Dear Editor: Once a week, The News carries a history article on what happened 50 years ago. Sometimes it contains movies that played during that time. Very few people in Newton County are still alive and can relate to this time. The movie theaters were the main source of entertainment in 1953 and 1954. At about this time, Henson Furniture Company and Covington furniture began to sell small screen black-and-white TVs and put them in their windows and turn them on at night. There were no day-time programs. People would bring their chairs and line the sidewalks in front of their show windows to see a TV. This started the demise of the movies in Newton County.
In 1952, I would leave Newton County High School on Newton Drive at 3 p.m. and walk to the Strand Theater. The Strand was located on the east square where Mr. Ed Crudup has his law office. My job at the movie was to operate the projectors. The light from the two projectors was generated from two welding rods that were placed in a position to form an electric arc. The projection room was very hot. I started the movie for the 3:30 p.m. matinée. I ran the projectors until about 10 p.m. at which time I caught the last bus to Porterdale (my home). Mr. Zig Callaway operated a bus service from Covington to Porterdale. The bus was on a 30-minute schedule and the fare was 10 cents. Mr. James Haralson drove the bus. Mr. Callaway also owned a beach front boarding house in Daytona Beach, Fla. My father Mr. Homer D. Long, drove (part time) one of Mr. Callaway's buses to Daytona in the spring. A graduating high school student could spend a week at the boarding house for $20. The bus would pick you up at your school. I believe Ms. Shirley Graham, who graduated with me, handled the arrangements for Mr. Callaway.
There were four movies in Newton County in 1952 - the Strand, the Porterdale movie, the Hub Drive-In and a black movie theater located upstairs at the corner of Washington and Hendrick streets. All of these movies were owned by Ms. Brownie Osburn. Ms. Osburn sold tickets at the ticket window at the Strand.
Mr. Stewart Murray ran the inside of the move and sometimes "too up" tickets along with Mr. Foy Harper. Stewart's sister Ms. Martha Kate Tate, along with Ms. Mary Frances King, operated the concession stand. They wore white uniforms. Martha Kate was married to Mr. Roy Tate who ran Bill's truck stop that was located where the KFC restaurant is now. I ran the projectors and Stewart would relieve me for breaks. Stewart was an accomplished airline pilot and very popular around Covington. He wore a brown leather flight jacket with a white scarf. He also drove a sporty 1951 black Plymouth and would only run U.S. royal master tires.
The Strand had the general admission seats and a plush one level (upper) balcony. It also had an attic type balcony with the entrance at the rear of the theater on Elm Street. After "Whites" had bought their tickets and the movie had started, "Blacks" could buy their tickets. They would go to the rear of the movie and up along a long flight of stairs to the attic balcony. The balcony was directly above the projection room. I could tell when they arrived because rats would run down a pipe into the projection room. I would take a broom and run them back up the pipe into the attic. This went on the entire movies.
Mr. Aubrey Savage ran the projectors at the Hub Drive In. Mr. Joe Moss, a high school student (like myself), worked the concession stands. Cars would put on their parking lights, and Joe would go to the cars, take their orders and deliver them. Joe has retired from Covington Moulding and lives at the old Moss home place on Moss Road. Mr. Roy Varner cooked and ran the concession stand. He was later elected Newton County's Commission Board chairman and Lake Varner was named after him. I cannot recall who sold tickets.
The Porterdale movie was located in the old Porterdale grammar school building that was torn down by Mr. Boots Moon in the early 1970s. The post office and police department now occupy this location. Mr. John Hackney managed the movie for Mr. Osburn. Mr. Eb Butler ran the daily operations. His house still stands on the hill across from the Covington Veterinary Clinic on Ga. Highway 12. Mr. Hugh Price or "Mr. Bunkham" Sears (Holland?) may have run the projectors at this time. Mr. Calton Bone may have sold tickets along with Mr. Howard Walden. Mr. Sydney Moore along with Jack Moore may have handled some of the ticket duties and also run the popcorn machine. Mr. Richard "Ludie" Childers also worked at the move.
Mr. John Hackney also managed the "Black" movie. Mr. Rusty Jones ran the projectors at this movie. I went to the movie several times for Ms. Ozburn to check on things, and as I recall I never saw anyone selling tickets.
Many of the above mentioned people have passed on. If someone thinks I left something out or did not get something right, he can contact Ms. Alene Burton for verification or more information or to correct something said. Ms. Burton said this would be OK and she is, in my opinion, the best county historian and has been a friend of mine for over 50 years. I am retired from the IRS as an enforcement officer, and I do community service mostly with underprivileged children.
Harry L. Long