Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ella Kerber (Resch) Perrin

Washington Evening Star, March16, 1930. Screen capture from Library of Congress

Edith Hamilton was not the only amazing newspaper woman that wrote for the Youngstown Vindicator. And like Esther Hamilton, Ella Kerber came from nearby New Castle, descended from German immigrants who arrived during the Civil War. She joined the staff of the Youngstown Vindicator in 1918. In 1922, she was acclaimed at the Ohio Newspaper Woman’s Association Convention in Columbus as the only woman court reporter in the state. She was known for her ability to scoop other reporters and was on a first name basis with politicians and other national figures across the country.

In 1926, she was honored by the Youngstown Police Department for raising the money to provide every policeman with a $5000 paid up life insurance, raised through amateur shows. I wonder if this is where Esther Hamilton came up with her idea for her Christmas fund-raisers. She lead efforts to establish the Youngstown Little Theater which eventually became the Youngstown Playhouse.

However, there was one event for which she was probably the most famous. She was the first newspaper woman to go to jail to protect the confidentiality of a source. In 1930, Irene Schroeder was on trial for the murder of a highway patrolman in New Castle. Kerber had provided “The Story of Irene Schroeder” to newspapers across the country, which was being published serially during the trial. She refused to testify as to the source of the story, and spent 52 hours in a New Castle jail cited with contempt of court. Because of some quirks in the law, she was unable to obtain bail. One newspaper account said, “She appeared to be unconcerned as she was escorted to a cell in the county jail.”

Also like Esther Hamilton, she had a long career, stretching from 1918 into the 1970’s. Along the way, she was a city council candidate for Youngstown’s Fifth Ward and active in Republican party affairs. In later years for papers in Warren, Boardman, and Austintown as well as doing stints in radio in Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia.

I wonder what it was like around the newsroom of the Vindicator when both Esther and Ella were there. I don’t how long Kerber was around after the Telegram merged with the Vindicator in 1936 and Hamilton joined the paper. My hunch is that the paper wasn’t big enough for both of them, though I do not know the reason Ella Kerber moved on. What I do know is that she was a pathbreaker, showing that women could do all men could do as reporters, covering courts, scooping stories, and even going to jail to protect sources. She’s one I’d love to know a lot more about.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown One Hundred Years Ago: A Snapshot

I have a pretty good memory of fifty years ago in Youngstown. I was enjoying my last weeks as a senior at Chaney High School. We’d had our prom and had just a few more weeks of class, finals, and then commencement.

I doubt any of us remember 100 years ago. This was around the time many of our parents were born. I thought it would be fun to take a look at The Vindicator from 100 years ago to get a glimpse of life back then. The closest to today I could get was the issue for Tuesday, May 23, 1922.

It was interesting that the paper led with a good news story even though City Council had voted to fire 25 police. Perhaps they had better sense and paying attention to civic-minded generosity to the Community Chest, the United Way of the day, was in the long run of greater value than squabbles at city hall.

Now for that police story. I wrote some time back about George Oles, the grocer who ran, as a joke at first, for mayor, and won. He was a reformer and saw a city that was deficit spending. The story describes acrimonious debate with Oles refuting false accusations before the measure to cut the police finally passed by a 9-6 vote (City Council was larger back then). Oles won this battle, at least temporarily, but lost the war. Just a month and a half later, July 1, 1922, he resigned after only six months in office. Political controversy has a long history in the city.

Several of the stories were national stories. Governor General Wood, the top government officer when the Philippines were basically a U.S. colony, took shelter behind an island and was in communication 36 hours later. He lived until 1927. To the question of a man kidnapping his wife, the answer is yes. As you might assume, it was an unhappy marriage, she had separated and sued for divorce, and he, a captain of industry, seized her against her will. She got free and had him arrested! The other kidnapping story probably caught the attention of locals who bought bread from the Ward Baking Company. The owner refused to pay the ransom for his son, so the son took matters into his own hands and shot his kidnapper! That raises as many questions as it answers!

Down the page is a story about a report on good authority that the Ku Klux Klan had a branch in Youngstown. Sadly, by the end of 1923, most of the political leadership including the mayor, and the school board in Youngstown would be Klan-endorsed. Sadly, they enjoyed support from many churches. Two notable exceptions were First Presbyterian Church and The Vindicator. William Jenkins, a YSU history professor wrote a history of Klan involvement in the Ohio that I reviewed elsewhere on this blog. By 1924, their influence waned.

