November 4, 2013

Cheers and Jeers: Nov. 4, 2013


---- — CHEERS to Jonathan Ortloff and others who made possible the restoration of the Wurlitzer organ now available to the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh. The refurbished organ made its debut before a packed house last week for a showing of the silent film “The Phantom of the Opera.” The line for the event stretched down the street as almost 960 people filed in for the show. Another 200 had to be turned away when the event sold out. The Wurlitzer was donated to the Strand in 2004 by Leonard and Louise Johnson of Massachusetts. Ortloff, a talented musician who has a number of times over the years demonstrated his commitment to community service, took on the project of overseeing restoration of the organ. Working with him were Spencer Organ Company and a team of dedicated local volunteers: Diana Cron, Ernie Dossin, Kathe Fairweather, Malcolm Fairweather, Laurie Gokey, Gina Gratton, Jim Gratton, Meredith Gratton, Dora Harris, Joanne Hughes, Andy Koch, Lynn LaClair, Meg Meyer, Jackie Miller, Susan Mueller, Chris Ortloff, Ruth Mary Ortloff, Deb Price, Pat Russell, Jan Russell, Russ Shaner, Kevin Smith, Micki Smith, Richard Smith, Jim Stetts, Bill Tisdale and Harold Wright. Those team members spent eight years doing jobs — for free, mind you — that they had to learn from scratch, including scraping leather, cleaning wood and metal and re-leathering pneumatics. And none of it would have happened without a sizable financial donation from Alan Tetreault and David Cohen. Other businesses also provided sponsorships. The well-attended “Phantom” performance was a chance to showcase the organ, and Jonathan Ortloff delighted the crowd with his explanations and demonstrations of the instrument. His dedication and leadership are what made this impressive theater addition happen. The full house for this show, the faux Beatles concert and the recent benefit held by local musicians are all very encouraging signs in regard to the future of the downtown arts scene.

CHEERS to the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School community for coming together to make up for the loss of a traditional fall field trip. Each year, for decades, children from the school had been traveling to Rulfs Orchards in Peru to take part in autumn activities, including a trip to the pumpkin patch, and connected science and social-studies lessons. But, like many area schools, ELCS has had to pare its budget over the years, and field-trip funding could not be justified as a priority. The Rulfs visit was not going to happen this year. But knowing how much it meant to students, teachers, students and families got inspired and decided to bring the pumpkin patch to the school. Rulfs gave the ELCS Teachers Association a good price on pumpkins, and staff brought the gourds to the school. The ELCS Honor Society and Student Council, joined by parents and other family members, put on an event that included cider and doughnuts, pumpkin carving, face-painting and other activities. Now that’s the kind of innovative thinking that can take some of the sting out of budget cuts. We would like to see more schools come up with ways to work with local businesses and museums to restore field-trip opportunities, which are cherished by students and leave lifelong impressions.

— If you have a Cheers and Jeers suggestion that you want the Editorial Board to consider, email it to Editor Lois Clermont at