MINGO JUNCTION - They played basketball at Mingo High School before graduating together in the Class of 1961.
Now almost five decades later Guy Mason and Larry Smith are working on a book together - a book which is not only about, but for, the village.
Mason and Smith have received a contract to co-edit a book through Arcadia Publishing. The company is known for books on pictorial histories of cities and sites of historical interest throughout America.
PRESERVING HISTORY — Guy Mason, left, and Larry Smith are compiling a book on the pictorial history of Mingo Junction and its residents throughout the years. The two friends and former 1961 graduates of Mingo High School are looking to the public for assistance in their mission of finding old photographs of people, businesses or industry that may be included in their work. The deadline for turning in photos is July 15, and they can be submitted to Mason.
-- Julie Ghrist
The book on Mingo Junction will be a pictorial history of the village and its residents throughout the years.
And the two men are looking to the community for help.
Smith, an author and college professor, now resides in Huron. He said he returns to his hometown often to reconnect with old, cherished friends and relatives.
Mason and Smith said they are hoping their book will preserve and instill in future generations the history of the special heritage that so many Mingo Junction people hold close to their hearts. Both indicated that this book is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The 1961 Mingo High School graduates are turning to current and former residents to assist in compiling the approximately 300 photographs they will need for their 148-page book. Currently, they have about one-third of that amount, with several village residents providing materials and pictures.
"We are trying to capture images of daily life from long ago," Smith explained, noting old photos being sought could include people walking down the street, Aracoma Park, workers in the mill or railroad or anything capturing the community.
Both stated they have come across several photographs that depict people standing beside their cars at one of the many former gas stations in town.
"People were really proud of their cars back then, and we have a lot of pictures showing residents with their first cars," Smith said. "What we need are photos which show historical Mingo, and not so much the contemporary Mingo, because we are trying to tell the long story of the village beginning from the time when the Mingo Indians lived here, and George Washington tramped these grounds."
A timeline has been created by Smith, which begins during the early 1750s when the Mingo Indians lived along the Ohio River at the mouth of Cross Creek in what has become known as the Mingo Bottoms or the "East Side." This portion of the village is where many residents later lived until land was purchased in 1945 by Wheeling Steel. "We are building on the bicentennial of the history of Mingo Junction from 1770 to 1970," Mason noted, adding contributed photographs need to be submitted by July 15. Smith said anyone with pictures is asked to contact Mason, who will scan the pictures and immediately return them to owners. Photos already scanned can be e-mailed to Mason's attention at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other types of photos needed include pictures of historical significance such as parades or celebrations that ended World Wars I and II; photos of catastrophes such as historical floods or snowstorms; pictures of the interior or exterior of downtown stores, preferably with people in the photo; and post cards which depict village sites.
Other photos being asked for are of old churches, original Paddy's Diner pictures, Penn Railroad photos, Mingo Junction school sports teams with names and dates known, if possible, and the trolley or ferry boat crossing.
Smith said he also is hoping someone can contribute pictures of Historical Carnegie and Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel mills, as well as coal mining photos and other industrial shots. The basic need is for any older picture that shows typical Mingo Junction life through work, play and celebration from the early 1900s to the present.
A listing of what is being sought can be found online at smithdocs.net/MingoJunctionHistory.
How the book came to be
It took some effort to persuade Arcadia Publishing to give the Mingo Junction book a chance, Smith said. The inquiry into the possibility of a book being made received a reply along the lines of "It's a kind of small town." Arcadia Publishing usually does not feature towns with less than 10,000 residents, he explained.
But past men, women, movies and legends ultimately led to the publishing company's approval. Also, a 20-page proposal was written and submitted by the men.
Smith said he explained how the 1978 film "The Deer Hunter," starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep, begins in Mingo Junction. That film later won the Academy Award for best picture.
Smith also told the company about how other films were partly made in the village, such as, "All the Marbles," with Peter Falk; "Heart of Steel," with Peter Strauss; and "Reckless," starring Adrian Quinn and Daryl Hannah.
Mingo Junction's contribution to rock and roll, along with Lloyd "Spud" Hughes, who was the inventor of the menthol cigarette, as well as Joe Fortunato, who was an all-pro for the Chicago Bears, didn't hurt in the effort, Smith stated.
Smith and Mason caught the attention of Arcadia Publishing with their "wow factor," they said.
The filming of the documentary entitled, "James Wright's Ohio," which was done primarily in Mingo Junction, also sold the publishing company on giving Mason and Smith the opportunity to publish their work.
"When we are done, we will really have something," Smith concluded. "We won't lose the story or the rich character of Mingo."
He noted "a lot of the people who know the history of Mingo are dying off" and stated he and Mason wanted to help preserve that knowledge so that future generations will always know or be able to refer back to the village's heritage and people.
"People are still and will always be very proud of this town and its ethnic melting pot heritage. Those who just recently moved here don't understand the value of what was once here. When you grow up in Mingo, you never lose Mingo. We were indeed very lucky to have grown up in Mingo and being able to sing or listen to Sons of the Red and Black and the alma mater of Mingo High School. That will always bring back that rush of community, of Mingo pride and Mingo people."
There are some photographs placed inside a book at the Mingo Senior Center, and those pictured in them cannot be identified, according to Smith and Mason. Anyone who may know some of the older residents who once resided in the village are being asked to visit the center and take a look.
For information about submitting photographs, contact Mason at (740) 535-1788 or (740) 424-6980.
(Ghrist can be contacted at email@example.com.)