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WILBUR UNDERWOOD: Remembering Russellville’s three movie theaters


“After World War II, people were able to do things again. You know, rationing was so severe in World War II; you couldn’t buy cars, and you couldn’t buy tires for your cars. Gasoline was rationed, and you couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. After the war, people were looking for things to do.

“The Lyric Theater was in what we called the main block, next to what is now Doe’s Eat Place. It had the glass-looking front with a small jewelry store under the façade and an upstairs attorney’s office. It was a very nice theater.

“There were two brothers, Johnny and Charlie Thompson, who owned one of the grocery stores. Thompson Brothers Grocery Store was across the street on East Limestone – where Limestone ends, there is a brick church there now. It used to be the Eastside church of Christ, and it’s now a Hispanic church. Anyway, back behind their building, they owned a lot off Madison Street. They built a theater and called it The Home Theater. The Lyric was owned by an out-of-town company in Tennessee – I don’t know the name – and by the time they got The Home Theater opened, the theater company announced plans to build the Roxy.

“I was in high school then, and as a high-schooler, it was the first real large building that had been constructed in my lifetime. We would walk home from school – come to town, stop by the drugstore and get our cherry Coke – and see that big building going up. The Roxy opened in 1949, and of course it was fabulous at the time.

“It put The Home out of business; it could not compete. But for a short time, we had all three theaters. The Lyric showed what we used to call B-movies, and the first-run movies were at the Roxy. Of course, The Home was trying to compete. Competition was as active then as it is now.

“I went all the time, and of course we always went to the Saturday picture show. They showed a Western and a serial every Saturday – it would be continued for weeks at a time, and that’s the way they hooked you to go to the Saturday show.

“I can’t even remember the name of the first show they showed, but it was not something to my fancy; in fact, I don’t even know that I went.

“The downtown area was just vibrant. All of your businesspeople basically worked six days a week then. I would go with my dad after supper on Saturday night to get a haircut. I just liked to go downtown, and sometimes you could hardly park.

“It’s just a different era now. We lived a different life. People were so excited to be able to do things after the war.”