'Wizard of Oz' 70 years old

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By Vince Luecke

In case you haven't heard, the "Wizard of Oz" is 70 years old. The timeless tale of ruby slippers, munchkins and good and bad witches was drawing its first fans seven decades ago.

In Tell City, the movie was set to premiere 70 years ago this weekend at the Ohio Theatre. The local papers heralded the movie's star power, including Judy Garland as Dorothy, and its vivid color.

I'm a fan of the movie for several reasons, the main one being the important messages it offers to viewers. "The Wizard of Oz" is filled with situations we all can find connections to. We're all sort of like Dorothy, venturing through life with its ups and downs, finding situations fraught not only with our own challenges, but those about whom we are close to.

While studying to be a priest, I took part in a conference, a combination religious retreat and self-help session that was focused on the movie. I and about a dozen other people were asked to reflect on the film, delving into our own dreams, fears and roads taken.

The session's director told us to identify the challenges (wicked witches, if you will) we faced, those who had helped us through hard times (like the good witch) and who had traveled with us on the road, symbolized by Dorothy's friends.

Finally, we were asked to think about where we had ventured off the road and what the detours had been like. Other people in the group seemed to get more out of the experience than I did, but I've never forgotten the personal connections with the film.

For me, it's been the reminder that there's no place like home. Not all of us can return there, but it's natural to feel a quest to find places where we feel safe, be ourselves and enjoy friends.

Friendship and overcoming adversity are major themes of the "Wizard of Oz" I like. We go through life meeting new people on the road of life and like Dorothy, who finds comfort and support from a scarecrow, tin man and wavering lion, we, too, take on the roles of newcomer or someone in situations where we need the help of others.

Few of us battle wicked witches, but life brings its many hardships, many of them unfair and out of our hands. That's life, no matter what road we're on. We all need help at times in making it to our destination.

Life is a journey worth taking for all it's worth, no matter the color of the bricks of the road, or who we meet on the road.

If you haven't seen the film in a while, head to the video store and relive the story. With literally hundreds of channels offered by satellite TV and video games, lots of youngsters haven't seen the move. If your kids haven't seen the film in a while, or have never viewed it, make it a movie night at home. It won't be many years before today's children and teens will realize there's no place like home.