Open when we’re here, closed when we’re not.
That was a sign taped to a local magic shop at Geneva On the Lake, Ohio.
Each summer I make at least one trip to Geneva. Why, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s because I have been going there for over forty years and I remember that once Geneva was a thriving town, a local area hot spot for all ages. Today however, for the most part, it is a quiet little town. Yes, the shops, park, and beach are still open, but the luster has dulled over the years.
As tradition compels me, my first stop upon arriving is to have lunch at Time Square restaurant, a quaint little outside eatery inside Erieview Park. Lunch for the three of us consists of two cheeseburgers, a foot long chili dog, three cokes, and one order of french fries. The first time I ever ate there, I tried to order three french fries. The waitress looked at me in shock and then said that one order would be good enough. When our order was ready, I suddenly knew why the waitress had told me that. The fries were piled almost a foot high and took up most of the plastic cafeteria tray.
After lunch, our next stop was always the old beach. There is an overgrown path that leads down to the beach, or what was once the beach. The rickety steps lead to rusted steel barrier walls and cement breakers. There is very little sand left as erosion has taken it’s toll on the beach. There is however, many flat stones that are perfect for skipping on the water. This has been a tradition for more than forty years. We used to search for sea shells but those have long been extinct from the shore. Now, only driftwood, trash, and dead fish wash ashore.
Moving on, we would make our way to all the shops and stores that were open. Most of the establishments go way back and have that certain 1950′s charm to them. In these shops, you can find old time arcade games, unique gifts, trinkets, and plenty of beachwear. Remember skeeball? You can still play it at Geneva. You can also spend 4 bits and have an imprinting machine engrave your name on a silver sphere and have it dated. You can also drift in to a shop called “These Foolish Things,” an antique store that sells souvenirs, gifts, and of course, antiques. Further down the strip, you happen upon a store called Whips Magic. Sometimes they are open, sometimes not. The sign on the store door gives their business hours.
Of course, there is the Old Firehouse Winery, a great restaurant and very fine winery. There used to be an old fire truck parked on the lot and we as kids, in the 1960′s, would climb on and pretend that we were firemen just for a few minutes.
Other stops on the way, Madsen donuts, Annie’s restaurant, the notorious so called biker bar, Woody’s World, all types of arcade games, new and old, putt putt golf, tattoo parlors, old fashioned candy store, The Lollypop store, and of course, the amusement park that have rides older than me. Note that there are no roller coasters, no wait, I take that back, there is a coaster called The Brat, that is a kiddie coaster with hills no higher than six feet. The bumper cars are cool, the butterflies still fly, the train still chugs around it’s track, and the Ferris Wheel still spins wildly out of control. There are plenty of other rides there including the Tilt-A-Whirll, the Rocket plane, and a relatively new attraction, a water slide.
Now, no visit to Geneva is complete without a stop at Eddie’s Grill, possibly the most well known haunts in Geneva. We leave Eddies for last and usually eat dinner there. They have the entire block with the grill, a Dairy Queen, and Pizza shop. They have cheeseburgers to die for, chili dogs made just right with a unique style bun, and cold pop. Very reasonable prices and when you step inside, it’s like stepping into a vintage 1950′s fast food restaurant. Arnold’s from the TV show Happy Days comes to mind when I walk into Eddie’s Grill. I even see some guys dressed as Fonzie now and then eating at Eddie’s.
Last year, a new Hotel opened and believe it or not, it’s booked for the summer. Down the road a little ways, go carts, bumper boats, and batting cages are available. Further down, the marina boasts an old lighthouse positioned at the harbor opening to alert the boats sailing there. There is also a new man made beach that actually has white sand where many people gather to worship the sun and water.
After a long day in the sun, and sometimes the shade, it’s time for home. Following route 531, I remember houses that used to dot the lake side of the road. Many of them have succumbed to the ravages of the sea and have fallen over the cliff into the water. The owners of the houses that still remain have fortified their precious little land left with steel breakers to keep out the invading sea. Some of the houses are just mere feet from falling into the sea. Each year I return, I stop and check the progress of the constant battle between man and the sea. The sea seems to be winning.
Minutes later, route 11 was in sight with roughly an hour ride home.
Last year, on October 3rd, 2006, Geneva lost a big part of its heritage. Erieview Park has closed for good and its rides and attractions were sold at auction. Don “Woody” Woodward, owner of the land, isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with the land, but wants it to be tourist related. Another amusement park bites the dust.
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LURKING ON THE GRASSY KNOLL