The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Let’s set the record straight on this Appalachian-values thing

A Carl Feather column

One of the many frustrations of being a writer is that what is written is often misconstrued by the reader. Another is that the reader will assume that because the writer quotes someone, the writer personally accepts that observation as gospel and agrees with its premise.

I hit the jackpot and fell into both traps when I quoted Patrick Arcaro, director of Job and Family Services, about the historical basis for Ashtabula County underperforming surrounding counties.

Mr. Arcaro was quoted in the opening story in our Reality Check series. What he told me was not his personal opinion but what he had been told by others. The gist of it is this: In the 1940s and ’50s, many people came from Appalachia to get jobs in Ashtabula County, following Route 11 (which hadn’t been built yet) from the Ohio/ W.Va. border. Their presence somehow permeated the culture with what has become a stereotypical “Appalachian” mind-set that’s responsible for the local regressive attitudes and dependency on entitlements.

I chose to use this quote as an opening to this series for two reasons:

1) It ties into the current mind-set of our congressman, Steve LaTourette, who thinks making Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull counties part of the Appalachian Regional Commission will relieve our economic distress. For further explanation, see Monday’s per capita story; and

2) It’s a local urban legend that has been repeated over and over to the point most residents under 50 believe it true.

Comments posted on the Star Beacon Web site this week indicate as much, although the story stated that this myth is nothing more than a convenient way to dismiss a much more complex problem.

Delving into the history and sociology of the migration of Appalachian workers to northeast Ohio is way beyond the scope of this series. Back in 1993, the Star Beacon published my series about that subject. And in 1998, Ohio University Press published my book, “Mountain People in a Flat Land: A Popular History of Appalachian Migration to Northeast Ohio 1940-1965.”

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Reality Check
  • images_sizedimage_070165730 Why are we hurting so? It’s time for a reality check.: Main story, Day one

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_069193501 Beyond wineries and covered bridges … An introduction to reality check

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • What it is, how it’s calculated Determining per capita income is a complex exercise that — at best — is a mathematical expression of a moving target.

    In its simplest terms, per capita income is, according to the Ohio Department of Development, “the income of a given area divided by the resident population of that area.” Sounds simple enough, but arriving at the figure is not.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_069195701 Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes Eavesdrop on conversations at the lunch counter, in the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Friday evening or around the sports bar on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re likely to hear some pretty disparaging remarks about the old hometown.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Finding work after prison nearly impossible A portion of Ashtabula County’s unemployed can’t find a job because of their prior address – a prison cell.

    June 25, 2008

  • County part of Team NEO marketing efforts Ashtabula County is part of a 16-county alliance aimed at marketing the Northeast Ohio region to employers and business investors, many of have never heard of Ashtabula, let alone Mentor, Akron or Youngstown.

    June 25, 2008

  • Some people just don’t want a job Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_070212402 POOR BUT WORKING A winter wind blew across the parking lot of the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry next to St. Joseph’s Church in Ashtabula; the six adults lined up at the door turned their faces from the wind, toward the metaphoric concrete wall of the building.

    June 25, 2008 2 Photos

  • images_sizedimage_071213603 County's largest hospital feels the Medicaid pain Perhaps no one in Ashtabula County feels the pinch of subsidizing unemployed or underemployed individuals more than Philip E. Pawlowski.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Crime & Drugs Inc. always hiring Some “unemployed” residents find crime to be their best source of steady income. Judge Richard Stevens of Western County Court says he noticed a 50-percent increase in the number of criminal cases handled by his court between 2005 and last year.

    June 25, 2008

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