One of the things I’ve discovered in writing about Youngstown over the years is that it may be forty years or more, but many people formerly from Youngstown still love the city as they remember it. That’s not true for all, of course, but I’ve reflected on why so many still have a special place in their hearts for Youngstown. I feel that way even though I moved away for work after college in 1976, and have lived longer in my current home than I lived in Youngstown.
Maybe it is just how people feel about their home town, no matter what. Could be, but I find people from Youngstown seem to light up when they have a chance to talk about what was special about home. We make pilgrimages to remind ourselves of what we loved–the Canfield Fair, the original Handel’s, Mill Creek Park, the Butler, or even New York City to ride the old Idora carousel.
If I had to come up with one reason for this love, I think it is simply because, for so many of us, the Youngstown of our memories was a good place to grow up–not perfect, but pretty good. It was a city of families–often extended families living within blocks of each other. It was a city that worked hard, and sometimes partied hard–particularly at weddings and wakes. It was a city that was both gritty and beautiful–with both mills and Mill Creek, blast furnaces and the Butler, both neighborhood garages and grand family-owned department stores. In many parts of town, most of the necessities of life were within walking distance.
Of course there was the food, and the endless quest of Youngstowners to find anything so good elsewhere, whether pizza or pizzelles, halushki or Handel’s. The Recipes of Youngstown cookbooks are a treasure trove for those who lost grandma’s recipe for one or another great Youngstown recipe. Sometimes the best food in the city could be found in her kitchen and her recipe box a family treasure.
The more I’ve delved into the people and history of Youngstown, the more I’ve been impressed by so many who loved the city and gave back and made it the rich place I enjoyed as a child–Volney Rogers, Joseph Butler, Anson Campbell, P. Ross Berry, William Rayen, Reuben MacMillan, the Warner Brothers, the McKelvey and Strouss families, and so many more. I didn’t know most of these stories until recent years, but those stories wove the fabric of my life and that of so many others in the city. They made it a good place industrially, commercially, educationally, culturally, and architecturally. Knowing these stories has deepened my love for such a historically and culturally rich place.
We love it for all our memories–family gatherings, first communions, first dates, first jobs. Some of us married there, and whether those lasted or our spouses survived, we remember. Many of us have buried our parents there. Even if we haven’t visited for some time, we remember our favorite places, whether the beauty of places like Crandall Park, skating on Lake Glacier in winter, the grand old houses around Wick Park and Stambaugh Auditorium.
I could go on, but all the posts I’ve written over the years are really an extended love letter for the city. And I would love to hear about the things you loved, and still love about Youngstown.