Remembering Saturdays at the Movies

One of Mom’s stories that I really enjoy was her description of going to the Princess Theater in Eureka on Saturdays in the 1930s. That was the family shopping day in town. You can read her story on the Our Echo website or in her book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

The vintage buildings in Eureka, Kansas.

The vintage buildings in Eureka, Kansas.

I would love to see a picture of the Princess Theater, both of the interior and the exterior. There’s an online spot called Topix for Eureka, so I posed the question there if anyone had a photo. Although no photo has surfaced, the query did spark some interesting memories. Here are some of the responses:

Sue Ellen of Wichita shared this memory: “My Grandfather Thomas Archibald Rector was the projectionist from 1928 to 1960 at the Princess Theater in Eureka Kansas. At one time he also managed it. He brought the Princess from the silent days of projection to the talkies and even opened the Drive In and still ran the matinees at the Princess.

My mother Arleta Jeanne Rector Grove spent a great deal of time there attending movies through her childhood too. When we were little (born 1951) my brother and I would often go with my Mother for a Saturday afternoon show and we would sit in the balcony while Grandpa ran the booth. He helped everybody get ready on movie night and he was a wonderful man. He learned the projection craft from his brother-in-law at the Emporia Theater before coming to build a home in Eureka.

My favorite movie I saw there and scared me to pieces was when Darby O’Gill and the Little People came out!!!”

“Also, about mid day after matinee time if we were in town, Grandpa would let us kids go clean up the aisles. While we were helping clean up after the matinee, he would play newsreels from WWII. I knew my father had been in WWII so it was like learning about my father as a hero since he was a part of it.”

I always loved the smell of popcorn as I walked into the Princess!
Thanks for the memories as Bob Hope would say.

Sue Ellen added more background, writing this time from Springdale, AR: “I was just thinking about the night Grandpa Rector was showing Darby O’Gill and The Little People. It was during the first week he played it-probably a Friday or Saturday night. We went down to the newspaper stand that sold penny candy (can’t remember its name- someone help me) before the show. We bought two very small brown paper bags FULL of candy like chocolate balls, Jolly ranchers all flavors, etc. The we went to the movie. I got so scared at the BANSHEE that I covered my eyes till it was passed. My mother, brother Ray, sister Lynn and I went. What fun!”

Tammy M of Shawnee, OK told her memories: “My father Michael Johnston Bought this theater in June of 1970 and sold either in 71 or 72. I am asking if anyone has pics…. Please!!! Thank You … My email.is tammy2616@hotmail.com subject this theater plz.”

Glenn Felter of Howard, KS remembered: “When I was younger I spent a lot of time going to the Princess. I really enjoyed it and it was sad when they closed it down!”

Joan Downing Barg of Coffeyville, KS tells some stories: “My brother Jim worked as an usher. Remember them? I worked at the popcorn machine when I was in highschool (1950’s) It was a fun job as I got to see all my friends coming and going to the movies. The owner/manager then was Mr and Mrs. Ailey. Mabel Brown sold tickets. After they retired the new manager was Charlie Shoemaker, I think, that was a long time ago and I may be wrong about the name. Those were the times of “Ma and Pa Kettle” and Francis, the Talking Mule” and people would be lined up from the Princess down the block to the Greenwood Hotel. There would be two showings…one at 7:00 and one at 9:00 and the theater would be packed both times. It was the only entertainment in Eureka at the time.

We live in Coffeyville, Ks. now and don’t even have a movie theater here. They are trying to restore the Midland so they can show movies at certain times. But I don’t think it will ever be as wonderful as the days of “The Princess”!!”

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