It's getting to be maybe forty years ago now, but one Saturday night, way back then, I walked to campus to see a movie. I don't remember the title, but some film was being shown simply to keep kids around on a Saturday night.
Be ye not deceived. It wasn't a James Bond or a Pink Panther; it was, I'm sure, a film with bona fide "socially redeeming value."
Anyway, I went, and there, in the back, was intrepid old Harold Aardema, whose Doon Press once had a readership of almost 5000 on the strength of Aardema's renowned quirkiness. Harold spent most of his life in a wheelchair following a bout with polio that he won; and there he was, wheelchair and all, in the corner of a lecture hall at Dordt College. My goodness, I wish I could remember which movie.
No matter. After the show, I found my way over to him. He didn't want to miss the movie, he told me, not because he wanted to see it but because he wanted to be there for posterity's sake. After all, it was just too great a show to miss: a real, honest-to-goodness movie right there at the college the Reverend B. J. Haan had built.
In 1948, Haan, playing Marshall Dillon on the streets of Sioux Center, had held off Hollywood and eventually tossed those evil men and women clear out of town. For generations up to mine and, in some cases, including mine, a movie theater was simply assumed to be a den of Satan. In the denomination in which I grew up, they were not to be toyed with--same as playing cards (not Rook) and liquor, by the drink and certainly by the bottle. Harold Aardema had come to Dordt College that night simply to observe the grand irony of Hollywood playing on Haan's campus.
Aardema loved Haan. The Haan's forever houseguest, Mr. A. J. Boersma, was his bosom buddy on a host of travels around the nation and the world. The voice of the Doon Press wasn't at Dordt College to stick it to the good Reverend. He was there simply to observe what we might call the ironies of moral evolution. Times change.
When my father-in-law returned from Europe after the war, he started farming--with horses. It simply doesn't seem possible anymore. Try to imagine a farmer behind a plow or a harrow being drawn by a pair of humongous steeds. It seems medieval, but it isn't. It's within a lifetime--a long one, to be sure, but a lifetime. Times change.
I snapped the picture above just yesterday, on the Sabbath, in the spirit of Harold Aardema. It's Orange City, not Sioux Center; but it's right here in Sioux County, the reddest corner of a state renowned for its religious right populism. Ye olde anti-movie sentiment died about the same time as the last farm horse, but when you think about the change, it's as huge as a 16-bottom plow.
After all, what put Haan on Life's cover back then was a battle with Hollywood at a time when the Hays Code was still enforced, as it was as late as 1968. Among other things, the old industry moral standard maintained that putting a man and a women in bed together on screen was plain wrong, even if the two of them looked like Mr. and Mrs. Winston Churchill.
Yesterday, on Sunday, I could have laid down some bucks, senior rate, and watched a movie, an "erotic romance," that celebrates a genre of sexuality B. J. Haan and his era likely would not have imagined.
Trust me, the "good old days" are that only because, as some wag once said, they're gone; they weren't all that good to start with, so thank goodness they're old. But the irony was just too fine to let pass, so in honor of my old friend, the country editor, I snapped a picture.
It's a wholly different world today. The movie has been whipped by critics (for the record, that's not good), but it's led the nation in ticket sales for two weekends. The book itself has sold 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages.
Just in case you're interested, you can get the Fifty Shades in a Large Print edition. Hey, listen. You know how hard it is to find something for him or Great-grandma? What do you think?
This one is suitable for Landsmeer, really, or whatever home your great-grandma is in. Maybe it's there already. I'll check.
These days, you just never know.