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Neon Cenotaph: cheesy or cherished?
By Chris Marchand
In these times of economic tribulation, it’s a tough sell indeed to suggest costly alterations to public monuments.
Yet, the Corporation of the City of Dryden has existed in a state of fiscal austerity for so long that it has become our default setting.
In the year before he retired, former city manager Arie Hoogenboom said he’d faced few challenges in his career quite like the 2011 city budget.
Plainly said, there never seems to be a good time to start monkeying around with things that have done their job well for decades. Not to mention the fact that things like this get everyone riled up.
Friends, I draw your attention to the neon abomination that sits atop the cenotaph monument on the grounds of city hall — two flame-shaped tubes of neon to represent the eternal flame. .
I certainly respect the original thought behind this once novel innovation. Thirty years ago, when I was six, I loved those neon flames. It was a uniquely Dryden thing.
Kind of like how the members of Dryden’s Masonic Lodge in the 1970s went to great expense to conceal the lovely ornate mouldings of the Hall’s original ceiling with a dropped tiled-ceiling and new-fangled fluorescent lighting. Progression towards modernity at the expense of the past has always been a prevailing ethic among our forefathers.
Thirty years later, the membership now finds themselves trying to restore some of the historical elements of the 1926 building at prices that could have built a new Lodge back in the day.
Back to the cenotaph…
There were obvious practical advantages to selecting neon. It doesn’t wear out like other lightbulbs and can often outlive its electrical wiring.
While a custom-built neon tube can last for decades, public regard for the aesthetics of neon, which has always been imbued with a sense of commerciality (is that even a word?), has not weathered the years well.
The question I pose to you today is whether neon is the most appropriate medium in which to commemorate our sincerest respects for Canada’s fallen soldiers?
I’m a little torn on the answer to my own question because of the example I raised earlier about the Masonic Lodge.
If we act to remove or replace the neon eternal flame, would we not lose a part of our local identity that is truly unique? It might be an abomination, but it’s OUR abomination, isn’t it? Do we have the foresight to imagine that once it is gone, those neon flames might be missed?
Or have they done their job?
Put up for charity auction in support of our struggling branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, I’d wager that the decommissioned neon flame would have its share of eager bidders looking to call a piece of Dryden’s history their own, myself included.
We would like to know how you feel about the neon eternal flame adorning Dryden’s cenotaph. Participate in the poll above, or leave a comment.