Bill Moeller Commentary: A Rediscovered Treasure Helps Provide Hope for a Better Year

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Have you ever seen, heard or watched something that you’re sure will either bore you to death or maybe even test your ability to hold back your last meal only to find that it’s nothing short of the most delightful couple of hours you can remember having? 

It happened to me late on Christmas day. I was alone because my son and daughter-in-law thought they should try to get home before some predicted snow might make driving either unpleasant or downright dangerous. 

That turned out to be the smartest decision they’ve probably made since I officiated at their wedding.

My young cat, Sam, was stretched out on my bed instead of chasing birds at their feeder, so I started to “channel search” with my TV remote. Nothing appealed to me and I was about to give up and join Sam when I caught the opening credits to a movie I hadn’t seen for at least 75 years: “The Wizard of Oz,” a 1939 movie. 

Would you believe it was only moderately successful when it was released until it was nominated for six Academy Awards? I was entranced for the next couple of hours, beginning with Judy Garland — as Dorothy — being whisked away by a tornado and landing in the realm of the Wicked Witch of the West, played perfectly by Margaret Hamilton. 

Then, there was a sort of interlude featuring 124 “little people” — as many prefer to be called — dancing. 

It had nothing to do with the forthcoming plot of the movie but it was pure pleasure to watch. I know our first reaction these days to such a use of little people can be that it is embarrassing and degrading, but, according to some, this was not the case with these small dancers. 

At this point, I urge you to go online and type in “The Wizard of Oz, The Last Munchkin.” It may change your mind, but then again, it might not.

Anyway, you’re probably familiar with most of the plot. Dorothy begins to walk to where she can find the wizard who can send her home again and along the way she meets Ray Bolger as a Scarecrow who wants a brain, Jack Haley as a Tin Man who is lacking a heart and Bert Lahr as a Cowardly Lion who wishes he could be feared. 

Sure, it’s all fantasy, but it’s the sort of fantasy that will grab you and not let go. A part of the story that I didn’t remember was that they were first turned away from the Wizard and had to fight and run away from the Wicked Witch of the West before they could use force to find the Wizard — who turns out to be almost a charlatan. 

Everybody gets their wish approved and Dorothy gets sent back home to Kansas.

Then there’s a cute little touch at the end. 

If you do get a chance to see the movie again (and a check with Timberland Library shows that they do not have a copy of it) look closely as Dorothy is welcomed home. It happened so fast that I can’t be positive, but three of the men who are standing around to welcome her back look very much like Jack Haley, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr without any of their makeup. So, was it all a dream?

Sometimes, an escape into a fantasy world of the past provides a relief from the present. We seem to have our share of Wicked Witches these days, but we also have those who will work to find us some answers. 

With our crazy weather, unending pandemic and scary world affairs, let’s hope we can all get back “home” to some semblance of normality in 2022.

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Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at bookmaven321@comcast.net.