By DAVID GREEN
Ralph’s note caught me by surprise: “Have you always had Street View?”
What? Morenci on Google Street View? He must be mistaken.
Ralph was writing from Oregon and the e-mail he sent included a photo of the Observer office, fresh from the Google Maps page.
He wasn’t joking. Morenci has made the big time. The Google car has driven our streets, recorded the town for all to see, although it’s only a narrow glimpse captured on one particular day.
I wondered when that day occurred.
For those who aren’t familiar, the internet giant Google—the company moving more and more into the daily lives of so many people—added a feature called Street View to its popular map service in May 2007.
An automobile drove the streets of five large cities and recorded everything, via a 360° panoramic camera. Both sides of the street, forward down the street, backward to the view behind, and all the way overhead—it’s all there for the world to see.
If you choose a city map from Google and Street View is enabled, an actual photo of each house is there to view. Every street-side tree, every crack in the pavement, people walking along the sidewalk, an approaching truck—that one moment was preserved.
You can’t see everywhere all at once on a flat computer monitor, of course, but by moving your mouse, the image can change from one side of the street to the other, and so forth.
I’ve found my son’s house in Miami. I’ve looked at my daughter’s house in New Orleans. I can see my other daughter’s dormitory in Ann Arbor.
But I wasn’t expecting to see Morenci on Street View. I figured that was years away, if ever at all.
Ralph found out about us just this week and I’m not sure how long we’ve been on. Probably in the massive update Dec. 9. That led me to this challenge: trying to figure out when the Google car traveled our streets.
I’m standing under the stoplight at Morenci’s main three corners. It’s a nice day with lots of cumulus clouds dotting the sky. The price of gasoline at the Deli is $2.87 a gallon. That sounds about right for when the price started dropping before the election, but I can’t remember exactly when that was.
I see there are corn stalks around the light poles. Google visitors will always think the citizens of this town tie corn stalks around their poles.
It looks like the images were captured a few weeks ago when the downtown was decorated.
A walk down the street shows the Google car passed the clock in front of the library at 1:20. There’s Ken Fether’s truck parked by the dentist office.
• 1:20 p.m.
• autumn afternoon.
I’m heading to the Observer office to see if I’m standing in the window. No such luck, but I notice there are some cars at the eye doctor’s office—too many for a Monday, I think.
Add another clue:
• A Thursday.
I’m back on Main Street and amazed the sidewalks are completely empty. The Day Morenci Stood Still.
Wait a minute, the restaurant across from the Pizza Box has very little paint on the window. There’s been a lot of window messages the last few weeks. I’m heading to the photo of my house to check something.
There’s a pair of ghosts in the front yard at John and Andi Rorick’s house. Ah, it’s getting close to Halloween.
• October, 1:20 p.m.
Wait a minute; there’s no “150 Years” sign on the Congregational church. Furthermore, my sidewalk appears to be clean. If so, these photos are at least one year old.
We had one side of the house painted last summer and my wife accidentally frightened the painter. That resulted in a large blob of white paint on the sidewalk. I round the corner and notice my neighbors haven’t yet started their porch project.
• October, 1:20 p.m., not 2008.
I head over to the high school to see what’s on the announcement board out front. That could narrow it right down. Unfortunately, Mr. Google turned south at Page Street.
I’m going south, too, trying to think of some clues. I jump down to Elm Street and see the first signs of life. Two people standing by a car alongside the road. Strange, one of them is blurred. Perhaps one of the two people contacted Google and requested to have the details
of his face removed.
It looks like Neal is doing some work over at Heather’s house.
Down on Stephenson Street, just past Summit, there’s someone in a motorized chair. Let me turn around and see the face. It looks like Ray Yenor is out for a spin.
I’m back on Main Street going west. It’s a beautiful sky. The scene goes from bright sun to shade as the clouds shift.
There are some people in the Borchardt parking lot and a couple probably walking to the Deli to put gas in the little can they’re carrying.
The large shed at the old depot is still gray. It was painted red over the summer. There’s a small glimpse of Bean Creek to the left and right.
I know how to settle the question about the year. I’m going to look at the new apartments on W. Coomer. Here’s the verdict: they’re under construction, but almost finished.
• 1:20 p.m., October 2007.
It seems like the end of the line. There’s only one hope remaining to pin down the actual day of the month. I need to look at the sign on the front of the Rex Theatre.
I’ve taken a screen shot of the computer image. I’ve opened it in Photoshop and ad
justed the tone. I realize I’m cheating here, but I want to solve this mystery.
I’ve left Street View and I’m going through old Observers and there’s the match:
The Game Plan was showing.
• The Google car came to Morenci Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007.
Morenci part of Toledo metro area
Since the beginning in May 2007 with only five cities—Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver and New York City—additional metropolitan areas have been added to Street View from time to time.
A massive upgrade Dec. 9, 2008, is probably when Morenci was included.
How come Morenci, Blissfield and Lyons make an appearance while other communities including Fayette, Hudson and Tecumseh aren’t present?
Morenci was photographed as part of the metropolitan Toledo area. The Google car traveled along State Route 120 through Lyons and into Morenci, then north on M-156 and east to Adrian.
East of State Route 109, coverage is extensive, with every rural road included.
Google says eventually it wants the entire planet mapped.
Privacy issues have presented some thorns along the way. People coming out of an adult book store, protesters at an abortion clinic, sunbathing women—whatever is going on, the camera catches.
Last summer, face-blurring technology was added to comply with laws in certain countries where filming is underway.
Several websites collect odd images found on Street View. If you have a couple of hours to spare, travel Morenci’s streets and see what you can find. Maybe you’ll see someone you know.