Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Isaly Dairy Plant

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Former Isaly Dairy Plant, June 2019. Photo © Bob Trube, all rights reserved

Fifty years ago, the September 12, 1969 Vindicator announced that Isaly’s would no longer make ice cream at its Mahoning Avenue plant on the West Side. This meant a loss of twenty of the 120 jobs at the plant. At the time H. William Isaly, the president of Isaly’s at the time, explained that they were consolidating ice cream production in the Pittsburgh plant. They would continue the processing of milk, cottage cheese, fruit juices, and other staples, as well as its home delivery and distribution operations.

At the time he said, further cutdowns were “unlikely.” He was asked about a rumor that the plant would be turned into a warehouse. Ominously, he said that was always “a possibility” but not something they planned to do “at this time.”

“At this time” only lasted a year. In 1970, the iconic art deco plant was closed and remained empty until occupied by U-Haul in 1987. U-Haul still operates the site, which has not seen significant improvements other than re-facing part of the building and painting it to advertise its storage facilities.

The closure of the Isaly plant would be followed in two years by sale of the company. The company had been declining throughout the 1960’s, and the job reductions and plant closure in Youngstown were just part of a bigger problem. The decline of home deliveries and their loose corporate structure (many stores were independently owned) made them less competitive in an environment of more centralized and standardized businesses. In the 1980’s, the Isaly name began a comeback, based in Pittsburgh selling meats (“chip chopped ham”!) and sauces as well as ice cream, but not Klondikes, which are owned by Unilever.

Isaly’s got its start in Mansfield, Ohio in 1902, then acquired a plant in Marion, Ohio in 1914. In 1918, Isaly’s came to Youngstown, purchasing the Farmers’ Dairy plant at the Mahoning Avenue location. Chester Isaly moved to Youngstown to manage the plant with an initial investment of $100,000 in improvements. In the 1930’s, they redesigned the exterior with an art deco look with a central, five story tower that some say resembled a milk bottle. Charles F. Owsley was the architect and they spent $400,000 on this project. At its peak, this was one of eleven plants Isaly’s operated across Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and had over 400 stores.

I remember going to the plant, which had an ice cream counter, to get skyscraper cones when I was a kid. Isaly’s used a special scoop to serve the cone, about four inches of ice cream atop the cone, reminiscent of a skyscraper. Compared to the Dairy Cream, which served soft serve vanilla and chocolate, this was ice cream heaven with dozens of flavors of creamy, rich ice cream.

The picture above was taken during a recent visit to Youngstown. The building could probably use some sprucing up, but stands as a monument to a once-great company, preserving the art deco architecture of the 1930’s that swept Youngstown at that time. For many of us, it preserves memories of wonderful ice cream in a distinctive cone.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William F. Maag, Sr.

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William F. Maag, Sr at the time he was elected to the Ohio Assembly. Photo via New York Public Library Digital Collections

With the passing of the “old” Vindicator on August 31, 2019, there have been many stories of the family who owned the paper through most of its history. William F. Maag, Jr. has received a great deal of attention. He was editor and publisher of the paper from 1924 until his death in 1968. His initials form the call letters for WFMJ radio and TV. Maag Library at Youngstown State is named after him. Maag opened in my last year at Youngstown State and quickly became a favorite place to study. However, not only would there not have been a William F. Maag, Jr. Without his father, there is a good chance that there would have been no Vindicator.

William F. Maag, Sr. was born in Ebingen, in the state of Wurtemberg in southern Germany on February 28, 1850. At age 14, he was apprenticed to a printer. Three years later, before completing the four year apprenticeship, he came to America, settling first in Milwaukee working for The Daily Herald, a German paper, then moving to Watertown, Wisconsin, working for another German paper. It was there he met his wife, Elizabeth Ducasse, marrying her in 1872. After several years with another German paper in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he came to Youngstown in 1875 and purchased the Rundschau. The name could be translated “magazine” or “review” but also could be translated “panorama,” “wide view,” or “full view in all directions.” Under Maag, it performed that function in two ways as the only German language newspaper between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and by drawing on correspondence from throughout Germany, giving a “panorama” of German news.

