MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: THE PRINCESS THEATER

Monday, July 09, 2007

THE PRINCESS THEATER

Before I leave my innocence behind and move off to the Air Force, I thought I had better do an installment on the Princess Theater in Harriman. I had almost forgotten about it, although I pass its empty shell most days, but I found a video clip on YouTube last night that brought it all back (clip at the end of the post). I sure hope there is a renaissance of the theater for nostalgia sake, if not because it might help bring people back down town.

“Walley” Worlds have killed the small town, not to mention the sprawling urban shopping areas that get closer and closer with each passing year. It seems that one day there will be no divisions between the cities and the small towns, just more urban area to incorporate. Maybe by the year 3000 the whole country will just be called the “Great City of the United States!” Such a sad day and I am glad I will not be around to see it.

The Princess Theater was the highlight of entertainment during the days of my youth. Oh, there were other theaters, skating rinks, a bowling alley, a drive-in theater, and a number of drive-in restaurants, but none of those holds fonder memories than the 50s and 60s movies I saw at the Princess.

There are fond memories of seeing the early Disney movies like “Bambi,” released in 1957, “Old Yeller” in 1958, “Sleeping Beauty” in 1959, and the other classics.

There was also the first 3-D movie I ever saw “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” in 1954. It was not so much scary to me as erotic – Julie Adams in that white bathing suit was just hot and I wished I was the monster!

While logic would dictate that I saw some of these at the Mi De Ga Theater in Waverly, Tennessee, the blender of time will always make me think I saw them all at the Princess.

Oh, and the horror classics of the time still shine the most in my memory. Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, and Christopher Lee all gave me many a restless night, but I could not stop watching. Again, these movies, while they kept me awake at night, were also very erotic to me in some strange way. There was just something about carrying off a helpless beauty or sneaking into her bedroom – oh my! You know how the adolescent mind works – remember?

I remember the popcorn smell of the theater and the sticky/tacky touch of the floor between the seats and the little squishy sounds it made when you walked over it.

I remember the low hum of teenage voices, just under the movie sounds, whispering in the ears of their dates or remarks made out loud meant to make an impression on some pretty girl.

I remember leaning out from an end seat and looking down the carpeted aisle illuminated by the little lights on the sides of the seats. I do not know why I liked to look down the aisles, but maybe it was the colorful carpet in the unique lighting. For some strange reason it was a safe place to me, and I loved being there among friends and acquaintances – sharing the experience of being in a movie theater.

Occasionally, there was a live show, or at least a prelude show to build up the intrigue in the up coming horror show. “If you frighten easily, or if you have heart problems, or if you are here alone, I advise you to leave now!” This, of course, only made you want to see the movie that much more. “The screen will flash red just before a scary scene to warn you. That will give you time to hide your eyes!”

“Okay, okay,” everyone would shout, “get on with it!”

The popcorn and the Coke tasted so good as you crammed your mouth full of the salty, buttery food and soaked it down with the icy, sweet, and syrupy liquid. And Goobers and Sugar Babies! Oh, my gosh, what I would give for a pack of Goobers right now!

Well, some just nibbled the corn, one kernel at a time, but I was like a hamster, bulging out my cheeks and not swallowing until it was thoroughly chewed! This must have been an added attraction for my dates!

I think back on those days and nights and the calculated strategy of trying to sneak an arm up and around a girl’s neck, and let it rest there on a fake rabbit collar, gently rubbing the Ban Lon sweater sleeve with your hand, and inhaling the White Shoulders perfume. Come to think of it, this could have been the beginnings of my shoulder problems. Girls do not realize that this position is really uncomfortable and within the first two to three minutes your arm usually went to sleep, but you would not move it for the world. To a young boy it was worth the pain just to get into position to slide into first base!

This position was also a point of some status – to be seen out with one whom you thought to be the prettiest girl in school, with your arm around her at the movie.

