Tom Ross: Facebook connection to area’s past
January 15, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 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.