American Observation: My Ode to Youngstown (Sort of)

Youngstown, Ohio isn’t exactly the most beautiful place on Earth. Tucked away in the rust belt region between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, it’s riddled with potholes, crime, political corruption, and an excessive amount of soccer moms. It’s oddly situated at the crossroads of the Northeast, Midwest and Appalachia. There are two different types of weather in Youngstown; gray and slightly lighter gray. The threat of cloud cover looms even on the most beautifully mild days. Do these observations impact the overall vibe of the town to outsiders? Of course. Ask anyone from Youngstown and they’ll tell you that they just don’t give a damn. It’s home and it has its advantages.

I’m 38 years old, spent the first half of my life in Youngstown and I still have family and friends there. More than half of my former classmates, however, have moved on to sexier places like New York, DC, LA….and Cleveland. I’ve lived in three of the four myself, and yes, even Cleveland is sexier. It’s hard to tell whether this out flux of young residents is a problem or just an accepted way of life. Youngstown continues to thrive (in its own way) despite the odds being stacked against it. There’s a certain romanticism that exists in its past....and current and former residents wear it like a badge. Factories still line the landscape, half of them no longer productive. Crime is rampant within city limits, but the area is home to some of the finest suburbs in the region, and one of the best metropolitan parks in the country. New York and Chicago often get credit as the home of organized crime, but Youngstown has mob roots unlike any other place. The car bomb, aka the "Youngstown Tune-Up" was more or less invented on the city's Southside. There are tales of East Coast and Midwest mobsters holding "meetings" in bars and restaurants around town. The mafia influence may have weakened over the past few decades, but the stories remain. Talk to a Youngstowner about football or boxing and you'll get a 30-minute PhD level dissertation. It would take too long to list the world class athletes with Youngstown roots, but it starts with Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and Bernie Kosar.

These are the observations that define the city. Truth be told, Youngstown doesn’t have much to offer in terms of culture and it’s hard to find a local joint that doesn’t specialize in pizza or fried whatever. But there’s something about it that draws all of us back, either physically or emotionally. Weather isn’t everything. If it was, the population of Daytona Beach would be much higher than 65,000. Freshly paved roads aren’t everything. If they were, we’d all deal with the unbearable daily commutes of Northern Virginia. Even job growth isn’t everything. In Youngstown, family, friends, work ethic, and the chance to continue generational traditions drives those who stay. It's a unique place and those of us who leave have a confession to make. No matter where we travel or where we relocate, there's always something missing. Maybe it's the pizza, maybe it's the gray (or slightly lighter gray), but chances are it's the sense of community and traditions that go along with our hometown....but we'll get over it. See you next Christmas, Youngstown! #americanbbservations #odetoyoungstown #youngstown #rustbelt #commoninterestclothing 

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  • Jay Humphrey

    Loved this. Keep em coming.

  • Marge Nelson

    Awesome description of “Our Home Town”. I can’t wait till I see people around town wearing your shirts. Great Job Sara and John.

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