When a Narrative Appears to Some Less Smart Than It Used To Be
Smart (Community) Narrative Making & Strategies
We enjoy sharing with you these "exploration of the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten" because so many are time enduring and transcend this week's passing fancy.
However, because times do not stand still, tastes and sensibilities are subject to change. And sometimes, these changes do not take place with ease.
Two recent items in the news about long standing popular activities have brought that point home to us.
We read, to our chagrin, of a lawsuit that has been directed at Lambert's Cafe, a roadside institution fro decades.
Lambert's, with locations in Missouri and Alabama is famous as "Home of the Throwed Rolls".
Starting back in 1942, with 14 cents between them, Earl and Agnes Lambert opened for business in a small building on South Main Street in Sikeston Missouri. It consisted of a 9 stool counter and 8 tables for a total seating capacity of 41 people. They served up vegetables, fried catfish, chicken, meat and dessert and overcame trying to time to succeed.
A mainstay of their business was started by Earl and Agne's son, Norman who started the tradition of throwing rolls to customers. In 1981 he explained, "I started throwing rolls about four years ago when we were in our old cafe. It was too crowded one noon for me to serve the rolls to a customer and somebody yelled, 'Throw em.' So I threw them. So, now I do that about every noon meal and during the evenings too. The rolls are fresh, right out of the oven."
It is a tradition that has served Lambert's well over the years.
But in 2015, in a sign of the times, the restaurant was sued by a customer who says he suffered permanent eye injuries after being struck by a hot roll thrown by a staff member. To our best understanding that suit is still pending.
The lawsuit claims that the practice of throwing rolls is deemed a "defective condition" of Lambert's, and the suit claims that the restaurant knew (or should have known) about the danger of this practice.
More than one commentator in analyzing the case has advanced the notion that since, "Home of Throwed Rolls" is plastered on massive billboards all over the state, Shouldn't diners at Lambert's be responsible for some level of situational awareness when entering the restaurant?
No matter how the case is resolved, some are wondering if the lawsuit will mean the end of throwed rolls. It seems we have all been diminished a bit by this episode.
Our second sited event perhaps offers a more positive ending.
Punkin Chunkin is a renowned, rowdy festival that has teams competing to fling pumpkins the farthest,
The event, which started in 1986, will be held at the same farm it had taken place for years before a personal injury lawsuit filed in 2013 gave deterred the owner from continuing in fear of further complications. The suit, filed by an ATV driver seriously injured in a rollover accident, was later dismissed. In 2014 event was canceled due to logistics problems (the speedway did not have long enough of a straightaway to cover the one-mile distance the competition requires), and the contest was expected to be permanently shuttered prior to the 2015 contest due to insurance companies refusing to cover the contest. After considering a move to a location in Maryland, the organization announced plans to revive the World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest for 2016 at its previous site in Bridgeville, after the insurance concerns were addressed.
The neighborhood we report on is generally one in which we all benefit from. However, at times what some call "reality" intrudes. On these occasions we find that, notwithstanding one's best efforts, changing times, sensibilities and priorities can make a narrative appear less smart to some than it used to be. What was once deemed an activity beyond reproach may come to be challenged or reconsidered because it may have been a source of pain or distress - physical or emotional.
It is hoped that traditions can be maintained in a way that honors what is important to those who organized them and who continue to gather to celebrate them while also protecting those who may be hurt. We hope it need not be a zero sum game - where one wins and another losses.
In a sense, it is a loss for us all.