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From Behind The Lens

December 31, 2014
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

Many of my stories I derive from every day events and happenings from around the world that can be summoned with a touch of my computer screen. As I thought about the subject for this week?s column I wondered about past New Years. With that thought I put away my computer and set off to visit the New Martinsville Library and its historical archives.

The library is my source on occasions for a story. Gratefully someone in the past took the time to preserve history in print. For me, I enjoy spending time looking through copies of old newspapers. With the help of the past newsprint I can travel back in time. I wanted to know what the citizens of the community were thinking and experiencing a century ago as they faced the New Year. I sat before the flickering screen that projected the images of past Wetzel Democrat and began to read.

As I looked at the yellowed image of the late December 1914 paper I came across a story that dominated several pages of the newsprint of the day. It was a time when a great religious revival came into the community. Dr. Henry W. Bromley, a well known evangelist of the day, traveled the area spreading the word of faith. In late 1914 and early 1915 he came into our town.

When Dr. Bromley and his evangelistic party came to New Martinsville, a tabernacle was constructed for his five week meeting. Revival?s in the south were held in tents, but in the cold winter months of the north revivals needed a warm place where the faithful could gather to hear the word. Dr. Bromley?s sawdust floored tabernacle was located on Maple Avenue and reportedly held 2500 people. The revival also had a chorus of 250 members. Even today a gathering of that size in our community would be of tremendous news value.

So celebrated was Dr. Bromley?s influence, his words were taken to the heart by hundreds of the community?s faithful. At each of his gatherings many of the attendees rededicate themselves to the faith. During one of the sermon he spoke of dancing, he described it as, hugging with music. It was reported many of those in attendance who danced for entertainment gave up the sinful habit after hearing his words. It was also known that some of his devoted followers built shrines in their homes and burnt playing cards to rid themselves of the devils toys. ?Three of the most common and baneful pleasures of the world are the card table, the theater and the dance? according to Dr. Bromley.

While Dr. Bromley was ministering to the community, in a back section of the same newspapers was a story telling of another event that helped to spread the words of man. Only these words were spread by one of the greatest inventors of the time, Alexander Graham Bell. The news story told of how he made a phone call from New York to his old friend Thomas Watson, in San Francisco. A distance of 3400 miles, once again Bell made history. It was the first trans-continental phone call ever made. Forty years before in 1885 the two men made that first phone call. The men use science and engineering to communicate over a great distance for the second time.

As we enter the New Year we too are guided and sometimes controlled by communications we use every day, much like they were a hundred years ago. Dr. Bromley spread the word and influenced people by using only the authority of his voice. At the same time Bell demonstrated to the world, long distance was no longer a barrier to communications across continents. Both men realized that communications was the key to greater development for man?s future.

We each should think about where communications is taking us. With a touch of the screen on our phones we can speak to a person on the other side of the world in an instant. It was only 60 years ago in 1955 that phone lines from Newfoundland to Scotland, connected the two continents. It contained only 36 phone lines. Today millions of connections are made around the world, making us truly a global community.

The electronic web records bits of our information and archives our lives as we move around the cyber-world. Each day dozens of cameras records our every move as we go about our lives. The privacy that we each treasure so much as a basic freedom is really no longer possible. Our lives are storied in the cloud, a fancy word for enormous computer systems somewhere out there.

When researching the past I find bits of information recorded by someone who may have been influenced by his own interpretation when they wrote the words. They have left for me a glimpse into their world with words in a book or news story. Today, everything we do is electronically stored. Trillions of words and images fill memory banks somewhere out in the cloud. Just imagine a researcher in the year 2115 looking into old Facebook accounts and what they may find.

With advancements in computer science, I believe a hundred years from now it will be beyond our belief of what is possible. By the time mid century comes around it is conceivable that each of us will have a micro computer chip embedded at birth. It will help to keep us safe and well. It will alert us if it senses a medical problem and the need to visit a medical computer doctor for treatment. It will communicate important events that may affect daily lives. With just a thought, information on any subject can be accessed. People will be able to let others know all that they see, think and feel. I believe in the not to distant future, secrecy will be a word no longer contained in a paperless dictionary world.

Communications is a good thing, but when we lose the right to control the information around us and call it progress, we lose one of our greatest individual freedoms, privacy. I wonder what Dr. Bromley and Alexander Bell would have thought about our world as we look forward to 2015 Through the Lens.

 
 
 

 

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