Today in My History
Books Read in 2020
January 10, 2019
When most people hear the term "vets" they think of retired military people, perhaps who have served in war zones.
We have a completely different reference to "the vets." For us it refers to the Veterans Memorial Theater here in Davis.
We went to a play at The Vets last night, The Burials, a powerful play about school shootings and gun control done by Acme Theatre Company, the young people's group that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
As I sat there, looking around, I was flooded with memories of our 46 years in Davis and our probably 42 years of memories of The Vets.
The kids appeared on stage for the first time in 1977, when they appeared in the first Davis Children's Nutcracker. Ned met Marta when both played clowns in that first performance.
We watched our neighbors' daughters perform in Sound of Music at The Vets and I told the director afterwards that if she was ever interested in starting a children's theater, I would be happy to help. Out of that offer grew the Sunshine Children's Theatre (SCT), in which the kids were involved for several years. They acted and learned all aspects of theater tech. I tried not to think about them focusing lights hanging off those overhead walkways or tall ladders.
Later, the kids joined Acme, performing in its first productions 40 years ago and many years after that.
Jeri was in a couple of ballet performances on the Vets stage.
At some point Jeri, Ned and Paul worked for the city and took care of the Vets, sometimes together, sometimes alone. That job was the reason for the success of Lawsuit. You don't rehearse a 10 piece band in someone's living room, and so the Vets became their place to rehearse and later to perform. Their boss never complained since they were the ones tasked with keeping the facility clean and in order.
I never worried about where the kids were, if they weren't home by midnight, because they were always at the Vets. (This made it difficult to explain to David and Tom why they had curfews when the older three did not.)
Walt's 50th birthday party was a huge surprise party held at the Vets, with friends throughout his life, Walt sitting in the big chair from the Children's Nutcracker, wearing robes from a production by the Davis Comic Opera Company, while our friend Helen Thomson, a State Assemblywoman, read a notice that this had been named Walt Sykes day in the state.
I remember when their friend Chad married Vickie on the stage at the Vets. The service was performed by Chad's brother, Dave, who had Downs Syndrome. Paul stood by him through the ceremony to help him if he had difficulty. I still remember the best part of that ceremony was when Dave said "You may now kiss the groom!"
The Davis Comic Opera Company made the Vets its home. Walt was part of the tech crew for years and also performed on stage a time or two. He also stepped in for one SCT performance of Oliver!, when a minor character didn't show up for the final performance. Paul was Oliver, Dave and Tom were orphans and ran Walt through his act 2 lines while Paul and Jeri were performing Act 1.
Our son David's memorial service was an SRO event at The Vets. I still remember Marta coming on stage and tossing packages of Kleenex out to the audience before the unusual service.
Paul and Audra were married in the Vets' courtyard, flanked by two huge pictures of our dogs, with a Smiley doll gliding over the heads of the audience as the ring bearer. I made the wedding cake for that wedding, and decorated it with smiley faces.
The only reason Paul's memorial service was not held at the Vets was because it was being renovated at the time, so the service was moved to the senior center.
There are two trees planted in front of the Vets today. My office had one planted in David's memory after his death and we had another planted in Paul's memory after his death.
I still go to the Vets regularly, only now as a theater critic for groups that used to involve our family but no longer do.
Of all the buildings in Davis, the Vets is perhaps the most special to us. It definitely has the most memories. Whenever I enter the place, I feel all those memories flooding over me.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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