Facebook has finally been able to connect us to 200 million of our closest friends, but it has also served to bring together the community of downtown Harrisonburg. The downtown Harrisonburg of my experience is trivia night at Clementine’s , nights at The Blue Nile when college kids play DJ, and Kline’s ice cream. The downtown Harrisonburg Lew Taylor has recreated is one of the “greatest small cities in America” when school supplies were bought at Stationers and the Virginia Theatre was in full swing.
Members of the Facebook Remembering Downtown Harrisonburg, Va. group post pictures of everything, from the buildings they remember, to the milk bottles that used to show up at their front door step. Most of the pictures are accompanied by strings of comments, stories that have come bubbling up to the surface. This running conversation has about 2,000 participants and there never seems to be a lull.
In light of the success of this page, Taylor wants more. He has big dreams of a homecoming weekend for the people who have lived in and loved Harrisonburg. He would like to get the city and Rockingham County involved, and he has talked to Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance about his ideas. His enthusiasm is bolstered by the turnouts he has seen to both of the gatherings he has thrown.
In March of 2012, 100 people came out to share their memories in person. In September, 500 people went to Pano’s to reminisce and hear The Top Hats, a band that has been in existence in some form or another since the 1950s. We were there for this second gathering and while people seemed reluctant to open up to us on camera, their childhood stories to each other were endless. Taylor has already planned the third meeting for the group this coming September, again at Pano’s.
The group on Facebook is open to anyone who wants to join, as long as they have a connection to the area, and their archive of photographs has grown to include everything from Kline’s 50th anniversary to advertisements from before 1920. Court Square can be seen from almost any angle or time period imaginable and the music, art and culture throughout the decades is represented. There are even pictures of Harrisonburg themed knickknacks and collectables.
Mark Zuckerburg originally intended for Facebook to be a place for college kids to connect, but Taylor has used it to recreate his favorite childhood memories while giving people of all ages a chance to see Harrisonburg in a different light.
Knight, Preston “‘Remembering Downtown’ Group Pitches Plan For A Harrisonburg Homecoming,” Daily News-Record, April 24, 2013, accessed May 1, 2013, http://www.dnronline.com/article/hometown_harrisonburg_rocktown.