Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Boardman Expressway

“Boardman Expressway Work Gets Under Way” Youngstown Vindicator, October 22, 1971 via Google News Archive

This was the groundbreaking, 50 years ago this week, that cut in half the time it would take to get to my girlfriend’s (now wife of 43 years) house on E. Midlothian Boulevard from my house on the West Side. Until 1975, I-680 ended at South Avenue. The Boardman Expressway extended I-680 to E. Midlothian Boulevard. Her house was a few houses east of the freeway. Mine was on Portland Avenue. When the Boardman Expressway opened, I would drive down the street, get on the freeway at Oakwood, and get off at Midlothian in just eight minutes–instead of the fifteen minutes driving up South Avenue, and over Midlothian (or the back way I took up Gibson and a couple other streets). Seven minutes may not seem like much, but when you are in love….

In my mind, the Boardman Expressway was made expressly for me, even though it facilitated movement throughout the city and to the border of Boardman Township. Eventually, the road would extend past Western Reserve Road and link up with the Ohio Turnpike.

The planning for the expressway began in 1956, a few years after I was born. The project would end up costing $16 million dollars. The city’s portion was just $818,000, generated from a 1956 bond issue. State bond issue wasn’t passed until 1968, and federal funds made up the remainder. Bridges had to be built where South Avenue, Gibson, Indianola, and Shirley passed over the road. The expressway would pass over Midlothian, Shady Run and Dewey.

It also displaced a number of people in its path in neighborhoods in the lower part of Gibson, separated neighborhoods near Poland Avenue from the rest of the South side, breaking up Powersdale Avenue, Caledonia and Union Streets, and taking out the homes between Taylor Street and Homewood Avenue. Part of the expressway right of way avoided homes, passing through Pine Hollow until it reached Midlothian Boulevard. In all, hundreds of families were “re-located” which accounted for a number of delays in the project, which went forward in “fits and starts” under several city mayors–Frank Kryzen, Frank R. Franko, Harry Sevasten, Anthony B. Flask, and Jack Hunter. All but Flask were part of the groundbreaking. Interestingly, Franko and Hunter, in the thick of an election campaign against each other, are at opposite ends of the groundbreaking group. These were all names I grew up with.

Also a part of the groundbreaking was J. Philip Richley, at the time Ohio Highway Department Director, and previously Mahoning County and Youngstown City engineer. He told the story of the fifteen year process to get to the groundbreaking. Fittingly, Mayor Hunter presented him the “Key Man Award,” only the third recipient of the award for his contribution to Youngstown’s development. A. P. O’Horo, whose construction equipment appears in the background, spoke as contractor and Edmund Salata as city engineer. The Wilson High School band played. And the work began.

That segment of I-680 was only open for the last couple years we dated. After the summer of 1976. I moved away from Youngstown. We got engaged the following year and married the year after. My wife’s mom lived on Midlothian until 1996, so we made many more trips over that expressway over the years. What was at one time a welcome novelty just became the way to mom’s house. But with a young child in the back seat, we were glad for every minute saved! And my parents were only eight minutes away on the West side–and so it was easy to see all the in-laws in one visit.

I-680 made our lives easier. But it changed the city. It broke up neighborhoods and displaced families. It facilitated travel to the suburbs, the plazas, and the malls. It changed downtown. The same story happened all over the country. One wonders, knowing what we know now, if we would do it over or at least do it in the ways we did. For better or worse, we live in a world of what is rather than what if. At the time, however, all this young man thought of was seeing his girl friend seven minutes sooner.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Gypsy Lane

John Brenkacs Hungarian Gypsy Orchestra, Cleveland Press Collection, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gypsy Lane forms the northern border of Youngstown. I always thought that was an interesting name. Why Gypsy?

I couldn’t find out much about this, but there is one oral history by a North Side resident, John Manning, who speaks of a settlement of Gypsies in the vicinity of the intersection of Belmont Avenue and what became known as Gypsy Lane. He claims that’s where the name came from. He states there were old fairgrounds in that area and this is where they arrived when they came to Youngstown.

