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.