Tap dancing between the features in Nelson

Sylvia Crooks, author of Homefront and Battlefront: Nelson, BC in World War II, was inspired by Mitzi Hufty’s memories of the Civic Theatre in the last column — enough that she emailed some of the L.V. Rogers Class of ’56 and rounded up several good tales from her high school cohorts.

“My brother and I used to tap dance with Madam Attree’s Dance Studio productions between the first and second show at the Civic Theatre,” Sylvia writes from Vancouver. “I remember watching the end of the movie from the much elongated screen from backstage. This was in the ‘40s, during the war. I also remember when the price of a ticket to the Saturday matinee went up from 10 cents to 12 cents. We threatened to boycott. But, alas, that would have meant missing the next installment of the serial!”

Anyone who’s been to a movie theatre lately knows that the price has gone up more than a hundredfold. This, with nary a young tapdancer in sight. Luckily, a theatre run by a non-profit society means tickets can be a little easier on the pocketbook, especially if you’re a member. You’ll see some creative pricing on our February 23 movie night (what movie? shhh — it’s a secret).

Times were tough economically when the Civic was built in the 1930s. Nelson has typically been forward-thinking in economic downturns — think downtown revitalization on the heels of the closures of David Thompson University Centre and Kootenay Forest Products. We know the way forward is a proactive one.

And through good times and tough times, folks have found escape in movies and the camaraderie in the shared experience, perhaps reliving the action over a five-cent cone from Wait’s News. Then, as now, it was about friends and fun and forgetting, temporarily, the cares of the day. Worth it? You bet.

Lately, there’s been a lot of tapping going on at the theatre, although not of the shoe variety. On clean-up day, 40 people turned up to tap the dust out of nooks and crannies. Hammers have been tapping the ticket booth into shape and putting baseboards in place. The auditorium floor has been sanded for painting — which is the next thing, with paint crews starting soon. could put you in the action.

All this to get things in place for the open house on Sunday, January 27 from 3 to 6 p.m., where folks can see what’s been done, and where we have to go. There are as many ways to help get there as there are great memories, and we’ll tell you about them while you sit back with your popcorn in one of the new, comfortable chairs that just happen to be available to sponsor. Consider it edge-of-your-seat entertainment!

The open house is like another installment of a serial, like the ones Sylvia remembers: greatly anticipated and worth every penny. With each new installment in the transformation of the Nelson Civic Theatre into its future three-screen splendour, the story unfolds — and we all get to be a part of this movie.


Anne DeGrace is the president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society. Large Popcorn, Extra Butter runs every other Wednesday in the Star. If you have a memory to share please email Find out more at


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