Wednesday, March 22, 2006

People on the Move

Where else can you travel around a city for only a buck? Youngstown's WRTA transit system has been moving Youngstown resident's around the city for years. Check out their website for route and fare information at

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Who was Frank Bohn?

In certain circles in the Youngstown-area, Frank Bohn is most famous for his 1915 statement, "Everybody breathing dirt, eating dirt - they call it "pay dirt," for Youngstown clean would be Youngstown out of work." Few interpret him as anything more than a steel worker who recognized the importance of the industry in the Mahonig Valley. His story, however, is that of an active American socialist. He was greatly concerned about the plight of the American worker, particularly in the booming steel industry of the early 1900's. He wrote many letters, propoganda pieces, and books describing what he considered the "future system of industrial society."(1) He was an organizer in the Socialist Labor Party (SLP) and the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance. He was a frequent contributor to The Masses, one of the dominant socialist arts magazines of the early 1900's, which described itself as a "revolutionary not a reform magazine."(2)

As a young man from Michigan, he was part of the state's delegation to the SLP's 1904 convention in Chicago. He was described as "affable, slick, polished, a fluent talker, making quite an impression."(3) He wholeheartedly believed in what he wrote, stating, "under Socialism industrial government as well as political government will be democratic. Its purpose will be to manage production and to establish and conduct the great social institutions required by civilized humanity. Political government will then, of course, have ceased to exist."(4) His ideas were revolutionary in the United States, yet no doubt struck a cord with recent European immigrants escaping harsh working conditions and intolerance in their native land and looking for a sense of community in their new country.

Bohn would later become the National Secretary of the SLP in the United States, although his mismanagement of the organization would see him removed several years later. He continued to write his beliefs on socialism however but became discredited within the organization, with the SLP today claiming that because of his lack of leadership, "he came nearer than anything to wiping out the Socialist Labor Party."

1) The Intellectual
2) Kaaterskill Books
4) Industrial Socialism. Haywood and Bohn. Charles Kerr and Co. 1906.

Seeing Life Decades Ago Through Lens of Youngstown

The Business JournalJul 11, 2005 8:05 a.m.

By Dan O’Brien

Two years ago, The Youngstown Historical Center -- best known to residents as the Steel Museum -- came dangerously close to suffering the same fate as the Mahoning Valley’s steel industry.

Instead of closing its doors, however, the facility is experiencing a new lease on life. Earlier this year the museum unveiled a new exhibit and officials expect that state funding for the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus – which operates the Youngstown center – will remain stable for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, Columbus has earmarked more funding to promote the facility and adopted a policy that allows sites to raise money independently to help pay for their operations and educational programs.

“The Historical Society is trying to make the sites more entrepreneurial,” says Nancy Haraburda, site manager at the Youngstown Historical Center. Before, any private contributions went into the society’s general fund and then were meted out among the 60 different sites throughout the state. “Now, people can make donations to a specific site, such as this one,” she says.

Stronger local support is precisely what the museum needs, Haraburda states. One of the biggest peeves she and others share is the overwhelming number of people in the community who have never visited the center and, consequently, have so many misconceptions about what it offers.

The rise and fall of steel in the Mahoning Valley is the focus of the center, Haraburda says, but it’s more useful to interpret the industry as a backdrop against a much more compelling story.

That story is the odyssey of the industrial worker during the 20th century, a theme evident as soon as the visitor steps inside the museum’s permanent collection, “By the Sweat of Their Brow: Forging the Steel Valley.” As the visitor walks in, he is greeted by a life-size mannequin of a steel worker fitted with protective glasses, a hard hat and industrial coveralls.

“We wanted to make sure that people know he is the most important part of the exhibit,” Haraburda says.

The collection occupies two floors filled with thousands of articles and artifacts related to industrial production – some from outside the Mahoning Valley. Tools forged from early iron manufacturing processes of the 18th century and early 19th centuries are on display, while methods of steel making during the 20th century are exhibited through videos and models. A pulpit from which workers monitored steel production was donated by LTV Steel.

