Sidetracked into the past by technology

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My computer has become an invaluable tool for the research I undertake nearly every week. It’s quick and it delivers access to any edition of the Lewiston Daily Sun and Lewiston Evening Journal going back many years.

However, it has a serious shortcoming. It has a tendency to sidetrack me onto the comics and entertainment pages.

Recently, I was hot on the trail of some factual material in the newspapers of Jan. 26, 1948. I was only a couple of pages away from my goal when I spotted the movie ads.

The film at the Empire Theatre on Main Street in Lewiston, was “The Swordsman” starring Larry Parks. At the Strand Theatre, just a short distance farther up the street the double-feature was “The Unsuspected” with Joan Caulfield and Claude Raines and “Glamour Girl,” a 1938 British comedy.

Auburn Theatre’s movie double-feature was “Pittsburgh” with John Wayne and Randolph Scott, and “Green Hell” with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Bennett.

For many years, the Auburn Theatre presented “On stage – 5 Big Acts Vodvil.”

At the Community Theatre in Auburn you could see “The Locket” and “Wild West.” The Ritz was showing “The Homestretch” and “Love and Learn.” The Priscilla Theatre on Park Street in Lewiston, probably the smallest movie house in L-A, advertised “Crossfire.”

That’s a pretty long list of forgettable films. However, in Winthrop, the Gull Theatre was showing “It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart and Donna Reed. It’s a film that was to become one of the Christmas classics.

Those movie houses are long gone. Locations of the Empire and the Auburn Theatre are empty lots. An office building stands on the corner once occupied by the Strand. The re-purposed Community Theatre in New Auburn can still be identified by a marquee over the sidewalk.

Although the movie screen is gone from the Ritz on Maple Street in Lewiston, the stage in that attractively remodeled facility is bringing excellent live theatre to L-A audiences.

The Strand Theatre stands out in my memory for its art deco style and the tiled floor of the spacious lobby.

The older generation of L-A film fans have some special memories of “going to the movies.” Patrons of the Auburn Theatre at Court Street and Mechanics Row will never forget Marshall’s Popcorn truck. It was always parked in front of the YMCA building. The aroma and warmth of that small paper bag with 10 cents worth of popcorn can still be recalled.

The Marshall’s truck is not gone. It has had some special care and renewal through the years, and it may once again make local public appearances.

For a few years, some theaters jumped aboard the “3-D” train. Auburn Theatre was among the first. It was a weird sight to see everyone in the audience wearing the cardboard-mounted glasses required for a three-dimensional effect. Red and blue lenses were paired for the glasses needed to see 3-D black-and-white films. A polarized lens was used in the glasses provided for “technicolor” movies.

Of course, we didn’t go to the movies every day . . . but we regularly turned to the radio for home entertainment.

The newspaper’s radio listings for Monday, Jan. 26, 1948, included popular early evening news programs. There was Edward R. Murrow, Fulton Lewis Jr. and Gabriel Heatter.

Soon, the evening adventure and drama shows came on the air. “The Lone Ranger” and “Charley Chan” had big followings at that time. Competing with “Charlie Chan” on the Mutual Network (WCOU) was “Arthur Godfrey” on the Columbia Network (WGAN).

Later in the evening, the Fred Waring Orchestra could be heard on the National Network (WCSH) and dance orchestra music came on WLAM (American Network). WCOU’s late night programming was called “Music for Lonely Folks.”

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]

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