Wonderful memories of the Old Strand

BY CATHERINE LEGG / Guest Columnist

Those of us who have memories of Montevallo’s Strand Theatre in its heyday hold a real treasure. The theatre was the best and sometimes the only entertainment in town.

There were four different movies each week. Sometimes the Strand had movies that had not yet been shown in Birmingham. The most popular were on Sunday and Monday or Thursday and Friday. Saturday’s shows were shoot-um-ups with Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers or another brave cowboy. All of the kids who had a dime for admission and another for popcorn went on Saturdays. They saw the movie, a newsreel, a cartoon and always the spellbinding serial-a cliffhanger that kept them on the edge of their seats and coming back the next Saturday.

In those days Eddie Watson owned the Strand. His mother, Ruth, a smiling white-haired lady, sold tickets. She knew every kid in town, and she never had to remind us to begin buying adult tickets; we all knew that she knew exactly when our 12th birthday came around.

Georgene Watson told us that her husband used to say, “We were the cheapest baby sitter in town. Mothers would call and say, ‘Eddie, would you get my child and tell him I’ll pick him up.”

Grady Parker commented, “As a teenager, I worked at McCulley’s Grocery. Folks from the outlying communities would buy their groceries, leave the bags in the store, go to the movie and then come back by for their things. I remember long lines at the Strand going back as far as the Baptist Church.

Most teenagers took their dates to the movies. The boys would try to find a seat near the back where they could, unobserved, hold hands and perhaps steal a first kiss.

Kathlyn Lathion and Earl Cunningham both remember when blacks had to enter the theatre through a side door and sat in the balcony. Lathion said that she often went to the movie with a group of girls and she especially remembers seeing Gone with the Wind.

Cunningham commented, “On my first date, I carried Princess Mae Ward to the movie, but I don’t remember the name of the movie.”

Just mentioning the Strand or driving by the old building brings back so many happy memories.

Catherine Legg can be reached at mailto:clegg2@bellsouth.net.