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Ritz Theatre and Propst Theatre - Lake City, SC

March 29, 2005 - Lake City, SC

Something extraordinary happens to us once in awhile. In Lake City, it was Kent Daniels. Kent runs The History Store at 133 East Main Street. He taught history in Lake City for thirty years and his passion for the subject is apparent when you enter his store. It is what his slogan says, “The Pee Dee’s place for Nostalgic Gifts and Historical Books.” But, it is much more. It is filled with artifacts, exhibits, and Kent’s fascinating stories about events in Lake City. Besides telling us about the movie theaters in Lake City, Kent told us about tobacco, string beans, the town’s biggest bank robbery, and the day Lash LaRue came to Lake City for the opening of the tobacco auction.

What made it even more special for us was his on-going publication, The Daniels Press which included articles and photographs about Lake City’s movie theaters. This publication is a treasury of facts and stories that chronicles life in Lake City. It is no understatement that Kent Daniels is one of Lake City’s most valuable assets. What follows is taken from his dedicated recording of the historical legacy of his home town.

To read the interview with Kent Daniels - Click Here

From The Daniels Press - November, 2001:

Ritz Theatre, Lake City, SC
Photo courtesy of Sam Mac Propst and Charles M. Dalziel

At the Movies

Early in 1916 two movie theatres opened in Lake City, the Idle Hour Motion Picture Company and the New Theatre. That autumn F.W. Rutledge moved his Idle Hour into the 1,000-seat McClam Theatre, newly constructed by J. S. McClam. Admission cost 25 and 50 cents. Located midway on the north side of West Main Street’s first block, its air was cooled by electric fans and recirculated every five, minutes. The New Theatre probably closed its doors forever sometime after the opening of the state-of-the-art McClam. Louie L. Propst, Sr. and W. A. McClam bought the McClam in 1931 and changed its name to the Ritz, pictured above. In 1950 Louie L.Propst Sr. built and opened the Propst Theatre. The Propst, next door to the corner Esso gasoline station, was the second business from the northeast corner of West Main Street’s second block. For the next six years, Lake City had two in-door theatres one block apart, the Ritz and the Propst, each running a matinee and an evening show daily, except Sundays. The Ritz Theatre closed in 1956; its ruins can easily be seen as a theatre entrance shell. In 1969 the Propst Theatre closed and was immediately razed to make way for a new shopping center, called the Lake City Plaza. Ever since, movie lovers must travel to out of town theatres or rent videos for home viewing.

From The Daniels Press - January, 2003:

Propst Theatre, Lake City, SC
Photo courtesy of Wayne and Ronnie McKnight

The Propst Theatre
1947 - 1969

Growing up in Lake City in the mid-twentieth century was like growing up in Paradise. Most neighborhoods had tree houses, jungles, secret meeting places, and loads of children roaming at will. Life was full of fun, but by far, everyone’s favorite form of fun was going to the show at the Propst Theatre on Saturday afternoons.

This photograph shows the main theatre entrance with a marquee to the right and the ticket booth to the left. To the far left was a balcony entrance for black people, but none of us children were really aware of it then. We were aware of the small round window in the top center, because the projectionist sometimes stuck his head out to escape the heat.

The bus station was to the theater’s left and open ground, later the A&P and Belk’s, were on its right.

The cost of admission was 25c per child and for an additional 25c, you could feel like a king or queen. For that extra 25c you could buy a Coca-Cola, popcorn, and candy, which would last the entire time you were there. The movies at the Propst started at noon on Saturdays and had either a double feature (two full-length movies) or occasionally a triple feature.

You entered a different world when you stepped into the Propst. At movie time, the beautiful art deco side lights went down and the crimson curtain opened. First up were the coming attractions, followed either by a newsreel or serial, then a cartoon or two. Finally the first feature movie began, immediately followed by the second feature. For that quarter’s admission, you stayed and watched for as long as you liked, or rather, until your parents picked you up or you had to walk home before dark.

Once Lash LaRue came to the Propst and demonstrated his whip skills from a flatbed trailer parked out front. Another time Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car was displayed the same place and we all knew it was real.

Those were some of the happiest days of our youth.

Kent and Carol Daniels
January, 2002

To contact The History Store:
133 East Main Street
Lake City, SC 29560

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