Family Fossil Hunting in NW Ohio

In the Saturday, June 27th edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer my column deals with fossil hunting in Ohio.  It’s a great attraction for kids and family and its free.  My favorite kind of Ohio Road Trip.

 Here’s an excerpt:

 A mere 370 million years ago what is now Ohio was then located at the earth’s equator, and it was under a giant sea.  I learned all this from Gary Madrzykowski, director of the Olander Park System. This city park in Sylvania, Ohio, is in a suburb of Toledo.

 The Olander Park system is home to Fossil Park.  You can dig for real fossils left behind by that long-ago sea that covered our state and you can take home what you find.  Now understand we are not talking about the bones of a T-Rex or a Variraptor.  What you will find here are tiny Devonian-era brachiopods, echinoderms, corals and trilobites.  In fact Madrzykowski says there are only two places in the world that you find really major concentrations of these fossils; Devon, England, where the first were found and Sylvania, Ohio.

 Fossil Park is located on the bottom of an abandoned shale quarry west of Toledo.  The gritty shale material that contains the fossils is trucked in from another quarry about a mile away.  That quarry, owned by the Hanson Quarry Company, is a major repository of the fossils, but their business is mining limestone, not fossils, so they worked out a partnership with the Olander Park System to create Fossil Park.  They bring in the shale they remove to reach the limestone and deposit it in Fossil Park several times a month. Visitors to the park can then search through the shale and keep any fossils they find.  And do they find fossils?  You bet.

 The day we visited a Michigan middle school was on a field trip and, in just minutes, the youngsters  had started to find brachiopods and even pieces of trilobites.  Fourth-grader, Ryan Lonsway, hit the jackpot when he found an intact trilobite.

 ……you can read the rest of the story in the Plain Dealer or go to their web site,

Hungry, Hungry Fish

Thousands of hungry Carp fight for stale bread at Pymatuning Lake
Thousands of hungry Carp fight for stale bread at Pymatuning Lake

Pymatuning Lake straddles the Ohio-Pennsylvania Border in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio.
 The name “Pymatuning” comes from early Native Americans who once inhabited the area.  It was a word used by the Indians that translated as “The crooked-mouthed man’s dwelling place.”  Legend has it that the name didn’t refer to a facial disfigurement but more to his ability to tell lies.
 14 thousand years ago as the great glacier that covered much of the North American Continent started to melt it left in its wake so-called “kettle-lakes”, small depressions dug out by the glaciers movement and filled by the melting glacier water that eventually grew into great swamps in the rolling countryside.  Two rivers in Pennsylvania were formed also by the glacier’s retreat: The Shenango and the Beaver Rivers which flowed into the Marshy Swamp area.

  In 1933, during the Great Depression, a flood control dam was built to control the flow of the Beaver and Shenango Rivers.  It created the reservoir of water that became Pymatuning Lake shared by both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

 Today the lake sprawls over fourteen thousand acres on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania Border and has become one of the top recreational areas in both states.

 The lake is considered one of the best fishing spots in Ohio.  Walleye is the prize catch but there are also catfish, crappie, bluegill and bass.  Oh yes, let’s not forget the carp.

 Pymatuning Lake is also home to the place where the “ducks walk on the backs of the fish”.  At the Linesville Spillway, on the Pennsylvania side of the lake, the gathering place for thousands and thousands of huge two and even three-foot long carp, feeding the fish has become a favorite tourist activity.

 The fish feeding has become so popular that a cottage industry has sprung up along the roads leading to the spillway; signs abound with roadside merchants selling loaves of stale bread to tourists to use as fish-food.  In fact so much bread has been fed to the fish over the years that environmentalists are now concerned that it may effect the eco-balance of the lake.

 At the recently remodeled and enlarged visitor area at the spillway tossing a slice of moldy bread onto the waters causes an eruption as thousands of hungry carp, their snouts madly poking out of the water grasping for the bread as they also compete with wild ducks and geese who literally walk on top of the churning fish to also get a beak full of the soggy dough.  The huge bubbling mass of fish going after the bread reminds most onlookers of the fabled Piranhas of the Amazon River and how quickly they can attack and devour anything unfortunate enough to have fallen into the river.

 I once asked the operator of the privately-operated concession stand at the spillway if anyone had ever fallen into the water while feeding the carp.  He admitted that he had recently taken a tumble into the water while cleaning up debris along the water’s edge. 

 “What happened?” I asked.

 He replied that he scrambled back out of the water so quickly that the fish hardly knew he was there.  He said he believed that while the fish might nibble at a human, he didn’t think they would actually bite or harm a person..  But, he added, he didn’t want to stay in the water long enough to test his theory.

