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  • Last modified 20 days ago (Oct. 3, 2019)

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Simple pleasures are the best

Editorials typically focus on big things — top issues facing our community, like whether commissioner Dianne Novak’s close collaboration with wind farm opponents makes her stubbornly dedicated or a sore loser merely adding to county legal bills.

This week, however, we’d like to focus on little things — often ignored details that don’t always get the attention they deserve.

It’s a point any writer is sensitive to. Many times, writers insert references that only a few people will get, Often they wonder whether anyone does.

Even comedians do this. Years ago, sitting in a theater for the first run (yes, sometime around when dinosaurs still roamed the earth) of the Mel Brooks movie “Young Frankenstein” (pronounced, of course, “franken-STEEN”), I noted how only a handful of audience members started laughing with me when Gene Wilder’s character shouted to a shoeshine boy on a railroad platform: “Pardon me, boy.”

We already had figured out the punch line, which the dialogue delayed revealing in deliciously slow fashion.

“Is that the Transylvania Choo Choo?” Wilder’s character asked haltingly, after a pause.

“Ja, ja,” the Germanic boy responded in equally halting fashion, “Track 29. Can I give you a shine?”

It wasn’t Algonquin Roundtable repartee. This was, after all, Mel Brooks. It was just a play on the lyrics to “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” elongated so as to make the humor a bit less crass than that in a later scene in which Wilder’s character remarks to a busty, scantily clad character played by Teri Garr, “Wow, what knockers!” when she attempts to use wrought-iron hardware provided to wrap on a massive door to spooky Frankenstein Castle.

Buried references often are more appreciated — and sometimes controversial. A few years before that, when Sen. Ted Kennedy had his infamous accident on Chappaquiddick Island, a team of Australian reporters wrote in “Time” magazine how the woman who tragically died in the accident, Mary Jo Kopechne, had been a “regular rooter” for Kennedy.

It was an odd choice of words until you consider that “rooting,” in Australian slang, means the exactly the same thing as “shagging” does in British slang, as any fan of “Austin Powers” movies can attest.

It also, by the way, means the same thing as “chinga,” the short word we often use to refer to Chingawassa Days, does in Spanish slang — which ought to get all of us thinking twice about what short words we use to refer to that festival.

This isn’t intended to be a risqué commentary on less-than-wholesome double entendres, however. Quite the contrary, the subtle things we want to draw attention to, in case anyone missed them, are at the very opposite end of the spectrum.

In our “best ever,” though almost rain-shortened, Old Settlers Day parade Saturday, many floats honored the 50th anniversary of the moon landing of Marion County Lake resident Dean Armstrong’s brother by offering various space-related imagery.

A very realistic model of the space shuttle, which didn’t fly until more than a decade later, and several symbolic rockets, many of which seemed to be Acme model that Wile E. Coyote might have fired at the Road Runner, were very welcome additions to the parade.

But one group — Cub Scout Pack 102 — went above and beyond, offering an extremely realistic portrayal of the actual Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo 11 to the moon 50 years ago.

It was like watching a movie, set in the first half of 1959, and noting that a flag flickering in the background had exactly 49 stars on it and that the no-passing-zone stripes on a road passing through had two solid yellow lines surrounding, as they no longer do, a dashed white line between them.

You want to go up to whoever shot the film and compliment her or him on attention to detail and historical accuracy.

So, all you Cub Scouts out there: If you thought nobody noticed or appreciated your careful attention to detail, you were wrong. At least one person — and probably a lot more — did. We just wanted to let you know.

Likewise, we want to acknowledge and thank the young people who marched in the combined Marion Middle and High School band. We wished they would have had spiffy uniforms to wear, but merely having a band willing to march and perform was triumph enough for this parade.

Years ago, Old Settlers Day featured many bands — separate high school and junior high units from multiple school districts in the county.

Expanded offerings of sports and general lack of interest in attracting and, most important, retaining dedicated instrumental music instructors have taken their toll.

Nowadays, some parades are lucky to have only a small community band — kids and adults together, not marching but riding on a float.

The fact that Marion schools were able to show their colors and toot their horns in such admirable fashion was one small step back, and what we hope will be a giant leap toward, a return to the good old days of more prominent interest in instrumental music.

Alas, there appeared to be no sousaphone players for me to relate to — even though this does provide a gratuitous opportunity for a proud grandpa to mention how his freshman grandson is playing sousaphone in a California high school band.

Band carries with it almost all the benefits of sports. It’s a more physically challenging activity than most people realize. It teaches important principles of teamwork and practice. And it’s a great way to entertain others while having fun yourself. Plus you rarely read about band members suffering concussions and other serious injuries — though I will say that being pelted by oranges thrown from 40 rows up by rowdy K-State fans when I was performing in the KU band was a bit like a blindside tackle with helmet-to-helmet contact.

Old Settlers Day may not be the biggest of celebrations — though this year’s certainly seemed to draw well. Rather, it’s one of those events where the little things stand out. And, in honor of that, we wanted to focus this week on just a couple of those. We’re sure you found many more than just two if you were lucky enough to be able to attend in more than vicarious fashion.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 3, 2019

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