Neighborhood Improvement

Pride began early in Youngstown. The Youngstown Improvement Club was organized in 1914, and Bill Schwartz was president. In the 1930’s the Schwartzes led a movement to change the image of Youngstown, to escape the negative stigma of a company town. Erma attributes the effort to her father’s pride: “…his pride and my mother’s pride. They didn’t want me coming from a neighborhood that we would be ashamed of…. “

The PTA, under Henrietta Schwartz’s leadership, petitioned the school board to change the school’s name. The board tried to find out if the whole neighborhood supported the name change and asked the PTA committee for suggestions of new names. After serious consideration of naming the school after Catherine Blaine, wife of the first Methodist minister in Seattle and its first schoolteacher, the committee decided to avoid the connotation of a girls’ school. They recommended the name Frank B. Cooper, after the progressive superintendent.

Students were assembled in the auditorium and told the name would change to better the community, according to Fred Tharp. Students would receive a C for Cooper instead of a Y for Youngstown for awards. “It sounded better,” he thought; “not so rugged and tough because we were really right next to the steel mill, and it was pretty husky in those days.”

Not all of the community thought the name needed to be changed. Willi recalls that she was pretty upset about the name change. “I didn’t know who Cooper was, quite frankly.”

After the school’s name change in 1939, Schwartz’s parents worked to persuade the city to widen and pave 24th, the main avenue at the base of Pigeon Hill. The city first paved one side of the dirt road and then the next. “They took off ten feet of everybody’s property and never paid you for it. But they took it to make it wider, and they first paved our side, and then people complained they were parking out in the middle. So Dad went down and argued with them and said, ‘On the other side, we need cement too.’ So they did finally pave the other side and left the middle in dirt. That progressed finally way out to White Center” (Schwartz). The street was renamed Delridge Way with its more positive connotations of a dell between ridges. The collection of neighborhoods, such as Youngstown and Pigeon Hill, eventually became Delridge, too. (9)

Community activism continued when local businessmen built a community club farther south on Delridge Way. The club hosted plays, dinners, and dancing. For a time, the Westside Italian Civic Club met there. Eventually the Youngstown Improvement Club became the Delridge Improvement Club, both a precursor to today’s Delridge Community Association.

9. Attempts to change the name of Pigeon Point have not been successful.