Who's a Townie?
Ann Arbor native Trevor Staples started a Facebook group to find the answer.
From the July, 2014 issue
In a lot of ways, "Ann Arbor Townies ONLY!" resembles thousands of other nostalgia-fueled online groups, haunted by people of a certain age who want to share memories and photos of their hometown with similarly minded souls.
"One of my favorite childhood memories was the Cub Scout Carnival at Eberwhite Elementary," writes Betty Hass, now in Florida. "I loved the 'fishing' booth and these miniature loaves of bread." Posting a photo of the 1966-67 Tappan Junior High basketball team, Dave Skala asks, "Is number 41 John Murphy?"
Burns Park teacher Trevor Staples started the group, he says, "as a tongue-in-cheek way for people to discuss what it really means to be a townie." It quickly evolved "into a place where people can post and discuss things about Ann Arbor."
Born here, Staples says he considers himself a townie but says he feels like a newcomer next to people like radio host Michael Jewett, whose grandfather, George, was the University of Michigan's first black football player in 1890. "Greatest Generation" posters point out that in their day everyone identified as either 'town" or "gown." (Townies viewed the "gown" side--those connected to the university--as wealthier and more aloof.)
Staples says anyone who's a "real person" and "not a scammer" can join the group. But he does enforce two rules: (1) Post only items directly related to Ann Arbor; (2) Be nice. He'll delete attacks on local politicians, and he won't allow advertising, except for some nonprofits--he's a spokesman for the skateboard park and promotes it on the group's page.
Spats do occur, as they often do on such pages: once, Staples was accused of censorship for taking down a picture of an older naked man and woman. He also became uneasy when people remembering their party days in the Sixties shared memories of the activities of a person "quite elderly but still alive." He can't remember if he deleted it.
Few share memories of the 1990s or 2000s. Staples thinks that's because younger people are less interested in looking back. It was only after he turned thirty, he says, that he started thinking, "Ann Arbor is part of me, part of my identity."
Recently, Staples posed the question, "Am I a townie?" on the page."If you aren't," Kathleen Kelly replied, "there's no bloody hope for the rest of us."
The group's 6,800 members appear to agree.
[Originally published in July, 2014.]