Steel City Shoebox Hot Rod
A 1949 Ford is a rolling mural of the Mahoning Valley's Steel history.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
Shane Felger drove his cool ride, a 1949 Ford, to the Arms Family Museum, where it was a featured attraction Sunday at the Founders Day open house sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
The vehicle, dubbed the Steel City Shoebox, is more than a classic car.
It’s history on wheels.
The car showcases historical photos of Valley sites taken and collected by Youngstown photograher Tony Nicholas.
Felger and Nicholas met about five years ago at a car show. Felger, of Boardman, shared the idea it “would be cool” to show the steel history of the Valley in a car. “I just thought it would be something different,” said Felger, a member of Road Hounds, a classic-car group.
The car, unveiled at recent shows at the B&O and in Lowellville, was an instant hit.
“People just crowded around it,” Felger said.
The car showcases a vinyl wrapper of photos including Market Street in 1920 and the Jeanette blast furnace of the Brier Hill Works of Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Nicholas took a photo of the Jeanette blast furnace and then superimposed a lineup of steel workers on it. The effect is mesmerizing.
Felger described the vinyl-wrapper process as similar to adhering a sticker to something. The backing was peeled away slowly as he and co-workers applied the wrapper.
A sign by the car credits Felger’s employer, McHenry Industries in Austintown, a wholesale sign manufacturer, with major assistance in making Felger’s idea come to fruition. The company is owned by Ron Musilli Jr. and Ron Musilli, who provided technical assistance. Felger was assisted in the project by Fred Hively, Chris Romeo, Steve Dapolito, Patrick Dapolito, Nick Bednar and Ryan Gelardi, who worked after hours with him on the project at McHenry.
The photos on the car, in sepia tones, “match the antique look,” Nicholas said. “It looks vintage.”
Bill Lawson, executive director of the historical society, said the car was another way to bring history to light.
He said Sunday’s free open house was a public way to celebrate the Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s 138th anniversary, which officially was Sept. 10. Society members marked the anniversary with a dinner that day to salute the founding in 1875.
Lawson led a walking tour on Wick Avenue, with 42 people participating. About 160 people overall attended the open house that featured games, crafts and exhibits.
“Wick Avenue was the place to live in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Lawson said. Industrial and financial leaders built mansions there.
Wick Avenue underwent a transition as those mansions changed in purpose from family homes to institutional buildings. The historical society’s Arms Family Museum is the former home of Olive and Wilford Arms that was built in 1905. It was known as Greystone. Next door, Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church was built in 1881 by Charles D. and Hannah Wick Arms.
Lawson said the walking tour and displays at the museum help visitors “appreciate the history and assets” of the Valley.
Mildred Walker of Erie, Pa., who is moving back to Youngstown, took advantage of the open house to introduce her daughters, Amiracle, 4, and Semiah, 2, to the museum and to celebrate the younger girl’s birthday. She said they colored, played with toys and had a good time.
Walker said she remembered visiting the museum on a school trip.
Marlene and Bill Dunmire of Hubbard and Peggy Dunmore Glasnapp of Orange Park, Fla., formerly of Hubbard, were among museum visitors. “We did the walking tour and it was wonderful,” Glasnapp said.
Bill Dunmire said some of the displays “brought back memories” of 10-cent movies at the Strand and going to Isaly’s.