Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sides of Town


Map from the City of Youngstown, Ohio. Used by permission


Almost any time you ask someone who grew up in the city of Youngstown where they were from, they will answer you in terms of which side of town they grew up in. If they grew up in one of the distinctive or “named” neighborhoods of the city, they might add that as well, like Brier Hill, or Brownlee Woods. But in Youngstown you were East Side, West Side, North Side, or South Side.

The fascinating thing to me, living as I do in a much larger city, is that while we were geographically very close–a few miles–to each other and yet often knew little of other sides of town, unless we had relatives who lived there. All of Youngstown would fit into one “side” (yes we use this language where I now live as well) of the city where I live. It takes me longer to drive to my grocery store on the same side of town than it used to take me to drive from the West side to the South side to visit my girl friend (now wife) who lived in Brownlee Woods.

The West side, where I grew up, consists of the areas west of Mill Creek and the Mahoning River northwest of downtown extending to the north, west, and south city limits. The North side is the area north of downtown up to the north city limit between the Mahoning River on the west and Crab Creek on the east. The East side was the area east of Crab Creek, downtown, and the Mahoning River as it flows southeast out of the downtown area, bordered on the north, east and southeast by the city limits. The South side is the area south of downtown and I-680 to the southern city limits (which jut out to the south to incorporate the Pleasant Grove and Brownlee Woods neighborhoods) and is bordered on the west by Mill Creek and on the east by the Mahoning River, except for a portion of the Buckeye Plat east of the river.

Each side of the city included neighborhoods with distinctive names (forgive me if I’ve omitted any) as well as many neighborhoods that had none, including mine on the lower West side north of Mahoning Avenue:

  • West side: Garden District (more recent), Ohio Works, Salt Springs, Schenley, Kirkmere, Rocky Ridge, and Cornersburg.
  • North side: Brier Hill, Crandall Park North, Fifth Avenue, Golf View Acres East and West, Smoky Hollow, and Wick Park.
  • East side: Beachwood, Hazelton, Lansdowne, Lincoln Knolls, McGuffey Heights, and Sharon Line.
  • South side: Boulevard Park, Brownlee Woods, Buckeye, Fosterville, Handel’s, Idora, Indian Village, Lansingville, Lansingville Heights, Newport, Oak Hill, Pleasant Grove.

The sides of the city definitely had their own personality. But I have to admit that I don’t know the different parts of town, especially the East side, well enough to be sure I am accurately characterizing them, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. The West side, where I grew up was known as the “white West side” (historically due to red-lining) and still is the one predominantly white area of the city. It was definitely home to a number of blue collar families, many who had someone working in the Ohio works or another manufacturing concern. As people prospered they moved further out on the west and southwest areas of the city.

The North side, I always thought of as the rich and cultured area, with the mansions on Fifth Avenue. But it was, and is, home to the vibrant Italian community of Brier Hill. The South side was the largest, most populous part of the city. Both of my grandparents lived there. I remember spacious homes, tree-lined streets in many of the neighborhoods between Glenwood and Market Street. Newport was always where we went to see the best Christmas displays, and it was obvious that those who lived there were successful in business.

As I said, the East side was the area I know the least about. My dad worked for a company along Crab Creek, Raymond Concrete Pile. We used to drive out Hubbard Rd to visit relatives in Hubbard. I recall that it seemed almost rural, with many houses on large lots quite a distance from each other. From what I read, this area has the most undeveloped and agricultural space in the city, as well as McKelvey Lake. I’d love for those who grew up on the East side to tell me more of what your side of town was like.

I suspect for all of us from Youngstown, we have special memories of the side of town on which we grew up. I’d love for you to share them, and what made your area of town special (no bashing other parts of town!).



35 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sides of Town

  1. grandfather-a goiter surgeon had a huge home at Woodworth-his office in one of the old homes in 500 block of Wick ave.Uncle Kai worked at Mckelvey’s and also lived at Woodworth.we lived on Fairgreen on North Side till I was 5-then Academy Dr in Liberty.Dad worked in Uniion National Bk building 1 floor below Youngstown Club.Mom taught Washington school-now long gone-at the high point 2 blocks off Mahoning ave.Grandmother moved to Newport neighborhood on southside in early 50s.Rode all around town on bikes except east side except to go to McGuffey plaza-on of Americas firsth shopping centers along with Liberty Plaza.favorite place to hang,anywhere when we were kids,was the nearest Isaly’s.Six plus generations buried in the Wick family plots at Oak Hill including Aunt Sue Lassen who passed last year at 99.-Ford Elsaesser


  2. grew up on southside on wilbur, never really had to be worried about things growing up really no trouble back in 60’s. had alot of kids living in the aera and playground right down the street. pemperton pool , skaking rink and many thing to do.miss those days wish it was still like it now, but time goes on. parent both worked at blue collar jobs. everyone looked out for each other.

