Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Front Porches

The home I grew up in with our front porch. (Photo taken by Carol E Campbell)

The home I grew up in with our front porch. (Photo taken by Carol E Campbell)

The hot weather of the past week brought to mind one of our favorite ways of keeping cool on those warm and muggy summer evenings. We would sit out, often until late in the evening, to catch whatever breeze there was while the house cooled off after sunset.

You see, most of us didn’t have air conditioning back then. Sitting out on the front porch with a cool drink, and maybe some ice cream, was the best way to keep cool. My parents had old-fashioned metal lawn chairs that could rock (we inherited them). I would often sit on the old metal glider, rocking back and forth to keep cool.

We had big green awnings that dad hung each spring to shade the porch from the late afternoon sun. We had spirea bushes in front of the porch that came up just above the banisters and the awnings came most of the way down so that kept the sun out pretty well.

Often, I would have my transistor radio on listening to Herb Score broadcasting the Cleveland Indians games. We always hoped this would be the year they’d win the pennant, and then the World Series. Still hoping.

Everyone sat out on summer evenings. Sometimes you would visit families walking down the street, many walking to the Dairy Queen a block up on Mahoning Avenue. Mostly, the parents would talk–about how hot it was, how good the yard was looking, how work was going, how big the kids were getting. Or we would watch neighbors drive down the street and notice when they got a new car.

As I grew older, I would cross the street and sit on the front steps of my friend Jim’s house and talk with him until his parents told us it was time to call it a night. As it turned out, that was usually when my parents wanted me home. You’d think they conspired with each other. Mostly I remember talking with Jim about cars, sports, and that mystery we both were trying to figure out–girls! (Don’t ask me if we ever did!)

Front porches weren’t just a west side thing (where I grew up). Most homes in the older urban neighborhoods of Youngstown had front porches. My grandparents lived on Cohasset Drive, a beautiful tree-lined street and they had a big front porch with old, comfy porch furniture.

Now everyone has air conditioning and, at least in our area, few houses have front porches. If we ever buy another house, I want a front porch. As it is, whenever it isn’t too hot, we sit out in the drive and enjoy the evening air and visit with people walking by, usually with their dogs. Growing up in a neighborhood of front porches, it just doesn’t seem right hiding out in my house or backyard on a summer evening. But it is different. In Youngstown, I knew the names of every family in the neighborhood. I can’t say that here. We didn’t always have fond thoughts of each other, but we knew each other. That’s what came of growing up on a street lined with houses with front porches.

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