Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet You at The Circle A Pardner

When I was a kid in Pawhuska, certainly in the earl 1950's, we had three movie theaters downtown, plus the Corral Drive-in Theater a few miles out of town on Highway 99 near the Osage County Fairgrounds. I rarely got to go to the drive-in then because we did not have a car. But the downtown theaters were in walking distance and bicycle range. Everyone my age, and I am now 65, remembers the Ki-He-Kah and State theaters, but there was a third theater along Main Street, just across the street from Clifton's Gift Shop, the Pullman Cafe and Shamrock Billiards, just to locate it. I do not know for how long it was open, but I must have been around eight years old when I remember going there a lot. It had certain draws for me at that age for it had wooden hitching posts outside at the entrance, a wooden floor next to the ticket booth and the western or cowboy theme was consistent throughout the theater. Once we were inside, old time lanterns were suspended overhead and I think I remember wagon wheels. The concession stand was against the west wall just after you went in. I saw a number of movies there, but unlike those I saw at the State and Ki-He-Kah, I remember none of the movies by title or actor. I remember that we went on Saturday and it was always a cowboy movie and always a double feature. I do not remember seeing cartoons and documentaries, news, and other things that I do recall from the other theaters. It is possible that the movie theater was opened only on Saturdays but I have few facts about it as I just have not found articles or literature that described this old friend. The name of the theater was The Circle A Theater, so it carried the western theme throughout. Years later, I had become friends with Eugene Malloy, whom I recall as older than I was but we were still pretty good friends at the time. One day, he showed me that there was a break in the wall in his father's business, which was Malloy's Dry Cleaning, and we went through it into the abandoned Circle A Theater. It was dark with a persistent musty smell about the building and there were only ghosts from our past then but it was fascinating, nevertheless. As my friend Ronnie Havens has said about a few things in Pawhuska, you go back to see them just to prove to yourself that they really existed. Ronnie said that about the Old Reservoir when we were inspecting it, and I understand what he means. There are so many things we do as children and they then disappear due to economic reasons usually, and we don't trust our memory. We are suddenly twenty-five or forty-five years old and we wonder: Did I really do that? Did that really exist? We have to prove it to ourselves, and part of what Eugene Malloy and I were doing that day and a few others, was proving to ourselves that it did exist. We had a great time talking about it although we did not know the word "reminisce"then. The last time I was able to go into this old building was in 1987 when our Pawhuska High School class of 1962 held its 25th reunion and on Friday evening, it was started at the Elks Club, then downtown and in the old movie theater. There were no traces remaining that I could identify as the Circle A theater. Still, it was nice to have been that close to it once again and it brought back memories, old and imperfect as they were. It was a warm and fuzzy feeling, once again, Pawhuska of the 1950's, our small and imperfect version of Camelot. It was a good time to be in Pawhuska.

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