Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Youngstown Telegram

For all my years of growing up, Youngstown was basically a one-newspaper town. In 2019, Youngstown faced the prospect of becoming a newspaper desert as the Vindicator announced it would cease operations. Subsequently, the Warren Tribune-Chronicle picked up the Vindicator name and continues to publish a paper in Youngstown under that name. Several other news outlets stepped up their news coverage including The Business Journal and a new online news outlet, Mahoning Matters. Local television stations added coverage on their websites as well. There are actually more news outlets than in 2019.

This was the case in Youngstown through much of its history until 1936. My dad talked about delivering the Telegram in his youth. For about five decades, Youngstown had two major papers, the Youngstown Vindicator and the Youngstown Telegram. It arose out of a newspaper war in the 1880’s. McKelvey’s founder G. M. McKelvey, Judge L. W. King, H. M. Garlick, William Cornelius, and Hal K. Taylor formed the Youngstown Printing Company on November 17, 1885, with McKelvey as president. On December 1, the Youngstown Evening Telegram came into existence with Judge L. W. King as editorial manager, In 1891, they discontinued the Sunday paper and in 1895 the name became the Youngstown Telegram.

The paper was known to have a Republican bent. The paper advocated prohibition, which may have been the reason publisher Samuel G, McClure’s home was bombed. A few years later, The New York Times, reported the bombing of the newspaper offices on the night of November 15, 1918.

One of Youngstown’s most well-known reporters came out of the Telegram. Esther Hamilton began her career as a reporter with the paper and then joined the Vindicator when the Telegram was acquired by the Vindicator in 1936. One of her early assignments was to cover the Youngstown City Schools.

In subsequent years, the newspaper became part of the Scripps-Howard chain. The paper had more of a national focus and subscriptions began to slip, and hence ad revenues. Then in 1928, the paper turned its back on its Republican base and endorsed Al Smith in his race against Herbert Hoover. Smith lost and the paper lost circulation. Around this time, a circulation reporting scandal arose, as the newspaper reported higher circulation figures when in fact, the circulation department was buying back over 3,000 copies. By the time when they were acquired by the Vindicator, one source puts their circulation in the neighborhood of 24,000 to over 42,000 for the Vindicator, which meant much higher ad revenues for the Vindicator. The Vindicator also had a Sunday edition.

Youngstown Vindicator from May 3, 1960, the last day “And The Youngstown Telegram” appears.

The last edition of The Youngstown Telegram was July 2, 1936. For many years, the name appearing at the top of the front page was “Youngstown Vindicator” and in much smaller print “The Youngstown Telegram.” The last day this appears on the paper was May 3, 1960, after which only the Youngstown Vindicator and later Vindicator appears. I don’t know what the disappearance of the name meant, but the use of the two may have suggested more of a merger than an acquisition. Certainly staff for both newspapers worked on the Vindicator. Perhaps it was also a way to appeal to old Telegram subscribers. A front page story on July 3, 1936 in the new paper states: “Readers of the Telegram will find little changed in the new Vindicator-Telegram. The Vindicator has won national recognition for its progressive editorial policy and undoubtedly it will be continued in the merged publication.”

My dad used to call it the Vindicator-Telegram. Now I understand why. I was just learning to read when the last vestige of the Telegram disappeared. But the hyphenated name looks back to a time when Youngstown was a two-newspaper town.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Songs of the Summer

Rolling Stones in concert, Houtrusthallen The Hague (NL), 15 April 1967, Ben Merk (ANEFO), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember where you were the first time you heard the Beatles sing “A Hard Day’s Night”? Was there a song you associated with your first love? Was there a song you loved to crank up to full volume on a hot summer evening cruising around in your car? Were you like me and always had you radio set to WHOT?

I took a walk down memory lane with the help of Billboard’s Summer Songs 1958-2020: The Top 10 Tunes of Each Summer“. I looked back at the decade of 1963-1972, the last year being when I graduated from high school. I listened to some of those songs on a transistor with an earphone jack. Others I listened to cranked up on my stereo (“turn that awful music down!”). Some were the songs blaring from loudspeakers on midways at Idora Park or the Canfield Fair or the dances we went to. Here are some of the ones I remembered:

1963: “Blowing in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. This was the last summer of John F. Kennedy’s “Camelot” and this reflected the idealism he inspired. We played my brother’s LP recording of their songs over and over. I still tear up when I watch one of our videos and they sing this song. And there was Mary’s voice and that long blonde hair!