A page 3 story indicates at this time efforts were being made to move Mill Creek Park to control by the city rather than The Park Commission but council refused to act, fearing loss of revenues going to the park commission. Over the years, funding and leadership of the park periodically has been an issue, apparently.

Some commercial highlights from elsewhere in the paper:

  • Fordyce’s was having a blue ribbon sale with the following priced at a dollar: boys knickers, men’s dress shirts, a pair of long silk gloves and two pairs of short silk gloves, girls tub frocks, panty dresses, girls rain capes, and much more!
  • Meat was on sale at George Oles’ Fulton Market with fancy sugar bacon at 21 cents a pound, cured hams for 18 cents a pound, and chopped steak for 10 cents a pound.
  • The Glering Bottling Co. advertised Orange Crush at 5 cents a bottle. Elsewhere they had ads for Coca-Cola for 5 cents and Budweiser for 15 cents. Amazing that all those brands have lasted 100 years!
  • You could buy men’s dress oxfords for $3.98 at McFadden’s.
  • Stambaugh-Thompson’s was advertising “The Greatest Tire Sale Youngstown Has Ever Seen” with tires as low as $12.55 with warranties of up to 8,000 miles! They also advertised clothes line posts for $1.45, a reminder of how everyone used to dry their clothes, even in my childhood.
  • McKelvey’s advertised lingerie of silk and fine muslin and announced that “Miss Hoban (Corseting Expert) Is Here All This Week Demonstrating the Binner Corset” while Strouss-Hirshberg advertised Women’s Dainty Silk Dresses at sale prices of $39.50 and $24.75.

The big entertainment news was that the Scotti Grand Opera was at the Park Theatre performing Carmen as a matinee and L’Oracolo and La Boheme in the evening. That’s a lot of opera for one day! And “Adam and Eva” was at the Hippodrome Theatre. I’m curious as to whether the Park was the same place that later became a burlesque theatre.

Then, as now, this was the time of the year to recognize the accomplishments of local high school students. This picture accompanied the headline “Nineteen Students in Honor Group at Rayen This Year.” Look at how dressed up all of them are, including jackets and ties for all the men! All the students names are included in the article.

Syndicated comics of the day included “Bringing Up Father,” “Pa’s Son-In-Law,” “Polly and Her Pals,” “Toots and Casper” and this moral tale titled “Cicero and Sapp.”

As I said, this is but a snapshot of Youngstown 100 years ago, and a selective one at that. One of the richest sources of historical information about the city is the Vindicator archive in the Google News Archive, which contains scans of The Vindicator from 1893 to 1984. Then, as now, advertising paid the bills and occupies a lot of space, but the fashions and prices, and sometimes the technology, are so different. The issues then and now seem not so different–cities then as now struggle with budgets and how to maintain and develop a livable place. Only the particulars and the personalities are different. If you have the time, I think you’ll find reading these old papers a fascinating way to learn about our hometown.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Youngstown Telegram

For all my years of growing up, Youngstown was basically a one-newspaper town. In 2019, Youngstown faced the prospect of becoming a newspaper desert as the Vindicator announced it would cease operations. Subsequently, the Warren Tribune-Chronicle picked up the Vindicator name and continues to publish a paper in Youngstown under that name. Several other news outlets stepped up their news coverage including The Business Journal and a new online news outlet, Mahoning Matters. Local television stations added coverage on their websites as well. There are actually more news outlets than in 2019.

This was the case in Youngstown through much of its history until 1936. My dad talked about delivering the Telegram in his youth. For about five decades, Youngstown had two major papers, the Youngstown Vindicator and the Youngstown Telegram. It arose out of a newspaper war in the 1880’s. McKelvey’s founder G. M. McKelvey, Judge L. W. King, H. M. Garlick, William Cornelius, and Hal K. Taylor formed the Youngstown Printing Company on November 17, 1885, with McKelvey as president. On December 1, the Youngstown Evening Telegram came into existence with Judge L. W. King as editorial manager, In 1891, they discontinued the Sunday paper and in 1895 the name became the Youngstown Telegram.

The paper was known to have a Republican bent. The paper advocated prohibition, which may have been the reason publisher Samuel G, McClure’s home was bombed. A few years later, The New York Times, reported the bombing of the newspaper offices on the night of November 15, 1918.

One of Youngstown’s most well-known reporters came out of the Telegram. Esther Hamilton began her career as a reporter with the paper and then joined the Vindicator when the Telegram was acquired by the Vindicator in 1936. One of her early assignments was to cover the Youngstown City Schools.

