Mauthe Park in Struthers, Ohio was dedicated in the early 60's. A large park by small-city standards, Mauthe filled a niche in the west end of the city for a recreation area. Little League Baseball fields were created and the park became the focal point of Summer activity, sun up to sun down.
A large playground with the usual assortment of equipment was available. Teeter-todders, a Jungle Gym (better known as Monkey Bars), a Merry-Go-Round, and swings that were suspended from sixteen foot poles kept all the kids busy trying them all.
The city version of Horse Shoes, Ringers also was played there. The Ringers game for the uniformed, was similar to tossing horse shoes except large washers were used and thrown towards a five inch piece of pipe that was buried to ground level. I remember getting many a bruised shin bone from the washers bouncing off the pipe and banging into your leg. Many a boy derived extra pleasure in beating an opponent and causing a few bruises to their shins in the process.
During Struthers' good economic years when the steel mills and industry was going strong, the Parks and Recreation Department hired playground supervisors and held craft and activity classes. I'm sure there are still some Popsicle houses, plaster crafts, and vinyl braided key chains laying around some one's basement. I remember my dad using a key chain I made him well into his Golden Years.
The City Fathers acquired a retired fighter jet and mounted it on large concrete pilings in the park. Many a boy spent countless hours sitting in the cockpit pretending to shoot down enemy aircraft. Unfortunately, the jet fell victim to senseless vandalism and it had to be removed after a couple of years. I never did or never will understand the mentality of kids to destroy things for no good reason. I guess our high school principal was right when he said it the two percent that ruin it for everyone else.
Back in the 60's, I encountered one of my life's biggest disappointments at Mauthe's Baseball practice field. I was "cut" from the Little League team I tried out for, The Fifth Street Plaza Cardinals. I cried all the way on my bike ride home. It was tough to take as an eight year old. My father consoled me and immediately took me to the batting cages at Riley's Fun Spot to begin working on making the team next year. It paid off. I made the teams I tried out for every year after that. No one gets left off the roster in baseball these days. I can see both sides of it, but in my case, I thinking it created ambition in me I didn't know I had. Learning to live with rejection builds character, too. There was no coddling, just perseverance taught by our parents.
A new municipal swimming pool was built at Mauthe Park in the 70's. a rather non-descript Z-shaped pool with a nice size bath house. A lot of children learned to swim there with morning lessons and cooled off on those sweltering Summer days. Unfortunately, The pool was permanently closed when it developed large cracks in it and loss of water. Investigation revealed that the pool was built over abandoned coal mines and the ground had collapsed beneath it. I don't know if anyone took the blame for that mistake, but the kids of Struthers are now left with running through their sprinkler in the back yard.
All the neighborhood city parks have been closed. Economic factors and population shift is to blame. I'm so disappointed for the area youth. I spent many hours of my formative years in the city parks and it helped keep me out of mischief I'm sure I would have gotten in to if left to my own entertainment. The Mill Creek Park Commission of Youngstown took over ownership and maintenance of Yellow Creek Park which is the last vestige of nature left in my home town. I hope that the citizens of Struthers continue to use and appreciate the beauty of what's left in a once proud, thriving city.