 Linesville Spillway, Linesville, Pa., located two miles south of Linesville on the Hartstown Road.  724-932-3142

 Besides fishing and fish-feeding the Pymatuning Lake area offers two state parks.  One in Pennsylvania, the other on the Ohio side.

 At the Ohio Park there are nearly sixty cottages, some of them air-conditioned and heated for year-round use, and over three hundred camp sites for those that want to bring their own shelter.  The Ohio Park also offers a unique Rent-a-Yurt campsite where families can try the camping experience with everything they need except bedding and food for as little as 40 dollars a night.  The Yurt is a tent-like structure modeled after the homes used by  Mongolian herdsmen.  It is strong enough to withstand heavy winds, is erected on a wooden deck, and includes a skylight, ceiling fan, internal electrical outlet, and convertible futon beds, a cooler or mini refrigerator, and gas grill.

 Pymatuning State Park, 6260 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover, Ohio, 44003, 440-293-6030,

 The state park on the other side of Pymatuning Lake is the largest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It covers over 21 thousand acres including the lake.

 The Pennsylvania Park has three separate campgrounds all near fishing, swimming, hiking and boating.  This park also offers furnished cabins to overnight visitors.  Cabins that range from primitive log cabins have no indoor plumbing but do have a refrigerator, and a fireplace, gas heater or wood stove for heat and a gas or electric range to cook on

 Like their Ohio counterpart the Pennsylvania Park also offers some modern cabins for those who like to “rough it” but not too rough.  These cabins offer bathroom, electric heating and some are located on the Lake Front.

 Around the park are three different marinas where you can launch your fishing boat or if you don’t have a boat there are rentals available.  Everything from a canoe to motor boats to pontoon boats for the whole family.  Also don’t worry if you forgot your fishing gear there are lots of stores around the lake on both sides of the state line where you can buy fishing equipment and bait..

 Pymatuning State Park, 2660 Williamsfield Road, Jamestown, Pennsylvania, 16134, 724-932-3141,

 For swimmers several sandy beaches are dotted around the lake in Both Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The beaches are not large, like Lake Erie’s sandy shores, but there is an abundance of clipped green lawn surrounding the small beaches that allows plenty of room for sunbathing.

 The last town in Ohio before the Lake is Andover.  A good place to stop for lunch or dinner is the quaint restaurant on the village square called Cranberry Station.  It’s had the same owners for many years and they specialize in home-made foods including several varieties of fresh, home-made soup every day.  For example a cup of their chicken noodle soup literally spills over the edges of the cup with large chunks of white meat, fresh vegetables and noodles.  All cold drinks are served in Mason jars.  The prices are reasonable and the restaurant is decorated in antiques and crafts, many of which are for sale.

 Cranberry Station Restaurant, 68 Public Square, Andover, Ohio 44003, 440-293-6651

 A great family get-a-way and it’s only a One Tank Trip.

Looking For Treasures at Ohio Flea Markets

Last year we reported on one of Ohio’s largest flea markets in the Saturday issue of the Plain Dealer.  Below are some excerpts from that story as well as several pictures that were not used in the original version.

Spring usually is the unofficial opening of the Flea Market season.  It is also the time we clean out our attics, basements and garages and we either hold a yard/garage sale or head for the nearest flea market to try to recoup some of the money we once spent on things like eight-track audio recorders and plastic pink Flamingo bird baths.




Hartville, between Canton and Akron, has one of the oldest flea markets in the state which has also has been recently expanded and modernized.  It has been around for 65 years.  The Hartville Marketplace is a large building that encompasses three acres of indoor shopping and seventeen acres of blacktop parking lot that can accommodate over a thousand vendors


.  The building offers such amenities as clean, modern restrooms with changing tables for infants and toddlers.  There are elevators to the upper levels, an in-house restaurant as well as numerous food vendors throughout the building. Unlike the Flea Market outside, many of the businesses inside the marketplace have been here for years and cover a broad spectrum of merchandise. Usually there is no haggling over prices here but you also will find many of the merchants that will accept credit cards and have a return or refund policy.


  They sell everything from collectibles to candy, from books to antiques.  One of my favorites is the Magic Picture Company.  Their product is a bit hard to describe.  What they do is combine two photos that you provide, say a picture of you as a youngster and another of you currently. The two photos are blended in a special process into a single portrait so that when you walk toward the photo you see the young photo, but as your angle changes it becomes the current picture.  It’s like magic.


