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Facebook helps old neighbors reconnect

When Jerry Marello went digging into the past, he got more help than he expected. The Superior man launched his own Facebook group, "People who grew up in Superior East End neighborhood," two years ago "just to see who's around." As of Tuesday, t...

When Jerry Marello went digging into the past, he got more help than he expected.

The Superior man launched his own Facebook group, "People who grew up in Superior East End neighborhood," two years ago "just to see who's around."

As of Tuesday, the site boasted 313 members.

"I was flabbergasted," said Marello, 66. "I expected 20-30 people total." Instead, he got hundreds.

A visit to the page shows East Enders are a chatty group. They discuss old landmarks like the Alamo, Hammerbecks Bakery, Stack's Grocery, the Cool Note and St. Francis Hospital. Members write about characters they remember, like the man who would play bagpipes on the corner near East Junior High School. And they talk about current events. East End Family Fun Day was mentioned in a recent post and one member invited others to come pick crabapples from her yard.

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"You never know what you're going to see there," Marello said, likening it to a pawn store. "You never know who will pop in and ask questions."

There used to be a brewery near the East End Fire Hall, Marello learned, and the Alamo was originally known as the Euclid Hotel. For people who have a fascination with the past, he said, "There are so many interesting things."

Right now, Marello is hoping to find a picture of the Dutch windmill that stood on the corner of North 28th Street and East Second Street to add to the collection.

The neighborhood Facebook group connects, and in some cases reconnects, people.

One member wrote that she found a cousin through the group.

"I really wonder how many people re-find each other on this site," she posted.

The people who visit the group are Marello's main focus.

"I'm interested in people, what they do, their quirks and interests," he said. Some of the names that pop up on the site are ones the Superior man hasn't heard for 50 years. And the group page is an easy way for Marello to keep track of friends and families who have left the area.

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A similar Facebook page for Solon Springs residents inspired Marello to start the group. He said it took about 30 minutes to set it up, but a computer-savvy person could probably put one together in five. It has grown larger than the Superior man ever dreamed and, he said, "It's been a ball."

Now, he's asking his East End friends to be on the lookout for pictures of the windmill, which was a former pizza parlor. Marello has confidence one will surface that he can share with his online neighbors. And he encouraged others to start their own virtual neighborhood or join ones that are already available, such as "I grew up in South Superior" or "Billings Parkers."

"It's a fascinating way to communicate," he said.

Note: Facebook is currently tweaking the home pages of its 750 million users, according to the Associated Press. And some people are not very happy about it, based on chatter that can be found on Twitter and Facebook itself. Whether the changes impact how many users turn to Facebook for their social networking needs remains to be seen. Marello's site was still growing Thursday despite the changes. It had 314 members as of press time.

Related Topics: HISTORYSUPERIORTECHNOLOGY
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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