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Remembering the old Auditorium Theatre

Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2010, at 10:06 AM

By Eleanor "Ellie" (Ellingson) Butterfield
Columnist

The end of an era.

I just read in the Democrat-News that the Marshall Cinema is closing.

With that announcement part of the history of Marshall is dead.

For those of us who grew up here, we have so many memories of growing up, and going to the movies was a big part of our lives.

I remember as a child walking uptown to the Auditorium Theatre with my mother, my older brother, Billy Max, and baby brother, Roger. It was our night out. We always stopped for ice cream on the way home.

As we grew older Billy Max and I were allowed to go to the movies by ourselves. I remember well one evening we went to see "The Wolfman." Back in those days it was a scary movie; compared to today's movies it was a joke.

On the way home, Billy Max ran ahead of me. I was running down the middle of Jefferson Street to home, scared silly. I got almost home when Billy Max jumped out from behind a tree with hands in the air and trying to act like the wolfman. He did look like the wolfman to me, and I ran home, screaming all he way.

Now, being my mother's darling girl, you can imagine that Billy Max got in trouble for scaring me like that.

Or the first time an epic movie, "Gone with the Wind," was shown. I was just a girl, but I'll never forget being transported to the Civil War with Scarlet O'Hara. From then on my motto was,"Fiddle De Dee, I'll worry about that tomorrow." That got me through a lot of situations the rest of my life.

Fast forward into the late '40s and now dating. Going to a movie was the big date. Just think! For $1 your boyfriend could take you on a date, buy you popcorn, hold your hand and, if he was very brave, put his arm around you. Let me tell you many times I loved looking at my boyfriend's beautiful blue eyes in the dim lights of the Auditorium Theatre.

Or going to the "girls room," giggling with my girlfriends -- or tap dancing on the stage for special shows. My friend and I had a dance routine, "Kokoma, Indiana." We wore top hats, shorts, white shirts, and of course a cane was part of our routine. To this day I can still tap that dance, and "wish I were back again in that peaceful place they call Kokomo, Indiana."

Fast forward again. OK, out of high school and dating college boys. Legendary Coach Volney Ashford arranged for his Viking football players to have free passes to the theater every week the day before a game.

So now I was sitting in the darkened theater with the captain of the football team, who was later to become my husband.

In the years to come we took our sons, Steve and Rick, to the theater. It was such a part of our lives and it's hard to believe that Marshall will no longer have that golden time of going to the movies.

I remember my mother and I taking my grandmother to see "Dr. Kildare." Now -- imagine this -- my beloved grandmother came here in a covered wagon, so going to the movie theater was almost beyond her imagination. I remember sitting next to her, looking at her dear face, and realizing she was actually "there" with Dr. Kildare, performing his latest miracle.

So many memories -- and so much regret that the youngsters growing up here in Marshall now will not have memories like that to treasure.

Movies gave us imagination. Whenever we saw Esther Williams swimming, the next day we were all Esther Williams. The hard part for me was going underwater, always with my toes pointed, and coming up smiling with my eyes open.

Or seeing Eleanor Powell tap dance, and then tap-dancing all the way home. Or hearing Deanna Durbin sing, and then trying to sing just like her. Or wanting a June Allyson haircut and having Van Johnson living next door. Or the inspirational movie that inspired us to do good for others.

The movies were a big part in our growing-up years, and I like to think they made us more aware of what we could do. We could sing, dance, swim, do good for others, just like the movie stars did ... couldn't we? Yes, many of us did.

We'll miss the movies.

Thanks for the memories.


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What a beautiful story Ellie!

-- Posted by luvthoseowls on Thu, Aug 5, 2010, at 4:04 PM


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Various members of the community, current or past residents, occasionally submit essays recalling the people, places and events of the past. We'll post them here. Also, reminisces sometimes emerge in other web forums. This will be a place those conversations can continue.
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