A third floor is dedicated to archives on labor and industry. They consist of a library, company records, transcribed oral histories and microfilmed copies of local newspapers and workers publications.

In between is a tale of a sleepy frontier community that grew as Americans moved west and, in the 19th century, immigrants from Ireland, Germany, England, Scotland and Wales settled here as the iron and steel industry took root. By the first two decades of the 20th century, as immigrants from southern and eastern Europe joined the ranks of industrial workers, the Mahoning and nearby Shenango Valley emerged as the fifth-largest steel producing region in the world.

Smoke and soot was so ubiquitous that socialist labor leader Frank Bohn was prompted to write in 1915: “Everybody breathing dirt, eating dirt – they call it ‘pay dirt.’ For Youngstown, clean would be Youngstown out of work.” The quote, so prophetic in hindsight, is among several sayings interspersed throughout the exhibit.

Through the lens of Youngstown, visitors get a glimpse of the American urban and industrial experience, and can grasp firsthand the relationship between big business and community, Haraburda relates.

Featured among the displays is a mock-up of a sparsely furnished company house, circa 1931. The structures were usually constructed by a development arm of the corporation, such as the Buckeye Land Co., a subsidiary of The Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., and then rented or sold to mill workers. Large employers exerted even more control over their work forces by establishing company stores, which they owned and operated.

Huge photographs picture pivotal moments in the community’s history, such as the 1916 riots in East Youngstown, today Campbell. That year, workers demanding a pay increase to 25 cents an hour at Sheet & Tube attempted to strike. After an altercation with company guards, workers vented their frustrations on the city, torching most of the business district. A contingent of the Ohio National Guard was called in to quell the disorder; three people were killed and 27 more were wounded.

Another huge photo depicts men posing for the camera at a nearby hospital, their feet, hands and faces wrapped in gauze to treat serious burns they suffered working in the mill.

“If a worker fell into a vat of molten metal,” Haraburda continues, “there was nothing you could do for him.” Instead, she relates, the company estimated the weight of the average steel worker to be 110 pounds. When such an accident occurred, 110 pounds of steel would be lopped off, cooled and then buried in place of the lost worker. The practice continued until the Second World War, when every ounce of steel was needed for the war effort.

A small exhibit is also devoted to the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, who called the 1937 “Little Steel” strike against the Republic Steel Co. and Sheet & Tube in Youngstown and Warren. That committee formed the basis of what is today the United Steelworkers of America.

There are short biographies of leading industrialists of the era: Andrew Carnegie, Joseph G. Butler and James Campbell. A┬║nother display featuring patterns sculpted from wood used to form molds for intricate machine parts highlight the exquisite craftsmanship many of the steel workers possessed.

Small video screens are also spread throughout the exhibit. One in particular reflects on “Black Monday” – Sept. 19, 1977 – the day Youngstown Sheet & Tube announced it would close its Campbell Works, immediately displacing more than 5,000 workers. The short video touches upon the efforts of the community to save the mills, highlighting the attempts of the Ecumenical Coalition to buy Sheet & Tube’s Brier Hill Works and operate it under community ownership.

The museum hosts events and lectures, and receives many tour groups from local schools, Haraburda notes. This month, Youngstown State University’s Center for Working Class Studies is sponsoring a photo essay, “The Bittersweet Living,” which features the photography of Guy Saldanha. The exhibit spotlights the everyday life of working Americans.

The Youngstown Historical Center earlier this year unveiled a new exhibit, “Kilroy Was Here,” which depicts life in America during the 1940s. The exhibit was first displayed at the Historical Society in Columbus, then scaled down and moved to Youngstown in January.

