Home | Stories | News | Theaters | Drive-Ins | Profiles | The Authors | Other Books | Links
Princess Theater
421 Roane Street
Harriman, Tennessee

On Saturday, May 16, 2009, traveling along I-40, between Knoxville and Nashville, we took the exit to Harriman, Tennessee. On Roane Street, we noticed the Princess Theater. It was closed and looked abandoned. We stopped to take photos and noticed a small poster on the ticket booth. It read, “Appalachian Dreams” and promoted a multi-media variety show to raise funds for restoring the theater. We looked at the date for the show. It was “Tonight!”

We debated going to see the show. We drove to the nearby Roane State Community College where the show was to take place. We found the theater building and considered whether or not we should stay for the show.

While we were standing outside the theater, a tall man in a cowboy hat approached us and asked, “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” He was also there for the show. We talked for awhile and the conversation took an ironic twist.

We mentioned that we were from Charleston, South Carolina. He mentioned his wife was from Charleston. He said he was born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina. John mentioned our research on the movie theaters in Georgetown. “I worked at the Strand Theater as a kid!” he replied. We mentioned that we knew the former director of the Georgetown Historical Society, Pat Doyle. “I went to high school with Pat Doyle,” he said.

He introduced himself as Andy Smalls, and then added, "But, everybody knows me as Marshal Andy." He explained that he hosts a TV show in Knoxville that features old western movies. Along with each movie, he discusses the history and cowboy stars of that period. That was all we needed to know. We were going to stay to see "Appalachian Dreams."

We found a motel room and grabbed a bite to eat. We made it back to the community college theater just in time for the show. We later found out that the show had “Sold Out” and we only got tickets because of some cancellations.

The theater at Roane State Community College, which was built in 1997, has excellent sight lines, great seats and fine acoustics. Just before the lights dimmed, we noticed a tall man in a cowboy hat sitting near the front of the auditorium. It was Marshal Andy.

The show was hosted by Bill Landry, who has produced over 150 half-hour episodes of "Heartland Tonight" a series that started in 1984 on WBIR TV, in Knoxville. The series celebrates the people and land of the Appalachian region.

The program included The Babahatchie Community Band which was formed in 1989, and includes people of all ages, from several counties around Harriman. The band played "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" as a group of young dancers took the stage for an exciting performance set to the WWII period music. These dancers are Arts in Motion, a talented and engaging ensemble under the direction of Jennifer Austin.

Elizabeth Rose entertained the audience with a story. Her performance "Your Dog Died" brought many laughs and memories of the traditional story tellers like Minnie Pearl, Whitey Ford, and Archie Campbell, who were regular stage fare on the Grand Ole Opry in its golden years.

The Pick 'n' Grin Bluegrass Band was introduced as the "house band" and they thrilled the audience with several appearances throughout the evening.

The Chickadees, backed by the Babahatchie Band, gave a magical performance of "Sentimental Journey" that transported the audience. This group is composed of Sandra Copeland, Linda Whitson Jones, and Ferrell Winfree.

Another group that had the audience grinning was Sisters of the Silver Sage. The Western sound generated by these three sisters, Donna, Rhonda and Janet, was toe-tapping and swinging.

During intermission, Mark conversed with two women who were sitting beside him. Their names were Janice and Christina, who is the granddaughter of Ferrell Winfree, one of The Chickadees. They talked about how The Chickadees got together in Junior High School in 1952, and about their weekly appearances on WHBT radio in Harriman. The Chickadees had recently reunited. The lights dimmed and the show continued.

The show flowed smoothly as Bill Landry introduced segments of live performance interspersed with segments of prerecorded video.

A beautifully produced video of an old-time string band from East Tennessee, The Lantana Drifters, was shown on a large screen. At the conclusion, the screen moved up revealing a group of people in silhouette. As the lights came up, The Lantana Drifters began to play. Sherry Guenther and a very agile Edd Webb, who is in his eighties, danced throughout the first musical number. During another number, "Wabash Cannonball" Edd Webb produced a train whistle from his overalls and brought the audience to their feet.

The final segment of "Appalachian Dreams" was a performance by the Philippi Primitive Baptist Church Choir. Philippi is one of the oldest churches in Roane County, and has a long history of community service and involvement. Their performance was moving and brought the audience to their feet. The entire audience sang along with the choir on the last song. This was a stirring moment and a symbol of the united effort that will certainly bring the Princess Theater back into service for the benefit of the entire region.

I apologize if I left anybody out, and I'm sure I did. You can get more information and learn how to help promote this outstanding theater revitalization project by visiting their web site. CLICK HERE

When the show was over, we tried to get to the front of the theater to say “hello” to Marshal Andy. The crowd was thick and we got held up half way down the aisle. Marshal Andy had disappeared. We made it to the lobby. Mark purchased a CD of The Chickadees for a souvenir.

We headed back to the motel. We stopped at Shoney’s for coffee and dessert. When we entered, we saw the two women who were sitting next to Mark in the theater. They were with another older woman. They waved and asked us to join them. The woman with them was Christina's grandmother, Ferrell Winfree, one of The Chickadees!

After awhile, we left them to enjoy the celebration together. We agreed that this experience was more than coincidence. It is our sincere hope that you, as a visitor to our site, will be moved by the energy and will of the people in and around Harriman, Tennessee, who are working hard to bring the Princess Theater back to life and into renewed service to their community.

Princess Theater, Harriman, Tennessee
Opened in 1939

Poster we saw at the Princess Theater

Marshal Andy

Some Highlights of the Program

Host Bill Landry

Arts in Motion Dancers

Pick 'n Grin Bluegrass Band

Sisters of the Silver Sage

Lantana Drifters

The Chicadees

Philippi Primitive Baptist Church Choir

The people of Harriman, Tennessee, and the surrounding region have plans to renovate the Princess Theater into a local hub for arts education where students of all ages can learn to tell stories through film, music, art, and dance.

The DVD of "Appalachian Dreams" is in production
and will be available through their web site - CLICK HERE

To view the Cinema Treasures feature on the
Princess Theater - CLICK HERE

Enjoy A YouTube video about the Princess Theater, hosted by actor Muse Watson.

Home | Stories | News | Theaters | Drive-Ins | Profiles | The Authors | Other Books | Links