Mt. Vernon Register-News

December 17, 2007

Restored Granada Theater reopens its doors to the community

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MT. VERNON — Residents in the community were taken back in time this weekend with the 70th anniversary of the Granada Theater.

The celebration began with the lighting of the marquee, which has been dark for many years. Inside the theater this weekend, community members gathered to share memories, hear live musical and theatrical performances, and watch the first movie shown in the theater.

Bob and Polly Dulaney reminisced about the theater, which they attended in the days of their youth prior to World War II.

“When I was in second and third grade, they used to have double feature cartoons and a news reel,” Polly Dulaney remembered. “You could come in at 2 o’clock and it was 10 cents for grade school age. You could stay until 6 o’clock or whenever your Mom or Pop came after you.”

Dulaney said the movies ran continuously, without an intermission. She remembered buying a candy bar for between 10 and 25 cents. One of her most vivid memories was of the usherettes.

“They were girls who came and showed you to your seat and carried a flashlight,” Dulaney said. “They wore maroon and gold velveteen dresses. All their uniforms were made by Edna Garrison, who was head of the usherettes. That was one of the first jobs a teenage girl could get, or they could work in the concession stand. They wore uniforms too, but they had a little hat that had advertising on it.”

For Bob Dulaney, he remembers coming to the movies with his school friends and occasionally getting in trouble.

“We used to get kicked out during the cartoon sometimes, but especially during the news reel,” he said. “We were too loud and it was too boring.”

Polly Dulaney said one of her most vivid memories happened on a Sunday afternoon in 1941.

“I was watching the movie on Dec. 7, 1941, when Edna Garrison came to the stage and announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked,” Dulaney recalled. “The theater was full, just like the picture in the front lobby. They played the national anthem while everyone stood, then we all went home. That’s when things began to change.”

The Dulaneys were joined by many others in the area who had fond memories of the theater.

Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said she remembers when air conditioning was put in at the theater.

“Air conditioning was a big deal at the Granada,” Chesley said. “It was one of the first buildings in the city to have air conditioning. I didn’t have it in the house, so I would go there. They also used to show double features on Saturdays. It was cool.

Bonnie Jerdon remembers special showings of classical movies.

“They showed a series of classics in the early ’70s,” Jerdon said. “They played ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago.’ It was the first time I’d seen ‘Gone With The Wind,’ and it became one of my favorite movies.”

Susan Brookman said she remembers the free movie matinee tickets she received in the summer months and attended the showings every Saturday.

“I also remember one time when my mom walked (my brother and I) to see ‘Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte,’” Brookman said. “We lived about two blocks away, and we were scared to death walking home.”

JoAnn Joy said when she was a freshman in high school she vividly remembers seeing “South Pacific.”

“It was amazing — the music,” Joy said. “It was the first time I was exposed to that kind of music. I also remember the first time I saw a movie here was when I came with my dad. I was preschool age. I saw the first 3D movie. All I remember of it was that it was a jungle movie and the tigers jumped out at you.”

For Craig Olsen, the architecture and paintings have been the most memorable part of his experiences at the theater.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the mural,” Olsen said. “There is so much detail, and the more you look at it, the more you see. I could stand and look at it for hours.”

Tom Schneider said his favorite memories have been made during the renovations of the theater.

“First of all, my favorite memory is when an anonymous donor I found donated $40,000,” Schneider said. “Then we really had a project. Also, when we were in here (Thursday) and hoisted the curtain on stage, it was great.”

John Scrivner also said his favorite memory of the theater was one not very old.

“The second that marquee was turned on, it became my favorite memory,” Scrivner said Friday. “It happened tonight. It may only be five minutes old, but it’s the best.”