Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm From Y-Town, What About It?

It seems like Ancient History to me now, having moved from the Youngstown area over twenty years ago. Aggression was as much a part of daily life as breathing for most red-blooded males growing up in the gritty Steel Mill Towns along the Mahoning River.

Maybe it was because Youngstown was such a melting pot of different ethnic persuasions. At the turn of the twentieth century, immigrants came by the droves to work in the Steel Mills. They usually settled in all ready established neighborhoods of the same culture. Youngstown still sports many clubs and organizations dedicated to a particular country. Contrary to Rodney King of the L.A. Riots fame, we CANNOT all get along!

I don't think a week went by all through my school years in the 60's and 70's that there wasn't a fight after school. In elementary grades, these fights usually consisted of nothing more than a wrestling match. Punches weren't usually exchanged. It sort of reminded me of young Lion Cubs fighting for their position of rank within the Pride. Somebody would holler, 'I give!", after being put in a painful hold and that would be the end of it. Not saying that the same participants would engage in another fight a week later.

My personal experience resulted in my share of fisticuffs. I know I fought the same kid in grade school at least five times! My Dad's Old School Philosophy was the classic," Don't ever start a fight, but don't ever walk away from one." I abided by that rule and still got into a lot of scrapes. I wonder if you would forever be branded a Coward if you walked away from a fight? I developed a reputation as a "Bad Ass" by my Junior High Years. This inspired a lot of guys to want to fight me. Kind of a King-Of-The-Hill mentality. No one ever got seriously hurt and usually the worst outcome was a bloody nose or a black eye.

I was fortunate not to ever lose a fight and really get my butt kicked. Maybe I should have endured a whippin', it would have taught me humility at a younger age. The only fight I remember not finishing was when two brothers "jumped into" a fight I was in and kicked me in the throat. They continued to kick me when I was down and the guy I was fighting stopped them, knowing it violated the unwritten rules of a "clean" fight. I never forgot that and all through my "Greaser Days" I looked for the opportunity to even the score. Thankfully, those days past and I learned how much better it was to forgive my enemies.

How far I've evolved in the last quarter of a century! I frequently tell people how different it is living in semi-rural Ohio verses Y-Town, as I call the area. My analogy is two guys walking down the street towards each other and make eye contact as they get close. Where I live now, they would exchange pleasantries and say,"How Ya Doing!". In Y-Town IF they made eye contact, one guy would say," Wadda YOU lookin' At?". The other guy would say, "Nothin' much, wanna do somethin' about it?" That pretty much describes the mentality I grew up in. It takes years of maturity to understand that not everything should be settled by the sword.

What I deemed harmless in my youth would now get you killed. Even the greasiest of the Greasers would not carry a weapon in my heyday. Today, kids shoot each other over trivial matters with no guilt or remorse. It scares me to death for my children's and grandchilren's sake. That Old School saying that was meant to defend your honor, needs to be replaced with,"Feet, Don't Fail Me Now!


  1. Tom Rupe as a Greaser! There should be a movie!!!

  2. we used to have regular fights on friday afternoons - - us 'public schoolers' agin the catholic schoolers! rumble time! nothing more serious than scrapes, bruises...never saw anything like a 'weapon' other than our fists and feet! but rumbles were part of growing up for us....