Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Buechner Family

Buechner Hall. Photo from Facebook Page

When my wife and I were students at Youngstown State. We had friends who lived in Buechner Hall at 620 Bryson Street. On one hand, the lobby featured beautiful wood paneling and comfortable furniture, a bit like one would find in your grandmother’s parlor. That’s as far as guests could go, especially gentlemen guests. This was, and is, a privately operated residence hall for women, and it was a place where women on an urban campus could feel secure. The residence hall had its own food and a curfew. Yet the women who lived here generally seemed to accept the restrictions and overall were happy to live there.

Photo source: August 3, 1940 Vindicator

Buechner Hall was built in 1940-1941 to provide affordable lodging for both working women and female students at Youngstown College. Construction was funded by a $2 million bequest from Lucy R. Buechner, given in memory of her mother, Elvira Buechner. A non-profit corporation, the Lucy R. Buechner Corporation was established and continues to use funds from the bequest for building operations, keeping housing costs at an affordable price.

Lucy R. Buechner was the daughter of an early physician and part of a family that invested significantly in Youngstown philanthropy. Her father, William L. Buechner, was born in Reinheim, Hesse, Darmstadt, Germany on December 3, 1830. He received his medical training at the University of Giessen, graduating in 1853. He emigrated to the United States that same year, living briefly in Pittsburgh before moving to Youngstown in 1854. In 1858, he married Elvira Heiner, daughter of Squire Heiner, an early resident of Youngstown. Two children followed, William H., who became a celebrated local surgeon in his own right, and Lucy.

He was recognized for his medical excellence by honorary degrees from Western Reserve University, and later the Rush Medical College of Chicago. He was one of the leaders in the efforts to establish the City Hospital (later North Side Hospital) in Youngstown and served on its staff until his death. He served both on the Board of Heath and the Board of Education. He was also a shrewd investor with investments in stocks of several of the major iron and steel companies of his day, and this established the family’s fortune. Tragically, he died on September 10, 1904, during a driving accident with an unmanageable horse in Mill Creek Park. When he died, at the request of the Mayor, businesses and the Common Pleas Court closed.

His son, William H. Buechner followed in his father’s footsteps in pursuing a medical career. Born in 1864, he graduated from The Rayen High School in 1882, and Western Reserve University in 1885 with his M.D. He pursued additional studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 1886. He went on to work as an assistant of a famous German surgeon, Professor Von Volkman in Halle, Germany, returning to Youngstown in 1890. He was on staff as a surgeon at the City Hospital of Youngstown, performing the first prostatectomy in the city, a delicate operation, according to Dr. John Melnick. He died on December 14, 1920 following a long battle with pneumonia in an age before antibiotics.

The family had all lived at a stately home at the corner of Champion and East Federal Street. After her brother’s death, it was said that Lucy was rarely seen, and then only on her porch in a black dress until complications from an illness ended her life on September 10, 1926. Following her death it was learned that she had given the bulk of her fortune to establish a home for “student girls” and “those who are self-supporting and are engaged in gainful occupation.”

According to a story in The Jambar, some Buechner residents believe Lucy’s ghost haunts the residence. My wife and I don’t recall any such stories. Whatever is the case, Buechner Hall continues to serve Youngstown State’s students, with the restrictions on men visiting rooms that existed when we were there. Typically, there have been wait lists for rooms. Lucy’s gift, and the investments of the Buechner family have left a lasting memorial to Elvira. One can’t help but think she was an extraordinary wife and mother!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ed Matey

Ed Matey teacher and coach

Edward Paul Matey, teacher and coach. Photos from 1970 Lariat

As I was finishing an article on Chester McPhee, the first of a long line of great Chaney High School coaches, I saw comments on a Chaney alumni site of the passing of another Chaney coach Edward (“Ed”) Paul Matey on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Confirmation soon followed in Youngstown news media. Mr. Matey had died in his home at the age of 74.

I knew Mr. Matey best as my U.S. History teacher. At that time, he was assistant coach to Lou “Red” Angelo. He would take over as head coach the next year and Lou Angelo would become Athletic Director. I had a number of tough teachers at Chaney. Truthfully, Mr. Matey wasn’t one of them. We learned all the important facts about U.S. history, we watched a lot of films, and the exams were straightforward. If you studied what he told you would be on the exam, you would pass, usually with an “A.” What I do remember was that he was always immaculately dressed–ironed white shirt, pressed slacks, shined shoes, and tie. The most he would do would be to roll up his sleeves in hot weather. While he wasn’t a hard teacher, you didn’t goof off in his class, any more than in gym classes taught by his mentor, Mr. Angelo.

