We photographed the wedding of Jennifer Rowe and Chris Sides in Jacksonville in 2007. Chris gained some notoriety recently when he created a Facebook page for Jacksonville natives who’ve moved away called “I grew up in Jacksonville Illinois.” (Or enter “I grew up in Jacksonville, Illinois” in Facebook search bar).
Jennifer posted on our Wall on her 4th anniversary: “Chris and I were looking at our wedding dvds you sent us and realized just how amazing they are. You guys really did a great job!!! Thank you again (4 years later) LOL!!”
Here’s the story that was in last week’s Jacksonville Source.
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN — FORMER JACKSONVILLE RESIDENT OVERNIGHT FACEBOOK HIT
by Brad K. Karr, The Source (Jacksonville, Illinois)
Anyone who has ever moved away from home knows that eventually homesickness sets in. A word, a sound, a smell- anything- sparks a memory. Before one knows it, they are back on their parents’ doorstep and revisiting old haunts. Or you go on Facebook and start a group page. That is exactly what Chris Sides of Madison, Georgia did. “My inspiration was my 10 month old daughter. I often catch myself thinking about the fun times, scary times, and sad times I had growing up. Then I start to think, what kind of memories she will have and how can I make sure she has as much fun as I did growing up! All of this had me thinking and laughing about my early years, and it just hit me! Just as my friends and parents had an influence on my life, my backdrop, Jacksonville is just as important in raising me! After that, I figured Facebook would be a great place to see how Jacksonville influenced others.” From this, “I grew up in Jacksonville, Illinois” was born.
“I never expected any more than maybe 200 people to join the page,” Sides muses, “So when I went to bed on the first night there were 300+ people. When I woke up the next day there were over 700+ and I was shocked!! I had 1400 e-mails in my mail box alone. I had to turn off all emails so my phone would stop beeping.” This didn’t stop Sides from revisiting the site, however. “ I love to read everyone’s posts. It’s very addicting to get caught up in the past with people that shared your same experience. I think that is the best draw to this site. You’re not remembering alone. There are hundreds of people with the same experience- just different eyes and different takes. The last time I looked there were close to 2000 members on the page! It’s unbelievable, and I’m glad everyone is enjoying the walk down memory lane! “
On these “walks” that date back to the early twentieth century, Sides has seen places he didn’t recall or never knew. “I saw Golden Coral came back up in a couple of posts…and Kens Pizza. My wife (Jennifer Rowe, formerly of Jacksonville) always talks about Spatz’s Ice Cream and Silverfrost, but I guess I was in the minority. I don’t think I ever went to either of them. The walk-up Dairy Queen was a good one. I thought the Eight Wheeler was the only place to skate but apparently there was a skating rink south of town I had never heard of until now.”
Sides was born in Atlanta in 1977, the second of two boys, where his father worked for a record company. The family later moved to San Gabriel California, just north of Los Angeles after Capitol Records offered him a position with them again. For Sides’ father this meant a four- hour round trip commute to work. “My dad told me later that two hour commutes each way will make most people put in transfer paperwork as well.” Also, his father’s family is from Brown County and the senior Sides had worked at Capitol Records in Jacksonville. He was given the transfer and the family moved to Jacksonville from California in 1981. Says Sides, “(I was) four years old. I can just barely remember the move to 600 Locust Street.”
Education in Jacksonville seems to have been a pleasant experience for sides. He attended Eisenhower Elementary from kindergarten to third grade, South Elementary from fourth to sixth grade, junior high at Johnathan Turner, and Jacksonville High School through senior year. Like every student Sides had his favorite teachers. “I was very lucky to get the ones everyone wanted. From Eisenhower School…Mr. Mike Anderson. He was very enthusiastic and animated which kept me… interested and active in his class. When I went to South my 6th grade teacher was Mrs. Pam Gregory. She was just a solid good teacher nothing flashy like Mr. Anderson. She just knew how to keep each student motivated. When I got to Turner, without question, Mr. Mike Bandy was probably the most influential teacher.”
Growing up in Jacksonville was also fulfilling for Sides, especially in the summer. “Back in the mid- eighties my family would always go to Pizzan’s Pizza before the races. We would fill up on the best pizza on the planet, then for desert we would have dirt from Ron Milton’s Baby Blue sprint car with the Pink 8! My brother and I had to have put ten thousand miles on our bikes before we got our drivers licenses. When we lived on Locust Street we would ride to ISD, … Veterans Park or Duncan Park, and Capitol Records to see my dad every once in a while. Over time our boundaries were pretty much “ride as far as you like but be home by 5 for dinner! So in the summer we would ride to the pool, Wal-mart to play the newest video games in the lobby area, Prestige Video, the sports card shop at Westward Plaza, Sport City Honda Shop and many other destinations”…including Graham & Wilson’s Sporting Goods.
“I played in just about every sport that was offered, or at least tried every sport that was offered,” Sides recalls his extracurricular life in Jacksonville. “I distinctly remember my first football game for JHS. Back in 1992-1993 there was no pee-wee football so starting out we were at a disadvantage to most, if not all, of our opponents. I remember the first game or at least the first kick-off of my short career in football. I decided to pick out the biggest guy on their team and drop the hammer on him! I think I came to about the end of the 1st quarter. I played through my sophomore year and called it quits when I started playing hockey all over the state with some of my friends.”
One huge annual event was also a large part of Sides’ experience. “Cruise night…was so much fun to go see the cars especially when you are being raised by a gear head like my dad. My parents would drop us off at Hardee’s and they would tell us what time to be back and we would walk the streets and meet up with friends and hang out.”
Sides and his family do try to return to Jacksonville semi- annually. One such visit was this past May for the Jacksonville Downtown Turnaround Celebration. “I got to drive my niece, Carly Eddy, (Little Miss South Jacksonville 2010-2011) in the parade! I really like the new look of the square. It is a lot different then what I grew up with!! But I like the retro look. Just need to add some trees!” He also stays in touch with friends and family through Facebook, but says it’s also good to hear a voice every once in a while.
But Sides says he misses “the feeling of being ‘home’, knowing every street , the majority of the people, and where to go when you need something specific… and Pizzan’s Pizza!” Even though he and his wife enjoy living in the friend- filled small town of Madison, Georgia, he says “it still lacks that feel we have when we are in Jacksonville.”
Will Sides ever move back to Jacksonville? “My wife and I have tossed the idea around but, we have it pretty well here in Georgia. My wife is in the insurance field and does very well, and I really enjoy my field of work and Jacksonville doesn’t have a Recreation Department. Now I would love to see the city or county get on board and notice the benefits of a structured municipal recreation department. If Jacksonville ever gets to that point, my resume’ will be the first on the city or county manager’s desk!”
Until that day, however, Sides will still have a little slice of home on Facebook- stories from others like him who can say “I grew up in Jacksonville, Illinois.”
Reprinted by permission. Warmowski Photography, experienced photojournalists who love to capture the story of your wedding day. Roots in Chicago, based in Springfield/Jacksonville. Available to photograph your wedding. Follow us on Facebook.