WARRENSVILLE, Ohio - Open the door and walk through to where the popcorn balls and candy kisses are being made and they will serve as a time machine to whisk a visitor back through the decades to a fun-filled place dear to Cleveland hearts known as Euclid Beach Amusement Park.
In a small building in Warrensville Heights, the smell of butter and sugar with a curious blend of vinegar wafts through as workers are busy turning out Humphrey popcorn balls and candy kisses. They were among the mainstays of the much-loved amusement park which was nestled on the Cleveland Lake Erie shoreline.
The park, which opened in 1897, operated for generations before time, competition and higher costs caught up with the Humphrey family, which operated Euclid Beach until 1969. However, the Humphrey Popcorn Co. kept making its popcorn balls, each about the size of a softball, and the candy kisses.
When the Humphreys sold the food business a few months ago, Joann Lynch and Mike Prokop bought the company and have kept the food line operating.
"We have a lot of people that still have a lot of wonderful memories of the park and they like to come in and be able to walk around and see some of the memorabilia that we have," said Lynch. She made her comment as she sat on an original metal bench from the amusement park.
The small building where the popcorn and candy are processed has photographs and pieces of memorabilia from the days of the popular amusement park which boasted roller coasters, water rides, a fun house and many more attractions.
"I liked the roller coaster, 'The Thriller,'" said Prokop, his eyes beaming as if he could still see the old wooden roller coaster make its clackety-clack trip to the top of the first hill before it dived into the valley below, carrying a coaster's load of screaming riders who giggled at each dip and turn.
In the back of the shop, Dave Mays works with a large mound of taffy-like candy, shaping it into a 10-foot stretch that he feeds into a machine. The ka-chung ka-chung sound of the machine takes the candy and cuts it into bite-sized pieces before wrapping each piece in yellow paper.
Not far away is a 1930s photograph of candy being made in Euclid Beach Amusement Park. The photograph shows the same candy machine that Mays uses.
"It's a good machine," laughs Mays. "It just keeps on turning out candy."
A few feet away, Miles Komora pours a mixture of vinegar and sugar into large copper kettles that he brings to a boil. The sweet liquid will accent every popcorn ball after the popcorn kernels are put into molds that shape them to roughly the size of a softball.
When the popcorn balls tumble along an aluminum table, Michell Jones packages them. Fifty popcorn balls to a bag are then bound for area supermarkets, Heinen's, Giant Eagle and Marc's, or for sale through the Humphrey Company's website, humphreycompany.com
However, it is not just popcorn and candy the Humphrey Company is selling. It is also selling nostalgia for the old amusement park which was locally-owned and much smaller than most amusement parks of today. Euclid Beach was long hailed as a gemstone in Cleveland that drew in people throughout its season.
Its roller coasters, water rides, carousel, fun house and other attractions are gone, but its memories are still there. They are as sweet and true as is the popcorn balls and candy which were sold on the amusement park grounds. The rides are gone, but the food is still here.
"They keep coming and coming," said Jones as the balls tumbled into the plastic bags.
Lynch and Prokop are proud they have stayed with the original recipes for the popcorn balls and the taffy-like candy.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
My Ohio With Leon Bibb
Ivan Burkholder is a wagon and buggy mechanic who keeps horse-drawn vehicles running smoothly.
The story of Ohio's only national park, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is a story which is several million years in the making.