I cannot find any other confirmation of this information, but Steve Piskor, who has written a history of Hungarian Slovak Gypsies in America, states that between 1885 and 1910, Hungarian-Slovak Gypsies settled in Braddock, Homestead, Uniontown, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Cleveland and Youngstown, Gary, Indiana, as well as New York City. On his website, he has a picture of a Gypsy orchestra of Gypsies in Youngstown. Underneath he says these Gypsies or Roma migrated from Kassa, Hungary (which is now the largest city in eastern Slovakia, but then part of Hungary). He says they lived in Youngstown for about thirty years and then most moved to Cleveland to join the larger community there, the largest in the country.

One of the stereotypes the Gypsies (also called Roma or Romani) faced was that of thievery or con artistry. What was distinctive about them was the music, and every community had its orchestra. They were known for their fiddlers and their music influenced Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok, and Zoltan Kodaly. Chris Haigh has posted an extensive history of this music down to the present.

But who were these people? Most histories trace their origin to Northern India. They migrated first to Persia and then arrived in Europe in the Middle Ages. Many at the time thought they came from Egypt, hence the name “Gypsies.” But both genetic and linguistic evidence point to a North Indian origin. The Hungarian-Slovak Gypsies migrated to the U.S. in the late 1800’s.

I would love to know more about the history of this group in the city, and wonder if there are any descendants still living in the Valley. And it would be interesting to confirm that Gypsy Lane owes its name to a real Gypsy community in the city.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Syndicated Features

Some of the syndicated features from the Youngstown Vindicator, October 9, 1971. From Google News Archive

One summer when I was growing up I stayed with my grandparents, who lived on the South side, for several weeks. During this time, my grandmother bought me some kind of small surprise for each day. The one I remember was the blank scrapbook. She had gotten my father started with making scrapbooks when he was young and she had one of these and showed me. Most of what he had were clippings from the Youngstown Vindicator.

One of the things I discovered was that beyond all the news stories, there were a number of syndicated features scattered throughout the paper. I felt like if I collected them, I could get a real education! Not shown in the graphic were Lindley Vickers column, his observations of Mill Creek Park, which I clipped religiously. There were some others that were quite informative: Walt Disney’s True Life Adventures, the Junior Editor’s Quiz and Ask Andy. The latter two featured a question a reader sent in and, in the case of Ask Andy, the child who sent in the question received a 20-Volume World Book Encyclopedia (remember encyclopedias?).

There were a number of others. Health Capsules offered some health advice. Petunia and Heloise offered housekeeping tips. There was Goren on Bridge and I remember a chess column, which was one of the ones I clipped when I was in my chess phase. I learned chess notation so I could replay the games and learn chess strategy. Graffiti was the equivalent of the memes we see all over Facebook these days, a clever saying on the “wall.”

One of the more unusual that I collected because my dad did and was a continuing feature for many years was “An Evening Olio.” You are forgiven if you confuse this word with “oleo,” a butter substitute. I never saw this word anywhere else but “olio” refers to any type of medley, a mix of items. It can refer to a spicy stew from Spain or Portugal or a miscellaneous collection of things. The “Evening Olio” in the Vindicator was a miscellany of poetry, Bible verses, and pithy observations. The one that appears above includes a verse from Langston Hughes and the observation that “The trouble about the speaker who is wound up is that it takes so long for him to unwind.”

One feature that was not syndicated but I think may still appear is the “25-40-50-75 Years Ago” column, a great resource for local history. There was also a “Points for Parents” and “Pet Doctor” feature. You could find out how to take care of your kids and the family dog or cat. Of course there were the weekly “Marjorie Mariner’s Kitchen Corner” columns filled with recipes and cooking advice.

I look back and I am amazed at what an interesting mix of features could be found in the pages of the Vindicator. Beyond the funnies and the sports pages, the stock quotes and the society pages, and national and local news, there were all these little features for kids and adults that made this a family paper. You really could learn a lot about your world, develop your interests, and find out things about Youngstown you never knew. I never thought, as a paperboy, of the treasure I tossed onto people’s porches every day. Now I understand why some of them were impatient if I was late…

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Mahoning Avenue Bridge

Historic American Engineering Record, Creator, and Huston & Cleveland. Mahoning Avenue Pratt Double-Deck Bridge, Spanning Mill Creek at Mahoning Avenue C.R. 319, Youngstown, Mahoning County, OH 1968. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

In January 2021, there was a terrible accident on I-680 under the Mahoning Bridge that resulted in severe damage to one of the bridge supports. I-680 had to be closed in both directions for months as did the Mahoning Avenue Bridge. Essentially, access between the West side and downtown was seriously affected, involving significant detours.

