December 13, 2006 in Opinion

Our View: It’s a wonderful town

The Spokesman-Review

A couple of weeks ago, EWU journalism professor Bill Stimson began to panic. Ticket sales for the Wing Ding at The Bing were lagging. What if he threw a big Bing Crosby bash and nobody came?

Turns out he needn’t have worried. People were so inspired by his idea to change the name of The Metropolitan Performing Arts Center to the Bing Crosby Theater that they lined up last Friday night an hour and a half before the event began. They crowded in to gaze at the stage where in 1925 Spokane’s most famous citizen appeared. It was called the Clemmer Theater back then.

His widow, Kathryn Crosby, performed, and the evening ended with the audience joining in to sing “White Christmas.” Tears trickled from people’s eyes.

Afterward, they streamed back into the lobby to pump Stimson’s hand and to write checks to help raise more than $42,000 for a new theater sign. It was, Stimson’s wife noted, like the final scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” with the spirit of Bing Crosby playing the Jimmy Stewart role.

“It was way beyond anything I’d imagined,” Stimson says. “We were just blown away.”

The Wing Ding at The Bing echoed the same mix of pride, nostalgia and sheer, unadulterated love of place that we saw at the reopening of the Davenport Hotel several years ago. It’s becoming clear that when we honor the best of this city’s past, we wind up sparking our collective imagination about the future.

And sometimes we simply tap inexplicable human generosity. Last week, a Davenport guest from the Midwest heard about the Bing event. He headed across the street, lapped up the memories, and wrote out a check for $1,000.

Bing Crosby, who sold more hit records than the Beatles and Elvis combined, felt like a member of this man’s family, he explained later. The celebrity had crooned in the background of his family’s holidays for decades.

Crosby’s long been crooning behind Spokane’s collective sense of self as well. This time of year, when thick snows drift down, we merely have to gaze out the front door to glimpse the “White Christmas” that Bing remembered.

Too often, in recent years, the news that has spread around the country from our city has been grim. Last weekend, the national news about the dedication of Spokane’s Bing Crosby Theater was all good.

The Advocates for the Bing Crosby Theater hope to continue fundraising to develop a Bing Crosby memorabilia collection for the lobby and sponsor events such as jazz, popular music and university arts performances that fit the Crosby theme. There’s still time to help.

Stimson deserves considerable credit for dreaming up this idea in the first place and organizing the theater advocates group to make it happen.

But the community itself played a starring role last Friday night.

That’s because so many of us get that Spokane remains a city where it’s possible to live a truly wonderful life.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email