Athens enjoyed a movie theater built in 1947. In our years the admission for B-run features was 15 cents for kids and 45 cents for adults. The theater provided the first real work experience for many of us in the 1960s. We started in high school as projectionists, concessions operators, and custodians. Working there didn't pay much, but it was a prestigious job in our minds. The benefits included free movies and popcorn, but we paid for drinks and candy.
Coach Robert Kyle managed the facility alongside his real career as coach at Concord College. In retrospect, he managed the operation much as he managed his sports teams, with encouragement but a good dose of criticism, often punctuated with a fist into the chest (which made an interesting and even amusing "thud" when inflicted on a coworker.)
Coach Kyle promoted the sale of popcorn and soft drinks. They were profitable and it was probably through these concessions that the theater survived as long as it did. Coach Kyle taught us to provide a little more than sufficient amount of salt in the popcorn to ensure that movie goers became thirsty. He provided an additional enticement for buying drinks from the vending machine by randomly stamping the bottom of one paper Coke cup with "free movie pass" when a stack of about 50 cups was loaded. As inquisitive concessions workers we learned that the bottom of the next vending cup was visible from into the opening where the Coke was dispensed, so we checked the cup status whenever possible after a drink purchase. Of course we had to be subtle, waiting for the customer to leave the lobby before getting on our knees in that awkward position. When we spotted an stamped cup waiting to be vended we paid the price of 10 cents to acquire the pass. We could then enjoy a Coke with the free popcorn and acquire a free pass which could be given to a friend. Additionally, as custodian workers, we sometimes found stamped cups on the auditorium floor, left by a someone who didn't check the bottom to see if he or she was lucky prize winner.
Interest in attending movies declined during the late 1960s. The decline coincided with other changes in Athens as we had come to know it. The theater was eventually closed and torn down. The marquee was set aside to deteriorate. The image shown above was captured by Andrew Turnbull on a return trip to his home town from his current home in Wisconsin. My friend David helped me locate the old popcorn popper in local storage. It was the center of the concessions operation we ran in the 1960's, working at full capacity under Coach Kyle's directives, "...more popcorn!!."
Coach Kyle died at the age of 96 on June 18, 2010. His obituary is here.
AHS Class of 1965 Fifty Year Reunion
A Note from Rose Thornton Kessinger
The reunion committee has decided to have our picnic on Friday, August 14th at Athens Baptist Church (beside Athens School). We will have registration at 5 pm and are attempting to set up a tour of Athens School (no longer a high school) for those who are interested. For the picnic, chicken and ham, bottled water, soft drinks and all paper products will be furnished. We are asking those attending to bring a side dish or dessert.
On Saturday, August 15th, we will have dinner together at Pipestem State Park and Resort. We will have a memorial service and recognitions. Anyone with pictures or other memorabilia, please bring them to share. A group photo will be taken at both events. Registration forms will be mailed out at the end of May, with form and money due by July 1st. We are waiting on a definite cost from Pipestem before determining your registration fee.
For those who are able to stay Sunday, August 16th, we will meet on the Concord campus from 2 - 5 pm for the Town Social. Vendors and live music, food and fun for all will be available.
We hope all of our class members will join us for a great reunion! We are still looking for an address for Billy Mitchell. If any of you have that info, please let me know.