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Akron Original: Devilstrips and Sauerkraut balls

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

If you are from the Akron area, you grew up with this, so, please be patient while I try to educate the masses.

The Devil strip was that narrow patch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk. You might have them too in your cities, and you probably named them incorrectly, but the name originated in Akron, Ohio.

As a kid we would rake the leaves to the curb, then stand on the devil strip to dive into the piles, and, later watch gleefully as the grownups burned them. To this very day the smell of burning leaves puts me back on the curb.

The trees on this patch had been there a long time in the old, established neighborhoods, and the tree roots caused the opposite of potholes; which made it even more difficult for snow shoveling.

May God bless those of us who lived on a corner, we had twice as much shoveling, but it was what good neighbors do.

This is the same devil strip that held 1st and 3rd bases when we played street baseball.

Do you remember being the kid waiting to bat, and it was your job to keep an eye out for cars, and then call time out?

My Uncle Jerry insisted that my foot always touched the curb when cars passed. People drove better back then, and this was a courtesy so they could see I was aware of them too.

We even had black snow from the tire factories. I will link to that story at the end of this one.

St. Martha’s grade school My friend Mark has a story about our school too. I’ll link it at the end also.

Blocks also were much longer back then, I know that sounds silly, but let me explain. I attended St. Martha grade school, and on most days the school bus picked me up in front of my house, and I would walk home after school with friends who dropped off arriving at their homes, as I wandered my way home. It was always enjoyable, even in rain or snow. Galoshes and raincoats were very fashionable back then. Some things are still around

I remember bragging to my wife about this 5-mile daily journey

when we compared childhood memories.

In 1998 we went back to Akron to visit my Mom and so I drove Marie around, showed her the area I played in as a kid.

First thing we decided to drive to St. Martha’s, and follow my route home so I could prove my struggles growing up. We left St. Martha’s and headed two blocks down to Dayton St, past Jennings middle school to Hillier, which was the longest block ever. On to Elma down to Falls Ave. cross Temple square to Berwin St. and staggering to Dalton, then Chalker to Mildred and finally home on Howard to the corner at Salome St. That’s a lot of walking in the winter time with your galoshes and your trombone case.

So it turns out I was remembering with little kid eyes. As luck would have it, I was not abused my journey was only3 quarters of a mile. TOTAL. So my credibility is shot, Marie’s walk to the bus stop at a little over a mile each way beats my story.

But, uphill both ways??

No more sympathy for poor ole Jeff, quite a jolt to my memory bank, and tremendous fun being proved wrong.

No trip to Akron is complete without a eating a few Galley Boy burgers from Swenson's, they had me at Olive! What a great idea.

Plus the quintessential Sauerkraut Ball from nearly everybody.

Sauerkraut Balls

They were actually born in Akron, amongst the German Mennonite community. They had invaded every restaurant in the Akron area by the early 60's, and they are available as appetizers with almost any meal.

I have a warm and fuzzy memory eating many platefuls, and sipping a dry deep red Cabernet, nestled in a wine bar at the bottom of Portage Trail waiting for the snow plows to clear the hill from the 6 inches of snow that snuck in under the sound of wine glasses clinking. I mean for safety's sake we had to keep eating and drinking until it was safe to drive.

I love them and my wife thinks even Livermush tastes better.

Today, by law in North Carolina, genuine livermush must consist of at least 30% pig liver. Livermush is like the Appalachian mountains version of Haggis.

As the old timey quote goes; "Happy Wife, Happy Life". I have tried to perfect my Sauerkraut Ball recipe to something she might enjoy, alternating the meats between hamburger, pork, sausage, hot sausage, Honey Baked Ham, smoked locally grown ham. No joy! With my dairy allergy I can't use regular sour cream so I substitute Kite Hill brand and it was a tad sweet. So I substituted instant mashed potato flakes, and it along with an actual roux from cooking the meat. So far the winner is Jimmy Dean regular pork sausage, and finely chopped drained sauerkraut. The potato flakes help lower the tartness from the brine, and kraut varies so much, caraway seeds, organic, Bavarian. That brings us to the dipping sauces.

I'm going to post my latest version and please feel free to comment, and offer suggestions.

Now that I think of it, maybe the secret ingredient is more Cabernet.

So here is the link to the recipe for my

And as advertised Here is the link to Black Snow post, and this link is to Mark's story from St. Martha and the Law

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Apr 12, 2021

I would've thought it was a greater distance, too. Ninni's on Cuyahoga Falls Ave. Had the BEST lemon ice! Except, when I make it each summer. Also, Ninni's had the greatest tasting cake of all time. Mom always got one for her birthday.

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