In subsequent years, the newspaper became part of the Scripps-Howard chain. The paper had more of a national focus and subscriptions began to slip, and hence ad revenues. Then in 1928, the paper turned its back on its Republican base and endorsed Al Smith in his race against Herbert Hoover. Smith lost and the paper lost circulation. Around this time, a circulation reporting scandal arose, as the newspaper reported higher circulation figures when in fact, the circulation department was buying back over 3,000 copies. By the time when they were acquired by the Vindicator, one source puts their circulation in the neighborhood of 24,000 to over 42,000 for the Vindicator, which meant much higher ad revenues for the Vindicator. The Vindicator also had a Sunday edition.

Youngstown Vindicator from May 3, 1960, the last day “And The Youngstown Telegram” appears.

The last edition of The Youngstown Telegram was July 2, 1936. For many years, the name appearing at the top of the front page was “Youngstown Vindicator” and in much smaller print “The Youngstown Telegram.” The last day this appears on the paper was May 3, 1960, after which only the Youngstown Vindicator and later Vindicator appears. I don’t know what the disappearance of the name meant, but the use of the two may have suggested more of a merger than an acquisition. Certainly staff for both newspapers worked on the Vindicator. Perhaps it was also a way to appeal to old Telegram subscribers. A front page story on July 3, 1936 in the new paper states: “Readers of the Telegram will find little changed in the new Vindicator-Telegram. The Vindicator has won national recognition for its progressive editorial policy and undoubtedly it will be continued in the merged publication.”

My dad used to call it the Vindicator-Telegram. Now I understand why. I was just learning to read when the last vestige of the Telegram disappeared. But the hyphenated name looks back to a time when Youngstown was a two-newspaper town.

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William O. Brown of the Vindicator

William O. Brown as a young man

The beginnings of The Vindicator and its history is wrapped up in two families, the Maag family and the Brown family. William O. Brown often seems to be left out of the histories I’ve seen of The Vindicator, I think, because he was never one of the publishers. But he was the key link of the passage of Vindicator ownership and leadership from the Maag to Brown families.

He was the grandson of Nathaniel E. Brown, a founder of the Brown-Bonnell Iron Works in Youngstown. Brown himself was born in Portsmouth, Ohio March 29, 1876 and moved with his family to Youngstown in 1878. The family lived in Brown’s grandfather’s home. He graduated from the Rayen School in 1897 and worked with the Ohio Steel Company. He began working at The Vindicator in 1902 and on September 9, 1903, married the daughter of the publisher, William F. Maag, Sr., Alma M. Maag. Brown’s marriage formed the link in this publishing dynasty.

William O. Brown started his work at The Vindicator in the advertising department. While working in advertising he worked tirelessly with large advertising accounts including General Motors and established the paper’s reputation with advertisers. At one point, he was called “Ohio’s Amon Carter.” Amon Carter was a famous Texas publisher. During World War I he served as a captain and ordinance officer in the National Guard.

He became business manager, treasurer and secretary upon William F. Maag, Sr.’s death in 1924. During World War II, he demonstrated his business acumen in making sure the paper always had a good supply of newsprint, which often had to be transported from Canada. In 1945 he became president of The Vindicator while continuing as business manager until his son William J. Brown took over the position in 1955.

Brown had a variety of interests. He was a champion pistol shot and treasurer of the Youngstown Rifle and Revolver Club. He also was a vociferous reader, especially of Dickens, Rider Haggard, and Conan Doyle. He was a foodie, and loved discovering small restaurants with special dishes.

William O. Brown later in life. Photo from The Vindicator, February 23, 1956.

Late in life he had serious heart problems and was confined to his home after December 1954. He died on February 23, 1956. When Brown came to The Vindicator it had a circulation of 15,000. At the time of his death, daily circulation was 100,000 and Sundays 140,000.

When William F. Maag, Jr. died in 1968, William J. Brown became publisher. He passed away in 1981.  Betty J. H. Brown Jagnow became publisher and president and her son, Mark Brown general manager. They continued to serve in these roles until The Vindicator ended publication on August 31, 2019, to be succeeded by a new Vindicator owned by the Warren Tribune Chronicle.