Finally, I remember the balcony – a place I was only allowed after the 60’s and after I married the manager’s daughter. Before then it was just for the “Colored” folks, who occasionally dropped off empty cups and popcorn boxes onto us snobby “white” folks below. I am so glad that time ended; otherwise I would have never got to enjoy a movie from the balcony, which was closed to everyone except family.

So, here is a piece that was posted on YouTube in 2006 about the efforts to bring the Princess back to her glory. Here is hoping that happens! My grandchildren also deserve fond memories of her as well.

27 comments:

Rhea said...

We had an old moviehouse in my hometown in New Jersey. It was across the street from my father's candy/news store. Convenient! It closed a gazillion years ago.

Suldog said...

God, Mushy. You make me ache for my old movie house, The Oriental. It's long gone, of course. I've written about it before over at my place...

http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/2006/02/all-gone.html

There's a chance to bring yours back. Man, I envy you that.

Hammer said...

I remember them from when I was a kid, the only time I get to see an old cinema is when I visit little towns on road trips.

Drive ins were good too.

BRUNO said...

I always hoped places like these would go on forever for OUR enjoyment, as well! But I'm afraid you do, indeed, speak the truth that none of us "more-seasoned-survivors" want to acknowledge, and that is, when all is said and done, the almighty dollar---or the lack thereof---shall rule the disappearance of these icons.....

(Man!!! I should take TWO Geritol more often! Gives me energy to waste....!)

alphonsedamoose said...

As I recall you st in the lower section to watch the movie and the balcony was for necking

jan said...

Movie popcorn by itself was enough of a reason to go to the movies. Nothing in the world like movie popcorn. Until the food Nazis ruined it for everyone.

Fathairybastard said...

The multiplexes are killin' all these places. We had a few in Ft. Worth when I was a kid. Saw Jaws and Star Wars in one, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Alien in another. They were so cool, but you could only show one film at a time in them, and they just couldn't make enough money to keep up with the market. It's a shame. You know any of these folks in the video? Those places were so beautiful, so elegant. I miss them too. Great post buddy.

Zep said...

Regarding the small towns: It's the same here in Europe, maybe 10 years delayed. It's a shame!
The malls and discounters just rip out the heart of communities.
And - yes - I remember times when a "community" did describe real buildings and people living there together.
Now that you need a car just to buy a piece of butter, "community" is reserved for those accumulations of egomaniacs like MySpace or Facebook.

Mushy said...

Thanks for the comments guys, and yes, FHB, I know the Baker guy, and of course Muse, but Cecil Johnson was/is my uncle from the marriage that spawned Corey!

Actually, Corey's granddad was the manager when we first married, but for some reason they did not interview Dub. The should have, 'cause for a while he managed both the Princess and the Midtown Drive-in Theater!

Ron Southern said...

Julie Adams, BOFFO! Woof, woof! I'm surprised they let that hot wench swim in that tight white bathing suit, but better for you and me!

Ron Southern said...

Theatre? What theatre? The ones with the uncomfortable seats and sticky floors?

Mark Steel said...

Holy shit, Mushy ... you got it!

That was friggin' perfect!

Dead-on-center.

Wow ...

That's why I love this blog, man.

Nostalgia ...

I'm just afraid that we remember so many of the same things ...

david mcmahon said...

Old Yeller? Man, you just took me back to my childhood with my mother reading me the book.

Wasn't he called Old Yeller because he was a nondescript kinda browny-yellow!

Bonita said...

My mother has a very poignant memory of the local theatre in Great Falls, Montana - her dad gave her his last ten cents to go to the 'show' when he was left jobless during the depression. That was the Liberty, and I used to go there too.

Fathairybastard said...