1964: “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. Was it Eric Burdon’s low growl as he sang “There is a house in New Orleans…” or the subject matter–a house of ill-repute? We all thought of ourselves as “bad boys” when we heard him sing it.

1965: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” The Rolling Stones. Speaking of bad boys. It spoke what a lot of us testosterone- drunk boys were feeling.

1966: “Summer in the City” The Lovin’ Spoonful. John Sebastian sang about getting dirty and gritty in the city but how “at night it’s a different world./Go out and find a girl.” We knew dirty and gritty in Youngstown and I was starting to wake up to the idea of going out and finding a girl as an awkward junior high student. Here’s a video of Sebastian singing the song.

1967: This was the summer of The Doors’ “Light my Fire” and Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.” I remember waking up to deliver Sunday papers with “San Francisco” running through my head. Just don’t light my fire with flowers in my hair! It was always cool when they’d play the long version of “Light My Fire” on the radio. Nothing like it.

1968: OK, this is true confessions time. Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You” was the number one song and it was the theme of my crush on a girl in my neighborhood. She never knew! Heard the song recently and was struck with what a truly awful singer Alpert was. I think it was the only time he tried singing. It’s funny how there were the sweet love songs and then the bad boy songs. It was also the summer of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”

1969: Not sure there was a standout that year, but “One” by Three Dog Night was a song I could identify with. I listened to a lot of Three Dog Night around that time.

1970: It wasn’t top 10 that summer but it spoke to the grief so many of us felt from the killings at nearby Kent State. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Ohio’ captured the grief and anguish so many of us felt. I can’t help but think of a young girl from Boardman who died that day who is memorialized in the words, “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know.” That girl was 400 feet away and walking to class. Here’s a live acoustic recording I had not seen before of Neil Young singing the song in 1971.

1971: It seemed that the songs got gentler after Kent State. My memory of this year was James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It was stuck in my head enough that when I had to give the valedictory address for my high school class in 1972, it was the basis of my talk.

1972: The song from this year’s list with the most staying power was “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, but for me, the Hollies last gasp, “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” was the song I remember.

I’ll stop there. It’s pretty apparent that girls were a big thing on my mind at that time. In the fall of 1972, I went to Youngstown State. On the second day, I met a girl from the Southside who I started dating a few weeks later. Forty-nine years later she is sitting across the room as I write. I consider myself fortunate and blessed. Life didn’t turn out like the songs–rather far different and better.

What are some of the songs you remember from the summers of your youth and of what do they remind you?

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Baby Doll Dance

Mt. Carmel Festival – Lowellville, OH – Baby Doll Dance 7.12.17 uploaded to YouTube by PaOrgRecChaos

After a year of COVID restrictions, the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festival in Lowellville is celebrating its 126th year July 14-17, 2021. Like every festival, there are all the great fair foods, rides, and games, including bocce tournaments each evening and a 50/50 raffle. The Mount Carmel Society Facebook page is probably the best source of information about events.

What makes the festival unique is the Baby Doll Dance which occurs each night of the festival. Around 10:30 pm each night a giant baby doll appears. The fire department keeps the crowd back. The doll has a red, white, and green dress, the colors of Italy, a papier mache’ head covered with a babushka, and long arms sticking straight out, loaded with fireworks. The doll starts dancing and twirling as the fireworks are ignited and start firing. Rockets also fire out of the head. You can’t dance without music. The Mt Carmel Society Band plays “Il Bersagliere” as the baby doll dances and fireworks ignite.

So who is behind, or perhaps it would be better to say, under that baby doll? For the past forty years, Frank Speziale has been the man beneath the doll. According to a 2018 AP story, Speziale’s uncle built the costume when he was a kid. From childhood, he had hoped to dance beneath the doll, built by his uncle. Forty years ago he got his wish. It almost didn’t happen. When his uncle passed, they were going to destroy the costume, but his grandfather stood up for him, and insisted that he would take over.