The Vindicator was started in July of 1869 by J. H. Odell as a weekly. The paper passed through a succession of owners up until 1887. At about that time, they tried a twice daily paper which struggled financially. A fire in the newsroom led to the paper being put up for auction. Maag was there, putting in what turned out to be the only bid, even though he didn’t want to purchase the paper. He actually didn’t really have enough money to make a go of it alone and entered into a partnership with John H. Webb, who had both the money, and a pleasing writing style. Webb became president and Maag treasurer and business manager. They launched a daily in 1889. In 1893, they built the Vindicator building, installed new equipment, and began a long history at Boardman and Phelps.

In the early days, The Vindicator shared offices with the Rundschau, which Maag continued to publish until 1917, around the time of America’s entry into World War I. On September 28 of that year, the Associated Press reported the suspension of the Rundschau from being published “on account of misunderstandings which frequently arise through German newspapers.”

Maag not only set The Vindicator on a firm financial footing. He was elected for a term to the Ohio Assembly. He served as a presidential elector in 1912, a trustee of the Glenwood Avenue Children’s Home and was active with the Masonic order. He continued his active leadership of The Vindicator until days before his death on April 10, 1924. The Vindicator for that date described him as “dying in the harness.” He was 75 years old.

His son succeeded him in 1924, publishing the paper until 1968. When William F. Maag, Jr. died, William J. Brown succeeded as publisher and president. When he died in 1981 Betty J. H. Brown Jagnow became publisher and president. Soon, her son Mark Brown took over as general manager, a position in which he served until the paper ceased publication on August 31.

Sad as the ending of this family dynasty of publishing The Vindicator is, it might be encouraging to remember that were it not for William F. Maag, Sr., and a lone bid at an auction, we would not be talking about a paper with a 150 year history, but one that was only a minor footnote in journalistic history, lasting a mere 18 years.

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Canfield Fair Grandstand

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Canfield Fair Historic Marker with Grandstand in background. Photo courtesy of Jenn Wintermantel, via HMdb.org. Used with permission of owner.

It’s fair time again! I have so many memories of visits to the fair, and the fairgrounds and many of them revolve around the grandstand. During fairs past, I watched harness races, pig iron competitions, and tractor pulls (not being able to hear a thing afterwards and smelling of diesel exhaust!). Then there were shows. I can remember going to see the Beachboys and Kenny Loggins at different shows over the years. This year, the big act is Pentatonix, a group I happen to love. But you probably would have had to buy the tickets the day they came out. Some past acts were Toby Keith, John Mellencamp, Reba McEntire, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

The first encounter some of us had with the grandstand were those ominous announcements: “Susie and Michael are at the sound tower by the grandstand and have lost their parents and they’d like to find you” (or something like that). The other experience we had was going underneath the grandstand for all the vendors who were selling everything from trinkets to pots and pans, and miracle cleaning solutions. There was one of these, a powder that came in a can that could be used for cleaning carpet stains and other stains. The stuff really worked and one of our missions at the fair was to buy a can every year.

The grandstand was built in 1936. Over the entrance, where grandstand events are posted and the trademark rooster stands, you can see engraved in the cement “WPA 1936.” WPA stands for Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program designed to put thousands of out-of-work men to work on public infrastructure projects. This one has lasted 83 years and counting! The grandstand can seat 6200 people.

There is an interesting story behind this. Because it was a WPA project, the ownership of the ground and the grandstand, originally owned by the fairgrounds, was transferred to the county in 1935 so they could apply for the construction. It remained in county hands until 2001. The transfer might have happened in 1996, but the fair board borrowed $300,000 at that time for grandstand improvements from the county, and the county did not want to complete the transfer until the loan was paid. In 2001, the grandstand transferred back to fair ownership for the price of $1.

Over the years I visited the grandstand for other things. There used to be stock car races and demolition derbies on the track and I went to some of those. The demolition derbies were fun, because people were intentionally trying to hit each other, doing as much damage as possible while still keeping going in a kind of “last man standing” contest. Apparently these still happen, with one scheduled on Friday night of this year’s fair.

