Whether you lived in Avon Lake all your life or recently moved here we want to hear your stories. Please share your memories and submit your story and photo for review. If it is accepted, we will add it to the website. Submit your memory here.
Avon Lake - How It All Began
Avon Lake was born of Township Number 7 in Range 16 of the Western Reserve. Formerly a part of Cuyahoga County, it was briefly known as Xeuma, then became Troy Township in 1818.
In 1822, Lorain County was established, and in 1824 Troy found itself in a new county with yet another name. Now Avon Township, its territory included all of the area comprising the present cities of Avon and Avon Lake. Avon Lake’s first permanent settlers, the Adam Miller family, established their home along Erie’s shore in 1819. As population grew, agriculture - particularly grapes and fruit farms – became the township’s lifeblood.
In 1882, the Nickel Plate Railroad bisected Avon Township. In 1898, the Lakeshore Electric Railway and the popular Beach Park amusement site gave a substantial boost to surrounding land values. The railroad tracks ultimately became the line of demarcation between north Avon and south Avon, as early developers and agriculturalists parted ways. In 1911 the citizens voted to split north and south Avon at the railroad tracks, and in 1915, Avon Lake installed its first township leaders.
Since then, Avon Lake has grown to a population of nearly 24,000. It blends large and small industry, multiple parks and beautifully developed hiking and biking trails, and is highly ranked for its schools and safe neighborhoods. Avon Lake has much to celebrate with this Bicentennial.
In the summer of 1959, my warmest memories are moments of peace and quiet. The lake was my favorite place to go. I've spent my entire life finding peace and quiet on or near the lake. Growing up in 45, there were always other kids to play with, but sometimes I just needed to be alone. Funny, as I look back I now realize how important that time is to me. If you know me, you might understand why that is strange. Friends rarely used the term quiet and Tony Tomanek in the same sentence.
I've always been an early riser, in part because it's my nature, and because growing up in my house, it was a matter of survival. I am the youngest of five and the only boy. I have an older half-brother Kenny, but he wasn't living with us at the time. If I got up early I owned everything. I could control the TV. I 'd watch The Ohio Farm Report which was the only thing on early in the morning. After eating my Shredded Wheat (full size, not those mini wheat imposters, or oatmeal in the winter. I'd go outside and listen to the birds singing. The term "deafening silence" must have come from my backyard. Early morning has always been my sanctuary, my best time.
Some mornings I'd load up my fishing rod and tackle box, full tackle I'd bought at Bootsy's hardware, on my bike and ride to 46. The lake was usually very calm in the early morning hours, often dead calm. White Bass were easy to catch and plentiful, but I threw them back. Dad had always told me they were garbage fish and not "keepers". The prize catch was Yellow Perch. I can remember coming home with a stringer full of Perch and cleaning them on the railroad ties in the backyard. (Yes, I used a filet knife at a very early age it was how I was raised.) Dad had placed them around our yard to protect it from car traffic. When I finished cleaning them, Mom would fry them for my lunch. There was not a better lunch back in 1959 or in today in 2018.
Tony's memories sparks some for me. My brother Steve was born in a house on Moore Road in 1938. My sister Mary Ann was born at Elyria Memorial Hospital in 1942. I was born at St. Joseph Hospital in Lorain. My mom met Len Carlson's mom at the hospital. This is somewhat strange as Len was almost born a month earlier almost to the day that I was born. So, besides my immediate family Len is the person I have known longer than anyone else. My early universe centered on my mom's house at 32319 Lake. Which my that way is the house in the book Cabin Boy. To the east there was the Watson's house. They were English and he always called me Jody. Then there was vacant land and then Jaycox. Dr. Arnold was on Jaycox. To the west was the Bounds' house and then a little bit on was Sunset. Across the street diagonally was the LeChaix house. Directly across the street was Doc Cullum's house. Doc taught me about weather, how to make clay into good soil and how to tell good soil from bad. He also imparted to me some local history. We didn't have a TV until I was 8. So, my first walking adventure was to go to the Gianelli's (sp) on Jaycox to watch Captain Penny. That is when I discovered Coveland. To this day one of the best streets in the world. My next walking adventure was to Stephen's or Steve's market on Lake. We called Stephan's. I was given a bag, an envelope with and list and money in it. There were few sidewalks. I would walk down Lake past the beverage store, where I bought the majority of my baseball cards to Steve's. I handed the envelop to the cashier who filled my bag and gave me change. I don't see that happening today. Remember back then 6 and 2 was a major truck route. The trucks ran a lot at night, so I learned to be lulled into sleep by their engines and the air they pushed. Later in life I had a girlfriend in Shelby Center, Ohio. I stayed there one night. Couldn't sleep. The quiet was too loud. One last memory has to do with the trucks. I had this recurring dream I was crossing Lake Road on a hot day. My feet got stuck in the blacktop. Out of nowhere a truck came from the west with its air horns blaring and I couldn't move. Frightening but still a good memory. Thanks Tony Tomanek.
Growing up in Avon Lake holds so many memories. One that sticks out is the Stop 65 shopping center. As a child, my sisters and I would go to the Avon Lake Theater matinees on Saturdays. I remember walking around Stop 65. All of our shopping was done there; Avon Lake toggery, Ben Franklin 5 & 10, a bakery, a grocery store, the post office, and a jewelry store next to the theater, it was all at Stop 65. One memory was the gigantic moose head mounted by the drive under the Saddle. I'd walk over to the driveway and look up in awe. Such an impressive beast. I was afraid that someone would come out of The Saddle and chase me away, they never did. Stop 65 was definitely magic for me.
I remember Sandy Lee’s Drive-In at Walker Road and Avondale Avenue. It was a popular Avon Lake establishment in the late 1950s. Opened in May of 1958 by Sam Trivanovich, it was named for the owner’s daughter, Sandy Lee. Patrons could get hot and cold sandwiches, milkshakes, and other beverages – complete with car hop service.
And then there was Paul & Evelyn’s Diner. It was the oddly-shaped building on Lake Road, reminiscent of a railway dining car. It offered 13 barstool seats at a counter, and two very small tables. Conversations were never private – the establishment did not lend itself to confidential discussion. While Paul had a soft spot for children, he could be an irascible short-order cook. Patrons were warned with a sign on the wall that read, “Order what you want, eat what you get”.
Gitta’s Table was an IGA grocery store, complete with gas pumps. Later it was painted red, and was popularly known as simply “the red store”. Kids would ride bikes there for candy and popsicles, and a minor could purchase cigarettes for mom or dad with no more than a hand-written note giving permission for the purchase.
The “Avon Lake Garage” behind “the red store” the mechanic was a man known as “Dub” Kidney. He was a well-liked guy, known for his expert mechanical work and body work, and was even known to fix kids’ bikes. There was a time when Lake Road was three lanes. The middle lane was designated as a passing lane. It was marked off by a double yellow line, for different directional usage. The system was scrapped most likely because of so many front-end collisions or folks playing "Chicken".