Rick Santorum gave a victory speech last night in Steubenville Ohio and it brought back a lot of memories. My stepmother was from Steubenville, born and raised there. Her father was from Wheeling, West Virginia and somehow got to Steubenville and opened up a department store there called Sulzbachers Department Store. I guess in those days it still had a strong German connection as I remember that Hellen spoke German fluently. It was at a time when the midwest was growing and jobs were plentiful. Weirton West Virginia was right across the river and the steel mills were going full tilt.
I guess all that was going well until after the Second War or even until the end of the 50s. From that time on, like Poughkeepsie, there was a slow but steady downhill trajectory that continues today. I guess you can blame it on everything from Chinese manufacturing to unemployment to the welfare state to regional shopping malls to the interstate road system, but the truth is that there probably is enough blame to go around and what has happened in Steubenville and Youngstown and Poughkeepsie for that matter has happened all over the country. I guess we can take heart from the fact that our country invented the computer, the iPhone and hedge funds!
But here are a few stories of the old Steubenville as I heard them told by Hellen (no not a typo):
Dean Martin was also from Steubenville and was a little younger than my step mother. By chance they met once in Las Vegas and someone said at the table that Hellen was also from Steubenville. Dean asked Hellen her maiden name and when she said Sulzbacher, his eyes lit up and he said “Many’s the thing I clipped from that store when I was a kid.”
Another good story had to do with Cornelius J. Jones, who delivered the newspapers in Steubenville when he was a kid. Because Steubenville was busy and because it was possible to easily cross over to two other states, it became a rough town, a lot of gambling and much worse, even in the good days. Corny Jones became a gambler and apparently a good one. He made enough through illicit means to put both of his brothers through medical school. But Steubenville was too small for Corny Jones and he went up to Cleveland where the real action was. At that time the big gambling boss was Moe Dalitz and Corny along with Moe and Bugsy Siegel went out to Las Vegas after the war and as they say, the rest was history. When I was in my early twenties I met Corny Jones who by that time was the pit boss at the Desert Inn. I can still see him in my mind’s eye all these years later, very dapper and very smooth. He told me in forty years he hadn’t seen the sunlight as he got up in the evening and went to sleep in the morning.
When I went across the country last June I thought to stop in Steubenville and nose around. Hellen wasn’t buried there but all her family was. She was an only child so there were no relatives left but one of these days I’m going to head down there and walk around. I bet there is still more than one ghost to guide me.