Auburn, Kentucky

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Entertainment in Auburn:

the stuff memories are made of

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               by F. Marie Foley




The Marian Theatre
on the Square at
by F. Marie Foley

I was loading film on a microfilm machine and as the reel turned, the click, "clickity" sound transported me back in time to the old Marian Theatre in Auburn, when Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy rode across the big screen. I decided to let my mind go back to the Auburn of the 1950s and make itself at home.
On Saturdays there would be no lack of entertainment in Auburn. This was a time of hustle and bustle, with all the town people and the country folks congregating and mingling. Farmers quit work at noon on Saturday and came to town with their families for shopping, to visit friends and to attend the weekly drawing on the square. Along the crowded sidewalks, neighboring farmers stood in front of stores talking crops, weather and prospective market prices. My father and Mr. Jewell Hightower looked real comfortable while solving the problems of the world sitting on the Honey Crust bread box in front of Webb’s Grocery.

In other gatherings the women folk chatted about housework, gardens, church, births and deaths and the upbringing of their children. Some of the ladies would park their car beside the Service Station on the square and watch the “doings” of the town in comfort with a ringside seat.  Teenagers were talking about boyfriends and girlfriends while eating chocolate sundae’s at the Auburn Drug Store.

In Webb’s Grocery another kind of activity went on. Customers waiting their turn to be waited on stood around in two’s and three’s and found things to talk about. Being waited on was a process that could neither be hurried nor shortened.

Meat and cheese was sliced, weighed, wrapped in paper and tied twice around with string. Canned goods and other merchandize were taken from the shelves behind the counter. When everything was finally placed on the counter Martine or Claude Burr got the pad, put the carbon between the white and yellow sheets and then entered the name of the customer, the date, name and price of each item. If the family had brought in eggs, butter or other farm produce, these had to be counted, weighed or measured and their trade price summed and subtracted from that of the order. This all done, Martine would step upon the box she used in order to be able to reach the cash register and take your money.

If the order were a sizable one, as it usually was, Claude Burr would go to the back of the store and return with a crate or large box into which he would box the items. There was just one more step in the process; a small bag would be shook open and carried to the candy case for the small children of the customer to choose their favorites.

Just up the street at Forgy’s Dry Good’s Store there was a hive of activity. Yard goods had to be got from the high shelves, the bolt unrolled, the yardage measured and cut off, then folded and wrapped and tied. There were no plastic bags then. Young children trying on shoes were finding their shoe size had gotten larger since the last pair. Parents were finding the prices going up with the shoe size. Some folks were there shopping for gifts for others and some for themselves. There always seemed to be a sense of camaraderie in that store between the clerks and their customers.

I have mentioned only two stores here, not because the other stores in Auburn at that time were less important, but because I was most familiar with these two.

The entertainment on the streets of Auburn on Saturday was surely enhanced by the movie theatre. There was a matinee and many people would go to both the matinee and back again to the evening show. Parents often would visit inside the stores or in the warm weather on the street until the movie was over about 8:15 p.m. and collect their children.

A few months ago I began researching old newspapers and discovered that there were a number of theatres in Auburn’s past, long before the Marian.

I found that in 1893 according to the Auburn Advocate newspaper, the Davidson Opera House was the place to go for the best plays. On Friday night, May 17, 1893 the high-class drama entitled “Bound by an Oath” was performed there by the Auburn Dramatic Company. The Auburn Orchestra furnished the music. Price of admission was, reserved seats 35c, general admission 25c and children 15c.

The Davidson Opera House was in operation for some time and to the best of my knowledge was located upstairs over where the ReMax Realty Company is now located.

In 1918 The Victoria Theatre was located where Cox Variety Store is at the present time. On Friday, September 28, 1917 the Auburn Standard newspaper announced the showing of the silent film “Babette,” staring Alice Joyace and Mark McDermott. The ticket price was 5c and 15c.

It was not until 1926 that experiment in sound effects and music was attempted. In 1927 spoken dialogue was successfully introduced. A year later (1928) the first talking picture was shown. So, the movies at the Victoria were sub-titled; a printed statement or fragment of dialogue appearing on the screen between the scenes, or appearing as a translation at the bottom of the screen during the scenes.

In the 1930s I found only plays being performed at the Auburn High School auditorium and according to the newspapers some very good plays, well attended. There is no mention in newspapers of there being a movie theatre in Auburn at that time.

On January 10th 1940, The Auburn Times announces a new business in Auburn; a movie theatre opening in the Crewdson block in the building formally occupied by Gordon’s Grocery. A Mr. Sparks was the owner and the name of the theatre was to be “The Starlight.”

On July 19, 1940, The Auburn Times announces the sale of The Starlight Theatre to Mr. Erwin W. Rau of Litchfield, Ky. Mr. Rau renamed the theatre “The Marian.” Mr. Roy Shoffner was the local manager. Admission price was 10c, 15c during the day and 22c after 6 p.m. The first movie shown at the Marian Theatre was “Little Accident,” starring George Raft and Joan Bennett. Mr. Rau completely remodeled the interior of the theatre in September of 1940.

From 1940 until 1948 there were a number of different people who operated the Marian Theatre, mostly as managers.

In June of 1948, Mr. and Mrs. Murray Forgy bought the theatre property, subject to a rental agreement existing on the theatre to Mr. Andy Anderson, who was the owner of the theatre equipment at the time. Mr. Forgy later bought the equipment (1955) and operated the theatre until selling all of his property in Auburn and moving to Florida in 1962.

There were quite a few different people that ran the projector for Mr. Forgy during those years, including my brother-in-law. Betty Forgy, my good friend sold tickets and my cousin Glenn Sams operated the popcorn machine in the lobby. We were all young, and like all young people before us in Auburn and the world over, thought we were invincible and that things as they were would continue.

How often do we experience something in life for the last time? To youth, time passes slowly and we rarely know until we look back and see that a chapter in our life has ended and a new one began without warning, that’s moving very fast. If only someone would tap us on the shoulder and say, “Watch everything closely. Save all of this. It won’t happen again.

NOTE: See the above picture: The Marian Theatre was located between Arnett's and the Dollar Store on the Square.




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