Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Buses

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By AEMoreirao42281 (Own Work) via Wikimedia Commons

Remember when buses looked something like this? My first memory of riding a city bus in Youngstown was when I was staying with grandparents on the South Side and my grandmother took me downtown shopping. Later on, in my sophomore year in high school I started working at McKelvey’s. They were open late on Mondays and Thursdays and so I caught a bus on Mahoning Avenue near my house to go to work. Fares then may have been only a quarter, but I was only making $1.25 an hour back then. It was only about a ten minute bus ride to cover the two miles between home and work. My father also worked at McKelvey’s and would give me a ride home at night (we were a one car family–I didn’t own a car until after college which actually saved a lot of money).

Mostly I remembered that the buses seemed old, with lots of rattles, and at that time of day weren’t very full. I don’t remember any “regulars” nor much about the bus drivers. My wife had a different story. She took the bus to college and back home and there were a number of regular passengers and they all seemed to get to know each other. Maybe the people riding the bus from the South Side were friendlier!

After college, we both moved out of town and got married. The bus system, now called the Western Reserve Transit Authority (which still operates under that name), was the main form of transportation for my mother-in-law who did not drive. Trips to the grocery store and downtown were adventures, and we were grateful for bus drivers who looked out for her and helped her as she got older.

Mass transit has a long history in Youngstown according to this blog post from the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. In 1875, the Youngstown Street Railroad Company provided horse-drawn service from the Brier Hill area to downtown. Eventually horses were replaced with cars powered by overhead electric wires. Eventually the Youngstown Park and Falls Street Railway connected downtown to the Lanterman Falls area giving birth to Terminal (later Idora) Park.

WRTABeginning in the 1920’s, streetcars gave way to buses and the Youngstown Municipal Railway Company became the Youngstown Transit Company. As automobiles became more popular and the freeways were built ridership dropped the bus system turned operations over to the Mahoning Valley Regional Mass Transit Authority, which in 1971 became the Western Reserve Transit Authority.

I’m glad there has continued to be bus service in the Mahoning Valley. For cash-strapped college students and the elderly who either did not like to drive or could not, as well as others for whom a car was a burdensome expense, the bus, though not always as convenient, provided a way to get around when it was too far to walk. And for those who regularly commuted, it could be a social occasion as well.

Did you ever ride the buses in Youngstown? What were your memories of taking the bus?

6 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Buses

  1. Oh yes. As a kid with Mom it was always kind of exciting–part of the going downtown experience. Then I went to YSU and worked part time at Strouss’ and had to ride the bus the first few years. Hated that and sure was glad to get a car!

  2. Bob
    Great memory of riding the bus downtown with my mom and brother to go to the movie theaters and shopping and later I went to music lessons at Strous’s Music Center on Wick Ave. We lived on the west side like you and had one car which my dad took to work. Still remember the 25 cent fee.
    The bus companies had some financial problems thru the years and I am pleased it is alive and well.
    Michelle

  3. Hey Bob- My 1st memories were the electric buses with the things that ran across the wires and used to drop sparks. They were replaced by diesel & the overhead wired removed. We used to ride the #9 Mahoning back and forth to downtown from Millet or up the the Mahoning Plaza.
    I can also remember when the bus company went bankrupt and all the recently acquired buses left Youngstown and headed out Mahoning (then OH-18) to Akron.
    Not having a car, my dad rode 5-7 days a week & knew all the drivers, or so it seamed to me.
    Later when we moved to Steel St. I remember they had combined the #9 & #21 so to get home we rode out Mahoning to Meridian, then to Vestal, east to Salt Springs, then on to Steel street. Gave dad a long time to talk with the driver.

  4. Lived in Girard and rode the bus to school when the weather was really bad and also downtown Youngstown for swimming lessons at the YWCA. At that time the buses were packed and many times it was standing room only. My husband’s father was a bus driver for many years. Today our buses are much too big for the amount of passengers that use them.

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