Save The Rialto Theater Report Part 4

Rialto Theater Report Part 4

Rialto Theater Report Part 4

by John Gilbert,  contributing essayist Columbus Georgia Online

Rialto Theater Part 1Rialto Theater Part 2 | Rialto Theater Part 3 | Rialto Theater Part 4 | Rialto Theater Part 5 | Rialto Theater Part 6


rialto finishedCOLUMBUS, GA. — It’s no fun getting up at 7 AM on a Saturday morning but June 6th was well worth it. Melanie and I had breakfast with several contributors of the ColumbusGeorgiaOnline.com site. At 9 AM we moved to the Rialto. I was pleased to see the new front which is now finished and gives new life to the old theater. We entered the dusty building which hadn’t changed from my last visit. I gave a tour of the lobby and showed our little group where the concession stand and ticket booth were. We then went into the auditorium and took in the spaciousness of the large empty room. I explained that vandals had torn the screen and water had damaged the ceiling and floor. I even went and turned on the basement lights but only our friend Brandon ventured into the bowels of the theater. We next moved to the balcony to get a bird’s eye view of the auditorium. Then I lead everyone to my favorite room, the projection booth. There I turned on the music but only the booth monitor worked. I’d have to check out the problem with the main speaker later. In a few moments, Reynolds Bickerstaff climbed the stairs to the booth. Everyone started asking him questions and climbed back down to the balcony. While they did this, I started the projector and ran the last few feet of film through it, showing it onto the screen so my guests could see a picture on the screen. Enjoy Rialto Theater Report Part 4

I Came To The Rialto to Work

While everyone talked in the balcony, I set to work taking the feed arm off the projector. I had a new and better one that I had brought from home. It only took a few minutes to change the arm and I joined my friends on the balcony. I asked if anyone had any ideas that we might consider for a fund-raiser so work could continue on the theater. We knocked a couple of ideas around but shortly I had to leave. Melanie had to drive to Eufaula, AL for a family reunion.

Rialto Theater Report Part 4 continues — We spent several hours at the reunion and drove back to the Rialto. Melanie’s mom, dad, and sister stopped by to see the theater on the way back to Stockbridge. After they left I had one more task I wanted to tackle. Why weren’t the ceiling lights working in the auditorium? I found a working bulb and shoved it into my pocket and started up the ladder to the attic. I had seen some kind of a catwalk on one of my visits and I figured that’s how they must have changed the lights back in the day. The attic was very dark as I held my flashlight in my teeth and climbed over a very dusty air conditioning duct and squeezed between a row of 2 X 4 studs and onto the cat walk. The catwalk turned out to be a 10′ long 2 X 8 supported in the middle by a thin metal strap that tightened as I walked along the plank. I was wondering if it would hold my 220 lbs as the strap tightened to the point I could pick a tune on it. I made it past the first plank and onto the second one. Again the bouncing board strained under my weight, supported in the middle by that thin metal strap. I imagined what would happen if it snapped. I’d hit the plaster lathing which I knew wouldn’t support my weight and I’d crash through the ceiling to the auditorium floor below. I tried not to think about it. The next moment I reached the third plank where I could see the first ceiling light fixture. I walked along that plank until I was above the fixture. There was a board on the rafters and I was hoping that it would also hold my weight. Carefully, I stepped down and stooped down and lifted the reflector from its holder. I turned it over to see a floodlight glistening in the dim light of the flashlight I held in my teeth. I unscrewed the lamp and reached into my pocket and pulled out the light bulb and screwed it in. It lit up! The auditorium lights were all burned out. I had flipped all the switches I could find and the problem was that all the bulbs had burned out over the last 35 years. I had no other bulbs with me so all I could do was retrace my steps along the catwalk.

I left the attic, hot and dirty and raced to the auditorium and there it was, light shining from the fixture in the ceiling. Somehow it gave warmth to the dark auditorium. It was time to drive back home but I know what will happen on my next visit. The Rialto will be filled with light!


“Rialto Theater Report Part 4”,  by John Gilbert,  contributing essayist Columbus Georgia Online

Rialto Theater Part 1Rialto Theater Part 2 | Rialto Theater Part 3 | Rialto Theater Part 4 | Rialto Theater Part 5 | Rialto Theater Part 6

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