Just when I think that I have told every story that I know at least one time and most of them several times, the editor of the New Era Opinion Page comes up with a new idea of something for me to write about. Jennifer P. Brown is a nice lady, and she never gets all bent out of shape when I end my sentence with a preposition. Today at her suggestion, I am going to recall early picture shows. They were silent movies with written dialogue at the bottom of the picture screen.
I saw my first movie in Elkton sitting on a folding chair. The movie was shown free on the town square. I think maybe it was a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, designed to cheer us all up and to promote business. We had a 1929 Chevrolet that we bought when it was over a year old, so the year had to be 1930 or later.
I remember that the movie was a western and one old gent became so captured that he took the movie as reality. At one point the villain was hiding from the hero, and the old man stood up and yelled, “Thar he is, over behind that barral.”
My recollection tells me that there were three theaters in Hopkinsville during my high school day. One was on Ninth Street down fairly close to the old post office and another was on Main Street near the courthouse. I think there was a third one, but I cannot remember exactly where it was.
The Saturday movie always seemed to be a western, and Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were my favorites. A short news reel usually accompanied the main feature, and Lowell Thomas narrated the news along with some pictures.
Andy Clyde and the Three Stooges were among my favorite comedy characters. Buster Keaton was a droll comedian who never smiled. We saw “Drums Along the Mohawk,” “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “Northwest Passage” and the epic film of our day, “Gone with the Wind.”
Saturday Westerns could be viewed for 15 cents, but the more serious Sunday shows went for 35 cents. Little home movie cameras were available, but most were without sound. I remember seeing a home movie of the Hotel Latham fire, and I wonder how many alive today remember the Hotel Latham.
Movies and radios were our mainstay of outside entertainment in those days, and we thought we were living in a modern age of magic where things had gone about as far as they could go.
Little did we know.
TOBY HIGHTOWER is a retired educator and former Hopkinsville High School teacher. His email address is email@example.com. Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN. 47803.