“It was all because people couldn’t hear in the back of the bus,” laughed Lisa Wells on a recent weekday in one of the the Hub on Smith’s meeting rooms.

The Hub’s Senior Fun & Wellness Coordinator was explaining how a morning’s minor inconvenience led to a quick technological solution and ultimately the creation of a new collaborative program between the Hub and Sheridan Community Land Trust that will make its debut this fall.

Nearly two years ago, SCLT Historical Program Manager Carrie Edinger was on the front of a Goose Creek Transit bus holding a microphone and playing a recording of the Black Diamond Byway historical tour over a small speaker as the bus chugged between sites of the county’s former coal mining communities.

Though the attendees enjoyed the tour, the drive triggered fond memories for many, the feedback was clear – if you sat in the rear, it was awfully hard to hear.

Afterwards, Carrie and Lisa discussed what could be done to make a future bus tour better. Carrie said the tour can be accessed on iOS and Android connected devices via the TravelStorysGPS app. That got Lisa thinking about ways the Hub could help people use their own devices, or borrow tech through the Hub’s Tech Connect program, to take the tour. Participants would also be able to access the recorded tour via overhead speakers on the new Goose Creek Transit bus so no one would be left out.

“Barriers are opportunities,” Lisa remarked, concluding, “and with this barrier, Carrie really sparked us!”

It also sparked Carrie, as many of the memories shared by attendees of that bus tour inspired her to make updates to the Black Diamond Tour.

“I asked what was missing and what people would like to see on the tour. They said there weren’t any current photos or what the sites are like now, so I added that,” Edinger said.

Carrie also listened to attendees share their memories of ball games, barn dances, backyard gardens, picnics in the mountains and lazy summer days fishing on the banks of the Tongue River. Many of those stories also made it into the tour.

“Many of the people on the tour lived in the towns and gave their own personal stories. It adds more of a human perspective to the tour and there’s always an interest in everyday activities. How did people live? How did people survive? What was different then compared to now?” Carrie reasoned.

The new Explore History partnership between the Hub on Smith and Sheridan Community Land Trust made possible with a grant from Next50 Initiative. Monthly programs that give people another meaningful way to reflect and connect while enjoying quality learning opportunities will be held every second Tuesday beginning September 14. Above: Lois Hall uses her cell phone access the Black Diamond Byway historical tour on the TravelStorysGPS app. The historical Dietz tipple is one of the sites people can learn about on a guided in-person tour, on a connected device while driving or virtually from the comfort of their home.

The updated Black Diamond Byway tour was set to debut at the Hub in the spring of 2020 and then the world changed. Carrie’s in-person presentation went to Zoom. Lisa helped the Hub’s folks get connected to SCLT’s virtual tours so they could still learn, reminisce, and discover more about their community and themselves.

Though the pandemic prevented in-person programs at the Hub, Lisa and Carrie continued to explore ways they could help connect community members during a particularly disconnected time. That resulted in the creation of Explore History, a series that will feature monthly talks, tours, programs and more made possible thanks to a $10,000 grant from Next50 Initiative.

Lisa called it a “fantastic fit” because the Explore History series gives people “a chance to remember, reminisce and connect with the community today.”

“As a center for all generations, our history is our community,” Lisa explained. “It’s something we can all learn about to deepen our relationships and help understand each other better,” Lisa explained. “In this fast-paced world, we don’t always slow down and connect with others and try to explore and learn.”

The program is also good for participants’ health, too. The Fun & Wellness Coordinator said getting people together to learn and reflect can help improve neuroplasticity, a kind of calisthenics for the brain that’s as important as aerobics are for the heart.

“Hopefully, people will share their memories of those places and then they can process that afterward. It’s a great way for someone to learn about our community,” Lisa reasoned. “We want people to stay connected and curious. That’s one of many ways to remain vibrant and vital.”

At the Hub, that is one of the goals.

“More people are living longer, into their eighties, nineties and hundreds – and they’re living well,” Lisa affirmed. “That’s what this program is all about. It’s giving people another meaningful way to reflect and connect and enjoy quality learning opportunities for their next 50 years.”

Of course, Explore History programs aren’t just for people who are enjoying their next 50 years, they’re open and free to attend for anyone at any age. And with new technology in hand, no one should have a hard time hearing in the back of a room, walk, or bus.

“SCLT’s grant helps us achieve our mission. It was an unintended outcome, but we couldn’t have planned it better,” Lisa concluded.

The first Explore History program is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, at 10:30 a.m. at the Hub on Smith. We’ll saddle up and ride across the range of dude ranch history in the Bighorns.

Explore History programs will take place on the second Tuesday of each month this Fall at 10:30 a.m. at the Hub or leaving from the Hub such as the Big Goose Creek Walking Tour in October. Please check our events page here for more information.  Explore History events will follow Hub on Smith mask guidelines.