Tuesday, February 5, 2013

August 28, 2012 - Finding Ashtabula

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

FaceBook has been touted as the new Main Street for America, and, as it is used by many, it certainly holds elements of this. On FaceBook you can catch up with friends, find ones who have slipped away, discover new friends.

But when I talk to folks around Ashtabula and look at photos, many faded with time, I realize Ashtabula once had its own FaceBook, the downtown are which is now, itself faded and somewhat tattered.

Edie Brewer-Plyer, who grew up in Ashtabula, shared with me photos she has gathered over time of people, smiling into the camera. All of these people 'link in' to other families from Ashtabula. Many are separated by generations, but connect through shared experiences as well as DNA. Among the photos was one of a man, who also grew up here, and was seeing a photo of his mother for the first time. His story was touching, sad and filled with a hunger which was never satisfied. Now elderly, he cherishes the photo of his mother, which Edie provided through her research.

Edie gave me the link to an online site where other folks had uploaded photos, some including captions, some leaving you wanting to know more about the people and their lives.

Most of us feel a hunger to know more about the world in which we live and know other people better and reclaim the past. The photos provide glimpses of life, as does FaceBook.

As people talk about their early experiences with Main Street here in Ashtabula they compare their memories about stores, now gone, the buildings occupied by other enterprises. They discuss when Carlisle's, a men's clothing store, closed, and the glowing displays in Cederquist's Jewelry Store. Another lady remembered being fitted with her wedding dress at The Empire Gold, which was also on Main Street. The light in her eyes and voice told a story she was reliving, but did not share, as she smiled.

Images, either printed on paper, or online with pixels, connect us both to people and placed we knew and those we never knew, but loved anyway. What we see anchors us. As people, we need the security remembering provides and the understanding our reflections bring.

When we share memories amazing things happen. Ask yourself, what do you remember about Main Street, your school, the street when you grew up? Shared memories help us find ourselves.

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