Twice during my growing up years there were “crusades” with associates of Billy Graham, once when I was young with a preacher by the name of Lane Adams, and when I was in college with Leighton Ford. My big memory of the latter event was that one night my father and I were the “night watchmen” over all the sound equipment. All we could do if there was a problem was to call the real police, but fortunately, all we saw that night were the stars as we camped out on the stage.

Often, the grandstand represented a place where you could get out of the sun on a hot day at the fair. You could watch pig iron pulling contests and cheerleader competitions and marching bands. It was part of the “fair experience” and stands as a monument to the workers who built it, the fair board who have maintained it, and all who have performed there.

Congratulations, Canfield Fair on your 173rd year! You are “something to crow about!”

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wall Garden

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The Wall Garden, looking east. Photo by Bob Trube ©  2019.

In childhood, my grandmother always loved to visit what we then called “the Rock Garden” when all the flowers were in bloom in spring. She loved the cascades of the yellow basket-of-gold flowers, purple creeping flox and the white flowers of the yucca plants they somehow managed to grow.

Most of the time, drivers probably give little thought to this rock retaining wall on West Drive between the south end of West Glacier Drive, and the Birch Hill Cabin and Lily Pond areas. That is too bad, because the Wall Garden, as it is formally called was part of one of the major construction projects in the development of Mill Creek Park.

In the early years of the park, created in 1891, most of the roads were little more than dirt roads along Mill Creek or Bear Creek, which flowed into Mill Creek from the west. There was one such road, called the Old Hamilton Road along Bear Creek at the base of the steep hill where the two creeks met. Atop of the hill was a dirt road for many years called One Way Drive (now One Way Trail, one I hiked as a kid). The road ran from McCollum Road above the Lily Pond, atop the hill and came out by the foreman’s house on West Glacier Drive.

After Lake Glacier was created, William Henry Manning, the consulting architect for Mill Creek Park, decided in 1921 to cut through part of the big hill above Bear Creek and create West Drive, connecting up with Birch Hill Cabin, the Lily Pond, and the Bears Den area further west. The project was known as “the Big Cut,” and to prevent soil and rock slides, or a collapse of part of the One Way Drive atop the hill, stone was quarried from Bears Den to serve as a retaining wall for the area below “Lookout Point” which overlooks the Lily Pond and Birch Hill area.

The Wall Garden was begun in 1925 and completed in 1927. Altogether, it is 552 feet long and 54 feet high and was planted with plants that could grow in the soil and crevices between the rocks. What may have been a necessity from an engineering point of view was turned into another facet of the beauty that is Mill Creek Park that has endured for nearly a century.

Sources:

John C. Melnick, M.D., The Green Cathedral (Youngstown: Youngstown Lithographing, 1976), pp. 117-120.

Carol Potter and Rick Shale, Historic Mill Creek Park (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2005), p. 81.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Bears Den

1908 Postcard of Bears Den

1908 Postcard of Bears Den

Did you ever climb around the rocks in the Bears Den area of Mill Creek Park? The area makes you wonder if there was a time when a group of giants were tossing the huge boulders at each other, they look so tumbled down.

Maybe your visits were tamer, perhaps hiking a trail along Bears Den Creek or going to a gathering at Bears Den Cabin, having a picnic in the picnic area in the Upper and Lower Meadows, or playing a game of ultimate frisbee on the open field of the Upper Meadow.

I think at one time or another, I probably did all of these things. You probably did as well. Have you ever wondered about the history of this area, where all those rocks came from and how the area developed?

I always thought all those blocks were left by glaciers. I came to discover that the more likely explanation was that as Bears Den Run (or Bear Creek as it is sometimes called) flowed into Mill Creek, it cut through the sandstone, of which the rocks consist to underlying softer layers of shale, undercutting the sandstone until pieces of it collapsed into the creek. Gradually the descending creek cut the ravine we see today. It’s not particularly complicated. It mostly comes down to running water. (From a paper by John S. Petrek, Geological Features in Mill Creek Park Youngstown, OhioJune 1971, pp. 26-27).

