“I hope my dedication’s getting through.”
— “Dedication” by the Bay City Rollers
It must be difficult for young people to imagine life before the Internet, and it’s getting harder and harder for me to imagine doing without it.
But I remember when the fax machine was seen as cutting-edge and every phone came with a cord attached.
As a cub reporter, all I needed was a phone book and a phone to feel like the whole province was at my fingertips. Cold-calling was a challenge and a thrill; if you heard a bear had walked into a house in some remote community, all you had to do was find listings for that community in the phone book and pick someone’s number at random. Guaranteed, in minutes you had the name and number of the person you were seeking.
“No, girl, that’s not this Joe Smith you’re looking for, it’s the other Joe Smith — Old Joe, what lives down in the cove.”
And in no time at all you were hearing all the colourful details of Mr. Bruin’s visit.
Why, I once tracked down the Newfoundland great-grandmother of a test-tube baby born on the mainland and named for Joey Smallwood, not long after Mr. Smallwood’s death. From a crackly phone in her “remote northern hamlet” — as the come-from-away journalists would say — she told me she was thrilled about his namesake and had fond memories of the former premier himself, recalling him as the man “who gave us the baby bonus.”
Yes, a phone book was a wonderful thing back then.
These days, thanks to technological advances, a computer or smartphone puts virtually the entire world within your reach. Through social media, you can find and communicate with just about anyone, through email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and countless other means. It’s convenient and fast and great for journalism.
In the case of the bear strolling into somebody’s house, if the person had a smartphone — and was foolish enough to stay on the scene — they could send me video footage of Mr. Bruin poking around in their garbage can.
The ubiquitousness of technology means that today, you don’t just “reach out and touch somebody” — you can reach out and show them what you’re having for lunch, even as you’re eating it, which so many people on Twitter seem fond of doing for some reason.
Which got me thinking the other day, when I stumbled upon some old photo albums from my teenage years, that maybe social media can help me reconnect with an American pen pal I had from 1977 to 1980.
All I have of our correspondence are photographs — no letters — and I no longer remember the name of her hometown.
Her name was Lisa Koenig and she was a cheerleader at her school, Trinity, in Illinois. (How I envied her her blue and gold cheerleader uniform and her glamorous-sounding all-American life from where I was in my “remote hamlet,” just an hour outside St. John’s).
She was a huge fan of the Bay City Rollers, and particularly of the mischievous-looking blond drummer, Derek Longmuir, as his predominance in the posters on her bedroom wall can attest.
According to a “whatever happened to…” blog, Longmuir left the music industry in the early 1980s — perhaps in despair because die-hard fans like Lisa and I were getting older and no longer clipping pictures out of Tiger Beat.
Lisa liked a boy at her school who played basketball. She sent me a photo of him taken in the high school gym. On the back she has written his name in blue ballpoint pen, with girlish hearts doodled on either side.
She lived in a modern-looking white split-level house with a cedar tree to the left of the garage. Someone played the piano, because you can just make one out in a Polaroid she sent that was taken in her living room at Christmas, and there’s a guitar hanging on the wall in her room.
She was fond of Snoopy and had a plush-toy version on her bed.
And that’s it — that’s all I know. For some reason, at age 15 our correspondence just tapered off. But seeing her in those photographs the other day, fresh-faced and smiling, I started wondering where life has taken her, beyond Snoopy and the security of bedroom walls covered in boy-band posters.
A Google search turned up nothing, but I am hoping that through the marvels of social media, I might be able to find her. I’m going to start by posting one of her school photos on Twitter.
I’m not on Facebook, so if anyone would like to post a link to this column on their page, that would be a great help.
With any luck, Lisa has done plenty of living between the Bay City Rollers and now, and is out there somewhere, fondly remembering her cheerleading days and the lyrics to “Saturday Night.”
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s
associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.