But where did this tradition come from? I understand it goes back to thirteenth century Italy where villages would burn a papier mache’ baby doll each year to cleanse the village of and ward off any evil spirits. Let’s hope this year’s dance wards off the virus for all the people in Lowellville!

There was only one other place I could find that has a Baby Doll Dance, the San Rocco Festival in Aliquippa, PA, but the description of its significance is different, it only occurs one night, and it hasn’t been going as long as Lowellville’s so this seems to be another unique Mahoning Valley tradition. I wish I could be there. I’ve never seen the dance and I know I would love the food. Another year, perhaps. But to all of those celebrating, Buona Festa!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Central Square

Public Square (showing Diamond Cafe)
1909-06-15, Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections

Central Square, the heart of Youngstown’s business district has undergone numerous changes reflecting the development of the city from John Young’s village to the present. At various times, it has been called Central Square, “the Diamond,” and Federal Plaza. Over the years it has seen foot and horse-drawn traffic, streetcars, buses and automobiles. For roughly 30 years, it was a plaza with no east-west traffic on Federal Street. For 31 years, there was a branch of the library on the north side of the square. Here is a timeline reflecting some of the changes on the Square over the years.

1798: John Young lays out plats for his village, designating a public square, a rectangle 250 by 400 feet, similar to New England Villages with the simple word “Square” on his map. With foresight, he lays out streets intersecting the square 100 feet wide.

1803: Youngstown’s first log schoolhouse opens on the Square.

1806: Perlee Brush hired as the first school-teacher.

1800-1860: Central Square is the center of the village primarily along East and West Federal Street consisting of residences and small businesses. For example, Woodman’s Grocery occupied the site that later became the Mahoning Bank Building.

1866: The Rayen School built by P. Ross Berry opens on Wick Avenue north of downtown.

1869: First Tod Hotel built on the southeast part of Central Square by. P. Ross Berry.

Realty Building and the Tod Hotel, from an undated vintage postcard.

1870: The Civil War Soldiers Monument is dedicated July 4, 1870 by Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and Congressman James A. Garfield.

1870’s: P. Ross Berry builds Opera House and building complex known as “The Diamond Block” on the southwest corner of public square.

1875: Horse drawn street cars provide transportation from the Square.

1876: Youngstown becomes the county seat of Mahoning County. The ubiquitous P. Ross Berry builds the first courthouse building at Wick and Wood.

1882: Federal Street is paved.

1886: Electric street lights installed.

1889: First of the downtown office towers built, the four story Federal Building, Daniel Burnham architect.

1899: Market Street Bridge opens, making Central Square the traffic hub from all sides of town.

1902: Dollar Savings and Trust Building completed built by Charles H. and Charles F. Owsley.

1906: Stambaugh Building built. Albert Kahn architect

1907: The Wick Building, also designed by Burnham is erected.

1910: Mahoning National Bank Building, also designed by Kahn.

1923: Central Square Library opened on the site of the defunct “Maid of the Mists” Fountain on the north side of the Square.

1924: Realty Building, architect Morris Scheibel.

1926: Keith-Albee Theatre, later the Palace, built on the northeast side of the Square

1926: Union National Bank, Walker & Weeks architect.

1929: Central Tower, a distinctive art deco building designed by Morris Scheibel.

1940’s: Street car tracks are torn up and used for war material.

1954: Central Square Library closes.

1960: In October, John F. Kennedy speaks from the balcony of the Tod Hotel to an estimated crowd of 60,000 on Central Square.

1964: Palace Theatre closed and subsequently razed.

1968: Tod House is razed for urban renewal.

1974: Central Square is transformed into Federal Plaza, closing east-west traffic for one block in each direction from the square, creating a pedestrian mall.

2004: Central Square re-opened to traffic with new traffic patterns, beds, benches.

This is a far from exhaustive timeline of Central Square. If you know of key dates and events that should be added, leave a comment. I hope this page can be a concise source of the history of this space. Central Square has been the heart of Youngstown, its civic and business heart, a center for political rallies and celebrations, of tree-lightings and festivals.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — At the Movies

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by 7th Street Theatre, Hoquiam, WA licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image cropped and some text removed.

