Sentimental Sunday – A Geography of the North Side, Part 2

This is part 2 of a story written by my uncle Chuck Lowry. Part 1 is available here. It’s published here with permission.

Dave Roberts’ widowed mother, Sophie, also lived on Bissell, in an apartment at the corner of Elm Street. Her funeral, as I recall, was a day or two after Mom’s. It was at the cathedral, and the priest was Fr. Larry Fye, who was vice-principal and dean of boys (I think Sr. Martina was dean of girls) at Ursuline when I was there.

On Wick Avenue were two venerable institutions that I recall from visiting gram and grandpa. The service station at Bissell and Wick was owned by a man named Steve. Grandpa had an account there and wrote Steve a check once a month for his gas. I think Steve too was killed in a robbery, several years after I graduated from Ursuline (1967). The other place was the Costas store, at the corner of Wick and Thornton. It was a small store with groceries and cold cuts. The owner was George Costas, a Greek about the same age as gram and grandpa. Grandpa used to send me there for cigars for him, Marsh Wheeling. Mr. Costas carried two kinds, and both were $0.08 each. Here is how I could tell which ones grandpa wanted: although they were all $0.08 each, one of them was two for $0.15 and the other was two for $0.16. Grandpa got the ones that were two for $0.16.

Uncle James and Aunt Catherine lived on Bryson Street, just off Bissell, about three doors south of Bissell. Aunt Catherine baked tremendous Christmas pastries. I remember how to pronounce them (collacci) but I have no idea of the correct spelling. Each year, as part of a fund-raising program in the mill, Uncle James and a co-worker used to purchase one annual membership to the YMCA on Champion Street, and for a period of several years, I got it. Uncle James was my godfather (I believe he may have been dad’s godfather too; Aunt Barbara was my godmother).

Long before the custard shop at 1427 Logan, dad ran two other businesses. One was a very similar operation, on Belmont Avenue, near the hospital. I have a recollection that grandpa may have been part owner of that. The other was Isaly’s, at the corner of Benita and Ohio, catty-corner fro St. Ed’s. I was not yet in school, I think, when he bought that, from Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, who lived on Cordova, very near where Mother and Daddy Groc would eventually live. One night a football was thrown through the front window and dad and I (oh the privileges of being the oldest) went in. The police were there and one of the cops gave me the football. It was around our house for years, an ordinary football with a gash in the leather from the window. The Youngstown Fire Department actually came out and boarded up the window. The Isaly Dairy Corporation, from which dad bought most of the stock at his Isaly’s, was at the foot of Mahoning Avenue. It had one of the three air raid sirens that I can recall in Youngstown. They were tested each Saturday at noon. One was on McKinley Junior High School at Bissell and Kensington, just up from Gram’s, and another was on East High School. I suppose there may have been others, but those are the three I recall.

There were a couple other retail establishments of note on the North Side that I remember. On Elm Street, in the block moving north from Benita, were two of them. The first was Benita Drug. It was an old-time drugstore with an actual soda fountain. The owner was also the pharmacist, and he wore the short white lab coat every day. Next came the market. I don’t know that it ever had a name. It was a typical though small grocery store with a meat counter. It was much smaller than Sturgeon’s, going down Elm Street the other way. I think it may have been between Saranac and Thornton. It was operated by two brothers, both St. Ed’s parishioners, and I think they generally were provenders to the parish. That was a pretty big deal. At that time, there were often seven priests living in the rectory and a couple dozen nuns in the convent.

Next to the Isaly’s, on Ohio Avenue heading north from Benita, was a bakery where they made fresh doughnuts every morning. I remember that they were $0.05 each and then the price went to $0.06, a 20% increase. Bob Pesce used to hang out in there.

One of the priests who did not always live in the rectory was the pastor, Msgr. William S. Nash, a priest who was born in Cleveland and was on the wrong side of the “iron curtain” when the Youngstown diocese was split off from Cleveland in the late forties or early fifties. He spent half the year in Florida, from Thanksgiving onward, though he did come back for Christmas. In those days pastors generally did not retire. They kept the job for life, but if they were old or sick or senile (Msgr. Nash was old but certainly was not senile; I don’t know about sick) it was no big deal, because there were plenty of priests to go around. St. Ed’s was run often by Father James Cavanaugh, a friend of dad’s who also was in charge of the junior high. He had a great device on his phone there. One of the two prongs on which the receiver sat (you younger people will have no idea what I am talking about and will have to watch old movies) could be picked up, and when it was, no one on any extension or connected phone could listen to his conversation. The other priest who often was in charge was Fr. Emil Kalafut, a close friend of Dorothy and Bob Schell. In fact, he worked with Uncle Bob when he wanted to become a Catholic (when Dorothy and Bob got married, Bob was not Catholic but in the common parlance of that day, he “turned.”) Fr. Kalafut organized and ran the festival every year, in the junior high gym. It was always around Thanksgiving, after Msgr. Nash had gone to Florida, because Msgr. Nash would not allow alcohol or gambling at the festival. That was always the scuttlebutt, but we never knew how much of it was true.

There was forever the Golden Dawn, the place where almost everyone of my age had the first “legal” beer. The Dawn in those days (and probably still) carded and carefully monitored under-age drinking, and it was especially powerful because they knew who we all were. Everyone’s first illegal, underage beer, by the way, was almost always at the St. Anthony’s festival. The Dawn did not even have 3.2 beer, or beer with 3.2% or less alcohol, which could be sold to people from 18-21.

In the late fifties, the Liberty Plaza was built and North Side retail changed forever.

Source:
Charles Lowry, Brooklyn, New York, [e-mail for private use], to Lowry Family e-mail, 28 Nov 2014, “My Forgetful Self: A Geography of the North Side,” Local Folders: Genealogy : Bloggable!; privately held by Joe Lowry, [e-mail &address for private use], Sterling, VA, 20165.

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