Kodacolor Dreams is the first installment of a seven chapter series by John Gilbert.
COLUMBUS,GA. — John’s love of what he calls Kodacolor Dreams, led him to resurrect the, slated for demolition, Bradly Theater. The trial and tribulations began on day one, but hard work and perseverance triumphed over and over. See comments below and add your own if you like.
John is still around today working hard to establish Columbus Georgia Internet TV. He also still puts on Movies at shopping centers and events. Contact him through our contact form to book a Drive-in Movie in your city. John hauls a trailer with all his gear in it including his simplex projector. Theses are full featured films, not videos. Columbus Georgia Online, Coo’s Hot Dogs and Columbus Ga TV sponsored a great Drive-In movie event at the landings a couple of months ago. We estimate between 300-500 people showed up and had a great time.
Now enjoy the first chapter of Save the Bradly.
Kodacolor Dreams Chapter 1
My earliest memories are of a Kodacolor dreams world. Darkness surrounds a fading white rectangle. There comes a faint hissing, barely discernible from the cone of a loud speaker. Then, a blue image fades up from black accompanied by a drum roll. Instantly, trumpets blast a triumphal fanfare as animated searchlights scan an airbrushed sky. For the next ninety minutes a celluloid photo play, shrouded in darkness, would dance on that white rectangle.
Kodacolor dreams, Perhaps it is madness that drives the dreamer to reach for things beyond his grasp, and yet, such was I. My earliest memories are of a kodacolor dream world. Darkness surrounds a fading white rectangle. There comes a faint hissing, barely discernible from the cone of a loud speaker. Then, a blue image fades up from black accompanied by a drum roll. Instantly, trumpets blast a triumphal fanfare as animated searchlights scan an airbrushed sky. For the next ninety minutes a celluloid photo play, shrouded in darkness, would dance on that white rectangle.
My father worked for Martin Theaters and managed the Rex View Drive-In Theater in Columbus, Georgia when I was a small boy. There were many nights that I watched this scenario played out at dusk on that huge rectangular screen. A kodacolor dreams world larger than life. Those were magic moments. But in every dream there lurk creatures of the night. Those creatures peered out from the projection booth. Two huge metal monsters with glass eyes and fire in their bellies. One after the other, back and forth, each in turn consuming a reel of film and spewing its luminance onto the screen. After five or six reels had been devoured and the hissing fires had been extinguished, the machines would sit cold and dark. Only then could they be approached by a small boy. I wondered if someday I might have the power to control such a beast.
In 1964 my father was transferred to the Strand Theater in Athens, Tennessee. It was the average small town theater with its musty auditorium, a balcony and a stage. It was on that stage that I made a wonderful discovery. The screen was full of tiny holes to allow the sound through. I could stand behind the screen during the show and see the audience but they couldn’t see me. How magical it was to be standing in front of hundreds of people and not be seen. To me, the Strand was a Kodacolor dreams palace. It never had to wait for dusk, for it had its own darkness. Though the summer heat and humidity raged outside, inside the Strand there was ever-present the coolness of perpetual evening.
Then suddenly and without warning the dream was shattered. My father was fired. His district manager was a man who enjoyed spirituous fermenti and often indulged in the bottle. My father had been told to keep a bottle on hand for his manager and he would be his best buddy. But my father did not drink nor did he encourage drinking. This made for a rather strained relationship between my father and his boss. On the night of the firing the district manager had been drinking heavily when he stumbled into my father’s office.
“Gilbert, I thought I told you a week ago to have your theater painted,” growled the thick-tongued manager.
“Yes sir. I called the painter after I talked with you and he said that his wife was in the hospital and as soon as…”
“I didn’t ask about your painter’s wife,” he snorted. “I wanted to know why you hadn’t had your theater painted. Well, I guess I don’t need you around here anymore. You or your painter. Go ahead and clean out your desk and give me your keys.”
Only years later did I find out that this is the way theater companies do business. You never know from one day to the next if you’ll have a job, no matter how good a job you’re
doing. There’s a great lack of trust in the theater business. It’s a holdover from the days of vaudeville when acting troops traveled from town to town. You would hire someone to take tickets and they might run off with your box office and then again, they might not. Then again, you might skip town without paying your hotel bill or your acting company. The entire entertainment industry is cankered from top to bottom with dishonesty and mistrust.
We moved back to Columbus where my father took a job with J.C. Penney. After four years there came a call from Martin Theaters asking him if he would be interested in managing the Edgewood Drive-in Theater. He jumped at the chance. The problem with theater business is that it gets in your blood and when it does, there’s no getting it out. I know.
The summer of ’68 was exciting. I was now older and I became involved with making the dreams happen at the drive-in. For the next four and a half years I would help my father cut out marquee displays for “Gone with the Wind” and paint bullet holes on an old junk car for “Bonnie and Clyde”. There were western gunslingers shooting it out in front of the concession stand during intermission for the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. “Monsters” would run through the theater during horror films. Giant Fourth of July fireworks displays lit the sky on Independence Day. Even my sisters dressed in hoop skirts and danced on the marquee for “The Cheyenne Social Club”. The theater was making more money than it ever had but once again, enter the district manager. My father was now 62 years old and that in itself presented a problem, he was nearing retirement age. Oh, the things this manager found wrong with the drive-in. Then after my father’s concession manager checked up several hundred dollars short after a very busy week, Daddy was told that any further shortages would cost him his job. It was the Strand all over again. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, he chose early retirement with a pension so small as to be a joke or an insult after twenty years with the company.
It was at this same time that I learned to master those clattering metal beasts. I became a projectionist. I learned to thread the machines and to strike the carbon arcs. Now I dimmed the lights and rolled the projectors. I controlled the sound and the focus. I took a job at the Liberty Theater on 8th Avenue in Columbus and I used to sit in the balcony just outside the booth during the show just to hear the audience laugh. And when they did laugh I felt that I was responsible, in part, for their laughter.
The Liberty closed for the last time January 1st, 1974.
now read chapter 2 by John Gilbert, Columbus, Ga.