Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The End of the Road (or at least this mile marker)
The Stadium Theater in our small town has closed. This fills me with a sense of loss that is not only connected to the building itself, but to what it represents. For 62 years families in our area were able to go there for entertainment the old fashioned way. Popcorn, candy.....and more movies than anyone probably could name. Occasional remodeling here and there kept things from falling apart, but much remains the same. For instance there are lights covered by painted glass on the side walls that would come on when the main lights went down that I always found fascinating (the antique lover in me wonders what will happen to them). The theater is small enough and the screen was big enough that when the movie started playing no matter where you sat you could lose yourself in the story and make it feel like you were within the movie rather than just watching it. When my husband and I were young and very hard-pressed to scrape together money for dinner out, the $1.25 ticket price was just affordable enough that if we split a soda and popcorn we could have a date without breaking our meager budget. We would be sitting in our choice seat (on the right hand side closer to the front) just waiting for the movie to start, munching a little popcorn and invariably he would speak to 3/4 of the people walking up to find their seats. "You know you live in a small town when" comes to mind- when you know most of the people sitting down to watch a movie with you. There is a certain feeling of home that abounds in this little place. I have been to larger venues that have the fancy reclining seats, six or more movies to choose from and all the other bells and whistles. None of them feel the same. I doubt I will go to the movies very often from now on. Having grown up going to the Stadium and watching movies there, the sense of familiarity and comfort just isn't there in the larger places - and they charge 15.9 patrillion more dollars to watch a movie anyway. Movie night at the Stadium felt like going to grandpa and grandma's house and the loss of it to our community will mean more than just the loss of a place to watch movies. It is also the loss of a way of life. One of the last of the "downtown" places. Driving down main street in small town America, seeing the shuttered stores and theaters is an example of all that is being lost in our country. The clothing stores, shoe stores, dime stores (do you all remember Graham's Dime Store?) theaters and diners that used to draw families to town for "Saturday" shopping and entertainment. They have been replaced by cold and ugly box stores, malls and monstrosities of buildings selling things we really don't need. I guess that is the thing that bothers me the most. These places and the closeness and familiarity are being lost to us and our lives are becoming less and less connected. When you frequent small businesses in a small town on a steady basis, you see people you know and you remain connected, even if in a brief moment. With the loss of our "downtown" in small town America, we are also losing our base. Our roots. What feeling of connection do you have in a mall? In a Sam's Club? Nothing. Rudolph's. Remember Rudolph's? Miss Jean watched my husband's brothers and sisters grow up. We would go in there to buy his jeans after we got married and she walked right to the stack of the kind he liked and pulled out his size. We have a couple of stores left downtown. Linn's Shoe Store. Bray's Drug Store. Norton's Hardware. Not much else is hanging on. How sad. My kids will never walk into Graham's Dime Store and be bewildered by all the little nooks and crannies chock full of wonders. Instead they know things about malls full of over-priced nonsense like Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Buckle and the like. One of my best friends is in the 70-80 age range. She can tell you anything you want to know about Jerseyville during her life-time. She can describe the layout of Don's Department store when you first walked in. What they sold. The names of most of the workers. Kirby's Drug Store. What her favorite things to purchase there were. She is a fountain of information about the way things used to be. One wonders if perhaps maybe they shouldn't STILL be. Life is all about change. Change must be embraced. Medical advancements, technology that allows endless access to knowledge, all these other things we know have made improvements - this is true. In retrospect, however, history tells us that some change was not for the better. One wonders if perhaps there should be a headstone at each end of main street. "SMALL TOWN LIES HERE 1800-2000 MISSED ETERNALLY".