William O. Brown began three generations of Brown family involvement with The Vindicator. He helped build The Vindicator into a nationally known paper and his tenure spanned 54 of his family’s 117 year history with the paper. An editorial tribute appearing the day after his death said of him:

The Vindicator was his life and in more than half a century there were few days when he was not at his desk. The men and women who get out the paper were all his friends, and even in his last illness he ran the risk of setbacks to be among them.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William F. Maag, Sr.

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William F. Maag, Sr at the time he was elected to the Ohio Assembly. Photo via New York Public Library Digital Collections

With the passing of the “old” Vindicator on August 31, 2019, there have been many stories of the family who owned the paper through most of its history. William F. Maag, Jr. has received a great deal of attention. He was editor and publisher of the paper from 1924 until his death in 1968. His initials form the call letters for WFMJ radio and TV. Maag Library at Youngstown State is named after him. Maag opened in my last year at Youngstown State and quickly became a favorite place to study. However, not only would there not have been a William F. Maag, Jr. Without his father, there is a good chance that there would have been no Vindicator.

William F. Maag, Sr. was born in Ebingen, in the state of Wurtemberg in southern Germany on February 28, 1850. At age 14, he was apprenticed to a printer. Three years later, before completing the four year apprenticeship, he came to America, settling first in Milwaukee working for The Daily Herald, a German paper, then moving to Watertown, Wisconsin, working for another German paper. It was there he met his wife, Elizabeth Ducasse, marrying her in 1872. After several years with another German paper in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he came to Youngstown in 1875 and purchased the Rundschau. The name could be translated “magazine” or “review” but also could be translated “panorama,” “wide view,” or “full view in all directions.” Under Maag, it performed that function in two ways as the only German language newspaper between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and by drawing on correspondence from throughout Germany, giving a “panorama” of German news.

The Vindicator was started in July of 1869 by J. H. Odell as a weekly. The paper passed through a succession of owners up until 1887. At about that time, they tried a twice daily paper which struggled financially. A fire in the newsroom led to the paper being put up for auction. Maag was there, putting in what turned out to be the only bid, even though he didn’t want to purchase the paper. He actually didn’t really have enough money to make a go of it alone and entered into a partnership with John H. Webb, who had both the money, and a pleasing writing style. Webb became president and Maag treasurer and business manager. They launched a daily in 1889. In 1893, they built the Vindicator building, installed new equipment, and began a long history at Boardman and Phelps.

In the early days, The Vindicator shared offices with the Rundschau, which Maag continued to publish until 1917, around the time of America’s entry into World War I. On September 28 of that year, the Associated Press reported the suspension of the Rundschau from being published “on account of misunderstandings which frequently arise through German newspapers.”

Maag not only set The Vindicator on a firm financial footing. He was elected for a term to the Ohio Assembly. He served as a presidential elector in 1912, a trustee of the Glenwood Avenue Children’s Home and was active with the Masonic order. He continued his active leadership of The Vindicator until days before his death on April 10, 1924. The Vindicator for that date described him as “dying in the harness.” He was 75 years old.

His son succeeded him in 1924, publishing the paper until 1968. When William F. Maag, Jr. died, William J. Brown succeeded as publisher and president. When he died in 1981 Betty J. H. Brown Jagnow became publisher and president. Soon, her son Mark Brown took over as general manager, a position in which he served until the paper ceased publication on August 31.

Sad as the ending of this family dynasty of publishing The Vindicator is, it might be encouraging to remember that were it not for William F. Maag, Sr., and a lone bid at an auction, we would not be talking about a paper with a 150 year history, but one that was only a minor footnote in journalistic history, lasting a mere 18 years.



The Death of My Hometown Newspaper


One of the papers I delivered. Image scanned from Pages From History (c)1991, The Vindicator Printing Company.

On Friday of this past week, I saw a post that the daily newspaper from my hometown of Youngstown will cease publication at the end of August. This announcement came on the heels of the newspaper’s 150th birthday. As the publisher and general manager of the paper noted, ” The Vindicator will not have much of a birthday celebration.”

The story is a familiar one, perhaps exacerbated by generations of business losses and corresponding population declines. Circulation fell, and with it, advertising revenues. Attempts were made to modernize, to pare staff, to reduce the size of the paper. Other investors were sought. Eventually, the owners, the fourth generation in the family to own the paper, determined that there was nothing more that could be done to stem the continuing financial losses.

