In search of
the best of the best
Next week, yours truly will face the ultimate test, the most solemn obligation any Record editorial writer must ever bear: continuing a decades-old tradition of labeling the latest Old Settlers Day “best ever.”
The streak of superlatives used by the Ol’ Thing and its various Ol’ Editors extends far beyond the long-ago date of the last Old Settlers parade I was able to watch live and in person.
Starting in the early ’60s, I couldn’t see the parade because I was part of it — riding on a school float, dragging a reluctant pet, carrying a sousaphone with the junior high or high school band, and later sitting on hay bales with classmates returning for reunions.
From the ’70s through the ’10s, I was able to get back for only some of those reunions. My Saturdays were spent instead playing in a university band, teaching, or editing the news somewhere else.
Last year, while temporarily sheltered here and teaching remotely during the pandemic’s first go-round, I was going to have my first chance since age 10 to see the parade as a spectator. Then COVID began getting worse, as it again is doing this fall, and last year’s event was canceled.
Despite retiring from teaching since then, I still won’t even get my chance this year as I will be riding with my 50th anniversary classmates in this year’s “best ever” parade.
But will it really be the “best ever”?
The pandemic has doubled the number of classes likely to show up for this year’s event. Classes ending in one and six will be joined by classes ending in zero and five, whose reunions last year were delayed.
That would be a clear “best ever” indicator except for the fact that a fair number of classes may find attendance sparse because the pandemic has not loosened its grip and many people, especially older people from other states, remain wisely reluctant to attend large gatherings unless they mask up.
We expect a return engagement from the Rube Band — a clear point for “best ever” — and at least a normal amount of “bet you don’t remember who I am” awkward introductions among people who haven’t seen each other in decades yet somehow think they are instantly recognizable.
On the other hand, we’ll be down quite a few floats of spray-painted cardboard and chicken wire stuffed with napkins, a mainstay of the parade in olden days, and we won’t see multiple marching bands. Even Marion High School won’t be represented. Its band, for years one of its marks of excellence, is in a rebuilding period — as, apparently, is its football team.
Still, if the community manages to pull this off without infecting dozens on the heels of Hillsboro and Marion both conducting arts and crafts fairs, the grade given by this professor emeritus will have to include an A for effort and a “best ever” moniker.
It is, after all, not the bands or floats or football games or kids games or lunches or recognition ceremonies in the park that make Old Settlers Day what it is. It’s the people and their infinitely diverse hopes, dreams, accomplishments, and memories, all inexorably tied to a shared childhood in a community that nurtured those qualities.
The Best Place I’ve Seen deserves nothing less than yet another “best ever” Old Settlers. Let’s all do everything we can to make sure it happens, even if it’s just cooling it on the “bet you don’t know who I am” re-introductions.
Meanwhile, revel in the “best ever” status by letting this week’s advertisers know how much you appreciate their community involvement.
Running down the list of advertisers in this week’s paper, it’s pretty easy to spot which local businesses are owned or managed by people whose love for the community goes back to school days here.
Normally, ads sell goods and services. This week, you get a glimpse at who’s not out just to make money but more important is out to support the community. Let them know you noticed.
— ERIC MEYER