A few weeks ago we asked friends of this site to send movie memories. There was energetic response. Not all our memories dovetail exactly, but we have recalled an amazing and vivid amount of shared history. Great thanks to all who responded. Most who read this don't need to be told that over two generations, the Pocahontas Theater and Temple Theater faced each other across McDowell Street in Welch, W.Va. In about 1950 the Starland Drive-In opened at Big Four, a few miles east on Route 52. There were other picture shows sprinkled about the area. Visitors from the outside who have come upon our Internet haven should know these theaters were in McDowell County, the southernmost county of the state. It's coal-mining country. Many of us spent much time at these picture shows. Important stuff happened in the dark. And not just romance. We were trying on the personae of our favorite film thespians and puzzling out our adult identities. While our parents, religions and teachers gave us moral guidance and intellectual tools to get by in the world, the theaters gave us information about emotional outlook.
But are we getting too serious here? We also went to the movies to neck and raise hell. The Pocahontas was elegant. The smaller Temple was utilitarian. They were connected by ownership and the decorative arch that leaped the street. You can see that arch and the two theaters in the accompanying U.S. Department of Interior photo, which was taken by Lee Russell on Aug. 24, 1946. (A larger version of the picture can be seen if you double click it.)
There's been no attempt to seek a precise history of the theaters, though it's within reach of a determined researcher with much time. Some good guesses can be made. The Pocahontas was certainly named for the Indian woman of the Powhatan community. The theater had a pipe organ, a good clue the business started in silent-movie days, before 1927.
The Temple probably came later; the Russell picture shows a facade with the date 1929 on it. The theater was on the ground floor of the Odd Fellows Temple, and that's probably the explanation of its name. For some coal miners' small children, the similarity of the words "tipple" and "temple" gave mixed signals. A boy named Shell Brady, then about 5 years old, gave a beautiful explanation of the symbolic distinction between the two theaters as he waited with other kids to get into a Temple Saturday matinee in the 1940s. This is as close to a quote as can be recalled after 50 years: "My sister goes to the Pokeyhunnas. Her ticket says LOVE on it. I go to the Tipple. My ticket says ROY ROGERS on it."
The Pocahontas, large and air-conditioned, often presented films with high standards, though it was no stranger to westerns and low comedy. The Temple, by contrast showed programmers, low-budget films and even "re-releases," which are old movies brought back for new audiences. The Temple's Saturday matinees were emotionally charged events for kids. When the film began they screamed "YAY!" When is the last time you heard a response to cinema like that before the film even got under way? No matter what came next ‚ Three Stooges, Tom and Jerry, Little Rascals, Hopalong Cassidy ‚ they screamed with genial surprise. The noise ‚ and cumulative odor of a couple-hundred children ‚ must have crazed the mature attendants of that dark zoo. The Temple usually had a serial in progress, wherein Rocket Man, Superman or Clyde Beatty faced a weekly cliffhanger that always brought back the kids to see a miraculous and improbable escape. "NEXT WEEK: Chapter 12. The Doughnut of Death"
The Pocahontas had nice restrooms. The Temple had none, but the ticket-taker was bound by duty to allow a child in need to cross the street to use the Pocahontas facilities and return, even five times during one movie. The theaters were racially segregated. Some of us had put that out of our minds and were a bit shocked to recall what we had accepted as normal then. The Pocahontas had a small area for blacks at the back of the balcony.
In the 1950s the Temple was closed and a store opened at the site. A decade or so later the Pocahontas burned. To pace off the store that was the Temple or to regard the flattened area that was the Pocahontas is to realize these palaces were not as large as we thought they were when we were small. It was our view into the screen that was limitless.
OK, folks, let the movie memories unspool:
MOVIES IN THE DEPRESSION:
Caroline Fingerhut, Mountain Home, Ark.
