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Enter the net: Facebook genie conjures up pal from past life

September 6, 2012

by David Hughes

Sometimes I think a genie lives in Facebook (grin), and my weird hypothesis was recently vindicated …
Have you ever thought about a really old friend that you have not thought about for decades? Well, I got to thinking recently about friends who helped channel my life’s interests and for some reason the name Roger Dunn popped into my mind. He was a little older than me, and in some ways we were simpatico and he had all kinds of cool things in his workroom at home.
You see, Roger was the first nerd I ever came across – and I mean that in the sincerest form of respect. I thought he was cool because of all the scientific stuff he knew. His projects for science fairs were legendary and I was honored the guy would even take the time to speak to me, much less help me find my way.
In many ways, Roger was Benton’s “Mr. Wizard” as far as I was concerned. If you don’t know who Don Herbert was – then just skip down a couple of paragraphs – you will be lost.
One of his projects was the most fascinating thing I had EVER seen – it was called “Jacob’s Ladder” and any science fiction TV show or movie worth its salt had at least one or two. … Along with a Van de Graaff generator … which he ALSO had!
Jacob’s Ladder really looked impressive: It was two wires at about a 45-degree opposing angle up which what looked like a huge electrical spark would travel and make this cool electrical popping sound until it reached the end and dissipated. Then the next spark would begin the same trip – ad infinitum.
Movies showed these things the size of buildings, but Roger took an old neon sign transformer and hooked it up to a pair of TV rabbit ears and it worked just as well. Roger made the thing more dramatic by allowing the electric arc to burn through a piece of paper he held in his hand,
While equally impressive, Roger’s Van de Graaff generator was as hot with the girls because they would put their hand on it and the static electricity it generated would make their hair stand on end. He could also light up a fluorescent light tube held in the immediate vicinity of the generator.
One of his most fascinating projects to me was that he found a way to use a photoelectric cell on one end and a flashlight on the other and send sound over a flashlight’s beam.
You can see how someone like that could be an influence … Well, about a week later I was trolling through new Facebook entries and lo and behold there was a friend request from someone named Roger Dunn. “Nah … no way it could be him,” I thought, but being a friendly sort I said, “Sure, but by the way are you my teenage friend Roger?”
I expected a no, but when “yep” came up on my screen it was almost as if he was standing in front of me. We caught up with each other and I was very surprised to see he wasn’t a NASA scientist or something, but he was happily retired from another profession.
Many times I have found old friends, old girlfriends, ex-wives and relatives on Facebook. It is a great thing for an old man to keep in touch with relatives and see the baby pictures of nieces and nephews as they grow up.
I revel in seeing my step-grandsons grow up and how great their dad is to them – all thanks to FB.
I am still looking for several friends such as Ronda Lynn Harris. Her mom and dad were some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. They taught me how to find my love of God and Christ when I was in a dark time as a teenager.
I heard from her sister, Carol Ann, years ago and I found she also has married and has a great family. Ronda eventually married a longtime family friend who has since passed away.
I have maintained contact with several former teachers like Betty Berry Gwatney and Ken Hughes, who put up with me at East Side Elementary School. Today, I saw where good friends John and Peggy Butler have celebrated a lifetime together.
Lots of folks like to complain about FB and how it pries open your privacy. That may be true, but I have found we are in control of what we say online and how much private information we divulge.
***Facebook has also been a tie that binds the Benton High School Class of 1967 together, and I’ll bet many of you feel the same way about your classmates. Our class will celebrate its 45th anniversary later this month and I’ll bet be there will be a lot of pictures there to share joy with everyone.
So, if an old friend from long ago and far away suddenly pops in your head and you begin to wonder what ever happened to them … take a chance and ask on Facebook. There’s a good chance someone out there knows and perhaps you will get a friend request from that FB genie.
Facebook has also been a tie that binds the Benton High School Class of 1967 together, and I’ll bet many of you feel the same way about your classmates. Our class will celebrate its 45th anniversary later this month and I’ll be there will be a lot of pictures there to share its joy with everyone.

David Hughes is a former resident of Benton and employee of the Courier. His column appears each week exclusively in the Saline Courier. He may be reached at

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