the kentucky at 90

The Kentucky Theatre at 90: Readers share their memories

Lexington's much-loved movie house holds a special place in many people's hearts

September 30, 2012 

The Kentucky Theatre holds a special place in the hearts of Lexingtonians, past and present. It's the destination of first dates and of first movies, a theater of childhood wonder, a hub of downtown life and a little bit of Hollywood in our fair city.

We asked readers to tell us their stories about The Kentucky and why they love it so much. We were overwhelmed with responses.

Here are some of the stories we received.

Becoming an 'American'

In 1932, at age 13, I immigrated from a tiny, remote mountain village in central Greece to the beautiful city of Lexington. I didn't speak or understand a word of English.

My father, Chris Anggelis, and his brother Jim Anggelis owned Central Restaurant across the street from The Kentucky Theatre. I had never seen a movie in my life and, before arriving in Lexington, had not even heard of motion pictures. Never could I have imagined the role The Kentucky Theatre would play in my Americanization.

I remember the awe with which I watched my first film: a Western starring Johnny Mack Brown. I could scarcely take it in: the huge figures dancing before me in the dark, and the men riding their horses on and on. In the mountains of Greece, one could only ride slowly and on a donkey for a short distance for fear of plummeting off a cliff. I was hooked.

I saw Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross before I understood that the action in the movie was not real. Whenever a Christian was martyred in the Roman coliseum, I bowed my head, uttered a silent prayer and made the Greek Orthodox sign of the cross for their sacrifice.

Many of The Kentucky employees were customers of my father's restaurant, and I often delivered food to them at the theater. Several times the projectionist invited me upstairs to the projection room. I watched the movie through the peephole in amazement.

I would arrive as the doors opened, my 15 cents admission in hand, and watch the same movie repeatedly, until my father finally came to drag me home at 11 p.m. In time, I learned some basic English from the movies at The Kentucky.

What I remember most, what had the most profound and lasting impact on me, was that through the films at The Kentucky, I learned how to be an American.

These were the days of the great "A" movies, with stars like Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland and Gary Cooper. Immersed in the films, I lived in the perfect American world. I discovered how an American gentleman dressed, ate, walked, talked and escorted a lady down the street. In our mountain village, we too had very strict and time-honored customs and manners. In reality, these manners were not much different from those in the glittering films of the 1930s.

My daughters will tell you that thanks to The Kentucky Theatre their father dressed, walked and had the impeccable manners of Cary Grant, danced like Fred Astaire and the easy down home charm of Gary Cooper.

All I know is that at age 93½ , I can close my eyes and I'm that young Greek boy, back in The Kentucky Theatre, mesmerized by those flickering images, learning all about my new home. America! - John C. Anggelis, 93, Lexington

Not a regular theater

I went on my first date ever at The Kentucky. It was summer of 2000, and I was on a date with a girl I had asked out. It was a midnight showing of Pulp Fiction. Late in the showing, the film broke. They told us that was it, they couldn't patch it, and were very sorry. We'd all seen the movie before, so while we felt a little cheated, we could deal with it.

However, they did something neat I'll always remember. They had an employee standing out in the lobby with the ruined reel of film and some scissors. They cut off a 2- or 3-foot length of film and gave it to every theatergoer.

That relationship didn't last, but I still have those few feet of film, and as movie theaters switch over to digital projection I realize it is a relic of a time gone by. I'll hold on to my tiny little chunk of Pulp Fiction, my piece of old-style moviegoing. - Joseph M. Osborne


Whether it was a documentary like Paris Is Burning or a foreign film like My Beautiful Laundrette, The Kentucky Theatre is the place in Lexington — and often the only place — to catch a gay-themed movie.

With exceptions such as Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia, most gay-themed movies fly under the radar, don't draw large crowds and therefore never find their way to the first-run movie houses. But because of The Kentucky, moviegoers in Lexington have been able to see countless movies about LGBT individuals.

More than a few times I've left the theater saying, "Thank God for The Kentucky and Fred Mills." Otherwise, we'd never get to see movies like these — movies about LGBT individuals — on the big screen. - Thomas Tolliver, 59, Lexington


In 1975, when I was about 5 years old, my parents divorced and my mom moved to Lexington and my dad to Texas. Until I finished high school, my brother, sister and I spent our school year in Texas and our summers in Lexington. My mom always lived in the Woodland Park area. My brother and sister and I entertained ourselves mostly at Woodland Park and the pool, but sometimes we would ride our bikes to The Kentucky.

The summer after fifth grade, I was in Lexington visiting my mom. For some reason, I decided to go by myself to see Gone With the Wind at The Kentucky.

It is a long movie with an intermission. I did not know what an intermission meant and had never been to a movie with one. So when they had the intermission for Gone With the Wind, I left the theater thinking it was over.

I remember afterward, talking to my family about being unsatisfied and confused with the ending. "I thought it was a love story. And, wasn't there that famous line, 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' that I should have heard?" After a while, I realized I had left at the intermission. But, by that time, the movie was no longer showing at The Kentucky. This was before the days of VCRs, DVDs, DVRs, etc. I wasn't sure I would ever get a chance to see the ending.

Someone told me it was based on a book, so I checked it out from the library and in fifth grade read Gone With the Wind, which is over 1,000 pages. I was quite proud of myself. - Dana Logsdon, 42, Lexington


The Kentucky Theatre and I go way, way back, in fact over 80 years. I attended my first movie there in my grandmother's arms in 1931.

