IRH - The Hamlet Theater

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.

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David
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IRH - The Hamlet Theater

Postby David » Sat December 16, 2017, 3:21 pm

The Hamlet Theatre
by: Russ Lancaster
The Hamlet Theatre was built in the early 1900's and was then known as the Hamlet Opera House. By the time I was a youngster and was introduced to it in the late 1940's it was a movie theatre and a fine one at that.
Located on Main Street it was the place you got not only your entertainment, but your news as well. Television was unheard of before 1950 in Hamlet except for a couple of people like Madge Fischer (she had a little round 10 or 12 inch screen) and one channel to watch. If you wanted news, you got it at The Hamlet Theatre like everyone else right before the cartoon and main attraction. The Eyes and Ears of the World with great commentators like Walter Winchell and John Cameron Swasey. Mostly you got war news from the tail end of WWII and then the Cold War and Korea but they also had good sports news as well.
My first experience at the Hamlet Theatre was around 1945 with my Mom and Dad and it was not pleasant. The "short" was a Three Stooges episode in a haunted house and I was scared out of my wits. In fact, the usher made us leave because of my screaming. What was funny to everyone else was real and scary to me.
From the time I was 10 or so until about age 14, Saturday afternoon matinees were where all the kids my age got their weekly fun. The Theatre opened at 1:00PM with a double-feature western, cartoon and previews of coming attractions. The theatre was wall to wall kids those wonderful afternoons. Admission was 9 cents, popcorn, candy and coca-cola were a nickel. Pea shooters were sneaked in and it was loud but if it got too out of hand, the usher would kick you out so you knew your limits pretty well.
During those years (1947 - 1959) segregation was still alive and well in Hamlet and their were seperate ticket windows for "coloreds" and "whites" and the snack area was off limits to the "coloreds". In fact, there was also seperate seating and bathrooms. The "coloreds" were made to sit in the balcony and despite many objects being launched by us unruly guys below in their direction, nothing ever came back down our way. Not very nice, were we?
Those Saturday afternoons sometimes were enhanced by a "stage show" between features with prizes and stuff. My brother, Bobby, and I once won a giant sized "Sugar-Daddy" which was so big we never did finish it. Once I was even selected to go on stage and pull on Fuzzy St. John's beard to prove that it was real.
We saw lots of our favorite cowboys, The Singers (Gene Autry and Roy Rogers), The cowboys with whips (Lash LaRue and Whip Wilson), as well as our steady doses of Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder & Lil Beaver, The Cisco Kid and others. We also were treated to weekly serials from Superman to Batman to Buck Rodgers and more.
Leaving the theatre those Saturday afternoons, the glare of the sun in your face after hours in the darkness was always a shock. We boys all left together each of us taking on the personality of our favorite character as we worked our way home to the Washington Avenues, Corning Streets, Spring Streets and Hamlet Avenues where our homes were. Those were the best of times.
As the years moved along from 1955 and later, I became too old for the Saturday specials and my attention turned to war movies with my buddy, Donald Harris and to Saturday night dates with my girlfriend who will be nameless here.
Taking your gal to the movies was still fun because walking remained the main way to get from one place to another in Hamlet. First, you could hold hands in the dark (until they started sweating) and if you were real lucky you might slip your arm around her shoulders but that was the absolute limit.
The old theatre was well built with a beatiful facade and even more striking marquee. Posters showed all the best of the movies stars and Photoplay magazine was to be found around all the teen-age girl's homes. Movies were big and the Hamlet Theatre was an escape for everyone.
Sometimes those escapes into the movie world became too real. During the 50's there were all the horror movies that dealt with mutations resulting from testing the Atomic Bomb. There were movies ranging from giant spiders (Tarantula), giant ants (Them) and even aliens (The Thing) and the original(Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
I can remember two times I saw the line stretched all the way from the ticket window around the corner and past the City Barber Shop other than Saturday afternoons when it always stretched that far. The first time was for a religious film "A Man called Peter" which all the preachers in town insisted we see. The second time was much later when the original "Jaws" was shown in Hamlet. By that time, I was married and my wife Helga and I stood in a long line in the rain to get in to the packed house to be scared out of our wits. Tickets were no longer 9 cents but the frightening scenes were just as real for that winner.
That was the last time I ever visited the Hamlet Theatre in person but I have been back there many times in my memories. Perhaps you have too, or maybe you had your own theatre in whatever town you lived that you remember as well?
Yes, I remember Hamlet!

David
Site Admin
Posts: 2409
Joined: Mon April 30, 2007, 8:13 am
Location: Hamlet, NC
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Re: IRH - The Hamlet Theater

Postby David » Sat December 16, 2017, 3:29 pm



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