THE 1937 LITTLE STEEL STRIKE IN THE MAHONING VALLEY

Anthony Lentini

ANTHONY LENTINI

IN MEMORY TO MY FATHER ON THIS 80TH YEAR OF HIS DEATH

In the 1937, steel workers in the Mahoning Valley’s went on strike; the newspaper called it the “Little Steel Strike” The major issues at the bargaining table were wages, pensions, and safe working conditions. When the strike shut down the local steel mills, picket lines began to appear, violence erupted causing at least two people to die, and over forty workers were injured.  Ohio National Guard and State Police were called in to protect many of the Steel workers who crossed the picket lines to enter the mills..  During the Great Depreciation, people living in the cities along the Mahoning River suffered severely from the lost of thousands of dollars in wages. In return, the steel unions had become progressively stronger and soon became the precursor to the United Steel Workers of America.

One day during “The little Steel Strike,” My father Anthony Lentini began driving from our farm in to the city of Youngstown. He was to meet with friends and talk about the ongoing steel strike.  He was not aware that I was in the back seat lying on the floor covered with a potato sack. I was four years old at the time and knew he wouldn’t let me go with him because of the violence on the picket lines that had killed a couple of workers and injured many more. As he drove down the country road he noticed the sack moving and without saying a word, he turned the car around and drove back home. I thought I was going to catch the dickens but instead, after a few words of wisdom; he gave me a hug and sent me into the house,

There was always something interesting happening on our farm , I recall dad going into the barn one afternoon and suddenly, our dog came running out, yelping and barking, close behind him was dad swearing and swinging a shovel; he was trying to hit the dog but it ran to fast. I couldn’t understand what had happened ,because dad loved the dog and it was always by his side. I ask mom what was wrong and she said dad couldn’t figure out why he was not getting as much milk as he normally did. until he caught the dog sucking milk from the cow’s teats. Dad had an awful temper ,but a couple of days later he and his dog were friends again.

Spring was here and dad was repairing a fence to keep our cow from running loose. It began to rain and mom made me go into the house while, Dad continued working in the rain. A few days later dad became sick with pneumonia. I still can see him sitting near the potbelly stove in the center of our small farmhouse with his feet in warm water and a blanket around his shoulders. He sat there shivering and sipping a glass of wine mother had given him. A week later the doctor realizing dad wasn’t getting any better called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. That was the last time we saw dad alive. He died on May 31 1938 at he age of 42.I recall that day very well when my uncle held me up to kiss dad goodby before they closed his coffin.

I remember many events of my youth but none as sad   as the  death of my father in 1938, the loss of our family farm during the great depression and  the unfortunate memory  of watching my cousin Domenic  die  under wheels of a truck loaded with steel while sled riding in January 1941.  

 

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