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.”

Sources:

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.

youngstown vindicator google news archive search (2)

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.

youngstown vindicator google news archive search (4)

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

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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?

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Paper Route

Growing up in working class Youngstown, most of us got working experience early! What allowance I received just didn’t cover baseball card collecting, accessorizing that old Western Flyer bike, or, as you became aware of girls, buying the clothes that you thought would make you look good. [Truth be told, I wasn’t always all that good at this last.] So when I was 10, I started cutting grass for 8 or 10 neighbors in the area. And by 12, I added a Vindicator paper route to the mix, which provided year round income.

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

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

This blog was inspired by a comment to one of the previous blogs asking about my memories as a paper boy. So here goes.

The route: I learned that how you got a paper route was to contact the route manager, who you paid for your papers each Saturday at the fire station. So I went down and met him. I learned that route 1525 was going to be available, which consisted of subscribers on N. Maryland and N. Belle Vista Avenues between Oakwood and Mahoning Avenues, and a few homes on Mahoning Avenue. All told, I delivered papers to 65 to 70 subscribers. Training to be a paperboy consisted of going around for a couple days with the current paperboy, learning where everyone liked their paper, and figuring out who owed him money, and who had paid ahead, and whether I owed him money, or he owed me. I think I owed him. So upfront, I had to pay him money, and a “bond” with the manager so that one way or another, the Vindicator would get its money.

The customers: Nearly everyone took the newspaper, and there were even a few I persuaded to start.The Vindicator used to have contests for new subscribers. I think all I ever won was a new paper sack. Men were interested in the sports page. Women in the society page and the ads. Older people watched the obituaries to see who they had outlived!  There were a few who were fussy and wanted their paper in a very particular place. Most were pretty easy going. In our day, you learned to fold papers (except for the Wednesday and Sunday papers which were real thick), and just toss them on the porch. Got pretty good at that–only threw a few on roofs, and never broke any windows! I still fold papers almost instinctively after I’ve read them!

Collecting: Most customers paid for the paper by the week, which as I recall, cost 62 cents when I started. I think we made about 15 to 20 cents per customer on that, which on my route amounted to $12 to $15 dollars a week. Beyond that, you got to keep any “tip” income. Many customers simply paid a dollar, some 75 cents and let you keep the difference. There were the stingy ones who required exact change, who often were also the ones that never seemed to be around when you tried to collect. Usually I collected Maryland on Thursdays and Belle Vista on Fridays. The good customers would leave payment out for me if they weren’t home. One lady would always leave me a foil wrapped package of hard candy along with her payment!

The paper stop: Papers for our area were delivered near the corner of Oakwood and Steel Street late in the afternoons or around 6 am on Sundays. Usually you could time when the papers would be delivered. They came in bundles with your route number on them and in the quantity you ordered with Circulation. That’s how it worked when everything went right! Sometimes, they delivered the bundle to the wrong stop, usually the one before, which was just a few blocks away. It seems that at least a few times a month they were late, which meant hanging out with the other paper boys. We often had paper sack fights with each other. (I still have a piece of lead in my wrist from a pencil in one of our sacks whose point embedded itself there.) In colder weather, we waited in one of the service stations nearby and often emptied their pop machines. From the stop, it was a four block walk uphill on Oakwood to my route (not particularly fun in hot weather or on Wednesdays or Sundays with heavy papers). On Sundays, I used a wagon because there was too much to carry.

Winter: You delivered the paper, like the mail in all kinds of weather. Winter was the worst, especially on sub-zero Sunday mornings of which I remember a few. Most of the time, I delivered the papers on my own, especially during the week and in warmer weather. But on those winter Sunday mornings, dad drove with me to pick up the paper, put the ads into the paper, and then, I would deliver one side of the street, and he’d drive down to meet me with a fresh sack of papers for the other side. It was a good memory warming up in that car and having dad’s help. Perhaps the most challenging weather was when summer storms came up and you had to try to keep your papers dry. Sometimes you just waited it out on someone’s porch. If it didn’t look like stopping you tried to keep the papers dry with the flap of your sack, which was never quite big enough! Occasionally, I’d get calls to replace papers that were a bit too damp.

Hazards: The biggest hazard was a few of the dogs on the route that were protective, and didn’t always like the “thud” of a tossed newspaper on a porch. Most just barked or chased you off the property. Only once was I bit, and that just a nip. Otherwise, the worst hazard were the few older guys who sometimes came to the door in their underwear. On the other side of it, occasionally in summer, when you were collecting some of the teenage girls would come to the door in bathing suits!

Christmas: You never wanted to give your route up just before Christmas because people would tip especially big. I think the biggest tip I got was a crisp new $20. It was not atypical to average $150 for the route. Many would give you Christmas cards.

Looking back, I realized that paper routes were a great way of teaching you how to work: to show up every day, to handle money well, to save from your earnings, to learn to relate to all kinds of people, to work under all kinds of conditions.  For many of us, our families needed the extra income, and most of our parents, who grew up in the Depression had started working even earlier. It was just kind of expected. And the physical nature of it prepared many for harder physical jobs as laborers. While we certainly had our share of fun, you grew up early.

For others who had paper routes, what were your memories of that experience?