That was the situation in 1900. Mill Creek was a barrier between downtown and the West side. Mahoning Avenue and the West side was only sparsely settled west of Mill Creek. This changed in 1903 with the construction of the Mahoning Avenue Bridge by Huston & Cleveland, an engineering firm out of Columbus, Ohio (they also built a bridge over Yellow Creek on Main Street in Poland in 1904). It was built at a time when Youngstown’s population was expanding rapidly and the city was growing in every direction. The home in which I grew up on the lower West side was built around 1920 as part of that expansion.

I drove or walked across that bridge to the Isaly dairy plant or to go downtown the whole time I lived in Youngstown. We often drove under it to enter Mill Creek Park at Tod Avenue which went over Mill Creek. What I never realized until this week was that those two bridges were actually a single double deck bridge, the only known example of a Pratt Double Deck. You can see this in the photo above which shows both bridges with the connecting girders with the Pratt deck truss on the upper level (Mahoning Avenue) and an adapted form of the Pratt through truss on the lower level (Tod Avenue). This is what you saw as you crossed the lower level bridge:

Historic American Engineering Record, Creator, and Huston & Cleveland. Mahoning Avenue Pratt Double-Deck Bridge, Spanning Mill Creek at Mahoning Avenue C.R. 319, Youngstown, Mahoning County, OH 1968. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress

You will note these photographs come from a Library of Congress site. The collection includes additional photographs of the bridge from below as well as engineering drawings of the bridge. There is a document marked “Plan of Repairs” from the County Surveyors Office marked 1931, which was when the American Bridge Company of New York made repairs on the bridge. The bridge was further modified when I-680 was built in the 1960’s.

The bridge lasted over 90 years. It was replaced in 1997 with the current structure, classified a steel stringer/multi-beam or girder bridge of 6 spans. Tod Avenue now passes under the Mahoning Avenue bridge and crosses Mill Creek parallel and just south of the present Mahoning Avenue bridge. The old access road just before the Mahoning Avenue Bridge going west no longer exists. You have to turn onto Irving by the old Ward Baking Company building and then left onto Tod Avenue to take it into the park.

The Mahoning Avenue bridge contributed to the growth of Youngstown’s West side. I read elsewhere that the Mahoning Theatre opened in 1921 to serve the growing population on the West Side. That included both of my grandparents who moved to the West side in the 1930’s. My parents met at Chaney High School. Their first date was at the Mahoning Theatre! It’s interesting to think that this unusual bridge played an indirect part in my family history!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Seven Years of Food Posts


Last week’s post on slumgullion was popular. Perhaps your favorite activity was to post what they called it in your house. Goulash was the winner. Others called it American chop suey, beefaroni, and Johnny Marzetti. Then there were the more creative names: “goop,” pasta fazool, chili mac, macaroni and meat, “slop,” casserole, “Beefy barfaroni” (my favorite), “glum,” “slum,” Johnzetta, “slumgush,” “garbage,” and wishbone special. One thing I’ve learned about these things is that there is no point in insisting on the “right” name. It is whatever you called it at your house!

Food posts have been among the most popular of the posts in this series. I thought it might be fun to go back over seven years and revisit some of my favorites — and yours. Here they are from earliest to the present. If your mouth is not watering when I’m done, I question whether you are really from Youngstown!

Food. This whole series began with this post on May 10, 2014. I had been blogging less than a year. I’d written one previous post about Youngstown that was so-so. I thought I would try one more. It was a general post celebrating all the good food in Youngstown. In a couple days, over 10,000 people viewed it–something I had not had occur before. It was shared in some Youngstown Facebook groups and went viral. It persuaded me to keep writing about Youngstown and especially about food. So from time to time, I’ve written about the dishes we grew up with. [The link to Recipes of Youngstown that appears here is expired. There is a working link at the end of this article.]

