Greendale Vision: Henry F. Potter vs George Bailey

After the controversial addition of the Norman Rockwell sculpture and creation of the Village Center ad hoc committee, columnist Mike Vickery consults with some fictional town planners.

"Trying hard to recreate what had yet to be created." - Doobie Brothers

As of last Saturday, with some controversy, Greendale, Wisconsin officially became a “Norman Rockwell Village”.  We could, without question, do much worse.

Better to be a Norman Rockwell Village than say a Salvador Dali Village. 

Sure, our colors would be impossibly brilliant, but a melting clock on Village Hall would be an annoying, inaccurate timepiece, at best.  of “The Hallucinogenic Toreador”.  Now that would be a traffic hazard.

Besides, the vision of Dave Bruno portraying Salvador Dali is unsettling.  I am afraid it might come across as an angry Rollie Fingers.  (Here is Dave Bruno doing Rockwell: )

Let’s be honest.  Some of this Rockwell controversy stems from:

a) Rockwell is on a fairly long list of people who have never visited Greendale and
b) the perception that Roy Reiman’s vision of Greendale is the only one that counts.  I have always been good with that.

(Full disclosure: As some of you might know, I have - for many years - been trying to convince Mr. Reiman to adopt me, take me to ballgames, perhaps cut me in on a share of the family fortune.  I have been taking his silence on this matter as an encouraging sign.) 

Back on task:    The Greendale Trustees said “.

Here is the thing… While Mr. Reiman (who I like to call “Dad”) is too humble to take credit, we do follow his lead when it comes to Village identity.  I got the daffodils to prove it.  Mr. Reiman is a man of means, a man of ideas and a man of action. 

We are just lucky that Roy ‘Greendale’ Reiman is to Village Planning as Daniel ‘Chicago’ Burnham is to city planning.  Reiman has an eye for these things.  We could have had a benevolent zillionare with a fondness for pink plastic flamingos and outlet malls.  Grandhaven LLC has good taste – a real taste of home.

But is it time to get more voices in the future look of Greendale?  Reiman would be the first to say ‘absolutely’.  Let’s get some competing ideas, kick around some new renderings. We can look forward while looking back.

In that light, I invited two famous – and opposing – town planners from fictional Bedford Falls, NY for a discussion of Greendale’s future – Henry F. Potter and George Bailey

After a stroll down Broad Street, we settled in at Greendale’s perfect and beautiful new restaurant, for a round of Brandy Old Fashioned Sweets.  Potter made it clear Bailey would not be picking up the bar tab, as Bailey is “‘always $8,000 short”. Bailey responded to Potter by asking if there was “enough bitters in his drink, you bitter old man”. 

After breaking up a rather pathetic display of old man wrestling, I got us to the Q & A portion of our meeting.

Me: “Gentlemen, what is your impression of Greendale?”

Potter: “Awful place.  Too many damn trees. You need more Dance Halls and Liquor Stores… More neon, less hanging baskets of flowers, for criminy sakes.”

Bailey:  “It is a beautiful town. Almost perfect.  I thought I saw Mary at the library. I would, however, offer one suggestion.”

Me: “What that, George?”

Bailey: “A sliding floor over the pool at the high school.  You could hold dances.  The kids would have a blast competing in the next ‘Big Charleston Contest’. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N13I2JzlcQM )

Potter: “Oh, Bailey, you are all wet.  You know what you need to do?  Tear down that old Police Station.  It is doing nothing for you.”

Bailey: “Old Man Potter is right on that. Bury the asbestos in Potter’s Filed”

On that somewhat harmonious note, I had Bert the Cop call in Ernie the Cab Driver to take these two men home.  You can only hang out with dead so long before you start getting looks.

Both men left convinced of one thing – .  So, President Hermes, expect a call from their agent, Clarence.


(For more on the ad-hoc committee, see John Hermes column in a recent Village newsletter: http://www.greendale.org/resources/Views-Summer-2012.pdf )

Bren September 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I would share this opinion: Dali was a profoundly emotive artist whose work continues to inspire resonance, reaction, and reflection. I have no doubt that if commissioned he would have created an extraordinary sculpture for Greendale, and one that would command far more recognition for the Village than Norman Rockwell on a lazy susan. If we continue to add bizarre touches such as screamin' LED signs and statues on lazy susans, and continue the path of degrading the historic purity of the village, what keeps us from following the path of say, Salem, Massachusetts? That community has successfully denigrated almost every feature of historical interest with focus on witch, vampire, and Frankenstein motifs, and other examples of rampant commercialism and pandering to tourists. They have fairly reached the point of no return because of commercialism. Wouldn't we be better off following the model of Historic Alexandria and/or Williamsburg, Virginia? I look forward to hearing the results of the ad hoc committee. I hope they will take the frequently-proffered advice of hiring professionals to assist with this historically-significant issue.
James Flynn September 14, 2012 at 04:50 AM
My home is an original.  I do not object to the Rockwell statue.  However, at night the glare from the statue's display light makes it hard to see traffic or pedestrians when at the stop sign and headed West on Northway.  It asks for an accident and more tragedy for that corner. The SW corner possesses a memorial to Ava Zimmerman, the five year old girl killed in an accident when crossing the street there.  Whenever I see that beautiful statue of a little girl skipping on one foot I think of Ava and her family and my own granddaughters.  I do not know the Zimmermann's, but Ava's memorial speaks more to me about Greendale's history than the Rockwell statue.  It has been said that the Rockwell statue conveys Greendale's "nostalgic image" and is a good "gimmick" to attract people to Broad St.  In my opinion, one statue of Norman Rockwell does not a destination make.  But many works of art displayed throughout that two block stretch may be a different story - especially if each of those works of art has a story behind it to be part of a walking tour of the business area and surrounding community.   A biennial contest for submissions of artistic proposals for such public art may create continuing interest and publicity for the area.  A market study of similar communities may suggest other better ideas. But whatever we do to make the Broad St business district attractive to visitors we must also make sure it remains attractive to us as residents.  James Flynn


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