MINGO JUNCTION - Graduates of the former Mingo High School gathered at three locations Saturday to reminisce about their school days while helping a local charity to assist residents in need.
Organizers of the Mingo High School Alumni Homecoming sold T-shirts and set out collection jars at each of the event's three locations to raise money for Mingo Social Services, a local agency that provides food to residents in need and assists them with utility costs.
Mingo alumni also aided older residents with yard work and other chores on the United Way's Day of Caring.
LOOKING BACK — Mingo High School alumni Bob Smith and Jodi Fitzgerald look over the many yearbook photos he photocopied for a display at the Mingo Junction American Legion Post during the Mingo High School Homecoming event held at the post, the Schutzen Club and Parkview Inn. Visitors to each location were treated to video footage of football games and other events from the school’s past that were compiled by Fitzgerald’s husband, Tom. -- Warren Scott
"Mingo is struggling right now and we wanted to reach out to the community," said Penny Hazelip Omstead, a 1979 alumna involved in planning the event.
On Saturday night Mingo alumni could mingle at the Mingo Junction American Legion Post, the Schutzen Club or the Parkview Inn and view film footage of of football games, performances by the school's marching band and other activities dating from 1957 to 1994, the school's last year.
Bob Smith, a 1978 Mingo alumnus and commander of the American Legion, said 1981 grad Tom Fitzgerald worked hard to transfer home movies, old videotape and photos into a digital format seen not only Saturday night but also on the group's Facebook page and Youtube channel.
Both can be found at MingoPride.
Some of the old football films had been relocated to the Mingo Junction Municipal Building after the school merged with Wintersville High School to become Indian Creek High School. Many were donated by former Mingo football coach Mike Herrick,and still more came from various sources.
"I just contacted everybody I could," said Fitzgerald, who added, "Anyone who gave me anything got back a free digital copy of what they lent me."
A former Mingo football player, Fitzgerald said the endeavor was "a little bit selfish because I got to see myself but I also enjoyed seeing the other teams, too."
He said the effort is not intended as a commentary on the school's consolidation, only as a look back at good times enjoyed during their own high school days.
"We're not against where we're going but we want to celebrate where we've been," he said.
Fitzgerald said some Mingo Junction residents have commented on being able to see deceased family members in their youth.
Tom's wife, Jodi, said a former member of the Mingo band enjoyed watching his grandfather, who also was in the band, being escorted across the football field by his father on Senior Night.
And a local woman whose late son had attended Mingo contacted them to say it was nice to see him play football again, she added.
Jodi said the effort has taught her and other Mingo alumni more about the school's earlier days, including its efforts to support the troops during World War II.
"Mingo High School raised over $70,000 in war bond sales. I thought it was neat that one high school in a small area could raise so much," she said.
Jodi said the Facebook page and Youtube channel also may be enjoyed by graduates of the schools that played against Mingo. The group only lacks football footage from 1963, 1964 and 1985, though they have posted a highlight reel from 1985.
The group also used Facebook to reach out to fellow alumni. The page has had more than 16,000 visits, and 122 used it to tell classmates of their plans to attend the homecoming.
Tom Matthews, a 1984 graduate now living in Pittsburgh, said he learned of the event through Facebook. "It's been on Facebook for almost a year now so hopefully it will have a nice turnout," Matthews said as he arrived at the American Legion.
Smith said the event evolved from an informal get-together initiated by Ed "Spuds" Fithen, owner of the Parkview Inn and a 1977 alumnus.
"Now we just combined everything and invite everybody to come down," said Smith, who also expressed thanks to Drew Karas, owner of The Schutzen, for his support.
"We didn't want to wait five or 10 years for a reunion," said Olmstead, who added too many older alumni have died to let too much time pass between get-togethers.
Donna Mackey, a 1959 graduate, said of about 70 in her class, about 15 have died.
"This is the first year I've been here for this," said Mackey, who added, "It's nice of them to do it and the way they've done it with the three bars makes it really nice."
Depending on the location, visitors could listen to three area bands, a local disc jockey or just chat with old friends.