Tom Ross

Tom Ross

Tom Ross: Facebook connection to area’s past


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

— If you’re not on Facebook yet, it’s just a matter of time. A Facebook friend of mine posted a photo of his own dental procedure Friday. Am I supposed to “like” that or respond by posting my X-rays? Dude’s got a strange sense of humor.

On the other hand, I was plugged into a great example this week of how social media can reunite far-flung friends.

I received an e-mail Monday from Christopher Casson (you might remember him as Topher Casson), a 1995 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School.

Christopher asked me to settle a bet for him. He and about 30 of his high school friends from the mid-1990s were jabbering back and forth on Facebook about the Steamboat Springs School District’s strict policy about snow days.

“Eric Koch (Class of ’94) and I have a running joke about how the city of Denver reacts to weather,” Casson said. “Snow on the ground normally constitutes a Code Red. Traffic comes to a halt, schools close for days. That’s how the debate began — 30 to 40 people via calls, texts, e-mails and Eric’s Facebook page.”

The schools in Ski Town USA never have closed because of a snowstorm and never will. However, the superintendent may close the schools on those rare occasions when it gets colder than 50 degrees below zero.

That’s always been a sore spot for youngsters growing up in Steamboat when they hear that their cousins in Portland, Ore., for example, got a day off school because an inch of snowfall had rendered streets impassable.

Casson recalled that he had been excused from class just 2 1/2 days during his years in Steamboat, and he was confident that one of those days had nothing to do with snowfall or extreme cold. Casson remembered that school had been closed the day after the Good News Building at Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue blew up in a natural gas explosion and was consumed by the resulting fire Feb. 3, 1994.

For those of you who weren’t around, it was a harrowing day, and everyone judged it a miracle that no one died. Eighteen people were taken to Routt Memorial Hospital with injuries, some so serious the effects would be felt for a lifetime. There also were some genuine heroes that day who rushed to the scene and treated the injured.

“I don’t want you or anyone to think we were trivializing the loss of shops, businesses or the injuries that day,” Casson wrote. “That was a serious catastrophe.”

Casson wondered if I could settle a bet for his high school classmates 17 years later.

“Did we get a day off school after the Good News Building explosion?”

To answer that important question all these years later, I had to go to my supervisor and ask for the key to the newspaper’s top-secret closet where we store bound volumes of newspapers going back to the early 20th century — imagine a tiny library filled with giant books.

I found the answer to Casson’s question in the front-page Steamboat Today story Feb. 4, 1994, the day after the explosion: “School Superintendent JAlan Aufder­heide announced that school would not be held in District RE-2.” Hallelujah.

Something I always have regretted during my years in Steamboat is that we quickly lose track of the young adults who grow up in our school system. While researching this column, I learned that Casson is an independent software consultant after an eight-year career with JDEdwards.

Koch has been managing group homes for adults with developmental disabilities in Denver for nine years and loves his career.

Aaron Reed, who was concerned for the safety of his mother, Betty Reed, who was working at a nearby preschool on the day the Good News Building blew up, is a senior designer with Roundplay LLC in Savannah, Ga. And Kristin Kaufman Aubuchon (Class of ’94), a nurse in Denver, was equally concerned for her father, Steve Kaufman, that February day in Steamboat.

“It was the first really big fire that our dad responded to as a new firefighter,” Kauf­­man Aubuchon recalled.

She added that she always has taken pride in the fact that her hometown schools never declared a snow day.

“Over the years, as I have lived in places other than Steamboat, it has kind of been a badge of honor to be able to tell people that in our little town of Steamboat, we never missed school for snow.”

If Facebook can reconnect me to Steamboat Springs High School graduates from 15 and 16 years ago, I guess I can get over snapshots of other people’s dental procedures.


cybergypsy 6 years, 3 months ago

Great piece, Tom! I'm such a Facebook geek that at the end of your article, I looked for the LIKE button. Yikes.


Kevin Nerney 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm not a conspiracy theorist nor am I paranoid(well maybe a little) but I think Facebook is one of the scariest ideas ever invented. It's bad enough that the business world knows more about me than I do ( just give a credit card company your social security number and you'll know what I mean) now the whole world can know what I had for breakfast, I don't think so. I don't think I'm being cynical when I tell my kids that they should not use this site. Big companies are using the site to find out what kind of person you are if you apply for a job. If you get turned down you'll never know it was because of something you said on facebook 5 yrs. in the past. Free speech is great but remember what the greatest generation use to say "loose lips sink ships".


rhys jones 6 years, 3 months ago

I was programming before computers got fun. Punch cards, mag tape, 5K CPU. I learned then -- computers are to make money, certainly not for fun. For that, to this day, I much prefer a bike, set of skis, or floating craft of any sort.

I have not tried Facebook for the same reason I don't do hard drugs: I might like it too much. I spend enough time at this keyboard as it is; no need to beg the issue.

However, after reading this article, I might give it a look. This vagabond has moved around his whole life, and now has friends in many places. This might be a venue to catch up with some folks. But if I get hooked, I'm blaming you, Tom!!

Just kidding; great article, and keep up the good work!!


rhys jones 6 years, 3 months ago

Re/post before mine:

Ha!! Surf me on Google, and you'll find out about my DUI a few years back, from Pilot articles, and how stupid I can be, or at least made to look. On Page 1. Any illusion of privacy these days is just that -- an illusion.

I don't think the Dark Forces need to resort to Facebook for mud, with the vast resources at their command already. Nevertheless, and obviously, one should be careful what one reveals in such a public forum anyway, no?


ftpheide 6 years, 3 months ago

Was the DUI why you call yourself "highwaystar"?


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