(Recap from Chapter One and Two!!! I had the mumps in third grade; was destined to read a Nancy Drew book a day while I recovered; was convinced I WAS Nancy Drew; Grew up and got a job as a researcher and BECAME Nancy Drew; Job was to investigate what happened to old theatres and when found any that were still standing, made contact with owner of old theatre and sent my “Guy in the Field” out to the old theatre to purchase any old equipment they may have to sell; Found old theatre out West; Found owners wife, Audrey, through the lunch time crew at the small town Diner; made contact with Audrey who was baking cupcakes for the big dinner the town puts on for EVERYONE before the big football game that night!! Audrey and I discussed the history of her husband’s theatre and what sort of equipment was still in the theatre. She told me about Carl sneaking away to watch a film by himself and how he was probably ready to get rid of a lot of the old “junk” still in the building. I told her about what we did with the old equipment and how we cleaned it up and sold it to museums and schools and towns and collectors all over the world. We decided that My Guy in the Field should stop by in the next few days.)
I left my phone conversation with Audrey and immediately dialed My Guy in the Field! He was several hours away from Audrey and Carl’s small mountain town and the day was beginning to edge into night. He and I decided it would be best to wait until the next morning to make a schedule, and to also check weather conditions (definitely an issue when you have someone on the road) and to see if timing and travel would allow him to make a stop and tour the theatre.
I thought a lot about Audrey that evening. She had offered snapshots into her life while we spoke on the phone. Seems she had been a fairly powerful player in her State’s Politics. She had helped draft policy regarding the environment and many women issues. She had learned to work in a predominantly male field and hold her own. She felt she was very successful and achieved many items on her “To Do” list. But, at a pivotal age and with her last child going out on her own, Audrey suddenly found herself wanting and needing a change. So, she went back to school!!!
She attended classes at a local college in the State’s Capital while also attending to her duties at the Capitol. She worked hard at both of these jobs and finally received her Master’s Degree in Library Science. All of her children attended her graduation and they were so very impressed and proud of what Mom could accomplish at her age!!! Audrey laughed a lot during the telling of this adventure. She said that humor was needed to make such a HUGE change in one’s life!!!
After obtaining her degree, Audrey left her duties at the State level and they gave her a warm and loving Good Bye and Good Luck Party. She took a job as a District Librarian overseeing the operations of 20 libraries in a far corner of the state. But that job had her on the road so much that the tiny apartment she had taken in the center of the area reminded her of the hotel rooms she had to stay in the rest of the week. This State that Audrey lived and worked is the size of many a country! One night, there was a howling blizzard and huddled under a hotel blanket with no fireplace, hot chocolate or muffins to make it seem cozy and like home, Audrey decided that the past year as a District Manager was quite enough. She opened a map of the State, closed her eyes and plopped her first finger down on the paper. That’s where she would go!!!
The next morning, greeted with a blinding sun and glistening snow, Audrey called the State Librarian and told him she wanted off the road NOW and to find her a job as a local librarian in a small town in the area where she had pointed her finger the night before. Somewhere she could settle safely and be at HOME. Within two days, she was out of the hotel, out of the apartment and on her way to the small town nestled between two enormous mountain ranges in this far western state.
Carl, of course, had no idea what was just about to happen to him!
Carl and his brother were born in this town. They came from a long line of cattle farmers and they knew from a very young age that this was the life for them. Carl and his brother had never married and they were known around town as “The Bachelor Brothers”. They didn’t mind. They were generous with their money and with their time, teaching many a youngster the art of cattle wrangling and they participated every year in the local rodeo. The Brothers were greeted everywhere they went with respect and admiration and several local single ladies often plotted and planned to “catch” one of the Bachelor Boys for a husband. But Carl and his brother never flinched and hung tightly to their status and their style.
Then Audrey came to town.
Audrey’s first day on the job, she was like a Library Locomotive. She took notes to redo the children’s section, find comfortable couches in the genealogy area, order better headsets for the music fans and to start an Events Calendar where more of the Town’s Folk could come and enjoy all the amenities of a Library. She even made a note with a star next to it about a “movie night” and to see if someone could possibly donate a popcorn machine!
