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Parkhill Theatre - Manning, SC

Photograph courtesy Larry Hewett, Silver Images Photographic, Manning, SC

Parkhill Theatre

From an interview with Nelson Parker, January 12, 2005

We asked Mr. Nelson Parker if he could tell us about the theater. He explained, “My father was Leighton Brown Parker and my mother was Nelson Hill before she married my father. She was also known as “Lovey.” B.F. Hill and Nelson Rife Hill were her father and mother. The theater was named Parkhill. Park is the abbreviation of my family name, Parker, and the Hill, of course, was for my mother’s side of the family.

I’m not sure when the theater was constructed, but it was during a time when bricks were being rationed. I think it was toward the end of the Second World War. Somehow, my father and my grandfather were able to acquire the brick to construct the theater.

My mother operated the ticket booth. We all worked there including me and my brothers, Brownie and Hill. We all made popcorn and helped in the concession stand. I remember that when the film “Doctor Zhivago” played at the Parkhill, we all wore little Cossack hats.

A black man named Wesley Billups, ran the projectors. He had a mustache. I called him “Zorro” because he looked like the guy who played “Zorro” on T.V. Wesley was, to my mother and father, one of the most honorable men that my family has ever known. He was an extraordinary guy and like a member of our family.

We had a dog named Spotwoods who was the son of a circus dog. The theater was within walking distance of our home and Spotwoods would follow us and then sit and wait outside for us to leave. Then he would follow us home. If it was raining, Spotwoods would jump into Wesley’s truck and wait for him to drive him home.

I remember that actors who were in the films would sometimes come to the theater. Movie stars, you know, minor screen stars would accompany the film to generate publicity. My sister, Sherry, recalled that when one of the Tarzan movies was playing, someone showed up with the monkey that was in the movie. The monkey created a real ruckus with the kids.

When the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Days Night” came out, my family was running the theater. But, when the second Beatles’ movie “Help” was shown, Lewis Watkins was running the theater. Before the show, Lewis Watkins, who was in his sixties, stood up in front of the theater and introduced the film as if he was introducing the Beatles to everybody. He wanted everyone to know the significance of this band. It was a fun time.

My parents operated the theater until about 1966 or 1967. Around that time it was leased to Lewis Watkins and his son Michael. When they took over operation of the Parkhill Theater, they dressed up the front a little bit and added the ironwork.”

When we showed Nelson Parker a photograph of the theater we had obtained from local photographer, Larry Hewett, he grinned. “That’s my class!” he said. “The man in the suit and glasses is Reverend Haynes. He was the minister at the First Baptist Church here in Manning and was Headmaster of what was then called The Christian Academy. This photograph is of a special afternoon showing of ‘The Ten Commandments’ for The Christian Academy.” He pointed out several people and named them.

We thanked Nelson Parker for taking time to talk with us about his family’s movie theater.

The Manning Times
August 4, 1948

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