How Akron ARE you? The co-author of “A is for Akron” puts you to the test

Here’s how real Akronites are different …the extended, web-only version

by Joanna Wilson

You’re so Akron if you don’t need to consult the menu when you pull into Swensons or Skyway.

You already know what you want—you have the list of burgers and sides memorized, right? Akronites are divided between their loyalties to the two rival drive-in burger joints in town. We all have established firm opinions about

our taste preferences between the Galley Boy and the SkyHi. I’m not even sure I’ve ever met anyone around here who doesn’t claim to love one burger over the other—or foolishly bold enough to suggest neither drive-in is a favorite spot.

You’re so Akron if you know precisely which time of day provides the safest opportunity to drive W. Market Street/Rt.18 from Fairlawn into Montrose.

archie the snowman
Archie was creepier back in the day when his eyes glowed red.

We all know how difficult it is to drive the gauntlet of Rt. 18—cars, trucks, and buses are pulling out in front of you, cars merging into and from the center left lane, others quickly turning left in front of you, and every traffic light signal changes to yellow as you approach it. Making matters worse, I swear it’s always snowing or raining when I decide tonight is the night I’m brave enough to turn left into the plaza with my favorite store. Have you even, like myself, taken the 77 north expressway, exited above Montrose and driven back towards Summit Mall just to avoid the horror of all the busy intersections? I know, that doesn’t work either—the traffic is as bad one direction as it is the other. So what about knowing the best time to drive Rt. 18? It’s a trick! Morning, noon and night, it’s always a traffic nightmare. Every Akronite knows that.

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You’re so Akron if you’ve ever stood in line to speak with Archie the Snowman.

Sitting on Santa’s lap may be an annual event, however, it doesn’t replace the experience of chatting with the 20-foot friendly behemoth made of unmeltable “snow.” Akron’s talking Christmas attraction began in the late 1960s and stood tall at Chapel Hill Mall for 36 years. The mall’s new owners took him down in the mid-2000s until enough Akronites demanded his return. In 2012, Archie was re-constructed in downtown Akron at Lock 3 for the next generation of our city’s children. Then, last Christmas, Archie was moved back to the center court of Chapel Hill Mall. Whether you stood in line when you were a child, brought your little ones, or maybe even accompanied your grandchildren to stand in line and gaze up at the two-story, “frozen” wonder, a real Akronite appreciates that some traditions in this ever-changing city are worth bringing back. Don’t get me started trying to make sense of the fact that Archie once had glowing red eyes–perhaps some of us loved a little terror in our Christmas traditions too!

You're so Akron if you catch all the references in this image.
You’re so Akron if you catch all the references in this image.

You’re so Akron if you play “Six Degrees of Akron Celebrities.”

For reasons that aren’t always clear, Akronites love to publicly account for their close connections to national celebrities that used to live here. It doesn’t matter if your connection is through The Black Keys, DEVO, Chrissie Hynde or LeBron James; the object is to identify the lowest number of degrees connecting yourself to a favorite Akron celebrity. A perfectly acceptable competitive game move is “I used to work with a woman whose cousin sat behind Patrick Carney in study hall at Firestone High School.” That, my friends, is three degrees of the Black Keys. Another acceptable move is “My husband attended every St. Vincent-St. Mary’s varsity basketball home game during LeBron’s junior year in high school, and when LeBron came back to Akron in 2014 and spoke at Akron U., the great one looked into the crowd and made eye contact with us when he said the word ‘Akron.’” This would be a winning move in nearly every version I’ve heard played. Maybe identifying this nearness is a way we can feel inspired to succeed in our daily lives? Or maybe it’s a game of one-upsmanship in which we try to glom from someone else’s superstardom and in turn, bolster our own self-identity. Or, just maybe it’s a game of shoot-the-shit, best enjoyed while downing Thirsty Dog brews and not looking for any larger meaning behind it.

You’re so Akron when you don’t need GPS to know how to get to Luigi’s from any point within Summit County.

You know these routes because you’ve driven there: a) after a bachelor party hosted in Hudson, b) on the way to the office Christmas party in Fairlawn–picking up a few pizzas to share as the bring-your-own snack request, c) when your grandma in Ellet needs a ride to Luigi’s because she hankers for a cheese salad, and d) it’s everyone’s favorite place to re-group after the bars close all across town. A local institution like Luigi’s is a place you frequent with your kids, you parents, and even your co-workers, the cool place for generations before as well as beyond us. A true Akronite knows Luigi’s is open during the week until 2am and on the weekends until 4am making it the perfect late night stop for italian food for years. Each time you bring a guest from out of town, you make sure to point out the band box above the entrance. And everyone knows Luigi’s doesn’t accept credit cards–you have to pay with cash or a check (what is THAT? I hear some of you saying.)

Many things have changed over the years in Akron, some of our favorite landmarks and things we took for granted have since gone away. But every Akronite knows the best of our traditions are the ones we continue to ritualize like eating at Swenson’s, Skyway, and Luigi’s, daring to brave the traffic in Fairlawn, visiting Archie the talking Snowman, and being proud of our fellow Akronites who reach national acclaim, among many, many other traditions.

[su_box title=”Meet the writer”]

joanna wilson 2012_author_photoJoanna Wilson is the co-writer of “A Is for Akron,” a co-founder of Akron Empire and an organizer of Dance Dance Party Party-Akron, as well as the writer of several books that combine her academic background in film history and philosophy with insightful commentary on pop culture of all kinds. She is a widely acknowledged expert about Christmas television and film who has been interviewed by the New York Times and has appeared on the History Channel’s “Real Story of Christmas.” Her upcoming book is about Archie the Snowman.[/su_box]