New and old friends collide


For years I avoided Facebook like it was the plague. I guess it was because I really didn’t want many people knowing about my personal business, and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to let the world know their’s.

You know, like when people post something like: “Hey, we’re going to Mexico next week.” Instead, why don’t just say, “Hey, we’re going to be in Mexico next week, so feel free to stop by the house and take anything you’d like. Here’s our address. Oh, and we’ll leave the backdoor open to make it a little easier for you.”

Or they’ll say something like: “Hey everybody, little Joey just went pooh-pooh for the first time. We’re so proud of him! Here’s the picture of him on the potty!”

Really? Yes, I’ve really read that kind of stuff. And I still don’t get it. But to each his own, I guess.

In the last couple years I’ve become a bit more familiar with Facebook. I’m still not a frequent user, and it’s rare that you’ll see me post anything, other than to maybe wish someone a happy birthday. But it is a good reporter’s tool. In fact, a reporter here once garnered enough information from Facebook to do an in-depth story on a local murder complete with a graphic. It is also a good way to draw more traffic to The Times-Gazette website. So it’s handy in those ways.

And, I’ll admit, I do check it out once in a while to see what my “friends” are posting, especially if I’m bored. Occasionally, I’ll come across something that really grabs my attention.

Such was the case this week when I saw a post from one of my favorite regular Facebook posters, saying that the old Webster Elementary building in Hillsboro is being prepped for destruction. The particular friend said he took a tour of the building this week and that memories came flooding back.

And when he started talking about Terry McConnaughey being his gym teacher there, the memory gates opened for me, too.

Dang Facebook.

It was about 50 years ago when my mother walked me into Webster for my first day of public education. I dearly wanted her by my side that day but, at least as I remember it, that was that was the first and only time she walked me into class.

I was a bit of a timid kid, but my stubbornness and fear of being embarrassed were much stronger. So when she asked me the next year on the first day of first grade if I wanted her to walk into Webster my answer was something like, “No, please, pretty please, I’ve got it.”

I attended Webster through the third grade and had many memorable experiences. Like the time one of the handles on that goofy chain ride busted the back of my head open, or the time I begged my mother to let me wear my Cub Scouts pants to school, promising nothing would happen to them, only to end up with a hole in the knee after a playground tumble.

I had Mrs. Shaffer in kindergarten, Mrs. Hadley in first grade, Mrs. Hamilton in second grade and Mrs. Grice in third grade.

But the memories of Webster run well beyond my first four years of school.

When I was in my 20s and 30s I played hundreds of volleyball games in that old gym. The last couple years a friend and I even ran the leagues. My sons practiced basketball there on countless occasions, as did a grandson.

As a reporter I went to Webster for many stories and pictures. For a handful of years it seemed I got the assignment every year to go take pictures of local magician Steve Faris giving his annual performance to youngsters at the school. I could have been done in 5 or 10 minutes, but always lingered longer than I probably should have to watch part of the show.

Before that I had a regular gig picking a stepson up from school there. That was when people picking their kids up in their vehicles pulled into the “lower” playground to wait on their kids. It was mass confusion, and I can’t imagine anyone letting kids run in between and around cars to find their parents today, but it worked back then.

Years before that, my dad took a brother and I there a time or two to play baseball. Sometimes a few other kids would join in. My dad spent much of his childhood there, too, playing games with lots of other kids. “Every day. Winter and summer. Basketball in the winter, even when it was freezing, and softball in the summer,” he said when I called to make sure I remembered correctly.

There were PTO carnivals at Websters, YMCA events, parent/teacher conferences, and I’m just beginning to scratch the surface.

Webster was once a centerpiece of the community. It is not any longer. It’s time of usefulness has passed. But it served its people long and well, and I can still hear the shouts of youngsters in its halls.

Now the time of Facebook is upon us. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but I am certain that I would prefer Webster’s time. Still, I have to admit that Facebook tickled my imagination the other day when I read my friend’s comments.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist

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