Magic Picture Company,  330-87…,



But it is outside under the covered walkway and on the paved parking lot that you will find the true flea market.  On a good day upwards of 800 vendors may be selling just about anything you can imagine.  As I strolled the parking lot I found one merchant who had converted old garden forks into posts for colorful bird houses.  Another man was selling antique glassware from a relative’s home.  There were electronics, musical instruments, bicycles, trees, shrubs, a little bit of everything.  Some of the best values I found were in the section where fresh produce is sold.  Fresh strawberries from California were selling that day for a dollar a box.  A basket of green peppers was just two dollars. But bear in mind the prices constantly change with the advancing season.


Some tips about shopping at a flea market:  Go early, that’s when the best bargains are usually found.  Don’t be afraid to haggle about the price.  It’s expected at a flea market.  Make sure you look over the item carefully before purchasing because, at a flea market, once you buy the merchandise it’s yours.  There are no returns.  Also remember to bring along some cash.  Most vendors do not take credit cards or personal checks.  Take some bottled water with you, especially on warm days.  Some Flea Markets have few or no drinking fountains and bottled water and soft drinks can be expensive.  Wear comfortable shoes because you will do a lot of walking.


If you would like to clean out your closets and garage and become a flea market vendor for a day, this is how it works:  You arrive around 6:30 in the morning and find a vendor space in the parking lot.  Set up your tables and lay out your merchandise.  A representative from the Hartville Marketplace will be around later to collect your rent for the day.  It will cost you from 10 dollars up depending on your location and proximity to the buildings.  Be sure to bring plenty of change along.  There are no banks or places to cash big bills on the premises.  For a further explanation of the daily rates check their website.


The Hartville Marketplace is open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday year-round from 9AM until 5PM.


Hartville Marketplace, 1289 Edison Street, NW, Hartville, Ohio 44632,  330-87…,



Be sure to watch for my column in the Plain Dealer next Saturday, April 18th when we take a look at some little known Metro Parks in northern Ohio.

America’s Strangest War Memorial

Findlay, Ohio's War Memorial, The Bathtub From the U.S.S. Maine
Findlay, Ohio's War Memorial, The Bathtub From the U.S.S. Maine

Most Communities commemorate past wars with things like cannons, tanks and sometimes even planes and helicopters.  The City of Findlay, Ohio has perhaps the most unique memorial in the country.  They are the proud owners of the bathtub that was once in the cabin of the Captain of the battleship U. S. S. Maine.  The same ship that touched off the Spanish-American War when it was sunk in Havana Harbor.

How did they come to own such a singular trophy?

It all came about years after the war when the local congressman was contacted to supply the city with a suitable memorial of the late battle.  Now I suspect the local folks were thinking of a flagpole, or perhaps even a gun from the mighty ship that had been dredged from the muck of the harbor after the war.   The Congressman had other ideas and decided to get them something really different, the Captain’s bathtub.

You can read the whole story in my book, “Ohio Oddities”, but needless to say the town wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by the gift.  You can still see the bathtub at the Wood County Historical Society in Findlay.

Remember When…?

News Department at WJW-TV Cleveland in 1969
News Department at WJW-TV Cleveland in 1969


It was 1969 and most of the news staff at TV8, then called “City Camera News” gathered at the backdoor to the station for a photo.

From left-to-right, backrow: Truman Foster, Hal Morgan,  David Williams, Roger Powell, Ernest “Pete” Cary, William J. Feest, Dick Goddard, Neil Zurcher, Corey Lash, Peter Miller, Chuck Sanders.

Front row, left-to-right: Francis “Cook” Goodwin, Bob Kasarda, Ralph Tarsitano, Bob Begany

Shopping In The Jungle

Several weeks ago my story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer was only published in east side editions.  So today I am running excerpts from the story for the rest of the folks who may have missed this one.  It’s about the largest grocery store in Ohio that has become a unique tourist attraction:

