Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on June 26, 2014 in Website
Kingston Theater, Cheboygan, Michigan. I've never been to a movie there, but I do love the sign.
Kingston Theatre, Cheboygan, Michigan. I’ve never been to a movie there, but I do love the sign. (Photo by Amy Crow.)

I distinctly remember the first movie that I saw in a theater. My sister and one of her girl friends took me to the Town & Country Cinema, not far from our house. It was a matinee and the movie was Bambi. (No, it wasn’t during its original release in 1942. It was during one of its numerous re-releases. I won’t say which one.)

Thinking back, Bambi might not have been the best choice for a first movie, considering how much I cried. (Denise, you could have warned me!) It’s amazing I ever went to the movies again.

But I did go back to the movies. The early years were filled with the expected Disney movies. Then, I made it to the big leagues: Star Wars, my first PG-rated movie. It was also the first time going to a drive-in. This was with the same sister who nearly scarred me for life with Bambi. (Fortunately, she was only joking when she said I had to hide in the trunk of the car when we drove in since was a PG-rated movie.)

Both the Town & Country Cinema and the Eastside Drive-In (where I saw Star Wars) are now gone. They were both built in the early 1960s and, although they were nice theaters in their time, they didn’t have the splendor of the movie theaters of the 1920s and 30s. I am glad to see a move to revitalize those classic theaters, either as entertainment spots (such as the Ohio Theatre in Columbus) or as shops, but keeping the original front and signage. (I love those old theater signs!)

Whether you’re watching in a splendid, revitalized theater or one that’s in a shopping mall, there’s still something neat about sitting down with your overpriced popcorn and watching the story unfold. Maybe it’s the cheer everyone lets out when the bad guy finally gets his or the collective groan when you all realize the movie was a dud. Or maybe it’s just the simple pleasure of sitting in a darkened theater and escaping for a couple of hours.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Bambi, I’ll say this. (Spoiler alert.) It doesn’t go well for Bambi’s mom. That’s all I’m going to say.

What are your movie memories? Do you remember your first trip to the movies? What was your favorite theater like? Did the speaker ever work when you went to the drive-in? Share your story below – and be sure to share it with your family, too!

Amy Johnson Crow

Amy Johnson Crow is a Certified Genealogist and an active lecturer and author. Her roots run deep in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. She earned her Masters degree in Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Amy loves to help people discover the joys of learning about their ancestors and she thinks that there are few things better than a day in a cemetery. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amy Johnson Crow.


  1. pat shaul

    I spent a number of summer evenings at the Kingston in Cheboygan, during visits relatives with my grandparents. It was one of those old majestic theaters in small town America. It brings back a lot of great memories.

  2. Glenna Boswell

    Movies are my all-time favorite entertainment, with the exception of reading books!
    The little town where I grew up had one movie theater – I think I have a picture of it some where. It changed venue 3 times a week, and it was always a double feature. They showed the first feature a second time, so if you missed part of it you could stay and watch what you missed. Since all movies were ‘kid okay’ my Mom drove me to town 3 times a week so I could see every movie. There was always a cartoon before the movie. My friends and I would meet at the theater, buy our popcorn and enjoy a few hours pretending we were the starlet in a world usually foreign to us. We were just small town girls with not a lot of excitement going on.

    Before I was old enough to go by myself, my older sister, had to take me along with her friends. She wasn’t very happy about that. I didn’t care who took me – I just loved movies.

    As I grew older one of my best friend’s dad owned the theater and at thirteen years old I obtained my first paying job. I cooked and sold the popcorn, candy bars, and sodas. I even got to count all the money at the end of the evening and write up the tally.

    On Halloween we dressed up in our homemade costumes, took our large paper grocery bags, skimmed as many blocks in town as we could – then took our bags full of candy to the spooky movie showing at the theater. I remember pulling my legs up under me on the seat so that no monster lurking on the floor under my seat could get me.

    Sorry, another memory just floated in – in the Holiday season – our family always had dinner at one of our aunts or uncles. After the dinner our parents drove us to the theater to see the Holiday movie, while they went back home to play cards.

    When I left that little town and moved to the city, the large beautiful theaters excited me, and I remember sitting in those beautiful seats and still wishing I was the star on the screen. (Sigh)

    And of course the drive in movie which we didn’t have in my little home town – what fun that was. The speakers usually worked, but I remember going to the office and asking for a different speaker. Sitting outside in the car with the windows rolled down and the fresh air drifting in – oh my, these memories!

    Now I sit comfortably in my recliner watching the old classics on my TV, or my computer, or plug in a DVD or video, and still feel the excitement of being involved in the stories of people all over the world. (I still wonder what it would have been like to have been one of those beautiful starlets!) I go with my grandchildren to all the Disney movies – they are my excuse for going, but I love Disney and feel indebted to Walt Disney for all he contributed to my growing up.

    Yes movies have been an exciting part of my life.

  3. Annette Crawford

    One of the most memorable movie treats came aboard the US Army transport ship taking my mom, sister and me from Oakland, CA, to join my father who was stationed in Yokohoma, Japan. Being Army dependents meant that we had to remain in a certain part of the ship so as not to mingle with the regular soldiers. I was 10 years old so an activity director had to keep all of us of all ages entertained at certain points during the day. We had movies, mostly cartoons, twice a week for an hour or two. At night, the adults could see “regular” movies if they could get someone to monitor the kids. Sometimes the ship swayed which further caused problems to the equipment and our nerves!

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