To introduce the game, Lynn Senftner posted this selfie in which she is partially visible, taken at the north entrance of the school. The next day, her thumb was included in the picture of the monument at the city pool that kicked off the game, but for the remainder of the contest, Lynn was decidedly absent from the photographs.
During the months of April and May, the Facebook group ‘I Spy With My Little Eye...Onida
Edition’ offered daily respite from sheltering in place and an opportunity to explore the community vicariously through the photographic lens of spymaster Lynn Senftner.
Lynn says she was already brainstorming ideas to celebrate her son Tate’s birth month and a fun way to be socially distanced together when she was inspired by a Facebook post. “One of my former students is a teacher now in Burke, and she took a picture and had a ‘Where am I?’ post, and I thought, ‘That’s what we can do,’” said Lynn.
As a family involved in sports, the Senftners “spent hours on the road.” Tate, who lost his life to suicide in 2013, always enjoyed playing ‘I spy with my little eye’ during their travels.
“I thought that would be fun,” said Lynn. “He loved Onida.”
In preparation for playing the game, Lynn says she took pictures while walking down the street in March. “As I walked down Main Street, I started snapping pictures and zooming in on stuff,” said Lynn. “It’s either a message of how inside we were at that time or that people expect strange behavior from me that no one wondered what I was doing. It was fun. There are some really cool buildings and places around here.”
With monies in Tate’s memorial fund, Lynn bought twenty-eight prizes of $5 in Onida Bucks, since Tate would have celebrated his 28th birthday on April 1. “It really caught on,” said Lynn. Before the initial 28 days of play was completed, an anonymous donor contributed to the purchase of thirty more days of prizes and asked Lynn if she would keep the game going.
“I was worried about how to pick the winner, so I wouldn’t let anyone guess on the site, they had to send me a private message, so everything was time stamped.” Lynn says she had people submit their guesses simultaneously a couple of times. “That was another thing, too, how instant social media is. It’s a really good lesson.” Players could guess as many times as they wanted. “I had some really über-competitive people.
“I tried to keep my routine unpredictable so no one would know when I was going to post. It was fun to see people engaged.”
Not only did the game provide an opportunity for some online camaraderie, Lynn says she thinks it helped people recognize “how good things really are, and how many good things there are here.” She especially enjoyed some rivalries that cropped up in playing the game, and appreciated some of the humorous responses she received. “I had one person guess the school for every brick building,” said Lynn. “Once you leave, you appreciate things more,” she said of couple of winners who grew up here but have moved away.
From a technical standpoint Lynn ran into a couple of pitfalls zooming in too close in one instance and not enough in another. “It would be interesting to see how well I would play the game,” said Lynn. Son “Scott knew quite a few. Thinking about it makes me laugh. When we moved here fifteen years ago, we had some family friends visiting, and Tate and all the kids were playing ‘Blue’s Clues,’ giving clues of what building they were hiding by. The boys had embraced living here.”
Lynn marvels that so many people know the history of Onida buildings, and says she had a learning curve to keep up with on what buildings may have been in the past since she’s new to the community.
“It was intended to give people a little break from being indoors, or, something to do indoors,” said Lynn. “I’m glad it caught on. It was fun for us, too.”