I'm not going to pretend that I knew Carl Schwanebeck as well as some of you did. I am glad I did have the privilege of knowing him for the eight years I did.
To me, Knoxville and the world could use more Carls. I'm sure many, especially young people, did not care for his demands of moviegoers to respect everyone else in the theater. Or his anger with parents who brought young children to films he felt were inappropriate for young eyes. Or his constant complaints to the City about Bike Night, sidewalk enforcement and other issues.
But to me, I believe Carl's motivation for all of these things came from love and respect. Love for his town, and his desire to make it the best it can be.
Love of the theatre business, and the moviegoing experience, in which everyone who has paid should be allowed to sit back and enjoy a film, without nonsense from other, disrespectful moviegoers. It wasn't about picking on kids, though, he did have a twinkle in his eyes when he shared stories about scaring some rowdy young person.
His love of the movie business, as well as love for Knoxville, is what led him to do what he did to try to revive the theater. It's just a shame that Knoxville did not support it to the level necessary to keep the theater open.
As for his complaints about Bike Night, it was hurting his business. Any business person has the right to complain when the City doesn't listen, or eagerly allows his business to be adversely affected one night a month. That one night a month might not matter to most places, but a theater, which gets maybe eight true paydays a month, losing one can really hurt. Carl knew that and wasn't afraid to try to stand up for his business.
Not everyone has the strength and courage to stand up for what they believe in, at least not to the level of advocating their cause to a city council, a legislature or beyond. Carl did.
Carl had tremendous respect for his fellow man, and he wanted everyone to do so as well. Many times when I talked with him, I could see the disappointment in his eyes as he talked about parents losing the respect of their children, the wayward direction the country is headed (morally and financially) and the city council's refusal to not stand up for the people (as he saw it).
Proof of his respect was always shown when you talked to him. I don't know if he always did this, but conversations with him would always end with him thanking me for taking time out of my life to share with him, and for being part of his world.
Our last conversation, over lunch in a Chinese restaurant, was all about his plans to host the showing of “Pay it Forward” to thank the community for the support and love it has shown him and his family over the past 50 years. He kept telling me he's had a good life, he's been blessed and Knoxville has been a big part of it.
I don't know if I'll remember his words of wisdom, or if I'll thank people for being part of my life, but I should. We all should. As Carl often put it, “Every day is a blessing.”
It truly is, though that can be difficult to realize and remember. This was Carl's philosophy, and if we all started looking at the world the way he did, and appreciated each other more, this might be a nicer world to be a part of.
Unfortunately, there was only one Carl. His words and attitudes, however, can be repeated. Carl will never be replaced. I miss him, but if we can learn from him, Knoxville's got a bright future.
Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.