This Week in History: Brown-Bonnell plant worker killed in accident

120 years ago

l Sept. 22, 1899: Richard Barrett, a worker at the Brown-Bonnell plant of the Republic Iron and Steel Co., was killed after being struck by a switch engine. Barrett was a well-known resident of Youngstown’s South Side and commanded the respect of all who knew him. He had worked at the Brown-Bonnell plant for 30 years. Barrett was employed as a foreman of a gang of workers.

The accident happened in the yards outside of the plant early in the morning. Before heading into work, he had left his dinner bucket at the shanty near an entrance gate. He started down the switch track and had not gone very far before a switch engine followed him down the track at a high speed. The engine whistled and shrieked loudly to warn Barrett of his danger, but he was oblivious to the noise. He was found bruised and suffered severe internal injuries that led to his death only a few minutes later. A messenger was sent for a doctor and priest, but both arrived too late to be of any service before Barrett’s death. Witnesses were unsure why Barrett didn’t hear the warnings.

Barrett left behind a family of adult children along with considerable property. His funeral was held at St. Columba church, and he was buried in Calvary Cemetery. Perhaps a remarkable coincidence, Barrett was killed in almost the same spot as his son-in-law died only six months before.

75 years ago

l Sept. 25, 1944: Nearly 5,000 people witnessed a Civil Air Patrol demonstration at the Youngstown Municipal Airport. About 100 airplanes and Army Air Forces Auxiliary units from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York took part in the demonstration. The effort was designed to help show the community that the CAP was ready to serve the nation in the air in any emergency. The demonstration featured impromptu air shows given by visiting airplanes as test pilots flew in close formation, dived, rolled and performed other air acrobatics.

Col. Earle L. Johnson of the Army Air Forces, assigned as the national CAP commander, stated that the civilian flyers’ organization had 97,000 members but predicted that the number soon would be 250,000 heading into the postwar era. Johnson also spoke about the air patrol’s role in helping to beat submarine forces. “One of the reasons our Army has been so great and so invincible is because so many of our men are mechanically minded. Nearly every man knows how to operate and repair a motor.”

At the CAP demonstration, Flight “A” of the Youngstown Civil Air Patrol cadets won the Ohio championship in a drill competition. Paul E. Bevan was named the commander of the Youngstown Squadron.

50 years ago

l Sept. 26, 1969: A high school prank put five young men in jail. The young men, all age 18, were graduates of Jackson-Milton High School where the prank took place. All five were charged by the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department with trespassing. Capt. Orlando DiLullo said they had no malicious intent in entering the school.

The young men explained that they had entered the school to spread straw through the hallways and release a duck inside the building. Only one small window was broken, and cleaning the straw was the biggest inconvenience to the school. Three of the attempted waterfowl releasers were caught in the school, while the other two later surrendered to police. Judge Thomas J. Flynn fined each of the young men $10 along with court costs and also suspended their driver’s licenses for 60 days. He sentenced each to 10 days in jail but suspended that sentence after the weekend ended.

40 years ago

l Sept. 24, 1979: Valley television viewers were faced with quite a dilemma. The Youngstown area homes with only one television set likely were to be the scenes of serious debate as sports fans and opera buffs squared off in this programming conflict. The Cleveland Browns were playing the Dallas Cowboys in a key matchup. The game in Cleveland was a sellout and scheduled to air locally on a number of stations.

The hitch, though, was that the evening also featured a live broadcast direct from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City where Verdi’s “Otello” was playing. The 3¢-hour production marked the opening of the Met’s 1979-80 season and was its fourth “Live from the Met” performance on television. The Verdi masterpiece was performed in its traditional Italian but featured English subtitles for viewers while major opera stars took the stage. The opera is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello” and explores the bard’s understanding of the human heart in a depth that only opera can unleash.

Adrian Slifka, the Vindicator’s television and radio editor, offered a suggestion to those conflicted households. The solution featured a neighborhood approach with households voting for their program of choice. Football lovers were to convene at one location while opera lovers enjoyed the show at another, hopefully keeping the peace among families. Many in the Mahoning Valley know that football was, and still is, a religion, but on this night, it had some musical competition.

• Compiled from the archives of The Vindicator by Traci Manning, curator of education at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.


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