Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Neighborhoods

Youngstown is a city of neighborhoods. I suppose that is true of most cities but until I began this series of posts I only had the vaguest notion of how true this was of Youngstown. I was always aware of the “sides” of town, having grown up on the West Side. Sometimes it seemed like traveling to any other side of town was like traveling to the other side of the world when we were growing up. That seems strange now that I live in a much larger city where the trip to the grocery store takes almost as long as it would to drive to another side of Youngstown. I know this because my wife grew up in Brownlee Woods and it took me 7 minutes to drive from my house on the West Side to hers (we both lived near I-680 so that helped).

Many of the neighborhood communities in Youngstown had a name, and the ones that did, at least in some cases, still maintain a certain sense of vitality. Brier Hill comes up again and again in my reading. A strong Italian-American community, common employment in the mills, great food, and St. Anthony’s church all seem to be defining qualities that brought this community together. They’ve even given their name to the iconic Youngstown pizza!

Rocky Ridge neighborhood accessed from http://www.cityofyoungstownoh.com/about_youngstown/youngstown_2010/neighborhoods/west/rocky_ridge/rocky_ridge.aspx

Rocky Ridge neighborhood

But there are many others as well: Brownlee Woods, Buckeye Plat, Lansingville, Crandall Park, Wick Park, Rocky Ridge, Kirkmere, Newport, Smoky Hollow, Fosterville, Idora and more. Some, like Buckeye Plat were established to provide housing for mill workers near the mills. Others, like Brownlee Woods and Kirkmere were post World War 2 developments with a much more mixed population.

What distinguished many of these communities and helped explain how they were worlds unto themselves was that churches, stores, restaurants, gas and auto repair shops, schools and libraries were all often within walking distance. That’s why going downtown or to the other side of town was such a big deal. Most of the time, you just didn’t need to leave your neighborhood to live your life, except to travel to work, if you lived further out. In the earlier days of the city’s development, workers walked to and from work in the mills and manufacturing plants. Most older homes had front porches and socializing at night with those walking through the neighborhood or those next door was common.

Neighborhoods are not only an important part of Youngstown’s past but seem to be an essential part of Youngstown’s future.  Active neighborhood associations like the Idora Neighborhood Association are encouraging the renovation of homes, neighborhood block watches and moving into the city. The City of Youngstown is assisting these efforts through their Neighborhoods website.

If you are from Youngstown, where did you grow up? Did your community have a name? What were your favorite neighborhood memories?

38 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Neighborhoods

  1. Smoky Hollow, Emerald St, right across from The Tip Top , just up from Pilloli’s corner grocery store, around the corner from Wainio’s, a mile from downtown if walking and cutting thru Wick Oval, the MVR, a hot spot, though not the same as today (small, no bocce) but Mr Cassese standing out front on the curb just the same, afarmer’s Field for sports, sled riding, homemade cart riding, Harrison Field, Oak Park, just up the stret from a Crab Creek, the ability to cut thru yards, climb a wall to get to another street, street games like touch football, wiffle ball, kick the can, hide & seek, red rover, hot box, an occasional disturbance at the Tip Top with an appearance by the paddy wagon to haul off a drunk, or a wife showing up and walking her prince out the door and up the street by his ear, the Thursday night sports reels wager movies of the World Series, Indy 500 or other big events would be shown, and kids could be there, the ability to walk to 4 Catholic Churches or 3 Cathokic elementary schools in just 20 mins or so and the aromas of an Internationally diverse menu of foods…..Italian, Slovakian, Black, puerto African, Mexican, Asian and Greek specialties was always in the air…..and minutes away from Ursuline Hugh School after a climb of the hill just past Wainio’s and up the I680 service ramp..Ahhhhhhh, great memories!

    • I was born and raised on Valley Street with my six sisters in the early 50’s!!!! All your memories were mines. …..we all went to MadisonSchool, Hayes Jr. Hi. And Rayen. A great places and great memories……thanks for sharing.

      • Ahhhh, yes, Madison…..my first couple of years in school…..Mrs. Ranson(????) for kindergarten, Mrs. Burke (1st grade)….the walk to school down the “dirt road” as they called it, along the creek…..great adventure and kind of scary to walk it as a young kid…..always feared a bum would appear and chase us, kidnap…..

        And…..I recall the Pruitt family! Vague memories of course but the name is clear……wanna say my dad knew the family for some reason….maybe YS&T, not sure

    • My grandparents lived on Emerald!! Little Italy!! I remember spending a week in the summertime there as a young girl, sitting on the side porch, listening to the train whistles. TO this this day, every time I hear a train I think of my grandma. Also, everyone sat outside after supper. You could just walk through the back of all the houses on the brick pavement and talk to your neighbors out in their gardens. Everyone knew each other. I loved going to my grandmothers….and yes….I use to think it was so far away. I lived in Brownlee Woods. My grandparents names were Anna and Dominic Pilla. She was and still to this day, made the best Italian food. DId you know the Pillas? My Aunt and Uncle lived one street over also. Rose and Danny Pilla. There was Alex and Chloe across the street. Toni Marie next door. Victor with several siblings next to them.

