WARREN - The downtown Warren that Roger Ailes remembers from age 8 had Fred Astaire dancing his way across the silver screen at Robins Theatre.
Shoppers bustled from stores and restaurants, while he and his grandmother fed pigeons at the fountain in Courthouse Square.
His father worked for Packard Electric, drawing his paycheck from one of the nation's mightiest manufacturers, General Motors Corp., and enjoying shrimp cocktail at the Saratoga Restaurant.
Tribune Chronicle / Steve Schenck
Cathy Hesselman, left, of Warren shakes hands with Warren G. Harding High School graduate Roger Ailes Monday, as Lynn and John Gibson look on, during a reception at Huntington Bank.
The Warren that the Fox News chairman and chief executive officer returned to Monday at age 68 made him ''a little sad,'' he said, with empty storefronts and weakened manufacturing base.
''You can tell this is a town that needs jobs and optimism,'' said Ailes, a 1958 Warren G. Harding graduate who will serve as the guest speaker today when the Trumbull County Veterans Memorial is dedicated near Courthouse Square. ''You worry about towns like this.''
But Ailes said residents already are showing signs of working together to improve their lives, noting the efforts put forth to build the veterans memorial.
''I don't think I've ever seen a community pull together better than Warren, Ohio,'' he said.
Ailes urged residents to follow his father's advice: ''If you want a helping hand, look at the end of your arm.''
Ailes said he took that advice, putting in sewer pipes and guardrails for the county and state highway departments at age 16 and 17. That experience gave him strength, he said, as he pursued a career as a television producer, then a media consultant for presidents Nixon, Reagan and others, and finally launching highly successful cable television networks such as CNBC and Fox News.
''I always knew that if all else failed, I could go back and put those guardrails in,'' he said.
Ailes acknowledged people sometimes need a helping hand because everyone doesn't get the same breaks. But he added, ''The government shouldn't replace your own hands.''
One of the strengths Ailes said he sees in today's youth is they often volunteer more than his generation did.
''What you have is a whole group of fine, young people willing to do things, but you have to have direction, leadership, opportunity," he added. ''It's tricky business.''