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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Basic Biittner: Good-bye Old Friend

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Community Center in my home town of Aurelia was built in 1927, the year that Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs for the "Murderer's Row" Yankees. Over the ensuing 80 years, the (now) old building has witnessed thousands of people enjoying the camaraderie of friends and family; holding meetings; listening and/or dancing to music of different genres and eras; and celebrating new marriages, anniversaries, or other happy occasions. If these walls could talk...

I have lived in Aurelia for virtually my entire life, and I, like most Aurelia citizens, have my own special memories of the Aurelia Community Center.

Most of us called the building "The Legion Hall" for years. Though its official name is the Community Center, as evidenced by the sign over the front door, the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary are among the groups who have held their regular meetings in "The Legion Hall" throughout the years, so I'm speculating that's how the building came to be called by its "other" name.

My personal memories of the building, somewhat fuzzy by now, include occasionally going to movies there. It was not a "regular" movie theater, at least it wasn't then, but occasionally someone (maybe the town itself) had a party for us kids, including movies. It may have been for Christmas, or Halloween, but as I said, we're talking about a fifty-year-old memory, so...

My next memory of the building is going to Cub Scout Pack 111 meetings there. Cliff Bruce was the head Scoutmaster, and I distinctly remember singing "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt (that's my name, too)," and possibly that other chestnut, "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" , but I'm not certain about that.

I also remember my one-and-only Pinewood Derby. My car was about as basic as they come- painted white with the numbers 123 on it, and not shaped much differently than the original block of wood you start out with. But --- I did win a couple of races over some of the more detailed cars.

Over the years, of course, I've attended and enjoyed many American Legion and Kiwanis Pancake Dinners at the old building, as well as similar fundraising community dinners for other organizations, and they have been a great way to talk to someone you may not have seen for awhile, and also a great way to continue building the community spirit that is such a big part of living in Aurelia.

My primary memory of "the Legion Hall," though, is playing and singing rock-and-roll on the less-than-spacious stage. Our group, The Rudabaga Bunch, played there many times over a 3-4 year period in the late sixties, and we often set up and practiced there the night before the dance, too. A few years ago, a group of us got together for a couple of one-night appearances as "The Wurst Band," and that's when I really noticed how small the stage was. It didn't seem that small when the Bunch played there- and we had a six-piece band, lights and a guy who ran the lights (take a bow, Dave Wieland). When we played with the Wurst Band, the equipment was bigger (and so were some of us), and we had added some horns to the standard guitar-drums-keyboard lineup, so it was pretty packed.

On Friday March 30th, they are throwing one last party at, and for, the Old Gal (the Community Center), as a way of saying "good-bye, and thanks for your many years of service."

The building will be demolished in the near future, and a new, larger Community Center will rise from its ashes. I'm sure we will all create some new memories in the new building, while holding on to the old memories, also.

FYI, the Legion and Auxiliary will still be holding their meetings in the new building, but they won't have to walk up steps to do so.

So, maybe we can start calling the new building "The Legion Hall," too, or "The Legion Hall II."

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner