Curiosity brought me to the Jan. 2 Holly Theater First Saturday tour. I wondered what building would be worthy of the expense and effort. Why support the preservation of a building? Why restore when we can build new, bigger and better?
It didn’t take me long to learn why, and why the Holly. Call it what you like: ghosts or imagination, when I toured the Holly I could feel the enthusiasm of a filled auditorium. I heard the taps of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly; Ethel Merman’s rhythm echoed off the walls; those same walls came alive with Julie Andrews. Roy, Trigger, Dale and Buttermilk galloped across the screen. The Holly, I realized, is more than a structure of concrete, brick, wood and tile; the Holly is a living entity; a theater-lover’s paradise.
It wasn’t the Holly when I was growing up in Riverside, Calif. It was the Fox Theater on Mission Inn Boulevard. Showtime started with a cartoon short and the national anthem. The movies were big, bright and alive. I was there, up on the screen. I talked to the animals with Doctor Doolittle; I danced with Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. I was Cat Ballou!
The Fox, like the Holly, is a place of dreaming and dreams come true. The entertainment was more than just fun and escape; the productions helped me, and many before me, believe it is possible to live your dream. Just as Fred and Ginger marveled at the great entertainers of their day, others came to watch Fred and Ginger with that same can-do spirit. Maybe we all didn’t turn out to be the next Fred Astaire, but we all come out of the theater a little more hopeful, a lot happier.
We’ve lost so much talent and imagination, the story and talent replaced by robotic flash and special effects. We are a talented, imaginative community, and I know the Holly still holds hopes and dreams for Medford. The Holly doors will open to inspire the next Astaire, Rogers, Cagney, Hepburn and Newman. It is full of the kind of ghosts that inspire us with dreams of what was and what can be.
We can build new and build it bigger, but better? We can never build better than the Holly. We can’t build the spirit and memories the Holly holds. We don’t need to tear down, dig up and move to build what we already have available to us. History, our heritage, the past and its treasures matter. We can keep what we have and grow with it, letting our youth know the joys of the past held in a historic theater. Restore, reclaim, relive! Let the “show go on” as it was meant to.
Working together as a community we can preserve Medford’s past and enrich her future.
Linda J. Green lives in Central Point.