The news came like a body blow. This was a paper that had been the voice of the Mahoning Valley for generations. It stood up to the Klan in the 1920’s when the city had a Klan mayor supported by many of the ministers as well as people of the Valley. It chronicled mob and political corruption. The big news stories of my youth appeared in its headlines: the assassinations of the Kennedys and King, the football championships of the Browns in the Sixties, Vietnam, Woodstock, the moon landing, and Kent State. My picture appeared as valedictorian of my senior class. My wife’s engagement picture was there. For that matter our births were recorded there as were the obituaries of parents and grandparents.

I delivered the paper for over three years. I got up early on Sunday mornings, and delivered it on hot summer days and subzero days in the dead of winter. I often read its news stories before any of my customers. Sure, we complained when our papers were late or we got “shorted,” but it was a great learning experience. On my route, nearly every family took the paper. People noticed if they didn’t get their paper.

We subscribed to the local paper in Toledo and Cleveland. It was obligatory in Toledo, where my wife worked for the paper. We bought the local paper at least on Sundays for a time in Columbus where we now live. Then we stopped. Recycling the papers was a chore. We could watch the news on TV. Then the internet came along and we could often get news coverage for free until papers started putting up paywalls.

Interestingly enough, the Vindicator never used paywalls. I constantly looked up articles for my blog. I didn’t think to subscribe. Turns out I was one of the reasons the paper died. I valued keeping in touch with my hometown. But not enough to pay for it.

The greater loss is to the people who still live there. Local newspapers cover everything from local sports and entertainment events to weddings and deaths. They also cover local civic, business, and political affairs, the things that shape the quality of life of a community. At their best, they can offer far more depth than a 15 second story on TV. Usually, no one else offers the same kind of coverage of these local matters, or the impact of state and national policies on local life. It was said by Tip O’Neill, one time speaker of the House, that “all politics is local.” No other place keeps track of how city council members vote or how political appointees or civil servants do their jobs.

Furthermore, it is the disciplined work of getting the facts straight and writing a succinct and interesting story about a local school board meeting that trained many newspeople of the past to get the facts straight and write stories on issues of national import. Certainly no newspaper is neutral but many could tell the difference between news coverage and the editorial page. I wonder whether modern agenda journalism in part is a product of the lack of experience working under editors committed to those stubborn things called facts.

One of the themes of this blog is the value of the local. We all live someplace. The question is whether it is a good, and beautiful, and distinctive place. Does it have roots, a connection with a particular past? Does it have community institutions that give it character? Is it a rich and varied place, or a desert of big box stores and strip malls? I think part of the grief, the punch to the gut, that so many of the people from Youngstown felt this past weekend, was the loss of one more piece of its distinctive identity, and one more thread that helps knit a community together.

I don’t know what can be done in the case of Youngstown. I hope other media are able to step up and fill some of the gap. Public TV and radio have a particular role to play here. I wish now I had subscribed to the Vindicator, even as part of the Youngstown diaspora. It appears I’m too late for that. But perhaps not for the paper where I now live, that has faced the same pressures and has been forced to some of the same measures as the Vindicator. Today I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I became a subscriber.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Clingan Jackson

Clingan's Chronicles

Clingan Jackson, on the cover of Clingan’s Chronicles

Recently, one of the followers of this blog recommended reading Clingan’s Chronicles written by Clingan Jackson. I remembered his columns from when I delivered The Vindicator, and who read him avidly as one of the first eighteen-year-olds to get the vote. I’m in the middle of the book, which is a fascinating combination of memoir, and history of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. Particularly its political history.

Clingan Jackson was the long time political editor at The Vindicator. He not only knew the political history of the Valley better than anyone of his time. He helped make it as a State Representative and later State Senator in the 1930’s. In 1950, he finally lost his Senate seat to Charles Carney, who later represented the Youngstown area in Congress. During his time at the State House, he introduced the first strip mining act, and later helped create the Ohio Department of Natural Resources–an environmentalist long before this became a cause. He ran for governor in 1958, losing badly. He also served on several state commissions.

Jackson was born into one of the “first families” of Youngstown. Ancestors, the McFalls, actually lived as trappers on Dry Run Creek (where McKelvey Lake is now located) even before John Young first established Youngstown. His great grandfather, John Calvin Jackson settled in the Coitsville area on the east side of Youngstown in 1804. His grandfather, who served as a Mahoning County Commissioner in the 1870’s and helped engineer the move of the county seat to Youngstown, built the family homestead on Jacobs Road. Clingan Jackson was born on March 28, 1907. He says one of his earliest memories was seeing his father come in on a snowy day to announce the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. It was a political family where heated discussion was common and not all agreed.

