Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2020

Liberty Plaza, probably in the 1960’s. Photo by Hank Perkins, used with permission of the Mahoning Valley History Society Business and Media Archives collection (http://mahoninghistory.org).

Hard to believe this is the last weekend of 2020. I suspect most of us are glad to see it go.

It has continued to be a joy to write about our home town and to read all the comments, many of which add valuable information to the article that I had not come across. In fact one of the top posts this year was suggested by a reader! So with that teaser, here is the top 10 countdown of your favorites, based on the number of views each received. The links will take you to the original post.

10. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family. Boardman was one of the investors in the Connecticut Land Company which held and sold the land in the Western Reserve. A political career in Connecticut prevented Boardman from living in the township but bore his name, but he surveyed the land and died during a visit to Boardman. This post led to the suggestion that I write about the Simon family, which turned out to be the second most popular post of the year.

9. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Forest Lawn Memorial Park. My parents and my grandparents on my mother’s side are buried here. I wrote about why the land ended up a cemetery rather than a real estate development and how it represented a new trend in cemeteries when it was developed.

8. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John Struthers. Another of those individuals after whom one of the smaller towns near Youngstown is named. One of the interesting stories is that the town didn’t bear his name until his more successful son reacquired the land his father had owned and sold along Yellow Creek and renamed the settlement in his father’s honor.

7. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Our Parents Worked. Written on Labor Day weekend, I remembered how hard our parents worked in Youngstown’s businesses and industries to give us a better life. Many of you responded with stories of your parents.

6. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Frank Sinkwich. He was one of the football greats to come out of Chaney High School, winning a Heisman Trophy, playing for the Georgia Bulldogs.

5. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ed Matey. Former teacher, football coach, and athletic director Ed Matey died this summer. He was one of my teachers at Chaney High School and I wrote a piece combining my memories and a retrospective of his career.

4. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–The 1918 Pandemic in Youngstown. With this year’s pandemic, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the 1918 pandemic, going through Vindicator issues from 1918 to give an account of what things were like in Youngstown.

3. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William R. Stewart. He was Youngstown’s first Black legislator in the state house. He was also one of Youngstown’s most successful attorneys. To my knowledge, there is no structure or monument to remember him in the city.

2. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Simon Family. This was one of those suggested posts. I wrote the post about Elijah Boardman. A Simon family descendent (who at the time lived in our neighborhood unbeknownst to us) suggested I write about the Simon family and arranged to have a number of great photographs sent. This was fun to write and I loved the great response!

1. Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Liberty Township. I suspect the great Hank Perkins picture of Liberty Plaza drew people in. But I also heard from many former and present Liberty Township residents.

I can’t tell you how interesting it is to learn and write about our local history. Often one story leads to another, as was the case in this list. I hope you enjoy these ten snapshots of our local history. I look forward to the things we will discover together in 2021!

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2019

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Blizzard of ’78, Photo courtesy of the Vindicator

It has now been a bit over five and a half years since I began writing about Youngstown. One of the most rewarding parts of this, beyond learning so much I’d never known about our home town, is all the interactions both online and in person. The ones that have been the most special are with descendants or friends of people I write about. I think people from Youngstown are just the best! I’d love to send you all a holiday gift, but there are just too many of you. But wait! I can send something else–articles I loved writing, and that you loved reading. So here are ten of your favorites, along with some pictures, counted down. Looking them over has been a way to recall our year together. I hope you enjoy revisiting these stories and snapshots one more time.

Atlas of Mahoning County Ohio from actual surveys by and Full View HathiTrust Digital Library HathiTrust Digital Library

Scanned from Titus, Simmons, and Titus Atlas of Mahoning County, Ohio, 1874

10. George Borts Farm. I used to deliver papers to the house that was the old Borts home. Little did I realize how influential this family was in the early settlement of the West Side of Youngstown. All I knew was that Borts Field was named after them.

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

9. The Wall Garden. I drove, biked and walked past this amazing garden in the side of the hill above West Glacier Drive in Mill Creek Park. It was fascinating to learn about the major construction project involved in creating the Wall Garden, which is 552 feet long and 54 feet high.

Oak Hill Cemetery postcard

Entrance to Oak Hill Cemetery before construction of the granite gates

8. Oak Hill Cemetery. If you want a who’s who of Youngstown history, one of the best ways to get it is a tour of Oak Hill Cemetery, a scenic final resting place that is also a walk through Youngstown history.

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Esther Hamilton, Headshot from Vindicator “Around Town” Columns in the 1960’s

7. Esther Hamilton. She was one of the more colorful and interesting figures who seemed to know everything that was going on in Youngstown and reported on it in her “Around the Town” columns in The Vindicator. What I didn’t know was how involved she was in various charitable activities around the city she covered.

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The Paisley House, photo courtesy of The Paisley House

6. The Paisley House. I passed by this house for years without knowing the purpose of this beautiful old building or who lived there. I had fun learning its history, purpose, and interviewing its current director. Turns out they have an incredible and ongoing history of serving the elderly in the Mahoning Valley.

