From: Merle Hanson
The old building has always been there, part of the neighborhood. The sounds of life and children can still be heard coming out of the hearts of old men and women who performed on that stage. Their voices get a little emotional sometimes almost cracking as they remember. And the woodwork, oh yes the woodwork still talks about the place of some of the best times of our lives.
The concept that there is something greater than thy self echoed through that building. I was just a little kid the first time I went there. Watching the Winhawks playing the Wingers in a seat way in the back, my mind overwhelmed with the stimulus of all those noises and sounds of people working their way rapidly through my head.
I have never heard Winona as I did so clearly that evening and I’m not sure who even won that game. Chuck was courtside announcing and Gary Evans was scribbling for the Daily News. Winona roared that night and I felt what being a town was all about.
My buddy Ted was telling me how all the grade schools would have their school play on the big stage and grandpas and cousins all showed up to see the kids perform. Old barmaids and waitresses would sometimes be carrying the baggage of living, but showed up because a child reaching for the stars are what dreams were made of. They might not have attained theirs but they would never get in any youngsters’ way. It was a magical place, that old theater with that overhanging balcony.
I was there one night. It must have been ‘74 or ‘75 when a band by the name of The Flying Burritos Brothers showed up. My buddy Riff hung over the rail with probably 50 to a hundred more music-crazed people, hanging, just hanging over the edge. The whole place was like that: stomping, chompin, dancing and raising our voices to the words and the music that matched our times.
I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to play a violin or a fiddle or a bass on that stage with everybody watching, a single spotlight with just you and your instrument, heart pounding, stressed — just a kid playing in a full house on a big stage. Feeling young again.
If that old building had eyes and could talk it might talk about the guys too young to vote, sneaking to The Hurry Back or Ericksons for a smoke or a game of pool. The friendships made just outside that old school and its beautiful auditorium.
Anyway, that is why I voted for the local designation and to fulfill my responsibilities as a member of the Historical Preservation Commission.