My mom talks about going to town and getting a burger, fries and a coke for a quarter, and seeing a different movie about 3 times a week, for about a nickel a shot. Those days are gone man, never to return. I only go to the movies to see the specticle of the big screen. Otherwise I just rent or buy the DVD. It's much more comfy to watch it at home in the easy chair, and the make out potential here seems to be much greater. Your memories are golden, and I love the hell out of them, but time goes on. Nothing to be done about it. I hope they get that theatre going again, but it'll never make money. One of my old places was bulldozed years ago, and the other is a combination restaurant and ddinner theatre/movie house. They keep it going this way, and that may be the way your polace can keep itself going. I hope it does.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

"The blender of time.." Aw Mushy, spade loads of talent, my friend.

(You remember segregation? Blimey!) I truly loved those old horror movies, my dad used to let me stay up late to watch them with him. They scared the be-jesus out of me, but I still couldn't get enough of them. Vincent Price will always be my hero.

Mushy said...

All you guys are enough to give a guy the "big head!" Thanks.

Oh yes, I remember the sad time in America when there were toilets and balconies for "colored." I remember once my uncle came through our area with a crew of his Air Force telephone guys and he and the white guys stayed at our house and dad got the local hotel bellhop to find the other two places to stay in the section of town he lived.

It's not like that anymore and I'm so thankful.

I also remember dating on Friday or Saturday night on $5.00. Enough for gas, 2 burgers, 2 cokes, and a drive-in ticket! Price is all relative...my dad made less than $10K then and when I worked I paid more than that in taxes!

Alex said...

I'm going on a date to the drive-in next monday. I haven't been to one of them since I was a kiddo - they've mostly closed down in Minnesota.

It's not quite old-fashioned, though, because she's taking me.

Becky said...

I still eat my popcorn like a hamster. Is that bad? :) I dont' think I've ever really gone to a m movie in one of those nice, older theatres before. Actually, there were some in Waikiki that were built in the 30s, but they had to close down about four years ago because there were too many new ones in the suburbs so no one came downtown anymore.

Fathairybastard said...

Shrinkie and Mushy - I'll never forget, about 67 or 68, my mom and I taking my sis to meet friends at a theatre where they were gonna see "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave" starring Christopher Lee. I almost pissed myself just from seeing the poster. That movie scared the hell out of me when I finally saw it in the 70s, but those Hammer films were always a mixed blessing. Scarted the hell out of me while all the amazingly buxom women excited the hell out of me. Still love those old horror flicks to this day. Have several on DVD. Has to be a golden era in horror.

Kate said...

I love your blog Mushy!!

Mushy said...

Welcome Kate...please come back soon.

Jose said...

El cine Jalisco, in Mexico City. That particular theather, I call it theather because even the smalles movie house back in the day had a double deck and balconies. Well this particular movie house was about three blocks away from where I used to live and the cool thing about it is that it showcased American movies with subtitles, among my favorites back in those days were, Tarzan, Sibad, Aladin (not the Disney one)and even movies such as King Kong and Godzilla. Yeap and then when the movies were boring we would run up and donw the theather or we would throw popcorn to the lights from the projector, they used to shine so nice. Movie theathers now a days are just not the same.

Mushy said...

Good memory Jose...yeah, we threw the popcorn too!

DirtCrashr said...

I used to walk down to the Bijou with my buddy Steve to see Saturday afternoon movies like Kelly's Heroes for a buck-fifty - then they cut it in half and made it a two-fer. Nowdays it's all "AirportMegaCineplex" and around here there are no divisions between the cities and the small towns - no small towns even. I stopped going to the movies years ago, they killed it.

Miss Trashahassee said...

Wow, Mushy! Great post!

The underwater scenes for Creature of the Black Lagoon were filmed at the bestest swimming hole in the whole world, Wakulla Springs, just south of Tallahassee.

When I was little I thought my auntie dated monsters before she got married because I heard my parents say she dated the Creature from the Black Lagoon, not realizing that they meant the guy inside the creature's costume, who was from Tallahassee. Doh!

Strange things we remember from our youth, huh?

BFF,
Miss T

phlegmfatale said...

Very cool - I love these grand old movie palaces!