Mill Creek Park Remembered
Memoirs from the Last Free Generation
Anna Harris Eleftheriou
Foreword Mill Creek Park has inspired generations of life-long nature enthusiasts, hikers, bikers, canoeists and birders. For those of us who grew up on the South or West sides of Youngstown Ohio, the park figures into most of our childhood activities. Mill Creek Park shaped our lives, our hopes and dreams. The park’s trails, creeks, caves and waterfalls sparked our imaginations and nourished our spirits. We carry with us the life lessons learned beneath the park’s canopy. These are some of our memories. CD This book contains Mill Creek Park memories of the generation who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s in Youngstown, Ohio. The mother of one of these people described these Baby Boomers as “the last free generation.” She meant that their parents took it on faith that the park was a safe place in which their children could play, learn, and spend their formative years. She calls them free because their time was not scheduled to account for every waking moment with lessons, play dates, camps, and after-school activities as the following generations experienced their youth. Each voice offers a unique perspective on the park and on the effect that the park had upon his/her life. The voices also reveal differing perceptions of the same park landscape or activity. AHE
Contributors Holly Burnett Hanley 2 Ellen Wakeford Banks 2 Alice Wilson Begandy & Joan Restivo Arnott 3 Tom Bresko 2 Tom Burnett 1 Carole Campolito 1 Georgia Baytosh Case 3 Dottie Nespeca Cerimele 2 Amy Davidson 1 Christine Davidson 4 Collette Davidson 1 Toni Di Margio 3 Robert Douglas Jr. 3 Anna Harris Eleftheriou (including maps) 7 Jack Fergus 4 Joan Toth Frank 2 Georgiane Schuller Ginder 2 Juanita Hall 1 Georgie Harris 2 Nick Harris 4 Joan Croysdale Havrilla 2 Patty Eberts Hoover 1 Kenny Hvizdak 1 Cheri Jones 2 Jeanne Panko Kaplan 3 John Keenan 1 Carrie Lengyel 1 Barb Loewitt 1
Peggy Panko Machingo 2 Mark Maguire 3 Mark Mancuso 1 Shirley Manis 3 Sally Kello Meeks 1 Dorothy Megowan 2 Patty Rogan Moran 3 Jon Naberezny 2 Bob Navarro 1 Tina Mastronestis Novit 2 Ray Novotny 2 Jan Pentz 1 Bob Sabo 7 Suzanne Davidson Smart 2 Joe Steller plus illustration 1 Cynthia Tareshawty 2 Kukla Harris Vera 5 Dave Williams 3 Linda Woodworth 1 Cathy Buehler Zimmerman 1
Editors Christine Davidson Anna Harris Eleftheriou Holly Burnett Hanley Nick Harris Designer Lamar Salter
Illustrator Gina Russo
Acknowledgements and collective thanks to: Norma Burnett a member of “The Greatest Generation” who called us Baby Boomers, “The Last Free Generation”. Jack Fergus and Ellen Wakeford Banks who contributed family photos. Joe Stellar for his illustration of the Idora Park Ballroom. Jean Rhoads for her stunning photography.
Julie Peterson and Lily Martuccio of Mill Creek Metroparks for locating Lindley Vickers’ 1947 map of the park and their help in searching for photographs. Everyone who contributed his or her memories about Mill Creek Park.
Holly Burnett Hanley
The Last Free Generation
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
This past year, my mother (Norma Burnett), Christine Davidson, and I were talking about Mill Creek Park. My mother pointed out that our generation, the baby boomers, are the “last free generation.” We four kids played in Mill Creek Park, but it was my brother, Jim, who explored Mill Creek Park from dawn to supper. My mother never worried about him and the neighborhood kids who went with him. According to Jim, as soon as school ended for summer vacation, Dad would buy new tennis shoes for him and by the end of summer, those shoes were worn out because he was always in the water down at the streams. It was a yearly ritual—new shoes, old shoes. Their territory was Cascade Run and Lake Newport. Occasionally they would encounter Lindley Vickers who would show these young boys about the trees and animals in the park. For our and earlier generations, going to Mill Creek Park was an endless exploration. The generations after ours have grown more pre-occupied with TV shows, movies, video games, and computers. The creators of those TV shows and video games are wizards in the art of “getting your attention.” Parents, prevailingly, want to keep a close eye on their children. They do not allow their children to play outside by themselves—largely because people are watching TV news and programs that create fear. Fear permeates our minds and culture. Parents of the last two generations have typically organized their children’s playtime. Most of our
kids are not playing in the way we played. Is the world scarier, or do we just perceive it as so? Through data, we do know that kids are not going out to places like Mill Creek Park, as we did. The book Last Child in the Woods documents this trend. I work at Youngstown State University and am a liaison to the Youngstown City Schools. We create dynamic field trips and hands-on activities that help students understand the world they live in. With these field trips, elementary and middle students go to the Lily Pond, the Old Mill, the Mill Creek gorge, and to streams in Youngstown, where kids test the water and “meet” the critters living there. We ask the teachers to take a poll of the kids: Have you been here before? Our data tells us that about half of the kids have never been in these places. The great thing is that the students LOVE to be in these places: the gorge, the Lily Pond, the Old Mill, and, particularly, the streams. For the children on these field trips, WONDER fills their eyes just as we experienced when we explored those rocks and hills and critters and streams. So, if you have grandkids, introduce them to the place where they will discover wonder. It’s right in our backyard. They will thank us, the “last free generation.”
Ellen Wakeford Banks
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Happy Times = Happy Memories When I hear the words Mill Creek Park, the first thing I do is SMILE. Since I grew up on the west side of Youngstown very close to the park, every phase of my life includes a happy park memory. As a very young child, my father pulled my brother on a sled across Lakes Glacier and Newport. Dad played a lot of baseball in the park as a young man and later became good friends with Park Superintendent Farmer Scholl. That, of course, was in the 1940â€™s. In the 1960â€™s, my father coached my brother in
baseball, their games played at various park fields, especially Kirkmere and Rock Ridge. Our family ice skated, rode bikes, enjoyed picnics, and hiked often in the park. Sundays were spent going to church, coming home and having lunch cooked by Dad, then getting in the car and going to Mill Creek Park to hike before going to dinner at one of our Grandmothersâ€™ houses. Lanterman Falls, the Old Mill, the Silver Bridge, skipping stones across the creeks, feeding the goldfish at the Gold Fish Pond . . . we did it all. I even asked my cousin from California to run (we ended up WALKING!) the Peace Race with me in Mill Creek Park. Many of my teenage memories involve meeting friends in the park for a walk or a bike ride. There were also romantic trysts in places where I could hold hands or steal a kiss with a favorite beau. My three children spent many happy hours in Mill Creek Park. My mother moved into a house only two blocks from the Rose Garden. What a great place for the kids to run around while Grandma sat on a park bench and watched them. As a professional singer, I have fond memories of singing weddings at the gazebo and the Kidston Pavilion at the Rose Gardens. I tell people that you could take me to the park, blindfold me, and I would be able to find my way home or to any spot they name in the park. This spring will be the happiest memory of all for me as one of my daughters is getting married and having her reception at the D. D. Davis Center at the Rose Gardens. I am grateful to all who have taken care of the park throughout the years. There is no place in this world more beautiful than Mill Creek Park.
Alice Wilson Begandy & Joan Restivo Arnott
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
The Gypsy Girls meet Mr. Vickers
In the summer of 1963, my best friend Joan and I, together with others from our Girl Scout Troop, attended a week-long day camp located just a short drive from the intersection of Bears Den Road and Chestnut Hill Drive in Mill Creek Park. We gathered next to weathered, greenish-brown picnic tables, set on a blanket of mistcovered flat ground across the road from Lake Cohasset. The purpose of the camp was to learn about the Park and to educate and prepare us to earn our Girl Scout Nature Badge, a sign of rank and accomplishment. Each day we enjoyed arts and crafts. We constructed tambourines using paper plates, Coke bottle tops and ribbons, and we danced and twirled to a song whose lyrics
echoed the collective voice of more than a dozen Scouts, “We are the Gypsy girls, we wear our hair in curls; we like to dance and sing and shake our tambourines. . . .” We built boats, dwellings, and animals made from Popsicle sticks, twigs, leaves, and mud. We looked forward to lunchtime when we consumed bagged lunches lovingly prepared by our mothers. Our most memorable lessons that summer were taught by the Park Naturalist, Mr. Lindley Vickers, who resembled actor Sam Jaffe, co-star of the 1960’s TV series, Dr. Ben Casey. His white, wiry hair stood out stiff around the perimeter of his balding head, freckles dotted his face and arms, and he had a pronounced underbite. Mr. Vickers was keen to point out the importance of stewardship, and his lessons imparted great respect for the abundant natural resources that graced this ethereal playground. He led our troop through the park’s rich wet woods and its wooded and rocky slopes. He guided us as we explored the steep banks, glens, caverns, ledges, and cliffs. His extensive knowledge of the park’s flora and fauna was fascinating: he directed our attention to beetles, snakes, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, goldfish, tadpoles, spleenwort ferns, oak and maple trees, hemlock, and mushrooms. Joan was aghast the afternoon that Mr. Vickers invited me to sit on a giant tortoise! He shared with us his collection of arrowheads and told stories of the early pioneers who were associated with the park. One day we were hiking along Lake Cohasset toward the Goldfish Pond (now called the Lily Pond). The lake abounded with moss-covered rocks massaged by the steady knuckles of the meandering current. As we crossed Cinderella Bridge, we tossed flat stones into the lake and watched as they skipped and danced along the water’s surface. As we approached the Goldfish Pond, Mr. Vickers picked a bunch of poison oak. Then, he ATE IT! We were flabbergasted. Poison oak, ivy, and sumac were plants to avoid at all costs. He grinned and explained that he was one of only a few folks who were not ill-affected by the poisonous oil of this plant. I still remember his words of caution: “Leaves of three; let them be.”
Joan and I still speak fondly of that memorable week in the summer of â€™63. Each scout from our troop earned a Nature Badge, and our mothers proudly sewed the badges on our uniform sashes. We feel privileged to be part of the vast legacy of Mill Creek Park and fortunate that the Park continues to sustain a viable living history. Cheers to Volney Rogers, who established Mill Creek Park, also called Youngstown Gorge or Mill Creek Gorge, as a public park in 1891, and to his brother Bruce Rogers who was an integral partner in the landscape design. The brothers benefited from the work of well-known landscape architects H. W. S. Cleveland and Charles Elliot. Eliot apprenticed for Frederick Law Olmstead, a monolithic leader in the field of landscape architecture throughout the United States. We unanimously extend our gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Vickers who made possible so many cherished and thrilling childhood experiences.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Rafting at Midnight Jim, Marty, Larry, and me. While we certainly could have come up with a better name for our life-long friendship, we simply called ourselves, “The Group.” Westsiders, we pledged our friendship to each other ‘til death. Well, death and distance did come. Jim Garcia died in a car wreck many years ago. Larry Moritz now lives in Arizona and Marty Conricote in Texas. To this day, I have remained in Youngstown, surrounded by and savoring the memories we shared during our youth in Mill Creek Park. Free from the burdens of study at Chaney or Ursuline, our summer days were spent in the “wilderness” of Mill Creek Park. We fashioned ourselves as “Indiana Joneses” before Harrison Ford’s character ever hit the screen. During the days, we hunted crayfish and salamanders in its streams and chipmunks in its woods. We climbed and repelled its sandstone walls and hiked its rugged trails. But, under the cover of darkness, we experienced our greatest adventure. It was after a torrential spring storm when, at close to midnight, we carried and dragged one-man inflatable life rafts purchased from the Army-Navy store to the rugged gorge area just below Lanterman’s Falls. Mill Creek was raging and to our inexperienced eyes its rapids equaled those found in the Grand Canyon. We passed around a cheap foot pump and put air in the ersatz boat. Fully inflated, the time arrived. “You first.” “No, you first.” I can’t remember who led our gang of more naïve than brave adventurers, but in minutes we were all pulled quickly
through the narrow confines of the Mill Creek gorge by the raging waters. Bouncing off a rock here, another there, we had no control over our speed or direction. Heck, we didn’t even have a paddle! We soon arrived at the wellknown “stepping stone” section of the creek and each of our “bottoms,” well, bottomed out. As the roar of the creek faded into the background, we Photo courtesy of Jean Rhoads now slowly drifted toward and under the Silver Bridge. As the mouth of Mill Creek opened into Lake Cohasset, our ride was over. As we pulled our flimsy boats out of the water, one last bit of excitement: As if on cue, a park police cruiser approached in the darkness. Afraid to breathe, we hid in the shoreline bushes until he passed. We had done it. We fulfilled our dream of white-water rafting the wild waters of Mill Creek. It’s a memory that lives in three of us today. May Jim rest in peace.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Photo Courtesy of the Mill Creek MetroParks
I was carrying my shoes, skating toward the bridge at Glacier getting ready to go home when I saw a rough spot. I thought it was just some lumpy ice, but I fell through. Wow, it was cold. I held up my shoes and my friend stretched out and yelled, “Give me your hand.” I screamed back, “No, I don’t want to lose my shoes.” My disbelieving friend hollered, “Forget about your shoes; what about your life?” I yelled back, “My mother’ll kill me if I come home without my shoes.” So I threw my shoes to safety and eventually maneuvered my way out of the lake and onto the snowy shore. Gosh, I was cold. We walked to my friend’s house—dripping all the way. I dried off there and finally made it home, dry shoes and all. My mother never found out.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Every Sunday, my dad would pile the five of us, my brothers, sisters, and me, into his powder blue Buick convertible and we’d head to Mill Creek Park. As soon as we reached the Silver Bridge my father would always say, “When I was a monkey, I used to hang by my tail from that bridge.” As part of our Mill Creek Park ritual, he would drive us to the Newport Area and we’d eat fried chicken for a dollar a basket at the Golden Drumstick. Then we’d head across Market Street to the original Handels. We loved chocolate pecan ice cream cones. We never questioned that our dad had a previous lifetime as a monkey.
