News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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August 8, 2011

‘If you grow up in Terre Haute …’

Transplanted Hautean’s Facebook group remembers

TERRE HAUTE — A new Facebook group with a Terre Haute theme is attracting a lot of attention.

Jonelle Brown, who now lives and works in Tennessee, has started a page inviting Facebook friends to share their memories and photos of the city on the Banks of the Wabash.

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Brown said she got the idea for a Terre Haute page when she was talking to a friend at work who mentioned a Facebook site for people who grew up in the Tennessee town where they work. Her friend talked about all of the memories that those people were posting to share with others.

“I meandered over there to look,” Brown said of that page, “and I spent three hours there, reading and looking at pictures. And I thought, ‘This is great!’”

On the evening of July 29 after she got home from work, Brown got onto Facebook and created the page “If you grow up in Terre Haute and you remember ...” She sent an invitation to 56 of her high school friends on Facebook, and she was astonished that within a few minutes she had hundreds of members joining the page.

Nine days later, the group has grown to have more than 6,500 members and close to 17,000 posts from people.

“The astonishing thing,” Brown said, “is that it’s all positive. I’ve only seen two things of negativity that shouldn’t be there, and I took those down. There’s 16,914 posts, and it’s all positive.”

The Facebook page is an open group, meaning that any person with a Facebook account can ask to join. So there may be some folks who don’t have their own Terre Haute memories, but they enjoy looking at the posts shared by others.

The description of the group states: “This is a group for Hauteans, born and raised, transplanted, uprooted, newly arrived, former college students or anyone who wants to talk about Terre Haute. Please try and keep it clean, comment like you think your Mom will read this. Enjoy the memories and have fun!”

Brown said she has not only found out a lot of interesting stuff about Terre Haute, but has seen others benefit from the site.

For example, an 81-year-old gentleman who posts through his daughters has reconnected with long-lost friends, and the daughter has learned tons of historical stuff about her father and his generation.

There are photos of the Boys Club in the 1940s, the Burger Chef on Wabash Avenue in the 1960s, the legendary Stiffy Green and his owner’s mausoleum, and a soap box derby entry, just to name a few. The old photos of a thriving downtown business district and some of the long-gone department stores also bring a lot of comments.

Another great thing, Brown said, is how people from different neighborhoods share their local legends and stories.

“Everyone has their own history, and their own people who they remember,” Brown said. For instance, there are several posts concerning a man named Dewey who was a friend to all the children in the neighborhood. Someone posted a photo of Dewey wearing a new suit and hat.

“I was just astonished by the number of people who wanted to know what happened to Dewey,” Brown said.

Though Brown lives several hundred miles away in Tennessee, she said Terre Haute is not far from her mind. She still has several relatives here, and she hopes to one day move back to the area.

“Everyone who’s 18 can’t wait to get out of Terre Haute,” Brown laughed. “I left at 17 to go to California. I came back to go to school, and left again to go to work. My goal is to be back in five years.”

Through some of the group members, a reunion of sorts is in the planning stages. Brown said she is a bit cautious about that coming together, but hopes that it does turn into a big event celebrating life in Terre Haute. Suggestions on the name of the event are being accepted on the Facebook page.

So, anyone feeling nostalgic about the Terre Haute of bygone days is welcome to join the chatter online.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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