• Here in Youngstown

    December 12, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Economy

    mill overgrown

    Ghosts of Tom Joad is fiction per se, but fiction based on fact. My story of the intentional destruction of an entire class of people through economic disparity is mirrored in so many people’s lives.

    Here is one of those stories, originally submitted to this blog as a comment, but well-worth repeating here (lightly edited):

    From 1955 to 1965, my Dad lived near Youngstown, Ohio. He moved up from the Mississippi Delta and worked at Packard Electric and some steel mills to get through college at Youngstown University.

    I drove through Youngstown last month for the first time after my Uncle’s funeral (submariner for six years, at Pearl Harbor, worked for 40 years at the General Motors Lordstown plant). Youngstown today reminded me of Detroit (as a firefighter, I tend to notice lots of empty lots where houses once stood).

    I graduated from high school in Detroit in 1983. The place has really gone even more downhill since 2008; my old house on the West side has been stripped out (dead dog carcass in the dining room), probably a 25 percent vacant rate.

    I don’t see things getting better anytime soon. I’m doing OK as a firefighter, but I’m making less than I did 13 years ago and the powers-that-be have been going after the public unions (now that less folks are in private unions than before the Great Depression).

    Here’s another from Comments:

    This blog resonates with me as I grew up in Troy, Ohio in the 1960s and ’70s before moving to New Jersey in 1974. I experienced small town America with Soap Box Derby races and Memorial Day parades and watching 4th of July fireworks from the levee on the Miami River. I went to college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where “The Steel” ran the longest continuous steel mill in the world, something like 11 miles. A few years ago I read that the foundry part downtown had been turned into a casino and I knew that the U.S. was dying of capitalist rot.

    …And another:

    My long dead friend Joe was the son of the owner of a bar in downtown Lorain. My Polish friends had fathers that worked the steel mills. My high school used to play Admiral King, and my trip there was to the other end of the universe. The last several times in Lorain the major bridge was out for repair and it sure took a long time to fix it. I used to drive 6 and 2 driving to BGSU. Joe commented while dying that he remembered us tooling down that road doing 120 mph in my Detroit iron/389 Pontiac.Both of us were immigrant stock and soldiered for this country. Joe is still buried in Lorain with his parents.

    In October 2013 I stayed at Port Clinton and it was depressing. Half the business district was depressed. Tourism is down. A condo in town sold for $20K. Bowling Green town is dull and needs a paint job and new roofs. Cleveland is a slum, as is Euclid where my folks lived.The house I grew up in has been demolished. The inner city is every bit of what you wrote about, but worse. If that’s possible then things are really bad.

    There are so many, too many, such stories out there, good people who believed what they had been told only to find themselves discarded when companies found they could make more money somewhere, somehow else. They all are the ghosts of Tom Joad now.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Michaele Scott said...


      Peter, I just finished reading “Ghosts of Tom Joad” and the comments you’ve posted here in your article are so much a part of that story. It’s horrifying to know it isn’t fiction.
      I enjoyed the book immensely and will be sharing it…already have several people who want to buy it in that format for those digital readers (don’t remember what they are called). I especially appreciated how you connected all the dots…it was the equivalent of a map for the downfall. The characters were real for me and I’m sure most people who read it will be able to say the same. Thank you not only for writing your books but for all you expose here on your blog and on Facebook. Getting people to see what is going on is more than half the battle for change. Thank you ~ Michaele

      12/12/15 9:50 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Thank you for your kind words. The section of the book set in “Bullseye” is based on my own experiences working in the minimum wage world as an adult. I also grew up in Ohio during the 70s and 80s and saw the decline myself.

      12/12/15 10:49 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      Why is there a “battle”? We (the People) All KNOW what needs to be done for Gaia and country!

      12/12/15 10:13 AM | Comment Link

    • b.traven said...


      Gary, Indiana. As a child in the 1930’s I attended Horace Mann School in the nationally recognized “Work, Study, Play” school system in the country. Gary had the largest steel works in the world.Alfred Stiglitz, the Nobel prose winning economist graduated from HOrace Mann school.
      Gary was a ‘steel’ town with a population of over 125,000.Today Gary has a population of about 75,000 and has a gambling casino as the economic center.

      12/12/15 12:11 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Bruce said…

      “We (the People) All KNOW what needs to be done for Gaia and country!”unquote

      ummm, I hate to sound dumb but what is Gaia?

      12/12/15 7:55 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      The earth’s biosphere (including US) and its (our) sustaining elements. “Conceived” by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis (no kidding)!

      12/12/15 10:02 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      ummm, Bruce.. wtf are you talking about? Biosphere..sustaning elements? “Conceived” by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis? Who the fuck and what the fuck are you talking about? Not to mention you didn’t answer my question about what the hell is Gaia?

      I suggest you visit my bartender.

      12/13/15 5:50 PM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      12/13/15 8:24 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Ok…I read it. But what does that have to do with the subject at hand? I seem to have missed something.

      12/14/15 2:39 AM | Comment Link

    • J. said...


      I grew up near Johnstown, Pa.

      Bethlehem Steel and the surrounding coal towns were booming back then…but slowly, one by one , the mines closed down as the steel production dwindled.

      Then the Steel Mills were shut down.

      Thousands of good , decent people were left without work. The towns declined into delapidated, drug-ridden neighborhoods and families either moved away or saw their standard of living crumble.

      All because our politicians sold us out for cheap, imported , Japanese steel.

      12/21/15 10:40 AM | Comment Link

    • Guy Montag said...


      Peter, I was surprised to see my comment (#1)from a ways back re-printed here (just happened to skim thru your blog posts which I haven’t looked at for quite some time). Thanks! I must confess I haven’t yet read your book; we moved last year and it’s still in my “to-read” unpacked box in the basement.

      And thanks for your recent review of the novel “The Old Silk Road.” I’ll be getting it for Xmas (the author’s reference to Pat Tillman sealed the deal for me; I’ve written a bit over the past years on the bipartisan whitewash of Gen. McChrystal at the feralfirefighter blog).

      12/23/15 4:50 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      Thanks, Guy. The post, build around your comment, somehow slipped down my “draft” list. My apologies for the delay in presenting your powerful comments, and kind thoughts.

      Happy holidays!


      12/23/15 6:28 PM | Comment Link

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