Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Independence Day in 1922

Front Page image from The Youngstown Vindicator, July 3, 1922 via Google News Archive

In some ways, the Fourth of July in Youngstown was not so different in 1922 from what I remember growing up. Many who could left the city to go to Lake Milton for the day. Others took their chances swimming at Lake Glacier, which had been closed until the Fourth for pollution concerns after heavy rains. Everyone had family picnics. The mills and most businesses were closed. Crowds descended on Idora Park, staying for the big fireworks display that evening.

The city itself had no formal celebrations. Perhaps that is just as well because city officials were not in a celebrating mood. Downtown grocer and upstart mayor George Oles clashed repeatedly with city council and everyone else in his reform efforts and tendered his resignation July 1 at noon. Then a rally of citizens at Central Square and a deputation of citizens at his home persuaded him to ask for his resignation back. George Reese had already been sworn in as mayor and council refused. The eve of Independence Day was full of wrangling between Oles and the city. The political fireworks may have rivaled those at Idora Park!

President Harding in Marion

In other news from July 3 (there is no paper for the 4th), President Warren G. Harding was passing through Ohio, returning to his home in Marion for 4th of July celebrations, along with General “Blackjack” Pershing, who led U.S. forces in the first World War, or as it was then known, the Great War. [Our son lives in Marion and we’ve seen the Harding home pictured here and the Harding Memorial.]

The paper also covers the four open air “union” services held by Protestant churches, one on each side of town. Over 2,000 attended, with patriotic themes and messages. On Sunday, a campaign was also launched at Villa Maria, just over the state line in Pennsylvania, to raise $150,000 for the Villa Maria Convent. It is now the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center and home of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. 

The editorial cartoon reflects the growth of automobile travel and might be as true one hundred years later. The title reads “To the Country Is No Longer Any Place to Go For a Quiet Fourth.” The drawing shows traffic jams, a crowded picnic area where multitudes are shooting off fireworks, one mother bandaging a crying child’s hand and a poor fellow covering his ears as he cowers behind a tree. All that is missing is the gunfire, celebratory or otherwise. Meanwhile, the inset reads “Absolutely deserted” with a fellow contentedly enjoying a good book in his hammock on the porch. That’s the 4th of July for me!

In entertainment, the big story was the double feature at the Dome, with Richard Barthelmess playing the title role in “Sonny” while Buster Keaton starred in “My Wife’s Relations.” Meanwhile, the Hippodrome Players were performing “The Tailor Made Man,” a Cohan and Harris comedy.

The big sporting news was the 12 round boxing match, also to be held at Idora Park between Soldier Bartfield, “one of the toughest birds in the welter division” and hometown favorite, Jimmy Jones. As you can see, you could have quite a day at Idora–rides, midway, picnics, boxing matches, and fireworks!

Of course, stores featured after the Fourth sales. Strouss-Hirshberg’s had a basement sale and a store I never heard of before, The France-Devin Company at 27 West Federal Street, was having its “Final Clean-up of All Spring and Summer Apparel.”

Much has change in 100 years. But picnics, family gatherings, a trip to the lake or a pool, and fireworks still are a great recipe for the day as we celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday! Thanks for the stroll down a historical memory lane and have a happy and safe Fourth!

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

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