History hunters: ‘Vintage Macon’ members share pictures, memories of old Macon on Facebook

lfabian@macon.comJanuary 26, 2013 

They chat several times a day, but don’t really know each other.

Most of the 1,660 (and counting) members of the Vintage Macon Georgia group on Facebook have never met.

For some, the only connection is their link to Macon, but it is a tie that is binding them into a close-knit bunch of retrospective time travelers.

“It’s bringing the history of Macon back to the people,” said 82-year-old Shirley Giles, a computer-savvy retired librarian who burns her favorite music on CDs. “I wish a lot of younger people would get into it.”

Giles’ son, Charles, is a site regular, and she also spends a good bit of time on Facebook.

“Maybe too much,” she joked Thursday at the Armory Ballroom, where a few dozen Vintage Maconites met face to face.

It was their first official public meeting since the group launched Nov. 16, 2011, as a site where members could post old photos of Macon and sleuth out hidden locations.

The meeting was like a class reunion for people who did not go to school together.

Group founders David Clinard and Eddie Reed both attended Willingham High School, but graduated years apart.

They met on a McEvoy-Willingham group page on Facebook and started reminiscing about old times in Macon.

Clinard, who is retired from the Georgia Department of Labor, suggested creating their own page modeled after Vintage Albany Georgia.

“It exploded,” said Reed, a retired insurance agent who grew up in the old Meredith Trailer Park near the 41 Drive Inn.

Members started posting old photographs, and the amateur history hunters started dredging up long-buried thoughts from the memory bank.

Like Internet investigators, they pore over details in snapshots until they have enough evidence to collectively identify what they see.

In a recent post, a 1911 postcard shows a tree-lined Vineville Avenue, although the precise location is up for continual debate among members.

In another post, a TV schedule from November 1963 lists broadcast times for “The Jack Benny Program,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Petticoat Junction.”

Another shows an undated Piggly Wiggly ad with lamb shoulder for 35 cents a pound, an 8.5 ounce jar of peanut butter for 13 cents and a can of peaches for a quarter.

Retired television news anchor Mary Jane (Cason) Johnson says she has to budget time spent on the digital memory lane.

“It’s great fun,” Johnson said. “I only get on the site when I have some time on my hands because you can get stuck.”

New members can spend hours in the archives.

Sometimes the poster has details to share about the artifacts. Others rely on their friends.

“Does anybody know” and “Does anyone remember” frequently begin a post.

During Thursday’s gathering, Jim Puster spread out a pack of faded 8x10 photographs he inherited from his father.

The identity of a sprawling, brick building escaped him.

“Is it the old Wesleyan College?” someone asked.

“No, that was three stories,” Puster replied. “I think it might be the Academy for the Blind.”

Marie and Jerry Amerson agreed, but they could not be sure.

Jerry Amerson snapped a cellphone picture of the print to compare it to one he’d seen at the academy.

But before the Amersons had time to verify it, Miki Fluker posted a postcard a few hours later that confirmed it was the old blind academy building.

Fluker displayed her Oct. 3, 1933, edition of the Macon Evening News that declared in a bold headline that famed boxer “W.L. Stribling is dead.”

Asked how often she checks Vintage Macon Georgia, she replied, “Every day, all day, at least a couple times a day.”

It’s one of a few sites she checks daily.

“If you grew up here, it’s very special,” Fluker said. “It’s like being a detective. What do you know?”

‘All kinds of memories’

Macon native Katy Sheridan chimes in from Albuquerque, N.M.

The 67-year-old traveled from the Southwest to attend the meet-and-greet.

“Sometimes it feels like sort of an alternate universe when I’m reading and looking at the pictures because it brings back all kinds of memories,” Sheridan said.

On her iPad, she displayed a mid-1970s-era newspaper photograph of Sheridan and her husband in their restored former home on Park Place.

“They wanted me to sit down because pregnant bellies couldn’t be seen,” she said.

Bo Stewart’s family operated Stewart Oil Co. at Mulberry and Third streets. He’s hoping someone will find an old picture of the exterior of the business that used to be on the corner where the Atlanta Postal Credit Union now stands.

The 63-year-old can only see bits and pieces of the old livery in his family photos.

“I would have thought somebody would have walked across the street and taken a picture of it,” he said.

As a boy, he remembers his grandfather storing seized vehicles that were caught hauling illegal whiskey.

“If they thought they were about to get caught, they’d bust the bottles and those cars still reeked from moonshine,” Stewart said.

Marion Discher got hooked when she happened upon a photograph of her great-grandfather, downtown business owner R.S. Thorpe.

Her sister-in-law, Kacy Discher, also found online a former Stratford Academy classmate living in Ohio.

Marion Discher is now encouraging reluctant friends to join Facebook just so they can follow Vintage Macon.

Artist Sterling Everett, whose roots are in Washington County, bought his first computer almost a year ago and now draws inspiration from the posts.

“I’m always trying to capture the way things were, and this has helped a lot,” he said while leaving the gathering.

Marie “Binks” Solomon said she’s learned more about her hometown from the Face­book page than she did growing up.

“I think there were a lot of things we thought we knew,” she said.

Charles Giles has learned to sit back and soak it all in.

“The more I keep my mouth shut and my fingers still, the more I learn.”

Reed and Clinard believe many more people are enjoying the nostalgia, but don’t comment.

After someone recently referred to Clinard as a historian, he quickly pointed out he didn’t even know how to drive home from downtown when he took driver’s education in the 10th grade.

“I just have a little bit of experience doing research, so I’m learning as we go along,” Clinard said. “It’s all news to me.”

The men will not tolerate gossip, profanity, advertising of goods, off-color or off-topic remarks.

“We’ve hurt feelings by scolding people,” Reed said.

“Be on topic. Be nice,” Clinard said.

Members come from all over the United States, and Reed keeps in continual contact.

He watches television with his computer at his side, open to Facebook.

Clinard offers this warning, “You’ve got to keep this in perspective or it will take over your life.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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