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 — Snow Days

My father-in-law during a big snow storm before we were born (late 40s-early 50s) courtesy Marilyn Trube used with permission

My father-in-law during a big snow storm before we were born (late 40s-early 50s) courtesy Marilyn Trube used with permission

You remember what a delicious feeling it was. Dad comes into your bedroom and tells you that you can sleep in today. School is cancelled because of a big snow fall. Maybe you were up and heard the news on the radio and jumped up and down with jubilation–especially if you were supposed to have a test or do a report that day. At very least you had an unexpected day free of classes, cafeteria food or sack lunches, and bells.

I don’t remember that we had huge numbers of these in Youngstown. Unlike Columbus, which seems to cancel school at the drop of a snowflake (we joke in my house of it being “the great white death”), you had to have more than six inches of snow–a real blizzard that was ongoing–to cancel school. Otherwise it was boots on and off to school. Parents all knew how to drive in snow, and the worst that happened was that sometimes you were tardy–and sometimes you got a break on that.

But there were those rare times when we got buried on a school day. Usually, the first thing was to help the parents dig out. We only had a short stretch of sidewalk but a long driveway that went down a hill to a detached garage. Houses were pretty close together so when you were between the two houses, the question became where to put the snow without piling it up against the neighbor’s windows. That was a bit of work, but the reward was to come in to some hot chocolate and a warm house.

Then there were all those great outdoor things you could do. I remember building snow forts and having epic snowball fights with friends. Usually when it snowed heavy, it snowed wet and it was great for making blocks of snow (a wood or sturdy cardboard box made a great mold!), and of course the snow packed well for snowballs.

There were also snow men, which seemed to be something we did when we were younger–complete with some charcoals, a carrot nose, an old hat and some sticks for arms. Sometimes it would get really cold after these snows and our forts and snow men would hang around for weeks. Unfortunately, back then, they would also start turning a bit gray as soot from the mills would settle on them making them look a bit grubby unless we got a fresh layer of snow. I don’t think we thought then about the fact that we were breathing this stuff as well!

Of course this was a great time to go sled riding as well. I discovered on my recent post on sledding that many of us called it “sled riding” back then. I also learned that in addition to Calvary Run and Glacier Avenue and Rocky Ridge, there were a number of other awesome places around the city to go sledding like “Suicide Hill” (also called Ski Hill) in the park, up at Crandall Park and the Kensington Hollow, St Joseph’s in Campbell, Ipe’s field in Brownlee Woods and many others. Some readers of these posts reminded me of how our parents would put bread bags over our feet inside our boots to keep our feet dry and how all our boots smelled like bread!

Often, we would get home by late afternoon, pleasantly tired, just in time to watch some of the late afternoon TV shows for kids like a show that we remember as “Four O’Clock Showtime” (we’re not sure of the exact name but it had all these great old sci-fi flicks). All those outdoor activities worked up an appetite, but suppers in working class Youngstown were usually early, sometime around 5 pm so you weren’t hungry for long. Then as evening came along, you realized that there would be school tomorrow, and you better do that homework (if you hadn’t already!).

I still find myself wishing for snow days–until I remember that I do a good deal of work out of my home and that the internet is still up and even if I can’t get to the campus where I work, I can still work from home. But visiting those memories recalls the delight of those wonderful words “schools closed”.

What are your memories of snow days?


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sledding

We had snow most everywhere in Ohio this past week so my mind has turned to memories of winter sports growing up. Most of us growing up in working class neighborhoods did not have the luxury of going away to ski resorts. Winter thrills in the snow consisted of jumping on a sled (or an inner tube) and barreling down one of the local sledding hills around Youngstown. That is, of course, after you dressed up in snowsuit (remember snowsuits!) or bundled up in layers of clothes to stay warm.

"Boy on snow sled, 1945" by Father of JGKlein, used with permission - Father of JGKlein, used with permission. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_1945.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Boy_on_snow_sled,_1945.jpg

“Boy on snow sled, 1945” by Father of JGKlein, used with permission – Father of JGKlein, used with permission. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –,_1945.jpg

The sled I grew up with was much like the one in the picture, where you would lie face down and steer the sled with a yoke that turned the runners to the left or right. When my dad would take us sledding, he would put wax or paraffin on the runners so snow wouldn’t stick to them and we’d get an even faster ride. I think the first time we did this, I clung to my dad’s back out of sheer terror and delight–and immediately asked, can we do it again?

Growing up on the West Side there were two main places I went sledding. One was on the sledding hill right below the play area at the Wick Recreation Area (a.k.a Rocky Ridge, which is what we called it growing up). I seem to recall that sometimes, when the snow was real icy, we could actually make it down that hill, across the baseball field to the next hill. That was a run. The only thing was walking back!

Sled Hill in the Wick Recreation Area, Courtesy of Mill Creek MetroParks. Used by permission.

Sled Hill in the Wick Recreation Area, Courtesy of Mill Creek MetroParks. Used with permission.

The other place we would go was the hill off South Lakeview that went into the park. There is also a drive (Calvary Run Drive) from South Belle Vista opposite the entrance to Calvary Cemetery that intersected with the road coming off South Lakeview. I seem to recall both being closed during snowy conditions. The hill off Lakeview was really steep and I think they had bales opposite it because their were trees and a creek on the other side of the road it intersected with. I know we used to sled down that hill and I’m trying to remember whether we ever took the road down from Belle Vista, which was a long hill.

One of the best parts of sledding was coming home afterward, getting all those wet clothes off and warming up with a cup of hot chocolate. preferably with marshmellows! Usually, we didn’t feel cold until it was time to go home and it felt so good to get warm again. Maybe it wasn’t a ski lodge but the coziness and warmth of home still felt just as good!

Youngstown has many hills and I have to admit that I am not aware of the places people from other parts of town liked to sled. I’d enjoy hearing about that and your sledding memories.