Until his passing, I didn’t realize how much he did both before and after I was at Chaney, and how much he contributed to athletics, and to the Youngstown community. He was born and raised on Youngstown’s West side, born right at the end of World War II, on October 30, 1945 to Andrew and Helen Matey. He played football under Lou Angelo at Chaney from 1960-1963, playing both ways, as players often did then, winning All-City, All Northeastern Ohio and an All State awards in 1962.

He stayed in Youngstown when he could have played for many college teams, playing defense for Dike Beede from 1963-1966. He won a varsity letter in his freshman year, starting from his second game on for the rest of his college career winning four varsity letters. In one game during his freshman year against Southern Connecticut, he had fifteen tackles and six sacks. During his sophomore year, the Penguins were 6-1-2, in part because of his great defensive play. He won most valuable player awards in his junior and senior years and YSU’s Most Valuable Male Athlete for 1966-67. In 1997 he was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Leaving Youngstown State with an education degree, he became a teacher at Chaney High School, where he would work until 2002. In addition to teaching U.S. History, he was assistant coach under Lou Angelo from 1967 to 1971. He took over as head coach in 1971 and coached for 17 years. During that time his teams won eight City League championships, including Chaney’s first 10-0 team. He had an overall coaching record of 83-67-4, coaching future NFL players like Matt Cavanaugh and Jerry Olsavsky.

After his coaching years, he became athletic director, and then assistant principal at Chaney until retiring in 2002 after 35 years at Chaney. His career as player, teacher, coach, and administrator earned him induction into Chaney’s Wall of Fame in 2005 beside greats like Chester H. McPhee and Lou Angelo.

His service to Chaney and Youngstown area athletics didn’t end with his retirement. He served as Athletic Director for Youngstown City School District until finally retiring in 2017. He knew everyone in the Mahoning Valley and used his ties to spearhead a campaign to build the new Rayen Stadium, which became the shared home field for Chaney and East High School, Youngstown’s two remaining high schools.

His obituary notes his marriage of thirty-three years, and his love for his children and grandchildren, his love of hunting and fishing with them, and his skills in carpentry. Reminiscences of former players I’ve seen note his impact on their lives and lifelong friendships. And typical of Youngstowners, he made pierogies with friends at Holy Trinity on Thursdays.

It is hard to believe the young teacher and coach of my high school years is gone. As sad as that is, I also celebrate a life well-lived, a life invested in family, athletes, a school, and a city. Rest in peace Coach Matey.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

My aunt’s sister Winifred used to live on the outskirts of Hubbard. We would visit occasionally, usually when my uncle came up from Texas. We would drive up Wick Ave to Logan Avenue, and then turn onto Youngstown-Hubbard Road (Route 62), crossing Crab Creek. All of a sudden, it seemed we were out in the country, with the glow of the mills behind us. Winifred lived in a home on a large lot on the east side of Youngstown-Hubbard Road. That is the extent of my memories of Hubbard.

Like so many places in the Mahoning Valley, Hubbard is named after one of the land speculators who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Like many, he never moved to Ohio. Hubbard is named after Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. of Middletown, Connecticut. He was born on April 10, 1752 as the third of thirteen children of Nehemiah and Sarah Hubbard. From the age of 14 to 21, he clerked in Samuel Talcott’s store and then went to sea in the West Indies, eventually becoming a captain and later, a merchant. In 1776, Governor Jonathan Trumbull Sr. appointed Hubbard as paymaster to Colonel Charles Burrall’s regiment. He advanced to deputy quartermaster for the State of Connecticut. In 1780 served with contractors supplying the French at Yorktown. He was on hand when General Cornwallis surrendered, ending the war.

After the war, he returned to Middletown, becoming a successful merchant, and eventually the president of Middletown Bank, and later the Savings Bank. He became one of the original founders of the Connecticut Land Company. He acquired 15,274 acres, which formed Range 1, Township 3 of the Western Reserve (nominally these were 16,000 acres but varied because of surveying errors). He also acquired land in Ashtabula and elsewhere, owning roughly 58,000 acres.

