New Facebook Group Opens Rich Vein of Golden Memories About Birmingham
Vivid posts and vintage photos recall milk deliveries, family grocers, beloved teachers and lifelong friendships.
It's fun to reminisce about childhood and other touchstones, and it doesn't take much to get memories flowing. Social media does the trick.
Case in point: A Birmingham nostalgia group on Facebook zoomed past 400 members this week, less than two weeks after a 1975 Seaholm graduate created it.
Though instant success is easier online than in high school, it's still a heady surprise for Karen Coan of Bloomfield Hills.
"I never dreamed it would become so popular," says Coan, known as varsity swimmer Karen McGregor by longtime friends at "You Know You're from Birmingham, Michigan..." – the group she formed Jan. 29 after a suggestion from classmate Shawn McTigue (now Shawn Watson of Auburn Hills). The women have known each other "since grade school and Camp Fire Girls," Coan says.
It's like a Happy Days episode set in Birmingham, and any Facebook member can join the cast.
"Honestly, I thought maybe 50 or so people would come and then it would soon fizzle," Coan said in an interview Tuesday morning. "Now we may hit 500 before long."
Sledding, shopping, cruising
Dozens of "remember when" vignettes are posted and commented on daily, filling the online "wall" with talk and photos of schools, stunts, sports, stores, cruising, first jobs, hippies and phone numbers starting with "MI" for Midwest.
There are bits about sledding on "Devil's Hill" behind the Allen House, shopping at Peabody's when it was a family-run grocery (1946-75) and getting Twin Pines milk on the doorstep or in a kitchen slot.
"No better place to grow up," Linda Jackson Thielfoldt says in a recent comment.
Izzy Forester, a MSU graduate now living in Kalamazoo, marveled Feb. 3 that the group she joined a week earlier "is now up to 191 members." She added: "I love the old childhood memories, they are what shaped me into what I am today."
Two days after that sentiment was posted last Friday, the group surpassed 300 members on Super Bowl Sunday. Another 100 came aboard Monday.
'Like a small town'
"This past week sure has jogged some great memories," says Coan, a retired dental hygienist with four adult daughters. "I think part of it is our age and wanting to recall a more innocent time," suggests the group founder, who recalls shopping alone "uptown" at roughly age 10. "It was like a small town, where a family store once trusted me when I was short a dollar."
Long, evocative threads grow from short, simple questions.
"Who learned to skate on Quarton Lake?" asked Jody Friedman, drawing 17 comments. "I did, with you," replied Amy Stark.
"Where did you work while in high school?" wondered Ellen Tracey McGeagh. Names of bygone businesses and surviving ones fill more than 120 comments.
Linda Jackson Thielfoldt this week asked about lifelong friendships, which sparked 22 examples of keeping in touch — not just on Facebook — with classmates from Adams. Baldwin, Barnum, Covington, Derby, Holy Name, Pierce, Quarton and Seaholm.
A thread about teachers at the former Barnum Elementary School swelled with 80 comments.
Food also is a popular topic, with tasty recollections of Biff's burgers, Kresge's chocolate cake, Machus Cafeteria salads and Whistle Stop carrot cake.
An older nostalgia nook, set up as a Facebook page rather than an ask-to-join group, is at Remember When in Birmingham, Michigan? It's a bit larger, but went nearly five months without activity until January.
Coan's group, by contrast, bubbles with an energetic newcomers' giddiness reminiscent of freshman orientation.
This article's writer joined the online group and posts items, including links to two 'Discover Birmingham' columns in Patch.