Alexander Family Album

Yusef Alexander

Yusef Alexander

Fares Iskundar (Fares Alexander) was born in the 1890s and immigrated with his wife to the U.S. around the turn of the century.  His son, Yusef (Joseph), was born in 1913, in Youngstown.  Joseph later married Edna Saker, who immigrated to the U.S. along with her parents, Theodore and Alice, in 1921, escaping the ongoing battles of the Ottoman Empire.  They traveled from Lebanon, through Cherbourg, France.  Both families were originally from two small rural villages in Lebanon, Taula and Bajje, the original hometowns of many of the Lebanese families in the Mahoning Valley.

The funeral of Fred Alexander's first wife.  He remarried, another woman from the same area in Lebanon

The funeral of Fares Alexander's first wife. He remarried, another woman from the same area in Lebanon

Fred Alexander's store on Federal Street

Fares Alexander's store on Federal Street

Fares Alexander and his family initially settled on Himrod Avenue on the East Side of Youngstown, and he worked initially as a peddler.  After a few years, he opened a small dry goods store on East Federal Street.  Later, he and one of his brothers opened an ice cream shop in Niles, but the family later moved back to Youngstown.

The Alexanders' ice cream store in Niles

The Alexanders' ice cream store in Niles

When he graduated from high school, Joseph went to work at a whiffle board company that had its factory near the family’s home on the East Side.

The employees of the whiffle board company

The employees of the whiffle board company

The company made the game that was the precursor to the pinball machine we know today.  The local company was the first to design a coin-operated pinball machine.  When the company failed early in the 1930s, Fares arranged to buy some of the whiffle boards and started the family business, which grew into a vending machine operation that continues to operate in the Mahoning Valley today.

Edna Alexander

Edna Alexander

Meanwhile, Edna’s family settled in Warren.  Her father, Theodore, worked for a tool and die company there for most of his life.

Joseph and Edna married in 1938, and they built a house on Colonial Drive in Liberty in the early 1940s.  They had four children, including one girl and three boys.  The children attended Catholic schools for elementary and high school, but went to Liberty schools for middle school.  Joseph’s son, Fred, remembers that there were several other Lebanese kids at St. Edward’s and Ursuline, but not at Liberty.

Edna's original Arabic baptism document, with an official English translation

Edna's original Arabic baptism document, with an official English translation

The center of community life for Lebanese immigrants and their children was the Maronite church, originally located on the East Side, on Shehy and Forest Ave.  The church later built a new structure on Meridian Road in Austintown.  Mass at the church was in Aramaic, with sermons and announcements in Arabic.  Fred recalls that his family attended mass each week as much to connect with other families as for the religious ritual.  Along with seeing other families, they would hear announcements and information from the priest.  He explains, for example, that when his family members first came to the U.S., they came from Syria, because Lebanon didn’t exist yet.  The church made an official declaration at some point in the 1940s that its people were now Lebanese.
Along with religious activities, the church sponsored social activities.  bookletcoverIn the 1950s, the priest, Father Eid, purchased land and a lake on Halleck Young Road, called Cedar Lake, which became a gathering place for Lebanese families.  On summer weekends, people would get together to cook and eat, play games, swim in the lake, and relax.  While the women made kibbee in a mortar and pestle, the men engaged in weight lifting competitions using the mortars.
In the late 1970s, a Lebanese men’s club was formed, where men would meet to play cards, but it shut down after about a decade.  The church continues to be the center of Lebanese community life, with more than 425 families, though for Fred and his brothers, the connection is made mostly through friends and family rather than religion.
Based on an interview with Fred Alexander, July 13, 2009

One Response to “Alexander Family Album”

  1. Cassandra Vega says:

    Hello! My name is Cassie Vega and my grandfather was an Alexander but unfortunately most of that part of my family passed before I was born so I am aiming to figure out my family tree. If I could possibly get in contact with Fred it would be much appreciated. Thank you!

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