What’s in a name? Plenty. Especially if you’re talking about changing that name.
Just ask the good people of Hooper.
There’s been talk lately about renaming the city’s Hooper Park to memorialize that magical day back on Sept. 10, 1982, when President Ronald Reagan made a brief stop there. The proposed new name? Hooper Reagan Park.
You know me. I’m not normally one to stick my nose into someone else’s business. And clearly, what the residents of Hooper decide to call their parks — or streets, or schools, or sewer systems — makes no never mind to me. But if I may be permitted to offer a little free, unsolicited advice, there is one thing that ought to be considered in contemplating a change in the park’s name.
Granted, I suppose it’s kind of amazing that the then-leader of the free world made an appearance at a park in the tiny hamlet of Hooper. And certainly, that’s an honor relatively few small towns in this country can claim.
But before you get all misty-eyed about a visit from the commander in chief, you Hooperites might really want to consider the motivation behind it. Because once you do, I think it just might temper your enthusiasm.
I can’t help but equate this situation to the emotions felt by 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in the classic holiday film “A Christmas Story.”
In that movie, set in about 1940, Ralphie drinks an ocean of Ovaltine to earn enough mail-in premiums to send away for his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder pin. It finally arrives, and he eagerly tunes in to his favorite radio program to get Annie’s secret coded message for the day — intended solely for the members of Annie’s exclusive Secret Circle.
After writing down the code, Ralphie races to the bathroom — “the only room in the house where a boy of nine could sit in privacy and decode” — and frantically begins solving the obviously important message from Little Orphan Annie. He finishes decoding and reads the message aloud: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”
Ralphie pauses a moment, at first not fully comprehending what the message is trying to say.
“Ovaltine?” he repeats, an almost palpable sense of disillusionment spreading across his face. “A crummy commercial? Son of a b... .”
A crummy commercial.
I gotta be honest, that’s roughly how I feel about President Reagan’s visit to Hooper Park back in the early 1980s. He wasn’t there to congratulate Hooper for some great civic deed, or to celebrate an important date in the town’s history, or even to give some seminal “Ich bin ein Osmond” speech. Rather, near as I can tell, President Reagan’s visit to Hooper Park was to support the continued political aspirations of certain members of his party — basically, a crummy re-election commercial for Sen. Orrin Hatch and his Republican colleagues in the state.
And for that you want to name a park after him?
You can find the complete text of President Reagan’s Hooper Park speech on the University of California, Santa Barbara’s “The American Presidency Project” website, at www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=42949&st=hooper&st1=#axzz1ySK26Vo3. But the gist of the speech, for me anyway, comes down to this sentence:
“One of the reasons I came here today — I’m sure you know how essential it is for all that we’re trying to do in Washington and to tell you what Orrin is doing, your senator, and why you should send him back there.”
The president then touts Sen. Hatch’s work on the various committees in Congress, concluding: “I think he deserves a second term.”
A second term. Jeepers, be careful what you wish for, huh?
The other thing to consider in all of this is that Ronald Reagan appeared at any number of places in the state over the years — including the Ogden LDS welfare cannery, the old Salt Palace, and even Brigham Young University. Should these other places be considering a name change? (Although, honestly, exchanging BYU for RRU seems like an intriguing trade.)
Listen, you can certainly name your park after whomever you like, Hooperanians. But it just seems like you ought to name it after someone for whom the city means more than just another campaign stop. You should name it after someone who cares about your town, someone who has actually done your city a great service. You know, like, say, someone who wrote a compelling newspaper column pointing out the folly of naming one of your beloved community gathering places after some crummy, campaigning politician.
Hooper Saal Park. Kinda rolls off the tongue, don’t it?
Mark Saal would certainly not be averse to a Top of Utah city naming something after him — a street, building or other local landmark, a specific manhole cover or fire hydrant, perhaps. Hey, it could be good for some free publicity! Contact him at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com.