When we lived at Havaco, on Sunday we could go to the movies. It cost 10 cents. Then if Daddy was working (this was at the end of the Depression), we could have a nickel or dime for a Coke at the Sugar Bowl or ice cream at the dairy store (Franklin Dairy). Bill Knucklos used to work there. Ever hear from him? I don't believe any place ever made a better chicken-salad sandwich. We had to walk the 2 miles from Havaco to Welch and back, so it was the 2 p.m. movie we always went to. I remember my first train ride when I was in the sixth grade from Havaco to Welch. That cost a nickel, and I was scared to death the train was going to fall over. But I LOVED the movies. It cost 50 cents on Sunday nights, and sometimes they would have a stage show. One time an orchestra came to town ‚ classical music ‚ and every time they paused, folks would clap. The maestro got a little peeved after awhile. I got a job as an usher. Raymond was the first name of the man who hired me. A Mr. Rogers owned the theaters at that time. I can still see Mrs. Rogers; she had beautiful blonde hair and wore it pulled back in a bun. Cowboy films at the Temple were not my favorite, but regardless, you got caught up in the serials and HAD to go back the next week to see what happened.
1940S DIARY ENTRY:
Esabel Ramella, then of Maitland.
Aldo (her husband) saw "My Little Chickadee" with W.C. Fields and Mae West at the Pocahontas. Said it was so racy he had to get up and leave.
WORKING IN THE DARK WAS AN ILLUMINATING EXPERIENCE:
Barrett (Barry) Shrout
I worked at the two theaters in Welch from the summer of '51 to the summer of '53, 51-52 being my senior year at Welch High School. The Pocahontas and Temple theaters were owned by L.E. Rogers and L.E. (Buddy) Rogers, Jr. They also owned the Starland Drive-in, the theater at Davy, and another at Man. The manager in Welch was Ben (Pop) Williams. His son Charlie was chief projectionist at the Temple, while Ben Copley was chief projectionist at the Pocahontas. Head cashier at the Pocahontas was Janey Butler, while Joy (?) was head cashier at the Temple. Joy's sisters, Merry (now Walker) and Gayle also worked at the theaters. Other personnel in that time period included Nick Liontakis, Carl Greever, Steve Irick, Eve (?), Nadine Waddell, Thelma Cox- thanks to her son, Floyd Cox, for refreshing our memories -, Frances Hale, and others. The Pocahontas ran three features per week, one on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, one on Wednesday and Thursday, and another on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday evening they had a special show at 9 p.m., usually a movie, but sometimes a stage show, including vaudeville and burlesque. One Sunday the drummer for the burlesque show didn't appear, so they hired George Branch, at that time a DJ for radio station WELC and drummer for a local band. Although they wanted him to go on the road with the show, he declined. As I recall, the Temple ran four programs a week, usually double features on Sunday, Monday; on Tuesday-Wednesday; on Thursday-Friday; and another on Saturday, which was usually a western and a serial. For both theaters, there were five shows daily, with the above noted exception on Sunday. Shows were generally two hours long, at 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 p.m. A few technical details: The screens were perforated with thousands of tiny holes to allow the sound from the huge speakers located on stage behind the screen to reach the audience. In the Pocahontas, a huge pipe organ, left over from the days of silent movies, was located in the wings of the stage. It even had a mechanical drum set. For standard movies there were two projectors, each of which held about 20 minutes of film. Thus, for a standard two-hour program, there would be five changeovers from one projector to the other, hopefully undetected by the audience. During the 1951-53 time period, two types of 3-D movies were shown. The first required that patrons wear glasses with red and green filters. The second type required polarized glasses. Although many people enjoyed the 3-D effects, a number of people complained they could see no difference. In the early '40s, as I recall, the Pocahontas was the only air-conditioned building in Welch. Even with the air-conditioning, the upper balcony was hot in the summer and unbearably hot in the winter. We didn't regard sneaking in as much of a problem. Generally we were alerted when one of a group hanging around outside would buy a ticket and enter, which would cause us to watch the exits. If the ticket purchaser tried to open one of the doors, lights outside would really show up in the theater. Some even climbed the fire escape to enter the balcony exit doors. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't think too many got in undetected. The ushers would generally re-latch the exit doors before anyone got in. Popcorn was the most popular item sold at the concession stand. A lot of patrons liked Jordan Almonds, which were a bit expensive. Drink machines were installed in the theater lobbies in the 1951-53 time period. Ticket prices at that time were 50 cents for adults and 20 cents for kids under 12. I was always surprised at how many kids (and parents) lied about the kids' ages. A lot of good memories about my employment at the theaters. The audiences were for the most part well-behaved, making it pretty easy for the ushers. And the people I worked with were exceptional.