Canfield Fair Food. Did you eat and drink your way through the fair? We sure did. I remembered some of our favorite foods from DiRusso’s to Strouss’ Malts to Parker’s Ice Cream.

Christmas Baking. I remember some of the things we baked during the Christmas holidays and include a scrumptious picture of pizzelles, a family favorite.

Pierogies. Many of us had them every Friday, especially during Lent, and some of our moms worked at the church pierogie sales.

Kolachi. Another one of those holiday favorites. This page gets lots of visits every Christmas and Easter. I also discovered that what we call kolachi is call “nut roll” elsewhere, and kolachi is something very different.

The Cookie Table. Only Youngstown and Pittsburgh residents know what cookie tables are and there is an ongoing dispute over who was first. I arm wrestled a Pittsburgh colleague to settle this at a Youngstown wedding. Needless to say, Youngstown won! This has been the most viewed post on my blog.

Wedding Soup. I always love returning to Youngstown to get good wedding soup. And I discovered that the “wedding” doesn’t refer to the marriage of two people but rather of greens and meat.

Haluski. Like slumgullion, this is a favorite Youngstown comfort food–a few simple ingredients with lots of variations, and a satisfied tummy at the end.

Brier Hill Pizza. This is a Youngstown original. I go into the origins of Brier Hill pizza and include some videos from St. Anthony’s Church in Brier Hill.

Tomatoes. We were a city of gardens, and we grew all kinds of tomatoes and had all kinds of ways to use them. I still grow ’em!

Elephant Ears. One of my favorite foods at the fair are elephant ears. Buy one, stroll, snack, and share, and lick the cinnamon and sugar off your fingers! I even include a video showing how to make them!

Spinning Bowl Salads. In college, we loved to go up to the 20th Century for spinning bowl salads. After posting this article, Morris Levy, one of the owners of the 20th Century, sent me a recipe, which I added to the post. Make your own!

Chicken Paprikash. This is one we owe to the Hungarian residents of the city. There is a fun video, “Cooking with Oma,” that you have to watch!

Italian Food. I write about how hard it is to find good Italian food when you are away from Youngstown, the great sauces, and all the good places to get Italian food, especially mom’s or grandmama’s kitchen.

Fried Baloney Sandwiches. My dad used to make these–the poor man’s steak. There is a backstory on this post. Facebook blocked it and kicked me off for a day because its automated censor thought my original image of frying baloney was something else. Needless to say, I changed the image!

Slumgullion. Posted just last week as I mentioned, but already highly viewed. Another one of those easily made, inexpensive comfort foods.

Some of the links in these posts no longer are live, a big problem with the internet. One of the continuing sources of information and recipes about the foods of Youngstown is the Recipes of Youngstown series. Over the years, the location where you can buy these has changed. Now Recipes of Youngstown has its own website and the cookbooks may be purchased online and in-person through the Youngstown Clothing Co. We have all three and they are great!

Well, that was fun! Food never tasted so good as it did in Youngstown. It wasn’t gourmet, it was just good. I’m glad people are keeping that alive. Hopefully this post, and those linked to it will help do that as well. And I’d love to hear about other dishes I may have forgotten.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Slumgullion

Slumgullion, Image credit: Alleko Licensed by iStock

The temperatures are starting to get cooler. The sun is lower in the sky. It brings back memories of late afternoon, after-school tag football games at Borts Field. By the time I got home and cleaned up, I was starved! At least I thought so.

One of the favorite comfort foods mom made was slumgullion. It was also called goulash, American goulash, American chop suey, or if it came out of a can, Beefaroni. In Columbus, where I now live, there is a cheesier version, known as Johnny Marzetti from its origins at Marzetti’s Restaurant in Columbus. In both my family and my wife’s, it was slumgullion.

At its most basic, slumgullion used macaroni noodles (or penne), 1-2 pounds of ground beef, onions, and tomato sauce (or pasta sauce or marinara). Whereas Johnny Marzetti adds a thick layer of cheddar cheese and was baked as a casserole, you might sprinkle grated cheddar over the top of the dish after all the ingredients were mixed and you’d be set.

