Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2022

Compiled from “The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom” by Wilbur H. Siebert, Public Domain

It’s that time again! With the next two Saturdays being Christmas and New Year’s Eves, this seemed the best time to share your favorite Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts of 2022. I’ve been writing these posts since 2014 and I’ve never been able to completely figure out what people find most interesting, other than posts on food. Looking back, I discovered I didn’t write any of those in 2022. I’ll have to work on that next year! So, here are the top ten favorites of 2022. Drumroll please!

10. Butler Institute of Art’s Indian Scout Statue. I share the history of this iconic statue that greets visitors to the Butler.

9. Sue Thomas. I stumbled upon this inspiring story of a girl who went deaf at 18 months, and with the help of amazing teachers ended up working at the FBI and eventually the subject of a highly rated television program. This post includes a video interview with Sue Thomas I found on YouTube. [Update: I just learned from a reader that Sue Thomas passed on December 13. Here is the WKBN story.]

8. Things I’ve Wondered About. This was a list of things I still wonder about after eight plus years of researching and writing about Youngstown. I can say at least one of those was answered by the readers. That’s what makes this so fun!

7. Sparkle Markets. Our family shopped at a Sparkle Market on Mahoning Avenue a few blocks from our house. So I wrote about the history of Sparkle Markets in the area and so many of you wrote about your favorite Sparkle.

6. Chaney High School. I’m a Chaney High School grad and our class celebrated its 50th reunion this year (how did 50 years go by so fast?). So it seemed time for at least a short history of the school, which has existed at two different locations on the West Side. Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy!

5. Ten Things We Did on Cold Winter Days. This was another list, of all the ways we did not let cold and snow stop us from having fun. In Youngstown, you gotta be tough!

4. The Ukrainian Community. The Russian invasion of Ukraine reminded me of Youngstown’s strong Ukraine community. I wrote about the history of this community and some of the religious institutions that continue to play an important part in that community. Slava Ukraini!

3. Elizabeth Hartman. The publicity still in this article captures what a strikingly beautiful actress ‘Biff” Hartman was. I wrote of her brilliance as an actress and the tragic end of her life. Many of you wrote of personal recollections of her. Gone too soon!

2. The Old Rugged Cross. I tell of the story of The Old Rugged Cross in Lake Park Cemetery, its dedication and the story behind the hymn of the same title, written by a minister who grew up in Youngstown. Make sure to listen to the Alan Jackson rendition of this song on the YouTube video included with this article!

1. The Underground Railroad. Several other articles I wrote over the years mentioned sites on the underground railroad, and in one I mentioned needing to write about this some time. I finally decided it was time and was unexpectedly surprised that this ended up the most viewed post of the year. Many of you brought to my attention other possible stops in the Mahoning Valley. Plainly, this has to be one of the most fascinating stories in our area’s history.

When I started writing over eight years ago about Youngstown, I thought I’d write a few articles and just move on…and I just kept finding new things to write about. In the process, I discovered how rich and many-faceted is Youngstown’s story–amazing people, interesting places, great food, dynamic cultural institutions, significant institutions, and endlessly fascinating history. Two stories that didn’t make this list that were a couple of my favorites were profiles of William (Bill) Whitehouse and Paul J. Ricciuti. One taught us to love the wonders of Mill Creek Park. The other lovingly built and restored some of the Youngstown area’s most important buildings. I look forward to what I will discover next year and what I will learn as we talk together about Youngstown history and culture. Thanks for making this so much fun. My best wishes to all of you!

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