Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — East High School

East High School by Daysleeper47, Public Domain via Wikipedia.

I went to Chaney High School. At that time, there were six public high schools in Youngstown (Chaney, The Rayen School, North, South, Wilson, and East). East was our cross town rival in the City Series. Apart from that, I did not know much about East.

It turns out that the two schools, which are now the two remaining public high schools in Youngstown, have parallel histories. In the early 1920’s, Youngstown was experiencing explosive growth and the existing schools were becoming overcrowded. In 1921, plans were announced to build new schools on the East and West sides. Both opened in 1925, the West side school being renamed Chaney High School after the recently deceased former superintendent of the Youngstown School District.

When it opened, East was designed to accommodate 1600 to 1800 students. It was a three story brick building of colonial design with a frontage of 284 feet and depth of 165. The interior was trimmed in oak with maple floors in the classrooms and terrazzo hallways. It had 21 classrooms, 10 shops, 12 special rooms, 2 study halls, 2 gyms, an auditorium, lunchroom, kitchen, and two locker rooms (Aley, p. 263).

The old East High School

John W. Smith was the first principal and served in this position until his retirement in 1947. Throughout his tenure, sports teams were known as the Sunrisers. In 1950, they changed the mascot to the Golden Bears, which they remained until the 1998 closing of the school. East underwent renovations in 1955, the same year the new Chaney High School was dedicated. The renovations involved additions to all three floors. Further renovations were completed in 1981 when restrooms were renovated and new doors and windows were installed in the old section of the building. A fence was built around the school grounds in 1987 and the parking lot expanded.

After the mill closures, North High School was closed in 1980 and South High School in 1993. Some of the students from each school were assigned to East. In 1997, when the school district was in debt, a state commission took over operation of the schools and decided to close East as a high school, transferring the students to The Rayen School. In the next years, East became a middle school. It was closed after winter quarter of 2006.

But that was not the end of the history of East High School. In 2007 a new East High School opened at its current location on 474 Bennington. With its opening, The Rayen School and Wilson High School closed and their students assigned to East. When the school opened in 2007, students decided that the Panther would be their mascot, in silver and blue. Ten years later, though, they once again decided to become the blue and gold Golden Panthers.

Once again, Chaney and East were on parallel paths and sports rivalries. Then in 2011, Chaney became a STEM school without sports programs. For a time, East was the only traditional public high school in Youngstown. In 2017, the decision was announced that Chaney would once again become a traditional high school and in 2018, the Cowboys once again fielded sports teams. The Golden Bears and the Cowboys were rivals once more.

Debra Campbell is the current principal of East High School. East High School emphasizes the Three R’s: ”Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.” It must be working. In 2022, East High School won the Gene Bottoms Pacesetter Award for School Improvement, measured by attendance, on-time graduation rates, and graduation requirements. From 2021 to 2022, attendance jumped from 71.1% to 88.4% and graduation rates from 2017 to 2021 jumped from 68.6% to 84.7%. That seems impressive during a pandemic.

East High School is coming up on 100 years since its founding. It looks like the school is on a good trajectory. And even though they are a sports rival of my alma mater, I wish them well. After all, how else can we have a rivalry!

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

5 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — East High School

  1. Having grown up on the eastside in the ’50s & ’60s I enjoyed the article. My mother and uncles attended East High. Our family eventually found our way to Ursuline where I graduated in ’71. The East vs. Ursuline rivalry was big in our day. Rayen Stadium saw upwards of 10,000 attending games between the Irish & the Golden Bears in the mid ’50s thru the mid ’60s. East shocked Ursuline, 6-0 after the Irish had battered arch-rival Cardinal Mooney 29-0 the week before. That was in ’65 and the loss to East gave Chaney the city championship. Ursuline’s last City Series game ever was against East as the ’67 season concluded. The Irish were 8-1 and the Bears 2-7. East shocked Ursuline again with an 8-8 tie, keeping the Irish from the last city title they’d be eligible for as that season ended. To put salt into the wound Mooney then won the City Series thanks to East. The Irish & Cards joined the SVC in ’68 and the longtime series with East High ended. Youngstown was consumed with high school football in those days. Great memories!


  2. The article notes that new high schools on the east and west sides of town opened in the same year. The renaming of the west side school to honor N. H. Chaney infers it was originally intended to be called something else, probably West thereby completing the four geographic references The “new” Chaney High School was opened in 1955. That was the year we moved to the west side and I started first grade. Though we attended St Brendan’s, we lived across the street from what we always knew as West Elementary and Jr. High. My question is, between the years 1925 and 1955, was the entire elementary-jr. high-high school combination known as Chaney or were the elementary and junior high schools grades always West with the upper grades carrying the Chaney name?


  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Chaney High School | Bob on Books

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