Kevin Slimp: Lennox Valley: Gen. Cooper gets help from Private Ryan

Lennox_art-fullBy Kevin Slimp

Syndicated Columnist
Undoubtedly, the two chief forms of entertainment in my hometown in 1998 were politics and church, in no particular order. If we wanted to bowl or play miniature golf, then a trip to Springfield, the county seat, was required.

Professional wrestling came to town a couple of times each year. Most of the wrestlers were from Springfield or some other nearby town, and we’d recognize them if their masks happened to slip. My favorite wrestler was “Lightning” Hugh Light.

Light was a master in the ring. Tall and wiry, he used every ounce of his 170-pound frame to outmaneuver his more sinister opponents. In April of 1998, I ran into Lightning at the Rexall drugstore in Springfield, as he filled the racks with the latest magazines.

I asked why he was putting magazines on the rack and he told me that was his job. In an instant, professional wrestling lost some of its luster and it’s never been quite the same for me since.

We did, however, have one other form of entertainment in the Valley: The Majestic Theater. With only 1,200 residents, there wasn’t enough business to keep a theater open every night, but on Friday and Saturday nights plus Sunday afternoons, the good folks of Lennox Valley could plop down $2 ($1 for children) and spend two hours escaping reality.

With only one screen, movies came and left quickly. Most movies played only one weekend at the Majestic and were replaced with a new title the following week. An exception to that rule was “Saving Private Ryan,” which was in its third week — a record in the Valley — in August 1998.

Callers to “Renderings with Raymond” had come to refer to their hero as “Gen. Cooper,” as “Saving Private Ryan” infiltrated the minds and hearts of Valley residents during the movie’s run. Cooper, having never served in the military himself, was happy to take on the honorary mantle.

“I cannot compare to the heroes in that great movie,” Raymond would say. “But like them, I’ve dedicated my life to fighting the forces of evil and destruction right here in our Valley.”

With the election just two days away, and the debate of the century only a few hours away, Cooper was in his prime during the Tuesday show.

Asked how he felt about a poll being conducted by an unknown organization in Springfield, Raymond reminded the group there were many “outsiders” who hoped to disrupt his campaign and he was sure this was another ploy by the elite media to steer attention away from the issues.

Now that egg prices were no longer discussed on Raymond’s show, no one was quite certain to which issues he referred. Whatever they were, his faithful fans wouldn’t let anything or anyone dilute their enthusiasm.

While most good folks of the Valley were glued to Cooper’s show, Iris Long was busy pasting up pages of the Lennox Valley Hometown News which would hit the stands the following day. She had already decided the main headline would relate to the debate, now only five hours away. She would have a four-column photo of the candidates behind their podiums with the main headline across the top of the page. Underneath the photo, she left plenty of space clear for a detailed report.

Other than the debate story, Iris left room for only one other piece — an article detailing the results of the just-completed survey of Valley voters. Iris wasn’t as young as she once was, and sometimes she found it necessary to stop whatever she was doing and take a breath. This was one of those moments.

While Iris thought about the huge story about to take place, Raymond used the last hour of his Tuesday show to remind listeners to consider their options wisely. He had recently begun referring to Mayor “Silver Tongue” Dick Bland as “Sliver Tongue.”

“He is as sneaky as a snake,” Cooper liked to say about his rival.

He ended the show by reminding his listeners, “It wouldn’t be right for me to use this radio platform to influence your voting decisions.” Then, after a pause, “Just vote your conscience, remembering two of the candidates in the field have no conscience.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original idea for “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” by Kevin Slimp came while visiting with a friend from the small town of Lennox, S.D., several years ago. For five years, Slimp jotted ideas concerning the folks who lived in his fictional home town and eventually put those ideas into stories. Share your thoughts with Candy Allan via email at callan@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8386.

Leave a Reply