It’s summertime. It’s hot and its a long weekend. And theatres were one place with air conditioning. A good place to go with a date or spouse or partner, maybe with the help of a sitter. On this weekend in 1971, these were the movies we had the choice of viewing. Here are the listings from the Vindicator on July 3, 1971:

First of all, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was at the Boardman Plaza Theatre, the Plaza Cinema, and the Northside Drive-In. Remember Gene Wilder taking those who found tickets in their Wonka Bars through his factory?

The Lawman trailer

At the Liberty Plaza Theatre, The Lawman, a western with Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Lee J. Cobb was paired with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a classic comedy from 1963 with practically every comedian of the era. The Lawman was also at the Southside Drive-in. A real shoot-em-up!

Wild Rovers trailer

Westerns were still a deal fifty years ago. William Holden and Ryan O’Neal starred in this “anti-Western which you could watch at the Sky-Hi and Hickory Drive-Ins. Over at the Howland Drive-In, you could see John Wayne and Rock Hudson in The Undefeated. George Kennedy and Frank Sinatra in Dirty Dingus McGee were the second billing at the Sky-Hi.

Original Trailer from Klute

That same weekend we could see Jane Fonda as a high-priced call girl along with a very young Donald Sutherland in the noir detective thriller Klute. This was when she was “hot” before her much despised venture to North Vietnam in 1972. Klute was at the Wedgewood Cinema that weekend.

Trailer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

It was second run by this point, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was showing at the Lincoln Knolls Theatre. Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Katherine Ross at the top of their games. Another western!

Plaza Suite trailer.

Plaza Suite was a sophisticated Neil Simon comedy starring Walter Matthau. It was showing at Southern Park Cinema. This is probably the one your parents went to that weekend!

The Andromeda Strain trailer

The classic sci-fi thriller The Andromeda Strain was in its fourth week at the Uptown while Escape from the Planet of the Apes was at the West Side and Howland Drive-Ins.

The Summer of ’42 was at Loews Eastwood and the Newport. I question if a movie about an underage teenage boy in an affair with a married woman should have been made. It was a blockbuster in 1971.

Did this bring back a few memories? It did for me, both of movies, and all the movie venues around Youngstown. And maybe it gave you a few ideas of movies to look for on Netflix–or not! Whatever is the case, I hope you have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Plakie Toy and the Hoover Family

The Hoover Family: Frank, Dorothy, and Dean as a child, photographed with a Plakie toy for a 1940 catalog

Fifty years ago tomorrow, one of Youngstown’s most famous newswoman, Esther Hamilton, wrote about one of the leading businesswomen in Youngstown, Mrs. Frank (Dorothy) M. Hoover, president of Plakie Toy. She and her son Dean, who was vice president, led a company of 175 employees with $1 million in sales. At peak, this grew to over $4 million in sales. Hamilton notes that many of her employees were women as well.

Dorothy Hoover is portrayed as a religious woman with a Bible on her desk, the host of a non-sectarian devotional service at 7:45 am, and a traveler to the Holy Land and committed church member. Her religious values translated into a strong emphasis on the manufacturing of safe toys tested in the homes of her employees before they hit the market.

Her husband Frank sold insurance before working in sales at Truscon working with the automotive industry in Detroit. This led to launching a business selling custom gear shift knobs until the automatic transmission made them obsolete around 1935. The idea for a new business, initially Frank M. Hoover, Inc. came from observing his son Dean play with plastic sample chips. His first toy was a set of multi-colored disks strung on a silver chain. He patented the toy, and by 1943 changed the name of his company to Plakie (a form of “play key”). The business grew rapidly from an initial investment of $1400.

During World War 2, he converted to making wood toys, including a work bench with pegs and a mallet, pull toys, and toy trains. As plastic once again became available, the company began manufacturing plastic toys including rattles and ducklings. The emphasis of the company was “Play Safe.” Hoover believed a good toy combined color, sound, and motion.

For a time in the 1950’s, Plakie teamed up with local inventor John Garver to produce the Christmas Tree Twinkler. After receiving a box of them from friends who knew our Youngstown connection, I wrote about them here. All Frank Hoover’s expertise in plastics went into this one!

