. Hello, all.
I wanted to write something really cool about the end of the year. Something all meaningful that will make you look back on 2016 and say, “Wow! I feel really good about life. I’m going to go out and wave the preservationist banner and save some stuff!” Unfortunately for me, 2016 kinda sucked.
I mean come on! How many celebrities did we lose? 15? 56? 946? Famous people were dropping like flies in a bug zapper. So many famous personalities died that I actually forgot a few. For example, I was looking at some advertisement recently that was talking about the people we lost in 2016. Prince was on the cover, and I realized that I had totally forgotten that he died! How could I forget about the Purple One?
But just when I was about to break out some old albums, grab a box of tissues, and cry my heart out listening to “Raspberry Beret,” something happened. I realized that out of tragedy, triumph had emerged, because sometimes remembering bad times helps us to appreciate our history that much more. Let me give you an example.
At the time of this writing, Ms. Debbie Reynolds, an actress who had a wonderful and long-lived career, just passed away at the age of 84. Out of her many roles, perhaps my favorite was her part in the musical “Singing in the Rain” opposite Gene Kelly.
Now Gene Kelly is one of the greatest tap dancers that the United States has ever produced. An amazingly talented dancer, he was also a perfectionist. When she was cast in the film, Reynolds had no tap dancing experience. When Kelly was told, he said that he could teach everything she needed to know.
Almost daily, Kelly would reduce the young Debbie Reynolds to tears as he demanded she practice her routines continuously, even to the point where her feet bled. As a matter of fact, she had to wear flesh-colored bandages under her stockings during the “Good Morning” number.
But, Reynolds persevered. She made the film, learned some incredibly complicated dance routines, and was able to keep up with her professional dancing co-stars. And make it look good, which was not easy. Although she never worked with Gene Kelly again, Reynolds would give him rich praise later in her life, giving him credit with teaching her things that enabled her to have a career that lasted over fifty years.
Now all of that’s over. Her life and talent are gone. But the stories remain. People asked her about these things over the course of her career, and she wrote about them in her biography. So, even though we don’t have her anymore, Reynolds has gifted us with wonderful stories that touch on her personal history, those of her co-stars, and film history itself.
But we have to keep in mind, Debbie Reynolds was a film star, and people wanted to know all about her. So where does that leave Joe Average, the normal working stiffs that we pass in the supermarket every day? That leaves them with you.
You see, we have to take up the slack for all of the average people and places out there in the world. We have to write down the stories that our grandparents and uncles and whoever told us when we were growing up. We have to step up and champion the preservation of historical places and buildings in our respective regions, because if you don’t, no one else may ever tell that story.
So as we enter a new (and hopefully more celebrity-friendly) year, make that resolution to learn your family’s story. Reach out and learn about that cool old building down on Main Street. Donate a little money to your favorite preservation effort. Let’s go forward boldly into these coming months and forge a new future for our past.
Have a happy and safe new year, kids. Catch you on the flip side.