Georgia Baytosh Case
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Mill Creek Park Moments
Hiking in the Park Beginning in 4th grade and continuing into high school, we packed a lunch and hiked through the park all day, several times each summer. At that time, I knew my way around the park by the paths and creeks, not the streets. The paths were not the maintained trails that we have now, but worn areas where others had hiked before us. We used saplings and tree branches to help slow our descent and aid our ascent on the wooded hills of the park. Skipping stones and crossing the creeks on the rocks (either with or without shoes) were popular activities. At lunchtime, we would dig into our lunches of apples and baloney sandwiches, without thinking about all of the dirt and worse that we had touched all morning. We would return home hungry and tired. The park made us strong and taught us lifeâ€™s lessons. Rock Ridge Other days we would go to Rocky Ridge, now known as Wick Recreational Area, where we competed in jacks tournaments, ran through the sprinklers, and played on the
swings, merry-go-round, monkey bars, and sliding boards. These were all set up on blacktop, with no mulch or shredded tires in sight or imagination. One day I went down the BIG sliding board in bare feet. When bare toes meet pavement at a brisk speed, the pavement wins. That is a lesson I never forgot. Ice Skating at Lake Glacier Ice skating at Lake Glacier. That was so awesome! We were “allowed” to walk from our home on Chaney Circle, even on school nights. Straight down Price Road, a large, smooth, area was always plowed for skating, with several “paths” further back on the lake. The ice was a little bumpier on the paths, but the light from the floodlights barely reached there, so that made it more fun, especially if you were skating with someone special. Idora Park Driving from the west side of Youngstown to Idora Park was a once-a-summer treat that my sisters and I anticipated with great excitement. As soon as we caught sight of the Silver Bridge, we knew we were almost there, and the butterflies in the stomach would start. To this day, I still get butterflies when I see that bridge.
Dottie Nespeca Cerimele
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Nature Guide, Lindley Vickers Much of what I know about Mill Creek Park stems from the tales of and nature hikes with Lindley Vickers, Park Naturalist. My mother, Dorothy Nespeca, led our Campfire Girl group of eight to ten girls, all of us Washington School buddies. We’d begun as Bluebirds and flown up to become Campfire girls. Mr. Vickers, Mom thought, would be the perfect person to instruct us in what every Campfire Girl should know about the outdoors. She arranged a series of nature walks through different areas of the park. We would meet Mr. Vickers at the Goldfish Pond (now called the Lily Pond), and our guided walks through selected areas of the park began. Mr. Vickers stopped at each variety of flower to point out something unique about it. Upon hearing the chirp of a bird, he’d quickly raise his binoculars to his eyes and describe its species, coloring, and nesting habits. Even before he had finished, a new sound or sight, would distract him. “Shhh—listen—Oh look! There’s a black-capped chickadee in that tree.” Immediately, a new lesson began. His excitement as he imparted information made it easy to remember later. Certain birds like grackles and cowbirds never built their own nests, but inhabited the nest of other birds to lay their eggs and provide for their young. A turtle on a rock or a woodchuck eating clover were fodder for new lessons. Mr. Vickers brought arrowheads, snakes, and other wonders to our summer camp at Birch Hill Cabin and told us the most fascinating stories about them. One time,
we were hiking near Pioneer Pavilion, and. Mr. Vickers was showing us how to handle snakes, when suddenly the snake messed all over one of the other girl’s arms. “Eeeeuuu, that’s gross!” she exclaimed. Another time Mr. Vickers gathered up some poison ivy from the path we were following. Carefully he folded over the leaves and delicately placed them in his mouth to avoid their touching his lips. He explained, “People aren’t allergic to poison ivy on the inside.” Then he chewed and swallowed them. After that, my horrified mother tugged my sleeve and advised me not to go too near him. We Campfire Girls will never forget our Nature Guide, Mr. Lindley Vickers.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Winter Picnics Our family always held winter picnics in Mill Creek Park. My grandparents, parents, brother, dad’s brothers, aunts and cousins would delight in these frosty get-togethers. We’d roast hot dogs, drink hot chocolate, and toast marshmallows on any given winter’s day. When I was about seven or eight, we all met at the picnic area where Cascade Run empties into Lake Cohasset. We were making smores on the campfire and my fingers were gooey, so my Aunt Gail suggested I wash my hands at the edge of the lake. I asked my oldest cousin, Suzanne, to hold onto my jacket as I dipped my hands in the icy water. She didn’t, and I somersaulted into Lake Cohasset. Everybody screamed and rushed to my rescue. I was whisked off to the nearest house and given a change of clothes but refused to wear my cousin’s penny loafers. The next year, as we were driving by the same spot, Uncle Jim pointed to a faraway sign near where I had fallen into the lake. He told me the sign read, ‘This is the spot where Amy Davidson fell in the lake.” I believed him. It was a few years before I realized the park placed “Unsafe Ice: Keep Off” signs all around the lakes during the winter months.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
When we were kids, we loved July 4th. It wasn’t that the holiday marked Independence Day or the midpoint of summer—it was the fireworks. We could watch the Idora Park Fireworks from our neighborhood near Lake Cohasset. Over the tree tops, glittering explosions illuminated the sky and our dreams. We’d ooh and ah with each booming addition. Green, pink, blue, and white lights cascaded into each corner of Mill Creek Park. High above oaks, maples, pines, and the occasional sycamore, spiraling rockets hissed, fizzed, and exploded into thousands of glistening sparks.
All the neighborhood kids, the Lanzs, Luccis, Ferguses, Santisis, Pankos and Edwardses, Gulas, Gulicks, and Lukanics gathered in one yard or another from one year to another for hamburgers seared over charcoal grills, potato salad, cole slaw, chips and drinks, Kool-Aid or sodas and cherry pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Under the strobe-lit sky, we’d dance our childhood dances and the girls called a truce with the boys, even though we could destroy each other’s forts the next day. Parents sat in lawn chairs and doled out individual notso-legal sparklers. Kick-the-can, our usual twilight-time summer game, would be on hold this evening as we ran through the backyards with one hand held aloft, golden streaks trailing behind. We’d spell our names in ephemeral letters and create abstract patterns that hung lazily in the air before disappearing. In time, the trees matured and grew to their full height; they blocked our view of the fireworks. We could no longer see the July 4th spectacular from our backyards. Some of us walked or biked to higher ground; others seemed less than enchanted by the mid-summer party. We grew up and moved away. As I look back, I wonder if it was the trees or if it was us. Perhaps we had grown too tall to see the fireworks.
Ducks in a Row
“They must be shooting the rapids,” I say to my dad who has spent years fishing and hunting as well as walking miles and miles of trails in Mill Creek Park. “They can’t be…well…maybe they are,” he says as he watches from high above the stream. We’re on our regular Saturday walk, the three-mile trek from our house around Lake Cohasset and back. It’s early spring, the water’s high, and we’re on the pathway on the east side of Cohasset; it comes out on the new bridge near
Pioneer Pavilion. The trail is some thirty feet above jutting rocks that form the stream. It follows along the waterway from Cohasset Falls to Lake Glacier through a series of shallow rapids, glacial pools and fast water. A phalanx of ducks, a dozen or more mallards, makes their way down a series of rapids. Then surprisingly, they make a U-turn, head back upstream, jump into what they must consider a holding pond, and glide around as they wait their turn to make the descent again. They slide down the rapids single file. The metallic green heads of the males glint in the sunlight; the females’ mottled brown looks dowdy except for the lone iridescent blue patch on their wings. Their webbed feet act as rudders as they avoid this stone or that. Loud quacks, lots of bobbing and weaving, as they complete their watery circuit. Again and again. “They are, they’re shooting the rapids,” says my dad. “Do ducks have fun?” I ask.
The Monkey Branch
In the corner of our yard stands a three-trunk oak. It was huge, straddling the park and our property line. More than 100 feet high, it shades our lawn and makes it hard to grow grass; moss is more prevalent. About half way up the center trunk a limb juts out, twisted without bark. It’s been there as long as I can remember. As the tree grew, the limb remained. Naked. Dead. Useless. So many trees have these lifeless branches, long after their purpose in the growing cycle has passed they stay there, forgotten. Driftwood in the sky. Unable to reach the sun when the longer, newer branches shaded them out they died but hung on to their spot of past glory.
Rain, wind and age-worn. Smooth and sinewy. They are the mirrors that reflect sunlight in the leafy canopy. They glint a hard white light in a sycamore grove, glow dark and muscled in an ironwood. My mother called the one in our back yard the monkey branch. If you looked real hard you could make out the monkey’s tail, torso, and head. She had some mystical connection to the monkey branch. Once, years ago, I said the monkey branch should be cut down. In mock horror and like someone out of O. Henry’s “Last Leaf” she said, “When that limb goes, I’ll go too.” To me, it was a matter of aesthetics; the monkey branch threw off the balance of beauty. A dull brown twisted limb without bark, twigs, or leaves stood out against the leafy greenness of Mill Creek Park. But from then on, I checked on the monkey branch during my visits home and grew to appreciate its own peculiar gnarled beauty When my mom got sick, her favorite place was the couch in the porch with a view of the park and the TV turned to CNN. Every once in a while I would see her look at that monkey branch, and silently I prayed for them both to hold on. Unlike O. Henry’s story, a neighbor did not take my mother’s place. My mom’s monkey branch still holds on in its nakedness.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Different Worlds Whenever I come home, I marvel at the wild, natural beauty of Mill Creek Park. My sisters, neighborhood friends, and I spent countless hours in the cool shade of oaks, sycamores, and hemlocks during the summer months. We’d build and rebuild forts, rescue baby animals, swing from vines, and explore the creeks. In winter, we’d sled ride at Rock Ridge, ice skate at Glacier or Kirkmere, and build snow animals in upper and lower meadow. One year, my dad and I rolled and carved a huge snow bear in lower meadow. My dad brought along a spray bottle filled with blue food coloring in water. That big blue bear greeted us on our way to and from Chaney High School for weeks. Not that many years ago, my exasperated teenage son was trying to explain a particular difficulty he was experiencing. Frustrated with me and the world, he finally shouted, “You just don’t get it, Mom! You just don’t get it. You grew up in a forest.” He was right of course; his world was far different from mine. My son grew up in Columbus, Ohio and I spent my childhood in Mill Creek Park, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Would you like to share a joint? Okay, maybe that’s NOT the memory you want to hear about. But it happened in 1969-70, at a place known as “the flats,” near the Silver Bridge where hippies gathered with nothing better to do on a warm Sunday afternoon. Earlier memories bring to mind crawling into Witch’s Cave, but not too far in, lest we get trapped, or bitten by creatures of the night. And the Silver Bridge – quite a fun structure to climb when nobody was watching. And the rocks – yes the rocks – really big climbing rocks – especially those nearest to Bears Den Cabin. Our names for them then now escape me. Dead Man’s Rock, perhaps? Just climbing the rocks wasn’t enough. We would find the hardest path to climb. As with Mt. Everest, the thrill lay in reaching the top. Once there, we didn’t pitch a flag, or even take a photo. We ate the lunches our moms had
made for us: usually a bologna sandwich and a Hostess Twinkie—the food of champions. Much like the food eaten by today’s youth. For some reason, however, we remained thin and healthy. I think it had something to do with exercise and being outdoors. Each night after dinner, we walked Spotty, our dog,through the park. I’m not sure which Spotty it was, since we had several Dalmatians—all named Spotty. Once Spotty bit a fellow park visitor. Okay, maybe he bit several people. But the point is that our dogs ran free. We ran free. That was life in the ‘60s—freedom, fun, feeling alive. No fear of being kidnapped, raped, or mutilated. (Well, we’re not counting the dog bite.) Not only did we walk and run through the park, but we also SWAM in the creeks. There were a few places where the water was deep, and we pretended they were our swimming pools. Imagine doing that now? And the trees—made for climbing, hiding in, picking fruit from, and being cooled by their shade. In the fall, we would play football in the open spaces. In the winter, we would ice skate on Lake Glacier. A fire burned nearby to keep us warm. In springtime, we journeyed to the Rose Gardens (now called the Fellows Riverside Garden). And that brings us back to summer. My two favorite summer places were Kirkmere Playground and Rocky Ridge (now known as the Wick Recreation Area). Okay, why are these names changing? Anyway, both play areas contained a sprinkler system: a circular cement area, approximately 50 feet in diameter, with at least four water spouts along its perimeter, the water shooting 10 or 20 feet into the air, cooling us from summer’s heat. I remember playing chess at Kirkmere Playground and beating everyone. I’m not sure if I could do that now. Does anyone play chess anymore? Does anyone leave the house? We never stayed home! So who were “we” anyway? We were family: myself,
two brothers, two cousins, and a friend. We were the children who grew up on the west side of Youngstown, when the west side was the best side. And my mom was the “KoolAid Mom.” She would give us a saucepan with instructions to fill it with elderberries, raspberries, or apples for her pies. These fruits grew wild, courtesy of Mill Creek Park’s natural setting. Mom’s only instructions were to hurry up and pick the fruit when it was ripe “before Jackie gets it.” Jackie was our older neighbor – already in high school – while the rest of us were still in elementary school. I don’t even remember if “middle” school existed then. Another problem was that we would eat most of the fruit before we returned home. So much for pies . . . . My memories continue through my high school years: my first kiss was at the Lily Pond. His name was Paul (I think). Still not old enough to drive, we had ridden our bikes to the pond. Yes, before there were “mountain bikes,” we rode no-speed, regular, everyday bikes through the dirt trails. Many years later, I would take my own child to the park – to experience those same dirt trails, marvel at the waterfalls, and run through the fields. Mill Creek Park has been an integral part of my entire life. I still enjoy it today. In fact, I took a Yoga class under the Gazebo this morning. I don’t share joints anymore, but I still get “high” on Mill Creek Park.