I say mostly because there were industries along Bears Den Run at various periods. Grist and sawmills. Blacksmith shops. And most significant, several quarrying operations, one of which was in the ravine behind Bears Den Cabin (William McKinley was one of the business partners), another, the Jake Stambaugh quarry in the bluff next to the Wick Recreation Area along Bears Den Road. Stone from these quarries were used for bridges over Bears Den Run, the Bruce Rogers Bridge at Birch Hill, the Lake Cohasset Dam, and the Wall Garden overlooking West Drive.

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Part of Bear Creek (Bears Den Run), Bob Trube © 2019

If you look at a map of Mill Creek Park, you readily notice that most of it runs south to north on either side of Mill Creek and the three lakes formed by dams. Bears Den and the Wick Recreation Area to the north jut out to the west from the rest of the park. The park was created in 1891. Volney Rogers continued to acquire parcels, and acquired the Bears Den properties in 1894. However this area was not connected to the rest of the park until 1921 when another 60 acres were acquired in the Bear Creek Valley (the narrow corridor connecting Bears Den with the rest of the park at West Drive) and Bears Den Drive was constructed.

Bears Den Cabin was built in 1931 in the northwest corner of the Upper Meadows. A kitchen was installed in 1960, a parking lot in 1962 and modern lighting in 1963. Pictures on the park website suggest the kitchen and interior has been further updated. The cabin is heated and also has a fireplace but no air conditioning. It can accommodate up to 40 people and be rented by the half or full day ($75 for a half day; $125 for a full day for Mahoning County residents; $100/$165 for non-residents, as of 8/2019).

The name “Bears Den”? At one time there really were bears living in those caves and roaming the ravine. One still hears reports of black bears in other areas around northeast Ohio, so this shouldn’t be entirely surprising,

Finally, about all that climbing around in Bears Den. This actually violates current park regulation 20.6 which reads: “No person is permitted to climb or rappel hillsides or ravine areas on Park District lands.” These regulations were first published in 1989 and most recently amended in 2017. Whether any of this existed when most of us were growing up I don’t know. Certainly none of us knew anything about that. Even the distinguished Dr. John C. Melnick recounts this incident from his youth in The Green Cathedral:

One of the author’s most harassing experiences occurred in Bears Den. Once as a young boy hiking in the Bears Den it was decided to climb up the side of huge boulders. After several of these were conquered, an attempt was made on a very high boulder measuring over 25 feet in height. By use of small hollows in the rock for steps and grasping places, success was achieved for about three quarters of the height when additional footing was lacking. No progress could be made either up or down. In a state of apprehension, help from his friends saved the day” (pp. 145, 147).

Whether it is the placid sound of the running waters of Bear Creek as you walk along side on one of the trails, the rugged beauty of the tumbled boulders in the ravines, or the pleasant picnic areas, the Bears Den area is one of areas of the park that has been delighting visitors over the last hundred years.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William H. and Mattie Kilcawley

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Kilcawley House through the trees. Photo: Robert C Trube © 2010

 

I probably spent more time in Kilcawley Center as a student, and later for a time in the 1980’s as a campus minister at Youngstown, than any other place on the Youngstown State campus. I had several good friends who lived in Kilcawley Dorm (now Kilcawley House) and attended a Bible study group there. I went to various meetings in meeting rooms, listened to music in the music listening room, where I first heard the classic Buckingham-Nicks album, used to love all-the-spaghetti-you-could-eat Wednesdays, bought books in the bookstore, typed papers on typewriters (and had textbooks stolen from me), went to free movies, and probably bought beer from Ed O’Neill in the Pub.

I never knew until writing this post that I had William H. and Mattie Kilcawley to thank for this gathering place. I learned that they had a close connection to two other families whose names appear on Youngstown State buildings. In 1914, William H. Kilcawley joined Leon A. Beeghly and William E. Bliss in forming the Standard Slag Company. Slag is a stony or glass-like by product resulting from the smelting or refining of iron ore. At first glance, this sounds like waste material, but there are a number of uses of slag in concrete, road bases, railroad ballast, waterway construction, and even for soil amendments in agriculture. Obviously the steel industry of the Valley furnished an ample supply. Kilcawley was the secretary-treasurer of the company.

