Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Midway Memories


Father and son at DiRusso’s

The 170th Canfield Fair starts next Wednesday. And hearing of this brings back memories that stretch from childhood until the early years of our son’s marriage. I wonder if it is like this for you:

  • Going to the fair as a child and seeing all the lights at night, particularly from the top of the ferris wheel and experiencing a whole new sense of wonder.
  • Seeing real live farm animals, smelling them, and realizing they don’t have the same sense of privacy we do when they pee and poop!
  • Having my first footlong hotdog, having never heard of such a think but thinking, “what a wonderful idea.”
  • Going to the fair with a girl and trying (and not usually succeeding) to win her a prize in the games of skill. Eye-hand coordination was never my strong suit.
  • Strolling the midway with a girl, sharing a cup of fair fries drizzled with vinegar.
  • Working one year in college at an old-time evangelist’s booth showing the curious these glass boxes designed to foster the fear of hell so they would turn to Jesus. I still like encouraging people to “turn to Jesus”, but decided this was not the way I wanted to go about it.
  • Going to some of the grandstand shows. I remember seeing the Beach Boys one year, Kenny Loggins another, and countless tractor pulls. Can we say “deaf”.
  • Then there were all those vendors under the grandstand. We would get a can of carpet cleaner from one of them that really worked!
  • For many years, we used the fair for an annual reunion with college friends. We started when our kids were in strollers and this went until our kids were getting married.
  • We always had to stop at DiRusso’s for an Italian Sausage sandwich. And once my son’s stomach could handle it, he joined the fun.
  • For a period of time, we could buy the kids a ride wristband and turn ’em loose for a few hours so that we could look at some of the exhibits like the art show and various 4-H exhibits that they would consider b-o-r-i-n-g.
  • Speaking of the art exhibit, the fair was responsible for my wife showing one of her paintings in public for the first timed, at the urging of our artist friend.
  • We grew up in the city but it was amazing to watch young boys and girls ride horses and put them through their paces competing for various ribbons. Then we’d walk through the barns and see them caring for these animals, sometimes sleeping in an adjacent stall or a trailer and being impressed with how responsible they were.
  • I think I always loved the nights the most, with all the lights of rides and stands. There seemed to be a haze over the midway–a combination of all the things being fried and the humidity of a late summer night.

The Fair was always the last fling of summer for us. School didn’t start until after Labor Day back then. Even as adults, the Fair marked the end of the easier pace of summer as our kids started back to school, and everyone got back from vacation at work. I think for all of us around Youngstown, it was, and still is for those who live there, the last big celebration of summer.

4 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Midway Memories

  1. I was conversing the other day how (at age 61) we are the last generation to experience the “freak animal” and strange people midway. I remember sitting in the phone booth sized ticket booth hearing over and over .
    . “Freak animals, freak animals . . . alive, livin’ and breathing. . . see the 5 legged cow… two headed sheep.” On down the midway was the painted lady, and so on.

  2. I remember that also. How about the announcements over the loud speaker,would Bob and Tom meet me at the Big Rock !!!

  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Top Ten of 2016 | Bob on Books

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