Robert A. Douglas, Jr.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
‘Let’s go down to the Park’
“Let’s go down the park.” Somebody says. “OK. Let’s go!” The experience of growing up on Myrtle Avenue on the south side of Youngstown included spending a lot of time playing and exploring in Mill Creek Park. Two and one-half blocks west of Glenwood Avenue got you to Myrtle Hill and into the park by way of a steep curvy incline (but not as steep as Kenmore Avenue Hill) where you stepped gingerly to avoid falling. Immediately, you were in a different environment of trees, giant rocks, and various types of green plants and mosses. It was quiet, yet filled with the natural sounds of birds and other
forest creatures. Much cooler here than in the neighborhood, it was a sure way to beat the heat. At the bottom of the hill was the spring water trough. The cold, refreshing water cascaded up or flowed down from an unusual faucet. We would always see how high we could make it rise. This was a really natural treat that attracted many people from all around. On hot summer days, people would bring lots of bottles to fill with the cold, clear spring water. After a good, long drink, it was off to Slippery Rock Pavilion and the playground to have fun on the swings, the sliding board, the teeter-totter or see-saw, or in the sand box; throw ringers or horse shoes; play a game of softball; or just run and play in the large, open, green park spaces. Next, it was off to the stream to wade in the cool water, skip flat stones across the creek, catch crayfish under the rocks, and watch as minnows and small fish scurried this way and that. Upstream, we crossed the “stepping stones.” Then we’d take the trail to the road to another stream past Birch Hill Cabin where we would emerge finally at the “Goldfish Pond.” The goldish yellow fish fascinated us as they gobbled up the bread we threw in the pond (when we had some, that is). Turtles sunned on the lily pads, and occasionally a snake or two would slither by. At other times, we would take the trail from Slippery Rock along the stream to Pioneer Pavilion near the bridge and continue until we reached the falls under Lake Cohasset. We loved listening to the roar of the falls and watching the eddies of white, swirling water under the falls as it rushed down from the stream. The Indian Bridge, another favorite spot, was a spot along the trail by Lake Glacier. We liked to hear our voices
echo beneath the bridge. It provided us shelter from the rain. We often took that trail down to the falls under Lake Glacier where the water wound its way into the Mahoning River at Mahoning Avenue. We especially enjoyed fishing in Lake Glacier as well as the park’s streams. I caught my first catfish there and learned the hard way about its sharp, stinging barbells. Though we were not supposed to fish in Lake Cohasset or the Goldfish Pond, we did just for fun. My favorite place for fishing was under the falls at Lake Glacier where I caught waterdogs and mudpuppies. Kids from all over town considered Volney Rogers Playground the place of choice for recreation, especially sports. The Pee Wee Football League attracted many families on Saturday mornings including mine and those of my friends. Most of the city’s best athletes cut their teeth on the fields in baseball and football and on the tennis and basketball courts and went on to successful college and professional careers. As luck would have it, I ended up living in a house off of Old Furnace Road, on Cherokee Drive tucked into the vicinity of Cohasset Lake, Bears Den Cabin, Pioneer Pavilion, and the Rock Ridge Recreation Area. Every day is a great day walking in the park enjoying Mother Nature at its best. I have many encounters with deer, raccoons, oppossums, foxes, ferrets, ducks, turkeys, woodpeckers, finches, cardinals, hawks, and hooting owls. The last part of this was written while I listened to great contemporary jazz while sitting on the lawn at the Judge Morley Pavilion (Mill Creek Park summer music in the park) on a beautiful Wednesday evening in August. It doesn’t get better than this. What a great treasure that I have had the privilege to enjoy all of my life. I know many others whom I see every day would agree.
Anna Harris Eleftheriou
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
We lived at the bottom of McCollum Road, at one of the entrances to Mill Creek Park. Across the street from my grandfather’s garden was what we called,“Suicide Hill” where we went sled riding in the winter. Just adjacent to and behind the Fresh Air Camp, “Suicide Hill” was a gathering place for many who raced sleds, toboggans, and garbage can lids at what we thought were lightning speeds, especially when the a layer of ice had formed over the top of the snow. Sometimes, and you had to be careful about this, a runaway sled crossed the dirt road at the bottom of the hill and continued down another short hill into the Fish Pond. It all depended on the density of the snow and how icy it was. Many people ended up on the edge of the pond or in the pond. Those who were fortunate ended up on a frozen pond—but this was dangerous, too. Then there was also the rock formation known as the “nutcracker” at the bottom of the hill. When you hit it, the sled lurched beneath you and you were momentarily airborne.
One day during the winter of 1964, my dad, George Harris, positioned himself belly down on the bottom of our sled with the two youngest of the six Harrises, George, Jr., and Frank, perched atop him. When they all hit the “nutcracker,” George and Frank sprang up into the air. What goes up must come down. Dad ended up with two broken ribs. That was the last time he took that ride.
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues “Uh, is this Mr. Harris? It is. Do you, Sir, have a Rambler Station Wagon, License A546E3? You do. Well, I just want to inform you that I clocked your car going 49 miles per hour on the West Cohasset Road in the park. I could see that a young woman was driving. Family member? Your daughter, I see. In a hurry to get somewhere, I guess. I’m not issuing a ticket this time, Mr. Harris, seeing that this is her first offense. But tell her that this is a warning—the next time there will be a ticket. The speed limit in the park is 25 miles per hour, as I know you are aware. No need to thank me, Sir. Please give her the warning. Well, you’re welcome. Good night.” George Harris, my father, was about halfway through the 11:00 news when I arrived home. Dad looked up at me, “Speed demon!” he said. “A regular cowgirl behind the wheel, aren’t you?” “What are you talking about?” I asked, without a clue. “What was he, Psychic?” I thought. “Speeding in the park at night! Windy, curvy roads. Pitch black—not even a moon out tonight. Speeding your way to God knows where. The Officer called almost an hour and a half ago. You were five minutes from here when he spotted you. Where were you going in such a hurry?” Well, gee, I thought. Now policemen you never even see
are calling your home and informing on you to your dad. And where was I going? On a ride through the park— from one end to the other—one of my favorite activities since acquiring my license a couple of months earlier. But I couldn’t tell Dad that: No, he’d just tell me never to ride the park roads alone at night. I would traverse the park from one end to the other— from my house on McCollum Road out to Route 224 and back again. All the roads were open then; so you could take the western park roads out and the eastern back. Or you could criss-cross from west to east and back again. The map that accompanies this piece shows the roads as they were then in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact, if I could conceivably go wherever I was going through the park, then I did it. I knew every nook and cranny of every road on the park map. I took the park as part of my route downtown, to go to church or to Idora Park. If I went anyplace in Boardman or to 224 or to the Kirkmere neighborhood, the park roads became part of my route. I knew these roads during all seasons of the year, in any kind of weather. Mill Creek Park was as familiar to me as the palm of my hand. And it still is, today. It continues to be a constant—even though some of the roads are closed or no longer used, even though you can’t just slide under the Mahoning Avenue Bridge like you did when I was young, and even though many years have elapsed since I moved to Los Angeles with my family in 1982. The house is still there, too, though we Harrises no longer inhabit it—at least not in any palpable form. But my Father’s somewhat angry, somewhat bemused voice calling me a speed demon and a cowgirl behind the wheel still echoes in my brain and I smile as the memories hit hard and deep.
Lindley Vickers Map Courtesy of Mill Creek Metroparks
Above the Goldfish (Lily) Pond, a dirt road winds its way from Lily Pond Drive to West Glacier Drive. There was once an entrance to it from Glacier Heights where it deadended into McCollum Road Extension. In the past, people occasionally drove along this road. From halfway around the Goldfish Pond, we would climb up to it, clinging to tree branches and roots to aid our progress. A walk along this dirt road filled many an afternoon in any season of the year. Walking here during late October as Halloween approached became an annual activity after I discovered an old graveyard along this routeâ€” one that could be entered from the back through the rotted-out metal fencing that marked its
perimeter. Shaded as it was by tall trees, even on sunny afternoons the old cemetery could be an eerie place. But often the day was gloomy, the graveyard rather dark, and its corners enshrouded in a far deeper darkness, one in which you could imagine a ghostly image languidly posed and beckoning to you from beneath an ancient tree. Why was she there? Did a gravestone in her proximity have a special significance? Why did she look so sad? Some of the graves in Home Cemetery (established in 1824) dated back to the 1820â€™s. Others did not reveal their age having been swept smooth by the elements. My brother Nick and I would often walk around the cemetery reading the gravestones and imagining the lives of the people who were buried there. The Cemetery inhabited our imaginations: the etchings and sometimes cryptic messages on the gravestones; the rustling of the leaves beneath our feet, the gloom that permeated its atmosphere, and the beings who haunted it.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Aptly named “The Green Cathedral” by author Dr. John C. Melnick, Mill Creek Park has been just that to me. After living in Florida for many years and enjoying the sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets, I have found that a drive through “The Green Cathedral” is every bit as rewarding. It’s a place where Photo courtesy of Jean Rhoads my thoughts and prayers can be expressed in a natural setting, yet its “architecture” is just as reverent as a building of gothic grandeur. Since I was a child, the majestic spires of the “Silver Bridge” have welcomed me into what seems to be a place of greatness. A simple park bench or a large stone formation often serves as my church pew. My prayers are heard just the same as if they were uttered in a church. Mill Creek Park is inspirational. The Fergus family’s love for Mill Creek Park has spanned the decades. The park’s rustic cabins were the setting for graduation parties, birthday parties, a wedding shower, anniversaries, and even one Thanksgiving dinner. My parents, John and Ruth, celebrated their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries at Pioneer Pavilion and Birch Hill Cabin respectively. My sister, Susan and I, always en-
joyed autumn and all the beauty that nature brings to bear at that time of the year. The park inspired our decor for these fall gatherings. We adorned the fireplace mantles and hearths with pumpkins, gourds, mums, and cornstalks. We carved out a large pumpkin for the 25th anniversary and filled it with silver dollars as a centerpiece for the occasion. For the 50th, we threw in some “golden touches,” played some big band era music, and created a perfect commemoration of our parents’ October 25, 1947, wedding day! Throughout my childhood, my dad, John Fergus, a city fireman of many years, took my sister and I on many walks throughout the park. We lived on Birch Hill Drive on Youngstown’s Westside, not far from the park and its myriad pathways waiting for exploration. Our mother saved bags of stale bread for us to take to the Goldfish Pond, where we would give our best swing of the arm to feed the fish waiting just beneath the surface of the water to pop up and grab their dinner! The walkways around that pond seemed endless then. We never tired of traversing them, always seeing a variety or birds or animals scampering through the brush. It was a perfect commune with nature—one not to be found in books. For this we thank our dad for giving us the “gift of nature.” On the homefront, we thank our mom for the many delicious Sunday meals that awaited us when we returned from our park adventures. Even now I can smell that wonderful roast (cooked in the scary pressure cooker!). In the warmer months, Mom would prepare some great chicken dish to cook on the
grill for a backyard picnic supper. Those were good days. Who doesn’t remember the early days of “The Old Mill” as it was called back then—the centerpiece of our walks in the park? For those who don’t remember it then, it was both interesting and somewhat mystifying. The familiar animals stuffed and preserved in glass cases, were a bit scary. And the educational displays delighted us as the boards would light up after we used the stylus correctly to match up the correct information to the particular nature question asked. The museum’s creaky wooden boards added to the mystique of the old mill. I loved the sounds of the falls just outside of the open windows. I still enjoy the roar of those falls today. Many may recall also, the sound of screaming riders as they descended those steep metal or wooden hills on the roller coasters of Idora Park. Located just across from the mill, you could hear those screams echo throughout the paths nearby. Today, Lanterman’s Mill, restored to its original purpose, remains a crowning jewel of the park. I enjoy it every bit as much as I did then, just in a different way. While living in Naples, Florida, for many, many years, I so often talked about Mill Creek Park with my friends. I always hoped that one day they could see it for themselves. Af-
ter all, this was not the ordinary park found in most communities, but rather a significant part of our city and valley. I tried to explain how it runs throughout the city of Youngstown and far beyond its borders. If that weren’t enough, I had more than a couple of reminders of the “old mill” around my condo. There were watercolor prints, a wooden block replica of the mill, Christmas ornaments on the tree, and of course, tons of pictures of “the mill”. When I relocated back here in late 2005, I was thrilled to find out that my dear friends from Naples would be visiting in the autumn of the next year. I could not wait. I couldn’t imagine that the famous mill I spoke of and the park itself, would be explored by them, along with me, and they could truly take in its fall splendor with me at their sides. Needless to say, we smiled and laughed as we approached from the parking lot of Lanterman’s Mill and took the obligatory photo of them with the mill in the background. At last they had witnessed firsthand the beauty of not only the mill, but the entire park. Did I drive them through every road in the park? You bet I did! Did they enjoy it? They sure did, and now they explain to their friends in Naples and elsewhere what a truly remarkable asset this place is to our community. I’m sure there will be a return trip in the near future.
