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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THOUGHTS: Moving Beyond The Past

When I was in high school, I had several odd jobs. I washed dishes at a Chinese restaurant. I pulled weeds at an outdoor lab school. I sold popcorn and ran ancient projectors at an ancient movie theater. Everyone in my generation knew that theater, too.

The Unique was, well, unique. Built as the Salida Opera House in 1890, the theatre had dressing rooms, room for an orchestra, and, with the balcony, seated over six hundred people. As the place changed hands and went through various incarnations over the years, it found itself in the hands of the Groy family. When I worked there, John Groy owned it. He also owned a small theater in nearby Buena Vista called "The Pearl", and the only drive-in for almost 100 miles around, "The Commanche".

The Unique was a magnificent place. The ceiling was huge, and a sound system which featured "surround sound" didn't really do it justice. There was no heating system, other than the huge propane "jet engines" that John would put in the very front, just in front of the old stage. The running joke was that you always had to go in the winter with sleeping bags and blankets.

At some point, after I left Salida, the Unique was shut down by the people who eforced fire codes. I don't know details of what happened next, except that it was sold by John to a gentleman who couldn't pay the city for it (how the city of Salida came about it is a mystery to me, although an old friend and co-worker said it was practically robbery). Well, as opposed to trying to procure funds to save the building, the practical solution, unfortunately, was to tear the auditorium down.

A few days ago, my dad sent me a picture of the pile of rubble. As saddening as it is, I've found myself involved here in Ketchikan with a theatre company diligently raising money to build a performing arts complex. It's a circle, and it shows me that the past is past for a reason, that it was a tremendous experience, full of fond memories and happiness associated with my teenage years. Kind of an obvious metaphor, I suppose, but at least I'm writing about it instead of just thinking to myself, "wow, how weird is that?"

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