When I first put out the call for Civic Theatre memories, Tom Shorthouse sent pages of memories of watching movies with his sister, now Sylvia Crooks. The two, then students of Madame Attree’s School of Dance, even performed between features. But while Tom liked the limelight, he loved the big screen.
“I remember my father once saying of me, ‘Tommy has never seen a movie he didn’t like,’” says Tom. “This was largely true. In fact, the mania was so intense that our mother once allowed my sister Sylvia (7) and me (10), with our twelve cents admission in hand, to hitchhike from Willow Point into town one Saturday to catch the next chapter of the serial. It was certainly a different era.”
It certainly was! Of course, Tom and Sylvia just had to know what would happen in the next episode — whatever it took to get there. The Civic was where everything happened.
What hasn’t changed is that love for the big screen.
In a survey of Kootenay movie theatres I conducted recently for a regional magazine, all had stories of hard times and risks taken, of tribulations and triumphs. One thing came through in every case, from Creston’s Tivoli to Trail’s Royal: the theatre is a community cornerstone today, just as it has been for generations.
Tom’s mother played piano for silent films; as her children grew up they never missed a matinee.
“We laughed at Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope and the Three Stooges,” says Tom, whose list of beloved films could just about fill this newspaper.
Now, there is a whole new generation of Nelson folk growing up with the Big Screen. Recently, theatre manager Jason Asbell caught a great photo of a very excited young girl enjoying her first movie — Smurfs 2 — with her mother. And in a letter to the Star editor this spring another mom, Jocelyn Carver, wrote:
“For the first time in her life, my 13-year-old daughter went to a movie with a couple of her teenage friends, on their own, in their own town, amongst neighbours and acquaintances. She had an incredible, memorable time. Maybe in larger cities, teenagers aren’t the target demographic for movie theatres… but in Nelson, the Civic Theatre Society is offering almost the only option for young adults to stretch their wings and be entertained in a neighbourhood environment.”
So while we love the stories of the past, it’s really all about the future. Those interested in the future of the Civic will want to be among the 200-plus members at the annual general meeting on Sunday, September 22. If you joined before September 2, you’re invited! We’ll start with a social (Appies! Tours! Come early!) at noon and then begin the (short, efficient) meeting promptly at 1 p.m. Afterwards, we’ll have a free movie, with popcorn and a drink.
Hitchhike if you must, or (better) carpool with your friends, catch a bus, bike or walk or scooter. Think of it as the next episode in the multi-generational serial that is your Nelson Civic Theatre.
Anne DeGrace is the president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society. Large Popcorn, Extra Butter runs every two weeks. This column needs your memories! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more at civictheatre.ca