Gaiety: “The state of being lighthearted or cheerful.”
The oldest movie theatre in my hometown is now nothing more than a big gaping hole enclosed by an orange safety fence.
The Gaiety Theatre had wine velour seats with a matching luscious curtain in the same hue that would swoosh aside majestically just before the movie was to begin.There were no cup holders or surround sound and the films were shown using reels that once in a while would skip and jump.
Movies that represented some of the most pivotal points in my life were viewed from the burgundy velour seats of the Gaiety. The very first movie I ever EVER went to was Disney’s re-release “Song of the South” . The second, Mary Poppins. We rarely went to the movies growing up so when we did it was an “event” complete with a small popcorn and a small orange pop.
The three of us little girls book ended by mom and dad in a row somewhere near the middle-back of the theatre.
Summer holidays just before the sixth grade my cousins came for a visit. Being a few years older than us they wanted to see the big box office hit “Grease.” The movie was PG…so my aunt had to “accompany” our little moving going troop so we could gain admission. She was an awesome aunt, and stoically sat three rows behind us, clutching her purse on her lap all the while.
Afterward, I promptly went out and bought the record and the sisters and cousins and I choreograph a dance routine to “Born to Hand Jive”.
A year later I watched “Empire Strikes Back” with my friend Kim. and was traumatized when Han Solo was sealed in carbonite by Jabba the Hutt. I liked it so much I had to see it twice… and developed a crush on Harrison Ford.
The following year…my first horror movie “Amityville Horror” where I spent the entire time with my fingers in my ears and my eyes tightly sealed. I did see enough to contribute to the squeals and shrieks with eight girls at a birthday slumber party afterward.
By the time I was in high school two new theatres opened up in the mall. So my visits to the Gaiety dwindled. One of the last movies I remember seeing is “ET” . I remember excitedly chattering with my sisters predicting what the movie would be about and what the alien would look like. The line up was almost a block long so the chatter was extensive.
Eventually the theater was used for other events instead of showing films. Church services, meetings, fundraisers. It was so sad to see the empty movie poster frames out front. The light bulbs on the marquee permanently out.
But for years it was still there…
it still stood as a reminder of my childhood. Of growing up and making special pilgrimages into town to escape in adventure if only for two hours.
And now there stands a big gaping hole.
And I got to thinking, that it is too bad most places from childhood end up like this…demolished,
reduced to rubble…
or, they end up like my favourite soft ice-cream drive thru … as a discount liquor store.
What we need to do is to make sure that when we tell stories from our childhood we take time with the details.
To paint as vivid a picture we can
so that the gaping holes no longer exist a
nd that the memories live on.