Once upon a time in America there was a neighborhood, a school and a city that were far beyond special. To me, they were absolutely incomparable.
The neighborhood was the Hollywood Subdivision. It was unique in that is was surrounded on two sides by mother nature's gift and a great playground, "The Hollow," a sled-riding hill on the third side and the Butte estate on the fourth side.
Almost every boy and girl was interested in sports, which were played in the street or on empty lots (there are no longer any today.) Our Field of Dreams was the back lawn of the Butte Estate at Hollywood and Sunset boulevards.
There were so many memorable football and baseball games. The Butte family was exceptional in allowing us to play there.
Hollywood was home to some of Steubenville's best athletes and coaches.
All-Ohio players Bill Ralich (basketball) and Rich Gulan (football), plus Central and American Legion all-time baseball star Jake Hollowood were our pride and joy. Jake and Reno Saccoccia were our outstanding coaching contributions. Also, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder lived there for a while.
We had great role models, like my father Michael Tamburro, Ben Gilbert, Emmie DeLuca, Joe Lawry, Mele Ralich, Si Hollowood, Guy Indovina, Reno Saccoccia Sr. and James "Jocko" Toner.
We also had the world's best moms.
Almost everyone knew who lived in each of the 94 houses. We took care of and really cared about each other.
The school was the "real" Harding - kindergarten through eighth grade - a school that should have been on the National Register of Historic Places and still standing instead of being demolished.
I refuse to even look at the counterfeit that replaced it. The "real" Harding could never be replaced.
How a school could have so many outstanding teachers and coaches (Ed Jimeson and Walt Owens come to mind) was truly remarkable. The gym-auditorium was the home of our numerous city league basketball champions, thanks to Jimeson.
The hallowed hearts of Harding will live forever in the hearts of its outstanding and grateful students. It was, quite simply, the best of the best. To me, no school could have possibly been better.
The city, of course, is Steubenville, where I was born and raised until the age of 15.
I have been so proud of my clearly beloved hometown, with just a few exceptions.
There were no finer people than those who resided in Steubenville, a blue-collar, sports-crazy town if ever there was one, with a very, very big heart most of the time.
I remember DiCarlo's Pizza; Belleview Park (the swimming pool and the ballfields); the Hub; the Capitol and Paramount theaters; Gilbert Sign Co.; Jon-Ton Custard; Wiggington's Grocery; Canella Produce Co.; Steubenville Bakery (the best Italian bread); Spahn's Dairy (and the great milkshakes); WSTV-AM; the Fort Steuben Hotel; the Dixie Cigar Store (baseball scores); the active train station; Robinson Music Co. (the Santa Claus on the top of Market Street Hill); St. Anthony and St. Peters churches; the Macre Brothers bowling team; the Jefferson County Courthouse; the ice plant; the Catholic Community Center; Swing Haven; and, of course, the Herald-Star and the prolific sports editor, John Kirker.
I can never forget some of the true characters (in a positive, Damon Runyon sort of way) of Steubenville: William "Beans" Pompa, Ross Monaco, Robert "Rabbi" Wise, Lou Giammarco, George "Runt" Mavromatis, Bill "Joker" Pilya, Al DeFalco, Ang Vaccaro, Red Donley, Carey "Squint" Canella, Anthony "Antoine" Pate, JoJo DiAlbert, James "Jabo" Callas and many others.
My uncle, Syl Macre, used to tell me that Steubenville and the Tri-State Area had more good-looking women than anywhere else.
He should know - there were several in the Macre family.
Of course, you can't talk about Steubenville without remembering Big Red and Catholic Central high schools. They have brought much honor and attention to the city with all their state titles and other outstanding sports teams, plus their coaching legends.
As coaching great Abe Bryan would often say, "There is nothing like Big Red pride and Big Red heart." Amen, amen.
My only complaint about my hometown, aside from destroying Harding school, was the inability to honor two of its all-time greatest citizens, Jimeson and Bryan. How a street or a field has not been named for Jimeson is an unponderable sin. The man volunteered his services for more than 40 years, plus, he was an exceptional human being.
The same can be said for the ineptitude, or unwillingness, to officially name Bryan-Harding Stadium by its true name. Bryan is the person most responsible for rebuilding the stadium.
He also built the fieldhouse and the track
How I was so fortunate to be born and raised in Steubenville, I will never know, but I will always be eternally grateful.
Thank you, Steubenville, for all your supreme memories, elite history and immense goodness - faults and all.
(Tamburro is a resident of Hollywood, Fla.)