A Twinkler set. Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

The enterprise was a family business from the start, with Dorothy as a working director. In 1952, the company built a building at 4105 Simon Rd. for $200,000. It was designed for expansion. The Hoover’s foresight, and involvement together meant a seamless transition and continued growth when Frank died in 1960. Over time, Dorothy transitioned the company to manufacturing more nursery decorations and cloth toys including wall hangings, crib sheets, bumpers, dust ruffles and canopies as well as soft toys, musical toys, and crib gyms. One of the most popular soft toys was the Humpty Dumpty, examples of which can be found for sale on the internet. In 1976, the company name was changed to Plakie, Inc. to reflect that they were about more than toys.

Increased competition in a global market and production costs led to the company ceasing operations in 1992. But the safe and durable toys this company manufactured have lasted. For over fifty years the Hoover family gave Youngstown its own “toy story.”

Sources:

Discover the History of Youngstown’s Plakie Toys.” The Daily Buzz, Youngstown Business Journal, 11-04-20.

Esther Hamilton, “Mrs Hoover Keeps Staff of 175 Busy Putting Out Safe Plakie ToysThe Vindicator, June 27, 1971.

Ted Heineman, “The Hoover FamilyRiverside Cemetery Journal.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Juneteenth

By Nafsadh – Own work, Juneteenth Flag licensed under CC0 1.0

Today’s post isn’t about a memory of growing up in Youngstown. No doubt there were Juneteenth celebrations during the years I was growing up. But most of us outside the Black community were likely not aware of this celebration nor the significant event it commemorated.

This week changed all this when Congress voted and the president signed into law on June 17 the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Juneteenth, celebrated since 1866 on June 19 is now a federally recognized holiday. Because June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, the holiday was celebrated with the closure of federal offices on Friday, with the state of Ohio and many local governments following.

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 freed slaves in the states of the Confederacy when they came under Union control. The very last state to do so was Texas. The Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2. On June 19, 1865 Union Major General Gordon Granger took command of Union troops in Galveston. Shortly after, his troops marched through the streets reading General Order Number 3 that included these words:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Technically, these were not the last slaves to be freed, although they were the last slaves in Confederate states. Slavery remained in effect in the border states of Kentucky and Delaware (they had remained loyal to the Union and the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to them) until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865. But on June 19, 1866 Blacks in Galveston celebrated the first anniversary of their freedom, calling it Jubilee Day. The celebration spread in the 1800’s and by 1890 was called Juneteenth.

The rise of Jim Crow led to a temporary decline of the celebrations. Then the great migrations of Blacks to the North and West spread the tradition to the major cities of these regions beginning in the 1950’s. Momentum grew in the 1970’s and 1980’s. A Milwaukee celebration in 1978 attracted 100,000. In 1999, Ralph Ellison’s novel Juneteenth brought more attention. In 2003, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson began campaigning for Juneteenth to be a federally recognized holiday.

The first documentation I’ve found of a celebration of Juneteenth in Youngstown was in 2002 at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Parkcliffe Avenue on the South Side. On June 19-22 of that year the church hosted games, carnival rides, historical activities, and lessons. The Vindicator article about the events included this information from Tamica D. Green, the event organizer:

Green said the idea to have a celebration here grew out of the church’s desire to do more community outreach and bring the community together to learn and celebrate.
“The church has always been the center of the Juneteenth celebration because of the vital role it played to slaves during slavery and continues to play in the black community today,” she said.
Green said those attending the celebration will be in for a history lesson mixed with lots of fun.
Part of that lesson will come from a freedom walk planned for June 22. The walk will be in honor of all blacks who lead the way to the freedoms that modern-era blacks enjoy. Those participating will be given tidbits of history along the way.

By 2004, the Vindicator reports the expansion of these celebrations to the East Side with three days of events at the Unity Building on McGuffey Road as well as the annual celebration at Holy Trinity Baptist Church.

