‘Shawshank Redemption’ 1, Summer Games 0


Some decisions are easy.

The “Shawshank Redemption” was on TV last weekend.

It’s on pretty often. But the Olympics are on every four years, two years if you count the Winter Games, and I don’t.

Which to watch?

Easy peasy.

I spent Sunday afternoon in front of the TV, on my couch, with a fan and the AC blowing on me and my white pitbull Beatrix beside or on top of me.

In my opinion, ” Shawshank” wins every time. Well, unless “Pulp Fiction” or “Kill Bill” is on another channel.

I’ve watched “Shawshank” maybe 20 times. I’ll likely watch it 20 more.

It’s a great way to kill a rainy afternoon. The Summer Games? Anything I missed I’ll see another edition of the same in four years.

So I spent more than two hours watching the trials and tribulations of Andy Dufresne and the Shawshank Prison in Maine.

And looking for familiar faces and landmarks.

Stephen King is the author of the book this real-life story is based on. The original Shawshank Prison was in Maine. But the Ohio State Reformatory was the perfect locale for the movie. And most of it was filmed in and around Mansfield.

The Ohio State Reformatory has become a star of its own since the movie was made. All over the world people recognize OSR. In fact, the prison has been the catalyst for mega tourism money spent in Richland County in the past 25 years.

I wasn’t in the movie, but I know a few people who have. I also — albeit a bit tenuous — have several personal connections with the prison and movie

A friend from the days when I used to play softball in Galion used to take teams to OSR and play against the prisoners. Jimmy Quaintance said it was a great experience for him and the members of the team who used to join him.

I also met Gates Brown once. Gates was born in Crestline and played eight years in the Major Leagues. He spent a few months locked up at OSR. But after that, he played with the Detroit Tigers, and is considered one of the most clutch pitch-hitters of all time.

I’ve been to the prison dozens of times, for work, for fun and a couple of times to just get the wits scared out of me.

My late grandfather, Ralph Bowman, a Westinghouse retiree from Mansfield, was actually locked in the prison at one time. I don’t remember the whole story, but he was there as part of a work program I believe, and missed the bus back to Mansfield. Grandpa wasn’t traumatized by his temporary incarceration, but as I recall he was pretty happy when the bus showed back up to get him.

And it made for a great story.

When I worked in Mansfield, almost every day for 16 years I would drive past the old market where “Red” and “Brooks” worked after being paroled from Shawshank. I’ve driven past that famous old tree in Lucas that serves a pivotal role in the movie, where “Red” finds the money and note left there by “Andy”.

I’ve walked up and down the street where that pawn shop sits .. the one with the revolvers in the window. The one “Red” passes on his way to work and as he looks into the window, wonders how he can break his parole, so he can go back to prison, a place where he feels “safe,” and where he was someone inportant.

I good friend, Mansfield News Journal reporter Lou Whitmire was an extra in the movie. She’s one of the reporters, who at the end of the movie, when the corruption of the warden is revealed, is there asking questions. Lou is the pretty reporter with all that hair … on my, all that hair.

Another acquaintance, Mike Skelton, a long-time wrestling coach and guidance counselor at Northmor, was also an extra. I think I’ve talked to Mike about it, but it was 20-some years ago. As I recall, he was a guard, with a uniform and a gun, and all that stuff. Still, I’ve not been able to find him in the movie. But it doesn’t matter. Someday I’ll find him.

Anyway, that’s how I spent my Sunday afternoon. Beatrix slept though half the movie but I didn’t miss a second.

To me, “Shawshank” is more than a movie. It’s a trip down memory lane. And it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

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