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Hometown stories: Heidi McElfish

Memories of the smalltown theater

December 15, 2010 - I always loved going to the movies.

It was definitely the highlight of our weekends and summers growing up. I remember the first movie I ever saw that scared me so much I squeezed my boyfriend's hand so hard he nearly cried. I remember that first kiss in the darkness of the theater during that last scene of "Love Story."

Just the feeling of going into a small town theater brings back the wonderful smell of just popped, 'buttery popcorn' and then the sound of the old super 8 projector running efficiently above, makes all the melancholy feelings come back. Yes, and then sometimes the film would split and the whole auditorium of people would gasp. You always felt close to the screen – very personal, not like the mega blockbuster theaters that we have today.

If you felt lonely or depressed you could go on a Saturday afternoon and actually turn into Sandra Dee of "Grease." You were Her. Or you could picture yourself in the arms of Robert Redford that afternoon and all your troubles and cares would be gone.

In the summers, there was something even better to look forward to: Drive-in theaters. That was the coolest place to be. Everyone got to see you with all your friends…and if your were asked to go with the most popular kids around, then you felt like your were super cool. It really saddens me to see all the old small town theaters shut down and locked up looking so sad, falling apart at the seams, just from neglect. The building all boarded up, wasting away, crab grass growing in the cracks of cement and only the mice getting in.

I can see that old theater coming alive again. All the townspeople coming together and donating time to bring it back in shape. Fixing the wiring, painting the walls and cleaning up the interior. I see husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends coming together on a Saturday night and watching those old movie classics, forgetting the Mega Malls and the IMAX theaters and the digital sound. Let's go back in time, sit back and relax and throw all our cares away and remember, "It's a Wonderful Life."

P.S. Several small towns throughout the Midwest are pitching in and donating time and money to bring the theater back to the people. They also use the theater for meeting places or assemblies. Wouldn't that be great Clarkston?

Heidi McElfish is a freelance writer living in Clarkston. She majored in Creative writing and English Literature. Her motto is "Write from the Heart." Contact Heidi at heidi.lane@yahoo.com.

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