Most recently, the celebrations have moved downtown to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater. Last year’s events occurred under COVID restrictions (WKBN). This year has featured a weeklong slate of events that began June 12 with a Market Street Corridor Cleanup. Today, June 19, the LOUD 102.3 Juneteenth Celebration will take place at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, from 12 pm to 5 pm. There will be live music, food trucks, a job fair and local vendors–as well as free vaccinations! All restrictions have been raised so Joseph Napier and his event organizers are hoping for a big event. The celebrations conclude tomorrow with the Mahoning Valley Fatherhood Coalition Father’s Day prayer service, cookout and car show.

Some worry about two independence days less than a month apart being divisive. I don’t see it. For one thing, it’s a holiday and we Americans love the chance to celebrate. We even celebrate Cinco de Mayo, though many of us are not Latino/a, and it is a Mexican rather than American holiday! For another, what Juneteenth represents is not only freedom for Blacks but freedom for all of us. Slavery and racism are a burden for all of us. The Declaration of Independence states: “all men are created equal.” Juneteenth represents the realization of the dream of July 4. It seems to me that, if anything, the recognition of Black independence makes July 4 a day we all can celebrate more fully, even as all us rightly can celebrate the end of the horror of slavery.

So with that, I wish my fellow Youngstowners in the Black community a joyous Juneteenth Celebration in this historic year.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — We Dressed Up

Palace Theater by Cinema Treasures licensed under CC BY 3.0

My wife and I went to the doctor the other day. Both of us put on nicer shirts and remarked that this was the old Youngstown coming out in us. When we were young, in the 1950’s and early 1960’s (and before that as well) people dressed up on a number of occasions.

To go to the doctor. That’s a little ironic because you often take off your clothes in the exam room. I guess we didn’t want people to think of us that way!

To go downtown. Women and girls in dresses, hats, and gloves, men in nicer slacks, shirt, tie, and jacket.

To go to the theater or a concert. Notice how everyone is dressed at the Palace. Most of the men even had hats! If it was a symphony concert at Stambaugh Auditorium, you really dressed up–evening wear for men, formal gowns for the women.

To go to weddings and funerals. We still do that to some extent. Dressing up honors the bridal couple. It honors the deceased.

To go to church. We believed we should dress in our best for God–and not just on Christmas and Easter! I remember that both my brother and I would polish our shoes on Saturday and we’d be in nice slacks, jacket and tie on Sunday. Of course there was the ritual of the Saturday night bath (whether you needed it or not!).

I remember staying dressed up to visit grandparents, which we did many Sundays. It was a sign of respect.

To go out to a restaurant. For one thing, going out to a restaurant was a big deal, usually for some special occasion. And many restaurants were owned by families and were fancier than today’s very casual, chain-owned dining establishments.

Things changed in the late 1960’s with hippies and protests. Jeans and a t-shirt became the uniform. Anything more was pretentious and “phony.” We criticized it as a show, one of keeping up with the Joneses. Maybe underneath it all, we just wanted to get comfortable.

We dressed up for the things we (or our parents) thought special. Our dress reminded us to act the part as well. We acted our best in our Sunday best.

Maybe coming out of the pandemic reminds us of this. We’ve lived our past year in sweatpants or yoga pants, untucked shirts and casual shoes. I had a work-related meeting recently at a restaurant and pulled out dress slacks, shirt and shoes that had been in the closet for the past year. It was another reminder of what we did on so many occasions.

Special occasions.

At a time when Youngstown was a special place.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Charles P. Henderson

I grew up hearing that he was one of the best mayors Youngstown ever had up to that point. He was the grandson of William Henderson, an iron worker at Brown-Bonnell Iron Works. Charles P. Henderson was born March 3, 1911. He graduated from Princeton in the class of ’32. He went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan and returned to practice law. He was elected a municipal court judge in 1941. His political career was interrupted by World War 2. He served four years in the army then returned to Youngstown.

He found a city rife with crime and racketeering and decided to run for Mayor on an anti-corruption platform. In 1947, he defeated incumbent Ralph O’Neill by 3671 votes. Some think he won because voters were fed up with three City Council members who stayed away from meetings to block appointment of a councilman for the third ward. One of his first acts was to appoint FBI trained J. Edward Allen as police chief with a mission to clear out organized vice and crime. He appointed a new, ten man vice squad. Operators of the “bug,” and bookies were arrested. Much of the action shifted over the county line centered on the Jungle Inn, in Liberty Township.