Haraburda says traffic through the museum usually picks up at the end of May when more school groups are scheduled to visit. “We were very busy in January and February,” she reports. “We’ll have about 500 kids coming through this month [May].”
Harry Meshel, former state senator and majority leader during the 1980s, successfully lobbied for funds to construct the museum. He’s encouraged with the direction the facility is headed, he says. “At first, we had a devil of a time getting promotion from the historical society,” he recalls.

Meshel advocates establishing a local advisory board to support the museum, patterned along the same lines as other organized groups that contribute to the Butler Museum of American Art and the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. “Everyone who’s been through thinks it’s phenomenal,” Meshel says, adding officials in Cleveland are exploring a similar museum for that city.

Kathy Hoke, spokeswoman for the Ohio Historical Society, says state budget cuts make it hard to spend much money for marketing. “We rely on state funding very much,” she begins. “On the other hand, we want to work with local communities. In terms of enhancing the programs and services we have to offer, we’d like to have a strong local group at every site.”

A new brochure prominently features the Youngstown Historical Center as one of the Ohio Historical Society’s major sites, Hoke says.

Last year, 70% of the historical society’s $21.9 million budget came from the state, Hoke reports. Two years ago, state budget cuts nearly forced the Youngstown center to close, but at the last minute the Legislature found enough money to save the site. Funding for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, looks stable, she says.
“We’re doing the best we can with limited resources,” Hoke adds.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ex-steel workers recall sad day plant closed

Friday, December 9, 2005
The Vindicator

A former steel worker said the job was harder than his tour of duty in Vietnam.


YOUNGSTOWN — Their numbers are dwindling and their hair a little more gray, but the former employees of Youngstown Sheet & Tube's Campbell Seamless Pipe Mill are still a family.

About 50 former employees met Thursday night at Nancy's Place on Shady Run Road for what they bill as the annual Seamless Spaghetti Dinner.

The steel workers produced steel for a variety of industries, but the mill's bread and butter was producing seamless steel pipes of all sizes for oil pipelines, the largest as big as telephone poles in diameter and 50 feet long.

The mill closed in 1986 and the former employees, hourly and salaried workers alike, have gathered each Christmas season since 1988 to catch up on the latest news and recall the days when steel was the heartbeat of Youngstown; days when men worked beside their fathers and brothers and cousins and uncles and grandfathers.

It was hot, grimy, disgusting, but honest work that put food on the table and college diplomas into their children's hands. No one could imagine Youngstown without steel, but in August 1986, that day came for the seamless mill.

"We keep in touch and tell the old stories," said John Judin of Coitsville. He worked in the mill 17 years and has been in the insurance business for 20.

"It was a good-paying job with security at the time, and work we never thought we'd be without," Judin said. "And then we watched as the loss of steel devastated Youngstown."

The last shift

Paul Popovich of Boardman had nearly 30 years in on the day the seamless mill shut down. He was among about 30 workers on the midnight shift who were told that when they finished the order they were working on — 9 5/8-inch pipe — they would be done.

Popovich said the workers on that shift would often go across the street to Rocky's Tavern at Valley View on their lunch break. So when they were finished at 7 a.m., they went to Rocky's.

"It was a sad day," Popovich said. "We went in there and we were all crying. Rocky gave us all breakfast — whatever we wanted — on the house."

Jimmy Eiland of Youngstown's East Side worked in the mill for 15 years then got hired at the GM Assembly Plant in Lordstown after he was laid off from the mill.

He said he applied to work in the steel mill because "back then it was the only thing going on."

Eiland said although he is on a first-name basis with his Lordstown co-workers, it's nothing like the close-knit family atmosphere of the steel mill.

"We all knew each other and our families, and we went places together outside of work," he said.

Ray Hanuscak of Campbell said the workers took care of one another in the steel mill because pay was based on work output. The pay depended on all the steel workers' pulling together and encouraging one another to keep going in the tough times.