In 1945, the Kilcawleys bought Red Gate Farm, a 290 acre property at US Route 62 and Leffingwell Road. Previously, they lived at an estate called “Raccoon Acres” on Raccoon Road, and in a home on High Street in Canfield. The Kilcawleys raised sheep and cattle on the farm. Their agricultural interests also led to William’s involvement as president and treasurer of the Canfield Fair, and one of the gates to the fair is named in his honor after William died in 1958. The Kilcawleys had one daughter, Anne, who married Byron Christman. They lived in Illinois until returning to the farm in 1967, raising pigs, sheep, and grain. Anne was involved on the board of the Butler, and a trustee of the Stambaugh Auditorium Association. Anne and her husband had no children and she died in 2002.

Mattie was a member of the Youngstown State Board of Trustees. It was in this capacity that she arranged a $300,000 gift from the family trust for the construction of Kilcawley Center. She never saw the full complex, dying in 1972 before the second phase of its construction. The William & Mattie Kilcawley Foundation has give over $1 million to Youngstown State as has the Anne Kilcawley Christman Foundation.

Since the 1970’s students have gathered to eat, study, meet, and relax at Kilcawley Center. All this goes back to a successful company that processed a waste product of the steel industry, and the generosity of the wife of one of its founders, Mattie Kilcawley. Thank you, Mrs. Kilcawley for all those great memories from times at student center that bears your name!

Sources:

Joseph G. Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio, Volume 2 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921), pp. 192.

History Red Gate Farm, The Vindicator, May 18, 2003.

Notable Giving Societies,” Youngstown State University

Susan Tebbe, “Canfield Still Paying for Redgate Farm, Despite Lack of Development,” The Vindicator, March 27, 2013.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Austin Log Cabin

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Austin Log Cabin. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

You probably drove by it on South Raccoon Road on the way from Austintown to Canfield. For many years it was the eyesore at the corner of South Raccoon Road and Burgett Road, just north of where Raccoon takes a bend to the right. It was an old home covered with fake brick shingles that sat vacant between 1964 and 1973. In that year, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located next door to the property, acquired the property and started tearing down the house, until they discovered the log beams beneath the layers of siding. The log beams were joined at the corners by what was known as a “steeple notch,” a technique only used before 1824. Clearly this was a building that went back to the very earliest years of Austintown Township.

A title search on the property traced it all the way back to Calvin Austin, a land agent for the Connecticut Land Company, and later a judge, residing in Warren, then the county seat for the area that included Austintown and Youngstown. Austintown is name after him. In 1814, he sold just over 150 acres to John Packard for $500. It is likely he built the cabin the same year. Here is a brief history of the ownership of the cabin:

1827: Upon John’s death, the cabin was willed to William Packard, his son.
1828: William and Martha Packard transfer 30 acres to Samuel Dorwat
1829: Samuel and Sarah Dorwat sell 10 acres, including the house to Henry and Polly Lawrence for $50.
1845: The Lawrences sell the property to Abraham and Rebecca Dustman for $406. The Dustmans built a barn on the property that burned down in a fire.
1850: The Dustmans sold the house and property to Henry and Margaret Wehr for $510. The Wehrs added a hog shed and dug wells.
Date unknown: Levi (nephew) and Emma Wehr acquire the property. Levi builds a second barn in 1910.
1940’s: Willard Wesley Stricklin owned the home, digging out the root cellar under the kitchen.
1948: Joseph Hanko acquires home, digs out cellar under main house and adds small bathroom extension.
1964: House vacant.
1973: St. Andrews Episcopal Church acquires property.