A CHILDHOOD IN THE THEATER:
Libby Copley Lai, Gilroy, Calif.
My dad , Ben Copley, was the projectionist at the Pocahontas and I practically grew up in that theater. I would go up to the booth, which was located in the black section of the theater. I think I saw almost every change of features. I also remember seeing my first 3-D film at the Temple, "The Wax Museum." I also remember going to a religious group's meeting, where I heard for the first time the speaking in tongues. I stood on the marquee to watch the parades and marching of the Welch High School Band into the theater for the Veterans Day speeches. I graduated in 1962, and for all of my childhood memories my Dad worked at the theater. One time he thought about quitting and moving to Grundy, Va., But we never did. He retired from there after I finished college. The Pocahontas belonged to several people, but the largest shareholder was L.E. Rogers, who was grandfather to Rodney and Doren Mabe. Their father had a car dealership in town. About the segregated section: Right by the ticket-taker and the window of the Beryl Shoppe, there was an opening that led to stairs that went past the offices of the manager and owner. It was located right over the marquee and the windows where we would go out onto the marquee. Up more stairs to the balcony was where the black people sat. At the bottom of the stair cut into the side wall was a rectangular window and a small concession stand, where the workers would pass through the drinks, and popcorn and candy. There were restrooms upstairs, but the air-conditioning did not work very well up there. Hot air rises. The booth was located up there, and I spent time there with my dad. He taught me how to look for the circles in the corners on the film that told the projectionist to shift machines with the next reel of the film. I got to shift over sometimes. He taught me how to splice the film if it broke and I saw the film cut out of the Brigitte Bardot film that was censored by the managers. I can't remember the name of the film, but she was nude. (EDITOR'S NOTE: That film was "And God Created Woman." It came to town with provocative advance word in the late 1950s. Teen-age boys came to Welch from miles around to see Mlle. Bardot as God had apparently created her. They were disappointed. Now they know why. Back to Libby Copley Lai.) We lived on Elkhorn Street over Howard Hardware, and in our apartment we had large lithographs of Pocahontas and Capt. John Smith and the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolf. They had been in the theater at one time. I don't have them and I do not know what happened to them. I wish I did. I really am not sure how my Dad got into the business,but he was much older than my mom and had done many things. He had worked in the mines, then drove taxi, and had worked at a theater in War. He had many tales to tell. I remember one usher very well, I guess I sort of had a crush on him ‚ Jerry Decker. Yes, they really did work and used the lights to help people get around and to watch out for the necking. They seem to know when things got too hot, and they knew sections that would be trouble. Most of the live shows were gone, but I do remember seeing cowboy star Lash Larue and got a signed glossy of him. I still have it. I loved the movies and learned a lot of history from those old black-and-whites. I loved Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and could never miss the Bowery Boys. The Pocahontas was one of the finest theaters built in that era and had lighted masonry balconies on each side of the auditorium. The curtain was huge and cost lots of money. I remember when the theater was closed to have the carpet redone. I think I still have some old vinyl records they played on the record player and sound system. I always knew when the picture was about to start, because an usher would go in the right-side exit to turn off the record. That was the signal to start the movie. There were also special rings on the phone from the booth to the concession stand to let them know about intermission or the break between features. I was in the Welch High School Band when President Truman came to town (EDITOR: and spoke at the Pocahontas). We serenaded him, and he shook all our hands before leaving on the train. I was thrilled.
THE MIND'S EYE HAS A SHARP MEMORY:
Barbara Dawson Cassell, Maryland.
