Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — It All Began at the Red Barn

Red Barn” by Salem Ohio Public Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.*

It all began at the Red Barn. It was Friday, September 22, 1972, the second day of my freshman year at Youngstown State University. At that time, the food options around Youngstown State were still somewhat limited. So I ended up at the Red Barn Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue. At that time both Cushwa Hall and the parking garage to the west of it were under construction across the street. Much of the campus was under construction at that time, enjoying the infusion of state funds in the five years after becoming a state university in 1967.

I ordered my food and when I looked for a place to sit, I saw a girl I’d met that summer. She was sitting with a tall and slender girl with long brown hair. Her name was Marilyn. She was also a freshman and had known the friend she was with since their early teens. They both grew up in the Brownlee Woods area. Marilyn was a Mooney grad who was majoring in English and minoring in journalism. Little did I realize at the time that I had met my future wife that day.

I can’t say it was love at first sight. But Red Barn was kind of the default restaurant for me at the time and she was often there. And I started to notice that she was an interesting person to whom I found myself attracted. We were both in Honors English, though in different sections. We spent a lot of time discussing books and our other classes and life at Youngstown State. She even let me borrow a couple of books that she would be reading at a different time. Finally, a few weeks later, I asked her out, and as they say, the rest was history. If she were telling the story, she would probably add that by the time I asked her out, she’d concluded I was not interested (although she was!). We guys can be slow sometimes!

We dated all through college, graduating together in June of 1976. We took some time after college to get established in our jobs and were married in June of 1978. The years since have taken us to Toledo, Cleveland, and for over 30 years, the Columbus area.

We have always loved eating out together. We would linger over “bottomless” cups of coffee while we were dating. Every year, in the early years, we would go out on the “anniversary” of when we met. As the years passed, our wedding anniversary tended to get more attention. But this year, we are planning to go out, not for a burger, but we probably will get some beef in the form of a good steak!

The Red Barn where we met is no more. It is an attractively landscaped green space. The restaurant chain succumbed to competition in the late 1980’s. It is hard to believe that fifty years later, we are still sharing meals and life together. But it has been quite wonderful–so many events, places, and people have been part of our lives since–leaving us with many memories. But it all began at a Red Barn Restaurant where two freshmen shared a lunch together.

*The picture of the Red Barn is not the one on Lincoln Avenue, but one very like it on State Street in nearby Salem, Ohio. A postscript: Several readers noted that the building pictured is still in use, currently as a pizza shop, formerly a dry cleaners.

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

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