Thank you very sweetly for doing it so neatly

Published 8:00 am Sunday, November 13, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish

There’s no place like home. That’s true unless you’re in a classic movie theater seeing “The Wizard of Oz.” Then there is no place like that world up on the screen. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The magic is real.

People seem to remember where they were the first time they went to “Oz.” Even my father remembers. “I saw that movie in the theater. I can’t believe you haven’t,” he said.

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I reminded him that he was 14 when it came out, and I was minus 32.

Like most people my age, I first saw “The Wizard of Oz” on CBS. I sat on the floor watching a small screen encased in a wood cabinet with a hi-fi on top. The reception was sketchy. The picture was no Blu-ray unless you count the actual blue rays that occasionally shot across the screen. It didn’t matter. I was a child and to me it all looked amazing.

Being around children is contagious and not only because they cough and sneeze all over the place. When the lights dimmed in the theater the kids took over. It was their show, their rules, and we adults were happy to follow them. Their excitement became our excitement. We weren’t in Minnesota anymore. We were following the Yellow Brick Road like it was the first time.

Whatever great revelations came into the children’s heads went right out their mouths. The first outbursts came when Elmira Gulch stuffed Toto in her bicycle basket.


“Why is she doing that to Toto?”

I wanted to yell back, “Because that Elmira Gulch is no good!”

She always scared me more than the witch because the Elmira threat lingers long after the witch melts. For all we know Miss Gulch is still alive and well. I always imagined that just as the movie is ending that mean old crow sweeps up Toto and rides off with him again. I could have been saved from a lot of childhood worry if there had been an epilogue where we find out that Elmira Gulch was sucked into the tornado and dropped into a well.

At least twice I heard a something, a warning really, that had nothing to do with the movie.

“Mom. I have to go.”

Another child would have nodded knowingly and cleared a path. Instead this was followed by a question only an adult would ask a child in that situation, “Are you sure?”

The little boy got up and headed for the exit with his mom trailing behind. Apparently there was no time to lose.

At one point I caved and hollered out my own revelation. You see, there are things you notice in the theater that you don’t on TV. I never noticed how Toto just hangs around in every scene. I found myself tracking him thinking: That dog is going to go terrier any minute. I have a small terrier, and I know if I left him in Oz long enough he’d eventually lift his leg on a talking tree or pick a fight with a flying monkey.

That’s not what shocked me, though. The most surprising thing I noticed was that the Scarecrow brandishes a little gray pistol in the scene where they’re saving a kidnapped Dorothy. It never seemed strange to me that in the same scene the Tin Man has a giant wrench slung over his shoulder, but the Scarecrow with a gun? That’s when I found my inner child and blurted out, “The Scarecrow’s packing heat!”

About five kids turned around and gave me a dirty look. One of them “shushed” me.

I guess the kids think that being a kid is something adults don’t do. How wrong they are. From my seat I could see a very old man in a wheelchair sitting across the aisle from a little boy of about 6. I watched them while they watched the movie. From the looks on their faces I can tell you that for 101 minutes last Sunday, they were the exact same age.

As the credits rolled and light slowly filled the theater, I heard one more exclamation from a little girl in the audience. “Everybody loves ‘The Wizard of Oz’!” she shouted. We all laughed, determined to hold on to the magic for a few more minutes before going out into the cold.

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at