Remembering the Magic theater

Mildred Higgins
Mildred Higgins

News of a Barbourville landmark, the old Magic Theater, getting new life with community volunteers warmed my heart when I read the email from a friend.Going way back to childhood, the best memories are going to the Saturday double-feature matinee with my younger brothers. Our mom managed to treat us with 15 cents apiece, and head us down the lane hand in hand to walk quite a distance to the theater downtown.

The theater was filled with rowdy children in anticipation of the feature; however, as soon as the lights dimmed, the audience quieted down and settled into their seats. The curtains opened, the screen lights up with the previews of upcoming features, world news of the day, then the feature we came to see.

My brother’s favorite action stars were Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. The boys’ love of cowboys led them to beg for all the cowboys’ trappings.  No cowboy would be real without hat, boots, belt, vest, holster and guns.

Mom lost many brooms to my brothers, pretending to ride them as galloping steeds, always named Trigger or Champion, chasing imaginary villains, bringing them to justice, just as they saw in the movies.I was star struck by Shirley Temple and later Doris Day and Gordon MacRae musicals.

However, my favorite was Walt Disney cartoons. I just could not get enough of the imaginary world they lived in. I’m very nostalgic these many years later to think of the toys and movies of yesteryear. 

Today, we are light years away with children growing up with Star Wars and other favorites that replaced the heroes of the 1940’s. However, I will always remember with joy getting to go to the Saturday double feature matinee with my younger brothers.

The Magic Theater was one of life’s mysteries to me in those days. The magic eye was a fascination to me, how beautiful the glass doors magically swung open at just the right time, allowing each person to enter the beautiful theater. 

I think a few readers that were teens or young adults will remember the midnight movies. A rare treat for me was getting to go to a midnight show with my aunt Louise and her date. I always wondered how Aunt Louise’s dates felt about me tagging along. What the young man did not know was my going along was the only way Louise had permission to go. I usually fell asleep, missing most of the movie so my being a third wheel was not a problem for the dating couple. I remember those late evening movies with Aunt Louise very special.

The Magic Theater holds memories for many generations. Hearing it will be preserved as a landmark to those of us that are alive to rekindle those memories is wonderful.

My thought for today: Curiosity makes each moment remarkable like that childish wonder the Old Magic Theater made possible to me as a child…It opened up the world outside the lane I grew up on. It made it possible to dream. If only we could recapture that childish wonder for the children of today.