The Lansingville neighborhood of Youngstown could go back to the farmland it once was, says Ken Stanislaw, laughing.
But he and his neighbors of 40-plus years hope it does not.
To that end, their 17th neighborhood parade next Sunday is part of that hope. They invite you to come – and keep a neighborhood going forward.
Lansingville is a pocket of weathered homes and souls on the city’s South Side, wrapped by I-680, South Avenue and Midlothian Boulevard.
“Some people say it goes to Midlothian Avenue, but I don’t consider that part of Lansingville. But if they consider themselves Lansingville — that’s OK by me.”
Ken has always been part of Lansingville and lives on Taft Avenue, a few lots from what was his grandfather’s farm where his dad was raised. Ken said his dad would walk to a one-room school house. Often when he did, he would walk the family cows with him to graze up by Schwebel’s factory.
When school was done, he’d walk back home – with the cows – to the family barn on Murray Avenue.
That was his dad’s era. Ken thinks some Lansingville streets are ready to go back to farming if a few more homes disappear.
Ken’s era includes him and neighbors driving around at night patrolling the streets — CB radios in hand and yellow lights atop their cars.
“One Halloween, we saw a suspicious van. We went to get its license plate, and it took off. We didn’t chase it due to the kids,” he said. His voice trails as he ponders where the van might have gone to next.
Sure, there’s bad around us, he admits. But Ken reminds that there’s good, too.
“There’s good everywhere. Sometimes news-wise, bad wins out. But there’s more good than there is bad. If I were to move to Boardman or Austintown, I’d still have neighbors not as good as other neighbors.”
He laughs that thought to a finish with: “And I’d be paying more money... .”
To celebrate Lansingville and America, a parade was started in 2000 by neighbor Edwin Buday.
“It was just to get people to realize there’s a Lansingville – a little part of Youngstown,” Ken said. “It’s a very Slavic community, and still a good part of the city.”
One year close to the parade date, Edwin died suddenly, Ken recalls.
There was no parade that year. But Ken, Edwin’s son Jason and a few others rallied to make the parade happen the next year.
Soon after, others joined in, like John Swiercz, Basia Adamczak, Anita Davis and Jim Sutman. Sutman owns Purple Cat, the handicapped adult-services group. Ken’s son is a client.
“It’s an American mix of people,” said Jim. “You have people with little money mixing with people who have some more. It travels through a vintage neighborhood. My clients can’t wait to ride in the hay wagon. To them, it’s like riding in Pittsburgh.”
A few years ago, Jim realized the parade route down Shady Run Road was going past abandoned homes and empty lots.
That’s where the Frankos went to watch the parade last year. Several other folks were near us. Down Shady toward St. Nick’s Byzantine Center, we saw sirens and bustle. So we were in the right place.
Then – the parade turned down a side street way in front of us. The Frankos and six or so other cars packed up and scrambled side streets to find the fun.
“Jean Street cuts right through the heart of the homes in Lansingville, and it just seemed a right route,” Sutman said.
It is right.
On stoops of nicely kept homes and at corners all along Jean, people sat as Jim’s clients, many politicians, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., and even John and Louie Kennedy and their Royal Oaks hearse, rolled by.
The path winds to Indianola Avenue, then Taft, then Murray Avenue before landing in the backyard of the old Adams school. There, the Kennedys cook up hot dogs, music blares and a neighborhood forgets for a moment any of its troubles.
There’s a T-shirt logo online that touts Lansingville, and underneath that name is the subscript “Only the strong and the ethnic survive.”
“I’m here,” said Ken. “I don’t want to have something bad overcome good.If I had the money to leave, I would not. I would stay where I am and buy out the neighborhood.”
Next Sunday at 1 p.m., you will find them doing it again. Ken said this is your invite.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on Vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.