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Greer, SC

All photographs of the Greer Theatre courtesy of Don Fortner

We appreciate the following memories of the theatres in Greer shared with us by Don Fortner.

I worked in the theatre in 1962 and 1963. The managers I worked for were Mr. Reg Chesson, Mr. Aaron Bell, and Mr. Greene. It has been 44 years since I was last in the theatre. I remember it was part of my job to change the weekly lobby cards which contained all those wonderful black and white photos of the movie scenes. I think of all the old photo cards that I changed over the years and put in the trash. If I had kept all of those I would probably be wealthy today as there is such a demand now for any of the old artifacts from those movie days.

I also used to go with my boss, Mr. Greene, in his car, a 2 cyclinder Fiat, yep....it is a miracle that we both were able to get in it. I have never seen another since.

He would drive me to several locations around Greer where there were small ground mounted billboards that had promos for the upcoming or present movies being shown.

The posters were in several pieces and required that I mix up some kind of glue or powder and water paste in a bucket, and put the multi-piece poster on the board with a brush or a push broom. The handle of the broom would stick out the top of the car while we were driving around.

If I remember correctly, the boss stayed in the car and I did the work. As a young man of 17, I was thrilled to do it. Although I was a part-time employee, I remember working 90 hours one week. I had been promoted to Assistant Manager on weekends and got to work all week including Saturday, and come in and open the place up on Sunday afternoon.

I even was told that I could wear a tie and use the Manager's office as though it was mine. I really felt important for awhile. All my friends would come to the movie and I would leave the office door open so that they could see me behind the desk. Ah, the girls were really impressed.

I started off there as an usher, then behind the concession stand (I also remember the popcorn machine, I got enough experience operating it) then, when I became part-time assistant manager, I was told that I had to learn the entire operation from top to bottom. That was a lot of responsibility for a 17 year old, but I really enjoyed all the work. One thing though, it doesn't take long working behind the concession stand to get your fill of popcorn and Coke.

At the time all my friends would tell me how "lucky" I was to be able to do that. I also learned how to edit the incoming films with "Coming Attractions" inserts. It was called "building the show" and at the end of the run I would "tear down the show" before sending the film to the next theater in the chain.

I also became a fair projectionist using the old carbon rods burning for light in the projectors. I can still remember looking out the small hole in the wall of the projection booth to look for the "cue" marks coming up. I don't remember now how far apart the two sets of cues were, but when you saw the first one pop up, you had better be ready to switch the projectors when the second set came up. I got pretty good at that. There were times that you were unable to see the switch come up. The switch was always supposed to come at the end of a scene when the film momentarily went to black. The idea was to keep the black off of the screen.

As you can tell I have many fond memories of those years so long ago. I would really like to be able to walk into the theatre with things as they were way back then. I know this isn't going to happen but I can dream. The western star Lash Larue came once to the Grand Theater. Boy, were we kids excited! We thought he would act the same as in the movies we had seen, but he never even took his whip off his side or fired his gun.

By the way, you asked if we ever had any special promotions. Well, before I went to work there, I remember having onstage an Elvis impersonator contest to promote Love Me Tender. The contestants would get up on the stage and perform to 45 records ("What were those?," my grandchildren ask today.) If I remember correctly, a female dressed as Elvis won the contest. The prize was a book of free tickets worth today about $2.50.

It was so much fun and I knew someday I wanted to work at the theater. Also the theater was called the "show" as in "Let's go to the show." Very few kids called it "the movie." There was also a drive-in theatre in Greer. The marquee is still in existence. I was assistant manager at the King Cotton Drive-in in Greer.

Don Fortne

State Representative Bob Leach shared his memories with us.

We briefly interviewed SC State Representative Bob Leach in July, 2005. He recalled that when he was a young boy his aunt would give him 25 cents for the movies. He walked to Greer, saw a movie, and had money left to buy a pint of ice cream. "In 1941 and 1942, Greer had two movie theaters," he told us. "There was the Grand and the Rialto. I worked in the theater making popcorn when I was a youngster.

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