Editor’s Note: Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside.”
I became a Blogger during the summer of 2012. While attending my usual Friday night Salsa dance, a chance meeting with Emma Voigt led to a conversation about the Northside. Emma was working with Northside UP and arranged a meeting between Dominic Robinson, Stasya Erickson, Jonathan Link-Logan and others. They were all young, energetic and focused on making the Northside a vital and interesting neighborhood. Some of the stories I told that day became blogs published on the Northside UP website. Regular readers of my Blog may remember blogs titled “Community and the Farmers Market”, “Fastest Hands on the Northside” and “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. I wrote the Blog monthly through the summer of 2015.
The circumstances changed that summer; Northside UP, energized by its success on the Northside and encouraged by CenterState CEO, tried to bring some of their wonderful ideas to other neighborhoods in Syracuse. They moved their office to a more central location downtown. As a writer I struggled. Not because Northside UP had moved or broadened its focus, but because I was questioning the relevancy of my writing.
Everything I wrote was about the past. More than anything it was about my childhood. I enjoyed reliving all those wonderful experiences and writing every blog. I began to think that the Northside I was writing about didn’t exist anymore. I wondered, what is life like today for an eight year old or a ten year old growing up on the Northside? Where do young people on the Northside go after school, for fun or just to hang out?
In my time we had the Northside CYO where one could find everything from checkers to woodshop. The Cozy Retreat was a fun soda fountain style hang out. Where does a teenager get a part-time, after school job today?
Writing my blog this time around I hope to answer some of these questions. I wonder if some of you reading this blog might have a suggestion. Is there someone out there you think I could talk to or an organization I might contact and get up to speed with the Northside youth of today? Please leave a comment on this post and I’ll reach out to you.