Remembering the Lake Erie Drive-In

By Rich Tarrant

Several weeks ago the owner of the Vermilion Martino’s restaurant asked someone if they knew of any pix of the old Lake Erie Drive-In when previous owner (Phil Provenzano of the Philbo House) owned it. As a result the question eventually came to me and…well this is what followed:

Well, someone may have some photos of it during that particular period, but I currently know of none. However, this brought up another question. It occurred to me that there was a couple that owned the place before Provenzano and after Harold Neiding. But I was unable to remember their name. All I could remember is that one of the owners was of German descent. And I only remembered that because my late friend, Tom Boone, was smitten by one (or both) the owners’ daughters and kept saying things like “Danke” to them all the time. [To my knowledge Tom couldn’t speak a word of German beyond that.]

Anyway, I started asking around to see if anyone remembered the names. Finally Vermilionite Larry Howell called me with the answer. It seems that he’d been asking persons for me, and Vermilionite Ron Millis had the answer. Their names were Dick and Sally Loydall. And their daughters’ names were Connie and Evelyn (inset pictures). This was a good deal more than I asked for and, happily, more than I needed for further research.

The proper names of the couple were Richard and Selma Dreger-Loydall. Mr. Loydall was a “Brit” born in Rugby, England on 14 April 1926. Sally was born in Prussia (she was actually of Polish descent) on August 24, 1924. She later told a reporter from the Elyria Chronicle that they had met in the Officer’s Mess when he was in the British Army in which he served for four and a half years. It seems that he, half in jest, made some wisecrack to her while they were working at the mess hall and she proceeded to reward him by tossing an apple pie at him. [Who knew that Cupid sometimes throws apple pies instead of arrows?] They were married on 14 April in 1948 and migrated to the U.S. together the following year.

By 1955 they owned and operated the Lake Avenue Coffee Shop in Elyria. Incidentally, she was became an American citizen that same year. Her husband was scheduled to become a citizen soon after. While I don’t know the definite date, I’d guestimate that the couple must have purchased the Drive-In from Vermilionite Harold Nieding sometime in the mid-1960s.

Dick died prematurely on 23 March in 1969 at the age of 42. Sally died, rather recently, on 22 August 2018 in Batavia, Illinois where she apparently had gone to live with her daughter Evelyn (Paul) Little. She was 93. Their daughter, Constance had preceded her to the Great Beyond. Sally is interred at the Ridge Hill Memorial Park in Amherst, Ohio. And thus, “my question” was answered. And, as is obvious I also found a photo of the restaurant when Loydall’s owned it.

But to return to the question that started this search: I still didn’t find a picture of the place when Phil Provenzano and his wife, Eleonor owned it, and I don’t know anyone that does. At that time the place was known as “Ellie’s” restaurant and my wife, myself and our daughter used to eat there on occasion. I’m guessing that was back in the late 1970s or early 80s. I recall the fare being reasonably priced and good. I also recall that one of the items on the menu was a very tasty serving of beef tips over noodles.

The restaurant didn’t really seem to change a great deal following the Harold Neiding Lake Erie Drive-In days until Mr. Trinter opened his initial International Café at that site. Thereafter the building was gradually renovated, eventually adding, among other things, a well-appointed bar. Overall it seemed to be as well received by the Vermilion public as all its predecessors. And though the old Lake Erie Drive-In that played a vital part of the “happy days” of more than a few Vermilionites is long gone memories of it, however faded they may be, linger on refusing to disappear altogether.

Ref: VHS Log Books – 1969/74; Elyria Chronicle Telegram 1955; Ancestry.com.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant is Curator of the Vermilion History Museum and a son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: rnt@twc.com

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