The Birth and Death of an Era

Prayer for the Wild Things by Bev Doolittle

Growing up in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota campus was an adventuresome experience, as most childhoods are. I witnessed the birth of the franchise era, the grandparents of the big box shops and brand names today. There was a dance studio on the corner of 13th avenue and 4th street that my mother sent me to for ballet lessons. It had burned to the ground one day in the late early 1970’s. The area was then slated for a Red Barn chicken shop while there was already a Red Barn in Stadium village less than a mile away. I don’t think Red Barn was an actual franchise then but they were trying to be and the students and all got involved in a protest to ban it and prevent the growth of franchises in Dinkytown preserving the independent and uniqueness of the neighborhood, saving the small entrepreneur from getting pushed out or swallowed up by the bigger fish, or chickens in this case. The ban was successful and also the death of Red Barn more or less. They eventually closed in Stadium Village and was never seen again. Later on McDonald’s and Burger King managed to open their chain stores in Dinkytown without the protests and remained there for decades.

As I got old enough to drink I hung out in West Bank bars and enjoyed the bands. They used to sing about the days “a’comin” one by Willy Murphy and the Bumblebees titled “Supermarket” was one such warning of the chain store take over corruption of our society.

Today any city you travel to nearly any part of the world let alone America, the chain stores we are all familiar with have taken up roost so now just about anywhere you go there’s that “sameness”. Brand names are like these same shops, everybody has them or wants them just like everybody else. They’re a trusted source for what you want. Entrepreneurs from foreign lands now come in to give us something different and I see these businesses growing in numbers, familiarizing us with their cuisine and cultures. Though the big boxes aren’t dead yet and it’s still hard to predict where all this is going, the world changes from generation to generation.

Burger King and now McDonalds are both gone and so is my old high school. In place is Target a Starbucks, and a number of small businesses, turning out Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches and pizza’s with not the conventional toppings.

The film industry has hit the bricks hard. With digital photography many people in the industry lost their jobs or are suffering a massive loss of income. I have three neighbors who experience this. One had a fire and lost her equipment and after trying to replace her loss and come back into the business, was another hard hit for her because the industry wants younger people with their young perspectives. Basically, she was told she had aged out of the industry. Another neighbor who just moved back to Minneapolis I hear is having a hard time finding work because her arts have become obsolete. Another neighbor was just able to retire before taking this same hit. Eventually I’ll become obsolete too when Uber replaces drivers like me with robotaxis. People can make their own films and photos with a smart phone now and they do. Social Media and channels like Netflix are pushing out the bigger fish that was once Hollywood. However, they’re not all dead yet. The nostalgia might die with the generations that lived in those days but there are some things that never die. Music! and the Muses are eternal.

What I got out of this book is the playfulness of Hollywood characters. Many times I’ve heard actors and actresses comment on the people in Hollywood as people who never grow up. This book portrayed this well with the character who as a child was into building dinosaur models and such from the hobby kits of the day. The child never “grew up” but continued building his models and creating his make-believe landscapes for his beasts. As he got older he became very good at it and was able to build his own toys without kits and this eventually landed him a job in Hollywood as a set designer and monster creator for the movies. These people who have not put themselves above their toys and silly behaviors have done very well for themselves. Walt Disney had made it huge with his Disneylands and Worlds. He was probably one of the first to develop and use robotics to animate his characters and creatures. Emotional turmoils, silly behavior, gossip, pranks and such have kept their creative minds active and alive. This is the stuff that entertains the serious grown ups on television today. They make us laugh, care and cry, taking our noses off the daily grindstones of life even for just a little awhile.

So, Hats off for Immaturity!

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