Karolyn Grimes today

Carol Coombs Mueller, Jimmy Hawkins and Karolyn are getting ready to sign autographs at the Walgreens Drugstore in the Empire State Building. Dave Koprowski (far right), from the Events Department of the NYSE is a huge fan of the movie and has come for a visit with the Bailey Kids.


Essays: Thoughts & Stories from Karolyn


The executives representing Walgreens Drugstores and the Enesco Company, along with the President & Co-Chief Operating Officer of the NYSE, Catherine R. Kinney, join with the Bailey Kids on the Balcony over looking the floor of the NYSE. (Carol Coombs Mueller, Jimmy Hawkins and Karolyn)

T he Baileys Ring the Bell at the NY Stock Exchange

The street was barricaded. Our driver stopped our car. Security officers talked with him and checked the contents of our trunk, then let us proceed. Trucks blocked our path, but, as we came upon them, each one moved out of our way. We came to a stop, and officers allowed us out of our car. I walked around a corner, and there it was a magnificent, old building with pillars and gold lettering. On its face was an enormous American flag.

I was looking at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City.

As I walked down a flight of stairs into the basement through a special door, butterflies churned in my stomach. As I walked through corridors and elevators that took me to a reception area and then the boardroom in the deep interior of the building, I thought about America.

The walls, white with gold trim, were ancient. I could feel them emitting energy of the past. This was the very bowel of our country, the place where the ever-fluid wheel of commerce the backbone, the skeleton that reaches out all over the world began in 1792 and continues to help make America such a wonderful country.

I had goose bumps as I realized that for a few minutes I would be allowed to be a part of that history. I felt that I was standing in the national version of the boardroom of the Bailey Building & Loan, the benevolent institution that kept resources circulating throughout Bedford Falls instead of hoarding them like Mr. Potter.

The entourage of the NYSE people who were so gracious to us, gathered all of us for a group picture in the historical NYSE Boardroom.

I was visiting the stock exchange to be a part of the Enesco Company's and Walgreen's promotion for their incredible new line of "It's a Wonderful Life" holiday products: a set of startlingly detailed (and amazingly affordable) miniatures and figurines from all aspects of the movie.

And as has happened so many times before, I felt that I actually was Zuzu Bailey. My "siblings" Tommy (Jimmy Hawkins) and Janie (Carol Coombs Mueller) were with me. We three were dressed in holiday red (Jimmy's red was in the form of a scarf), and we were presented badges to wear as we signed autographs and were greeted by the acting president of the stock exchange.

I was so overcome by emotion that a tear trickled down my face. This, I knew, was the place where history is made every day. I felt so privileged to be in this room. We were presented a lovely gift, a heavy pewter medallion engraved with words commemorating the date, closing bell ceremony and the It's a wonderful Life Holiday Collection. Also on the face shows the bull conquering the bear and emerging as one. I will cherish it always.

This beautiful medallion was presented to each of us representing our memorable visit to the NYSE.

We were then led to one of the floors of the stock exchange trading center, and what a sight! It was anything but calm, as a sea of frenetic transactions transpired all around us. The feeling was one of change, of constant movement, of excitement, of the unknown. And yet, it also was a secure feeling that the wherewithal that bolsters everyone who does "the working and paying and living and dying" in America was encapsulated in this frenzied picture before me, this place that has survived for more than two centuries.

Janie(Carol Coombs Mueller) and Karolyn take a stroll along the floor amid all the excitement of transaction after transaction. Jimmy Hawkins looks on as his sisters have a wonderful time.

More than 3,000 people specialists, brokers and support staff, none of them rich people, financially speaking work on the trading floor. It was a revelation to see that it takes so many to run this wheel that, invisibly to many of us, spins round steadily to allow so many others to live, as George Bailey so eloquently said, as human beings and not cattle.

As I walked farther, people greeted me as Zuzu and grabbed me for autographs and just to meet me. Finally, we were there the balcony where every day starts and ends, the place whose daily tradition mirrors the final scene of "It's a Wonderful Life." Backed by a giant banner displaying a photo from the film of the Bailey kids embracing our movie father, Jimmy, Carol and I stepped to the ceremonial podium, and we three pushed the button to ring the closing bell! As the session for November 20, 2003, ended, I looked down on the face of many fans who chanted "Zuzu Zuzu's petals!" Much of the action came to a halt, as the Bailey kids were given an ovation.

My emotions were all over the place. In my heart, I was thanking the Enesco and Walgreen's executives who had made this event possible. At the same time, I was thinking how "It's a Wonderful Life" has woven itself into the very seams of the lives of Americans. This image floated in my mind as a quilt of love and hope.

"Thank God," I said to myself, "for letting me be a part of this wonderful film and this historic day." The traders who scurry endlessly around the floor may hear the bell every day and think little of it, but to me the occasion was singular and symbolic. Finally and formally, "It's a Wonderful Life" had been recognized in an institution that whether we realize it or not none of us can live without.

It's just as Peter Bailey once explained to George: The stock exchange is all about "satisfying a fundamental urge. It's deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace." It's not that those things alone add up to happiness. But they're the foundation for the flourishing of love and dreams the true riches in our "wonderful life."

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