& quot;You think those were good stories about Campbell, & quot; said a happy, firm voice, over the telephone, & quot;you should hear what I remember. & quot;
So, a few days later, I drove to a home on a pretty, shaded street in Campbell and met Eugene Kennedy -- a robust 88-year-old Italian-American with bushy gray eyebrows and balding head. And his daughter, Marie Force, who would rather her father skip the more colorful recollections and dwell on Campbell's beautiful homes, ethnic diversity and hard-working residents. But then, colorful stories can be interesting. ...
Kennedy, a lifelong Campbell resident, was born May 13, 1914, & quot;the same year as Joe Lewis. & quot;
& quot;I almost fought him, & quot; he said, in one of those hyperbolic "I almost caught a 20-pound trout, if only I'd hooked it" moments we all have. & quot;I fought and trained at the YMCA in Campbell, and all the champs went to Cleveland, and I almost fought Joe Lewis, but I was way too light. My friend went three rounds with him and lost. & quot;
At 14, Kennedy worked in a restaurant on Ninth Street, next to which was a brothel. One man owned both, so visitors had food, bedrooms, a hotel, gambling, and, despite Prohibition, booze. & quot;All you needed was money, & quot; recalled Kennedy, whose dad wouldn't let him go up the steps next to the restaurant. & quot;Guys from the mill would go there on payday and spend their entire check."
'Out of trouble'
& quot;I scrubbed the floors, scrubbed dishes and served food, & quot; Kennedy said. & quot;I went before school and after. ... The old man kept me off the streets and out of trouble. I made about $7 a week. & quot;
Though they were Catholic, Kennedy's mother attended the church she could walk to, which was Baptist, and Kennedy ended up being a regular at Bethel House. & quot;I went there because I was told there was a picture of Christ hidden under a rug there, & quot; he said. & quot;The curiosity pulled me and a lot of other kids in. But when I looked, it was just a splintery floor under the rug. & quot; He laughed. & quot;But I stayed. & quot;
During the Depression, that church treated the Kennedys well -- & quot;They left big bags of flour outside our door, & quot; he recalled.
As a kid, Kennedy belonged to a gang. & quot;I was in the Diegos, against the Greeks, & quot; he said, recalling that when a rumble ended with rocks and glass flying and a & quot;kid almost lost an eye, & quot; the gangs quit fighting. & quot;Another thing that stopped it was a kid had a gun and tried to put a 25 into a 22. He was hitting the bullet trying to get it in and killed himself, & quot; Kennedy said.
Every Monday, Kennedy and his pals ditched school to go to vaudeville shows at the Keith-Albee Theater in Youngstown. & quot;Cripe, I think we saw everybody! I think I seen Red Skelton there and all them big bands. We paid 10 or 15 cents. & quot;
When they went to movies in Campbell, they wrapped a penny in foil and passed it off as a dime in the darkened theater to buy popcorn, then snuck out a side door before it was discovered.
Kennedy's mother had food on the table "24 hours a day," keeping a pot of sauce hot on the stove. She was also fond of guns. & quot;She was crazy with the pistol, & quot; Kennedy said. One day, a stranger entered their yard. Mrs. Kennedy shot into the air, and the man vaulted the gate to get away. Once, when she discovered rats under the raised chicken coop, she fired a shotgun, giving herself two black eyes from the recoil.
As soon as Kennedy graduated, he applied at Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Kennedy's father worked in the mill, and eventually so did his two younger brothers. He also had three younger sisters.
He started at the bottom, working & quot;under the furnaces in a 5-foot space. & quot; Conditions then, during the Depression, were tough. & quot;Sometimes you'd go to work, and something would break and they'd send you home without pay until it was fixed. & quot;
He worked through the ranks, eventually becoming the heater, who watched the ingots cook and said when they were ready to move on. & quot;You had to know your business, & quot; he said. & quot;That was a top job. Next was foreman, but I didn't want that 'cause they could fire you anytime. & quot; Kennedy worked there 43 years, supporting a wife and four children.
He has plenty more stories to tell, but I, unfortunately, have only so much room to share them. ...