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Readers React: Humanity is losing its gathering spots. Webster City, Iowa, is fighting back

The marquee is lit up for the 7 p.m. showing of "Mamma Mia 2" at the Webster Theater in Webster City, Iowa, on Aug. 18.
The marquee is lit up for the 7 p.m. showing of “Mamma Mia 2" at the Webster Theater in Webster City, Iowa, on Aug. 18.
(Rebecca F. Miller / For The Times)

To the editor: After reading about the residents of Webster City, Iowa, refusing to let their small-town movie theater die, I was reminded of Robert D. Putnam’s 1995 essay, “Bowling Alone.”

Putnam wrote in his essay about the decline of Americans’ participation in group activities and social organizations. He felt that gradually, but surely, we were isolating ourselves. Where we would have gathered in social clubs, bowling leagues or movie theaters to share experiences, we have become a nation of loners, depriving ourselves of real social interaction, instead using technology that “individualizes” people’s time.

Working, playing or watching in groups helps people learn about others. It builds trust. The people of Webster City know that saving their theater might be able to bring everyone closer and save their town.

Thank you for this beautifully written reminder of another way we can come back together. We need more gathering spots like the Webster Theater and the individuals who came together to save it.

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Genie Saffren, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Your piece about Webster City brought tears to my eyes. That town is so dear to my heart because my late husband loved it so much.

He spent his summers there with his great-uncle, Ole Henderson, during the 1930s. “Uncle Ole” was the circuit court judge for that area and was well known throughout the county. My husband and I spent a few days in Webster City during our vacation trip a few years ago.

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We even visited Uncle Ole’s old house — still standing, and in good condition, 60 years after my husband’s last visit. It still looked the same as when he had been there as a child. (It was shown to us by its current owner, a young woman who taught at the local high school and was happy to show us through.)

Webster City is a beautiful small town, where everybody knows everybody else. It’s nice to know such places still exist.

Catherine Lang Titus, Costa Mesa

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