Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Goldfish Pond


The Lily Pond, before 2016 renovations, Photo copyright Bob Trube

A 15 cent loaf of day old bread was all you needed for a delightful family outing to the Goldfish Pond. You gave each of the kids a slice, taught them to break off small pieces and toss them into the water. Suddenly a school of goldfish appeared. Then everyone, including the parents, threw in more bread and watched the feeding frenzy. Hundreds would gather along the shore, from tiny fish to big old grizzled veterans of many years in the pond.

It was one of the first feature designed by Volney Rogers with W.S.C. Cleveland in the newly acquired park, formed by damming the outlet for a nearby natural spring. Legend has it that the first five goldfish came from a police officer, Martin Moran, who gave them to Volney Rogers to be released into the pond. The pond opened in 1896.

The pond was formally called the Lily Pond, because sections are covered with lily pads. It was, and still is a home to frogs, turtles, ducks and geese. On our last visit, we delighted in observing a turtle sunning itself on a log, as well as the mallard ducks who made their home in the pond.

The pond has required periodic dredging (in 1935 and 1975), and extensive improvements in 2016. They added a boardwalk leading to an observation deck as well as an arrival plaza with drinking fountains, benches and an information kiosk. There is a floating boardwalk and observation deck over the Frog Pond.

Feeding fish or other wildlife is now prohibited in the park. It turns out that our stale bread is not really healthy for wildlife and pollutes the pond. it also defeats the natural instincts of animals.

I wonder if Lindley Vickers knew that when he took generations of school children for nature hike around the pond and along the nearby trails? What I do know is the he helped us love the pond and the animals and plants found around it. I suspect there are ways to accomplish that without feeding the wildlife. What I do hope is that park officials major in delight rather than rules so a new generation learn to love the park.

The Lily Pond is located off of Birch Hill Drive, which connects McCollum Road on the West side, with West Drive in the park. Birch Hill Cabin is located across the road and is available for groups up to 48 to rent. I remember several gatherings there, and a walk around the Gold Fish Pond was a great chance for some fresh air, especially if you were with a date. It was only a quarter mile around, but with benches, it was a good, if not private, place for conversation in a beautiful place.

What do you remember about visiting the Goldfish Pond?

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park

First of all, I have to say a big “thank you” to all of you (mostly Youngstowners and former Youngstowners) who viewed and commented on my last post on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Food. Far and away, this has been the most viewed post in my nine month experience of blogging. It has been a delight to share food memories with so many other Youngstowners (and our laments over the lack of good Italian food anywhere else!).

Lake Cohasset

Lake Cohasset (c)Robert C Trube, 2014

Along with food, Mill Creek Park (now MetroPark) has played a huge part in many of our lives growing up. The park grew up along the course of Mill Creek, a scenic stream that flowed into the industrial Mahoning River.  It was initially created through the efforts of Youngstown attorney Volney Rogers in 1891. In 1906, Lake Glacier was created by damning the stream at a narrow point. I remember that it was during the 1960s that the Lake Glacier Boat House was built. Lake Newport, added to the park through a land donation in 1924, was dammed in 1928. More recently, the south end has been allowed to revert to a wetlands area.  By far, the most beautiful of the lakes in my opinion is Lake Cohasset, the earliest to be created, in 1897. Lanterman’s Mill, the recipient of proceeds from the sales of Recipes of Youngstownand featured on the book’s cover, was built in 1845-46 and is still in operation and you can purchase freshly ground grain from the mill. (All the factual information for this part of my post comes from Wikipedia.)

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond, (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Located southwest of the industrial belt of steel mills lining the Mahoning River that runs through Youngstown, the park provided a respite from the hard work, noise, and pollution associated with steel-making. Picnic shelters situated throughout the park provided a wonderful place for family gatherings. Taking boats out onto Lakes Glacier or Newport on a summer Sunday afternoon or a baseball game on one of the diamonds at Rocky Ridge (now the James L Wick Recreation Area) or an evening family walk with day old bread to feed the gold fish at the Lily Pond were refreshing breaks from work in the mills or other manufacturing plants.

My life’s journey runs through Mill Creek Park even though we haven’t lived in Youngstown for many years. I treasure walks my dad and I took along the many trails running through the park. I still remember a Saturday morning when we got up early, took a frying pan, bacon and eggs, and made breakfast over an open fire at one of the fire rings in the park. My brother and his wife had wedding photographs taken on the little footbridge near the boat house at Lake Glacier in 1968 (I was best man). Often when I had free time in high school or college, I would be on my bike, riding the roads through the park, sometimes finding a scenic overlook where I might read or write or just think. Fellows Riverside Gardens, a beautiful public garden developed beginning in the 1960s was the site of countless wedding photographs (including ours in 1978) overlooking Lake Glacier and the site of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding just a few years back. In 2001, we celebrated my parents 60th anniversary at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. In my fathers last years (he passed in 2012), one of our cherished memories was rides through the park and listening to him revisit his youthful memories.

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

When we were growing up, the park reminded us that life was not all hard work and toil–that there was beauty, and peace, and goodness to life as well. I may not be able to speak to this as well as those who still live in the Youngstown area, but I sense that the renewed efforts to maintain the park in the formation of the MetroPark district represents a symbol of hope that as Youngstown seeks to “re-invent” itself, this city can be a good place not only to work, but to live.