In the late '40's there was a third movie theater in Welch. It was where the Thrifty Shop used to be on McDowell Street, near Cox's Department Store. It was called the Nola and I think at one time it was called the Welch theater. In 1949 Curtis Grubb and his cousin Jackie Odham's mothers were room mothers for our class, and they took us to the Nola to see "Lassie Come Home." The Pocahontas was a beautiful theater. The outside had curved walls on each side of block glass with colored lights that changed behind them. There were large glass cases that held posters of the featured film. I sure would love to have some of those for my 50's diner. We bought tickets from a small booth outside. I can remember being too short to see the lady in the booth. We went through the first set of doors to see a boy or girl standing in front of a tall stand that was in part, a trash can, taking the tickets and tearing them in half and giving us back one half. That was also the lobby from which the blacks (colored then) entered the stairs to their section. I remember thinking as a small child that they got the best seats because they were so high and no one could get in front of them. We entered another set of doors to the main lobby. It was very nice and plush. The concession stand was moved a number of times. As you entered the seating area the carpeted floor slanted upward as you went under an archway. The Pocahontas was a very ornate theater. It had beautiful heavy velvet drapes on the stage. I remember a crest in ornate plaster up very high over the stage. On each side of the stage there were fake opera boxes. I often thought of President Lincoln when I went to the movies. I could picture him seated in one of the boxes. They really weren't that big, but my imagination would run wild in that theater. There was a lot of plaster scrolling all over the place and many gothic columns on the sides up to the ceiling. The was scrolling on the ceiling also and a set of recessed lights that stayed on softly during the movie. The seats were plush and very comfortable. At the end of each row there was a wrought-iron piece and every other end seat had a light. It was covered to just give a little light to see where you walked. I tried to touch the bulb, but the makers of the seats thought ahead of inquisitive kids. The light couldn't be reached. I also remember a very large blue neon Bulova clock up high on the wall near the stage. I loved to sit in the balcony so I could put my feet on the ledge. I was too short to put my feet on the rail. Either way they didn't stay long because the usher would come and tell me to put my feet down. We could sit through a movie as many times as it played. The Pocahontas was where I saw my first Elvis movie. I remember screaming just because all the other girls were screaming. We didn't have TV back then, so the only news with pictures were the newsreels shown before each movie. I think they changed once a week. Only occasionally did we get a cartoon. After the movies on Sunday we walked home, all the way to Blakely Field. At night, we went to the Flat Iron Drug Store to call our parents to come and get us. When we were older, we went to the Sterling Drive-In for Pepperidge farm rolls and Pepsis. The Temple was not nearly as nice as the Pocahontas. It didn't show the feature films. The biggest thing I remember about that is the western serials every Saturday morning. So I think it was the kids that really started soap operas. These are just some of my memories and I don't know how accurate they are, but I had some wonderful times growing up in Welch. Just don't ask me what I did yesterday.
PEANUT BUTTER, SWEET PICKLES AND THE ALL-DAY TICKET:
Bob Greene, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Best ticket sellers were Janie Butler and Birdie Beavers. They always made me pay the 20 cents to get in but would let me leave and come back as many times as I wanted or needed to during the day. On the hottest July and August days in Welch, the Pocahontas was the coolest place to be, except for the pool at Linkous Park! Stealing a kiss from my first (and last) date at the Pocahontas ... before she moved with her family to Baltimore. It was one of Elvis Presley's new movies. That was "a one-night stand" before I knew what "a one-night stand" really was. She left town the next day. Never heard from her again. When I spent all my $1 weekly allowance on popcorn (no butter back then), Coke, Sugar Babies and Good 'n Plenty candies (usually within the first 30 minutes of the movie), I would go back to the concession stand and get those little white sectional folded cups of free carbonated water, pretending that since it had some fizz, it was like drinking a real soft drink. After seeing both Saturday double features the first time and being out of money for a long time, I would leave the Pocahontas, walk the half block down the street to our family's apartment at 45 McDowell St., make a couple peanut-butter-and-sweet-pickle sandwiches, stuff them in my back pockets, go back into the Pocahontas, stopping to get the free cup of carbonated water, and be all set to watch both double features again.