Hubbard sold the first parcel of land to Samuel Tylee, who acted as Hubbard’s agent in selling plots of two hundred acres (sometimes subdivided) in Hubbard Township, and moved his family from Middletown, Connecticut to Ohio. The township itself remained small until coal fields in the Mahoning Valley opened up in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This attracted settlers from Europe and in 1861 Hubbard became a village, and in 1868 it became a statutorily incorporated municipality.

While Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. never moved to Ohio, his nephew, William Hubbard moved to Ashtabula in 1834, three year’s before Nehemiah’s death, serving as his agent to sell the remainder of his lands. William Hubbard was known for his abolitionist efforts, joining his brothers Matthew and Henry who had previously settled in the area and who were also engaged in anti-slavery efforts. He was active in the Underground Railroad, at one time sheltering 39 fugitive slaves. His house in Ashtabula, at one point facing demolition, has been restored as the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. died February 6, 1837. He has been described as “tall and commanding. He was a man of unbending integrity, of quick and discriminating judgment, and of a noble, frank deportment.” In other places he has been described as energetic. He was a pillar of his community, a Revolutionary War veteran, a founder of the Connecticut Land Company and part of a family that not only gave Hubbard its name but had influence throughout the Western Reserve, particularly in anti-slavery efforts.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Dana School of Music

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Unknown., “William Henry Dana, founder of the Dana Musical Institute. ,” Trumbull Memory Project, accessed April 17, 2020, https://www.trumbullmemory.org/items/show/176.

During 2018-2019, Dana School of Music celebrated its 150th year. That’s an interesting number, because Youngstown State is only 112 years old. It points to a history that goes back to 1869, to a rented room above a hardware store in Warren, Ohio, at the corner of Market and Main Streets. Back of that story was a man who had a vision for quality music instruction at a time when many music conservatories had abysmally low standards.

William Henry Dana was born in Warren, Ohio in 1846. At the age of 16, he went to Williston Seminary to study civil engineering, following in the footsteps of his father Junius, a civil engineer in Warren. He left his studies to serve in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, returning after the war to work with his father. His real interest, though, was music, and he went to Baxter University of Music, graduating in 1869.

After graduation, he returned to Warren. He had been dismayed by the low standards of instruction in many music schools and determined to set up a school that was different. This included:

Daily Instruction. Compulsory studies. Stated hours of study and practice and these guarded against interruption. Salaried teachers whose life and interests are centered in the school’s best welfare. (Catalogue, 1931-32, p. 6 via JSTOR).

With those principles, Dana established the Dana Musical Institute. At first his father was opposed, perceiving most musicians in the same class as drunkards. Apparently William won him over, because he became the main financial supporter of the school and served as secretary of the Institute until 1906.

In 1871, tuition at the Institute, only the third to in Ohio after Oberlin and Cincinnati, was a mere $75 for a full year of instruction. Initially most of the students were from the Warren area but the quality of instruction and affordable tuition attracted students from throughout the Midwest and Northeast, They rapidly outgrew their rented facilities and moved to a four story mansion on Park Avenue and High Street that once served as a stage coach stop. Eventually, women’s and men’s dormitories were added.

There were high standards for students and faculty. Students were required to attend church as well as twice-daily chapels, and had a curfew and could not drop out of their studies except in cases of illness. All the faculty were to be married, of an age to be respected by the students and devoted to the school’s interests.

Dana matched discipline with musical excellence. He pursued studies abroad in England and Germany, was a member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and authored several texts on music theory. By 1911, it was chartered to grant Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Music degrees.

William Henry Dana died in 1916. His son Lynn B. Dana, vice president from 1901, became president upon his father’s death. He was a concert pianist, Royal Academy of Music member and serve a stint as president of the Ohio Music Teachers Association, pioneering the Standardization of Music Teaching.

After a dip in enrollments during the first World War, enrollments climbed to 700 in the 1920’s. At this time, the Dana Music Institute claimed to be the only music school in the world to support its own string quartet, string orchestra, symphony orchestra, military band and chorus.

In 1931, Ohio required music degrees be granted from accredited colleges. The Institute was only a conservatory, not an accredited college. Dana attempted to establish cooperative relationships with Hiram, and later Kent State. During this time, enrollments dropped from 700 to 253.

