Hardscrabble, Ohio, is little more than an intersection listed on some maps near the border of Warren and Leavittsburgh.
Apparently, only the real old-timers call it that anymore. But with our country’s economy firmly in recession, it made us wonder if things were any worse in the most hard-luck-sounding destination we could find on an Ohio map — a place where farmers once floundered so much, it’s named after their struggle.
When we drove out to visit, most folks we talked to had no idea the place was ever called Hardscrabble, but Jerry “Blue Jean” Misckolcze did. Unfortunately, he says it applies more than ever, now that several longtime businesses along state Route 422 have shut their doors.
The difficult times are reflected in the faces of the painted concrete nursery rhyme characters outside Misckolcze’s Blue Jean Farms store. He once paid $1 for them at auction and had them shipped up from a Florida tourist trap. He tried to keep them nice, but the last few years have been tough — lately, he hasn’t been able to invest the money to repair the crumbling statues. It won’t be long until they’re gone, too.
“I should probably just close, but I just can’t do it,” Misckolcze said. “I’d have to start working for a living.”
Folks here talk in terms of “used to.” The ships passing through used to stop here to bring products down to Youngstown. Best place to eat in town? Well, it used to be Mary M’s Restaurant, but it just closed down. Hardscrabble? Folks used to call it that. Now they don’t call it anything.
But don’t put too much stock in the name. Just up the road is a place called Delightful. It ain’t much better there.