When I was in third grade, I came downstairs for breakfast one morning and boldly told my mother that I was NOT going to school! I had the Mumps!!! I had never heard of mumps before, but I knew I had them; and on both sides!!! This happened the week before Christmas break. No gift exchange; no Christmas Carols; no school parties. To soften the pain, my mother gave me a gift: book number one of the Nancy Drew series – “The Secret of the Old Clock”. For the next three weeks, I read one Nancy Drew book a day! I was Hooked! I – WAS – NANCY – DREW!!!!! Every detail of her Super Sleuth talents I absorbed. Her clever tricks at getting to the solution of the problem were like candy to me. All the answers to life were on those pages!!! I own 40 Nancy Drew books today and they are displayed prominently on my bookshelves! Not only do they take me back to that Christmas when I was 9, but they also remind me that there is ALWAYS a solution!!!!
Five years ago, I lucked into a project that allowed me to become Nancy Drew again!! I became a professional researcher!!! My mission was to find old/vintage/antique cinema equipment! I owned a 1927 vaudeville/movie house with original equipment for both stage and cinema, so I could speak the language of Old Theatre and I could relate to the owners of these old palaces!
I was assigned a state to research and a database to fill in the blanks with answers of the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of each theatre. Some of the data had addresses associated with the theatre, but most simply had a theatre name and the town they were located in. I really had to put on my Nancy Drew jacket to get started!!
I began with a map of the state. A route would be the easiest way to plan a trip if I found lots of theatres with lots of equipment that I could buy! I laid out the trip from County to County starting at the very bottom of the State, in other words, the southern most end of the territory. Then, I broke it down by town, city, village, again, along THE Route. If the town, city, or village had a theatre in our database, I would google the name of that theatre and see if there was any information related to my subject. If there was information, I would type it into the database for further review, then I would move on to the next theatre. If there were several theatres in the same town, I would investigate their histories by way of Cinematreasures.com or Cinematours.com. Again, I filled in the blanks in my database with every vital detail.
Many times, I would work for hours with just the address; no other information could be found on the net; no rearranging of the spelling of the theatre name or the use of “Theatre” or “Theater” or even “Cinema”. Then my Real Nancy Drew work would begin!!
I would call the community library and ask for the reference desk or the genealogy department. If they couldn’t help me, I would call the town tax office and then I would move on to the city hall and then the Historical Society or a museum if the town had one. There are many, many theatre names in the database that remain simply with the town they existed in. Sometimes, history was not very well recorded in some places or the theatre only existed for a couple of years and the building got converted to something else or perhaps the theatre was so small that it just became an insignificant dot on the time line.
One of the more intriguing adventures I had trying to locate the whereabouts of the theatre building was in a very small town nestled in a valley between two enormous mountain ranges in a far western state. “My guy in the Field” as I fondly liked to call him, happened to be traveling through this area on his way back east. I had done no research on this state at this point so I was working fast and blind as I tried to quickly locate places for him to stop.
I found the town in our database and one theatre was listed: no address, no phone, and no contact name. I googled the name of the theatre and discovered that it was listed as “closed”. Most times, this means that the theatre business is closed but the building is still standing, otherwise if would have been classified as “demolished”. If the building is still standing, there is always a possibility that it is still full of old equipment from the movie theatre days and someone may be quite anxious to sell everything!
I called City Hall of this small western town and the answering machine got the call. I called the Library and it was the same thing; a machine answered my call. I sat and pondered what my next call should be. It was lunchtime out west. Was EVERYONE at lunch? How small exactly was this town?? I google-mapped it. It was very small, perhaps 10 blocks of “town” area. Next; I googled “business in (blank) town”. A diner came up at the top of the page! And it came with a phone number!! I called the diner!
“Hi!!! Maybe you can help me! Do you know who owns the old movie theatre in town?”
“Sure! Audrey’s husband owns it!! Isn’t that right, Frank? Audrey’s husband owns the old theatre? Yeah he does! Frank just said!!”
“How do I get hold of Audrey or her husband?” I inquired.
“Oh well, Carl’s probably out on the range and Audrey’s home baking!!”
I laughed! “Do you think Audrey would mind if I called her at home? I’m trying to find out some information about the old theatre.”
“Why shore!!! Audrey would Love to talk with ya!!!!” And the person at the diner gave me Audrey’s home phone number!!!!
I love small towns!!! I grew up in one and even though everyone always grouses about knowing everyone else’s business, it’s knowing all that “business” that puts a caring heart on the community.
So I called Audrey’s number and she picked up right away.
“Hi! Hi! Hi!” she hollered into the phone. “Hold on just a sec!”
There was a long pause. “OK there!!! Now I can give ya all my attention! How can I help ya?”
So I told Audrey that I was a researcher and I was trying to find out about the old theatre in town and someone at the diner told me that her husband owned the building. To make the conversation just a bit friendlier, I asked her if she was a baker.
“Oh! My No!” she chuckled heartily. “No! I’m just in charge of the cupcakes and cookies!”
“Ah!” I exclaimed. “So you’re having a bake sale?”
“Oh No! We have to feed the town and our guests!!!!” She stated this like I should know what she was talking about!!! She must have realized my confusion, because she went on to explain.
“See, tonight we have a foot ball game and the opponents have to drive here from very, very far away. So, years ago, we all decided that the hometown team would feed the visiting team before a game!! Well, it just grew and grew until not only were we feeding the visiting kids, but we were feeding our own kids and then the Mayor and City Council got involved and then the Ladies Auxiliary and well…before ya knew it, Everyone in town cooked and then came and ate with the visiting team!!!! Then we all clean up and go out and play the game and then we Cream Em!!!!” And there was that hearty laugh!!!
I really liked Audrie and I had only known her 5 minutes and on the phone at that!!!! See what I mean about small towns?
Well, unfortunately, Space allocations allow me so many words per blog, so I’m going to end this tale right here!!! The next blog will be about Audrie and Carl and their very interesting life and theatre!
Until next time!
Keep on Junkin’!!