We are all aware of, and many of us use, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, the major social-networking sites. I found a new one on Saturday, Aug. 1. The “site” was a field in Thatcher Woods, and the “social networking” was the coming together of people who grew up in the old neighborhood in our close-by suburb of Bellwood. These people had attended the same elementary school and then went on to Proviso together. They were born in the ’50s, teens in the ’60s, and now returning to the ’60s as a chronological age, not as a decade. None, to the best of my knowledge, went to Woodstock, but they were here, now, for BellWoodstock, 2009.
Some had grandkids along, some came with teenagers, a few traveled from as far as Texas, most came from the Chicago suburbs and only one or two still live in Bellwood. I was invited by my friend and fellow Oak Parker, Jim Martin, who spearheaded the idea for this celebration four years ago. What an event it was; it touched my heart.
On a table were group photos of first-, second- and third-grade classes. They showed little boys in the skinniest bow ties you’ve ever seen, girls in dresses starched out to here and so itchy looking you could almost scratch in sympathy, and the, shall we say, heavy-set boy whose buttoned shirt was ready to pop. There’s always one in all these photos, isn’t there? And, oh, those gap-toothed smiles! It was near impossible for me to match these so-very-young, celluloid faces to the much older ones around me, but these people who grew up together knew. They knew instantly who was who, and then the “remember whens” began.
BellWoodstock moved beyond Facebook that day. It wasn’t Social Networking 101; it was social networking one-on-one. Is this the sign of a minor movement? I ask because I’ve learned that the first Forest Park All School Reunion was on Aug. 15. Everyone who attended or has gone to its schools was invited (and information was listed at www.facebook.com/forestparkreunion).
Maybe, in these shaky times, people are feeling the need to communicate while looking into each other’s eyes, not while looking into a computer screen. Perhaps there will be more of these get-togethers.
But back to BellWoodstock. There was lots of food and drinks, and four guitarists with someone on harmonica and someone on tambourine all pounding out a fairly recognizable rendition of Johnny Be Good. I looked around and saw the happiness on all the faces, and if I squinted, really squished my eyes against that in-and-out sun, I also saw little boys in bowties and little girls in floral dresses among the crowd.
So, yes, you can go home again. Maybe not to the original bricks and mortar that sheltered you; maybe, instead, you’ll come to a field in Thatcher Woods and follow a sign that simply says, “Welcome to BellWoodstock.”
Maria Murzyn is an Oak Park resident and receptionist for Wednesday Journal.