March 16, 2011

Thanks to social networking, a blog headline was changed as was the name of someone listed among my class's deceased

A 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible, not a Bonneville, carried the cheerleaders

By Frank Barning

Three weeks ago I posted a story about social networking. It was built around being informed by email of the passing of long-time Division Avenue High School teacher and administrator, Larry Lasker.

Within a matter of a few hours I had searched the internet for a recent photo of him and found one. Next I asked a friend to scan her early DAHS yearbooks for photo of him, then I wrote a story and the next morning I posted the story with photos of a well remembered man.

These steps were all tied together by social networking. A telephone was never used.

The March 10th blog post ran under the headline, "During Saturday afternoon football games at Division Avenue High School, a classic white convertible was part of the scene." Well, that was not the headline when the story was initially posted. The original headline mentioned a white Pontiac Bonneville.

Within 15 minutes of the story being posted, two comments were sent in, catching an error in the identification of the convertible. Anonymous wrote, "I believe the car is a 1959 Chevrolet, with the 'cat's eye' tail lights." Eight minutes later, the class of 1962's Howard Whidden Class commented: "I well remember Gary's dad's Bonneville and this ain't it! It was his pride and joy. We had a '59 Chevy (not a convertible) and the gull-wings tail were the same as the convertible in this picture."

I did not change the story, just the headline. Added under the story was "See comments below as to the year and make of the car." JonB observed, "Not only a Chevy, but an Impala!"

The following day, an email from Corinne Norgren Burns '61 cleared up who owned the car. She wrote, "The car in the picture is indeed a 1959 Chevy Impala. It belonged to my Dad and he graciously allowed me to use it on 'special occasions'. The photo is in the 1961 DAHS yearbook on page 144 which means the photo was taken in the Fall of 1960. The white Bonneville is pictured on page 100 of the same yearbook. Both great cars and great memories. By the way, my Dad is 96 and still sharp as a tack. Thank goodness, he doesn't drive anymore."

Approximately 10 people noted the incorrect information. Three forwarded internet links to photos of the correct vehicle. Interestingly, all corrections were from men. Feedback is appreciated and I don't mind being corrected. The blogger does not have a research department to check facts. So the occasional error will occur. Not even my wife thinks that I am perfect.

I maintain a list of the deceased members of the classes of 1960 through 1963. It is available through my Facebook page and was posted in the blog last September. If I remember, it will be run here on Memorial Day.

Information for the grim list has come primarily from Barbara Wittenberg Taylor, my 1960 classmate. As she has built, over many years, a mailing list for her class reunions, Barbara has shared information with me. And since a fair share of old Division people are in touch with me, news of the passing of classmates has been sent to me. I then share it with Barbara. And so a list of the deceased has been built.

A few months ago, someone emailed to ask if I was sure that Bill Whalen (class of 1960) was dead. Truthfully, I can never be certain unless I see an obituary or get the info from next of kin. Concerning Whalen, I checked back with my original source and he remembered from whom he was told that Bill had passed away. Then I checked with the incredibly thorough Barbara and she told me that in all her efforts to build her mailing list, she never could locate Whalen. She did not know that he was no longer with us, but it supported the information that I had.

About two months ago, Jim McGrath '60, informed me that he believed that Bill Whalen was alive. Great news, indeed. They had gone to high school and college together. Both had been wrestlers.

Jim wrote, "I thought he passed also. It started with Facebook. I received a friend request. His Facebook name is Bill Whalen. At first I thought it was a joke. His profile picture looks so different." Jim had not seen Bill in some 45 years, so that might explain how he looked.

"His facts were correct," McGrath continued. "He graduated from Brentwood High School in 1960 (his family had moved). Wayne State class of 1964. Retired and widowed and his email address. I accepted him as a Facebook friend and asked him a few questions. He responded with the correct answers. Stuff about our New York flag football team, etc. So I believed him and responded back."

This scenario is another great example of the power of social networking, the rebirth of Bill Whalen. Rejoicefully, I corrected our deceased list and informed a few people that their old friend was alive and well in Florida.

The deceased list has far more class of 1960 graduates than 1961-63. The reason is Barbara Wittenberg Taylor's reunion efforts. I am not aware of anyone having done much research for the other early DAHS classes.

Under the comments section of my deceased list in my Facebook notes section, Merilee Flamm Kubart 1961 wrote: "I remember hearing way back when that Joanna Cook (class of '61) was killed in a car crash in upstate NY while at college. Thought I read it in the local paper while living in Levittown. Any way of checking it out?" Unfortunately, no, unless someone reading this has information.

Social networking, for me, adds hundreds of sources of information, ideas, the sharing of memories, and the occasional blog correction. That an automobile was not identified correctly is small change compared to learning that Bill Whalen could be deleted from the deceased list.

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