  2. I was born and spent the first 12 years on Philadelphia, on the South Side. All of my family lived within walking distance from each other. But, walking distance then meant walking from Philadelphia to Judson and LaBelle, and no one thought twice about it. We also walked to Shady Run ( Pemberton) Pool every day in the summer which was a stinking HIKE from down near Cottage Grove to … the other end of the world!! But we took our quarter and left early and came home late. After the riots started uptown, we moved to the West Side. To Kirkmere, sort of. We lived on Cricket Dr, off of Bears Den. Again, we spent our summers in Mill Creek, leaving early with a lunch, heading to Kirkmere to play tennis, then down to the flats to climb the rocks and have our lunch. We never worried about our surroundings and how far we had gone that day. I graduated in 77 from Chaney. I look back at life as we lived it and life today, and feel sorry for kids who need ‘rides’ 3 blocks away and don’t know the value of spending summers like we did. I love your column. I left Youngstown and ventured off to Los Angeles for 4 years, but I am back ‘home’, although I am in Boardman now, I don’t foresee me ever leaving again. Y-town truly is home.

    • Thank you for sharing the memories of different neighborhoods in which you lives. I could walk from where I lived to parts of Mill Creek Park as well. Always loved the Bear’s Den area!

      • Glad to hear that you’ve come home. You might like the post I did on Youngstown Diaspora. Heard lots of stories of how people returned home to Youngstown after leaving.

  3. Growing up in Brier Hill in the 50’s & 60’s was to experience “neighborhood” . St.Roco”s had a annual bizarre & if my grandmother could afford to give all us kids a quarter each , it was like a trip to Disney Land . Later St Anthony”s had a festival every summer . Also we had a “rag man” that would come around the neighborhood with a push cart & he had a pet monkey that he would let us kids feed peanuts to . This fella spoke Italian only & sold rags & sharpen knives with hand crank sharpening stone . Anyway, when we would misbehave our grandparents & parents would threaten to sell us to the “rag man ” who would take us to the gypsies ! That would work for at least the rest of the day . lol Also on Thursday after school @ St Casmires . My grandmother would send me downtown , to the east end , to Anzevino”s Deli to pick up fresh homemade sca-motts . I’d stop @ Strouss”s & check with my mother , she wrapped gifts there , to see if she needed anything , get a malt of course . Then after getting the sca-motts , stop @ the record ron de voo & play a 45 or two , maybe take a quick look in Kliven Bros to see the latest threads. Had to get that cheese to Gram . All this on a Thursday afternoon .

    • Thanks for sharing these memories Don. It was amazing how easy it was to walk from many of the closer in neighborhoods to downtown, and all the things you could do. Of course a trip to downtown wasn’t complete without a Strouss’ malt!

  4. I grew up in Van Nuys, a city in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Now ‘boasting’ around 1.8 million people, the San Fernando Valley is part of the Los Angeles area, located north of Downtown Los Angeles/Hollywood/Santa Monica. The SFV an expansive area where one city just seems to expand into the next. Neighborhoods or “sides” were not something I experienced there.
    Although I have experienced the “sides of town” division in other places that I’ve visited for extended periods.

    • Thanks for your comment on this post. One thing I observe in our city is that those areas without a clear community identity tend to decline more quickly, often within 20-40 years of being developed whereas neighborhoods with strong community identity (and names) often seem to stay vital and housing stock continues to be maintained.

  5. I grew up on Mt. Vernon, a block over from Midlothian Blvd., and a couple of blocks from Walton Hill. My dad worked in the steel mills down the street for over 40 years. I walked to Jackson Elementary, rain or snow, and often rode my bike to Pemberton or Mothe (sp.) pool in Struthers. I loved our neighborhood, our neighbors were our best friends, and I have fond memories of a simple, easy childhood. While Youngstown doesn’t seem like the town I grew up in anymore, I still call it “home” whenever I return to visit.

  6. I was born (in 77) and raised here in this wonderful town. On the West Side, Portland, right up the street from Mill Creek Park entrance. We would walk or ride our bikes there almost everyday. This was the best part of my life growing up. Playing in the street, kickball, kick the can, wiffelball. But the thing that gets me most is the fact that the neighborhood i grew up in is no longer the way it was then. We hardly ever locked our doors. Let alone knocked on our neighbors doors when we went to see our friends or Mom needed butter, we just walked in and announced we were “home”. because our neighbors houses were home to us, whether it was a friends house or the little old lady next door that always gave us popsicles. I was just over that way last week, took my girls fishing at Lake Glacier. and drove down the street i grew up on again to show my kids, (i think they are getting sick of my stories). but they have a much easier, and more boring life, than i did growing up. they will never know the struggle of searching for all your friends by riding your bike all over the neighborhood to see where everyone is. now its just a text. sad. but i miss my old neighborhood and absoloutly love the fact i was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio.

