Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Front Porches

The home I grew up in with our front porch. (Photo taken by Carol E Campbell)

The home I grew up in with our front porch. (Photo taken by Carol E Campbell)

The hot weather of the past week brought to mind one of our favorite ways of keeping cool on those warm and muggy summer evenings. We would sit out, often until late in the evening, to catch whatever breeze there was while the house cooled off after sunset.

You see, most of us didn’t have air conditioning back then. Sitting out on the front porch with a cool drink, and maybe some ice cream, was the best way to keep cool. My parents had old-fashioned metal lawn chairs that could rock (we inherited them). I would often sit on the old metal glider, rocking back and forth to keep cool.

We had big green awnings that dad hung each spring to shade the porch from the late afternoon sun. We had spirea bushes in front of the porch that came up just above the banisters and the awnings came most of the way down so that kept the sun out pretty well.

Often, I would have my transistor radio on listening to Herb Score broadcasting the Cleveland Indians games. We always hoped this would be the year they’d win the pennant, and then the World Series. Still hoping.

Everyone sat out on summer evenings. Sometimes you would visit families walking down the street, many walking to the Dairy Queen a block up on Mahoning Avenue. Mostly, the parents would talk–about how hot it was, how good the yard was looking, how work was going, how big the kids were getting. Or we would watch neighbors drive down the street and notice when they got a new car.

As I grew older, I would cross the street and sit on the front steps of my friend Jim’s house and talk with him until his parents told us it was time to call it a night. As it turned out, that was usually when my parents wanted me home. You’d think they conspired with each other. Mostly I remember talking with Jim about cars, sports, and that mystery we both were trying to figure out–girls! (Don’t ask me if we ever did!)

Front porches weren’t just a west side thing (where I grew up). Most homes in the older urban neighborhoods of Youngstown had front porches. My grandparents lived on Cohasset Drive, a beautiful tree-lined street and they had a big front porch with old, comfy porch furniture.

Now everyone has air conditioning and, at least in our area, few houses have front porches. If we ever buy another house, I want a front porch. As it is, whenever it isn’t too hot, we sit out in the drive and enjoy the evening air and visit with people walking by, usually with their dogs. Growing up in a neighborhood of front porches, it just doesn’t seem right hiding out in my house or backyard on a summer evening. But it is different. In Youngstown, I knew the names of every family in the neighborhood. I can’t say that here. We didn’t always have fond thoughts of each other, but we knew each other. That’s what came of growing up on a street lined with houses with front porches.

[Want to read other “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts? Just click “On Youngstown” on the menu bar at the top of this page to read any or all in this series.]

26 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Front Porches

  1. We didn’t have a front porch but we had a patio in the front of our house. I remember my Father stringing extension cords so we could watch TV outside on those hot summer nights.

    • I have fond memories too. Grape Kool-Aid was my dad’s favorite and kids would come over for an icy glass of it while sitting in the shade of our porch. We lived on the shady evenings side of the street. With the front and back doors open there was a nice cross breeze. We were the second generation to live in our home and as were most of the kids on our street. Everyone knew everyone’s parents and on Halloween we were welcome in everyone’s home. Fear did not exist for us,

  2. What a memory Bob. We had a front porch and spent mant hours enjoying it on similar metal furniture. My Mom would treat us-my brother and me–with drum stick cones from the United Market or Dairy Queen–5 cent cones! No fancy decks or AC that we have as a necessity now. I had a crush on the paper boy and would wait on the porch for the paper delivery on summer afternoons :).

  3. We would take our couch cushions and on really hot nights put them out on the porch and sleep there! I love my memories of Youngstown porches, and all the neighborhood kids would be on our porch. If you were lucky you would have the fake green grassy carpet on your porch lol 😀 we weren’t that lucky but we loved it anyway!

    • I am amazed at how many people slept on their porches during summer. Thanks for sharing your memories of Youngstown porches–even without the green grassy carpet!

  4. My mother grew up in Youngstown and we would go there every summer to visit my grandparents.They lived on Bancroft and I remember sitting on their front porch on hot summer nights and watching the glow in the sky from the mills.

  5. My family home looked very similar to the one posted! We spent a lot of time on the front porch talking, laughing, and trying to cool off! Thanks for the good memories.