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  3. I grew up on Campbell St., very close to Woodside Hospital. In the summer we walked to Shady Run pool (daytime|) and walked to the Dairy Queen in the evenings. In the winter we sledded at Homestead Park. Bennett School had the end-of-the year picnics at Homestead Park. Our family worshiped at Gibson Heights Presbyterian Church across the street from the Park.. As a 5th and 6th grader my safety patrol post was the corner of Homestead and Indianola Avenue. More than once,as I stood at my post the YPD would cruise by and tell me to go back to school or home and they would watch my corner – that meant someone had escaped from the mental hospital!

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    • I remember the Presbyterian church softball leagues. My church was Pleasant Grove and my father and brothers played on the team! I remember Christ Church and Brownlee woods were the teams to beat!


  4. I haven’t been around quite long enough to remember the city’s glory days of the mills and industry, but my family has lived in the Lincoln Knolls neighborhood since the very first “Knolls Homes” were built along the section of 422 called McCartney. I grew up there and live there still. I’ve heard tons of stories from friends and relatives about the neighborhood as always a diverse melting pot of cultures. Italian, Scot-Irish, Latin, African American, there was a little of everyone. Mill work on the floors and at the furnaces, city department labor, as well as industrial automotive work, was always the cinch pin that tied the area together as a community. The neighbor hood was always a place that you were invited to a barbeque on the next corner or the old Italian Grandparents were waving in family, friends, and neighbors shouting “Come in! Mangerei, mangerei!”

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  6. How interesting this article was! Our family moved from the Vienna AFB to the North side near Crandall Park my senior year of high school when my dad retired from the military. I never knew all of the history of each side of town until reading your explanation. I still enjoyed the many years I spent there after I graduated from the Rayen High School & then graduated from YSU. Something I found fascinating in the house I lived in with my parents & siblings as well as those of the neighbors that I visited on our street were the unique “hideaways” built in such as a cubby hole that appeared to be a book shelf when you entered the bedroom, a clothes closet that had a wall that opened into the closet of an adjourning bedroom, or a cedar hideaway closet on a third floor that blended into the wall. I heard these were hiding places for mafia members Back in the day!


    • Imy parents moved from Jefferson st to Redondo rd. On the north side of yo. When I was one. I would give anything to have it back. We would ice skate ,sled ride for hours at a time at the park. We would swim @ north side pool open to close! Ride our bikes to the A&P ,Atlantic mills . Walk back and forth to st. Anthony’s school, Ursuline high school. My farther was a ytown police officer my mom raise 5 children ,went to work @St. Anthony’s when I was in 3rd grade . I have never to this day meet a harder working women in my life. The story’s that I can tell from my dad!!! I loved it so much that when I moved from mich. Back to oh. I moved back to Redondo rd. Across the street from my bro. Mike 3 house’s down from my parents. And just around the corner on Todd ln. Was my bro. Tony. The good old days!

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  7. I am a product of the west side where 3 generations of my family lived. It was a glorious place to grow up from 2nd grade to 10th grade (1957-1965). Everywhere was “walkable and safe”. Stores, Bort’s Pool, Schenley Threatre, Mahoning Plaza etc. and the great schools.We moved to Canfield at the beginning of my junior year but never lost the city as I went to YSU for two degrees. Love the west side when I return to Y-town and all of the city and area. Saw a recent news piece of years of Wedgewood Pizza.
    Go Mr Fernando!
    Michelle Humans White

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  8. The north side area bordered by Broadway to the south, Fifth Ave. to the west, and Gypsy Lane to the north (I’m not sure of the eastern boundary) was called North Heights on some older maps I’ve seen. Wick Park has four quarter-mile sides: Broadway, Elm, Park Ave., and Fifth Ave. A favorite summer haunt back in the ’60’s was North Side pool. For 10 cents we could get into the pool and at the end of the afternoon, a cone at the Dairy Queen across the street fortified us for the walk home. The pool was a place to meet kids from other schools. My husband attended Rayen and I went to Ursuline. We met there one lazy summer afternoon in the late 1960’s. After dating for about 18 months, we went our separate ways. Thirty-five years later, we reunited and one of the first places we drove by was North Side pool.

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    • Susan. I bet a lot of men who went to Rayen married woman from Ursuline. I did. Best places to mingle would be Noth Side pool in the summer and ice skating at Crandell Park in the winter.