When the cabin was discovered beneath the siding, the Austintown Community Council came together to raise funds to restore the cabin. A fundraiser was staged at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Raccoon Road. School children and PTAs chipped in. Bake sales and book sales were organized. This all-volunteer effort raised $50,000 that was supplemented with a Bicentennial grant of $2500. Working with an architect familiar with historic preservation, the roof was removed and replaced with a wood shake roof, interior walls were removed, windows replaced with those from a hundred year old school house. The chinking was replaced with a cement mixture and the logs were sealed. A restored fireplace was built with one hundred year old brick. A new furnace and plumbing were added. During the restoration, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1974. This became Austintown’s Bicentennial Project and was dedicated on July 4, 1976 after a parade down Raccoon Road to the site.

The Austintown Historical Society was formed the same month to maintain the cabin, which it has done since that time. The cabin serves as a historic museum for Austintown Township. Period furnishings include a bed Frank Ohl slept in, a spinning wheel and a yarn winder. The upstairs has been set up to resemble a one room school house and contains various memorabilia pertaining to John Fitch, who donated land for Austintown’s first high school, which bore his name as does the present high school. The basement contains a collection of farm implements, meticulously labeled as part of an Eagle Scout project. Also onsite is a family genealogy of Calvin Austin and his wedding certificate. Outdoors, there is a corn crib brought from another location, a three-seat outhouse, a smokehouse, a coal car, and various farm implements.

The late Dr. John White, an anthropology professor from Youngstown State supervised archaeological digs on the site. He located evidence of a multi-purpose shed used as a chicken coop, a stock well, a chicken house, two other outdoor privies, the foundations of the first and second barns on the property, a hog shed, a house well, a cistern, and a summer house. A book, The Archaeology of the Log House, written by Dr. White, along with various artifacts are on display at the house.

The Austin Log Cabin is located at 3797 S Raccoon Rd, Canfield, OH 44406. The phone number posted online is: (330) 799-8051. It is open for free tours on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm, and other times by appointment. The cabin offers a combination of local history and captures what living conditions were like in the early years of the Western Reserve when the area was slowly becoming dotted with cabins like this one. As I write, the upcoming Sunday is the first of the month. This might make a great afternoon outing!

Sources:

Austin Log HouseWikipedia

Joyce Hunsinger Pogany, “History of Austintown and the Log Cabin” The Town Crier, March 10, 2017.

Vision of the Valley – Austin Log Cabin” YouTube video.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Golf Course

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Mill Creek Golf Course – Fairway North Course. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

I will admit up front that my connection with Mill Creek Golf Course is a slender one. I’m not a golfer. Given my hand-eye coordination and temperament, this would probably be, in words often attributed to Mark Twain, “a good walk spoiled.” My brother was the golfer, and I was delighted when he let his “little brother” “caddy” for him when he and some buddies went golfing. Besides remembering when one of the buddies got so mad after one shot that he flung one of his clubs at a tree, I mostly remembered the beauty of the tree-lined fairways and sipping a cold Coke while my brother and his buddies enjoyed more adult beverages after a round of golf.

The tree lined fairways reflected the design work of Donald Ross, once one of the premier golf course designers in the United States. Ross grew up in Scotland, the birthplace of the game of golf and home to some of its most fabled courses. Ross designed the golf course at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina and the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Caroline, the home of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. In all, he designed over 400 courses around the country. His designs were marked by careful attention to detail and by creating challenging courses while moving very little earth, working with the natural contours and features of the land.

The Mill Creek Golf Course was opened in 1928. It consists of two 18 hole, par 70 courses, the North Course and the South Course. The Mill Creek Metropark website describes the different challenges of the two courses:

“The South Course plays over a flat terrain with tree-lined fairways. Natural areas and streams come into play on five holes. The South Course has been selected by Golfweek as one of America’s 30 Best Municipal Courses. The North Course weaves through tall trees and includes a variety of natural hazards.”

There are over one hundred bunkers on the course. In 2018, as part of course upgrades, the bunkers, beginning with the South Course have been restored, with improved drainage and bright white play sand, making them easier to see, and hopefully avoid. Donald Ross once said, “There’s no such thing as a misplaced bunker. Regardless of where the bunker may be, it is the business of the player to avoid it.”

The Fieldhouse, built in 1929 includes a pro shop and restaurant. Mill Creek also has golf pros on staff who offer golf instruction.