Well for openers this may be the only food market that has a real antique fire truck inside the store that hovers over one thousand different kinds of hot sauce.  Would you believe that there is a forty-five foot yacht anchored in the seafood department?  A cheese counter with over 1,600 different varieties of cheese?  The fresh produce area fills a space larger than some supermarkets and could serve as an example of a vegetable stand in the Garden of Eden with exotic fruits and vegetables from every part of the earth.
The store is so massive that they offer maps of the building at the front entrance.  They even have a tour guide available for guided tours.  Many people come from three states to just look, but most also come to buy.  Jungle Jim refers to his customers as “Foodies”.  The entrance to this “Foodie” paradise has its own waterfall, pond and life-size fiberglass animals, like elephants and giant birds, grazing amidst manmade palm trees
James Bonaminio, the owner, aka “Jungle Jim” is a grocer on steroids.  Everything about his market place is big and over the top.  The store alone covers a staggering six acres and sits in the midst of what Bonaminio insists will someday be a sort of food amusement park that sprawls over seventy acres of choice realty running along busy U.S. Route 4, the Dixie Highway in Butler County, and north of Cincinnati.
“Different” is the operative word here.  In many grocery stores the public restrooms are usually predictable and places that you only want to visit in extreme emergencies.  Jungle Jim encourages his customers to at least look at his restrooms, even if you don’t want to use the facilities.  He has won an award for the best public restrooms in America. One will give you a chuckle; the doorway is a “porta-potty” that really serves as the entrance to a large, well-equipped, clean restroom.  Another bathroom in the complex can only be described as “luxurious” with marble floors, chandeliers, velvet sofas, paintings and palms. 
Also, how many grocers do you know that zip up and down the aisles of their store on a Segway, the two-wheeled personal transporter of the 21st Century?  And the costumes.  Bonaminio has been known to stroll through the store dressed in his trademark pith helmet and bush jacket or as a cowboy, a fireman, and even a wizard.  When he recently was inducted into the Grocer’s Hall of Fame he surprised the audience by accepting the award dressed head-to-toe in gold mid-Eastern garb complete with a turban.
A northeast Ohio native, Bonaminio was born in Lorain.  He began his career in food marketing while attending college in southwest Ohio.  He started out with a roadside vegetable stand not far from where his sprawling complex stands today.  His innovative and sometimes wacky marketing ideas have not only attracted customers but allowed his business to expand, again and again.
As you stroll through the labyrinth of aisles you will find long rows dedicated to canned, frozen and fresh foods from seventy-five different countries and cultures. In many of the departments there are kiosks with free samples. Tucked away in one corner of the store is a small theater where a movie depicting the history of Jungle Jim’s International Market is always showing.  In another spot a life-size, singing animated lion, dressed like Elvis, periodically entertains passing customers.
Jungle Jim’s has a bank, pharmacy, garden center and even a U. S. Post Office facility.
Want to have your wedding in a beautiful place?  How about one with a winding stairway, lobby with grand piano and antique fixtures, where you can make a dramatic arrival by monorail?   You can do it at the Oscar. Oscar is Bonaminio’s middle name and it is the name he gave the new event center that can seat up to 1,200 that has been incorporated into his mega-store.  You can reach it two ways; by steps from the ground floor or you can drive to the mono-rail station at the rear of the property and take a futuristic ride that once was a popular attraction at King’s Island Amusement Park.   The ride will deposit you at the second level entrance to the Oscar Event Center.  You just don’t find attractions like this at your corner grocery store.
Bonaminio has attracted much national attention over the last several years for his unorthodox approach to grocery marketing.   With over fifty-thousand people a week passing through his store he summed it up this way, “This is a serious business.  I’m here to make money.” Then he added with a smile, “But no one said you can’t have fun along the way.”
Jungle Jim’s International Market is located at 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, Ohio,     513-674-6000     or visit them at

Some Presidential Trivia for President’s Day


In the Saturday, February 7th edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer my column deals with Presidential trivia.  Among the many things in the article we reveal that President Harding’s dog,  Laddie Boy, was so beloved that the nation’s children sent pennies to Washington to have a statue built of the dog and a garden club in Marion, Ohio commissioned a stained glass window with the dog’s likeness.   We also point out that Canton, Ohio is a goldmine of Presidential artifacts and history.  President McKinley and his wife are buried there.  It is also home to the National First Ladies Library and Museum.  In the McKinley Presidential Library in Canton you can see a rather spooky animatronic figure of President McKinley, who welcomes you to the museum and you can even buy a package of coffee that celebrates the bravery of our 25th President during the Civil War.

You can read the entire article in the Plain Dealer or go to  their web site,

Remember When?

One Tank Trip in Isetta to Firelands Military Museum, Milan, Ohio
One Tank Trip in Isetta to Firelands Military Museum, Milan, Ohio

We are moving our “Remember When” segment to the front page by popular request.

This week’s picture is at the Firelands Military Museum in  Milan before Homeland Security shut down their actually driving the tanks and  helicopters for demonstration purposes.  This picture shows  the 1957 BMW Isetta that we drove in the One Tank Trips TV series nose to nose with a Korean War vintage tank driven by Dr. Tom Rench of Akron.