The real show at the Clayton was the Clayton, itself

Date Published: 
March 14, 2014

When historians look back at this period in time they will credit us with being the “Age of Technology.”

Regardless of how far we advance with supercomputers and new creations we haven’t even considered yet, this era will forever be marked as the time that changed things forever. We developed newer and faster ways to share information, improved efficiencies in business and commerce, developed new methods to combat disease and generally improved the way we watch television and listen to music, making us “nest” more than ever in the comfort of our homes.

Though it can often be hard to see the forest for the trees, if we take a step back and truly appreciate what advances have been made over the course of our lifetimes, it would stand to reason we would be experiencing a bit of collective awe. Oh, there have been some growing pains, and continue to be so, but people are generally wrapping their minds around all that has come about over the past few decades.

Some of those “growing pains” I mentioned include more automation at workplaces, resulting in jobs being reduced. Or losing that “human element” when calling customer service lines and being subjected to automated responses that often leave you forgetting why you placed the irritating call in the first place. Or watching our family television sets become useless as the move to digital formatting has taken place.

Or, to put a more local spin on things, seeing a beloved local landmark face extinction because of technological advances.

That is what the Clayton Theatre was looking at about a year ago. Owner Joanne Howe was facing a bleak future with the beloved single-screen theater because the movie industry was moving to all-digital formatting, and upgrading would cost too much to remain solvent. Word began leaking out throughout the community, and we were all suddenly reminded once again what this community is capable of when we find a common cause.

Businesses began promoting movie nights at the theater to raise funds. Restaurants jumped in with “dine-and-donate” efforts. Sandie Gerken, whose family owned the theater while she was growing up, wrote a book on her memories of the Clayton and donated proceeds to the effort to keep the iconic theater buzzing into the future. The Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce jumped in, promoting the efforts to save the Clayton to all its members in the business community. Some people simply wrote checks.

Fast forward to current day.

On Tuesday night I had the opportunity to sit in the Clayton and watch “Saving Mr. Banks” in all its digital glory. The room was packed with supporters of the theater, and Howe gave an emotional and heart-felt synopsis of the efforts of those who helped keep the Clayton from becoming an empty reminder of days gone past.

It was a night to celebrate all that is right in our throw-our-hats-into-the-ring community, as well as an opportunity for Howe to thank those who have helped over the past year with the best celebration the family-sensible Clayton could provide — coming together to watch a Disney movie and enjoy the company of others who shared a common goal.

The importance of keeping the Clayton open can not easily be overstated. For years I have heard our publisher, Susan Lyons, talk about her memories of going to the Clayton when she was a kid. Many of my other friends, who also grew up here, often share similar stories, from different decades. The Clayton represents what was in Dagsboro, what’s currently the thing to do when you go into town and, now, what promises to be there for generations to follow.

In short, this whole thing is pretty cool.

Take a look through our “Calendar” listings any given week, and you are bound to be blown away by how many efforts are going on to help those who need it. We are a community constructed by a collective need to improve the quality of life for those around us, and maintained by a group conscience that will not allow anybody to turn away. Those efforts are often done behind the scenes, and without fanfare, but they are just as significant for those who receive the help.

But they usually remain somewhat in the shadows.

The marquee outside the Clayton at night is a physical reminder of what the people of this community can do when faced with an obstacle, and the memories made inside that theater will continue to live on for years to come.

Congratulations to the Clayton Theatre, and to all of you.