Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Shoveling Snow

Clean walks and snow shovelers during a big snow (photo courtesy of Marilyn Trube, used with permission)

Clean walks and snow shovelers during a big snow (photo courtesy of Marilyn Trube, used with permission)

I shoveled snow yesterday morning for the second time this week. Growing up in Youngstown, it would not have been unusual to do this several times a week during the winter.  We got enough “lake effect” snow off of Lake Erie that you could have snow when the wind was blowing right and the temperatures were below freezing.

One of the things that I think went along with the pride of ownership people had was that almost everyone shoveled their walks. Notice in the picture which is from Youngstown, probably from the Thanksgiving snow of 1950, that you can look down a street where every walk was shoveled. If you were an enterprising kid, you could make money shoveling for neighbors. Shoveling snow was the winter counterpart for me to cutting lawns or raking leaves, often for the same people. No snow blowers–just me and a snow shovel.

People actually walked. Letter carriers, paper carriers, and kids to school especially. As many of you noted on a previous post, Youngstown schools rarely closed–and the Catholic schools never! Some people walked to work. Others walked to local stores. Shoveling snow was just part of being a good neighbor.

The other side of this was that anyone, unless they were elderly or sick, who didn’t shovel their snow was considered lazy. If your neighbor didn’t shovel, you assumed something was wrong, and often shoveled their walk. Sooner or later, they would return the favor.

Most of us who grew up in the older parts of the city had the advantage of city lots that were often 35 to 40 feet wide (I live on a corner lot in the suburbs with about 220 feet of sidewalk now). However, because many parts of Youngstown were hilly, you often had a driveway that sloped, and was a priority to shovel if you were to get a car out or in. And because the houses were close together, it became a challenge if there was much snow to figure out where to put it.

Where we are now, people often just wait for the snow to melt. From what I can tell, that seems more true everywhere. In our city, as I understand it, you are “supposed” to clear your walks, but if a slippery spot remains you can be sued if someone falls. However you actually may be less liable if you leave it alone. I can see why many don’t shovel.

Not me. Maybe it’s compulsiveness, but I think it is just the Youngstowner in me. When it snows, I’m not at ease until I get my walks cleared. I guess you can take the boy out of Youngstown, but you can’t take Youngstown out of the boy!

Here’s to few snowfalls and clear sidewalks!

Read all the posts in the Growing Up in Youngstown Series by clicking the “On Youngstown” category link either at the top of this page or in the left column of my home page.

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