YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On the left side of the image below is the cover of The Saturday Evening Post from March 9, 1963. It shows Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia. On the right is a bombing that killed Youngstown racketeer Billy Naples, used in the magazine, describing the organized crime violence plaguing Youngstown.
Sixty years later, we recall the article that let the rest of the world know what was happening in Youngstown, Ohio.
The article appeared under the headline “Crimetown USA” with a sub-headline that read, “Youngstown has had 75 bombings, 11 killings in a decade, and no one seems to care.”
“You know, years after being called Bombtown and Murdertown already by other publications, this one was Crimetown USA and it really stuck,” said Johnny Chechitelli.
Chechitelli is a WKBN producer who also produces Youngstown Mob Talk. The Saturday Evening Post story came three-and-a-half months after Charlie “Cadillac” Cavallaro and his 11-year-old son were killed in a bombing, and another 12-year-old son was injured. The article laid out the crime in gory detail.
“It’s the definitive piece of that era on Youngstown because of the timing. It came along after the bombing wars had stopped,” Chechitelli said.
The article was accompanied by a picture of detectives holding a reconstructed bomb and of mob figure Joey Naples in court. It was written by John Kobler — a true crime pioneer — best known for writing the definitive biography of Al Capone.
“So for somebody like that to come to Youngstown and call it Crimetown USA is actually pretty meaningful,” Chechitelli said.
“It really, I think, gave a lot of people pause in terms of what’s going on here,” said Bill Lawson, who runs the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Lawson was struck by the bluntness of Kobler’s writing, who described Youngstown as a place where “buffoons and incompetents succeed to important civic posts. Officials hobnob openly with criminals. Arrests of racketeers are rare, convictions rarer still and tough sentences almost unheard of.”
“It was a really hard-hitting article getting into details not only of the violence and illegal activities that were going on here in the Mahoning Valley but also, in many cases, the corruption that helped to support all that,” Lawson said.
The article also stated that rackets can’t survive without the sanction of police and politicians — and an apathetic public — and Youngstown had both. Also, it was the second one done nationally on the Youngstown mob. The first was in 1961 in the niche magazine Argosy.
The Saturday Evening Post was one of the country’s leading magazines.