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Kent Daniels provides unique
look at the History of Lake City

In August, 2004, we wrote S.C. Representative, Lester P. Branham asking for his help with our single-screen movie theatre history project. In less than a week, he responded with two copies of The Daniels Press, which contained photographs and information on Lake City's movie houses. Rep. Branham also suggested we contact Kent Daniels at The History Store for further information. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion.

It was the following March when we finally made it to Lake City.We drove down Main Street looking for any building that might have been a movie theater. We didn't see anything that looked promising. We did see The History Store and parked nearby. Inside, we found an abundance of books, pottery, framed prints, souvenirs, crafts, food, and exhibits highlighting local history.

After we had looked around for awhile, a man approached and asked if we needed any help. I said we were looking for Kent Daniels. "That's me." he said with a smile. We explained the purpose of our trip and Mr. Daniels started telling us the history of Lake City. He pulled copies of The Daniels Press, a historical newsletter published every other month by Kent and his wife, Carol.

In its pages are the stories of events and people that are the history of this area. There are stories of the opening of the fifty-one bed room Halcyon Hotel in 1910, the flood of 1916 when the Black River overflowed, the largest bank robbery in the state (at the time) when the Palmetto Bank was held up for $114,000 in 1934. But, what caught our attention were the issues that contained information of the movie theatres of Lake City.

The page on our web site containing this information can be found at the end of this article. What is not included there is the announcement of the opening of the East Main Drive-In in the fall of 1952 and the appearance of movie Western star Lash LaRue at the Golden Leaf Jubilee the following year.

The East Main Drive-In opened on September 4, 1952 on the Johnsonville Highway across from the American Legion Memorial Building. It could accommodate 250 cars. There was a concrete concession stand with rest rooms. The new speakers were advertised as "each having a five-inch cone to insure good sound production."

Lash LaRue appeared in-person so many times at South Carolina movie theatres, it seemed as if he was a local resident. In 1953, he "saved the show" at the Golden Leaf Jubilee in Lake City when Smiley Burnette didn't show up. LaRue took part in the big parade and then put on a great show for everyone in front of the Propst Theatre.

Kent Daniels told us the Propst Theatre had been demolished but some of the Ritz Theatre remained on Main Street. We left with several copies of The Daniels Press and thanked Kent for being so generous with his time and information.

We had no trouble identifying the former Ritz Theatre from Kent's description. The skeletal structure is being retained as an entry into a proposed off-street parking area. We took the photos of the "bones" of the old theatre and headed out of Lake City.

Our research involves many sources. We read old local newspapers on microfilm, study fire insurance maps, consult old city directories, and look carefully through high school yearbooks. But, the most pleasure we receive is interviewing local residents.

Some of these people recall their hometown movie theatres for us. They tell us their memories of first movies and first dates. Some of these people, like Kent Daniels, show us the results of their years of collecting and preserving local history.

Next time you are in Lake City, be sure to visit The History Store.

To see the page on our site regarding the movie theatres of Lake City, click here.


Update - August, 2008

We stopped in Lake City and discovered that the former Ritz Theater property has been beautifully reclaimed as a public park. See the photos at the right dated 2008. This is a most creative use of a former movie theater site. It retains an architectural reference to the site's historic purpose while providing a unique and contemporary use for the community.



Ritz Theatre - Lake City, SC
Ritz Theatre about 1940

Ritz Theatre - Lake City, SC
Ritz Theatre in 2005

Ritz Theater in 2008

Ritz Theatre - Lake City, SC
View toward Main Street - 2005

View toward Main Street - 2008

Propst Theatre - Lake City, SC
Propst Theatre

10-cent Pass to the Propst or Ritz Theatres from 1953


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