Joan Toth Frank
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Ice Skating at Lake Glacier I grew up on the west side of Youngstown, half a block from Lake Glacier. In the winter, we could see the lake from our house. Anytime we saw skaters on the lake, we were bundled up and sent off to have fun. A fire always warmed the boathouse and another one roared on the bank of the lake, so if you weren't skating you could just sit around and visit with everyone else. The best was in the evening; you could go out on one of the cleared paths on the lake. It was really a thrill to skate off into the darkness. In the summer, we hung out at the boathouse and made good friends with the guys who worked there. Sometimes we’d take one of the rowboats out for a bit and other times we’d go along for the pontoon boat tours. It was an absolutely lovely way to grow up.
The Gypsies It was in the late 50’s or very early 60’s when the gypsies came to town. The gypsy king was in St. Elizabeth’s hospital, possibly dying. Their tradition would not allow him to die in the hospital so two guards were stationed outside his room day and night, ready to carry him outside if it seemed like the end was near. As word spread throughout their community, cars and vans from all over the country arrived. They swarmed the whole town. It seemed as if there were hundreds of them—old people, young people, small children, babies. The lobby of the hospital was filled day and night. Many gypsies camped in Mill Creek Park. They were not allowed in the park after dark, but during daylight they made the most of it. Pigs on spits were a staple and the music was lively and fun to listen to. They actually were an interesting group of people: not really friendly, but they didn’t cause trouble and cleaned up any mess they made. As soon as the King recovered and left the hospital, they vanished as quickly as they had appeared. This event lasted about a week, but it remains one of my favorite memories of Mill Creek Park.
Georgianne Schuller Ginder
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
My grandparents on my father’s side moved to Ohio from Transylvania—they were among the Transylvanian Saxons who came to the United States for myriad complex reasons, desirous of living in a place reminiscent of the Old Country. That proverbial open door beckoned as another was closing to them. They chose wisely—Youngstown, Ohio, poised on the frontier of vast opportunity. The place was beautiful and bountiful and, oh those trees! Volney Rogers and others of similar mind and foresight were determined to preserve it as it was—a glorious park, a haven for all to enjoy, partake of, and explore. Our family foursome lived quite close to the park. Fortunately, I could explore it often—alone, with sister Kathy, or sometimes accompanied by friends. Solo? Those were the days when children could do such things. Safe? Not a question that came up then. Such magnificent excursions—where I could employ my imagination to become a pioneer, an Indian, or a Mill-Creek style explorer.
Some of these day trips while traipsing into the woods were rather frightening. But I choose to focus here on Short Holes! I am not an athlete and never was close to being coordinated, but Rock Ridge, with its amenities for pursuing the sporting life, was so close to my South Schenley home that I just had to try to improve my skills. My friend, Linda Tecau, whom I had met at Volney Rogers Junior High (we had the identical black patent leather clutch purse on orientation day) and I would meet halfway to hang out or to try our best at tennis or golf. One day, soon after summer vacation began, we rented clubs and attempted to follow the course. We were shilly â€“ shallying around when an older gent indicated he wanted to play through. We felt sorry for the old fellow immediately. Lonely? Undoubtedly. A senior citizen with few friends? How sad. Feeling magnanimous and kind, we invited him to play the course with us. Intergenerational inclusion on the spot, well before such things became trendy. The golf was pleasant enough. Our new friend was patient, and though our skills were not all that sharp, we managed to complete our game. Whew! Suddenly, as Linda and I walked off the course, we witnessed what was to us an amazing sight! A youngish woman in a red convertible pulled up to the curb, her blond ponytail swinging in the breeze. She climbed out and moved to the passenger seat. Our playmate gave her a whopper of a kiss and they jauntily pulled away. Thus did our game of short holes end that balmy summer day. As I think on it, the man was probably about the age I am now. How perspective alters goal and aim, when we go on playing lifeâ€™s lively game.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
My friend Frank Polite was a poet and world traveler. He loved Mill Creek Park and appreciated its uncommon beauty. He often said there was no other place like it. One day, he and his wife Dorothea came to my house on Cohasset Drive. He wanted to show me something very special close to my home. We drove around the corner to Old Furnace Road and parked at a curve in the road. Frank led us through a vine and weed tangled path to an overgrown neglected garden. Ivy covered the forest floor, white rhododendrons lit up one of the paths that led to steep quarried boulders which partially enclosed the secret Eden. No one had tended to the Edith Kauffman Quarry Garden in years but Frank saw its unique treasure and shared his reverence with me.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Shoot the Rapids
We’d jump on our buzz bikes, ride around horseshoe bend, cross Old Furnace, and take the upper road above Cohasset. We’d pass the Silver Bridge and Hiawatha Flats, go up the hill, and park near the Old Mill. On our garbage can lids, inner tubes or rafts we’d hit the stream just below Lanterman Falls. Now, there had to have been a heavy rain to do this, a downpour really or it wouldn’t work. We’d ride from the falls, sometimes all the way to the Silver Bridge. There was a group of us, my brother Frank, Guy Pietra, Joe Belcik and Chuck Paros. We were white-water rafting before we knew it was a sport. It was quite a ride. If the water was slow we’d walk a bit, get back on and hit the stream again. We didn’t want to leave our bikes too far away but we’d do the circuit again and again. We were maybe 12 or 13. We rafted for several summers in a row. Always after a heavy rain. The stream’d be high, we’d ride the rapids.
Paddock Run Pugilists
Frank and I would hunt for crayfish, then we’d fight ‘em in a shoe box, just like a boxing ring. Those crayfish could be 8 to 10 inches long. We’d give ‘em names. They’d fight each other. It was really something. Their claws’d be snapping as we cheered them on.
The Neighborhood Hangout We had a meeting place at the old log; anybody from the neighborhood would know where it was, right above Paddock Run. Sometimes we’d play games like hide and seek or Sneaky—the log would be home and the goal would be to get there without any of the kids seeing you.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Our property on McCollum Road bordered on Mill Creek Park. We could walk down a flight of make-shift stone steps on the side of the garage and then down another set through a jungle of tiger lilies. This took us to a baseball field which served the entire neighborhood. A creek ran behind the baseball field, roughly parallel to the baseline between third base and home plate. The banks of the creek sported a lush display of lilies which would close at night only to reopen at the promise of a new day. The creek was a focal point of our family and neighborhood mythology. “Let’s meet at the creek after school.”
“Nicky, where are you?” I’m down at the creek!” “Dad, there’s a bunch of tadpoles in the creek today.” “Let’s run down to the creek to catch minnows.” “Jimmy, Peter, and George caught turtles in the creek, painted numbers on then and are racing them in the driveway!” “Mom, can we have a mason jar to collect lightening bugs at the creek tonight?” “The creek is full of soap again from the houses on the new road.” I remember my first week in college I was having dinner in the freshman union with a bunch of guys from my dorm. We didn’t have much to talk about except the prospect of our new classes and, of course, home. Some of the guys were talking about AP scores and regents. We didn’t have them at Chaney, so I told them about going down to the creek and Mill Creek Park beyond. In fact, I told them, we had two ‘cricks’ on our property that met at a fork and flowed right into the park. “Crick:” That’s how we pronounced it. I knew how to spell it: C-R-E-E-K, but I had never heard it pronounced any other way than ‘crick’. Those guys were having the times of their lives, covering their smiles and snickering, encouraging me in my tales of the ‘crick’ until one of them let loose, “Harris, where are your from, Appalachia or somewhere?” But they could never understand the creek and the magical land that lay beyond it. Like the Big Log which was across the creek and up a steep wooded hill. It was a huge tree seemingly felled by a lightning strike and became the fort of my older brother Peter and his neighborhood friends Jimmy Pietra and George Markovsky. They staked it out early and guarded it from all their younger siblings and neighbors. If we transgressed geographically, they would take us hostage and tie us up until we were rescued by our comrades. If you followed the creek down a little further you
might come across some arrowheads blending in among other polished stones in the creek bed. Here the sides of the creek became steeper, ‘the cliffs’ we called them. At the top of them were property markers to designate that we were no longer on our land but really in the park. Here my older sister Anna, used to conduct ‘mountain climbing’ lessons for me and my younger sister Kukla. If she disapproved of our form in scrambling to the top of the precipice or if we grabbed tree roots to expedite our ascent, she would push us back down the cliff and we’d have to try our luck again. The creek was our guide to the whole world beyond home and neighborhood. When we got older I would leave home on my bike on a week end or summer morning and ride through Mill Creek Park until dinner time using all
the linked waterways as my map substitute and constant compass. I would go lie on the big rocks at the foot of the falls across from Pioneer Pavilion oblivious to the world because of the cascade’s spray and the roar of the falls. Or I’d ride past the flats to Lanterman Falls and marvel at its almost silent precipitous drop. I’d visit relatives. I’d pass by my church on the bike. I’d go see friends. I always went to Parker’s for frozen custard especially after the main Isaly’s had closed and ceased selling their skyscraper cones. Back in the park, I was cloaked not in silence but in the parks’ singular hum, a confluence of gentle breezes, rustling leaves, water rushing over stones, birds singing and calling and warning and the occasional punctuation of Idora’s wildcat. When I was young I never thought of the creek in those terms—the world it revealed to us—all those beautiful, Arcadian places of play, fun, repose and spiritual communion within the park. But I guess somewhere inside me I always knew that you could follow that creek-officially called Paddock Run--to a small pond next to the baseball field beyond which it flowed to a beaver dam. The beaver dam was the last impediment: from there it flowed past Birch Hill Cabin into the Frog Pond, which cascaded into Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake was dammed and from there the water ran into Bear Creek and then under the bridge across from the Rock Garden and into Lake Glacier at Slippery Rock. Lake Glacier flows into a dam near Salt Springs Road where it empties into the Mahoning River. From there you really could go---well, anywhere. The Mahoning eventually finds its way to the Ohio River which flows into the Mississippi which empties into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. From there, choose your ocean, choose your continent, choose your life. Those guys at Harvard could never understand the mystical geography of the ‘crick’ that flowed behind our house.
Joan Croysdale Havrilla
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Nature’s Blessing When I was about two years old, my family moved to Bears Den Road. What an ideal location for raising a family; Mill Creek Park was right across the street! Earliest memories include the sprinklers and merry-goround at Kirkmere Playground. We filled our summer days playing checkers, hopscotch, ping-pong and washers at the supervised playground. While my brothers played in Little League games, my girlfriends and I would play softball, climb trees, take walks or play tennis. Hiking to the Old Mill became a tradition. One special route was across the stepping-stones depending on the height of Mill Creek. At the mill we’d view an array of butterflies and moths or the two-headed kittens as well as many taxidermy animals of the park. Right across from my house was an area by the creek that caused Mom’s annual battle with poison ivy. If you follow the creek a ways, a 12 inch round hole had carved itself into the rock. We perpetuated the legend that Native Americans had originally carved it for washing their clothes-which went along with the legend of an Indian burial cemetery on the hill behind our house. We could watch the Idora Park fireworks from our kitchen window—the “bang-booms” never failed to bring my little sister to tears. Fall brought changing leaves and different activities. Our church, Christ Church United Presbyterian, hosted an annual hot dog and corn roast at Chestnut Hill Pavillion. The best part was the Candy March. Kids carrying paper bags walked around a large circle of adults who dropped candy into each bag.
Winter was wonderful. We would sled ride down Chestnut Hill since the drive was closed to traffic. Our family had a four-person sled that worked great on Rocky Ridge hills. We ice skated at the flooded tennis courts and Lakes Glacier and Newport. We welcomed every new addition to recreation at the park--the boat rides on Newport and Glacier, the short hole golf course, the walking trails, and the restored Old Mill. As I returned over the years for a day or a week, our visits always included Mill Creek Park. We introduced our daughter to the outdoors by showing her the park. This leads me to the best benefit of all--I love nature because of my early years in Mill Creek Park. I am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest and transfer my blessings.
Patty Eberts Hoover
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Waterfalls Ruse We piled into the 1969 midnightblue Chevy Malibu. My date and I were seated in back, my friend and her date in front. We headed off to a movie. The driver took an unexpected turn into Mill Creek Park. We were driving along Chestnut Hill Drive when the driver stopped; my date asked me to look at the waterfalls behind us. There had been a heavy rain the night before, and water gushed over Lanterman Falls. As I turned back toward the front, his lips touched mine. I always thought it was a clever and sweet first kiss.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
The Boy Of Summer
By the time I was seven, each summer, my mother would buy me one wool ball cap, a couple of pairs of blue jeans, a few tee shirts, and high top white tennis shoes. I had a glove, of course. She sent me to Rock Ridge everyday at 9 a.m. The park hired young instructors like Jerry or Louie Angelo and Sheeny (Steve) Krivonac. We played pick up baseball games all day, every day. I played shortstop, learned to fight and swear. I’d walk home for lunch; we lived a few houses down from McCollum on Hazelwood. My mother would fix me fried bologna sandwiches on Schwebel’s white bread and she always served sweet baby gherkins, I still love those things. Then I’d go back to the park. By summer’s end, all my pants had worn out knees, my tee shirts were pretty beat up, my cap was in bad shape, and my shoes were no longer white; it was time to head back to Holy Name School.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Dolls in Paradise My first memory of the park was participating in a doll contest at the Wick Pavilion. I walked there from Rexford proudly carrying the doll I received the previous Christmas. I really didn’t play with dolls much, but that day she was my entry to a new place with new people. I remember two things from that event: I received a ribbon that day, and so did every other child there. I was so proud of that ribbon. I’ve spent a career in education, and since that day I’ve known how important it is to recognize everyone who participates. I also played tennis and ice skated in the park’s recreations area off of Bears Den. Carolyn Piercy Nevi was a great tennis player and ice skater, and she and our friends spent a lot of time in that same area summer and winter, circling round the skating ring, or hitting balls back and forth over the net. I’m not and have never been particularly athletic, but everyone was welcome to join in the fun, regardless of competency, and I remember very fondly the warm camaraderie of my friends as we played in the park. Hiking, biking, building, farming, and gardening have always been central to my life. Mill Creek Park made an amazing impact on the person I am and have become. I recognize how lucky I am to have Mill Creek as part of my history.
The Old Mill
I biked and hiked in the park all the time. Mill Creek beckoned each summer. I loved to play along the stream, explore the caves, slide down the hills, and race along the paths. The Old Mill Museum was usually on our itinerary with my friends and cousins, and I stopped by there every few weeks. My cousins, visiting from out of town, envied my vast playground, my paradise, Mill Creek Park.
Jeanne Panko Kaplan
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
The Shortcut Home
We grew up in Mill Creek Park in the neighborhood south of Old Furnace Road, a development above Lake Cohasset built in the 1950s. We spent hours biking, hiking, sledding, skating, looking for salamanders and crayfish in Ax Factory Run, climbing trees, swinging from vines, and exploring. Not only was Mill Creek Park our playground, it was also our shortcut walking home every afternoon from Chaney High School. Everyone in the neighborhood cut through Rock Ridge then walked the park roads and paths to arrive home more quickly. Not taking the park meant walking all
the way around via McCollum, Bears Den and Old Furnace. This took forever. As with our sisters and brothers before us, the walk home became a rite of passage. We had a wonderful group in the late 1960’s: at various times it was comprised of Vicky Tilea, Mary Jo Herdman, the Davidson sisters, Marcie Lanz, Betsy Pernotto, Carol Trenik, and Patty Carfolo. Unless it was raining cats and dogs and someone’s mother could get to school with a car, we walked. Whether it was 90 degrees and stifling or 15 degrees and icy, we trekked through the park. We’d walk in the shadows cast by the huge boulders and the tall oaks and sycamores of Bears Den Drive and emerge into bright sunshine at lower meadow, and then step into the deep shade of the sometimes treacherous path known only to frequent walkers who went up the hill to Old Furnace. It was always an adventure, but it became really creepy when one of us stayed after school and had to go it alone. In that case, we basically ran the whole way. My favorite time was autumn. The leaves cast a golden glow all around us and the air smelled delicious. Nothing can compare to the sound of leaves crackling beneath your feet. Vicky, who was almost blind without her glasses and refused to wear them, would wave at every car that passed and honked. We wanted to strangle her because she was invariably waving to strangers. It was especially funny when it was a car full of boys from other schools, hanging out the windows and whistling, Vicky would wave back thinking they were Chaney students. I guess boys were what we discussed most on those walks home; we also talked about teachers, school work, clothes, music, and boys. There was one guy we weren’t happy to see. One bright spring day we saw a young man waiting alone in his car at the “YIELD” sign where New Cross Drive meets Cross Drive. It seemed odd that he was just waiting there when no other cars were nearby. Chris Davidson and I had been
through this several times in our earlier years in different areas of the park, so we tried to warn the other girls of our suspicions. We asked them to stop walking, but they plodded ahead as we hung back. Chris and I watched as the man dipped below the car window and then reappeared no longer wearing a shirt. We both asked the other girls to stop but they went on. They were about 20 feet from him, and we waited maybe forty feet away when the guy leaped out of the car totally naked, jumping up and down, and yelling, “I’m gonna get you.” We all started screaming, huddling together, and trying to decide which way to run: back up the hill and farther away from our homes, or into the meadow. Our terrified screams must have satisfied the guy. He hopped back into his sedan and drove away. We all ran home, breathless and scared. When I think about it now, it’s hilarious, but it wasn’t at the time. We were traumatized for months. We never let that incident injure our love for the park.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
My proudest moment as a parent came at Lake Newport. My teenage sons learned how to canoe one summer. It wasn’t just that they learned how to canoe; it was that they learned how to cooperate. They found out they had to communicate and cooperate to get anywhere on the lake. That thought still makes me smile.
Carrie Lengyel Randall
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Crack the Whip
Mill Creek MetroParks Photo Courtesy of The
My favorite memories of Mill Creek Park include iceskating at Lake Glacier. My parents would drop off us and pick us up. Weâ€™d fling each other half way across the lake when we played crack the whip. Later, weâ€™d warm our freezing toes by the burning logs of the campfire.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
What’s in a Name? It was a long time ago. Photos were brown and cream with mold spots on them. There in the photos were ladies with bonnets and boys with suspenders. All were rowing boats and canoes across Lake Macachee. Mac-A-Chee came to be named from three families, MacDonald, Anderson and Cheetz, a nickname for one of the neighborhood women. Lake Mac-A-Chee- Drive was a gravel and dirt, one-lane road with potholes and two pullovers. The doctors in Youngstown came out to the country and put up some summer cottages on the lane facing the lake. It was their retreat, a respite from the busy city. Then times changed and houses were built on the lane, finally a baker’s dozen. And great rains came and washed through the run. An earthen dam held back the water of a new lake, Lake Baytos. But the lake never really held and a marsh was left behind with only pools for minnows and stands of cattails, home to Spring Peepers. In the middle of the 1970’s there were floods throughout Mahoning County. The National Guard put sand bags along the Mill Creek to contain the flood waters. This was the end of Baytos Lake, and all that was left were muddy banks after the earthen dam collapsed. Today, there is just a mere trickle that runs through the Anderson-Macachee Run which connects to the Lake Newport Wetlands. Lake Mac-A-Chee Drive was changed to Macachee Drive to make writing and spelling easier for residents and also to head off the occasional driver, wearing suspenders, who comes down the lane looking for the lake that he used to swim in when he was a boy. Now, the only ones using the stream are the raccoon family, the wild turkeys, and the doe and her fawn stopping for a sip.
Peggy Panko Machingo
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
First Steps When I was a child of 7 or 8 years, I was forbidden to go into Mill Creek Park by myself. Our family had built a beautiful home on a small rise above West Cohasset Drive with our backyard abutting the park. A park path ran parallel to our property line and eventually snaked its way down to the road. It was very secluded then, no other houses had been built near that park trail.
dOne morning, I decided to take a walk all by myself. I sat for a while on a log that had fallen on the crest of the hill right behind the house, and then as I grew braver, I started east down the path to the park road. I had only been walking on the road for about five minutes enjoying my independence and loving the view of Lake Cohasset, when a park police car came up behind me and stopped next to me. A very kind policeman rolled down his window and asked if I was lost. “No.” I answered very confidently, “Where do you live?” he asked. Up there.” I pointed toward the hill. “Does your mother know you’re down here? “No.” was my hesitant reply. “You know, it’s not safe for a little girl to be walking alone in the park.” “I know.” I said. “I want you to go straight home.” “OK.” He watched me for a minute as I obeyed. Off I went up the hill, I never dared breathe a word to my parents about my first of many park adventures.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
I grew up a couple of blocks from Bears Den Road that bordered on the Mill Creek Park for a mile or more, so I had easy access. Remember ‘Witch’s Cave’? It was basically a crack in a rock wall near the old “Silver Bridge.” Some claimed that that narrow crack would open up into a large room if a person could only descend far enough back into it. My friends and I made several attempts to explore the cave when I was still elementary-school age, probably in 1962 or 1963. We tried flashlights and candles, but they just didn’t give enough light. Finally one of my friends,
Greg Colvin, brought a quart of charcoal lighter over to my house with a great idea. We wound old rags around some sticks to make torches--just like in the movies. They emitted plenty of light, except that once we were in the cave, an unexpected consequence occurred. A lot of fairly large, long-legged spiders lived in that cave. On previous excursions, they always had left us alone and we had done the same. This time the heat from those torches was evidently too much for the spiders above us: they began jumping down on us like a hard rain--probably hundreds of them. In a panic, we started working our way out of the cave. Meanwhile, the rags from our torches began unraveling and threatened to burn us or to light our clothes on fire. We rushed out brushing off spiders and scratching all over, leaving some still-burning rags back in the cave. I never tried to explore “Witch’s Cave” again—and it has been sealed off for many years.
Working At Mill Creek Park
My first job at 14 was on the parking crew at Idora Park. If I had to work during the day--when everyone else was at work—I either rode my bike or cut through Mill Creek Park. Hitching a ride home with someone was no problem in the evening.
The walk through the park was so pleasant, even though I had to cross some slippery stepping stones, that I soon quit riding my bike. The walking trails were always shady and cool in the summer and the scenery so beautiful that once I embarked on such a trek, it was impossible to stay in a bad mood for very long. Like some other friends, I learned a lot working at Idora, namely how to drink and flirt with girls. Back in those days we still had sock hops, adult dances, and polka festivals. Most of the guys in the parking crew were older and more experienced than I, but, by watching them, I learned how to flirt with even the older girls at the dances. They usually didn’t date boys as dorky as I looked back then. At the sock hops, we danced to rock ‘n’ roll records played by DJ’s. One of the bands I remember playing in the Ball Room at Idora was Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh’s, famous for their only hit “Woolly Bully.” At dances and polka festivals, adults were allowed to bring in coolers full of adult refreshments. When someone pulled up later in the evening and wanted a “close up spot,” we would ask if they could spare a couple of beers or some wine and trade “VIP” parking for some booze to enjoy during slower times of the night as we listened to “Frank Yankovic and the Yanks.” Sometimes in lieu of alcohol, we also received cash tips. My friends, Bob Sabo and Frank Horvat, also had first jobs at the park in Kiddieland. They laughingly explain how they learned how to smoke while working there. I guess we make Idora Park sound like “The House of the Rising Sun,” but it was definitely fun.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Photo courtesy of Jean Rhoads
Sunny summer day. 1969. High school sweethearts and a blanket near Lake Newport. Mr. Lee Gruber, Chaney Music Teacher, worked in summer as a Park Policeman. He caught us just as I was getting to â€œsecond base.â€? I wish he had taught summer school instead.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Sweet 16 I reached my sweet sixteen birthday. My parents acted as if it were no big deal. That evening Dad announced we were taking a ride. Some birthday, I thought. As he drove toward Idora Park, my heart fluttered. I couldn’t wait to ride the Jack Rabbit and the bumper cars. This might be a wonderful day after all. But Dad didn’t turn at Idora. Where was he going? What could possibly be more fun that my beloved amusement park? He proceeded to Pioneer Pavilion. The parking lot was empty. No one was anywhere in sight. “ Oh great,” I groaned to myself. Dad, Mom, and brother Nick piled out of the car. Naturally, I lagged behind, showing my boredom and disappointment. Dad urged me to follow him. I pulled open the pavilion door to a roaring cheer of Happy Birthday! Everyone who meant anything to me in my sixteen years of life was on hand to celebrate. That night I received my Artley flute that I played all my years in the Wilson High Senior Band/Orchestra. I will never forget the balloons, the streamers, the cake, and that wonderful party at Pioneer Pavilion in Mill Creek Park.
Love at Cohasset Falls
Photo Courtesy of Jean Rhoads
My first serious boyfriend and I went for a walk on a trail near the Lake Cohasset Waterfall. We found a tree and there he carved our initials “ D & S” inside a heart. Water splashing against the rocks, sun filtering through the tall leafy trees, and his eyes looking ardently into mine made the event wonderfully romantic. Suddenly, he kissed me so sweetly and tenderly. We talked about marriage that day. If I hadn’t moved away, who knows what would have happened? Recently, I tried to find that tree, but the years distorted our initials. Though time may have altered the symbol of our young love, I will always remember that enchanted day in Mill Creek Park.
Skating at Newport
Lake Newport had frozen over and my ice skates were sharpened, thanks to Dad. Weâ€™d sit by the bonfire on the hill to warm up when toes grew numb from the cold. Following Dadâ€™s instructions, I walked tippy-toe up the hill to avoid nicking up my blades. Good advice for climbing uphill...but not so much for the downhill trek. On my return to the ice, I continued on tip toes downhill, but soon gravity took over. My creep turned into a fast walk then into a run until I hit the ice going full speed ahead. I collided with another skater. Down I went, ramming my front teeth into the ice. Lots of blood and my loosened teeth wiggled. Then Dad arrived and whisked me off to the dentist, who opened his office especially for me. Sipping through a straw and not biting into anything substantial for a few weeks gave my teeth time to retighten. I was lucky but I never skated on Lake Newport again.
Sally Kello Meeks
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Summer Sun, Winter Moon Mill Creek Park provided us with year-round activities. In the summertime, my siblings and I would eat breakfast, pack brown bag lunches, and head out to the park for all-day adventures. Usually, the day began in the shelter house at the Kirkmere Recreation Area with a game of checkers or chess with friends. Then, it was off to play softball, use the playground equipment, run through the sprinklers, or be involved with the craft project for the day. Park Counselors organized all of the various activities. When time permitted, we’d take off riding our bikes with abandon. Eventually, we’d head home for dinner, anxious to talk about our day and await tomorrow’s excursion in the park. In the winter, we’d head down to the tennis courts to ice skate. The park flooded the courts then and nearby a huge fire burned warmly, with seating all around. I couldn’t wait to finish dinner and homework, so I could go ice skating with Judy Senzik, Joanie Croysdale, and Betsy Faith. It was really special when we’d skate beneath a full moon – the brisk cold; crunchy, “sparkly” snow and the brightly lit night sky. I can still feel the sense of peace, friendship and joy we shared surrounded by beauty.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
About six years ago I took my fiveyear-old grandson on his first tour of Mill Creek Park. We took a picnic lunch and visited some of my old haunts. The goldfish pond housed only carp, turtles, and geese. I felt sad and missed the neon colors of all the goldfish that used to live there. At Lake Glacier we practiced skipping stones. We played in the water at the bottom of Cohasset Falls. We walked around the Wetlands at Lake Newport. I longed for the old days when we rented canoes at the boathouse. Remember the daffodils in spring? We ended the day at Rocky Ridge’s playground. When did it become Wick Recreation Center? Oh, the nostalgia was thick that day. It brought back so many memories. My dad used to tell us stories about swimming with friends in the creek under the bridge by McCollum Road. The water was so cold. As a little girl, I would spend two weeks during the summer at my Aunt Dorothy’s in Canfield. This was my “country” vacation. On Wednesday evenings we would drive to
Mill Creek Park to the “Spring” by the rock garden to get fresh water because their well water wasn’t good for drinking. Dad taught me to ice skate at Lake Newport. He took me out to a quiet part of the lake and shoveled off the snow. My mom from Scotland never learned how to skate. She tried to learn with me, but ended up sitting on a tree limb sticking out of the water until Dad rescued her. Later, I always looked forward to ice-skating at Lake Glacier with friends and sitting around the fire. It seemed to take forever for the temperatures to get cold enough to freeze the lake. We’d sled ride at “Rocky Ridge”, Ski Hill by the Flats, and at the Fresh-Air Camp Hill near the Goldfish Pond. The sled careened wildly down that steep hill, across the dirt trail, down the path through the trees and out onto the frozen pond. Scary and so thrilling! Many summer days my friends from Scheetz Street and I would pack a lunch and head for the park—either hiking or on bikes—to spend the day exploring. We’d always come home by suppertime.
Patty Rogan Moran
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Sled Riding at the Hill near Chestnut Hill Pavilion A thick blanket of fresh white snow covered everything in sight. I was in first grade. My parents had forbidden us to ride our sled down an off-trail, steep hill not really meant for sled riding near Chestnut Hill Pavilion. It was right across the street from my house and I just couldn’t stop looking at it. My brother yelled at me as I went out the back door, “You are going to get into big trouble.” My parents had gone to the store, and I wasn’t about to listen to my bossy older brother. So, when my sled went out of control and overturned with me partially beneath it, I tried not to cry and ignored the throbbing pain in my wrist. I went home and pretended that nothing had happened. But the pain in my wrist grew worse and worse. It was my right wrist and I was right handed, so I decided to try to be left handed. That night, my dad came into my room while I was sleeping and moved my right hand. I woke up screaming. The next morning it was off to the emergency room for a cast.
Mill Creek Childhood
Photo courtesy of The Mill Creek MetroParks
I grew up across the street from Mill Creek Park. For 29 years I woke up to the beauty of it all, every day. When I was very young, our family would picnic across the street. We also held neighborhood picnics at Chestnut Hill Pavilion. I spent every summer weekday at Kirkmere Playground (now Scholl Recreation Area) at the “arch” (so named because there used to be an archery range there, so I’m told). Before I was allowed to cross the street by myself (Bears Den was busy), my mom would cross me in the morning and then meet me to cross me at lunchtime. Then we’d repeat the same routine in the afternoon. That’s where I first met Mark Mancuso and his brothers,
as well as many other neighborhood kids who became classmates Activities included games of checkers, “washers” and baseball, hikes, and just hanging out at the pavilion with all the other kids and the playground leaders or counselors. As we grew older we moved away from the playground to other areas of the park. We’d sneak down to the Stepping Stones, cross the Silver Bridge, hike up Suicide Hill or explore Witch’s Cave. Other days, we’d walk to the Old Mill and look at all the creepy preserved specimens. Some days we’d walk to Idora Park for French fires. In our early years we’d skate at Kirkmere on the flooded tennis and basketball courts and sit by the fire. Then in high school, we skated at Lake Glacier. Many Sunday afternoons were spent watching parochial school football games at Rock Ridge. We’d also watch the guys play football down at the Flats. In Spring, we appreciated the beauty of the Rock Garden and Daffodil Hill. Now, we take pleasure in the beauty and tranquility of the Rose Garden. I still enjoy riding through the park on any and all roads, especially in the summer when it’s so cool and shaded. My kids have always been amazed that I drive through the park and never worry about getting lost!
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Photo courtesy of Jean Rhoads
My life as a singer /songwriter in New York City has taken me into a land of concrete and glass. A contrast to my childhood and coming of age amidst the lush beauty of Mill Creek Park. The first thing I do on every visit home is come to the park. Mill Creek Park never changes. It holds you in its arms and welcomes you back. Revisiting a well-known trail allowed me to revive my youthful memories. I descended into the throat of Ax Factory Ravine. Even the name has a hauntingly beautiful sound to it. When the wooden bridge that crosses the run appeared before me, I knew exactly where I was. As I crossed the bridge, I looked into the run to see a couple of black nose dace darting in the current. To my east stood the Arch Bridge that crosses the run as it empties into Lake Cohassett. I have walked this trail hundreds of times. It winds its way along the west side of Lake Cohassett. I said hello to
about a half dozen people and gave directions to a couple looking for Lanterman Mill. The West Cohassett trail is beautiful. It heads south along the hill and crosses another run, where it moves into a green flatland and Mill Creek starts to look like a creek again upon my entry into the gorge. Here lies my favorite part of the park. The trail passes Witchâ€™s Cave. Then the Silver Bridge crosses the creek to Hiawatha Flats where the road heads uphill towards Idora Park and the Old Mill. My fishing buddy, Michael and I use a particular fly up in the Catskills to catch carp. Mill Creek has some huge carp. I was sorry I didnâ€™t have my Fenwick rod, because Mill Creek is perfect fly water. When you catch a carp on a fly, you are in for the ride of your life. The fly, just for the record, is called the Bread Crust. The trail continues on the West Gorge Trail, makes the bend, and from there the stepping-stones that cross the creek become visible. I have been baptized in the creek many times, voluntarily and involuntarily, trying to ford the creek on these stones that are actually starting to wash away in my lifetime. As the trail follows the creek upstream, it makes another bend and I find myself opposite Sulphur Springs. Once there was a hotel here for people to come and drink the water. I remember drinking the water when I was a young kid. We used to call it egg water since it had a strong mineral taste. The gorge grows quite steep here, and the trail passes a huge bear cave I had never noticed before. Then it continues under Umbrella Rock to the point where an extraordinary view of Lanterman Falls opens up before me. This must be the spot where Volney Rogers first saw the falls when he rode his horse along the creek all those years ago. The trail ends just ahead where the Route 62 Bridge crosses the gorge near Lanterman Mill. Mill Creek Park welcomes me back and holds me tight until I must release its grasp and return to my current life.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Glacier Hopes and Dreams
I proposed to my wife Georgia on the evening of February 7, 1967, at 8:30 p.m. We were sitting in my 1964 Chevy Impala in the parking lot overlooking Lake Glacier and watching the ice skaters. Needless to say, she accepted. Georgie confessed later that she wasn’t as surprised as I thought. I had picked her up at the Youngstown Airport earlier that evening. When she stepped off the plane, she spied the bulge (just the size of a ring box) in the pocket of my leather jacket. I asked her mother for her hand in marriage and told her that I intended to give Georgie the ring on Easter, but I couldn’t wait that long. I’d had the ring since mid-January. Waiting and patience were never virtues of mine and still aren’t. That was the start of something big for me. The following year on May 18, 1968, we were taking pictures with our wedding party at Lake Glacier. It all worked out very well for almost 38 years, until her passing in January 2006.
Tina Mastronestis Novit
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Applesauce and Snow
I left my home in Youngstown nearly thirty years ago to live on an island on the Eastern Seaboard in the Low Country of South Carolina. My new home is a sultry world of giant live oaks dripping in Spanish moss surrounded by an ocean teeming with shrimp boats and frolicking dolphins. It’s a very good place to be. I live in what is considered to be a nature preserve. Is it any wonder I would choose such a place to make my home when my roots were planted in Mill Creek Park, the Green Cathedral, where I spent the first half of my life? Many of my fondest memories of Mill Creek Park include those pleasures I had to leave behind when I came south. I miss them most because they simply don’t exist where I now live. We have no fireflies here to dance through the darkness of night, and I have only memories of velvety grass beneath my feet because the grass here is brittle and
full of biting bugs. My memories of Mill Creek Park first began at the Harris’ home on McCollum Road, which was beautifully tucked into the park. We spent our every moment playing outside in the fragrant air. By day we breathed the freshness of the enchanted woods as we explored the little streams, ran barefoot through the grass, and rolled down hills. By night we chased fireflies and each other in the moonlight. As I grew older the park became my daily destination. There I rode my bike, did my homework, hiked the endless trails, sailed small boats, drove my car, ate picnics, played golf, ice skated, and cross-country skied. The park is where I was and where I loved to be. My favorite memory of Mill Creek Park is of cross-country skiing on virgin snow. We blazed our own trails where no human tracks existed. Even the faint marks of a squirrel rarely scratched the pristine surface of our breathtaking landscape. The extraordinary silence evoked a sacred place with only the sound of our skis quietly moving through the snow. I always packed a jar of applesauce and spoons in my small backpack for these cross-country outings. Midway through our trek, I would scoop little individual bowls into the snow and pour applesauce over each one to eat with our spoons. These were true snow cones: just the most wonderful way to eat out of the snowy earth. I remember the tranquility of being where there was not another single soul and how good the fresh air felt filling my lungs. An amazing sense of joy and peace permeated the atmosphere. The beauty of it all made me cry and laugh at once. Who I am today and the lifestyle I have chosen are products of the many years I made my home and the roots that were nurtured in “God’s backyard,” the Green Cathedral that is Mill Creek Park.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Nature Lessons Until I was two, my family lived off of Bears Den Road near Mill Creek Park. My aunt and uncle lived two houses away. Even after we moved to Austintown, we visited often. My earliest Park memory is tagging along with my older cousin Patty to search and find her lost bracelet on nearby Old Orchard Trail. She also “saved my life” when I found myself precariously perched on a huge flat, downhill-slanted boulder at Witch’s Cave. One day in summer 1968, Mom and Dad took my younger sister, brother, and me to the Old Mill Museum. We hiked the gorge “down creek.” While exploring beyond Sulphur Springs, where Mill Creek is easily approachable, we found bones—the skeleton of a snapping turtle! Who didn’t marvel at the hundreds of specimens exhibited at the museum? We quickly gathered it up and ran back to the Old Mill with our treasure. We wanted to become contributors to the collection, complete with our names on a “donated by” label. Although the man at the Mill was gracious enough about our find, he frustrated us by saying (with a bit of a smirk) several times, “You know it’s dead, don’t you?” Looking back, I imagine that the countless overly excited kids he dealt with everyday helped to forge his mischievous de-
meanor. The next summer, at the end of our week at Boy Scout Camp at Camp Stambaugh, I captured a beautiful brownblotched snake hiding beneath the bridge across Indian Run. Based on the habitat, I guessed it to be a water snake. But to verify my identification, I carried it to the Mill. That same man told me that I had an eastern milk snake. He told me that he’d been very interested in snakes since he was a boy. This led him to become a Reptile Study Merit Badge Counselor. His name was Mr. Whitehouse Like many others, I cut my teeth on dinosaurs. My interest in non-extinct animals, reptiles especially, and nature overall, was growing. I was far too shy to bring it up myself, but my mom told him that I’d love to have his job. He replied that I’d better be patient because he planned to be there for a while. That late summer/early autumn, I earned my badge under him and began to attend his Sunday afternoon nature walks. A whole new world opened up to me: the natural and cultural history of the 2000+ acres of Mill Creek Park. Fast forward 15 years: After high school, college, many temporary park jobs, life’s ups and downs, and PATIENCE, a major miracle occurred. The Park chose me to follow Bill Whitehouse in the position of Park Naturalist. No one, certainly not me, can ever really fill this Renaissance man’s shoes. But, since 1985, I’ve tried to help others create their own Park memories. Of course, people continue to bring in specimens: You might occasionally catch me being mischievous, with kids and adults alike! Since my grandfathers emigrated from Slovakia and Poland to work in the steel mills along the Mahoning, I like to say that the river brought me here. Its tributary and environs, named after a grist mill, and protected by Volney Rogers, kept me. More than 1,000 “Mill Creeks” grace the United States. We are so fortunate: the premier one is ours.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
It was late May of my senior year of high school 1968. Some of my classmates from Niles McKinley celebrated “Senior Skip Day” by heading to Mill Creek Park. We rented the big flat-bottom pontoon boat from the boat house at Lake Newport. It was extremely hot so we decided to cool off. Billy Bohach, Tommy Crane, Billy Scott, and I had just hit the water when we heard the “whoop whoop whoop” of sirens. The Park Police boat was coming straight for us. We scrambled onto the boat and the officer herded us to shore. He told us, “There’s no swimming in Mill Creek Park.” Then, he ordered us to go to Southside Hospital for a tetanus shot. My arm still hurt at graduation.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Mill Creek Parkâ€™s Influence on my Life Mill Creek Park has always been a part of my life. When I think of Youngstown or my years growing up there, Mill Creek Park immediately comes to mind and brings a smile along with the many warm and rich memories of the park. To say the least, Mill Creek Park has had some of the greatest positive effects on my quality of life and my career. I would not have even thought of pursuing a career in forestry and natural resources conservation if it had not been for my experiences in Mill Creek Park.
