Web site connects Grove graduates to old classmates
By AMANDA SMITH, P-I Staff Writer Jul 19, 2007
In 2001, James “Buddy” Dancy and two of his friends from high school were looking for a way to keep track of the e-mail addresses and other contact information they had gathered from members of the Grove High School Class of 1952. Dancy suggested building “a little Web site.”
Dancy, a retired food service worker who lives in Logansport, Ind., already had some experience in Web editing from working on a personal genealogy site. He began by scanning a few of his old yearbooks and putting them online. In 2002, he added photos from the class’s 50th-year reunion. From there, it just got bigger.
Today, Dancy’s Web site, www.ewgrove.com, is home to an extensive amount of information about the school, the faculty and students who filled the school.
Visitors to the site can access information about of Grove High School from before its opening in the fall of 1906 to long after its last class graduated in 1969.
About 45 of the school’s 63 yearbooks are now online. A history of the school, memorial pages for each class, digital newspaper clippings, dozens of photos and a guest book are also available. The site averages about 330 visits a day.
Since he began constructing the site, Dancy has been working consistently to attract more users and thus add more information.
Because he lives in Indiana, he visits Paris infrequently and must rely mostly on others to spread the word about the site. Initially, he ran ads in The Post-Intelligencer. He also handed out business cards with the site’s address at the school’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2006, and other site users have done the same at other Grove events.
Dancy is unsure of how many Grove graduates have accessed the site, but he said that there are about 550 guestbook entries.
“Every one of those I make sure I at least send a recognition,” he said.
As long as the visitor leaves an e-mail address, he replies and tells him or her that the comment has been received and added to the guestbook. Dancy screens all of the guestbook entries before posting them.
“I always tell them I hope they’ll tell their classmates,” he said.
The information available on the site has grown along with the number of users. Because Dancy only had yearbooks for the years he attended Grove before joining the U.S. Air Force, he had to convince others to let him borrow theirs to scan, which was a risky thing for many graduates.
“If you have a high school yearbook and some idiot asks you to mail it to him, you’re taking a heck of a chance,” said Dancy. “I really appreciate the people who did that.”
He credits Nancy Myrick of the Class of 1953 for being the first to trust him with a book for scanning. When others heard that he had safely returned her yearbook, they were more comfortable turning over their own. The Paris-Henry County Heritage Center also allowed Dancy to borrow books from its collection to add to the site.
“We’ve never lost a book,” said Dancy. “And as far as I know, we’ve never damaged one.”
Dancy has poured countless hours into adding yearbook photos and text to the site. Each book takes him about a week to scan. He doesn’t put the entire yearbook online, so he emphasizes the continued importance of the local heritage center’s collection.
Graduates also have mailed old photos and other memorabilia to Dancy for use on the Web site. Each contributor is noted on the site’s credits page.
For Dancy, the best part of building the site is hearing stories from the people who use it. He listed a number of instances where children and grandchildren of deceased graduates had accessed the yearbooks and other photos available online and felt as if they learned something about their ancestors.
“The most rewarding thing is when somebody e-mails me and says they enjoyed that because they found something they didn’t know,” he said.
Though Dancy doesn’t keep tabs on how often visitors access the site, he suspects that many of its users log in often.
“Some people have told me that they’re compulsive and they check every time they turn the computer on,” he said.
Lindell Chrisman, a 1961 graduate who lives in Paris, is one such person.
“I’m hooked,” he said. “I check every morning to see if anything new’s been posted.”
Chrisman found out about the site through an e-mail from another graduate. He has found it especially valuable because he lost his yearbooks when his home flooded.
“I just like going through the yearbooks and looking at the pictures,” he said.
Chrisman also found a long-lost friend through the site: his Little League baseball coach, Jimmy McGehee.
“I was nine when he coached me, and he was probably eighteen, nineteen, twenty,” he said.
The two met in Florida in 2004 after having not seen one another in 50 years.
However, Chrisman regrets that many Grove graduates still don’t know about the site. Though he has helped Dancy pass out information at reunions, he said that many of his classmates don’t have computers and haven’t tried the Web site.
Dancy also recognizes this as a problem. He said that many users access the site and don’t sign the guestbook because they feel it infringes upon their privacy. It also keeps other classmates from being able to contact them.
“If I had any druthers, it would be that more people sign the guestbook,” he said. “But I understand why they don’t.”
Dancy pays the fees for the Web site himself, though he has received offers from his classmates to help with the financial burden.
“It’s not big money,” he said.
The site, which according to Dancy is a one-of-a-kind item on the Web, attracts visitors from all over the nation and the world.
“It was never ten or twenty a day,” he said. “It’s always been a hundred or more.”
The site now occupies 105 megabytes of server space and would fill about 75 floppy disks.