  6. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Top 10 | Bob on Books

  7. Grew up on the East Side where all of the children my age were second generation kids. At least one of our parents grew up on that street too. Grape Kool-aide was popular and there were always a few kids to enjoy our shady side of the street in the evenings, while sitting on our porch with a big glass of Kool-aide from the pitcher my mother provided. Next door were plenty of trees on the empty lot to provide a relieving breeze. Fear simply did not exist in us and our evenings were wonderful. All of the adults sitting out on their porches knew our parents’ and our names.

  8. Oh, does that take me back! My sister and I were “country kids,” having been taken by our parents to a rural home in Trumbull County when my dad found a job there, but every summer (and nearly every weekend year-around) we’d go to visit my grandparents on Youngstown’s South Side. Street games, Aunt Kate’s candy store, Gemma’s market, walking with our aunts across the South Avenue bridge to church at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Sunday mornings — all were memories from my mom’s youth that we got to experience, too. And in the evenings, on that front porch with the metal glider behind the mock-orange shrubs, we’d sit and gaze across at the lights that twinkled on the hillsides of Youngstown’s East Side. It looked like a picture postcard to us – like we imagined the big cities of Europe looked.

  9. Thanks Bob for that trip down memory lane! I, too, grew up on the west side (also not far from the Mahoning DQ). My best memories of our front porch was that it allowed overflow seating for the parties and family gatherings. I can remember sitting on that porch in anticipation of the guests that would be arriving any minute or waiting for my date to arrive as a teen. My mom took wonderful care of that porch, just as much care as the house inside. During the winter’s all the ‘porch furniture would go down to the basement – always kind of a sad day. But, then we looked forward to the spring when the furniture and porch rugs would come back out! Who would of thought a front porch would bring such great memories! Again, thanks for this post.

    • Oh the memories. I can still conjure the feeling of being there, part of the family. Part of the neighborhood. Part of the Southside. 1950s and ’60s. Love the party “overflow” image. We too lovingly cared for the porch as a part of the home, stowing away for winter, washing and painting floor floor and railings. I love my porch now but there are no sidewalks and we are all set back from the road. There is no sense of community.

  10. Oh, this takes me back, too. We lived on Fithian, just off of Poland Ave. One of my vivid porch memories is playing with the tiny bits of sparkling graphite that accumulated like shimmering sand on our bannister. Republic Steel released it into the air every so often.(Mom usually wiped it off promptly bit I used to love mounding it up with my hands, writing in it, etc.)

  11. I grew up in Struthers and all us kids spent the summer on porches , playing football and Frisbee under the street lights, listening to “mystery radio” and the Indians, learning to play chess on the porch and always with a citronella candle. I slept outside on a aluminum glider grandma gave us and under it when it rained! Dad would tie out our Germany Shepard to keep a eye on me. I had summers when I slept out every night. Now, today’s kids glued to a screen, a unreal world and missing so very much…

  12. I grew up by Idora Park. 2 blocks from there. I remember sitting on the front porch and watching the fireworks displays. I use to bounce a ball off the cement front door steps or stoop as some would call it, Hours on end. We had a trellis that reached from the ground to the porch roof that had Honeysuckle on it. I was amazed at the humming birds sticking their bills into those long pink and white flowers to get the nectar. What fond wonderful memories. And you know something? After all my traveling some 55 years later I live about 5 blocks from the OLD IDORA PARK and those fond memories. I hear St Christine’s fireworks displays and travel back to a time of my youth, remembering a time so long ago. Isn`t it funny how life works out for some of us. Blessed is a good word.

  13. I’ve always believed the loss of front porches ruined our sense of community. I lived on the East side and at night our parents would sit on the front porches lining the street and watch us “Kick the Can,” Hide and Seek,” and many other games under the streetlight. Our porch gathered kids to play “Jacks” and mock plays of the Little Rascals. We would put curtains on our heads and have mock weddings on that porch. So many good memories. We need to bring back front porches.

  14. Love all the great memories listed here. We grew up on S. Dunlap Avenue and S. Bonaire Avenue both on the westside, just 2 streets apart. Some of our homes only had ‘stoops’ but we sat on them in the evening too. We always loved to hear the ‘ice cream man’ come down the street in the evening. I still remember 5 cent popsicles that I had to split with my brother.

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