Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Goldfish Pond

 

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The Lily Pond, before 2016 renovations

A 15 cent loaf of day old bread was all you needed for a delightful family outing to the Goldfish Pond. You gave each of the kids a slice, taught them to break off small pieces and toss them into the water. Suddenly a school of goldfish appeared. Then everyone, including the parents, threw in more bread and watched the feeding frenzy. Hundreds would gather along the shore, from tiny fish to big old grizzled veterans of many years in the pond.

It was one of the first feature designed by Volney Rogers with W.S.C. Cleveland in the newly acquired park, formed by damming the outlet for a nearby natural spring. Legend has it that the first five goldfish came from a police officer, Martin Moran, who gave them to Volney Rogers to be released into the pond. The pond opened in 1896.

The pond was formally called the Lily Pond, because sections are covered with lily pads. It was, and still is a home to frogs, turtles, ducks and geese. On our last visit, we delighted in observing a turtle sunning itself on a log, as well as the mallard ducks who made their home in the pond.

The pond has required periodic dredging (in 1935 and 1975), and extensive improvements in 2016.  They added a boardwalk leading to an observation deck as well as an arrival plaza with drinking fountains, benches and an information kiosk. There is a floating boardwalk and observation deck over the Frog Pond.

Feeding fish or other wildlife is now prohibited in the park. It turns out that our stale bread is not really healthy for wildlife and pollutes the pond. it also defeats the natural instincts of animals.

I wonder if Lindley Vickers knew that when he took generations of school children for nature hike around the pond and along the nearby trails? What I do know is the he helped us love the pond and the animals and plants found around it. I suspect there are ways to accomplish that without feeding the wildlife. What I do hope is that park officials major in delight rather than rules so a new generation learn to love the park.

The Lily Pond is located off of Birch Hill Drive, which connects McCollum Road on the West side, with West Drive in the park. Birch Hill Cabin is located across the road and is available for groups up to 48 to rent. I remember several gatherings there, and a walk around the Gold Fish Pond was a great chance for some fresh air, especially if you were with a date. It was only a quarter mile around, but with benches, it was a good, if not private, place for conversation in a beautiful place.

What do you remember about visiting the Goldfish Pond?

13 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Goldfish Pond

  1. Thanks Bob for bringing back special memories. My dad, brother Mike and I would go often. My best memory was the shear size of the fish. We brought the bread as you did. I also enjoyed the quite peace and wonderful woodland feel and spending time with my two favorite guys 😀
    Best regards
    Michelle Humans White

  2. Bob, I recall as a child having arguments about how old or fresh the bread was that I could take. But there were always golden moments with my Dad feeding goldfish and waiting to see if a turtle was going to appear following a rising stream of bubbles,

    i

  3. Would ride my bike down there and everywhere in the park growing up in the 50’s and never forgot about it. My kids saw the park but without IdoraPark and the Old Mill in its glory.

  4. Was just there with a beautiful lady who had never been to “our” park even though she stays about 40 min away. I loved the look on her face when I took her there. I love Mill Creek Park all year long.

  5. I remember many a weekend day taken to the goldfish pond by my father and mother. My brother, sister and I looked forward to it and getting bread to take to “feed” the goldfish. Many families had the same idea as there was usually a large gathering of people when we were there. Fond memories.

  6. We happened to find old movie reels in my mom’s home after she died, and we had them put on a DVD. There was a scene in a wooded area where I was walking with my mom and dad in 1964 that appeared to be in the Spring. My mom was in a dress and dress shoes, and my dad was in a tie. It was lovely. My first thought was that it was a Sunday, but it could have been any day of the week back then. My mom had a loaf of bread, and was showing me how to throw it in the water. As we watched, it became apparent we were at the Lily Pond!!! We saw the fish!!! It was lovely knowing That I was there with my parents as a baby!! I am in the park all the time now almost 57 years later. It filled me with so many nostalgic memories. We are so lucky to be surrounded by this beauty!!!

    • What a delightful memory! I’ve also experienced the wonder of visits that take me back to walks with my dad and outings with college friends including my then-future wife!

    • Ray, thanks, but if you will note in reading the article, I note the formal name of Lily Pond at several places in the article. But I suspect that for most who grew up in Youngstown, they, like me, first knew it as the “Goldfish Pond” and religiously brought day old bread to feed the goldfish, even though naturalists now tell us this is harmful to the fish and other wildlife. Thanks for reading these posts!

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