed like exactly the kind of non-showy hometown place I would have wanted to hang out at. I’ll always regret not being able to bowl at least one game there or taking some pictures of the place before it closed. At least we stopped in there that one time for one last look, even if we didn’t realize it was a last look.

Also, I wonder what happened to that Ms. Pac-Man machine?

This is the end, my State Road friend...

Despite the assurances of the sign, I highly doubt the key stand was, at that moment, “open.”

We’re just about done with our run-through of the State Road shopping center. Even more memories of the final few stores. Near the end of the strip, there was a D&K discount store. My Mom used to take my brother and I there, and I remember in the summer of either 1997 or 1998 (maybe even both) us going in there. D&K had a bunch of closeout items at bargain basement prices. Lots of cheaply made toys and VHS tapes of public domain cartoons that were manufactured in who-knows-where were the things that interested me most then. I remember getting little pocket books of classic novels, very abridged (well, I guess, actually rewritten) and with lots of pictures. I’m not exactly sure why I wanted these books, but I believe I had War Of The Worlds and Moby Dick. I have no idea if they still reside somewhere in my basement or were long ago thrown out.

Also in that second half of the shopping center were two of the longest-lasted stores in the entire place: KB Toys and Dollar General. We’d stop into Dollar General every once in awhile (they have since relocated further down on State Road), but KB Toys was where we spent more time. In the late-90’s, my brother was a Pokemon addict, and that’s where they held these Pokemon “Clubs,” which was basically where people could trade cards, play each other, and if I recall correctly, some official ‘trainer’ would give out badges and whatnot for some achievement of dubious importance. I never really go into all that, at least not for an extended amount of time, but I did like going with my brother to these meetings, since I could play the latest video games that were on display. This was where I was introduced to Sega Dreamcast, and at the time, Crazy Taxi was just about the funnest thing ever. Later, I wound up buying lots of PS1 games there (though by that point they were becoming increasingly downsized), and when I finally got a PS2, I remember this location was where I got Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, on sale, no less.

Also, lots of neat ‘bargain’ toys would sit in bins outside of the store, and some of them were of relatively impressive vintage (think early-90’s figures and whatnot). I never made much use of this bargain bin, though now I wish I would have bought a toy or two out of it.

Not the greatest pic ever taken, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Not the greatest pic ever taken, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

That pretty much ends our look at the now-gone State Road shopping center, but it doesn’t feel right concluding without a shot or two of Montgomery Ward. This place was closed for years, long before the shopping center was torn down. I do remember Mom taking me into it when I was really little. I seem to recall some downstairs lounge that didn’t really have anything for me to eat, but my memory’s hazy on that.

Monty Wards, off in the distance, looming over all...

Monty Wards, off in the distance, looming over all…

There’s Montgomery Ward, in a shot clearly taken from waaay off in the non-roped part of the shopping center. For those wondering, the cars parked in the bacground are for a bank that’s still there today. There are a few places, such as that bank, Burger King and Arby’s, that are up front towards the street and thus were spared the demolition of the rest of the shopping center.

Before ending this post, I have to mention two places that were looong gone before (probably) any thought of tearing the center down ever arose:

First off, Funsville USA, the arcade that was located in the shopping center. it ended up closing in the early-1990’s, but my Dad took me there a few times. Despite only being 5 or 6 years old, I loved the place. I still distinctly recall playing the arcade version of Super Mario Bros. there. Here’s the thing with Funsville: I can’t remember exactly where it was in the shopping center. I have two ideas: one is the bank I was just talking about. I seem to remember “Funsville USA” being written on the building. But, I also remember a Donkey Kong Jr. ad/marquee/whatever in the window of one of the shops in the actual strip. I’m thinking Funsville was where the bank now is, but I could very well be wrong. If I’m not, then what shop had that DK Jr. ad in the window?

Second, The Galleria. I think that was the name of the place, at least. Also, I’m not positive it was in the shopping center, I could be confusing it with a location in the plaza at Chapel Hill. Either way, it was a big antique/second hand shop, and while I only visited a couple of times, I found some really cool things, including an old print ad for The Marx Bros.’ film The Cocoanuts and a vintage 1950’s TV Guide, both of which I still have.

So, that about wraps this whole thing up. Even though a new shopping center of some sort is scheduled to be built where the old one was, as of right now, it’s just a big empty space. Whether the new place inspires the same kind of fond memories I have of the old one remains to be seen. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but somehow I doubt I’ll ever be as nostalgic for it as I am of the dearly-departed shopping center I just spent 400 paragraphs talking about.

One long last look.

One long last look.

Farewell, State Road shopping center. You are missed.

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RCA AU-097Y Portable TV (1975)

Haven’t done an “old electronics” post in awhile.

