Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Top 10

This is the time of the year where people are posting all sorts of Top Ten lists for 2015, and so I thought you all might enjoy seeing what were the top ten “Youngstown” posts in 2015, based on number of views. I will just give the topic for each post without the “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown”. Each topic is linked back to the original post. Enjoy!


The Open Hearth Bar on Steel Street, Photo by Tony Tomsic, Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

10. Neighborhood BarsWritten on the occasion of the closing of the Boulevard Tavern, I reflect on how bars were a rich part of the fabric of neighborhoods in Youngstown.

9. PierogiesOne of the staples of Friday night dinners during Lent. Numerous churches in the area sold them as fund-raisers.

8. SleddingI posted about a number of the places I went sledding growing up and you added memories like “Suicide Hill.”

7. The Three “F’s” of ChristmasJust posted. If you didn’t see it, can you guess what they were?

WHOT Good Guys6. WHOTDo you remember the Good Guys, who we not only listened to on the radio, but met at dances and WHOT days at Idora Park?

5. Brier Hill PizzaYou know you are from Youngstown if you know what a Brier Hill pizza is. I throw in some history and videos in this one!

4. Boardman RollercadeA favorite hangout for many of us growing up. Many of you shared memories of the Kalasky family who ran the place.

3. Front PorchesYour response to this one surprised me! So many shared memories of sleeping out on porches on summer nights or watching TV on the porch.

2. The Cookie TableAnother of those “you know you are from Youngstown if” kinds of things. Most people, other than those from Pittsburgh, don’t even know about this tradition, and nobody does it better!

And the top post of 2015, drumroll please….!


Kolachi or nut rolls. By Hu Totya (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Kolachi. We love these nut rolls, even though it takes a lot of effort to make them. And consistent with last year, a food post was the top post once again. We do love our food if we are from Youngstown!

I’ve loved interacting with so many of you on Facebook or on the blog. You’ve made writing about our home town such a blast. Happy New Year!


Growing Up In Working Class Youngstown — Neighborhood Bars

The Open Hearth Bar on Steel Street, Photo by Tony Tomsic, Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

The Open Hearth Bar on Steel Street, Photo by Tony Tomsic, Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

I recently learned that the Boulevard Tavern, an institution on Youngstown’s South Side has closed after nearly 90 years in operation. Nick Petrella ran the tavern through most of it’s history and it was known for its fish and good spaghetti sauce.

This news reminded me of what an institution the neighborhood bar has been in working class Youngstown. And like most bars, it was not just a “shot and a beer” place but also a place to get good food. You really couldn’t have a popular bar without having a good kitchen.

Every part of town had (and still has in some cases) its places. There was the MVR in Smoky Hollow, the Avalon and the Golden Dawn on the north side, the Royal Oaks Tavern on the east side, and the Atomic Bar on the south side. The Ringside, the Brass Rail and the Blue Ribbon Grill were among the downtown favorites.

Growing up on the west side, there were several bars along Steel Street including the Polar Bear, the Palm Cafe and the Open Hearth. We used to get some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten from Molly O’Dea’s on Salt Springs Rd. Up on Mahoning Avenue was the Town Tavern and Il Solo Mio. The bars on Steel Street and Salt Springs were near the mills and guys would stop there on the way home.

But because most bars had good kitchens, they were also family places. In fact, the question with many places would be, “is it a bar or is it a restaurant” and the answer was yes! There were the regulars at the bar, and then the folks that came in every so often for a good meal out in the days before fast food and chain restaurants.

Bars were part of the rich fabric of neighborhoods in working class Youngstown. You could walk to one nearby just as you could the bank, the local grocery, the beer and wine shop, the drug store and hardware store. Such places still exist but nowadays it seems that you drive to bars in commercial developments some distance from one’s neighborhood. I wonder if this contributes to DUI incidence. As long as you stayed on the sidewalk you weren’t a danger to yourself or others!

Bars were indeed places where “everyone knew your name” if you were a regular. The owners and customers knew each other by first name. Often the owners helped sponsor local sports teams and so further contributed to the fabric of community.

What are your memories of neighborhood bars in Youngstown, or your own home town?

[You can find all the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown posts in the “On Youngstown” category on my homepage]