From my birth in 1952, until shortly after finishing college in 1975, except for short leaves to military active duty and out-of-state college, I lived in my mom and dad’s house on Eleanor Avenue, on Youngstown’s West Side, just off Mayfield Avenue and halfway between my two regular entrances to Mill Creek Park – Milton and Lakeview Avenues. Growing up there meant that the majority of my playtime occurred in the park. In Mill Creek Park, I played, explored, studied, learned, loved, picnicked, hiked, biked, boated, fished, sledded, ice skated, and communed with nature, friends, and acquaintances. Once I reached driving age—whether heading north, south, east, or west—I rarely drove anywhere without forcing a route through the park, windows rolled down to enjoy its serenity, freshness, and beauty. Passengers in my car would complain, “This isn’t the shortest route” and I’d respond, “But it’s the best route!” During my teens and early twenties, I worked for Mill Creek Park, first in Idora Park’s Kiddieland as a ride operator, next on the 36-hole Golf Course as a fairways tractor operator, and later on the Trail Crews as a foreman. Since I moved away from the Youngstown area in 1976, no visit back has been complete without a jaunt through Mill Creek Park, not only to experience the park’s many attributes, but also for the myriad of great memories that well up from deep within. Earliest Memory: Park near home at Lakeview and Milton Avenue Entrances My first memory dates from infancy. On a cool sunny day, at the grassy flat on the south side of Calvary Run Creek, near the junction of Lakeview Avenue and Calvary Run Drive, my mother wades in ankle-deep water enjoying the coolness of the water and the shade of the trees. She often walked my two older brothers and me, all of us of pre-school age, into the park. Periodically she would tell the story of taking my oldest brother down steep Milton Avenue into the park, she by foot and he on his tri-
cycle, his feet coming off the pedals and then free-wheeling down the sidewalk with her frantically screaming and chasing in pursuit, catching and stopping him just before reaching the Calvary Run Drive intersection! I think that’s why I remember being with her far more often at the base of Lakeview Avenue at Calvary Run Drive. Lakeview Avenue was not nearly as steep as Milton, and it was also more tree-shaded. Washington School Picnic at Slippery Rock Another early memory was the annual Washington Elementary School Picnic at Slippery Rock Pavilion. Eating pot-luck dinners families would bring and share, introducing teachers and school friends to parents, playing field games, wading and splashing in Mill Creek, experiencing the earliest of grade school “puppy love” back there. In fact, I carved my initials and my girl friend’s in the smooth gray bark of an old beech tree.
Photo courtesy of The Mill Creek MetroParks
Fishing in Lake Glacier I fished from the banks of Lake Glacier, first with my father and brothers, and then as I grew a little older with my neighborhood friends. Once the Lake Glacier Boathouse was built, we would sometimes rent a boat to fish, but were careful to stay away from the dangerous falls. Often we would climb an old rugged trail down to the base of those falls, fish that pool area, wade the pool in search of crawfish to use as bait, and even play in the water splashing down from the falls. There and elsewhere throughout the park, I was always in awe of the stone works craftsman of years past had built, including the dams on each of the lakes, the various pavilions, and the Parapet Bridge. Later, I felt privileged to restore some of the stonework while working on the park’s trail crews. Winter Memories During pre-school and grade school winters, we sledded down Lakeview Avenue and Calvary Run Drive which the park would close to vehicular traffic. At the top of Lakeview Avenue, a warming campfire blazed, and many of us brought whole potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil to bake in the fire and eat during breaks from sledding – what a heartening treat those potatoes were! It seemed to take forever to walk up Calvary Run Drive, but the long sled ride down was worth it. Lakeview Avenue, though a shorter run, was much steeper, and therefore more exciting, especially while negotiating the turn at the bottom to avoid winding up in Calvary Run Creek. Once a neighbor’s sled’s pull rope became tangled around his steering board, and he wound up crashing into that creek. I think his pride was injured more than this body. Winter memories also included skating on Lake Glacier, playing hockey at a very early age and using the park’s hockey equipment, including the large heavy green wooden goals. As I grew older, I’d skate down the darker
plowed lanes, holding hands with girlfriends. Once when a very large group of us gathered out on the lake, we heard the ice sound a large and ominous crack. Everyone scattered in a panic. Hiking and Biking on the Roads and Foot Trails In other seasons, we hiked and biked on the roads and foot trails of Mill Creek Park. Sometimes we would end up at Lanterman’s Mill and Falls, usually via the rugged foot trails, a long way from home for a young boy. I was intrigued by the animal and bird specimens and old artifacts on display at the “Old Mill.” I remember hiking and biking the foot trails on either side of Mill Creek, often stopping to wade, or to climb some boulder out in the creek and just sit, sun, and watch nature or passersby. I also remember climbing the large mulberry tree in June on the grassy flat at the base of Milton Avenue and gorging myself on berries and returning home purple-stained and happy. To this day, I display in my home a collection of framed posters and artist renditions of Lanterman’s Mill and Falls and the Silver Suspension Bridge. The Meadow at Fellows Riverside Garden, the Old Log Cabin, and the I-680 I remember being with John Hingle, a grade school friend from McKinley Avenue, the street adjacent to the meadow that later became Fellows Riverside Gardens. We climbed the steep, rugged hill behind The Old Log Cabin, ending up in the meadow above. We made our way to the far north end of the meadow, sitting down under a large shade tree on a brilliant blue-sky day, and looked out over the new I-680 expressway, just watching traffic go by and enjoying the view from that hill. This and other places in Mill Creek Park often made this young imaginative boy conjure up images of these places as old gathering sites for Native Americans. Idora Park When I was still in grade school, my two friends and I
biked all the way to Idora Park, parked our bikes in the parking lot across the street, and spent some time inside the park. When we left the park, my two friends’ bikes had been stolen. I was offended and embarrassed that my old hand-me-down Huffy bicycle was snubbed by the thieves! My Dad’s employer, Wean-United Engineering, hosted an annual company picnic at Idora, providing free entrance, unlimited ride tickets, and unlimited ice cream in those small Dixie cups with wooden spoons – I’ve been an ice cream junkie ever since! I loved the Jack Rabbit and Wildcat rollercoasters. One of my friends, who wasn’t all that certain that he wanted to go on such a scary ride, put his head in my lap as we crested the big hill on the Jack Rabbit! At those Wean-United park days, I can still remember my mom and dad dancing in the great ballroom on that magnificent hard-maple floor with the Mike Roncone Band playing, the music emanating from the building and filling the outdoors. Kiddieland Job When I was 16, I worked in Kiddieland at Idora. I was a ride operator, which was usually fun until you had to rinse out one of the spinning rides after a rider got sick. Once when I was operating the Kiddieland train ride, with my long, lanky legs and knees protruding from the driver’s seat, I took a curve too quickly and derailed the train. No one was hurt; the mishap just delayed the completion of the ride. One of the parents rushed to help me, and we lifted the heavy engine back onto the tracks. But before I could get my hands out from beneath the engine, it settled down a little further, smashing one of my fingers so that I required stitches – I had become a (probably the only) Kiddieland casualty! While working at Kiddieland, I tried to take off every Friday night so I could attend the dances staged by local rock bands in Idora’s Ballroom.
The Flats and Rock Ridge Mill Creek Park was also a social gathering place for large groups of friends. I spent many lazy weekends down at the “Flats” by the Silver Suspension Bridge, tossing a Frisbee or a football or just lying on a blanket and talking. We would also gather at “Rock Ridge” (later Wick Recreation Area) to socialize at its pavilion or play basketball, short-holes golf, or tennis. Mill Creek Golf Course During the summer of 1973, I worked at Mill Creek’s 36hole golf course designed by Donald Ross. I drove a Ford 2000 tractor pulling a large gang of rotary mowers, and mowing all the fairways. I enjoyed this much more than Kiddieland because it gave me so many more opportunities to experience and enjoy nature, except when golf balls bouncing off my tractor interrupted such pleasures. I often saw foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, deer, hawks, herons, and song birds of all sorts. Foreman of Trail Crew Finally, in the summers of 1974 and ‘75 before and after my senior year at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, I was privileged to work as the foreman of one of the two trail crews that Mill Creek Park operated. We cleared felled trees from trails, improved areas of poor drainage, and repaired much of the stonework that had been placed by earlier craftsmen along the trails. We worked mainly with hand tools (axes, picks, shovels, sledges, wheelbarrows, etc.), chainsaws, gravel, and perforated drainage pipe. One day a member of my crew was cutting a felled tree that had obstructed a trail with the chainsaw. Suddenly he threw down the saw, started running, and yelled, “Bees!” In a panic, we all scattered thinking that bees were after us. Then we suddenly came to our senses and ran to his aid. He was okay, but I gave him “light duty” for the rest of the day.
Suzanne Davidson Smart
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
In the spring of 1956, when I was 6, my parents moved from Wickliffe to Youngstown. Our new house bordered Mill Creek Park. My mom had found the house while on a driving lesson in a low traffic area. I remember very little of the frenzy my parents must have been feeling the day of the big move, but my mom sent my younger sisters and me off with my dad for our first park excursion, even before we reached the new house. Dad took us to the Lake Cohasset Waterfalls. We pulled into the little street-side parking space and stepped out close to a steep ravine on the path leading to the overlook. Nervously, we stepped onto the concrete pad above the falls feeling that we could topple over with the waterfalls at any moment. Years later, the park erected a fence so people wouldnâ€™t do just that. We stood in wonder at the majesty of this compelling force of nature. The pounding water echoed around us. We found the path directing us to the base of the waterfall. Soon, my sisters and I were skipping from one big flat rock to another avoiding the puddles and the spray whenever we came too close to the waterfall. The Cohasset Waterfall remains one of my most powerful memories. We visited it often on our regular walks as we explored the park. My dad, binoculars round his neck and bird, tree, and wildflower books in his pockets, led us on weekly treks. We followed the paths and trails to Cascade
Ravine on Cascade Run, to Lanterman Falls on Mill Creek, to the Lily Pond, to Upper and Lower Meadows where Bear Creek Run flows, and to Calvary Run as it meets Lake Glacier. As I reflect on the magnificence of growing up on the edge of Mill Creek Park and its many wonders, I realize how fortunate the Youngstown community is to have this gift of nature to share with families and children. I now live on an old country road in the West Virginia hills. Until very recently I daily passed a waterfall graced with mountain laurel and nestled into a curve of the winding road. But in the last months the county installed new sewer lines and destroyed this natural setting. Progress. But it saddens me to see the wonder and beauty of a waterfall destroyed. It heightens my awareness of how important it is for communities to maintain natural places that are safe from the encroachment of urban growth.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
The Idora Ballroom
Watching my parents dance at the Idora Park Ballroom is one of my favorite memories. I can still see them going round the floor dancing to the Beer Barrel Polka. My mother graced the ballroom’s hardwoods until the park closed in 1984. On the day that my mother passed, she had one of the nursing aides dress her up, with jewelry and all, as if she were going dancing at Idora.