I probably don’t need to go much further in the tale of Audrey and Carl for you to figure out that someone told Audrey all about Carl and his “Bachelor Brother” and his closed up movie theatre and perhaps he would be willing to donate the popcorn maker for “Movie Night at the Library”. Or how, when Carl first laid eyes upon Audrey and she laughed that hearty laugh and moved around the Library like a spitfire, well Audrey and Carl became a couple at that very moment!
Carl hung up his “Bachelor” status right then and there and within a few months the new Librarian and Carl got married. The reception was held at the Library and the whole town came. Over time, they settled into the daily habits of small town living and everyone forgot that there was a time Before Audrey. Whenever Carl got a little “closed in” with this thing of marriage, he would wander down to his old closed up theatre, pop some popcorn and sit for a while watching an old film and feeling a bit for the “old days.”
So, on the day that My Guy in the Field was scheduled to meet Audrey at the Library and then take him down to the theatre, Carl was feeling a bit nostalgic and sad. He looked over the old projector and the speakers and the seats that were worn and creaky. He ran his hand over the candy counter and the ticket machine. And he smelled the years of popcorn oil and celluloid film burning. He remembered his mom and pop behind the counter greeting everyone in town and he could picture, just like it was yesterday, his brother nabbing the last packet of Good and Plenty’s for consumption at a later time. It was the official end of an era for Carl, but he was ready!
Carl proudly showed My Guy in the Field around the building. He showed him upstairs where the projector was housed and downstairs where old films and reels were stored. He showed him the backstage area where an old lighting board still sat from the Live Stage Show Era and he showed him the speakers attached to the auditorium walls that had reverberated many a monster movie! At the end of the tour, Carl asked (actually stated) that he may be interested in “Unloading” some of this old junk.
Resale Value for the Ole' Theatre Equipment
My Guy in the Field was not only an expert at looking over old cinema equipment and making a sensible offer for purchase, but he was also a man with a big heart and he felt for every “Mom and Pop” who had to close down their much loved business.
“ Well, Carl,” My Guy in the Field said. “I don’t know how much of this I’m really interested in at the present time. I would like to talk about the speakers and perhaps any amplifiers that you may have. But, the projector, well, everyone is going with digital and I already have too many projectors in storage. The seats…If you want to get rid of those, I would recommend that Audrey hold a fundraising auction for the Library and auction off the seats and maybe some posters and little bits of celluloid. People like to hold onto those things. But, I can make you an offer on your sound equipment at this point in time. The rest, I will keep it in mind and in our database for possible purchase in the future!”
Audrey looked at Carl and Carl looked at his feet. Secretly, Carl was happier than a bluebird on the first day of spring!!! Oh, he was ready to move on into other projects and see his old theatre turn into something else, something the whole town could enjoy again. But, for now, for today, Carl would sell My Guy in the Field the sound system. And perhaps, someday, we would come back and buy the projector and the screen and maybe even the seats. Carl thought about the whole thing for a minute and then his face filled with excitement!
“Audrey!” He shouted. “Go home and put on some real nice clothes! We’re gonna go to the city and buy a new system!!! We’ll set it right here in the middle of the auditorium and we’ll put in DVD’s and have everyone over and we’ll have “movie night” right here in the Theatre!!!! We’ve gotta get something that can project 20 feet away and new Speakers that will rattle your socks off!!! And I’ll clean up the popcorn machine and we’ll hafta order soda by the case and….” Carl was excited and happy and ready for the Next Era to begin!!!
Since the day I made that first call to Audrey, she and Carl have become a part of my life. As I have stated before, we are Facebook friends and we share pictures and events from afar. I regale my “Nancy Drew Theatre Stories” to Audrey and she retells them to Carl who laughs and says things like “Well that’s a Hoot!” We share a bond as old Theatre Owners that so few can claim. And for that, I am very grateful!
When you are a “Junker” like me, you tend to see only the “Junk”, not the story or the life behind it. For every speaker My Guy in the Field has picked up for me, there is the story of people sitting in a darkened audience experiencing a Tale being told. For every projector we have bought, there is an anecdote from some former teenager reciting his experience with that Platter and the film being taped together upside down! And for every auction we attend, garage sale we scour or flea market we shop, all of those pieces of “Junk” were at one time, the Treasure, the fabric, and the prized possession of someone’s Life!!!
Until Next Time