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      • Yes, Crandall park for ice skating. But I preferred roller skating in Boardman since I was a lousy ice skater,

        We lived on the edge of Smoky Hollow, on Wick Oval, when I was younger. My dad taught at the University, and there were many families associated in some way with the University in our neighborhood. They were from many backgrounds–Hungarian, Italian, Phillipines, Korean, and others. Every year we had a block party where we brought ethnic foods and played games from many countries. And we played in the oval–in the summer we played shadow tag and in the winter, cut the pie and made snow forts for snowball fights. And we sledded down the big hill behind Ford Hall. The hill went onto a large field we used for baseball in the summertime. We didn’t move to my grandparents’ house on North Heights until after my parents died.

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  9. Wonderful article, your knowledge of, as well as desire for more is inspiring. I have lived on the North (I think of it as the Awesome Alameda Avenue😊). The 200 block was literally a family. Everyone babysat, fed people, went to neighborhood meetings…Which culminated with BLOCK PARTIES that live on as legends. We had LIVE BANDS, SOFT BALL games for all (and a keg). It was the BEST!!! (And seriously, ask northsiders about the block parties😉 )

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  10. I love reading everyone’s memories of Youngstown from a Time when it was thriving, from the Steel Mills, the bars, the great restaurants, the schools and more. I grew up on the upper North Side. I have fond memories going to North Side pool, Crandall park to ice skate, sled ride, see the duck pond, play in the playground or just walk thru the wooded area near by. The Dairy Queen was a favorite after riding bikes for hours. The streets were safe to walk all hours of the day, The people were friendly and watched out for one another. The 20th Century restaurant, union square plaza, the North Side drive in, North Side bowling lanes, wick park and so much more. I’d get up early, spend the entire day outside riding bikes, playing kickball and just hanging out with friends. My Dad took me toTod Park once a week in Brier Hill to watch fast pitch softball. The Avalon Gardens, Lavanty’s pizza, the Wooden Hinge, Tony’s Hideaway, Pogo’s Pub, Inner Circle Pizza and the Hasti house were all go places to go. Every Friday my parents would get Fish from the Fish house on Belmont to take home (already cooked) for dinner. The football games at Rayen High School were always good games. There’s so much more I could say about all sides of Youngstown. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I’m proud to say I grew up in Youngstown. I will always have the great memories of Youngstown. Thanks for writing this article.

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    • I remember the fish house on Belmont. I think the name was Fish Fry. They had great coleslaw too. A small library was next to it. Later that library moved to Fifth Avenue. I enjoyed all the same places. There was a wine shop called Al’s which was walking distance from St. Ed’s Junior high. We went there every day for lunch. No wine of course. We have a bottle of coke and chips. I have very fond memories of eating lunch on the beer crates. Al the owner was a great guy.
      Do you remember Benita Drugs, and the shoe repair shop across from St Ed’s church<

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  11. My father grew up on the North Side and my mother in Campbell. My family moved to the West Side when I was in 3rd grade. We lived there until my family moved to Florida in 10th grade. This was the mid 1950’s through 1962. I still remember the city bus to and from downtown as “9 Mahoning”. I attended St. Brendan’s Elementary from 3rd grade through 8th grade. I then attended Ursuline for one year. We had so much fun growing up playing all types of sports usually on sandlots and front yards. Mahoning Plaza was our destination on Saturday’s. G.C. Murphy had a great toy section and a soda fountain. We would walk or ride bikes everywhere. This would include school, the Schenley Theatre and the library. I rode my bike to play baseball at Rocky Ridge. We lived on Dunlap Ave. and on Bonaire Ave. What a great time we had growing up there.

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  13. I was born on Carroll Street but we move very shortly after that. However when I was in the 4th grade we moved to Smoky Hollow. Unfortunately Youngstown was beginning to run down then–early-mid 70’s. It wasn’t as safe as it used to be so we didn’t wander far. However the Hollow had everything for us kids. Harrison Field was our playground the entire year around. Went to school at Madison and Hayes Jr high. Walked to both schools and it was more than a mile easily. That was the time when the district stopped it’s bus fleet and kids started riding WRTA. I wasn’t allowed and so walked.

    My dad was born and raised on the West Side. He knew Youngstown like the back of his hand. He could always give me directions to and from anyplace in town.

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  14. My family lived on the North Side from 1966 to 1972, on Crandall Avenue, a block and a half from Hayes Middle School, still marked on the map above as “Hayes Middle.” I went to Harding Elementary, and was in the 8th grade at Hayes when we moved away. Walked past Rayen High School on the way to Harding, and sometimes cut through St. Edward’s Catholic Elementary and Junior High. Now I see that of all the above, only Harding remains open.

