Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mother’s Day 1971

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My inbox is full of ads for Mother’s Day. We’re excited to get together with our son and daughter-in-law to celebrate. Instead of roses, we typically buy perennials for our yard that keep flowering year after year. We were at the garden center on Friday.

I miss celebrating mother’s day with my mom, who passed in 2010. One year, dad and I went to the garden center and bought a maple tree that we planted in front of the house to shade the porch where she liked to sit on summer evenings. The tree is still there. The house is not. Often there would be a trip to Fellows Gardens. But her favorite thing was to go out for a good steak. We often went to the Brown Derby, a popular place for Mother’s Day until it closed and later to Steak and Ale on South Avenue in Boardman. But I also remember going to Palazzo’s on Midlothian. Great Italian, veal parmigiana, and steaks. Or Lucianno’s in Austintown. When things were tighter, it was a bucket of Golden Drumstick Chicken, which she loved.

I thought for this post I would look at some of the places we took our moms fifty years ago in the Youngstown area. I found a number of restaurants including those above in The Vindicator from May 8, 1971. Get ready for a walk down memory lane! Sure enough, there was an ad for Palazzo’s. Steaks, traditional dinners, spaghetti, and homemade lasagna. All of the restaurants offered children’s menus at special prices. At the Golden Steer Smorgasbord by the turnpike, it was all you could eat for the princely sum of $2.95 with children under 10 at half price! Even The Mansion, one of the more elegant restaurants, had a special menu for Mother’s Day, with children’s servings.

Of course you wanted to take Mom to the nicest place you could afford. Here’s two restaurants that listed prices that were a bit more expensive. At the Town & Country on the Strip on Route 422, my mom could have gotten a petite filet mignon for $4.50, with mushrooms! At the Avalon, you could get prime rib for $5.25. I wonder what it would cost at one of their restaurants today. You would dress up to go to these places–nice dresses and jackets and ties. But mom was worth it.

Families couldn’t always afford the really nice places. There were options all around town for an inexpensive dinner out. Gays in the McGuffey Plaza had a number of dinners ranging from $1.45 for a three piece chicken dinner to $1.95 for home-made ravioli. Tambellini’s on the north side offered a lasagna dinner for mom for $.89! Others paid regular price. Then there was the Harvest House at Southern Park Mall with a $1.29 roast turkey dinner. There were even free gifts for the youngest mother, the oldest mother and the mother with the most children (she definitely deserved a prize!)

Then there was Burger Chef. Remember Burger Chef? They had a deal for a family of four for $1.89 (or more food for fewer people). They did this every Sunday. Other fast food chains also had special offers. Morgan’s Family Restaurants offered of relishes, salad or cole slaw, all you can eat chicken, ham, or top sirloin, two sides, a desert and beverage for $3.50. That’s a lot of food! Remember Red Barn? They offered a barnfull of chicken (nine pieces, a pint of coleslaw, and rolls for $2.99. Like fish? Mom could get FREE fish and chips at Arthurs Treacher’s–“the healthiest sea food in the world.” They must have something on the ball though. They are still in business on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown. [Correction: I learned after posting that the restaurant formerly known as Arthur Treacher’s is now doing business as Captain Arthur’s, with a similar menu. The change occured about a year ago.]

I’ve touched on just a fraction of the good places. Many didn’t need to advertise. Where did you like to take your mother?

Looking at all that food is making me hungry and bringing back memories. The best, though, was letting mom know how special she was.

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

Remembering Mom

It seems appropriate on Mothers Day to remember Mom, who passed away nearly four years ago at age 90. It is likely due to her that this blog exists. Not only did she do the obvious of giving birth to me (and my two siblings). She was an avid reader and I still remember lunch times at home. Part of the time was spent reading our books. Part of the time was spent talking about them–I guess that’s where the reviewing part comes in. I loved exploring the shelves of books in our house, including the stash behind the clothes rack in my closet. I guess that might explain the proliferation of books in my own home.

Mom after Carol was born

The first picture here is of my mom after giving birth to my sister in 1960. She looks pretty amazing considering she was nearly 41 and had just had her third child. The second picture was taken around 1990 when she would have been 70. I remember one of my male friends visiting our home when I was a teenager and when we were alone, he said, “Boy, your mother is hot!” I nearly punched him because you just didn’t go saying those things about one’s mother. But with the perspective of age, I have to say my friend was right!

Mom cropped

Mom was beautiful and smart as well. She was a good student and represented her high school (Chaney High School, the same school I attended) at a statewide Chemistry competition. If she were growing up today, she might have gone on to college, and perhaps a career in science or engineering. She loved learning all her life and was mentally sharp to the last.

In her later years, we would talk on the phone every Sunday, about what was going on in Youngstown, what she was reading, and politics local and national. She was a “died in the wool” Republican despite living in a heavily Democratic part of town. Consequently, for years she was recruited to work at her local voting place. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but you could always count on a lively conversation!

What I most remember was how she was always there for us as a family. I was sick quite a bit in my early elementary years until I got rid of my inflamed tonsils. I never was made to feel bad for being sick. Rather, it seemed like she always knew what to do to make one comfortable, whether it was a pain-reliever, a re-made bed, putting on the TV to watch (something we rarely did during daytime hours), or a glass of orange juice. She was also there to talk with when we came home from school. She wasn’t a helicopter parent running into school whenever there was a problem. Most of the time we talked it out and she helped me think through how to deal with a teacher, or a kid who was picking on me.

My mother’s name was Dorothea. I always thought that was one of the most beautiful names I knew. It means “gift of God” and I think we all would agree that she was that to our family. She stood by all of us in hard times and good.

Our own son and daughter-in-law treated us to a trip to Outback today and in ordering a steak, I was reminded how much my own mom loved a good steak, medium to medium rare. We were celebrating my wife, who also is a wonderful gift, but I could not help remembering with gratitude the “gift of God” my own mother was, and how much I loved her, and how much I miss her this day.