Movie theaters now and those way back when very different

Published 10:11 am Sunday, September 22, 2013

A television newsman said a few days ago that we used to have more than 4,000 movie theaters in the United States but have only about 400 now. That is shocking news if it is really true, and I guess it is because of computers and videos that have taken the theaters’ place. That’s a shame.

Our little town had three theaters on Columbia Street, a drive-in out past Union Avenue and another one out in the field behind the Minkler night club.

In earlier days I’ve been told we had a theater on Okachobee Avenue down past Pugh’s Flower Shop, but that was before our time. Later a modern theater opened in the Walmart parking area and was really popular for several years.

The State, along with the Ritz and the Redwood theaters kept us entertained with the midnight shows every Saturday night. Later the drive-ins came along, and they were very popular, especially with young couples who were dating, if they had a car. After a while it got to be the practice to get several people in the car and the tickets were cheaper. The speakers were hung on the passenger side door window, and in cold weather the window could be raised and the voices or music would have you feeling like you were right there in the movie.

In later years the theater out past the end of Union Avenue began to have wrestling matches in a ring set up in the parking area, and a lot of people came to see the matches. Word went around that the Sheriff’s Office closed the wrestling matches after a lady from the crowd climbed up into the ring and began fighting with the wrestlers and the officials who were running the matches.

The theater on the Minkler site and all the local theaters eventually closed because of the lack of business, and televisions took over.

The movies available now are a lot different from the ones we saw in our local theaters. Now everything is blasted away, blown up or set afire, with nothing but a lot of violence. Back in our times some of our movies had violent scenes like the Lone Ranger saving a town, or Roy Rogers fighting several people in a barroom, but he never even had his hat knocked off. It was always a wonder how he could fight so long, wrestle with several people and keep his clothes intact and still have the hat on, a real talent.

Extremely popular were the Tarzan shows, and they had some violence when a lion or leopard attacked and Tarzan had to save the victim. The star who played Tarzan for many years was an Olympic swimming champion, and he always fought an alligator or two during the movie. Then along came Jane and Boy, and their shows became a family affair. Tarzan was a really popular show, and in one of his last ones he came to New York and had a different foe to fight there.

We did see a lot of love stories in our young days, and most of the boys got excited when Clark Gable began to court a beautiful lady. When it was all over, the next day at school most boys made like they didn’t like love stories, but they really did. Back in those days love stories were for the girls and boys liked cowboy shows better.

Shows we saw a lot of were the musical shows, and they were great featuring some real stars. The difference in the local musicals would be the activity while they are singing. In the old movies the singers stood still and sang into a microphone or to a pretty lady. Now you don’t know if you are seeing singing or an acrobatic show. Can you imagine Frank Sinatra singing and turning flips and running back and forth across the stage?

We enjoyed the shows in our old theaters and are thankful for the chance we had in our early years to see them.

May the good Lord bless us all today.