  7. oh, and Bortz pool, on Sundays after Church at Our Lady Of Hungary. Growing up with a immigrant Hungarian Great Grandmother was amazing….and the food….WOW

  8. I grew up in a fantastic place called, Oak Park. Located in the Smokey Hollow, it provided us with endless hours of fun, games, socialization and neighborhood. It was a park with rows of houses built on both sides when you looked across the park you would see the oak trees in front of your house. I think there may have been 75 houses on north side and 75 mirroring homes on the south side. In the homes were the families of Oak Park. Talk about ethnic diversity. There were Germans, Slovaks, Italians, Scandinavians, Polish, just to name a few. Everyone seemed to have kids and every day you could find a bunch of kids playing games or sports or bike riding or something fun. At one point I remember the older kids digging up a short three hole golf course. There would be kite flying, football, baseball, basketball and enough kids to field two teams for all sports. We grew up there until the “Madison Expressway” came to make our lives better and they demolished the park with concrete and steel. Now, there’s memories.

    • Ray, dear friend Ray “”Buuuuuhbie”” George……Loved your Park……tackle football on that bare, hard dirt and stone field, sled riding down the backside toward the dirt road and more…..I remember the golf course we built, the carnivals and games we held, the play/theater in front of the Capone’s house,…..

    • So many great memories of Oak Park and the Hollow, Ray. I cherish those days and our friendship that goes on thanks to Facebook and being able to stay in touch.

      Loved the miniature golf, the football on that hard, okay, very hard “field”…..ouch!, the sled riding, etc

  9. I grew up in the Fosterville neighborhood. My childhood memories include memories of lazy summer days spent a the Fosterville playground and library; pastries from Mr. Paul’s bakery; ice cream from the Frozen Custard; and fun times at Idora Park and Mill Creek Parks — both within walking distance. I graduated in ’83 from Chaney and left Y-town in the mid-80’s for the Atlanta area. The Youngstown neighborhood I where I grew up — and that I loved — is, sadly, gone forever. I don’t ever see myself returning to live there, but I will always have fond memories of growing up there.

  10. Moved to Glenwood Ave. from Girard. Went to Grant school 1 yr., then to St. Pat’s. Grad.from UHS in 1953. Spent childhood @ Volney Rodger’s Park. Walked to Isaly’s for skyscrapers. Worked @ the french fry stand @ Idora Park summer of 1951. These places are just memories now, but good ones!

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

  12. I grewup on the South Side, Woodland Ave. At Market Street in the 60’s. I have no idea what the area was called. I do know we walked the Market Street bridge to downtown and as teenagers we walked up Market to the uptoen ar3a. I loved Idora park and all of the South Side. I went to Will7amson Elementary, Hillman and South High. It was a wonderful place to grow up.

    • Peggy, glad you found this old post and thank you for sharing your memories. It was amazing how we walked everywhere. Basically I walked from where we lived to downtown and other times to the Mahoning Plaza which was the city limits on the West Side.

  13. I lived in Austintown but spent all of my time on the south side as my dad owned the Kirchner Hdwe. on Glenwood & Parkview in Fosterville. I had many good times on the south side, Idora Park, Mill Creek Park the Foster theater . We would go ice skating in the winter at all of the lakes in the park. I sure miss Y-Town.
    Thank you Bob for the opportunity to add my post, please keep up the great work.
    David G. Mihalov

    • David, thanks for adding your comments. There was so much that was, and much that still is, good about Youngstown. The memories you and so many others share are the best evidence of that.

      I used to love skating on Lake Glacier in the winter with cups of hot chocolate around the fire!

  14. Grew up on Dewey southsider 4 houses up from Kabinas funeral home. Was a very big house on top of Dewey , alot of people rented my garage and was a friendly place for a lot of my friends. My mother adopted all my friends and they loved her kindness! The house is now gone , garage is still there now owned by my favorite neighbor lorenzi’s! So many beautiful memories. Homestead park sledding and ice skating at Pemberton! Remember when imperials, store burned down wow!

  15. I grew up on the Northside Roslyn dr my Dad worked at Commercial and mom and her dad worked at the GF. All within walking distance. Sometimes mom and i would walk down and deliver dads lunch and walk back. Northside was a great place to grow up i would go to stambaugh and play golf as much as i could from april to oct. My friends and i would go cut yards to go play a few rounds. Listening to the football games at Rayen stadium. Playing pee wee football for the N.S. Knights at harding park.

  16. I’m from the Southside. I loved the woods, the homes, the little mom and pop stores and walking downtown. I loved walking to the quarry by following the railroad tracks on southern blvd. I’m in Phoenix now and really miss Youngstown. My family is there also.

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