“It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
— Tom Brokaw
In my line of work, I can get a lot done in an hour, so it wasn’t all that appealing to find I had to give one up Tuesday afternoon. In retrospect, however, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Working in newspapers, it’s always tough when any holiday rolls around. It’s almost as tough just to go ahead and work on a day when most people are out of work than to prepare to close up shop for a day or two.
Working at The Democrat, it’s somewhat easier when a holiday rolls around than at other newspapers where I’ve worked. We realize a holiday means no mail, and since we rely heavily on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver our newspapers, it doesn’t really make sense to get a newspaper ready without any way to send it.
It’s kind of like the old adage of the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. I have little doubt it makes a sound, but I’m sure it’s not nearly as loud.
So I was a bit disappointed when one of our reporters came to me wanting Tuesday off, especially when one of her assignments for the day was to cover the Lebanon Senior Center’s New Year’s Eve party.
Reluctantly and after exhausting several options, I took on the assignment myself. Boy, was I wrong feeling that way about this assignment.
I entered the Lebanon Senior Center and was immediately greeted by several smiling faces among the about 100 in attendance. Jay and Gloria Kirkland had just started playing and singing. Hey, this might just be fun.
It didn’t take long for activities director Teresa Botts to locate my shiny head and cover it with a glittery New Year’s top hat.
“Everyone’s got to wear a hat; it’s New Year’s Eve,” Botts said.
OK I was sold.
I took a seat near the dance floor to get some photos and video. I thought to myself, “these folks aren’t going to be interested in dancing.” I was wrong again.
It didn’t take long for Jay and Gloria to pick a crowd favorite before the dance floor was packed. From the box step to the two step to some line dancing, these folks knew what they were doing.
It was then when an up-tempo Charlie Daniels’ tune brought 74-year-old Billy McClard to his feet. And those feet didn’t stop until nearly four minutes later. If you don’t think four minutes is long, try kicking your feet and mimicking McClard’s moves. I know I couldn’t do it, and I’m half McClard’s age.
Even more surprisingly, McClard’s moves barely got a rise from the rest of the crowd. Apparently it’s a regular highlight at the Lebanon Senior Center.
An elderly man with a cane came to sit beside me. I tried to carry on a conversation with him amid the music and dancing, but no such luck. He did tell me he came to the center often to enjoy others’ company.
Later, Botts told me she felt a little bad when she saw me trying to talk with the 94-year-old veteran. Come to find out, he was a little hard of hearing even without the music. Turns out we have that in common, though my wife calls my condition “selective hearing.”
One thing I found particularly clever was the New Year’s countdown at 2 p.m. instead of midnight. Just as Jimmy Buffett said – and I’m paraphrasing – “It’s midnight somewhere.”
It came time for me to leave, but I found it hard to break away. Alas, my hour was up, but it was certainly well spent.
Needless to say, I don’t think Tuesday’s visit to the Lebanon Senior Center will be my last. Next time, I won’t forget my dancing shoes. Mr. McClard, I’m challenging you to a dance-off.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.