In the fall of 1941, the school moved to Youngstown, was renamed the Dana School of Music, and became part of what was then Youngstown College. Sadly, Lynn B. Dana died before the beginning of classes, that year. An epoch of the Institute in Warren ended. But a new one in Youngstown began which has carried on to this day.

In my day on campus in the early 1970’s, I remember going to recitals at the old recital hall which is now the Sweeney Welcome Center, part of YSU’s Admissions Office. In 1977, the Dana School of Music moved into newly opened Bliss Hall, which continues to serve as its home.

In an article in YSU Magazine on Dana’s 150th anniversary it featured the diverse range of outstanding musicians trained at Dana:

  • John Anthony, a local rock guitarist.
  • Jazz musician Sean Jones, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and Chair of Jazz Studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins.
  • Baroque flutist Mary Oleskiewicz
  • Pianist Christina Reitz.
  • Gospel musician Mark Jackson
  • Trombonist Bob Matchett
  • Country music songwriter and member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Bob DiPiero.
  • Soprano Amanda Beagle
  • Billy Beck, member of the R & B supergroup, the Ohio Players.

What is impressive to me is the musical excellence across so many genres of music. I also knew many others whose excellence took the form of teaching careers in schools, inspiring students to love and make great music. It shouldn’t be surprising that such excellence might be found here. It was the passion of William Henry Dana. And now it is a 150 year tradition.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ward Beecher Hall and Planetarium

Ward Beecher

Ward Beecher

Nothing like an astronomy class at 2 pm in the afternoon during your first quarter at Youngstown State to catch you napping. That was me. The reclining seats in the planetarium combined with the dimmed lights was the perfect recipe for an afternoon snooze. You just hoped nothing was said that would go on the test.

I had many classes in Ward Beecher during my years at Youngstown State (1972-76). I can’t say that I gave a thought to the name of the building at time. Only later did I realize that generally, college buildings bear the name of people (or their family) who gave large sums of money toward the construction of the building.

I’ve written about others whose names are on YSU buildings: Kilcawley, Beeghly, Maag, and Jones. But never Ward Beecher. Like many others I’ve written about, I discovered a family that has invested deeply in Youngstown. And I was left with an unanswered question.

Ward Beecher’s family traces back to Connecticut, where his father Leonard, and mother, Ruth Webster Beecher lived. She was the daughter of Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. Their son Walter came to Youngstown at age 19, around 1864 and became involved in a number of community enterprises including the Ohio Powder Company and the Mahoning Bank. He married Eleanor Price, whose family owned a large farm extending along South Belle Vista from Mahoning Avenue to Bears Den Road. Price Road is named after the family and their homestead is now part of the Franciscan Friary on South Belle Vista.

Ward was born September 27, 1887 and graduated from the Rayen School in 1907, going on to study metallurgy at Carnegie Institute of Technology followed by war service with the 309th Engineers in France in World War 1. He returned to Youngstown and in 1923 married Florence Simon, a granddaughter of Col. L. T. Foster, after whom Fosterville is named. He worked for a time as an auditor with Republic Rubber Company, as secretary and treasurer of the Lau Iron Works, and treasurer of Powell Pressed Steel.  From 1922 on, he occupied a number of positions at Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company, ending up as Vice President of Finance. He also followed his father’s footsteps, serving as a director of the Mahoning Bank. He attended a directors meeting the day of his death.

He took a major interest in the development of Youngstown State, contributing significant funds for the construction of the science hall and planetarium that now bears his name, which opened in 1967. One of his stipulations was that the planetarium would always be free to the public.

Like many other business leaders of his generation, he served as a leader and benefactor of a number of Youngstown organizations from the Salvation Army to Boys’ Club, as well as the Youngstown Club, the Youngstown Country Club, the Elks, and other organizations. In the late 1950’s, the Beechers sold the Price homestead, where they were living to the Franciscan Friary. Later on, they made substantial contributions for improvements.

After this time, the Beechers moved to Boardman, where they lived together until Ward’s death on October 26, 1970. He was buried, along with many other famous Youngstown residents, at Oak Hill Cemetery. Florence Beecher lived until 1991, supporting a number of Youngstown cultural institutions including the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and the Butler Institute of American Art whose Beecher Court is named in her honor.

The family and the foundations established by Ward and Florence Beecher continue to invest in Youngstown. In 2006 Eleonor Beecher Flad, the Beechers’ daugher, and the Ward Beecher and Florence Simon Beecher Foundations contributed significant funds for a state of the art star projector in the planetarium to replace the one that had been there even before I was a student. Similar contributions were responsible for the construction of the Eleanor Beecher Flad Pavilion on the west side of the DeYor Center, a performance and event space to complement the beauty of Powers Auditorium and renovations of Lanterman’s Mill in the late 1980’s. Eleanor Beecher Flad is now an emeritus trustee of the YSU Foundation, serving for many years as one of the few women trustees of the Foundation.

I mentioned a question. Beechers have played an important part in American history. Both Lyman Beecher and Henry Ward Beecher were abolitionist preachers and leaders, also coming from Connecticut. Henry Ward Beecher’s sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. From the online family trees I accessed, I could find no connection, despite the shared names. It would not surprise me that there would be a connection, and I’d love to find it.

What I do know is that Ward Beecher, and his family have left an indelible imprint on the educational, cultural, charitable, religious, and historic institutions of the city. I may have been napping as a student, but I find myself deeply grateful now for the investment in both time and financial resources this family has given Youngstown.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Penguins

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Stambaugh Stadium, Youngstown State. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The athletic teams at Youngstown State are the only collegiate team in the country whose nickname and mascots are Penguins. It’s an odd name for a team from Youngstown. Another area team’s name, The Scrappers, fits. But Penguins? Wherever did this come from?

It turns out that there are two versions of the story, both coming from the same basketball game in 1933–yes, the name goes that far back. Before then, Youngstown College, as it was then known, was called “Y College,” “YoCo,” “Wye Collegians,” or simply
“The Locals.” On the snowy evening of January 30, 1933, the YSU basketball team drove to West Liberty State Teachers College in West Virginia for a game, pulling their cars out of snow drifts on two occasions.

One version of the story has players coming up with the name in one of the cars during the trip. This had been a topic of conversation throughout that school year.

The more popular one, that I always heard, was that when the team arrived, to warm up they were stomping their feet and waving their arms, either in windmills to warm up for the game or just flapping their arms around. Whatever the case (and accounts differ here) the opposing team coach remarked that they “looked like a bunch of penguins.”

When the players returned, the student body unanimously accepted the name. It was announced formally in The Jambar in the December 15, 1933 issue before the first basketball game of the season against Slippery Rock.

There have been three live “Pete the Penguins” during the history of Youngstown. The first was brought back from Antarctica in 1939 and died in 1941, pursuing fish under the ice at Crandall Park pond. A second Pete, along with Patricia, his mate, were purchased shortly after, but died in 1942 of tuberculosis. The last Pete was acquired in 1968 and died in 1972–my freshman year, an event that seemed insignificant amid concerns about the Vietnam war and the re-election of Richard Nixon, and the pathetic football teams of that era under Dike Beede.

910 Airmen celebrate AF 60th b-day at YSU home opener

Pete and Penny Penguin, modified from a U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bob Barko Jr.

The first student mascot, later revealed to be Vic Rubenstein, was chosen in 1964. His costume was a penguin head and a tuxedo he rented himself each weekend from Rondinelli Tuxedos. Rubenstein, who was a managing editor of The Jambar, only revealed his identity after the last game of 1965. Eventually there was the costume we know today. Then, in 1986 Pete was joined by Penny, who were married in a ceremony. Most mascots are bachelors (think Brutus Buckeye) so in this respect Youngstown State is also quite unique.

In 2004 penguin statues were decorated by local artist and placed around the Youngstown community and on campus. One was decorated to look like John Young, another to commemorate Ohio presidents. A number can be seen in locations in downtown Youngstown, at Southern Park Mall, and a number around campus, including one at University Plaza, greeting visitors to the university.

Youngstown State Penguin Statue

Penguin Statue at University Plaza. Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

I think most students of my era just thought it kind of odd. We would probably have laughed and mocked the idea of “fighting Penguins.” The change came in the Jim Tressel era of championship football teams where logos, and sports memorabilia and mascots became a much bigger thing. Now Pete and Penny are beloved symbols and “fighting Pete” adorns a gift we received, a set of Wendell August Forge coasters, and matching sweatshirts. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few “Penguins” around your house as well. As we say when we root for our Youngstown teams, Go Guins!