RUN, BAMBI! RUN LIKE THE WIND!
Don Juan Skuja, Maryland
I think my best and most vivid memory of the Pocahontas is seeing the movie "Bambi." And the cool thing is I got to take my own daughter, Wendy Spratt, to the same theater to see the same movie many, many years later. The very first time my Dad allowed me to go out in a car on a date, it was a double date and my (male) cousin was the driver; we went to the Starland and were supposed to be home by midnight. And we really and truly had a flat tire. I considered asking my cousin to drop me off somewhere a few thousand miles away. My Dad was real stern but could appreciate our predicament. Thank goodness there was family kin in the car with me!
SOUTH PACIFIC IN WELCH:
Since my dad worked for the Welch Milk Co., later Foremost Dairies, my memories are about the Saturday Morning Club at the Pocahontas Theater. The milk cartons had an "f" on the side in a circle. Those could be saved and used to redeem wonderful (at least they were to me at that age) "gifts" in the theater lobby. There was usually a double-feature cowboy movie, which thrilled me to no end. I'm sure our parents enjoyed the opportunity to drop off the kids at the theater with our "circle f's" firmly in hand and have all of Saturday morning to themselves. Of course, we'd never be able to do that today. It's a shame how some things in our society have changed. At some point in my youth, one of the Welch organizations ‚ perhaps the Junior Women's Club ‚ put on a fund-raising show called "Campus Capers". There were numerous skits, most of which were quite humorous. My dad was in one with a group of men dressed as sailors singing "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" from "South Pacific." My Grandmother (Malina) was in a skit with other women her age who dressed as flappers and did the Charleston.My mother, Caroline, was in it. The Pocahontas was a grand theater, and when I heard it was destroyed by fire, I was quite upset. It would have been a great centerpiece for a renaissance for downtown Welch.
LETS GO TO THE HOP:
June England McKinney, Princeton, W.Va.
I went to the record hops at the Pocahontas Theater on Saturday mornings during 1962-1963. I don't remember how much I paid to get in. I do remember riding the bus from Hensley, where I lived, to Welch cost 25 cents and 15 cents to ride back home. I bought M&M's for a nickel and popcorn was a dime. I don't think the Pocahontas closed until the mid-1970s and burned a couple of years later. The method used to sneak in the Starland: My fellow had a Volkswagen Beetle. I got in the very back behind the back seat and covered up with a big old blanket. If we were lucky, the line to get in wasn't too long.
SOCK HOP AND BANKO:
What I remember is the sock hop on Saturday mornings at the Pocahontas. Whoa! Fourteen years old, six lanes in every direction, no traffic. Hormone city. Planet! Sam, from the radio station, who came to spin 45's Man, oh man. Thanks for jogging my memory. The other thing I remember from the Pocahontas is NEVER EVER winning at Banko, yes? I mean, EVER. It was rigged, I'm sure now.
WAIT A MINUTE! WE'VE GOT A BANKO WINNER HERE:
Jim Crockett, Richmond, Va.
In the early sixties they played Banko ‚ a bingo knockoff ‚ between the movies. It was the thing for us kids to do on Saturday night. People used to save up the cards and try to play about a dozen or more at once. If you won, you screamed "BANKO!" Then, on the stage in front of God and everyone, you had to spin a wheel, which had money and prizes on it. I recall believing that the worst fate in the world would be to win at Banko and then only get a carton of RC Cola as a prize. After years of trying, I actually won once and got a whopping $2 for the effort. I was so psyched, I left the theater to call my parents so I could be the first to tell them of this wonderful thing their son had accomplished. I then bought a baseball with the money ‚ and you could get one heck of a baseball in 1962 for $2. That, and a couple of dates I won't go into‚ is my memory of movies in Welch.
TWO TALES OF THE STARLAND AND POISON IVY ...