Jackson’s parents moved around. For a time, they lived across the state line in Hillsville where his father worked at the Carbon Limestone Company. He was allowed to attend Lowellville High School because of his Ohio roots. He joined his brother John at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1925 and returned to Youngstown after graduation in 1929. He worked at the electric company for a few months and then started working for The Vindicator for $25 a week. His first job was fetching stock quotations from local brokerages, which gave him a first hand glimpse of the panic when the market crashed in October of 1929. He covered the beginnings of the labor movement in Youngstown in the early 1930’s and the Little Steel Strike of 1937. His narrative captures the risks reporters of his time went through to get the story:

“Ed Salt, a Vindicator photographer, and I were dispatched to Poland Avenue to cover the tense situation. It was growing dark by that time, lights were being shot out and hundreds of men were milling along the street. We parked near the fire station and started walking down the sidewalk. As we passed by a bush, we saw its leaves completely eliminated as a shotgun blast rang out. Being a brave man, I went back to the fire station; needing to take pictures, Salt pushed onward.

When I arrived at the station someone exclaimed, ‘Salt has been shot.’ Mustering my courage, I went to his rescue, and found him with his white shirt completely bloodied. I got him into the car, and we headed up Poland Avenue. Although the street was barricaded, I persuaded the pickets to let the car through by explaining I had a passenger who needed to go to the hospital.”

It turns out that Salt was covered with shotgun pellet wounds, none serious.

Youngstown Vindicator Clingan Jackson 09011968

Part of Clingan Jackson’s column from the September 1, 1968 Vindicator, the Sunday after the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention

He became the political editor of The Vindicator in 1938 and continued in that role until 1983. He covered every president from Roosevelt through Reagan, and the congressional terms of Michael Kirwan, Charles Carney, Lyle Williams, and Jim Traficant. Although a lifelong Democrat, and at times an officeholder, his real fascination was with the practice of politics and he was able to cover Democrats and Republicans impartially. He was one of the pioneers in political polling, and the accuracy of his polls brought him to the attention of George Gallup.

Andrea Wood did a feature for WYTV on Clingan Jackson toward the end of his tenure at the Vindicator, in 1980. It is fascinating to watch him hunt and peck at a computer terminal while chomping on his trademark cigar. He comes across as the classic newspaper man. She later helped him with the editing work on Clingan’s Chronicles.

He retired from The Vindicator in 1983. He went on to contribute a column to the Youngstown-Warren Business Journal into the 1990’s. He passed away on March 26, 1997, two days shy of 90. He joined a number of his ancestors who are buried in the Coitsville Presbyterian-Jackson Cemetery. He was married three times, with two of his wives preceding him in death, Virginia and Thelma (“Billy”). His third wife, Loretta Fitch Jackson owned Loretta Fitch Florist at the intersection of Routes 616 and 422 in Coitsville. He wrote of his three wives, “Good fortune is a necessary element of most any man’s success, and mine was having three farm girls for wives.”


Clingan Jackson, Clingan’s Chronicles (Youngstown: Youngstown Publishing Co., 1991)

Ted Heineman, Senator Clingan Jackson” Riverside Cemetery Journal, 2009.

Andrea Wood, Monthly News Magazine — WYTV, February 1980.


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Blizzard of 1978

blizzard of '78

Blizzard of ’78, Photo courtesy of the Vindicator

As I write, most of Ohio is bracing for a significant snowfall. Recently I wrote about one of the historic snowstorms that hit Youngstown, the great Thanksgiving storm of 1950. Many of us may have heard about that one from our parents, or were young children at the time. Many of us, however, lived through the Blizzard of ’78 that struck the morning of January 26 and continued through the 27th.

Three different low pressure systems collided over western Ohio in a phenomenon known as bombagenesis (what a cool word!), creating an intense low pressure system with record low barometric pressures, 28.34 inches at the Youngstown airport. Wind gusts in some places reached 100 mph. When the storm hit, I had been living away from Youngstown for a couple years, and ended up stranded in Bowling Green, Ohio for five days until I-75 was opened in northwest Ohio. Drifting there was so bad some trucks were covered with snow, and that area of Ohio was perhaps the hardest hit.

The storm hit Youngstown hard as well. I went back and read the Vindicator accounts of what happened locally and thought I would trace this from January 26-28.

