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The Strand is a historical gem for city

It seems there is a lot of conversation and activities about the Strand Theatre here lately.

And much credit is due to all those reviving our stately building.

But there is much, much more some folks do not know about this cherished theatre.

You see, back in the 1940s and 1950s, this is where we all went for entertainment. And, movies and activities on Saturdays, day and night, were the ones we liked the best. Movies began about mid-day and continued right up to the midnight hour.

There was always the cowboy movie followed by a mystery movie. These features were always accompanied by a cartoon, previews of coming movies and a chapter of the current cliffhanger serial.

Popular cowboys of that era were Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bob Livingston, Johnny Mack Brown, a native of the Dothan, former University of Alabama football star, Bob Steele, “Wild Bill” Elliot and Charles Starrett, “The Durango Kid”.

Some of the characters in the mystery movies were Chester Morris as “Boston Blackie,” Tom Conway as “The Falcon” and his brother, George Sanders in the same role. Other favorites in this genre were “The Mummy,” “The Creeper” and “Frankenstein.”

Popular cliffhanger serials were “Dick Tracy,” “Manhunt of Mystery Island,” “Valley of Vanishing Men,” “Batman,” “Masked Marvel” and “Captain Marvel.”

But the event we all looked forward to was “The Hot Seat.” This occurred about 11 p.m. when the movies were stopped and the theatre manager came out on the stage and called out “hot seat numbers.” Those sitting in the lucky seats were given real nice prizes, free meals and free theatre tickets.

The Strand promoted itself by mailing out and handing out “show papers” on Mondays. These were colorful little two-fold papers advertising all the upcoming movies. Residents from all around Atmore looked forward to getting these papers. Many of us, particularly followers of the “serials,” always wanted to know the name of the next serial. The papers were published in a different color each week. Color changes let us know a new paper had been sent out.

Yes, the Strand holds many memories for many of us. And, guess what? A quarter got you into the theatre and a bag of popcorn. A dime was left over and that was used for a chocolate milk shake at the nearby Escambia Drug Store.

In some current news, politics captures the day’s subjects. Sen. John McCain has rapidly become the culprit. His vote against healthcare has catapulted the legislating bodies into one big mess. It appears to me he is still pouting over his unsuccessful 2008 bid for vice president. We do regret his having a serious medical condition. In the eyes of many, it is believed he would be a better democrat as opposed to his being a republican.

Now, let’s take a look at some news from 1975 and 1966.

Woodrow McLain Parker, a graduate of Escambia County Training School and the University of Florida, was named the director of the Physical and Vocational Counseling Center at UF. Dr. Parker holds a doctorate from that university.

Mrs. Joyce McGhee, widow of former tribal Chairman Calvin McGhee, passed away in 1975. Mrs. McGhee was active with her husband in Creek Indian affairs, having traveled with him on several occasions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

There was a gala State Academy Rodeo held at the Atmore Saddle Club under the direction of Glen Jernigan. Some of the winning participants were Eddie Presley, Mike Ward, Gary Hetzel, Jay Blacksher, Chuck Flowers, Steve Jernigan, Tony James, Elizabeth Hildreth and Shane Mason.

In 1966, there was some sad news upon learning of the death of beloved former local teacher Mary Hodnette. Having served here for many years, the popular educator lost her life in a car crash near Auburn. She moved from Atmore a few years before the tragic accident.

Two Perdido teachers, Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Trawick, left their positions for jobs in Southbay, Fla. They were the parents of the late Archie Trawick, former Escambia County Department of Education head. The Trawicks, however, returned to Baldwin County following their retirements.

Former ECHS student and football standout Alan Davis received a scholarship in accounting from the University of Alabama.

The ECHS Jazz Ensemble took top honors at the Stage Band Competition at Troy University. Members of that group included Terrill Spence, Mike McKinley, Pete Plant, Tony Andress, Phillis Brown, Bruce Stone and Mike Eubanks.

Two Atmore physicians, Dr. C.S. Crawford and Dr. C.P. St Amant, hauled in a prize catch in the Pensacola Billfish Tournament that year. Angling on Dr. St. Amant’s cruiser, “Ragin Cajun” they landed a 6-foot-10 billfish to capture the event. They also caught a marlin weighing slightly over 86 pounds. This, too, was a tournament-winning catch.

A big gospel sing featured the Hopewell Quartet, Jay Quartet, Carnley Trio, Melody Masters, Gospel 4 and the Dixie Melody Quartet. Well-known gospel promoters Ruth Fillingim and J.G Whitfield spearheaded the event.

More next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at exam@frontiernet.net.