Priscilla Mangnall

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September 6, 2012
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THE WAY WE WERE: Where were you in 1962?

Some of you might recognize that line, it's from the classic movie, "American Graffiti," starring Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard. George Lucas wrote and directed this blockbuster in 1973, just 10 years after downtown Grand Junction won the All-America City honor from the National Municipal League.The story is about two guys and their night of cruising the strip after graduation from high school and before heading off to college. It could have been Anytown, USA. Any town but Grand Junction, Colo. Our strip was no longer a strip, it was more like a strip of bacon - curvy and delicious. Dragging North became the new strip, a straight shot between the Top Hat and A & W Drive-In with a stop in between to gas up at the Star Gas Station to buy a gallon of gas for 27 cents or some smokes for 27 cents a pack. A Coke cost about the same.Main Street, once know for all its neon lights, bars and traffic problems was now a source of pride. Big-time pride, we didn't look like any other Main Street in America. We had trees and planters of flowers and mushroom canopies and built-in seating for parades and we could walk catty corner across the intersections. Nobody else we knew got to do that; we were really cool. We took our old brick buildings that were nearing the 75-year-old mark and covered them with aluminum and steel and brick and made them look new. We had "foresight" - foresight that put us on the map. Other cities followed. Civic leaders from all over wanted to know how we did it, where we had gotten the money and how'd we convince the retail merchants to tear up their Main Street and rebuild it into something completely different; to take a big chance on a bold new look. It took the entire community, that's how. It took that same gumption and pioneering spirit that our forefathers had; it took guts.

Where was little Priscilla Belle Brown in 1962? I was living on First and F 1/2, riding horses with Melanie Johnson and playing Barbies and reading Nancy Drew mysteries and Archie comics books and dressing up the newest batch of kittens or puppies in doll clothes. I was being tormented by my big brother and babysat by my big sister. And I was downtown. Dropped off with a friend or cousin by my parents and clutching a dollar bill in my hand, heading for Kresses to buy a 10-cent china horse for my collection or to the photo both at Woolworths. Maybe I was going to see the newest Jerry Lewis or "Son of Flubber" movie. I was only 9 when the construction began, too young to pay attention to what was actually going on, it was just an inconvenience at times but I did know my parents and their friends were excited.Once Operation Foresight was finished, I had a whole new appreciation for Main Street. Parades! Our new shady, serpentine Main Street was just made for a parade. Melanie and I would ride the horses all the way downtown and get in them. We were even in the Foresight Celebration parade in May of 1963. We didn't sign up, we just showed up. As the years went by, it was the place to hang out and see boys. The cute boys with their surfer bangs, sitting on the planters and looking so cool. Just walking around and then using the payphones that were attached to the mushrooms to call our parents to come get us, if we had a dime; otherwise we had to ask the nice sales clerk ladies at Penney's or Mile High Seed if we could use their phone. Oh and yes, don't forget the kitties and puppies in the cages at the back of Mile High on Saturday, a pilgrimage. I was smart enough to never bring one home.

Same place. Fifty years later I'm lucky enough to have hung out on the same Main Street in the same All-America City. Operation Foresight has gotten an "Uplift" and many of the 50-year-old facades are coming off the century-old buildings. I've played a part in the success of the art and culture of my town and I've been able to help preserve its history.I still go to the movies at the Cooper/Avalon Theatre and I still ride in the parades. I'm still so very proud of Grand Junction but this time around, I'm paying attention. I don't want to miss a thing and I don't want anyone messing it up. My last request? That the mushroom canopy that sits along Little Park Road be brought back downtown. Can we make that happen? Please?Got a memory or picture to share? Call me at 970-260-5226, or email priscilla.mangnall@gmail.com.


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The Post Independent Updated Sep 6, 2012 05:24PM Published Sep 6, 2012 05:24PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.