Sources:

Archives & Special Collections: History of YSU

Pete and Penny Penguin Mascots, YSU Sports

Premier Penguin, The Jambar, October 21, 2013.

Marah Morrison, The Story and Significance of Penguin StatuesThe Jambar, January 11, 2018.

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Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Leon A. Beeghly

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Beeghly Center, By Greenstrat – Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

I spent a lot of time at Beeghly Center as a student at Youngstown State. I had a number of classes there including an utterly forgettable health class, a number of psych classes (my major), and a memorable philosophy class with Professor Thomas Shipka. Then there was the physical conditioning class! Of course we went to many basketball teams coached by Dom Roselli as well as concerts. I first heard James Taylor live in Beeghly Center. Amazing that he is still performing!

I never thought “who was Beeghly?” Beeghly was Leon A. Beeghly. He was not a Youngstown native, born in 1884 and raised in a small northwestern Ohio town named Bloomville in Seneca County. After college at Tri-State University in Indiana he began working with the France Company of Bloomville, that operated a number of stone quarries. Eventually the company moved to Toledo. It was here that Beeghly became interested in slag, a by-product of steel production used in concrete, road bases, railroad ballast, waterway construction, and even for soil amendments in agriculture.

Beeghly first formed a slag company in Toledo, but quickly realized that the blast furnaces of Youngstown offered a far greater output of this material. He joined with two other men whose names are also well-known on the Youngstown State campus, William E. Bliss and William H. Kilcawley, in forming the Standard Slag Company of Youngstown. He served as company president. In 1918, he and his wife Mabel and four children (Charles, James, Thornton, and Lucille) moved to Youngstown.

Leon BeeghlyBeeghly continued to work with inventors to develop new processes and products including the cold forming of metal resulting in the Cold Metal Products Company where son Charles was involved before becoming president and chairman of Jones and Laughlin Steel, at that time the fourth largest steel company in the country. James and Thornton and later-born John all were involved in Standard Slag. Last-born son Thomas served as president of International Carbonic Company of Santa Ana, California.

In 1940, Leon Beeghly formed the L. A. Beeghly Fund, to which the family has continued to contribute. This fund has invested in a number of religious, charitable, scientific and literary causes, as well as ten college buildings (two at Youngstown State with the new education building) at nine college campuses. Beeghly was a director for Youngstown Sheet and Tube and headed the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce three times. He led initiatives as diverse as vocational training and mental health care.

Leon Beeghly died in 1967. He was recognized at the time not only as a successful industrialist, but as a supporter of inventors and entrepreneurs and technological development, as well as a community leader and philanthropist. His family has continued Beeghly’s philanthropic tradition, with Youngstown State being one of the most significant beneficiaries. Beeghly Physical Education Center opened December 2, 1972 (at the end of my first quarter on campus), built in part with donations from the Beeghly family. More recently, Beeghly Hall became the home of Youngstown State’s College of Education. In 2017, a $1.5 million gift was announced from Bruce and Nancy Beeghly toward a new endowment to the college as well as two graduate fellowships in Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Business Administration.

For over 100 years the Beeghly family has provided both industrial leadership and philanthropic investment in the Mahoning Valley. Their recent gifts suggest an investment in Youngstown’s future. Leon Beeghly always cared about encouraging technological development coupled with supporting the educational foundations needed for any technological advance. His grandchildren are carrying on that work, an important piece in the economic rebirth of Youngstown.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William H. and Mattie Kilcawley

Kilcawley House

Kilcawley House through the trees. Photo: Robert C Trube © 2010

 

I probably spent more time in Kilcawley Center as a student, and later for a time in the 1980’s as a campus minister at Youngstown, than any other place on the Youngstown State campus. I had several good friends who lived in Kilcawley Dorm (now Kilcawley House) and attended a Bible study group there. I went to various meetings in meeting rooms, listened to music in the music listening room, where I first heard the classic Buckingham-Nicks album, used to love all-the-spaghetti-you-could-eat Wednesdays, bought books in the bookstore, typed papers on typewriters (and had textbooks stolen from me), went to free movies, and probably bought beer from Ed O’Neill in the Pub.