AN EVENING OF PRIVILEGE:
Linda Smith Stacy, Beckley, W.Va.
I'm reminded of a time when our family went to Starland. I had a very serious case of poison ivy on my legs and couldn't wear my clothes. I was privileged to sit in front with Mother and Daddy with only a sheet to cover my lower body. Daddy bought me a Coke but didn't get the boys anything. It seems kind of mean in retrospect, but I loved the preferential treatment. I have lots of memories about all three theaters. Then and now I loved to escape reality and have a great love for good movies. Going to the Pocahontas was always a thrill. /p>
Richard Ramella, Centralia, Wash.
We were 13. My Maitland buddy and I told people we were going camping, then trekked over Belcher Mountain and down to the Starland Drive-In at Big Four, where we carefully studied the midnight movie, "New Orleans Striptease." The next morning I had a raging case of poison ivy. I was certain God had immediately punished me for watching the immodest movie.
TWO TALES OF AIRSTRIKES: WERE THESE TWO SITTING TOGETHER?
MISSILE LAUNCH SITE:
--Best seat in the house had to be sitting on the rail overlooking the opening. Many rounds of popcorn were thrown from this spot.
BOMBS AWAY: Jo-Claire "Ray" Datson, WHS 1978
--I remember going to the Pocahontas. We always sat in the balcony, first row above the entrance, and we would bombard people with popcorn and ice and then pretend we didn't do it. We thought we were so sly, ha-ha. I also remember the King For a Day celebrations. They would have a show in the Pocahontas. John Sidote would emcee.
FIRST, A SATISFIED CUSTOMER, THEN A WILLING WORKER:
Jerry C. "Fergie" Ferguson, Swansboro, N.C.
When I was 9 or 10 years old I could get 50 cents from my father, and on Saturdays I would go to town and pay 20 cents to get into the Pocahontas for a double-feature movie. When that was over I would go across the street to the Temple and pay another 20 cents to see another double feature. Still had 10 cents left. Sometimes I had to leave the Temple before all of the second movie was over because I had to get home for supper. And believe me, you didn't want to be late. I think I started to work at the Pocahontas in 1954, when I was 14. Had to get a special work permit. In first starting I would work only weekends. Made about 35 cents an hour. When I was in the 10th grade I began working about 40 hours a week. I learned to sell tickets, take up the tickets and work the concession stand, along with being an usher sometimes. After about a year of that, Mr. Buddy Rogers, manager, wanted me to learn how to run the projector and fill out the marquee. The guy who ran the projectors was Ben. (ED: Ben Copley. See Libby Copley Lai's entry in the beginning file of this article) That is all I ever heard anyone call him. Anyway, Don Copley worked at the theater and had quit. He was the one who relieved Ben for his day off. Learning to run the projectors was a frightening thing for me at that stage of my life. All that would go through my mind was having a break in the film and everyone in the theater yelling and whistling because the movie had stopped. I think that only happened to me on one occasion. I also had to learn how to advertise the movie outside on the marquee. I did the planning on a 3-by-5 card. Had to know movie names and who starred in them. Then had to know how many letters we had in stock to know if the design would work. Had to know how many spaces and lines. It was a crazy formula that I have since forgotten, but somehow we made it work. Sunday was always the biggest day (most moviegoers) that people attended the show. The young people sat in the middle down front, and the teenagers sat in the left section down front. If you were there on your first date, you would sit in the balcony so know one would see you and you could hold hands. Normally, all the young troublemakers sat in the back of the balcony. When I was an usher, did have to escort some of them when they got rowdy. Sometimes when the theater closed at night you would have to check for drunks sitting there out like a light. It was fun sometimes trying to make them understand and get them outside. Never really had any bad problems with them. I think I made something like 55 cents an hour. Wow! Some days were awfully long. From noon until midnight. But I was once young and it didn't bother me.
BIG SISTER WAS WATCHING ME:
Nancy Dawson, Kansas City, Mo.