Basically, you boiled your pasta, while sautéing your onions (and whatever else you added, like garlic, celery, chopped tomatoes, and peppers) and then adding your ground beef and browning it, draining off the fat. Then you added your sauce and your favorite herb-spice blend, heat it all through, and then mix it in with your pasta, sprinkle cheese over it, warm it through if needed and serve!

Seasoning is where you really make this dish yours. You can go for a traditional Italian mix of Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, rosemary, and parsley. I’ve also seen versions of the recipe with taco seasoning, or Indian curry. I might add my condiment of choice, sriracha sauce to add some zip. This is one of those dishes where “season to taste” is the rule.

It was the perfect working class meal for those cool autumn evenings. It was simple to make, filling, and inexpensive and made the house smell wonderful. Chances are, sooner or later you would have dinner with a friend and then there was the dilemma of whose mom made the best slumgullion. If you were smart, you just said it was “real good” and kept your thoughts to yourself.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Clyde Singer

Screenshot of Vindicator art critic Clyde Singer via Google News Archive, September 12, 1971.

This is how I saw Clyde Singer when I was growing up in Youngstown. He wrote articles about new art shows at the Butler. I noticed them but cannot say I paid much attention. What I did not realize was his role at the Butler nor his body of work as a celebrated American artist. In researching him online, I discovered that one of his paintings, “On 14th Street” was sold by Christie’s for $50,000 on October 27, 2020.

Singer was a native Ohioan, born in 1908 in Malvern, Ohio, a small village in Carroll County, about 15 miles southeast of Canton. He was an artist from childhood, and much of his early art captured scenes and people from everyday life around Malvern. After high school, he worked for a time as a sign painter and then went to art school in Columbus before returning to Malvern. In 1933, he won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York, where his teachers included John Steuert Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Ivan Olinsky.

His style was characterized as Social Realist. While in New York, he painted in some of the same places famous painters of his time like George Bellow and John Sloan, including McSorley’s Saloon. But when he finished his studies, he returned to Ohio with $1.10 in his pocket. Soon, though, he received $500 for a large canvas exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute in 1935. Other exhibitions followed, but a steady income can be elusive for an artist.

In 1940, Joseph Butler III offered him a job. He was able to marry Bernice Shimp, an art student in 1941. Apart from war service from 1942 to 1945, he worked at the Butler until his death in 1999. He rose to the position of associate director. He also took on the work of writing articles for the Vindicator introducing new art shows at the Butler. He contributed a column every week.

He kept painting. He loved painting the blue-collar workers of Youngstown and the scenes of their lives. In all, he painted over 3,000 paintings, many in his basement studio in his home in Boardman. The Butler owns about 75 of them. He helped the Butler acquire a number of important works in its collection. He taught art classes at the Butler. And he made yearly trips to New York.

The advent of Abstract Art spelled the end of Social Realism and Regionalism in the art world. He tried his hand at this, sold some, but returned to what he loved because of his passion to capture everyday American life. The basic character of his paintings, including his humor, did not change–only the clothes–miniskirts and hippies replaced earlier styles.

He lived simply. He didn’t drive, his clothes looked like gifts and hand-me-downs. He could hold his own with other Social Realists but when the Butler acquired a painting of Kenneth Hayes Miller, Lou Zona, Butler director describes what happened in these words:

“He came in one morning, and I said, ‘I want to show you something.’ Instead of another electrical failure or a hole in the roof, the kind of things you have to deal with in an old building, I walked him over to the Kenneth Hayes Miller painting. He looked at it and his eyes filled with tears. He said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”

His reputation has only grown since his death in 1999, purchased by collectors around the country. He is contribution to the cultural life of Youngstown during his nearly 60 years in the city is immeasurable. By the same token, the city and its people contributed so much to his work. In 2008 PBS Western Reserve filmed the video above on the occasion of a joint exhibition at the Butler and the Canton Museum of Art. It is a wonderful tribute to this man who did so much for Youngstown while creating a body of work that makes him one of America’s great artists.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Canfield Fair Beginnings

Attorney Elisha Whittlesey, Public Domain.

He was one of Canfield’s early residents, moving from Connecticut to Canfield in 1806 to practice law and teach school. In 1812, he answered his young country’s call and fought under William Henry Harrison in the War of 1812. He represented Canfield in the Ohio House from 1821 to 1822, and in the U. S. Congress from 1823 to 1838. He also served as the first Comptroller of the U. S. Treasury.