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Screen capture of front page of Youngstown Vindicator, January 26, 1978 via Google New Archives

Thursday, January 26, 1978

The storm hits in the early morning hours. At 4:30 am, temperatures were 43 degrees. By 7:00 am, they had dropped to 16 with wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour and driving snow and white out conditions. Power lines arced, light poles fell, one traffic light at Market and Myrtle ended up hanging a few feet off the ground. Power outages were reported along Mahoning Avenue, in the Wickliffe area and parts of the east side. Outages set off 25-30 burglar alarms, keeping police busy. Windows were blown out of homes and businesses including the Hills store in the Lincoln Knolls plaza and Gray Drugs windows in the Boardman Plaza. WHOT had to operate on auxiliary power and WBBW lost power at various points during the day. The postal service cancelled mail deliveries and all schools including Youngstown State were closed that day.

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Screen capture of front page of Youngstown Vindicator, January 27, 1978 via Google News Archives

Friday, January 27, 1978

The Vindicator reported that at least 200 area residents had been evacuated to shelters, many in the Newton Falls area. Others slept at their place of work, unable to return home. Ohio Edison reported 2335 local residents without power and had over 200 linemen at work in the bitterly cold conditions. Statewide, roughly 150,000 to 175,000 were without power. Temperatures were around zero with wind chills at -30 to -40 degrees. Interstates in the western part of the state were closed as well as the Ohio Turnpike. Governor James A. Rhodes, emotionally moved at times spoke about people who were displaced:

“They are helpless victims of something they have no control over…They are going through something tonight that none of us would want to go through.

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Screen capture of front page of Youngstown Vindicator, January 28, 1978 via Google News Archive

Saturday, January 28, 1978

Ohio Edison reported that all but 125 homes had power and said the remaining outages would be restored that day. Roads were slowly getting opened up. In many cases a single lane was opened on some stretches. The Ohio Turnpike was still closed west of the Lorain-Elyria exit, west of Cleveland. Edwin Powell, Vindicator circulation manager claimed that most people still received Thursday and Friday’s papers, in some case, both being delivered on Friday. He said it was a no-win situation, some being upset that papers weren’t delivered, others that the kids were out delivering in that weather–this was when youth still delivered newspapers. Carriers reported that the worst problems were the wind blowing snow in their face and holding onto their papers and getting them into their sacks. As conditions improved and roads got dug out, authorities got a better idea of the storm’s toll. At this point, the Vindicator reported that 18 people statewide had died, including a Lordstown resident who lost power and was found dead in his home of a heart attack. (Later on, the death toll in Ohio was revised to 51, and 70 total in the path of the storm).

Because of the wind and cold, this storm is ranked the worst storm in weather history in Ohio. In some place, wind chills were -70 degrees. In Youngstown, over a foot of snow fell. Statewide, 5000 National Guardsmen were mobilized to rescue stranded residents and drivers (one truck driver whose truck was covered with snow survived a week in his cab before being found). Damage estimates from the storm were $210 million.

One of the interesting debates is whether there was a spike in childbirths nine months later — “blizzard babies.” The evidence is mixed, but I think most of us like the idea of couples finding this particular way to stay warm! However you do it, stay warm and safe this weekend!

I’d love to hear your blizzard memories! Let us know if you were a “blizzard baby!”

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Delivering Holiday Newspapers


Newspapers B & W (4), by Jon S. [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

The other day I spotted a bag of advertising circulars for Black Friday laying on the apron of my driveway. It brought back memories of delivering The Vindicator on Thanksgiving morning, as well as all the Sunday papers leading up to Christmas. Generally the Thanksgiving Vindicator was the biggest paper of the year with all the sales ads for Friday (it wasn’t called Black Friday back then). There were maybe twenty or thirty pages of news content, and the rest was advertising, either in the newspaper of the advertising inserts–in all there were often several hundred pages.

Stories that I found online said that these papers could weigh between three and five pounds apiece. I had seventy customers on my paper route, and so that adds up to 210 to 350 pounds of newspapers that I had to deliver. The newspapers were delivered in one bundle, the ads in another. For seventy papers, this often turned out to be four to six bundles for my route.

I picked up my papers at a drop on Steel Street and haul them four blocks uphill on Oakwood Avenue to my route. Most days, I could put all my papers in one canvas paper sack, or two on Wednesdays and on Sundays I used a wagon.  For this haul, I used a wagon one year and it about killed me. I enlisted dad after that, and he would stuff the ads into the papers for one side of the street while I loaded up my paper sack and delivered the other, and then he would meet up with me to deliver the other side, or go up to the other block that I delivered.