I never knew until writing this post that I had William H. and Mattie Kilcawley to thank for this gathering place. I learned that they had a close connection to two other families whose names appear on Youngstown State buildings. In 1914, William H. Kilcawley joined Leon A. Beeghly and William E. Bliss in forming the Standard Slag Company. Slag is a stony or glass-like by product resulting from the smelting or refining of iron ore. At first glance, this sounds like waste material, but there are a number of uses of slag in concrete, road bases, railroad ballast, waterway construction, and even for soil amendments in agriculture. Obviously the steel industry of the Valley furnished an ample supply. Kilcawley was the secretary-treasurer of the company.

In 1945, the Kilcawleys bought Red Gate Farm, a 290 acre property at US Route 62 and Leffingwell Road. Previously, they lived at an estate called “Raccoon Acres” on Raccoon Road, and in a home on High Street in Canfield. The Kilcawleys raised sheep and cattle on the farm. Their agricultural interests also led to William’s involvement as president and treasurer of the Canfield Fair, and one of the gates to the fair is named in his honor after William died in 1958. The Kilcawleys had one daughter, Anne, who married Byron Christman. They lived in Illinois until returning to the farm in 1967, raising pigs, sheep, and grain. Anne was involved on the board of the Butler, and a trustee of the Stambaugh Auditorium Association. Anne and her husband had no children and she died in 2002.

Mattie was a member of the Youngstown State Board of Trustees. It was in this capacity that she arranged a $300,000 gift from the family trust for the construction of Kilcawley Center. She never saw the full complex, dying in 1972 before the second phase of its construction. The William & Mattie Kilcawley Foundation has give over $1 million to Youngstown State as has the Anne Kilcawley Christman Foundation.

Since the 1970’s students have gathered to eat, study, meet, and relax at Kilcawley Center. All this goes back to a successful company that processed a waste product of the steel industry, and the generosity of the wife of one of its founders, Mattie Kilcawley. Thank you, Mrs. Kilcawley for all those great memories from times at student center that bears your name!

Sources:

Joseph G. Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio, Volume 2 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921), pp. 192.

History Red Gate Farm, The Vindicator, May 18, 2003.

Notable Giving Societies,” Youngstown State University

Susan Tebbe, “Canfield Still Paying for Redgate Farm, Despite Lack of Development,” The Vindicator, March 27, 2013.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Dr. Leslie S. Domonkos

Leslie Domonkos

Leslie Domonkos, Source unknown

I grew up disliking history. Up through high school, history had largely been presented to me as a series of events, dates to be memorized, and important people. All this, I had to remember for tests, and promptly forget afterward.

Today, I love history as the story of how different factors and forces contribute to events and how these help us understand how we got here, historically, at least. As you might tell from my posts about Youngstown, I love local history–how places get their names, who was such and such, and how they were important in Youngstown history and how the cultural institutions of the city developed?

I think I owe this love of history to Dr. Leslie Domonkos, now an emeritus professor of history at Youngstown State, and the professor who taught the Western Civilization course I took during my first quarter at Youngstown State, 46 years ago. What I remember about his class, is that I never took so many notes in my life–and it was a good thing. His exams were tough. They weren’t fill in the blanks, or a computer-read form. They were essay-based exams of three or four questions that we would answer in handwritten “Blue Books.” You needed to study your notes, do the readings, and take his exam prep suggestions seriously. His lectures were riveting as he opened up the events of European history and the cultural, social, economic, religious and political forces that led to them. He made us think about these forces, and argue which were most important. It was hard, and I loved it, and he awakened a love of history I never knew I had. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t major in history. I also think of how much work it was for him to read all those hand-written Blue Book exams and grade them!

Both Dr. Domonkos and his wife Eva were born in Budapest, Hungary, he in 1938 and she in 1941. Her tribute in The Vindicator notes that she came to the U.S. as a World War II refugee in 1951. I do not know if this is true of Dr. Domonkos but he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959. For both of them, their arrival in this country was a gift. She worked for many years as a labor and delivery nurse, and later as a childbirth educator at St. Elizabeth’s, returning to Hungary to introduce modern childbirth techniques to that country.

Dr. Domonkos gift to this country was his scholarship and inspired teaching. He graduated from Youngstown University in 1959 with a Bachelors degree in history and completed Masters and Ph.D. degrees in medieval history at Notre Dame. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of Vienna during 1963-1964.  He returned to teach as an instructor at Youngstown in 1964, then as an assistant professor in 1965, associate professor in 1969 and full professor in 1975. Twice he served as acting department chair. In 1971, he received an Outstanding Educator in America award. Over the years six Distinguished Professor Awards followed. He published numerous articles in medieval and Hungarian history in addition to co-editing three books. He was admitted to the Corporate Body of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2003. He retired from Youngstown State in 2002, receiving emeritus status.