In local history, what he is best known for is his role in forming the Mahoning County Agricultural Society, the parent organization of the Canfield Fair. It was 1846. The Ohio Legislature had just created Mahoning County as a new county from townships in Trumbull and Columbiana Counties. Canfield, because of its central location, was chosen to be the county seat. It was only in 1874 that the county seat was moved to Youngstown.

During that year, Attorney Whittlesey spoke to a gathering at the Canfield Congregational Church. It had the impressive title of “Competitive Exhibitions as a Means of Awakening More Active Interest in All Industrial Pursuits” (the beginning of all those 4-H competitions!). The address had the intended effect and out of this meeting the Mahoning County Agricultural Society was born.

Since Canfield was the county seat, it was the logical choice for the county fair. The first fair was organized as a one-day affair held on October 5, 1847. Initially, livestock was tied up and produce displayed along Broad Street and meetings held at the Congregational Church. George Houk of the Mahoning County Agricultural Society described the early fairs like this, “People brought their ox teams in, their horse teams in. It was just an opportunity for the early farmers to get together and share their agricultural ideas with one another” (Source: WKBN27). The first fair turned a profit of $308.

In 1851, the Fair moved to its present location and expanded further in 1867. In 1896, the Main Hall (now the Floral and Fine Arts Building) was opened. In 1924 lighting allowed for night attendance for the first time. In 1936, the Grandstand was completed as a WPA project. In 1958 the Big Rock was installed and the rooster on the Grandstand in 1968.

There were war years when the Fair was not held. 1917–18, 1942–45. In 2020, due to the COVID pandemic, only the Junior Fair took place–honoring all the work those youth invested and returning in some way to the earliest beginnings of the Fair.

This year, the full Fair is on and celebrating the 175th anniversary of its beginnings at Canfield Congregational Church and an address by Elisha Whittlesey. All those Junior Fair competitions, all those exhibitions, the rides, the fair food, the grandstand shows, started with an idea set forth by one of Canfield’s early residents in the year Mahoning became a county. Thank you, Attorney Whittlesey!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park Trails

Mill Creek Park Trail, Photo by Marilyn Trube, all rights reserved

One of my most cherished memories of childhood was going for hikes with my dad in Mill Creek Park. I think the first one I remember was the One Way Trail, which at one time was One Way Road, beginning near the Green House, occupied by park foremen, on Lake Glacier, opposite the Parapet Bridge and ascending to overlook the Lily Pond and coming out by Bears Den Road. I also remember class trips starting at the Lily Pond with park naturalist Lindley Vickers

Trails generally run along the east and west sides of the lakes and gorges of Mill Creek. I grew up on the West Side, near the north end of the park. So walking the whole length of the trails was a challenge. Before I drove, I’d often ride to a trail entrance, and then walk my bike on a portion of the trails. Some of my favorite were the trails along the east and west sides of Lake Cohasset, one of the most beautiful parts of the park. My other favorite was the West Gorge Trail between Lake Cohasset and Lanterman’s Mill. This stretch helps you see how the creek carved out the gorge over generations and seemed to me one of the most untouched parts of the park.

The climax of this walk came as you approached Youngstown-Canfield Road and the falls and mill just beyond, framed by the bridge. This was a view you could only see on the trail. Two other short trails, on either side of the Hemlock Gorge flowing north from Pioneer Pavilion are also quite scenic. The one on the west is appropriately called Artist’s Trail. One the other side is Slippery Rock Trail, leading to Slippery Rock Pavilion.

I most often traveled along the west side of Lake Glacier. It is a whole different view if you take the East Glacier Trail, which runs the length of Lake Glacier from Volney Rogers Field to Slippery Rock Pavilion, with a close up view of the Parapet Bridge.

There were no wetlands at Lake Newport when I grew up. The trails followed the lake on either side, coming out at Shields Road. Now there is a boardwalk wetland trail, allowing people to walk through the wetlands while keeping their feet dry. East Newport Drive is now only open to one way, northbound traffic, and serves as a paved walking and cycling trail. On the other side of Shields, the road on the east side of Mill Creek is now closed to vehicles entirely, making for an easy walking and cycling trail, arched by trees.