Newspapers obviously made a good deal of extra money on all this advertising, but paper carriers didn’t get any more money. But in a way we did in the form of Christmas tips. For a route my size, I could get a hundred dollars in tips at Christmas time. Some were Scrooges, some were generous, and most remembered. It made hauling those papers worth it. One lady made homemade hard candy and would always give me a bag. If you were thinking of quitting your route, you usually waited until after Christmas, despite all those heavy papers.

In most communities, kids don’t deliver newspapers any more. When I delivered papers, most every person on my route, which covered two city blocks, took the paper. These days, you are lucky if about one out of five homes take the paper, and the routes are much larger, and usually delivered by adults in a car. But there are generations of paper carriers with memories of hauling hundreds of pounds of ad-laden Vindicators on Thanksgiving morning. Maybe some of you will share your stories…

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Holiday Shopping

West Federal Street Thanksgiving Storm

West Federal Street during the 1950 Thanksgiving weekend storm (c) The Vindicator, scanned from “A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio”.

Christmas shopping season started the day after Thanksgiving when I was growing up in Youngstown. Stores gave their employees Thanksgiving off to rest up for the onslaught of the next month. Beginning with Thanksgiving though, The Vindicator provided a countdown of shopping days until Christmas.

In comments on previous posts people have shared about the arrival of Santa Claus at the Vienna airport, about the Christmas displays at McKelvey’s and Strouss’ and other downtown stores as well as Hills’ toyland. I have to say that I don’t have much memory of this as a child other than driving through downtown Youngstown at night and looking at the lights and display windows and the big Christmas tree at Central Square. We really couldn’t afford to shop at the downtown stores and, as I recall, most Christmas gifts probably came via the Sears catalog or a discount store. My only memory of “sitting on Santa’s lap” was at a Christmas party at our church. What I remember more from that party was the stocking each of us received full of candies and small toys. That was fun!

I do remember that as a paper boy, newspapers were much heavier during Christmas season with all the ads. The Thanksgiving paper was full of them and especially every Wednesday and Sunday. I often had to use a wagon for delivering papers on those days because they were too bulky and heavy to fit into my newspaper sack. I often wondered how the city could possibly buy all the stuff advertised!

McKelvey's logo

McKelvey’s logo

Later on, I worked as a stock-boy and then as a customer service rep at McKelvey’s (later Higbee’s). This gave me a chance to see Christmas from the inside of a department store. I worked in Layaway and this was the time of the year we’d get inundated. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we’d get inundated with packages that I had to store on a honeycomb of shelves. People would pay for these “on time” with a small layaway fee (I think the highest it was while I worked there was $1.50). This was a good alternative to credit for many who were still suspicious of credit cards but wanted to make sure they could get the item. We’d have a second busy wave the week before Christmas as people would come in to pay off their items. What was least fun about this job was “returns”, the items people failed to claim or got refunds on because the didn’t want them. Department clerks always hated seeing me bringing packages back to them because it meant a loss against their sales.

Our area of the store was also where clerks would turn in sales receipts and figures at the end of each day. Our supervisor was charged with compiling these and we could often tell by the expression on his face as to whether it had been a good day–and every day counted. Later, I got to work “out front” in customer service, which was not particularly enjoyable as we dealt with complaints about deliveries or had to deal with people who were over their credit lines. Mostly, you let people vent, did what you could, kept smiling and didn’t take their guff personally! What was fun was that a number of women who worked in the department loved to bake and more or less had a bake-off with each other–you know all those good Youngstown Christmas cookies. We had our own stash!

What I did learn through all of this was how hard, and at relatively low wages everyone worked. I was amazed at the artistry of some of our display people (some were art students at YSU). There were all the people working in the stockrooms to ticket and put out merchandise. There were all those clerks who spent hours on their feet assisting customers. And there was our store Santa, who you could tell was pretty tuckered out at the end of the day listening to all those squirming kids and “ho-ho-hoing!” and posing with hundreds of those kids for that snapshot that would make Christmas memories.

What all this gave me was an abiding appreciation for those who work in stores, and especially for those who serve with cheerfulness. It is not easy work, especially at Christmas. I don’t want to be one of those customers who is memorable for all the wrong reasons that people talk about in the employee cafeteria or the break room!

What are your Christmas shopping memories? Did you have any seasonal jobs at Christmas, and if so, what was memorable from those?