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Cheesehead Chatter: A history lesson through journalism

History has never been my thing. It was never one of my favorite subjects in school, and I always had to put in a lot of effort to do well on history exams, from middle school all the way through college.

Fast forward to 2018, though, and I'm actually having fun with history. Each week at work, I compile the little "Looking Back" story in our newspaper. For those who haven't read it, this item is kind of like a "this week in history." I page through the giant books we have of old Lake Country Echos bound together and copy some headlines and story snippets from 40, 30, 20 and 10 years ago.

Another reporter does the same with the old Pine River Journals for the "Pages from the Past" story. These little briefs, usually found on page A7, are a fun way to look at what our communities were like in the past and how each newspaper operated differently before they joined together to form the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

On a more personal note, looking through these books has helped me get better acquainted with the community I didn't become a part of until 2016. When I moved here that summer, I didn't know anything about Pequot Lakes or the surrounding cities. I've obviously learned a lot just by doing my job of reporting the news and talking to locals.

But "Looking Back" has given me an idea of what life was like here before I moved in, not to mention before I was born.

I've learned about the history of Pequot Lakes' iconic bobber water tower. I've read about businesses leaving and coming in to town. I can name a few former government officials from the area; I can't say that about my hometown, where I spent the better part of 17 years.

It's fun to see how much things have changed. One of my favorite articles I came across once was an announcement for a class on how to use microwaves. Obviously there had to be a learning curve with new technology, but a whole class on how to use a microwave baffled my young, millennial mind.

It's also fun to see how some things haven't changed. When I compiled this week's history list, all four books I paged through - from 40, 30, 20 and 10 years back - featured highlights from the Crosslake St. Patrick's Day parade. In my mind, I knew this year was the city's 44th annual celebration, but actually seeing parade pictures from the 1970s - long before I was in the world - really made the fact sink in. This parade and celebration are an important part of the community's history. And I get to be a part of it now.

Even though history rarely piqued my interest before, I'm grateful for what it's teaching me now. And who knows, maybe someday - way in the future - another young reporter will be sitting at my desk, paging through old newspapers with my bylines, gawking at how different things were in 2018 and getting excited to learn about the history of this place.