Whether it is a solemn and ancient tradition or only a silly superstition, almost everybody has heard the old rhyme so often chanted in a bride’s preparation for her wedding day:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a silver sixpence in her shoe.

Silver sixpence pieces are hard to come by these days, and almost anything can be borrowed and blue, even if it’s just that magician’s bunny you dyed sky blue last year and should really give back some day.

What really interests me is the “something old, something new” part of the poem. Nothing new stays new for long. So how long does it take for something to get old? And what can you do with it when it does? Here are some ideas…

✓ Make up a batch of stuff called nihinium, a brand new element created in an atomic lab a few years ago. Wait 20 seconds. The stuff ages so fast that in just 20 seconds half of it disappears! Can’t do much with that.

✓ On the other hand, consider diamonds. Many of them are 3 billion years old and still look sparkly and new on anybody’s finger. That just might be of some use, right young man?

✓ Then there’s my house. It’s about 110 years old and still feels pretty good, but I can tell by my repair bills that it’s starting to get old.

Fortunately, some old things can be repaired. It even works for people.

But no matter how many teeth you replace with porcelain choppers, how many hips and elbows and shoulders you replace with enough titanium to light you up at an airport security checkpoint, you are still you…at least mostly.

So how about houses like mine? How much can I repair it with new stuff before it just isn’t my old house anymore? After a while, it’s mostly new. That bit of old things/new things can be a fun and rewarding experience, and even quite artistic.

That’s why this week your Jamestown Gazette invites you out to Chautauqua Institution. The 143-year-old Amphitheater – the beautiful old Amp – was showing its age. But along with that age came a wonderful history of hosting the most famous people in the arts in sciences, the country’s most accomplished men and women in literature and faith, and the most highly placed of the world’s rulers and politicians.

The Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution has both seen and made American and world history for a century and a half. Its advanced age raised the same questions as any old building, except nobody thought its end should yet be in sight.

Whether the work done there last winter was restoration, replacement or renovation may have a technical answer which an architect or a builder could give, but its heritage, the soul of the Amp remains alive and well. It is a true example of “What is old is new again”.

Charles Franklin Kettering was an unusually creative, mid-20th century American inventor and the holder of 186 patents. Perhaps he would have appreciated the Amp’s revival. He once said, “People are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.”

The new Amp is exactly like the old one, except it is entirely new, too, in all the best ways. Visit the Amp for yourself this summer. Enjoy the journey to both past and future.

And, of course, enjoy the read right here in your Jamestown Gazette.

Walt Pickut