YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Few of us would go out of our way to visit co-workers we haven’t actually worked with in more than 30 years. But the bond between the men that worked in the steel mills has lasted that long.
Friday night, they got together to share stories and remember history.
September 19 marked 40 years since Black Monday in Youngstown, when thousands of workers were told the city’s largest steel mill would be shut down that Friday.
Their jobs were gone.
Every year for the last 30 years, John Judin calls his old co-workers from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. They meet at local restaurants and bars — this time, at the Pacentrano Club in Youngstown.
“It was a lot of camaraderie, I mean, really like a brotherhood. It really was and it still is,” Judin said.
“It’s amazing to see our buddies that we worked with side-by-side for — for me, 18 years,” Tony Anania said.
It’s about catching up with old friends and talking politics, sports, and old times — reminiscing about their days together at the mill.
The best times…
“Everybody was working, there was never a worry about everybody not being able to do the things a family needed to do,” Judin said.
…the not so good times…
“It was real dirty down there,” Tony Tisler said. “A lot of rats.”
“I’ve seen men get their leg taken off,” Judin said. “It was a dangerous, dangerous place but whatever we did, we did together.”
…and the worst times.
“He came home and said, ‘I don’t have to go to work tomorrow.’ I said I thought he was starting his vacation. He said, ‘No, they’re shutting the mill down,'” Judin said.
At 65, Judin and a few others are some of the youngest people to show up at this year’s reunion.
Many found other jobs. Some moved away. As time goes on, it’s harder to keep in touch.
“Every year, unfortunately, a couple of fellows are gone,” Judin said. “This past year, we lost three of our fellows that were here the year before.”
YSU Football Special Teams Coach Ron Stoops also stopped by to speak. He was a teenager in the steel days but he remembers the mill.
“We’d be playing outside day and night and I can still picture the smoke billowing out of the smokestack in Struthers and Youngstown,” Stoops said.
Now those are gone. But it doesn’t seem like it when these friends are together.