A reunion and a gig
STEUBENVILLE — While it’s not unusual for former area residents to come home for a high school class reunion, few if any return to have a local singing gig to boot.
For singer-songwriter Bernadette Milewsky Mullenix of Warner Springs, Calif., however, that’s a reality.
The 1971 graduate of Catholic Central High School is not only looking forward to her 50-year class reunion on Saturday, which is her birthday, she and her husband, Joe, will perform as Slow Traffic on Sunday at the Spot Bar, 217 S. Fourth St., from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Because of COVID-19 pandemic delays that impacted the class reunion for CCHS Class of 1970, Saturday’s reunion will be a combined one for CCHS Class of 1970 and Class of 1971, Bernadette explained in an e-mail correspondence.
“I am very excited to be able to attend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and perform at the Spot Bar,” she said of a trip to her hometown that combines memories and music.
“We like the venue because it has a spacious outdoor patio where we will be performing, and it is a local favorite,” she noted. “I especially like it because it brings back memories of the once bustling South End and historic downtown Steubenville, where I used to play in Beatty Park and shop at the Hub Department Store.”
Born and raised in Steubenville, the daughter of the late Thomas and Jane Milewsky attended Cathedral Grade School, where she first performed in front of her first-grade peers. After high school, she began performing in different bands in the area, moving in 1975 to California where she has continued her musical pursuits to this day.
Becoming a musician, however, wasn’t something she envisioned for herself.
“I just always had a deep love for music and would participate in grade school and high school musical events whenever I could,” she explained. “I played a few instruments, but they never stuck. I do play, though, several percussion instruments. I was always a singer and was drawn to musical people.”
She and Joe — Joseph Robert Mullenix — met in Hermosa Beach, Calif., in the summer of 1975 through their friend Michael Hall — M.D. Hall. — who also is from Steubenville.
“I moved to California to be in Mike and Joe’s band,” she noted. “We named it ‘Steuben Park.’ Joe and I hit it off from the start, but we decided not to date since we were performing together. After several years of playing together, we all went our separate ways,” she explained.
Ironically, the two reconnected in 2008 and got married on Sept. 9, 2013. “We tell people we dated for 33 years before we got married, to make sure we got it right,” she quipped.
“We now play in our own band called Slow Traffic,” she continued. “It is a passion we love and share, an essential part of our relationship. Periodically, we come back to my beloved hometown, visit family and friends and play music. Mike usually sets up an event or two, so that we can all play together again.”
Music, she explained, makes her happy.
“It is a great way to be active and involved in the musical community. I enjoy socializing, meeting new people, performing, singing, song writing, being on my feet, dancing, playing percussion, or just having a beer and hanging out with friends,” she noted.
“Joe and I have been fortunate in that we perform and play wherever we go. We once packed up our pickup truck with sound equipment and guitars and hit the road on a trip across the United States, from California to Ohio. We played along the way, including Dallas, Texas and Nashville. In fact, we ended up playing at the world-famous Spot Bar! Full circle, baby,” she wrote.
“We also had the opportunity to perform in Norway. Our friends there have a band and wanted us to play with them, so we went on two different occasions and played several different venues. We played some of the gigs as a duet and others with their full band. When we play as a duet, Joe plays acoustically on his 9-string guitar, which is a rare instrument. When we play with a full band, Joe switches to his electric guitar,” she explained.
Slow Traffic regularly plays in the wineries and winery-related venues in the Temecula Valley, SoCal and San Diego areas. The two are songwriters and perform an array of popular country, country rock and classic rock with a few originals in the mix. They’re partial to the works of artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Linda Ronstadt, Rolling Stones, George Strait, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Johnny Cash and Miranda Lambert. Randy Green does percussion.
Joe and Bernadette perform as a duo with larger bands and various musicians. They are two of the principles in the weekly Chords and Vines/LA TalkRadio show.
Bernadette said her father was a World War II veteran and her mother, a stay-at-home mom to nine children. “When time allowed, mom also worked various jobs as a cashier at different stores throughout the town. Mom and dad worked together at the True Value Hardware store on Sunset Boulevard when dad retired.”
She keeps in touch with grade school and high school friends who still live in Steubenville. “Whenever I come to visit, I make sure to visit everyone, and it is always a very special treat to see them. Friends were always something I treasured, and it was very important for me to not lose contact with them,” she noted.
She was last in the area in 2019. Her husband is from Parkersburg. “We were there for Joe’s 50th class reunion. Joe lived in Steubenville for a few years while I was still in high school, and he played music in the town with his buddy, Michael Hall, whom he met at Ohio State University. I didn’t get to meet Joe until I moved to California to be in the band with him and Michael. After I got out of high school, I played in a band with Michael and Andy Tonsky, who recently passed (a few years ago now),” she explained. Their trio was BAM.