I’m a sucker for old TVs. Considering they’re generally bulky and tend to take up a lot of room, this is perhaps not always a good thing. But, I can’t help it, I love vintage TVs, in all their UHF-VHF-knobs-vertical hold-black & white-retracting antenna-glory. It’s actually a facet of my chosen hobby that goes back even further than my hunting of old videotapes. I’ve had an affection for old TVs since probably before I was 10 years old. Even if I’m not quite “gotta have this one NOW!” as I once was, I still tend to flip-out, figuratively speaking, when I come across a particularly cool set. And boy, is the subject of this post cool

rcatv1 rcatv2

It’s an RCA portable TV, manufactured in October, 1975! Model #AU-097Y. It’s all about the looks with this one, and man, the only word to describe this thing is groovy. Believe me, I don’t use the word “groovy” lightly, either. Everything about the design of this one screams “1975.” Apparently, these were produced in a number of colors (a quick online search reveals red and yellow models), but the white casing of this one, to me, is perfect. I can just imagine this sitting in someone’s shag-carpeted apartment, the viewer patiently waiting for M*A*S*H to come on.

rcatv5 rcatv3

The set is in exceptionally good shape. Don’t let that ‘line’ across the screen seen in the pics way up above fool you, it appears to be nothing more than a scuff that would probably come off with a good cleaning. Aside from a few minor marks that you’d expect from a TV set that will be 38 years old in October, this thing is really in much better shape than I would have ever thought.

rcatv6 rcatv7

It works! Of course, I can’t pick up any channels, but it seems to run without a hitch. And look at that, the appropriate jacks; you could even hook up the Pong system of your choice!

I found this TV at a garage sale about 2 summers ago. I was able to buy both it and a much newer handheld TV for, I think, $10 total. The handheld TV was more of a “just for the helluva it” buy, but this 1975 set I was going home with no matter what. I may not be able to watch actual TV on it, not without a hassle at least, but this set is so cool that it commands attention just by being on display.

The Ghoul’s WBNX TV-55 Debut 15 Years Ago Today.

I haven’t talked a whole lot about The Ghoul up to this point, mainly because I’ve been waiting for this July 10th anniversary of his 1998 debut on WBNX TV-55. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already; it really does seem like just yesterday The Ghoul ruled my Friday nights. The Ghoul had been on and off Cleveland TV since 1971, when he debuted on WKBF TV-61. He had last been on TV in our area in 1985, when he ended a three year run on WKBF’s successor, WCLQ TV-61 (he was also pretty popular in Detroit). As of today, his WBNX run has thus far been his latest on Northeast Ohio TV (ending in, I believe, 2003). While WBNX later messed with his timeslot, movie selections, and what he could and couldn’t do on-the-air, for his first two years on Friday nights at 11:30 PM, he was the best thing on. I suppose it’s a good thing I hadn’t yet discovered David Letterman and was at the time only a very casual fan of Big Chuck & Lil’ John, because then I would have had some serious viewing conflicts (ah, the days before DVR). Something tells me The Ghoul would have won out anyway.

Truth be told, in those pre-internet days, and me being only 12 years old, I didn’t really know about The Ghoul beforehand. I was vaguely aware of Ghoulardi, though he was obviously waaaay before my time, and I had become a fan of Son Of Ghoul that previous Halloween, but I had always assumed Son Of Ghoul was short for “Son Of Ghoulardi”. It wasn’t until my aunt gave me a newspaper clipping  announcing The Ghoul’s return that I was able to piece it all together (I’ve still got that clipping, which The Ghoul himself later autographed for me). For the record, there were some legal problems between The Ghoul and Son Of Ghoul in the late-80’s, and they’re apparently not exactly friends nowadays, but to the best of my recollection, I had no real knowledge of all that until much later on. For some it may be a one-or-the-other deal, but I grew up as a fan of both, I’m still a fan of both, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

It all started with this promo, which ran in the, I guess, weeks prior to that July 10 debut. I recall seeing it at least once, but this particular copy comes from that July 10 night, when it aired during the last commercial break of whatever was on before The Ghoul started at 11:30 PM. Good thing I usually started recording several minutes before the scheduled start time of whatever it was I was taping. Actually, WBNX was pretty good at usually running one last Ghoul promo during the last commercial break of shows that were on before, and as a result I’ve got a lot of Ghoul promos.

wbnx wbnx1

Most Ghoul promos followed a set pattern of The Ghoul on his set, acting wacky and giving the title of that week’s movie. I mean, what else could they really be? For his debut, however, the promo has The Ghoul bouncing down the the street while his voiceover gives us the lowdown. In classic Ghoul Power style, The Ghoul lets us know that he’s arriving at WBNX on July 10th, and that our Friday nights will never be the same. Boy, was he right about that.

wbnx2 wbnx3

Interestingly, the first movie is never mentioned. Maybe that’s appropriate since the promo’s more about letting us know “The Ghoul is here!” rather than that week’s feature. It’s kinda fitting because The Ghoul would pack so much into his show (especially that first year to year and a half, when it ran 2 1/2 hours) that the movie was almost an afterthought. It was usually cut to ribbons so that The Ghoul could fit all of his bits in, so much so that following the plot was more or less impossible. And you know what? it didn’t matter, because the show was a blast.

Anyway, the promo doesn’t mention it, but that first movie was Ghost In The Machine, which always seemed like such an odd choice to me. I mean, yeah, it was a bad horror film, but it never seemed like a fitting “first show” kinda film. It was very emblematic of the kind of film WBNX showed regularly back then, however, so I guess that’s why it was chosen. The next week, the film was Up From The Depths, a waaay better choice. Unfortunately, I don’t have a promo for that one.

So, there’s my little tribute to The Ghoul on this 15th anniversary of his WBNX debut. I’ve still got many, many episodes recorded, and they’re some of my most treasured recordings. Obviously, I’ll always be a big fan. It goes without saying I’m a “Ten Star General In The Ghoul Power Army!”