My wife and co-author, Janice, and I are always chasing down our pop culture history; we usually don’t have to look very far. A few weeks back we headed to the state capital for a visit to the Ohio History Connection. We’ve seen a lot of famous firsts in Northeast Ohio that are documented at the center.
WE’RE NO. 1
Some of those firsts are cultural (the first rock and roll concert — the Moondog Ball — in 1952), traditional (the first U.S.Christmas tree on Public Square), convenience (home mail delivery), medical (the first blood transfusion) and technical (the first use of a gas mask).
Some are annoying, like the world’s first automatic traffic signal at University Circle. And some were the result of necessity; Cleveland’s Crane Candy Company needed a product that wouldn’t melt in the summer heat and came up with Life Savers.
Now, here’s the comparison between Cleveland and Columbus. When you go to a supermarket down south you see a lot of stuff on the shelves we don’t have here because Columbus is considered one of the nation’s best test markets. Even so, Cleveland has bragging rights for introducing some-
thing that is often maligned but has been used by just about everyone.
I tip my hat to one of my public speaking students, Haley Held, for bringing this to my attention. In 1964, Cleveland was the test city for Pop-Tarts.
That’s right. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts were introduced in Cleveland before anywhere else. The Huffington Post reports the original name for the product was the Fruit Scone, but Andy Warhol was making “pop art” an everyday word. Add a “T” and Pop-Tarts were born. As soon as they hit the shelves, people went batty for the new toaster pastry, and within two weeks the company ran out of product.
A CLEVELAND ENDING
The Renaissance Hotel on Public Square has been known by a lot of names — the Hotel Cleveland, Sheraton Cleveland, Stouffer’s Inn on the Square and more. One place that had the same name through all those changes was the London Grill, a brick tavern that sat directly across the street for years until it was torn down for a parking lot.
On July 17, 1941, a well- known face cleaned up at the hotel, walked over to the London and put his wallet on the bar. He sat at one corner, nursed a few drinks, looked like he didn’t want to be bothered and people obliged. After a while he paid his tab and went back to the hotel without saying a word to the folks checking him out at a distance.
It was Joe DiMaggio. Earlier that day, “Joltin’ Joe’s” record-setting 56-game hitting streak came to a screeching halt as The Tribe’s Ken Keltner fielded three balls that denied the Yankee Clipper another notch on his belt.