Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2017


“The Morning Drive,” Christopher Leeper, 2017. Image used by permission of the artist.

I first started writing “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts back in the spring of 2014, which means I’ve written over 175 of these. I’ve learned a great deal about our town, its history, its people, its places, and its favorite foods. I’ve rediscovered so many memories about my own growing up years and interacted with so many of you about your memories. You have filled in so many gaps in my own knowledge. Together, we’ve told the story of Youngstown, and why, even with all its challenges, Youngstown is a special place.

I wish we could celebrate Christmas together. In Youngstown style, there would be so much good food and drink, lots of stories, jokes, and laughter. It really would be a celebration. I can’t do that but what I can do, maybe as a small gift of the best of our hometown, is to share the posts that were your favorites of 2017. For some, it will be revisiting old friends, and for others a first time discovery.  So, here are the top ten posts, (by number of views) with links to the original post, from 2017:

10. Iconic Places. This was kind of a “top 10” in itself of the places that represent Youngstown, that capture it at its best. Lots of pictures in this post to show all your friends how special Youngstown is.

9. Coal Mining. This post explored the coal mining history of Youngstown, a legacy still impacting the city in the form of mine subsidence. Many of you shared stories of mines near where you grew up!

8. Civil War Soldiers Monument.  I’d seen the “Man on the Monument” countless times but never knew the history or what was written on the base of the monument.

7. Black Monday. Say “Black Monday” to a Youngstowner and they will know what you mean. This year marked forty years since that sad day.

6. The “Foster” in Fosterville. This was a fascinating post to write, learning about the history of Colonel Lemuel Talcott Foster, from whom Fosterville gets its name, and the farm and mines on his land, part of the coal mining boom (which led to the post on coal mining).

5. Inspiring Teachers. I wrote about the inspiring school teachers that shaped my life and featured Mr. Erickson, my high school math teacher. Many of you remembered him as well, and shared memories of other inspiring teachers.

4. Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs. Seems like all of us remember Frank Petrakos with a line of buns up his sweaty arm slapping wieners in and ladling chili sauce over them. And many of us make it a point to stop by Jays whenever we are in town!

3. Italian Food. One thing all Youngstown people who have moved away have in common is that they are looking for good Italian food. I remember a number of the good places around town to get good Italian and most of you added your moms or grandmothers to the list!

2. Sides of Town. Every side of Youngstown, north, south, east, or west had its own personality. And all of us thought ours was the best side of town. And we were right!

1. The View From Home. This post began when my sister-in-law, an artist, posted on Facebook a picture of a painting by Youngstown area artist, Christopher Leeper, titled “The Morning Drive.” I gasped when I saw it because it was the view from the corner of Portland and Mahoning Avenues, right about from where I used to catch the WRTA bus. It was the view of the Mahoning Valley I grew up seeing every day. The after story of this post was that we met Christopher Leeper at an artists workshop later that spring, and over the summer saw the actual painting at the Columbus Museum of Art, where it was in a show of Ohio artists.

Thank you, all of you who read and comment. Many of you know far more than me about the history of our area, and you also have been inspiring teachers. I have friends who are not from Youngstown, who have discovered what a hidden gem our city is. I hope that knowing the story of our town can be not only a way to re-live our memories but might in a small way contribute to the renewal of Youngstown in its third century as a city.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

13 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2017

  1. Merry Christmas Bob. God bless you for keeping the history and memory of Youngstown alive! I eagerly await Saturday morning and reading you wonderful articles. I’ve been gone for 55 years but Yungstown will always be HOME for me. Many good wishes and blessings to you always.

  2. Thank you, your writings are something I look forward to each week, and this post is really special. Only those of us that grew up in this era, mostly having just a few cents in our pockets, were truly blessed for being a part of these times. Thanks to you, we are able to relive them! Merry Christmas!

  3. Thanks for making growing up in Youngstown a thing. I have great memories. It’s great to celebrate our uniqueness. I love Chis Leeper’s painting. He is such a great artist and a really nice human being.

  4. Though I am not a native to Youngstown, my family (O’Connor and Barnhart) comes from the West Side and Struthers, respectively, and I regularly point out things in this blog that would stir memories. Thank you for writing such a fine blog!
    Have a safe, fulfilling holiday!

  5. Pingback: Your Favorite “General” Posts of 2017 | Bob on Books

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