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Mason County Memories

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History Column 276 Dave Petersen I grew up in Ludington, did you? Last week I made a fleeting reference to the "fountain of our youth." Unlike the Fountain of Youth sought by Ponce de Leon that supposedly, upon taking a sip, would transform one and physically roll back the years to return us to one's youth, the internal fountain of our youth are the memories that we hold dear. Those memories have the power to transform us, roll back the years and return us to our youth, too. Poor Ponzi could have saved himself a lot of heartache if he had looked inside himself for his fountain instead of seeking it in the physical world. All I need to go on that trip is a Nesbitt's orange pop - mmm - or a cream soda, a can of cashews and my iPod with about a thousand songs from the '60s and '70s and I'm there. Sitting at the Beach House at Ludington State Park or out on the North Breakwater and it's golden. Our community may be small in size, but larger than life at least in our memories. *** Last week we took a look at the Facebook group "Vanished Ludington" and talked a bit about the old businesses and architecture that are no longer part of the landscape that we relegated to our (sometimes faulty) memories. This week we'll explore the group "I grew up in Ludington." Seems odd when you think about it: building an online community, a cyber consciousness centered on the memories of a thousand fans who talk about their experiences growing up in our small lakefront town. In a sense such social networking has taken the place of the coffee clatch at the Bach's Danish Bakery. Remember that? This to me is a great thing. It's a record of the living history of the memories of several generations of people who grew up in Ludington. In a world that has driven us and many families thousands of miles apart we can, if but for a moment, come back together again and talk about those familiar things, those comforting things that helped make Ludington our home. Such networking can bring back the security and innocence that we felt growing up in a small community. Jolynn Tacktor Jones started the "I Grew Up in Ludington" group. When I asked her about it she said "I got the idea because I moved away from Ludington about 25 years ago but my family still lives there. Being away from the town really makes you miss the atmosphere. The longer I have been away the more I appreciate the small town atmosphere and all the beauty that Ludington has to offer. I think the majority of people who had to move for work or whatever reason wish they were still living there." Jolynn's family settled in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s and have had a presence here since. Her family still lives in town. She started the group in October 2007 but didn't get a lot of response until midway through 2008. Now the fan base is hovering at the 1,000-person mark. "The response has been great," Jolynn commented. "It is so interesting and exciting to hear some of the stories that people have shared with this group. My hopes were to have a forum for people to exchange photos, memories, etc. who felt the same way I do - that Ludington really was a great place to grow up and it will always be a large part of our lives." There have been many small changes over the last 25 years . There was a time if you went downtown to run errands you had to add in another hour just to cover the time you would spend talking to the people you knew who you would run into on the street. You would hunker down and shoot the bull a bit, or run into the Hamlin for a cup of coffee that you really had not planned to have. When I was a kid in the 1960s one of the things we had were other kids by the dozens running around the neighborhood. You could walk out the back door, yell that we were going to have a game (baseball) and kids came running from all over the neighborhood. There were two dozen or more within earshot of my back door. When the neighbors went on vacation they told everyone, and also said if you need anything the back door is open. We didn't lock our house doors or car doors. We knew our neighbors and better than that, we knew their people because so many of us in the 1960s had family who had been here for decades. "I grew up in Ludington" helps to bring us home again. EDITOR'S NOTE: While you're on the computer waxing poetic about the days that defined your life, consider taking part in a Daily News project, "Feeling Fabulous." We'd like to hear from you about what defined your generation. Dave writes about all the kids in the neighborhood. Was that part of your experience? What music, movies, places, food (Dave's Nesbitt's Orange pop, for instance) say "my generation" to you? E-mail your comments to sbegnoche@ludingtondailynews.com or patti@ludingtondailynews.com You can use the U.S. mail, too: Steve Begnoche, Ludington Daily News, P.O. Box 340, Ludington, MI 49431. If you see me downtown - where I still get coffee several days a week and have my errand time expanded still because of the people I run into - let me know you'd like to take part. You can go home again - and you can share with our readers your own "fountain of youth."

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