‘Center of the World’: Y-Inn Celebrates 100 Years of Service
ROGERS, Ohio – With Prohibition in full swing, this tiny village saw the opening of a “card hall” in 1923 near its outskirts, at the “Y” in Sprucevale Road and what was to become state Route 7.
Appropriately named The Y-Inn, it was actually built near the creek on the right-hand side of the state highway, which was under construction that same year, according to a hand-written history of the tavern provided by current owner Jan Glover.
Cletus Hall built the card hall where patrons could go to play cards during the days when drinking alcoholic beverages was prohibited.
Glover said Otis Flem, the only Black man living in Rogers at that time, did the indoor cleaning and grounds work for the new entertainment spot, as well as for Hope College, located just north of it in the village.
Hall didn’t operate the card hall but leased it to others to run, Glover said.
At some point, the card hall was relocated across the state highway to the “Y” in the road where it remains today, and a bar was built inside, with gasoline pumps placed outside.
Glover said with a smile that longtime customer the late Raymond Duke – better known locally as Rowdy Dow – told her, “They would pump more on the inside than the outside, so they got rid of the outside [gas] pumps.”
Much of the Y-Inn’s history was gathered by Glover speaking with family members of former owners, so exact dates are somewhat sketchy, with a large gap between the 1923 startup and the 1930s, during the Great Depression.
Although she had been advised the bar was leased to a couple named Annico in the early 1940s, Glover received a letter in 2014 from Ralph Williams informing her his parents, Howard A. and Anita Williams, leased it from 1940 through 1941.
Some photographs she came across indicated Fred and Ruby Musselwhite owned it from 1941 to 1961, when it was sold to Jack and Mary Artrip.
At some point, the bar was sold to Dale and Ellen Pitzer, who operated it until selling it to George Summers. He kept it for one year before selling it to Herb and Lois Snow in fall 1973. They kept it until 1978, when Jim Nolan and Grace Dyke took over. After they closed the doors, Glover bought it in November 1979.
‘Center of the World’
Having worked at the bar from 1974 to 1978, Glover was familiar with its operation and the clientele. She now serves those patrons’ children and grandchildren.
During a 100th birthday celebration Sunday, customers – many of whom have frequented the bar for decades – signed a guest book and looked over hundreds of photographs depicting events held there, from annual picnics to visits from Santa Claus.
Glover shared stories about the many patrons who have come through the doors since the 1970s when she started. She laughed as she told about the late Bill Turkle, a well-known regular who lived just a mile or so up Sprucevale Road, who always called the Y-Inn “the center of the world.”
According to Glover, on a trip out West, Turkle ran into a man playing a guitar, and the guy asked where he was from. Told by Turkle he was from Ohio, the man responded, “No s–t! I’m from Ohio.” Asked by Turkle from where in Ohio, the man said, “A tiny town you never heard of – Negley.” Turkle responded, “No s–t! I’m from Rogers, right up the road.”
While listening to the story, Glover asked what the Negley man’s name was, saying she knew people there, and Turkle told her it was Bill Norton.
“No s–t! That’s my ex-husband,” Glover replied.
During its early years and until state Route 11 was completed in 1972, the Y-Inn was a hot spot along state Route 7, which was a main connector road between northern Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Travelers and truckers provided revenue to the businesses and tourist cabins located along the route, and the Y-Inn also became a popular spot for gamblers headed to the Waterford Park horse racing track in Newell, West Virginia, now known as Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
It was so popular, in fact, that menu items were named after horse racing terms, such as The Perfecta.
One longtime patron, the late Jim McKahan, became acquainted with the Y-Inn in the 1950s while driving along state Route 7 from his home in Washington, Pa., to his job in Youngstown, Ohio. He passed the bar to and from work each day, often stopping.
McKahan and his wife, Evelyn, eventually moved to Youngstown, and then to a farm in the crossroad community of Clarkson, just a few miles south of Rogers, in 1961.
Three of their children (including the author of this article) attended Sunday’s celebration in honor of their father and mother. Evelyn worked as a barmaid at the Y-Inn – where patrons called her “Ma” McKahan – until nearly 70 years old.
The McKahan siblings reflected on Saturday trips in the 1960s from the farm to “town” – Lisbon – for grocery shopping. These ventures usually ended with a stop at the Y-Inn, where each was treated to a bag of Blue Star potato chips, a bottle of pop, shuffleboard and the sound of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” selected on the jukebox by their father.
Also at the celebration Sunday was Jackie Dunham, son of another longtime patron, the late Jack Dunham. Glover shared a memory of the day Crucible Steel closed down, leaving hundreds of area steelworkers out of jobs, including the older Dunham.
He was sitting at the bar when a Youngstown television news reporter came in to ask Glover whether the mill’s closing would hurt her business and customers.
She recalled serving Dunham a beer and telling the newsman, “That made him happy.”
More Than Customers
The heavy traffic on Route 7 has declined considerably since the highway was built, and the Y-Inn doesn’t see the business it once did, but local residents still patronize the bar, where they are more than customers to Glover.
Many of her stories are sprinkled with the phrase, “We had a little get-together for …,” referring to gatherings held to provide what is needed for not only her patrons, but their family members, employees and even her sales people who fall on hard times, suffer illnesses or even deaths.
She laughed about a patron – who is a preacher – who often shows up when these get-togethers involve a funeral, saying he told her, “I always open up the door and stick the Bible in and see if the building’s gonna fall in before I come in.”
And it isn’t uncommon, when a regular patron isn’t seen as regularly as usual, for Glover to show up at that person’s door, checking to see if everything is OK.
During her interview, a patron walked up, congratulating her, and she inquired about his health and encouraged him to get well soon, saying, “We checked on you.”
The unpretentious bar has changed little over the years, and Glover said, “People ask me, ‘Why don’t you do this or why don’t you do that?’ but I like it the way it is. Our motto is ‘lifestyles of the poor and grubby.'”
Pictured at top: Jan Glover, owner of the Y-Inn in Rogers, serves a beer to customer Jackie Dunham while sharing a story about his late father, Jack, during the bar’s 100th birthday celebration.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.