The first time a boy ever put his arm around me was at the Pocahontas Theater down in the lower section, in the seats to the left of center. The movie was "Journey To The Center of The Earth," and the boy was Pat Grubb. Now, let me say here that Pat and I were always good friends, but I don't think either one of us ever thought about dating the other. I think what happened was that I just happened to be sitting right next to Pat when he finally got the nerve to lift that right arm and ever so-o-o-o slo-o-o-w-l-l-l-y place it around a girl's shoulder. Nevertheless, it was a special time for a young 13-year-old girl. I had just recently cut my long pigtails and wore my hair pulled back in a ponytail. Phyllis Boyd was sitting a few rows back with my sister, Barbara Dawson, watching us, and Phyllis asked out loud, "Do you think her ponytail is tickling his arm?" (Don't you just love big sisters and their friends!) My oldest memories are of the 3-D movies we had at the Temple Theater. Remember the cardboard-framed glasses with one red and one green lens that we had to wear to see the 3-D effect? We would go to one movie at one of the theaters and then cross the street and see the movie at the other one. Sometimes, we would sit through a movie two times before we would leave. At that time we could buy a ticket and get a box of popcorn and a Coke for the grand total of 50 cents. My fondest memories are of the Saturday morning record hops we had at the Pocahontas. They were put on by WELC Radio Station. I don't think I ever missed a single one. I would walk the two miles to town to go and never thought a thing about it. Those were the days!
WHY THEY CALLED IT THE POCAHONTAS:
Nilda Ramella, St. Albans, W.Va.
The first thing I remember was the huge (at least huge to a small child) picture of Pocahontas. I always felt close to her throughout my life, possibly due to the picture. It may have been a picture of her baptism. Memories tend to get sketchy as one advances in age. I remember the ladies' restroom was downstairs and possibly a print of the famous lady there? The theater always seemed so elegant, and I would imagine being at an opera there. Far cry from going to see some famous cowboy when I was in a primary grade. I won't go into detail about the necking. I always anticipated the Veteran's Day parade, and we ended up at the Pocahontas with all the county bands, speakers and people from all over the Free State of McDowell. My brother Larry and friends went to the Temple Theater westerns with their cap guns. My father took me to see "Miracle on 34th Street" when I was about 9 or 10. It is still my favorite, and I watch the video every Thanksgiving night. I usually stopped at the Franklin Dairy after the movie to get a 5-cent cone of ice cream shaped like a triangle. Sometimes I stopped at Rucci Pastry for a cream puff. Then we would walk back to Blakely Field. If we were lucky we might get a ride.
THIS JUST IN! POCAHONTAS PICTURE CONFIRMED:
Nancy Dawson, Kansas City, Mo.
Yes, the picture of Pocahontas was in the ladies room. It was a LARGE picture! Beautifully done. Picture and frame must have been three feet tall, as I remember. And, I always thought the lady's room was very pretty. It was a little dark, not much light, but nice carpet and lots of mirrors and nice chairs. I know they had pictures of the current stars on the back side of the walls as you came into the theater. (You could see them as you left the theater!) Not the best part of its history, but I remember the long stairway that went up to the "colored section." It was in the area before you actually entered the lobby of the theater, and the window the black kids had to stand at, on the back side of the candy counter, and the half-wall at the top of the balcony that separated the blacks from the whites. This was in the Pocahontas. I don't remember a "colored section" in the Temple. The record hops started, I think the 1959-60 school year. The dances were on the stage. They would raise the big curtains and we would dance around all the big electrical wires and cords. It was hosted by WELC Radio and the DJ was Russ Cook. Johnny Villani was at the station, and he would do some commentary from time to time about the record hop and talk back and forth with Russ, who was at the theater. They started every Saturday at 10 a.m. and went till noon. Everyone from all the area schools came. None of us ever wanted to miss a minute of any of them. Russ would take phoned-in requests as well as requests from those of us at the dance. It was a really big event! I was out here in Kansas City when the Pocahontas burned. I came out here in September 1961, and it might have been a couple of years after that they had the fire. I believe the theater was operating at the time, but the fire was at night, so no one was hurt.
