Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park

First of all, I have to say a big “thank you” to all of you (mostly Youngstowners and former Youngstowners) who viewed and commented on my last post on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Food. Far and away, this has been the most viewed post in my nine month experience of blogging. It has been a delight to share food memories with so many other Youngstowners (and our laments over the lack of good Italian food anywhere else!).

Lake Cohasset

Lake Cohasset (c)Robert C Trube, 2014

Along with food, Mill Creek Park (now MetroPark) has played a huge part in many of our lives growing up. The park grew up along the course of Mill Creek, a scenic stream that flowed into the industrial Mahoning River.  It was initially created through the efforts of Youngstown attorney Volney Rogers in 1891. In 1906, Lake Glacier was created by damning the stream at a narrow point. I remember that it was during the 1960s that the Lake Glacier Boat House was built. Lake Newport, added to the park through a land donation in 1924, was dammed in 1928. More recently, the south end has been allowed to revert to a wetlands area.  By far, the most beautiful of the lakes in my opinion is Lake Cohasset, the earliest to be created, in 1897. Lanterman’s Mill, the recipient of proceeds from the sales of Recipes of Youngstownand featured on the book’s cover, was built in 1845-46 and is still in operation and you can purchase freshly ground grain from the mill. (All the factual information for this part of my post comes from Wikipedia.)

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond, (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Located southwest of the industrial belt of steel mills lining the Mahoning River that runs through Youngstown, the park provided a respite from the hard work, noise, and pollution associated with steel-making. Picnic shelters situated throughout the park provided a wonderful place for family gatherings. Taking boats out onto Lakes Glacier or Newport on a summer Sunday afternoon or a baseball game on one of the diamonds at Rocky Ridge (now the James L Wick Recreation Area) or an evening family walk with day old bread to feed the gold fish at the Lily Pond were refreshing breaks from work in the mills or other manufacturing plants.

My life’s journey runs through Mill Creek Park even though we haven’t lived in Youngstown for many years. I treasure walks my dad and I took along the many trails running through the park. I still remember a Saturday morning when we got up early, took a frying pan, bacon and eggs, and made breakfast over an open fire at one of the fire rings in the park. My brother and his wife had wedding photographs taken on the little footbridge near the boat house at Lake Glacier in 1968 (I was best man). Often when I had free time in high school or college, I would be on my bike, riding the roads through the park, sometimes finding a scenic overlook where I might read or write or just think. Fellows Riverside Gardens, a beautiful public garden developed beginning in the 1960s was the site of countless wedding photographs (including ours in 1978) overlooking Lake Glacier and the site of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding just a few years back. In 2001, we celebrated my parents 60th anniversary at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. In my fathers last years (he passed in 2012), one of our cherished memories was rides through the park and listening to him revisit his youthful memories.

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

When we were growing up, the park reminded us that life was not all hard work and toil–that there was beauty, and peace, and goodness to life as well. I may not be able to speak to this as well as those who still live in the Youngstown area, but I sense that the renewed efforts to maintain the park in the formation of the MetroPark district represents a symbol of hope that as Youngstown seeks to “re-invent” itself, this city can be a good place not only to work, but to live.

6 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park

  1. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Review Part 1 « Bob on Books

  2. I grew up across from the Old Mill,with Millcreek Park as my backyard…what a blessing, so many memories!( What kid has a waterfall of that magnitude ” in their yard”? )Riding my bike down the original Old Mill steps, visiting the ducks at the mill, looking at glass cases full of cool nature stuff including turtle shells, jars with formaldehyde and two headed kittens and other oddities, stuffed forest critters and more, so much more! Everywhere you turned there was stuff to look at, and games to play…they were constructed using large boards with pictures of birds on one and on the other,I believe, flowers/plants, there were 2 long wires with a large bolt attached, nut at the end, and next to each picture there was an exposed bolt head on the other side of the display board were the names of the birds or flowers with a bolt head exposed, the game was played by touching one wired bolt to a pictures exposed bolt, the other wired bolt to the corresponding name’s exposed bolt,if you were correct,a light on the display board lit! Really rudimentary by today’s high tech standards but good for long periods of fun, till one learned all the plants and birds, then you’d play to show off your knowledge or check to make sure you hadn’t forgotten! The park provided so many hours and days, sometimes morning to night of fun and adventure…playing in the creeks and river, the stepping stones, riding the ferry boat, using the sprinklers at Kirkmere Recreation Center to sled riding on ski hill and ice skating on Lake Newport, fire barrels blazing! (Later there was the addition of the ice skating rink at Rocky Ridge, sadly closed and never reopened).When I had kids we spent time in the park, of course, and now I take my granddaughters! It truly is a treasure in the YO! And might I add, what a crazy, wonderful neighborhood that was…all the natural beauty one could want and then the loud, neon,people packed Idora Park Amusement Park nestled into the fringe of Millcreek Park,a contrast that created an almost magical childhood….sigh….how things change…just about everything from my childhood is gone.Thank God for the constant that us Millcreek Park.

  3. Just read this,Bob. The frying pan and bacon & eggs hit a cord. My Dad enjoyed doing that also. And my uncle & aunt, Kass & Chester Kic would take us for Sunday rides thru Mill Creek. Grandma was always along for that ride. And I remember walking into the park with friends and just walking around. Living on the south side, Delason Avenue, it was easy going into the park. Picnics in the park with my now husband and with my parents, taking our Airedale for walks….and on and on. But my best memories of Mill Creek were not mine but my Dad’s, Bill aka Weep Ryan. Born in 1912 and lived on Parkwood Avenue. Weep and his buddies could go right into the park. Over and over, he told me his memories of going to Mill Creek Park. Such an important place for so many of us. Beautiful and special!

    • Thank you for sharing your park memories. Breakfasts, picnics, rides, and walks. So many ways to enjoy the park. Hope you get a chance to read some of the other Youngstown posts!

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