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As a Livingston Native, I Enjoy Promoting Our Local History

Livingston Native Lindie Gibson

By Lindie Gibson

In 1964, when I was in 5th grade at Winans School, my spelling teacher wrote a list of 10 nouns on the chalkboard and then told students to pick one as the subject of a 250-word essay.

As I wrote my essay, a light bulb came on, and I discovered a love for writing. Energized by this newfound zeal, I began writing letters to pen pals—other Lutheran students around the United States—and several responded, so I corresponded with them for years. Over the years, in sharing their personal lives on paper as well as information on their communities, many of them continued to write, sending pictures and keeping in touch until communications gradually tapered off.

In summer 1970, as American Lutheran’s Luther League class prepared to travel by school bus on a three-week trip to their National Convention in New York City, as a 16-year-old, I approached Fred Martin, then editor of the Livingston Enterprise. Martin proposed to mail a handwritten letter to the editor to the newspaper daily to keep church families, as well as our community, abreast of their adventures. Martin agreed, and after a few days of printing my letters, the Enterprise received so many positive comments on my letters to the editor. He gave me my own column in the paper, and called it A Letter from Lindie. It ran until we returned home from our three-week journey.

I recall seeing the Twin Towers under construction that summer, and more impressive than the towers themselves—were the even-taller cranes—dropping the steel beams in place as the floors were built …higher and higher, higher and higher….

In the fall of 2000, 1971 graduate Robert Fatouros and I began planning their 30th reunion, and in order to contact classmates, letters were sent out to the previous addresses of their graduating classmates. Home computers and the internet were in their early stages, and so when a letter was returned to us, I created an email address and would use the public library’s computer search engines for current addresses.

Classmates began sending me fun articles and photos of grandchildren, etc., and within a short time, I began forwarding these emails to all the other classmates, and after receiving a number of articles to forward every day, the idea for a single daily email/column was birthed, and I decided to call it “the Classmates Chatter.” Classmates from other years were added to the mailing list, and in a matter of several years, approximately 3,000 classmates—graduates from Park High—started receiving the Chatter.

Each daily column is unique, starting with an opening photo of the Livingston area, with various submissions from classmates. Submissions include opinions on current events, family photos, a favorite comic to share, along with reminiscing about their childhood memories of growing up in Livingston. Some columns include obituary news from far and wide on classmates who have passed away.

One classmate, from the 1957 graduating class, moved to Great Falls during his elementary school years, because he was born legally blind, and he finished his schooling in Great Falls. He commented that being in touch with other Livingston kids or classmates has brought tremendous healing in to his life.

Parents of classmates, as well as former teachers, have also come on board the Chatter, with the oldest classmate, Katherine Shelley, passing away in November 2021 at age 112. She taught school for years at West Side school, starting out as Miss Sprunger. Kathryn never had any of her own children, but had several thousand students as her own “children.” At the time of Shelley’s death, she was Montana’s second-oldest senior citizen, and her mind was as lucid as when she taught school. I clearly recall being in second grade in 1960 when Mrs. Shelley wrote the names of the two presidential candidates on the chalkboard and asked students to write their preferred candidate, Richard Nixon or John Kennedy…

I have continued the column, which has been sent 365 days a year for the past 23 years, bringing together Livingston classmates from all over the country. Furthermore, I take an occasional break to visit my family in Utah.

In addition to my daily mailing to my subscribers, I have created 10 Facebook pages concerning Livingston, thereby uniting not only Livingston natives, but also readers from all over the world who have a love for Livingston, Montana. MSN

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