GWTW X 9:
Diane Turner Clemins
I remember going to the Pocahontas Theater in 1969 (my junior year) to see "Gone With the Wind" nine times. My friend, Cathy Bright, and I took our homework and would work on it during the intermission. We absolutely loved that movie! Also, I remember going down the steps to the ladies bathroom and how it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. We used to spend lots of time reading what people had written on the walls with lipstick, and if the movie was just plain bad and you didn't want to go home, all the girls would go sit in the little pink chairs in the restroom and talk about boys. Three of us went into the Starland in the trunk of a car one night, not for lack of money but just to see if we could do it. We actually got in fine, but then saw Mr. Russell walking around and checking cars with a flashlight and got scared, so we got back in the trunk and left. We never did get to see the movie or anyone to brag to about sneaking in.
LOL = LAUGH OUT LOUD:
Julie (Judy Counts) Zahorchak, Roanoke, Va.
Gosh, what a flood of memories this request has jolted. Fourth grade ‚ let's see, I was 9 ‚ every Saturday afternoon was spent at the Pocahontas with Harold (Butch) Wolfe. LOL ‚ don't know why, was just the way it was. I remember a Saturday afternoon with ?? (may have been Carolyn Otey - can't remember that far back), watching "Psycho" and being scared out of our wits. Then there was the Saturday night sitting up in the balcony with Bill Wood‚ I was 13 then, LOL. The fondest memory of all is the Sunday afternoon watching Elvis in "Blue Hawaii" with Richard Hanson‚ it was our first date and we went with his parents and his brother, Michael. I was in the 11th grade. Actually, I think just about every date I ever had in high school was spent at the Pocahontas. The truly interesting story is one that involved Norma Vermillion, Stevie Lou Robinson, Rosemary Quattrochi, Peggy Starrett, and several others. I can't go into detail, but I'm sure they all remember one Saturday afternoon party that took us to the Pocahontas, and the guy with the bottomless box of popcorn.
WATCHING IT OVER AND OVER:
Judith R Beuchert
I certainly remember the "good ole days" at the Temple Theater on Saturdays watching the cowboy movies. Those where the days when you could stay all day and watch the movie over and over and just for 20 cents. I vividly remember going to the Pocahontas and sitting in the left bottom section of the theater with friends.
Richard Ramella, Centralia, Wash.
-- When I was about 10, I was put in charge of a 7-year-old boy who had never been to a movie. I took him to a free Pocahontas show sponsored by local merchants at Thanksgiving time. After we had waited in a crush of other kids beneath the marquee about 15 minutes, looking at the coming-attractions posters, the boy thanked me for taking him to the "picture show," solemnly said he had seen enough and was ready to go home. At first I laughed at his naivete. Then I felt guilt and sympathy. I told him the real show was inside, to be patient, that it would really be something great. And it was. You can never go wrong with a "Bomba the Jungle Boy" film.
-- Principal Ramsey at Superior-Maitland Elementary School in the 1940s and '50s sometimes rented films for the kids. Attendance cost a dime. Laurel and Hardy's "March of the Wooden Soldiers" was one of these screenings and remains my favorite film. Some children did not attend because of their families' religious beliefs. Others did not have the requisite 10 cents. This latter group would be quietly ushered into the back of the auditorium by Mr. Ramsey just before he started the projector. He was a kind person.
-- In 1959, when I worked for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, black people conducted a civil rights protest in which they cited the unfairness of segregated seating at (I believe) the State Theater. They carried signs that put forth their case but were silent and calm. There was a sufficient number of people to form a line that circled the block. I had never heard of such a thing. This was among the earliest of such demonstrations. The Daily Telegraph did not publish a very large story, and even this coverage was grudgingly given.
This is the end of the show. If you missed the original request for memories, or if you have more to share, feel free to get in touch. I'm Richard Ramella. My e-mail address is email@example.com
A special thanks to Barbara Dawson Cassell and Jerry Farris for sharing their photos and newspaper clippings with us.
WHS Alumni Web Site