Looking at the current trail map of the park, I don’t see some of the trails I remember, such as the Bears Den Trail running from the parking lot to the rock formations, or the trail between the Lily Pond and the Rock Garden that followed a creek. I know there are quite a few trails in John Melnick’s The Green Cathedral (pp. 409-411) that I don’t see on today’s park maps. I wonder if these have been kept up. It would be interesting to go back and explore!

What walking the trails gave was a sense of the rugged beauty of the park. The trails were up and down, following the contours of the gorge. There was so much of the park you could not see just driving or walking along the roads. Nor could you listen to the burbling of the creek unless you walked along. In the fall, you could savor the smell and crunch of fallen leaves. It was part of the wisdom of Volney Rogers and those who worked with him to lay out trails, occasionally with bridges or stone steps, but mostly just packed dirt that gave you a sense that you were walking in the park, and not just through it. They are part of what make it such 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 — Thomas G. McDonald

Thomas G. McDonald, Photo from Youngstown Vindicator, July 13, 1930 (via Google News Archive)

He oversaw the development of Carnegie Steel’s (later U.S. Steel) Ohio Works and the construction of the McDonald Works which were named after him, as was the village that grew up around these mills, McDonald, Ohio. He was Thomas G. McDonald, who was described in an editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator of July 14, 1930 (two days after his death) as “one of the old type of steel men who began at the bottom and by mastering every detail of the industry gradually worked their way up to the top.” From all I can find out about him, this is a fitting summary of his career.

McDonald was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania November 11, 1848. He learned to work hard on his father’s farm. Then, after public schools, he enrolled at the Iron City Commercial College, graduating to the carpenter’s trade in 1868. His first job was as a carpenter working on the construction of Carnegie Steel’s Edgar Thompson. He never left the company. He worked his way up in the company, learning all the details of manufacturing steel. In 1880, he became night superintendent at the converting department of their plant in Braddock. Then, in July 1880, he was assigned night superintendent at the Allegheny Bessemer Works in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. It was probably during this time that he became a close confidant of Andrew Carnegie, with whom he was a lifelong friend.

The company brought him to Youngstown in 1893 as general superintendent of the Ohio Works. Based on his advice, the plant decided to increase their equipment beyond the two 8 ton converters they had originally intended. He oversaw the instruction and the first heat in 1895. By 1897, monthly output exceeded 30,000 tons every month. Eventually, it would exceed 50,000 tons.

In 1906 Carnegie Steel promoted McDonald to general superintendent of the Youngstown District which included the Ohio Works, Upper and Lower Union Mills, Greenville Mills, and the Niles Furnace. Then in 1909, Carnegie Steel acquired land across the river from Girard for a new mill. In 1916 the new mill, whose construction was overseen by McDonald produced its first steel. Recognizing his leadership, Carnegie named the mills the McDonald Works. As it turns out, McDonald not only built the mill, he built the town of McDonald, building housing for the workers. The Village of McDonald was incorporated December 12, 1918. When it became apparent that workers with families would not come without schools, the company built schools, opening McDonald High School in 1929. It is still in use, having been renovated by Ricciuti, Balog and Partners in 1990.

He retired in 1921 but continued working as a consulting manager. He was involved in a number of civic causes in the Youngstown area including service as a vice president of the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce and director of the Youngstown and Northern Railway Company. He served several terms on the Board of Education and as a director at First National and Dollar Banks.

He celebrated his 50th anniversary with Elizabeth on November 27, 1928. On July 1, 1930, in his 82nd year he was hospitalized at North Side Hospital in critical condition with a kidney infection. He died on July 12, 1930. He is buried in Belmont Park Cemetery.

From all I can read, everything McDonald built, he built well with a vision for the future. In fact, a portion of the McDonald Works is still making steel as McDonald Steel. The complex of plants he oversaw outlasted him by nearly fifty years until U.S. Steel ended operations in 1979. One wonders “what if” the area’s steel industry had enjoyed leadership like his throughout its history. What he did do is contribute to the capacity that helped make the Steel Valley the third largest steel maker in the country. That is no small thing.

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