How hard it was

They remembered working summer days when it felt cool outside because it was so much hotter in the mill. They would be covered in sulfur and graphite that rained down on them, and they would flood the floor to keep cool.

Tony Tisler of Youngstown's West Side said he worked in the mill from 1969 to 1982, starting when he returned from a 13-month tour of Vietnam with the Marines.

Tisler, known as "Buffalo," worked a billet roller, turning the steel as it came out of the furnace. The work was worse than Vietnam, he said.

Mike Carney of Campbell worked in the mill for 28 years, retired, then worked 18 more as a United Steelworkers of America international representative.

He said the employees of the seamless mill were members of United Steelworkers of America Local 1418, which was 3,400 strong.

Carney said working later as a union representative was very rewarding. "I felt like I did a lot of good for a lot of people," he said. "The work was hard, but you did the job, and raised your kids. It was a way of life."

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Youngstown

While I am posting links, I found this blog related to the recent announcement that Allegiant Air will be flying into Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. Check it out for the latest news on the redevelopment of Youngstown's airport.

The Alternative is Here

Youngstown Pride is pleased to announce the creation of a sister blog, Mighty Mahoning, your alternative source for all things Youngstown. Created by a fellow North Sider and Ursuline alum, and inspired (so he says) by yours truly, it should be ripe with great Youngstown stuff. Check it out at

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Live from Powers... GLASS HARP!

Su per no va ( soo'per-no've)n. 1.A rare celestial phenomenon involving the explosion of most of the material in a star, resulting in an extremely bright, short lived object that emits vast amounts of energy. 2.The brief but intense career of Glass Harp.

In the late '60s and early '70s a power rock trio from Youngstown, Ohio called Glass Harp reached for the stars. They must have made contact, as references to stellar events seem to pervade much of their music. As a reviewer of their debut album observed," fewer than five songs mention the sky, and three of the remaining ones talk about things like stars, rainbows, and the moon."

They were a bare bones group in the tradition of Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and fellow Ohio band, The James Gang. But Glass Harp developed a signature sound of their own-a progressive one that allowed the members, collectively and individually, to stretch beyond the confines of standard form; breaks in songs for guitar, bass, flute, and drum solos were de riguere , as extended improvisations that would take the bands performances into the late hours.

The trio's following was particularly amazed by the lighting style and precise technique of the bands 18 year old guitarist Phil Keaggy, who aside from his youth, had the use of only nine fingers. Neither strike impeded his ability to produce highly lyrical solos. Combined with the tasteful, rhythmic bass lines of Daniel Pecchio and the sharp, assertive drumming of John Sferra, Glass Harp created a wall of sound that would thrill sell-out capacities across the upper Midwest and beyond.

While the band dissolved on the cusp of achieving mainstream rock stardom, they garnered a large and loyal regional following. National notoriety followed as they toured with the likes of, Traffic,Yes, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, and Grand Funk Railroad. " They were just the warm-up group," recalls a journalist of the day, "But it was the first time I had heard a local group and felt that I had heard the headline concert."

With the release of their first album came more national attention, and even more enthusiasm back home-none of which was lost on the record company advertising execs, who exploited their burgeoning popularity with such ad copy as;

"The Glass Harp epidemic began about two weeks ago in Ohio and has been spreading so rapidly it has already affected some 36,000 in Cleveland alone. There is conclusive evidence to suggest that a new rock group Glass Harp is responsible for this epidemic. The release of their LP coincides almost exactly with the outbreak of this phenomenon.Contact your MCA Distributor today and become a carrier of the Glass Harp epidemic."

In all, the band's recorded output consisted of three critically- acclaimed LPs- all released on the Decca(MCA) label-Glass Harp, Synergy, and It Makes Me Glad. In spite of their short lived life, the band managed to imprint an indelible mark on the history of rock 'n' roll. Performing with some of the biggest bands of the day on stages ranging from the Filmore to Carnegie Hall.

-John August Schroeter, from the band's website at