Toledo Night Life, 1979

Listen, I’ll level with you all: I was sixteen years old on July 29, 1979, so “nightlife” to me at that time was hopefully a Coke bottle someone had filled with booze from their dad’s bar. But this is a great article worth sharing nevertheless.

The title from that day’s paper? Night life is alive in Toledo.

It was all part of an amusing set of stories about singles and dating in Toledo. But the highlight for me was all the old place names, but not necessarily memories, since I didn’t start hitting bars until I was 17 18, because in Ohio in 1981, you could definitely get yourself a pitcher of 3.2% beer.

A simple, yet effective ad for Charlie’s Blind Pig from The Collegian, the University of Toledo student newspaper, of October 1, 1984.

Of course there was one place you could always go if you were 17 and wanted to drink: Charlie’s Blind Pig at Westwood and Bancroft. My recollection is that the ID laws were rarely enforced there. I was disappointed to find the site is an empty lot now.

Even when I was old enough to drink legally I wasn’t exactly hitting the high spots. The Midwood at Monroe at Midwood was the quiet, cheap type place I liked to patronize (and still do). Like most everything else within a mile of Toledo Hospital, it’s gone: the site has been consumed by Promedica (in this case, a sign)

I’ll hit the high spots for you:

Biddy Mulligan’s, on Reynolds Road, where the music “is basically Irish,” if you can imagine that. Not for me: I was most likely at Phil Donahue’s Eating Place, which, The Blade tells me, never reopened after a 1996 fire.

The Coach House, at the venerable Cricket West Shopping Center on Central Ave. east of Secor. Cricket West has been around a long time (1961, in fact) and somehow managed to survive a three-alarm fire on a cold December night in 1970 which destroyed much of the shopping center.

From the front page of The Blade of Dec. 6, 1970.

The owner at the time found out about the fire as he was driving by after a wedding reception. The Blade said that “hundreds of spectators, many of them children, in pajamas and bathrobes under heavy coats, braved the frigid temperatures to watch,” but regular readers of this site knew that already.

The Dixie Electric Company in Perrysburg, which drew heavily from Bowling Green State University. There were apparently a lot of Dixie Electric Companies (An Entertainment Utility, if I recall correctly): Columbus had one, Kettering and even Parma). Even though the manager said they didn’t push disco, it still had a floor lit from underneath.

Max and Erma’s at 5319 Heatherdowns Blvd. They’re still around, though not at that location. “Max and Erma’s is especially popular with young singles because it’s a good place to meet other singles, Mike Dowden, manager, said.” Pretty square observation.

Before the Ottawa Tavern was the Ottawa Tavern, it was the Commerce Guardian Bank, shown in this 1925 photo from the Bentley Collection, courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http://images2.toledolibrary.org/.

The old Ottawa Tavern at 1845 W. Bancroft was where students “have been known to come in and do their homework,” according to the story. Oh, come on. The Ottawa Tavern is now on Adams Street downtown but I doubt it could possibly capture the charm of the old bank building, now demolished, shown at right.

University of Toledo students didn’t have a lot of places to “study.” There was the Brass Bell right at Bancroft and Campus in the shopping center with Ace Drugs, Campus Barbers and of course Shorling’s 5-Star Market, which closed in 2016 after 88 years. But the area was bereft of bars, though there was always some activity south of the railroad tracks at Secor and Dorr.

The “Bentley Collection” referred to in the photo caption refers to the A. Bentley and Sons Co., which built a number of important buildings in Toledo, many of which still stand today.

Renee’s at 1521 S. Byrne. Renee’s was still fairly new at the time but I think everybody talked about Renee’s. They did a lot of advertising on radio.

The two Steak and Ale Restaurants were singles spots? 2009 S. Reynolds Rd. and 4325 Talmadge Rd.? I remember the one on Talmadge because I was constantly cruising up behind the businesses on Talmadge to go to either Hi-Q Billiards (right across the street from Par 3 and next to New York Carpet World) or Norm Sobecki’s Showcase Lanes to play pinball.

Obviously by now you have realized Charlie’s Blind Pig was not in the list.

Alas, I have no recollection, firsthand or otherwise, of Rusty’s, Scaramouche, Shawn’s Back Door, Thunderthigh and Lightfoot Lounge (“We have singles from 21 to 95 in here,” ewww) Twenty-One West, or Tiffinanny’s. The nice folks over at toledotalk.com have pretty sharp memories, however. There are plenty of Toledo night club ads on this Facebook page.

This of course doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of nightlife in Toledo, especially back in the old days. Ever since I started reading old copies of The Blade I’d see ads for, and references to, the Aku-Aku Room at the Town House Motel, Monroe and Detroit. It was owned by Irving “Slick” Shapiro, who died in 2002. It was only there ten years, from December, 1960 until 1970, but from the obit: “There’s no question: He ran the last of the great clubs in this town,” said Seymour Rothman, a retired Blade columnist. “There’s never been any place like that since. Not even close.” Another place I’d love to go back in time and set foot in, if it were possible.

But at any rate, you may have learned a thing or two you didn’t know. Feel free to add your own. Comments are moderated but usually the turnaround is pretty quick unless you’re inquiring about improving my rankings on Google, which are actually fine.

A December, 1960 Blade ad announcing the opening of the Town House Motel and the Aku-Aku room.

2 Comments

  1. Bill Cummerow

    here’s another interesting link to some aku-aku stories:

    http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=22122&forum=2&start=15

    my dad tuned the piano at the aku-aku and i sometimes went with him. i remember meeting count basie and other entertainers. i also remember watching all the beautiful girls hanging around the swimming pool on a weekday afternoon. ahem.
    dad had a lot of slick shapiro stories, none of which i remember other than the fact that dad liked him because he paid and he paid on time.
    that said, i really enjoy this site. keep it up!

  2. Toledo History Box

    Thanks! That is a GREAT link.

    My grandparents basically lived right around the corner at “Phil Manor,” a brick apartment building at Robinwood and Bancroft, and we used to pass the Town House/Quality Inn there all the time. By then (late 60s, early 70s) the area was still sliding and the digging for Interstate 75 made it a pretty memorable mess anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *