Over Easy: Thoughts for your Penney

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

  • The line for COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic run by the New Hampshire National Guard at the former JC Penney in West Lebanon, N.H., ran outside on a rainy Thursady, April 15, 2021. The clinic had scheduled 1,300 appointments, almost triple the daily capacity that the National Guard could serve at their site in Claremont. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

For the Valley News
Published: 9/17/2022 12:54:03 AM
Modified: 9/17/2022 12:53:34 AM

The great question of our time isn’t whether the Russian army will slink home by Halloween, COVID will fade by Christmas or Donald Trump will wear a prison jumpsuit in the New Year (please, please), it’s right here in the present: What’s going on with the dead JCPenney store?

I kid, of course, but local people want to know.

Someone asked online recently and the answers were the usual mix of guesses, wishes (“I would give my firstborn for a Trader Joe’s”) or certainty supported by the slimmest evidence. As in, a good friend of my cousin’s sister-in-law who recently moved to work for a Taco Bell in Virginia knows a construction guy from Texas who says he knows a guy who is traveling here soon by Greyhound bus to work on what will be the world’s largest Chuck E. Cheese.

As if.

The “knows a guy’’ theories often fail. The business interests that do know don’t like to say. We are left to our own devices.

I want it on record that I liked JCPenney. Once upon a time, it sold dignified men’s clothing: blue shirts, gray slacks, nice sweaters. None of those slim-fit slacks that the Founding Fathers didn’t have in mind when they established this great nation of relaxed-style men’s pants.

The real question for now isn’t what’s coming to the empty space but what should go there.

I would appreciate a Things You Need When You Need Them Store. Like, when you need a single battery for your remote control, you could drive to the Things You Need When You Need Them Store and a happy employee would be waiting for you — because you called ahead — to direct you to the display case that holds single AA or AAA batteries. You could stock up, but then you face the indignity of not being able to find them in times of need.

But maybe this is not the best and highest use.

My really big groundbreaking idea — if I was an alum with $500 million to donate, I think they would agree with me — is for Dartmouth College to purchase the space. It can pull it off without an equity loan.

What does a world-class Ivy League school with an endowment over $8 billion need?

More graduate schools? A bigger development office? Its own space program?


The answer is: Dartmouth Bowling.

Dartmouth, according to its website, has a 269-acre main campus. It has more than 40 academic departments and programs. It has, by its own account, “A vibrant, inclusive learning environment where students and faculty respond with research and innovation to the most pressing challenges of our time.”

But it doesn’t have bowling.

The leaders of tomorrow need the common touch that bowling has to spare. It welcomes all classes of people. It welcomes left-handers and right-handers. It welcomes guys named Ned who have their name embroidered onto their bowling shirt.

Students can learn that there’s more to life than Wall Street and hedge funds. Join a local team, and Irv and Shirley will pick them up in a rusty old F-150 SuperCrew with the optional V-8 and forever cigarette smell in the cabin that will expand their horizons. Maybe they will remember them someday, when they have homes in Nantucket, New York and Palo Alto and other properties that have slipped their mind and their peers want to improve America by cutting Social Security.

The Upper Valley urgently needs a bowling alley in the heart of the tri-towns. Claremont has one; Randolph has one. How are Hanover and Lebanon content to be left behind? Why aren’t various subcommittees and task forces furiously recruiting bowling centers even now?

Here is Dartmouth’s chance to come to the rescue and give back to the region that provides the janitors, food service workers and assistant this-and-thats that make it tick.

The college would clearly benefit. If the trustees bonded by bowling, a new era of peace and harmony in leadership would ensue. Trustees could give each other nicknames like Ace and Lounge Lizard and wear matching shirts — Dartmouth green, naturally. Skip the cotton/polyester and splurge for silk.

A related Dartmouth Institute for Bowling could raise millions for cutting-edge research, developing new pin-setting technologies and revolutionizing the screens with little dancing pins that celebrate each strike. Fund-raising naming opportunities would be considerable. (Attention beer companies and lane wax producers.)

And yes, student-athletes with impressive SAT scores could form an official college team that will reach the top. It can BEAT HARVARD. (No one fears a Harvard-educated bowler.)

This is the time. Route 12A in West Lebanon is the place. Let the thundering sound of strikes ring out from here to Hanover — and beyond. Go Big Green, go bowling!

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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