Annual South End Reunion still draws a crowd

STEUBENVILLE – Neighborhood residents of the past and present converged on Beatty Park Saturday for the annual South End Reunion, which was open to anyone who was born and raised in the city’s South End between 1935 and 1975 along with their families.

“You can take a person out of the South End, but you can’t take the South End out of a person,” laughed Terri Smogonovich-Fithen, born and raised on Lincoln Avenue.

Now a Mingo Junction resident, Smogonovich-Fithen is proud of her Steubenville roots. She worked as a lifeguard on and off for more than 30 years, and it all began at Beatty Park Pool when she was just 15 years old.

“I taught just about everyone here today how to swim and dive. Even as an adult I have people come up to me and recognize me as the lifeguard from Beatty. Kids would stay there from open to close, every day, and we would all watch out for each other. We’re family here,” she said. “This park will always hold such a special place in the hearts of everyone who grew up in the South End.”

The cake at this year’s reunion featured a photo of the original pool, which was the focus of many fond memories shared Saturday. It was originally constructed in 1932, and the only remnant left today is a concrete retaining wall.

“Kids always spent their time here. They’d be here swimming until they’d get kicked out every night,” recalled Jim Trimmer, who was born in a house across the street from Beatty Park in 1926.

“Kids used to get chased out of here when they’d close,” added Dorothy Wells.

At 92, Wells is still living in the same South End home she raised her children in.

“All these people have gotten older, but they haven’t really changed,” observed Barbara Wolfe, a South Ender who moved back to the area from Las Vegas a couple years ago.

Gary “Henry” McClain drove with his family all the way from South Carolina to attend the reunion and share a yearly visit.

“These are the greatest bunch of people you could ever hope to know. It was the greatest place to grow up, and that’s why we’re family here,” he said.

Jerry and Nancy Clancey remembered hanging out at the “Dairy Bar” on the corner of Lincoln and Tweed Avenues.

“We all spent a lot of time there,” Jerry Clancey said. “There were kind of three layers of fields in the hills off of Harding Avenue, and we would live in those fields during the summer. We even built a little baseball field at one of them. We used to pick blackberries there. We’d stay all day at the pool and buy penny candy. That’s what I remember about the South End.”

Connie Strachan Creek, an organizer for the reunion, said the idea started on Facebook. In addition to food, drinks and music, the gathering this year featured a 50/50 drawing, photo booth, video diary and group reunion photos throughout the day.