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After the first day of the Oldfather Studios demolition, I explored the front part of the building. There was no fencing, and the front door was wide open.
The interior had been stripped of many surfaces. The rear, southeast section of the building was gone. It was as if the building had taken a direct hit.
Navigating an uncertain and unfamiliar terrain, I noticed a flash of color on the floor. It was the only item that had life: a movie poster in the stairway among the debris.
I bent down to take a closer look — a “Grandview, USA” postage stamp.
My eyes were drawn to Jamie Lee Curtis. She was young and had a determined, take-no-shit look on her face. Young, handsome Patrick Swayze had a melancholy gaze. I was not familiar with the confident young guy, C. Thomas Howell.
The clothing style seemed familiar, possibly from the mid 1980’s. I should know, since I graduated from Wichita North High in 1985.
I took a few photos of the poster and decided to save it from the impending demolition of this section of the building. It seemed like an act of respect for Oldfather Studios and the movie.
That night, I researched the film. It was released in 1984, a coming-of-age story, set in a small Midwest town named Grandview where a teenager (C. Thomas Howell) is searching for meaning as he is about to graduate from high school. There is conflict with his father, and he falls for Curtis’ character.
Like the gesture of picking up the movie poster, I felt obligated to watch the film. Fortunately, the entire film is on YouTube without commercials.
It was painfully slow with few surprises, but it was fun to watch Curtis and Swayze be young and spontaneous. There were many demolition derby scenes that checked a box for me. It was a “feel good” movie that took four nights to finish without falling asleep.
Upon reflection, it was a way for me to close the chapter on the demolition of Oldfather Studios. I hope everyone who has a connection with Centron or Oldfather Studios can create their own way of honoring the building and what was created inside its walls.
About the writer
Tom Harper is a Realtor at Stephens Real Estate helping people in Lawrence and Douglas County buy and sell real estate. He is the founder of Lawrence Modern, a group whose mission is to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture. You will find him posting frequently on Instagram under @lawrencemodern, sharing his daily observations of his favorite place on earth: Lawrence, Kansas. Read more of Tom’s writing for The Lawrence Times here.
More on Oldfather Studios
Demolition is underway at Oldfather Studios at Ninth and Avalon in Lawrence. “This building was unique due to the number of people who spent hours in study, experimentation and work in their field, in addition to its interesting midcentury architectural design,” Tom Harper writes in this piece.