Coney Island Architecture Style Built circa 1910 Major Remodeling & Enclosure 1955 The Park and Falls Railway Company opened their Terminal Park in 1899 to encourage ridership in off-peak periods. They soon renamed the amusement park “Idora” and added attractions including an open air dance pavilion as seen in this historic view. Its dances attracted huge crowds from all parts of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Every Bomb Shelter Needs a Frog
Mill Creek Park served as a backdrop for much of my life as a child and into high school. My motherâ€™s sister and her family lived up the street and through a large strip of woods. My aunt and uncle had three kids, one of whom shared my unique ability to get hurt doing practically nothing. In the summer of 1963 I was nine and my cousin Nicky was about eleven. We were both recuperating from Photo courtesy of Jean Rhoads injuries that barred us from swimming: at the time stitches had to be kept dry for a week to ten days. My two other cousins and my little sister, unable to empathize with our situation, went without us. Nicky and I decided it was a good day to build a bomb shelter, very fashionable thanks to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We decided that none of the others would be allowed entry. Letting them fry in the radiation of a nuclear bomb seemed suitable retribution for their enjoying themselves
without us. Off we went into the woods, Nicky and I, with a Maxwell House coffee can. My memories of the park may be idealized, but to me every tree had apples, every bush had berries, every rock had a story, and every creek had frogs. We inspected all the rock formations, caves, and crevices large enough for our needs and stopped along the way to collect supplies. While crossing a creek, we noticed a few frogs and figured every bomb shelter should have frogs. The shallow water was crystal clear so catching two was not a challenge. Neither of us knew how to determine the sex of frogs, or even thought much about it. We figured that one must be male, the other female. We named them Nick and Lou, after Nicky’s mom and dad. Once again we set off, this time with Nick and Lou in the Maxwell House coffee can, hoping that they’d be able to reproduce if the new world needed frogs. All day we made plans and talked about how being crafty would pay off, laughing at the stupidity of our siblings with their smooth limbs free of bandages and scars who wasted the day swimming. As the sun sank lower, its hot, white heat becoming warm and golden, we realized we were hungry. We knew we could survive on our berries and apples, but we didn’t feel like starting this regimen yet. We set off for home instead, reasoning that we could continue our shelter the next day, and not breathe a word to anyone about our plans. When we arrived, we placed Nick and Lou on a shelf in the garage and went in to eat dinner. About three months later Aunt Lou came in from the garage yelling, “What the hell is in this coffee can?”
Kukla Harris Vera
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Seasons There wasn’t an adult in sight. Now that was sweet. On top of that, we had the world’s best playground right in our backyard. Living at the end of McCollum Road, our end was Mill Creek Park. Of course, for all of us in the neighborhood that was really just the beginning. Somedays we’d step stones through the creek that ran from our backyard deep into the park. There were tadpoles and salamanders; sometimes you’d get lucky and find a frog or turtle. We knew them all intimately. We didn’t need a biology class to discover these wonders; they were right in front of us
on our daily treks through the park. We’d follow the stones to Birch Hill Cabin and spy a bit, watching to see who might be having a private party there. Or we’d take the high road, sometimes climbing down – or being pushed – steep cliffs where tree roots jetting out of the incline could break your fall. We drank spring water from a pipe installed by a much older boy scout in the neighborhood. I wonder if it’s still there. Sometimes we’d head over to the fish pond – feed the goldfish and carp and the ducks. When I was little, I thought walking all the way around the pond was just such a big, big walk. When we got older, we’d run around that pond in no time – in fact, sometimes, we’d even bicycle around it while those people feeding the fish glared at us. We knew our routes, the paths that took us to the Rock Garden, the “Big Falls”, the Old Mill, and Lake Glacier. It was extraordinary that you could be ten years old and wake up each morning to an adventure of your own making. There was nothing structured about our days in Mill Creek Park, but they were filled with a kind of magic that to a child seemed the simple norm. We’d take the path along the stream to Pioneer Pavilion, under a canopy of trees where birds rhythmically chirped. We’d throw rocks into the water below, watching and listening for the splash and the sometimes surprised scurry of a nearby creature. We resembled a band of pirates or fairies. What an amazing way to grow up! Once we arrived at Pioneer Pavilion, we’d cross over to the “Big Falls” of Lake Cohasset. Even after taking a trip to Niagara Falls, I always still considered the “Big Falls” beautiful and fabulous. We’d play for hours on the rocks as the water hummed persistently around us. Once each summer, Mr. Lindsey Vickers, our very own naturalist, would lead us on a hike through the park. The hikes always began at Rock Ridge, officially James L. Wick Park.
Mr. Vickers told us stories about the flora and fauna – and right before our eyes, he’d ingest all kinds of plants that we believed could kill any person – making him seem almost supernatural. He knew what grew, why, and how. He had an almost magical connection to the park and to the creatures and plants that inhabited it. Rock Ridge was a natural place for him to find a band of ready and willing subjects to follow him through the park paths. Each summer, “The Ridge” was equipped with a counselor of each sex whose sole summer mission was to meet our needs. What did that mean during the 1960’s? Well, for me, it meant baseball teams, separate for boys and girls, two teams each divided by age. I was so thrilled the one year I was good enough to not only pitch softball for the “little team” but also for the “big team”. We’d practice each morning on the diamonds below the playground equipment and next to the great forest of the park where Mr. Vickers would start his hikes. I loved it more than anything. I was good at it and felt a sense of belonging – teammates on a mission to win in the Youngstown Parks and Recreation League. I must say my mom wasn’t as enthusiastic, accepting it but certainly never once coming to see her daughter play in a baseball game. But I can remember looking up toward the street during those morning practices, seeing our most un-fabulous aqua Rambler station wagon, with my cigar-smoking father cheering me on during practice. For a softball-loving girl in the 1960’s, that was quietly awesome. Rock Ridge was our day camp. After our morning practices, we’d go home for lunch and often return in the afternoon for any number of activities – from short holes to archery to crafts. My best friend, Fran Pietra, and I had the babysitting responsibility of our little brothers during those summer afternoons, so we’d head up to “The Ridge” with our three tykes in tow. There they’d swing, twirl
on an old-fashioned merry-go-round (long gone as it was deemed way too dangerous in today’s litigious society), slide, and do crafts. At summer’s end, a culminating activity for the little ones was a circus performance, with each of them enacting the role of a favorite circus animal. I once asked my Mom why she didn’t take us anywhere in the summer, you know load us up in the car and take us somewhere. She looked at me exasperated and said, “Where would I take you that could compete with what sits just beyond our house in Mill Creek Park?” Well, it took me almost a lifetime to realize how smart she was. Of course, we loved our annual pilgrimages to Idora Park – loved the Rapids – and the Labor Day Weekend extravaganza at the Canfield Fair. But for a kid free and loose in summer or after school or on weekends during the fall, winter, and spring, Mill Creek Park presented a wonderland. The fall leaves of the Park are as memorable to me now – after having moved away more than thirty years ago – as they were when I was a kid. There was no man-made order with the leaves in the park – no raking them into piles to burn at the stake – they decorated the world and then fell silently to become part of the paths and trails. On a cool, crisp autumn afternoon, you threw on a sweatshirt and headed for the “Big Falls” or the Fish Pond or the Old Mill, walking along the paths of fallen leaves beneath brilliantly laden branches, and you were transported. The contrast of a cardinal crossing over an adjacent path quietly reminded you of the colors of the park. Then came the snows of winter – the stalwart trees suddenly were cushioned under the silence of the snowfall. Shrubs became dancing ghosts and the glistening landscape blinded us during the daytime as we went sled riding down the hill above the Fish Pond, ran through the paths of the park, had snowball fights, or filled an open spot with a snow angel. The end of the day found us cold and soaked and glad of it all. Eventually,
we’d head back home, probably just short of frost bite, to pull off wet everything – boots, gloves, hats, scarves, snow pants, socks, jackets. Sometimes you had to go all the way down to your skin to be dry. The next day we did it all over again. Our mothers were relieved when the first buds of spring meant that the time to put away boots, gloves, snow pants, hats, and winter coats had arrived. Once again, Mill Creek Park found its own way of marking the season – tree branches bounced back after the months of ice and snow weighing them down. The park streams now freed of ice flowed freely along their curvy waterbeds. A blur of yellow along the banks and hills of Lake Newport made me glad that my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Pedlar, demanded that we memorize Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils,” and as in that poem the daffodils of Daffodil Hill were “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” If as a kid you have had the great fortune of Mill Creek Park in your backyard that beginning stays with you forever. It is a recurring image in your mind and always a destination on trips back home.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Hills and Thrills First Fish I was about five years old when my grandfather first took me fishing at Lake Glacier near the white house on the west shoreline, right about mid-lake. I caught my first fish there, a lowly bullhead catfish. At the time I considered it quite a prize. The struggling fish pulled hard against the now ancient, Pflueger rod and casting reel loaded with black Dacron line. To show I was “tough enough,” I had to bait the hooks with the night crawlers we had caught the night before. Later I learned that the white house on the West shore was the residence of various Park employees, usually the Maintenance Foreman. The home has long since been torn down, but an observant park visitor can still discern the small plateau where it was situated. First Thrill At the age of eight, circa 1958, I received my first “real” bike, a red and white 26” Schwinn. It felt like it weighed 200 pounds. It was way too big for me. In those days you went from a tiny tricycle to a full size bike—no 20” slick BMX bikes back then. The first time I rode that new tank of a bike down that steep hill from Price Road to the Lake Glacier boathouse was a real kick. It was the first time I felt the wind roaring past my ears, my legs turning to jelly, and the panic of not being able to hit the brakes for fear of skidding. I could barely reach the pedals. I probably never hit 30 mph, but it felt like a hundred. At the bottom of Price Road, I had three choices: one was to take a hard right onto West Glacier Drive; two was to go straight into
the boathouse parking lot then onto the boat ramp that dead-ends into the lake; three was to bear left toward the Old Log Cabin on the north end of the lake. I barely made the left and coasted all the way to the cabin thrilled by the danger of it all. It’s surprising how many close calls we survive. I then realized that I would have to push that monster Schwinn back up that hill. In the years that followed, I became obsessed with maneuvering those Mill Creek Park hills with my Schwinn. After all, those hills really make Mill Creek Park special. I have rated some of my favorites: Longest: Calvary Run – from South Belle Vista to the Glacier Boathouse. This hill is barricaded in the winter for sled riding. Shortest: The connecting road from Price Road to the dead end of Milton Avenue has a really steep hill at Price Road that is about 30 degrees but only about 20 feet long. Most G’s: East Drive—starting from Volney Road, near the Ford Nature Center, then going north toward the Slippery Rock Picnic area entrance. It’s a huge hill and when you hit the bottom near the small stone bridge, the G force is incredible. Hold on and change underwear. Scariest: Old Furnace Road eastbound down to Pioneer Pavilion. Miss that left turn, and you’re over the cliff and into the river below Cohasset Falls.| Most scenic: Volney Road down to Pioneer Pavilion: You can see the gorge, pavilion, river, and Cohasset Falls, but don’t miss the bridge. Hardest on your brakes: The hill descending from Fellows Riverside Gardens to Price Road dead-ends at the cliff of the river. Suicide mission: We rode down Ski Hill with our bikes—once……
Favorite bicycle destinations using park roads and trails: We rode the hiking trails more than the roads in those days. 1. “Shortcut” to | Idora Park from Price Road—East Cohasset Drive was anything but a shortcut. 2. Witch’s Cave—just to hang out. 3. The Old Mill Museum—the place always had a musty strange odor about it that, I suspected, emanated from all the old stuffed animals. 4. Sneak in some fishing at Cohasset Lake—sit in the amphitheater and watch the West Cohasset Lake Trail until the foot patrolman passed. You’d have about two hours of fishing time at the upper end of the lake before you’d get pinched. Posted “No Fishing” here but the bass fishing was excellent and probably still is. I think I will put this one on my “bucket list.” 5. Ride the entire length of the Mill Creek Park to Route 224; hang a left and visit Almart’s. You’d sleep well that night.
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
I have so many memories of Mill Creek Park: the walks around the lakes; the par-3 Golf Course at Rocky Ridge. The ones, though, that stick in my mind are those related to Lake Glacier. I remember ice-skating at Glacier —even at night, when it was scary to look out onto the dark lake. We were hesitant to skate out too far. It was soooo cold, but the ‘boat house’ was always a good place to warm our fingers and toes. The little bridge at Lake Glacier was where we ‘flew up’ from Brownies to Girl Scouts. I can still picture that ceremony. I used to walk from my house on Schenley down to Rocky Ridge to go sled riding. One time—I think I was in 8th or 9th grade—I was gone so long that I got frostbite. To this day, even a cold conference room makes my fingertips numb. Lesson learned the hard way!
Cathy Buehler Zimmerman
Mill Creek Park Memoirs
Thank you, Mill Creek Park
Those of us still living in the Youngstown area seem to take Mill Creek Park for granted, forgetting what we have within our reach. My brother, who now lives in Texas, reminds me of “what a gold mine we have” whenever he talks about the park. He and his wife, also from the area, love to take rides through the park each and every time they come home. When we were younger, I remember hiking and biking the trails without fear, meeting friends and ice skating on Lake Glacier, Newport and Bears Den, playing on the various playgrounds, running through the sprinklers, picnicking on the “flats”, exploring Witches Cave, admiring the Silver Bridge and going with dates and parking (to see the scenic views, of course)! Both of my sons also loved growing up in Mill Creek Park and share many of the same memories that I did and many that I didn’t. I gave them framed photos of Lake Glacier and the Old Mill so they’d always have a reminder of their childhood haunts; they both currently live out of the state. But now, when my grandchildren come to visit, I introduce them to the park, so they will create those special memories as well and know what a “gold mine” they can visit at Grandma’s house. So, thank you, Mill Creek Park, for your twisted roads, your many paths, the beauty of your bridges, your playgrounds, your trees and wildlife and most especially, the memories of the past and the memories yet to come!