My, my, hey, hey...

Fading away offers chance of making triumphant return

Published: Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 4:59 a.m. CDT

There’s an online forum about my hometown, and it’s dotted with stories about structures and businesses that used to be located there, but which burned down decades ago. Their glory is emblazoned in our memories, and their absence leaves an ash-gray void.

Across the prairie, in another town in another county, there are sad counterparts that have withered into obsolescence. Abandoned schools with sagging roofs and broken windows. Once-grand theaters with darkened, dirty, faded marquees. Outdated restaurants with only dim reminders of their heyday.

I’m reminded of Neil Young’s lyrics from 1979: “My, my, hey, hey. It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

I think there’s a stark difference in how we remember things when they disappear suddenly compared to those that fade over time. A quick departure has something of a traumatic effect, which preserves the bygone memories that don’t have an opportunity to be supplanted by modern realities.

But, as Neil Young also notes, “Once you’re gone, you can’t come back.” The nice thing about fading away is the opportunity to rebound, often in unexpected ways.

Perhaps the most notable rebound in my hometown of Tuscola is Flesor’s Candy Kitchen. I’m barely old enough to remember when the candy store and soda fountain were run by Gus Flesor.

The building stood empty for a couple of decades and was well on its way to becoming unrecoverable ruins when it was salvaged by Flesor’s granddaughters and restored to its original glory.

I think it might be better than the original because the girls have instilled their own history into the business. They honor their grandfather and showcase the antiquity of the building, but they don’t try to be the old Candy Kitchen.

The tin ceiling and the soda fountain probably look better today than they did 50 years ago. The ice cream is still scooped by hand and the chocolates are still hand-dipped in the back. But the lunch menu and service are viable in the 21st century. I’m sure Gus never processed a debit card.

Another rebirth that continues to take place is the Granada Theater in Mt. Vernon. It’s been a slow process, but like Flesor’s Candy Kitchen, the theater renovation evokes memories of days gone by while the group behind it is reinventing the usage to include concerts, movies and community events.

I think maybe Neil Young stopped too short in his song. Neither burning out nor fading away is best. It’s better to reinvent, reinvigorate, renew. That way, we old-timers can enjoy the memories without the sadness of obsolescence and the new generation can create their own, unique memories.

My, my, hey, hey. It’s better to reinvent to reflect the needs of today.

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© 2013 by David Porter who can be reached at david@ramblinman.us. Talk about somebody who needs to reinvent …

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