Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — City Parks

Ipes Field Ruins 5

“Ipes Field Ruins 5” courtesy Mark Hackett. Used with permission.

I used to basically live at Borts Field during my early teen years, and I was there nearly all year round. Once I and my buddies had gotten too big for the playground at the old Washington School, we’d go up to Borts and play pick up games of baseball in the spring and summer. Occasionally, if there was no room at Borts, we’d go over to Kochis Park which was nearby at Florence and North Lakeview.  When it was hot we’d spend afternoons, and sometimes mornings at the free swims at Borts Pool. In the evenings, we’d hang out watching baseball games and run over to Zitello’s for a pop between innings.

Later on, I played in a fast-pitch softball league of churches in the Youngstown area. We played at a number of the city parks including Ipes Field, Pemberton, and I believe Gibson and Homestead Parks, as well as many games at Rocky Ridge.

One summer, I met some girls from school, one who I was pretty interested in, who played tennis on the Borts Field tennis courts (one concrete and one clay). So I took up tennis, an interest which lasted longer than our interest in each other. Speaking of girls, Borts Field, on the hill overlooking the pool, was the site of my first kiss (a different girl, not the tennis player). That relationship didn’t last long either.

When the weather turned cool it was time for touch football, when the field was marked for football. That was probably the hardest time on my clothes–I’d often come home muddy. Then we moved on to basketball. I was never very good at this–not a good dribbler for one thing. Mostly, I’d pass the ball to someone who was a good shot.

Winter found me on the tennis courts again. The parks cover them with water so they would freeze over and we could ice skate. That’s where, after many falls, I learned to ice skate.

There were parks all over the city of Youngstown, in addition to Mill Creek Park. Crandall and Wick Parks on the North Side are perhaps the most scenic. Pemberton on the South side was a great place as well, with a tree-surrounded pool as I remember. My wife grew up across the street from Ipes Field, which also had a baseball field and stands (now crumbling as grown over as the above picture attests). In later years they installed tennis courts and my wife and I would play sometimes when we came back to visit her mother.

We both remember summer programs for kids at the parks. There were crafts, games, and even plays they would put on at the end of the program for the parents. I never actually participated but heard about it from other kids.

Much has changed over the years. Some places are crumbling. Mark Hackett, who allowed me to use the picture of Ipes Field, has albums of photos at the “Cool Stuff Long-Gone Near Youngstown, Ohio” Facebook page, including similar photos at Oakland, Stambaugh, Tod, and Gibson Fields. I suspect many of these had been built as WPA projects during the Depression. At the same time, the city continues to maintain a number of facilities throughout the city, according to this list on their website.

I would love to hear about the city parks you grew up playing at and your favorite memories.  If you are like me, you probably have lots of them!

11 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — City Parks

  1. My neighborhood park was South Side. I remember doing crafts in the “shanty “, and the washers/ringers contests. And with Mary Poppins returning soon, I remember the musical skits and paper mache costumes we made and wore as each park entity competed in the big show at end of summer that Mary Poppins came ’round the first time. Good times.

  2. Youngstown really had a great park system. I remember the Sheridan park and the hours playing “washers” and baseball. Went back there a few years ago walked inside to see the old school. The gym look so small to my memories. The police came and asked why I was there and threw me out. It had become a detention center. I told them my father and I both went there. That saved me a parking ticket. Times change.

  3. Delason Playground. Was an easy walk from my house. Doing genealogy in the last few years and think some of my Aunts might have gone to Delason Elementary School. Now I wonder if the school had been where the playground was?

  4. Bob, great memories of our great parks around Youngstown. Frequented many of those you mentioned as I played baseball as a pre-Little Leaguer through my Class B years, say 1963 through 1973. Growing up in Smoky Hollow I can add Harrison Field and one behind and below the Motor Inn on Wick Ave across from the Butler Museum, called Farmer Field. YSU Field Hockey often pre-empted our attempt to play a pick-up game there as they stored their equipment in a field house and practiced there. Was a great place in the Winter too as we rode sleds from the tennis court down, hoping, when conditions were right that we could reach the blacktop entrance and down to Walnut Street. Also played at Parker Field below McGuffey Plaza when we had a neighborhood pre-little league team coached by a neighborhood dad. Little League at Mary Haddow Field on Oak St Extension, Pony and Colt League at East High, Idora Park Field, Stambaugh Field then Class B at Evans, Ipes, Victory, Roosevelt Park in Campbell, Pemberton, Oakland and I’m sure I’m missing one or more. Loved Crandall Park for sledding and ice skating in the Winter as so many did. I do remember the summer programs where we checked in for the day and worked through the planned activities. Ringer tournaments were always a part of those and we carried that over to non-program days as well. Had a nice set up in my yard on Emerald Street. Thanks for poking us to recall our super days around Youngstown.

  5. I spent every sunny day of the summer and even some not so sunny days at Borts Pool. The pool opened at 1:00 Pm for the afternoon session and the line usually was all the way down to the street to get in. It was 5 cents when I first went and adults had to pay a quarter then it went up to 10 cents (grounds for revolt) and the adults had to pay 35 cents. Although I never saw many adults there. A bottle of water cost $1.50 today, so what a deal. I was from the lower west side and went to Stambaugh grade school but at Borts I met and made friends with the Washington grade school crowd and some from the upper west side that went to St Christine’s. I am still friends with many people I met at Borts. We had a great time and we usually left around four. The one silly thing that always stood to me out was the way the girls would put their hair up in rollers around 3 pm getting ready for the big night and be all dolled up hairwise by leaving time, around 4 PM. Of course I don’t think there were really any big nights to speak of but you have to give them credit for trying. There was a little family canned goods store on Bel Vista on the right on the way home and I would stop for a couple pretzel sticks (2 cents each) because swimming worked up an appetite. They had a swimming tournament at Borts one year there was this group of swimmers from the YMCA with some fishy name I can’t remember, who were the big men on campus for that event. Ross Wales was one of them and he actually won a Bronze at the at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. I raced against him and those other fishmen or whatever they were called. I unfortunately got caught up in the rope dividers and didn’t fare well. Yep Borts Pool, got a tan, met girls, and made life long friends….. good times!

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