A waltz through Washington County history

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By Jesse Osbourne


I’m not from here. I haven’t read this newspaper my whole life and I’m only connected to a tiny number of people that live here.

I’ve been doing some catching up, though.
At the beginning of September, I decided to go through the last 30 years of this newspaper. Why 30 years? Well, I turned 30 this month and I wanted to see what’s happened here in my lifetime.
I wanted to find the most captivating stories I could find and summarize them as one historical story. I’ve learned a few things in the process.
First, it takes about 30 years to dig through 30 years of newspapers. I planned on flipping through 30 years in about a week, finding the best 10 stories and neatly summing them up for you, dear readers.
Well, the plan has taken a detour. It’s become a two-part project now. The first part was published today. The second part, well, keep your fingers crossed it happens in this decade.
Second, it takes a lot of words to write about months of news coverage.
For instance, the Frank Tamme portion of the story runs roughly 2,000 words long. Ideally, I like to keep news stories under 1,000 words. Some newspapers would shoot for 500 words.
I just couldn’t do it, though. There are too many telling details, too many great quotes, too many captivating lines to leave them all on the newsroom floor. I hope you’ll feel the same way.
My idea of having the top 10 stories shrunk to five, and later to three once I found out how much space it would eat up.
Third, pictures from our archives have caused quite the reaction on our Facebook page.
Typically, I post content to our page and it might receive a like or comment. Most items don’t.
When we posted our first photo from the archives on Sept. 5 (of Deputy Sheriff Jackie Robinson from about 30 years ago), the comments and likes started coming in. So, we posted another photo. And another. And another.
As of today, we’ve posted over 100 photos from 1982 through 1997. We have more than doubled the amount of people that like the Springfield Sun page on Facebook in just a few weeks. We started with around 250 and we crossed the 500-like mark on Monday morning.
What does that mean, exactly? It means that when we share our photos or content, more people see it. If they like or comment on our content, then their friends see it too. In the end, it’s good for us because more people potentially see our content - which we work hard to produce.
We’ve had people call in about the photos, we’ve talked to people on the street about the photos, we’ve had requests about which photos to post and from which time period. Overall, we think people like it. So, we plan to keep doing it.
Keep in mind, it takes a long time to look through these newspapers. We’ll try to keep a steady flow of content, but we also have other news stories that need attention.
Finally, some issues here, like many other places, come up every now and again. And, some landmarks that operate smoothly now were once an item of consternation.  
For example, in 1996, Sun general manager Tim Ballard wrote about Willisburg Lake. His story was so similar to mine from a few weeks ago that I could have been accused of lifting it from the archives.
I didn’t, obviously, but the same problems that were bothering people then have come back up in present time.
Another interesting tidbit was the drama that came with the Lebanon - Springfield Airport 15 years ago or so. To summarize (see, I am capable), a powerful man (the late J.T. Whitlock) had a hard time keeping the books, faced an investigation, but was exonerated after the accounts were scrutinized.
There was coverage of this for weeks. Weeks!
Now it seems, at least to me, that the airport hums along quietly, operating smoothly.
There are too many interesting tidbits to list, too many funny pictures to sort through and too much information to commit to memory.
I’ve had a blast with this project. I’ve learned about a lot of you and the things that have happened to make life in Washington County the way it is today.
I may not be from here, but it won’t stop me from observing with a smile and a lot of interest.