Friendships prove to be priceless

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2000

Features Editor

July 3, 2000 10 PM

Windley Wade Tatom was on a search engine when he ran head-on into a long, lost friend.

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"All of a sudden, after 30 years, there he was," Tatom said. "I typed in the name Baskum Holland and he just popped right up. I felt like I had struck gold."

But what Tatom had discovered was worth more than gold. He had found a friend, and the renewal of that friendship was priceless.

Tatom and Holland attended Troy High School together. Tatom was a "shy, skinny little boy" and he looked up to Holland, as did most of the other boys in his class.

Holland was a resident of the Troy Baptist Children’s Home. Because of the circumstances that brought him to the home, he was behind in his school work, therefore, he was older than his classmates.

"Baskum was bigger and stronger and prettier than the rest of us," Tatom said, laughing. "Why, he could have been a movie star. He had a mass of blond hair and he was very athletic. He had all of the best looking girls. All of us boys looked up to him."

Because he was older, Holland dropped out of school and out of touch with everyone he knew when he was a resident of the Children’s Home those six years.

Tatom said he sometimes thought of Holland and wondered what happened to him. He made several attempts to locate him but without any success. When six Troy High School classes had a combined reunion in 1999, Tatom stepped up his search hoping to find his former classmate but every effort came to a dead end.

When he heard about Homecoming 2000 for the residents of the Troy Baptist Children’s Home, Tatom became even more determined to find Holland.

"I just knew if I could find him, he would want to be a part of this homecoming," Tatom said. "I guess there was a selfish motive, too. I wanted to see him as much as I wanted him to get to have this opportunity to renew old friendships."

Tatom turned to a computer search engine hoping to find Holland. He typed in "Bascum Holland," the way he was listed by the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries based in Birmingham.

He typed in "Bascum" Holland, the way his name was spelled in the THS yearbook and newspaper.


"I don’t know what made me do it but I just typed in Baskum Holland and he popper right up," Tatom said.

The search engine Tatom was using was basically a telephone directory. In a matter of seconds, he ha d the answer to a 30-year question. Baskum Holland was in New York and, in no time, the two were connected once again.

"We talked for about three hours," Tatom said. "In the conversation, I told Baskum about the homecoming and he said he would like to come. I started right then looking forward to the Homecoming weekend."

Tatom said the Children’s Home played such an important role in the Troy community for so long that many townspeople wanted to share the memories with the residents and staff members at Homecoming 2000.

Holland began to make plans to come "home," but his wife’s mother became ill and he almost didn’t come.

"My wife knew how important this homecoming was to me and she told me to come," he said.

Holland arrived on Thursday and he was the guest of his "skinny, shy classmate."

Tatom and Holland rekindled a friendship that spanned a 30-year gap.

"I don’t think our classmates from the Children’s Home knew how much they meant to us," Tatom said. "There was something very unique about those who lived at the Home. You might forget the name of some of your classmates but you never forget the names of those who lived at the Children’s Home. You always remember them. If I had not know Baskum, look what I would have lost."

Holland said he didn’t realize that any of his classmates from town looked up to him but he knew they didn’t look down on him.

"I was always made to feel a part of the school and the town," Holland said. "The people of Troy were very good to me – to all of us at the home. Our family situations were different and our living conditions were different but I was never made to feel out of place."

Holland said he was surprised to hear from Tatom and it was a great feeling in the world to know that, "after all these years someone remembered me."

The day Holland arrived in Troy, Tatom got a package in the mail. The package contained a handmade vase that Holland had crafted himself.

"I have a very things that are so special to me that I would never even consider selling them."Tatom said. "This gift from Baskum is not for sale. It’s priceless – like friendship."