In addition to the natural beauty and challenge of the course, one thing that makes the course special is that it is a public course, serving area residents first. Mahoning County residents qualify for a discount on the course, but the highest price that non-residents will pay for 18 holes of golf riding in a golf cart is $41.00 ($34.00 for residents). Seniors over 60, and those under 17 choosing to walk can play 18 holes for $16–less than a dollar per hole.

If you are going to be in the area, it is recommended that you schedule your tee time online. People have different experiences on the course, often weather or time-of-play related. On TripAdvisor, 82 percent of people have rated the course excellent or very good. The course, especially the South Course, can get boggy when there have been heavy rains. Especially heavy rains at the end of May 2019 closed the course due to flooding and debris for several days. From reviews, it appears that the pace of play sometimes can be very slow, especially on weekends, and excellent at other times.

Mill Creek Golf Course has been serving area residents for over 90 years, offering natural beauty, especially in the autumn, and challenging play on a course designed by one of the great golf course designers of the time. It is encouraging to hear that the course is investing in upgrades, to preserve yet one more jewel of the Mahoning Valley.

 

Growing up in Working Class Youngstown — Leaving the Valley

vintage youngstown postcardDid you grow up thinking you would always live in Youngstown? Both my wife and I did. Until we didn’t. Until then, we knew there was a world outside the Mahoning Valley. We just never thought we’d live somewhere else in it.

This is not a post about the economic troubles of Youngstown. I moved from Youngstown to near Columbus in 1976 to work with the collegiate ministry I am still employed with. Back then, they did not allow you to work at the school from which you graduated. Since I went to Youngstown State, it meant going elsewhere. After a year, I moved to Toledo. My fiance, now my wife, followed the next year, and we were married in 1978. Subsequent assignments with work led to moves to Cleveland for nearly ten years, and then to Columbus for the last thirty, longer than the twenty-two I lived in Youngstown.

I’ve been thinking what an interesting thing it is that I have been writing weekly about growing up in Youngstown for five years now, when it has been more than forty years since I lived there. People like to say that “you can take me out of Youngstown, but you can’t take Youngstown out of me.” Sometimes I cannot believe that over forty years have passed because the memories of people and places and experiences, of school days and family celebrations are as vivid as if they were just a few years ago.

Writing about Youngstown has helped me see how growing up in the Valley not only has shaped me in many ways, but so many of us that grew up here. We like certain foods like good Italian cooking that we can only find in Youngstown–as we did on a recent visit back. We compare every park to Mill Creek Park. And we’ve talked about that quite a bit!

There is a certain way of approaching life that says “you can knock me down, you can shut me out, but I will keep showing up.” Maybe it was those parents who grew up in the Depression era. There is a saying, sometimes attributed, probably erroneously, to Winston Churchill that goes, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” I think it was someone from Youngstown who first said it, probably reflecting on life in the factories with its heat and dangers, boom times, strikes, and layoffs. That mentality has stood me in good stead.

Joni Mitchell, the folk rocker many of us grew up with has a line from The Big Yellow Taxi that I was thinking about recently in another context, but applies to many of us who grow up in Youngstown, and perhaps other places as well. She sings, “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.” There was so much of Youngstown that I saw or heard about that I never gave a thought to while I lived there. I saw Oak Hill Cemetery many times but had no idea of the history of the city memorialized within its bounds. I only knew of Volney Rogers as the name of a junior high rival school, and not as a visionary who saved a place of beauty that continues to delight one hundred years after his death. I never grasped what an extraordinary treasure the Butler was nor what a renaissance man its founder was as historian, industrialist, philanthropist, a friend of presidents, and an art collector. I don’t think I realized how all the neighborhood restaurants and local bars and family groceries made the town such a great place.

I don’t think myself a traitor to my town because I left. Most of our families did not live here from the founding of the city (there are some, I’ve discovered). My wife’s mother came here as a girl of ten. My father was born in Warren, my mother outside of Pittsburgh. We’ve always been a nation on the move. But I do find myself thankful for those who have come to or stayed in Youngstown. I had the chance to meet Bill Lawson of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society recently, and came away even more deeply impressed with his and his staff’s efforts to preserve and pass along the history of the Valley. I’m so glad that Jack Kravitz is still making his famous corned beef and Reuben sandwiches. Jim Tressel seems to have done so much to develop Youngstown State far beyond what it was when we were students there. I could go on.