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Calvary Cemetery Northeast Entrance, © Bob Trube, 2019.

5. Calvary Cemetery. It’s curious to me that articles about cemeteries were two of the most popular of this year. This was about the Catholic cemetery on Youngstown’s West side, one I passed walking to Chaney High School from my home a few blocks away.

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Renner Mansion, © Bob Trube, 2019.

4. George J. Renner, Jr. I had known nothing about Renner, his family, or the brewing business that was the largest in Youngstown, nor that I used to run past his former residence when I would go for runs at Wick Park during college.

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Blizzard of ’78, Photo courtesy of the Vindicator

3. The Blizzard of 1978. I wasn’t in Youngstown during the Blizzard of 1978 (actually stranded for five days in a college dorm in Bowling Green). It was interesting to look at old Vindicator accounts of the storm, the meteorology of the storm, and its impact in the Youngstown area.

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Zedaker’s Anjon Acres, © Bob Trube, 2019.

2. Zedaker’s Farm and Pony Rides. Driving past Zedaker’s last summer brought back memories, led to some research and resulted in this article about the farm, the family, and the thriving business that continues to this day.

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View of Southern Park Mall” by Nyttend – Own Work, Public Domain

1. Southern Park Mall. For many of my generation, the mall was our favorite hangout. I remember those days, the history of Southern Park, as well as discuss the decline of malls, and the turnaround plans for Southern Park.

The article titles are linked to the full articles. I hope you have some time to relax and spend some time with these snapshots of Youngstown, perhaps with a smile on your face, as they bring back your own Youngstown memories. Maybe they will even encourage some storytelling around the Christmas tree!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2017

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“The Morning Drive,” Christopher Leeper, 2017. Image used by permission of the artist.

I first started writing “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts back in the spring of 2014, which means I’ve written over 175 of these. I’ve learned a great deal about our town, its history, its people, its places, and its favorite foods. I’ve rediscovered so many memories about my own growing up years and interacted with so many of you about your memories. You have filled in so many gaps in my own knowledge. Together, we’ve told the story of Youngstown, and why, even with all its challenges, Youngstown is a special place.

I wish we could celebrate Christmas together. In Youngstown style, there would be so much good food and drink, lots of stories, jokes, and laughter. It really would be a celebration. I can’t do that but what I can do, maybe as a small gift of the best of our hometown, is to share the posts that were your favorites of 2017. For some, it will be revisiting old friends, and for others a first time discovery.  So, here are the top ten posts, (by number of views) with links to the original post, from 2017:

10. Iconic Places. This was kind of a “top 10” in itself of the places that represent Youngstown, that capture it at its best. Lots of pictures in this post to show all your friends how special Youngstown is.

9. Coal Mining. This post explored the coal mining history of Youngstown, a legacy still impacting the city in the form of mine subsidence. Many of you shared stories of mines near where you grew up!

8. Civil War Soldiers Monument.  I’d seen the “Man on the Monument” countless times but never knew the history or what was written on the base of the monument.

7. Black Monday. Say “Black Monday” to a Youngstowner and they will know what you mean. This year marked forty years since that sad day.

6. The “Foster” in Fosterville. This was a fascinating post to write, learning about the history of Colonel Lemuel Talcott Foster, from whom Fosterville gets its name, and the farm and mines on his land, part of the coal mining boom (which led to the post on coal mining).

5. Inspiring Teachers. I wrote about the inspiring school teachers that shaped my life and featured Mr. Erickson, my high school math teacher. Many of you remembered him as well, and shared memories of other inspiring teachers.

4. Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs. Seems like all of us remember Frank Petrakos with a line of buns up his sweaty arm slapping wieners in and ladling chili sauce over them. And many of us make it a point to stop by Jays whenever we are in town!

3. Italian Food. One thing all Youngstown people who have moved away have in common is that they are looking for good Italian food. I remember a number of the good places around town to get good Italian and most of you added your moms or grandmothers to the list!

2. Sides of Town. Every side of Youngstown, north, south, east, or west had its own personality. And all of us thought ours was the best side of town. And we were right!

1. The View From Home. This post began when my sister-in-law, an artist, posted on Facebook a picture of a painting by Youngstown area artist, Christopher Leeper, titled “The Morning Drive.” I gasped when I saw it because it was the view from the corner of Portland and Mahoning Avenues, right about from where I used to catch the WRTA bus. It was the view of the Mahoning Valley I grew up seeing every day. The after story of this post was that we met Christopher Leeper at an artists workshop later that spring, and over the summer saw the actual painting at the Columbus Museum of Art, where it was in a show of Ohio artists.

Thank you, all of you who read and comment. Many of you know far more than me about the history of our area, and you also have been inspiring teachers. I have friends who are not from Youngstown, who have discovered what a hidden gem our city is. I hope that knowing the story of our town can be not only a way to re-live our memories but might in a small way contribute to the renewal of Youngstown in its third century as a city.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!