1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



The Alderson Theatre
Barry Worrell

In my 19 years in Alderson, I figured that I spent approximately 4100 hours in the movie theater. After all, I only went every time it changed, and that was usually three times a week. During that time, I rode with the Durango Kid, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Sunset Carson, Lash LaRue, and many cowpokes who wore white hats. I fought wars with John Wayne, Van Johnson, Frank Lovejoy, and a host of others. I fell in love with Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Mitzi Gaynor. I sailed the seven seas with Errol Flynn. I watched Charlton Heston part the waters. I visited the planet Altair with Leslie Neilson, and Robby the Robot. I was chased by Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Like most of us, I've led a very exciting life, in the theater.

While watching the picture, there were always other things to do. For instant, talking back to the screen. "Watch out Durango, He's right behind you!" I could never understand why he didn't realize that. Throwing popcorn, candy, and coke cups at people. Putting your feet up on the seat, and having the usher come and tell you to take them down. All the guys singing out in unison, "We know where you've been," when several girls came back to their seats together. Buying several boxes of popcorn to get a free ticket that may be inside. Not caring (or realizing) if the price of a ticket was less than the price of several boxes of popcorn. Remember your feet sticking to the floor because of the spilled coke? How about some gal letting out a scream when one of the resident rats ran across her feet. It was also a time of segregation and blacks were not allowed to sit with whites, and were forced to sit up in the balcony.

Yep, I was there for all that, except the time David Honaker and I stomped the spokes out of some girl's bike, and I was offered two choices of punishment by my parents. A good whipping, or a two week ban from the movies. Knowing how my Step-dad could spank, I choose the two weeks ban, but  I got both. And, at the time, the long awaited Walt Disney film, Pinocchio, was showing. I stood outside on the street for two nights of the showing, trying to get a glimpse of the film, as people would go in and out the inner doors. Someone must have told my parents, and they felt sorry for me. I got to see the film.

As teens, Jim Jones and I got to work at the theater. Jim ran all the downstairs and I was the projectionist. Mr. Grimes, an electrician, was the regular projectionist, and recruited me for Saturdays. Ever wonder how they rewind the film for the next showing? Most theaters have a rewind device which is completely enclosed and rewinds the film slowly, and safely. We didn't. Mr. Grimes had two spindles, one which was the shaft of a big electric motor. He would put the empty reel on the motor side, and the reel of film on the other spindle, which could turn freely. He would start the motor and lay his hands on both reels with just enough pressure to keep tension on the film. Zip! It was finished in a flash. Didn't look too safe to me, and I tried it only once. Those reels of film weighed about 10-12 pounds. You could imagine what would happen if they came off the spindles at a high rate of speed. Well, you duck down, with your hands to cover your head, as they fly around the room, and make dents into the walls. And once they come to a stop, you can splice the film back together.

Unfortunately, all of that is gone. The theater no longer exist in Alderson. TV is the appetite of most people today, including myself. There have been a few attempts at reviving the theater, but with no kids around and the general population being older, they have failed. Most of the movies they make today, I don't care to watch anyway. American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies on cable are the closest thing. However, in some cities across the U.S., there are movie palaces. Beautiful movie palaces, where you can watch an old film as you did then. With their ornate carvings, lush decor, and giant pipes for the live organ, they have been restored to their original grandeur. And that experience, that marvelous, wonderful time, when you could enter and not be concerned with the outside world, still exists. Popcorn anyone?
   (For a look at a restored theatre: The Ohio Theatre)