I started writing to understand some of the memories of growing up in working class Youngstown and how that had shaped my life. As I kept writing, I discovered a story of which I’d only heard hints when I lived there. It has enriched my life and made me proud of the place where I lived. It has taught me what makes a good place, lessons I hope I can bring to my own place. If nothing else, all of us who have left have a mission to teach the world what good Italian food tastes like! For my friends who remain in the Valley, I hope that remembering the good strengthens your pursuit of the good in your place. I admire what you are doing more than you can know. I look forward to telling more of the stories of the Valley, the stories that have shaped us, the stories in which we live.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Zedaker’s Farm and Pony Rides

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Zedaker’s Anjon Acres, photo by author, taken June 22, 2019.

Did you ever go for pony rides at Zedaker’s? Riding lessons? My wife and her girl friend (still friends 60 years later!) remember going for pony rides as kids. They lived nearby in Brownlee Woods, so it was very convenient. We never made it over there from the West side.

I was reminded of this recently when we drove by what is now called Zedaker’s Anjon Acres a few weeks ago. [The Anjon combines the names of Ann and John Zedaker who owned the farm together until John passed in 2010.] Then this week, I saw  an old coupon from “Zedaker’s Pony Farm” posted in the “I Grew Up in Youngstown” Facebook group. I decided, I have to write about that!

According to Joseph G. Butler, the Zedaker family was one of the pioneer families of Youngstown. John Zedaker moved to Youngstown from Pennsylvania and fought in the War of 1812. They originally owned land near what is now Zedaker Street on the South side of Youngstown. Later the family acquired farmland in Boardman Township where Jacob Zedaker was born. His son, Marcellus W. Zedaker, acquired the land, 100 acres, where the present farm is located, in 1864, on the border of Boardman and Poland Townships, on the Poland side of the line.

Marcellus, his son, and grandson (“Jack”) farmed the land, growing hay and corn, and raising dairy cattle. When Jack developed arthritis, he decided to convert the farm to a horse farm, beginning in 1948. John Campbell Zedaker III, gave his first riding lessons that year at age 11 For years they offered pony rides with ponies led by young workers at the farm, as well as riding lessons. Ann was one of John’s students and they married in 1969. In the 1970’s family members sold off parcels of the farm for development. John and Ann took over ownership of the remaining 11 acres in 1977. They continued the pony rides until 1984 when John’s mother retired.

In the late 1990’s Ann and John renamed the farm Zedaker’s Anjon Acres. They remodeled the barn, adding an indoor arena, enabling them to give year-round lessons. They also offer a Therapy Alpaca program and riding lessons for those 8 years old and above. They teach English as opposed to Western riding, a style relying on posture and form. In addition to their own “very gentle” horses, they offer facilities for boarding. John’s great niece, Mia, offers lessons as well as the Therapy Alpaca program.

In addition to his work with the farm, John Campbell Zedaker III was a member and captain of the Mahoning Valley Polo Club for over 40 years, the corporate secretary of Moore Peterson Insurance, and a board member of the Potential Development School for Autism. But perhaps his greatest contribution was the delight he gave generations of children on his ponies, and the skill and self-confidence he instilled in the many riders he instructed. After his death from lymphoma in 2010, Ann has carried on the business. The website describes her role in the business as follows:

“Ann has extensive experience showing and training hunters and jumpers and more recently has logged thousands of miles competing in competitive trail and endurance rides. She coordinates the lesson program and barn activities, and also has a real knack for diagnosing and treating horse ailments including lameness.”

In a time when so much has changed around Youngstown, it was delightful to drive past and still see the Zedaker name and an active operation on the site so many remember for its pony rides.

You may contact them at:

Zedaker’s Anjon Acres
5375 Youngstown Poland Rd.
Poland, Oh. 44514
Ph: (330) 757-3445
anjonassoc@aol.com