In 2013 he was awarded the YSU Heritage Award, the university’s most prestigious award, recognizing faculty and administrative staff who have made a major contribution to the university during their career. At the date this was written, he is continuing to enjoy his retirement.

It is staggering to think of how many students lives were touched by Dr. Domonkos during his four decade career at Youngstown State. Some went on to academic careers in history. No doubt some were just glad to pass his course! But I can’t help but believe there were many of us who gained a much bigger vision of the world beyond the Mahoning valley through his teaching. For me, he inspired a lifelong love of history, manifested in a house full of history books, and a curiosity to know the story behind the facts. I know my life is richer for it. Thank you, Dr. Domonkos!

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — James L. Wick, Jr.

James L Wick Jr grave

Headstone for James L. Wick, Jr. family plot, Oak Hill Cemetery, Photo by Linda Bunch, all rights reserved, via Find A Grave

Rocky Ridge was a favorite area growing up, whether it was playing on the playground as a child, sledding down the hill below the play area in the winter, playing baseball on one of the diamonds, touch football, or tennis on the tennis courts. As a teen, I was at the skating rink every weekend during the winter and I have memories of going to open air concerts. The one that stands out featured jazz great Lionel Hampton–something I didn’t appreciate at the time!

 

Formally, the name of this place is the James L. Wick, Jr. Recreation Area.  We never called it that, and I have to say I was oblivious to who this gentleman was. In researching him, I found out that I walked by his home on 384 S. Belle Vista (I believe on the corner of S. Belle Vista and Chaney Circle) every day when I went to and from Chaney. The home itself has some history to it, being the original home of Samuel Price, a prominent West Side resident (think Price Road, which is practically across the street from this home). Wick and his wife Clare purchased the home in 1919.

Wick was born into the Wick family, Youngstown royalty of sorts. His father, James Lippincott Wick was a business partner of Freeman Arms (James, Sr. married Julia Arms) and was also associated with G. M. McKelvey’s. James L. Wick, Jr. was born January 28, 1883. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, financed by an uncle. He went to work as a general master mechanic at Youngstown Sheet and Tube, then in 1918 took a position as secretary and assistant general manager of Falcon Bronze Company, a bronze foundry. By 1926 he was president, but only separated by a door from the plant where he helped pour a melt and sometimes operated a crane. Wick and Louis M. Nesselbush patented a cooling plate for inwalls and mantles in 1938. He sold the firm to American Brake Shoe Company in 1953.

He played an important role in three Youngstown institutions. He was the chairman of the board of trustees of Youngstown College, later University from 1921 to 1955, overseeing its growth from a night school of the YMCA to a nationally accredited university. Jones Hall, the main building of the university was built under his tenure.

Any of us who write about Youngstown history are indebted to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. He was one of the incorporators of the Society in 1909 and served two terms as president. His most significant contribution was to help provide a permanent home for the Society and its growing archives. As its president, he persuaded Mrs. Wilford P. Arms to leave her home at 648 Wick Avenue to the society in 1961, and then sold lifetime memberships of $1,000 or more to endow the facility. He remained active with the Society until his death and had a passion for passing along the history of the Valley to its youth, and it was reported he was a lively storyteller.

His other major passion was Mill Creek Park. He knew Volney Rogers, served on the Mill Creek Park board for 21 years until he retired in 1958, could identify trees and shrubs throughout the park, and fought to preserve the park when it was threatened by developers. After his retirement, Rocky Ridge was renamed in his honor, one he could easily visit just a short drive down S. Belle Vista from his home.

He seems kind of a renaissance man. He was a gifted amateur painter, naturalist, inventor, and historian. He was a member of engineering societies, the Youngstown Country Club, a trustee of the Butler, and member of the board of First Presbyterian Church.

I wish I had met him. He passed away on March 16, 1972, my senior year at Chaney. In the words of songwriter Joni Mitchell, “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.” I never knew this man, who contributed so much to Youngstown, and did so much that we might know its history, lived along my way to school. I’m glad I know a bit of him now. And perhaps by telling his story, and the story of our city, I can do my small bit to honor his legacy.