SOUTH DAYTON – Children munched on cotton candy and looked on in amazement, while the old-timers remembered days gone by, as the clocked turned back time to the 1920s and the community of South Dayton celebrated the 30th anniversary of the filming of “The Natural” on Saturday and Sunday.
The square in the center of town was the center of most of the activity, with period automobiles, including the yellow taxicab that actually appeared in the movie, drawing many spectators. The vehicle, a 1937 Pontiac is owned by Don Spencer, who has owned it for the past 15 years, after performing the maintenance on it for many years. Also on hand, was a 1938 Plymouth, owned by Frank Kibelsbeck, who said that the purchase of the car was his retirement gift to himself. It was dubbed the “ice cream car” by his children because they used the car mainly on weekends for family trips to the ice cream parlor.
Amusements of America provided rides for children, crafters displayed their wares available for sale, and food vendors were on hand with delectable goodies from kettle corn to cotton candy, candy apples and lemonade.
But it was the trains, and their part of the filming of the movie that were a featured part of the festivities. From the full-size New York State and Lake Erie Railroad locomotive, to the model electric train exhibit in the Firemen’s Activity Center, the trains drew much attention of the visitors. Out of 30 small towns considered to become the backdrop for the depiction of 1923 Chicago and the life, triumph over adversity and baseball career of Roy Hobbs, South Dayton was chosen largely because of the railroad station and its location in the center of town. There were many people at the celebration who had played extras in the movie. One of the extras, Vivian Gould, said as she spoke to the crown gathered, “We came early and we worked late, but we all watch the background in movies now, because we’ve been there.”
Ceremonies of each day of the celebration were opened by the color guard of the South Dayton American Legion composed of: Commander Doug Tatchell, Sgt. Larry Harrington, Richard Nagel, Arthur Nagel, Tom Bradigan and Norris Nobles. Larry Zollinger, Chrystal Abers and Dennis Gould, who was 11 years old when he appeared in the movie, spoke during the ceremonies. State Sen. Catherine Young closed out the ceremony on Sunday, with the reading of a proclamation from the state Senate declaring this past weekend the celebration of the filming of “The Natural.”
“I remember, we all remember what if was like back then. Everyone was abuzz because Hollywood was interested in our little community. American roots, American tradition – a real slice of Americana,” she said.
“The Natural,” according to the proclamation, is a 1984 film adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s 1952 baseball novel, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close and Robert Duvall. It stands as one of the most beloved sports movies of all time, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Actress in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Art Direction and Music.