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This week in history: Marauders pull off bold robbery

100 years ago in 1919:

l September 18, 1919 — East Youngstown was visited by marauders who carried off a safe and money. It was one of the boldest robberies ever committed in East Youngstown. The men entered the cafe of Frank Richards on Wilson Avenue and worked their way in by climbing over a transom window. The cafe happened to be very close to the village’s police station, but the robbers were not dismayed. They opened the front door and made off with a safe containing $600 in cash and other valuables.

Richards, who had been asleep upstairs at the time of the robbery, discovered the missing safe the following morning, but he had never heard a sound the night before. From all indications, the robbery was carefully planned and the burglars used a wagon to get away with their swag. Traces of that wagon’s wheels were seen at the scene, along with footprints of the men.

It was believed that this crime was part of a larger operation running through Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown — moving when police got close to their trail. The stolen, and empty, safes were found in a field or some other secluded spot. Youngstown police used the day’s bright sun to continue their pursuit.

75 years ago in 1944:

l September 17, 1944 — The Old Rayen School building was being considered as the new home of Youngstown College’s (Youngstown State University today) Technical School. When Judge William Rayen passed away in 1854, he left Youngstown Township $30,000 to provide educational opportunities for youths between age 4 and 21. He stated that the money was to be used for families who could not provide other educational facilities for their children.

Rayen proved to be ahead of his time as a local philanthropist. His specifications were broad enough that the school could change over time but detailed enough that its quality never lacked. Graduates of the Rayen School were among some of the best scholars in the country, attending the finest colleges and universities.

Students and staff were particularly proud of their school’s heritage, going so far as to correct any attempt as mispronunciation.

One of the first things any Rayen student learned was that it was “Rayen School.” While it was one of the city’s six public high schools, the name was given by an act of the state legislature at Judge Rayen’s request.

Over the course of the school’s history, many milestones helped shape the city. By 1922, the school’s location was moved to Benita Avenue, which cost approximately $1 million, with 50 rooms, shops, a gymnasium and other facilities. In the following years, athletic facilities were built, and by 1939, Youngstown had its first night football game under floodlights.

The old Rayen School Building had been used as Central Junior High School from 1922 to 1926, but had been leased to the Board of Education for $1 per year in recent years. Authorities at Youngstown College had been working with the Rayen School trustees to reach an agreement. The Technical College was planned to provide boys (and girls, too) the opportunity to develop their talents and work toward a trained future at a local mill.

50 years ago in 1969:

l September 16, 1969 — Owners of the new Eastwood Mall held a 10-day grand opening celebration. The Warren-Youngstown metropolitan area’s first ultra-modern shopping center opened with a ribbon cutting and gala celebration. The mall, which had more than 80 stores and a parking lot equipped for 5,800 cars, covered 120 acres of land.

During the grand opening, entertainment was planned for the shoppers’ enjoyment by the Creegan Animated Puppets. Burt Ward, who portrayed Robin on the television series “Batman,” also was involved, handing out autographed photos near the mall’s fountain. Johnny Pineapple and his South Pacific Review played for the crowds, along with Dick Weber who gave bowling exhibitions in the grand concourse. The celebration concluded with a Zambelli Fireworks display that could be viewed from the cars parked in the mall’s lot.

The mall was designed by Andrew J. Burin and supervised by John Cafaro, vice president of William M. Cafaro and Associates. The process to build took more than two years and was uniquely situated to take advantage of the traffic routes through Niles. The design was simple but featured three fountains in the center concourse along with a tropical setting complete with palm trees and flowers. There was an aviary in the north corridor, a cactus garden near the north entrance and paintings throughout the space. At night, the mall glistened like a fairyland underneath the lights.

40 years ago in 1979:

l September 18 and 22, 1979 — High school football was in full swing. Schools were playing for keeps in the Steel Valley Conference this week with opening contests matching four of the five undefeated clubs in the two battles under the Friday night lights. A headliner game took place in Austintown as Fitch took on Cardinal Mooney, with both schools putting their winning streaks on the line.

Cardinal Mooney gave coach Don Bucci a great victory Friday night at Austintown without even knowing it. They knew that they were the first team to defeat Fitch that season, but what they didn’t know was the victory marked 100 wins for Bucci in his 14th season as head coach. “It’s just like any other win,” he whispered when asked about the milestone. He had kept this particular piece of information from his players and coaches until Roy Nard, an assistant, heard of it and informed the team. Bucci’s son, Dennis, noted, “We gave him a standing ovation.”

While the Cardinals celebrated their win, Fitch coach Jim Patti took the defeat in stride with a look ahead at the rest of the season. He said, “In this league, you can’t afford to get down. We have to regroup and get ready for Ursuline.”

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