Henderson worked to reduce smoke and smog, eliminate dumps, and improve housing. His efforts won him national attention and in 1950 he won the American All-City award for progressive attention. He won his 1951 campaign by 7,000 votes. However, resistance to his anti-corruption measures was growing and he was defeated in 1953 in his attempt to win a fourth term by Frank X. Kryzan. Meanwhile, Henderson was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a member of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, an effort to coordinate federal and state government efforts.

In 1965, he was appointed by Governor James Rhodes as a Probate Court judge. He participated in a number of organizations related to the practice of law: Mahoning County. and Ohio State Bar Associations, Ohio State Municipal League, the Association of Probate judges the Judicial Conference, and Judicial College. He also participated on the boards of the Public Library of Youngstown, and the county Boards of Mental Health and Elections. In the late 1960’s, after a series of failed school levies threatened to, Henderson headed up a citizens committee spearhead an effort for the levy passage. It failed but the seventh try finally passed.

Henderson retired in 1985 and passed after a sudden heart attack on September 15, 1990. He was survived by his wife, the former Margaret Arms. Henderson was probably one of the most trusted people in Youngstown. While the city didn’t always want its politicians to be good, Henderson was one of those people came to when the public trust was important. I’ll leave others to decide who was Youngstown’s best mayor. But it’s clear to me he was one of the good ones.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty

Life magazine, on June 27, 1969, ran a feature story titled  “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” The article ran ten pages and simply featured face after face, 242 in all, of Americans who died “in connection with the conflict in Vietnam” in one week. One of those faces was listed as “Patrick M. Hagerty, 19, Army, SP4, Youngstown, Ohio.” He was a field wireman and the picture in Life shows him on a pole, with safety belt and protective gloves, doing his work.

I came across the Life article searching for a story of one of those from Youngstown who died in Vietnam to remember on Memorial Day, the day this country sets aside to remember those who died in uniform in service to our country. According to the Virtual Wall, he is one of sixty-four from Youngstown who died in Vietnam.

Patrick Michael Hagerty was born on July 27, 1949 to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Hagerty who lived on N. Garland Avenue. He was a member of Immaculate Conception Church and attended East High School. He enlisted in the Army in September of 1966. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on August 11, 1968 as a field wireman. He was attached to the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, B Company.

On May 31, 1969 his unit was about 10 kilometers south of Kontum City, located in the central highlands of what was then South Vietnam, not too far from the borders of Laos and Cambodia. During a hostile action, he suffered multiple fragmentation wounds (wounds resulting from the fragments of an explosive device) which he did not survive.

He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. The Purple Heart is awarded for “Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces” Sadly, Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty, qualified. His name is engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial Panel W23 Line 27. At the Virtual Wall entry for PVT Patrick Michael Hagerty, you can see a virtual rubbing of his name on the memorial.

[After posting this article Patrick’s nephew pointed me to this comment about Patrick which may be found at The Wall of Faces under his name, possibly written by his Platoon Sergeant]:

I’ve tried to track down all of our Platoon, Patrick, and to post some small note of Remembrance…

You’re one of the last for me, although I visited you once again down in DC last month, for Veterans Day. I remember that you were assigned to my Platoon from another outfit, and that you were VERY ‘short’, possibly within two weeks of going back to The World. I recall that I asked if you wanted to become an RTO for awhile, and perhaps ‘coast’ a little, until we could get you sent back to the Rear…

You wanted no part of that, Patrick, and you took your assignment as part of Bravo’s flank security during our movement… When the contact ensued, you were in the middle of it all…

Everyone who reads this should know what a brave young man you were, Patrick, and a damned fine soldier as well.

See you soon,
Murph

He was 19 when he died. He enlisted and so chose to answer his country’s call. He represents both what is noble and tragic in war. His is only one of sixty-four Youngstown stories of those who died in Vietnam, and one of many more from Youngstown who died in America’s wars. Each one is worth remembering. I chose this Memorial Day weekend to remember Spec. 4 Patrick Michael Hagerty. Who do you remember?

We remember.

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