    Lots of big Catholic families on Crandall Avenue – we bought our house from a family with 13 kids. Right across the street were households with 9 and 11 children. Up the street 8, 6, 7… Must have been 200 kids just on our block. Fantastic treat-or-treating; mercenaries were my siblings and I, whole large brown paper shopping bags filled with candy, return home and start again with an empty. 5th Ave., Ohio Ave., Redondo, Alameda, Crandall, Norwood, Lora, Fairgreen, North Heights and Broadway – it’s been 46 years and sometimes I still dream about those streets.

    Great comments in the posts above. Crandall Park, Wick Park, The Hollow, North Side Pool…

    New bicycles for my brother and I one Christmas – the winter that Interstate 680 was being finished going along the south side of downtown Youngstown. Pristine, sparkling white concrete – a finished road yet not open to traffic. Ah, the ride down the hill into the Mahoning Valley. We probably hit 40 MPH and it felt like 100.

    We ranged far and wide on those bikes – the north end of the North Side, Stambaugh Golf Course – one soggy late winter day with the ground mushy after thawing out, there we went, riding like maniacal vandals all over. No doubt we were later roundly cursed by the greenskeepers for the ruts we left.

    As long as we were home around dark, we were free. We got to know the downtown area, and the North, West and South pretty well. The East Side remains uncharted territory for me to this day. We’d ride to the high hill overlooking Youngstown Sheet & Tube, and watch the railroad locomotives and cars maneuvering down below. You saw the cars smack together, and after a couple seconds the sound reached you.

    “Crimetown U.S.A.” – this was still Youngstown in the late 1960s. We were riding in the northern part of the South Side one summer day, and went past a tavern/bar with a few guys standing out front. “Hey, where are you kids going?” We stopped and said we were just riding around. It was all good-natured, but there was a ‘presence’ to the men – I believe they were involved with organized crime to some extent.

    We rode back down a few more times that summer; it was somewhat of a thrill. One guy was in his late 20s, built like a football linebacker. “Joey the Stick” they called him. Another was older, “Razz.” I think that’s short for Razzini. Razz was often inside the bar, but sometimes sat in a chair outside. He didn’t say much, but had a penetrating stare – that Razz had some cold eyes.

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      • Thanks, Bob. Yes – the trend of ‘protecting’ kids has long been in force, and has gone to some excesses, I believe – in this time when crime and danger to children has actually lessened, overall, as far as I know.

        One or two of my brothers and I would cruise over to Calvary Cemetary or the Chaney High School area, and we felt like, “Wow, we’ve really gone a long way.” You made the good point that the city was not/is not all that large, really.



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  15. My dad, Sidney Russack, owned Benita Drug Co at the corner of Benita and Elm a block from Rayen and St. Ed’s. It was an after school hangout.Rayen students would ‘pledge’ sororities and fraternities there, e.g. propose on bended knee to the sign post. And the place to go for hot chocolate at half time on football nights at Rayen Stadium before there were concession stands.
    Does anyone remember it in the 40’s or 50’s or 60’s?


    • Linda – ha! I sure do. I went to Harding Elementary, right to the north of Rayen high school, and would walk to school along Ohio Ave going north from where we lived (Crandall Ave.). I’d come to Ohio and Benita, and at that point would be only ~300 feet from Benita and Elm. Then would continue on north on Ohio and cut west across the grass/park area, rather like the “backyard” of the Harding school.

      Now that the Ohio Ave, bridge across Smoky Hollow is no longer there, one would have to go on Elm St. itself. I had a friend who lived on Benita, close to Elm St., and two more who lived on Halleck St. – one block north of Benita, and still close to Elm St. I remember Benita Drug as a “big kids” hangout, but we went past it literally hundreds, probably thousands of times, on our bikes.

      50 – 60 years later now, I can’t remember if Benita Drug still had the ‘old time soda fountain,’ or if it was that people talked about one being in there in earlier times. Your dad was known in the area – one of my friends on Halleck St. and his whole family were 1.) big football fans, and 2.) big Ohio State fans. My family was, and still is, the exact same way. (Between my siblings and the younger generation, there are ~15 of us who have gone to Ohio State.)

      I think my friend’s grandfather knew your dad. The grandfather was a graduate of Ohio State and there was some connection – did your dad go to Ohio State? Their last name was, I believe, ‘Molter,’ though I’m not sure I’m remembering it correctly. Regardless, he definitely knew your dad, and it seems to me that your dad either began as a pharmacist and then bought Benita Drug, or was the owner as well as the pharmacist.

      Anyway, Small World Department. : ) And it’s getting to be a *long* time since…


      Doug Vinson

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