She and a lady friend were dying to see a certain picture show that was playing. Although money was tight in the Depression years, they scraped enough together for streetcar fare and tickets for a matinee.

Grandmother had to bring me along as she was my baby sitter. She said I slept through most of the movie as she had hoped. Near the end I woke up in a very cantankerous mood, so she gave me a bottle. Promptly, I pulled the nipple off with my few teeth and doused the audience in front of us with milk. Grandmother and her friend made an embarrassed, hasty exit. - Faye M. Grubb, 82, Cynthiana


In spring 2008, we were watching the fourth Indiana Jones movie when my wife's cellphone rang. It was our son; he had been in an auto accident in another state. He was not hurt, but the car was probably totaled.

There were things we needed to attend to immediately, so we left the theater.

A week later, I called The Kentucky and asked to speak to manager Fred Mills. I told him what had happened and asked if he would allow us back into the theater to pick up where we had left off. He said sure, happily and with no hesitation. We saw the remainder of the movie later that day, and Fred and his staff asked us if everything was alright.

I doubt this would have happened at any other theater in town. Now whenever I see him I say, "Fred, you've still got the best theater in town." - Bruce Engel, Lexington (Engel and his wife, Mary Sondergard, work at the Herald-Leader.)


My mom, Frances Silvestri, came to college at the University of Kentucky from Anderson County in 1943-44. She took a job selling tickets at The Kentucky Theatre. My father, Joe Silvestri, returned home from World War II and went back to work at the family market, M. Marcellino's, next door to The Kentucky.

My aunt Louise Maxey remembers distinctly that my dad saw my mom, a young beautiful girl walking down Main Street and followed her to The Kentucky Theatre. Joe walked up to the ticket booth at The Kentucky and asked Frances to go to a dance at Joyland Park. Joe reported back to Louise that Frances accepted but that Louise would have to come along. Joe exclaimed to his sister Louise, "I'm going to marry that girl!" They danced, they dated, and they married in January 1947. I'm the youngest of seven children. It all started at The Kentucky Theatre. - Ken Silvestri, 51, Lexington


I went to The Kentucky Theatre for the first time 34 years ago after finding a note on my desk at work that read, "Wanna go to Singin' in the Rain with me on Friday night?" The Kentucky Theatre magic worked, and a year later we were married. For our first anniversary, my special gift was an original movie poster from Singin' in the Rain.

In 1992, we attended the grand reopening celebration. The guest of honor that night was Debbie Reynolds, who starred in Singin' in the Rain. We had taken our first anniversary poster with us and we mentioned it when we met Ms. Reynolds . She asked if we would like her to autograph it. She was so warm and friendly, and we were delighted with her sweet note on our poster. - Arleen Johnson, 64, and Mickey Jones, 65, Lexington


My uncle Melvin Gaitskill managed The Kentucky for many years. After the Cinema opened, my aunt Dorothy was often at the door there.

There used to be a hidden passage from the Cinema into the manager's office at The Kentucky, and Dorothy would send me through so I could pop out and surprise Melvin. When I showed up for a movie with one of my friends, he'd personally usher us in and see that we had good seats. Melvin taught me about sitting at the aisle on one of the side sections — as a little person you don't have to worry about taller people in front of you because you're looking at an angle across the aisle. Even though I'm tallish for a woman, I still follow his advice. Melvin loved movies, and he loved to talk about great films. - Leigh Gaitskill, 60, Lexington


Under the management of the iconic Fred Mills, the staff at The Kentucky Theatre when I worked there in the late 1970s and early 1980s was like family.

Before the fire of 1987 and the renovation that followed, the physical condition of the theater left something to be desired: the roof leaked, the old seats were in constant need of repair, and there was no heat in the box office. Still, to work there was to be part of something special: loyal customers, an array of great films and a variety of colorful colleagues.

Although I moved away after college in the 1980s, I always stop at The Kentucky Theatre when I am in Lexington to visit family. - Michael Hayse, 51, Swarthmore, Pa.


If you bought a ticket at The Kentucky Theatre in the mid-1950s, you probably met my mother, Daisy Thompson.

Although she was the mother of three teenage girls, she still turned heads, including one customer who came to the movies when he was in town: Jerry Lee Lewis. He took a shine to Mamma. He brought her flowers, candy, free tickets to Joyland, and endless invitations to come see his show.

When Mamma told Daddy about Jerry's persistent flirtations, Daddy started taking breaks from his dispatcher job at Greyhound on Short Street, walking down Esplanade, and hanging around the ticket window to let Jerry know that Mamma was taken. - Jacquelyn Thompson, 70, Lexington


Growing up in Lexington during the 1940s, we considered The Kentucky to be the Cadillac of the movie theaters in town. It always got the new movies first and was almost filled with people most every night. I remember standing in a long line waiting to get in when Gone With the Wind was shown.

My most memorable moment was in 1945, when, in the middle of a movie, the lights came on and it was announced that President Roosevelt had just died due to a cerebral hemorrhage. A gasp was heard throughout the theater, as World War II was still going on. - Jim Humphrey, 82, Lexington


As a native Kentuckian now living in New York, there are few things I miss more than seeing a movie at The Kentucky Theatre. There really is no better place in the Bluegrass State to see current art house films (most fondly for me Topsy-Turvy and Dancer in the Dark) and the best classic movies of all genres (like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). I went there often while growing up. Even now, I still subscribe to their e-mails, all the way in Brooklyn.

In my late teens, I saw Rocky Horror there many times, my first time being perhaps the greatest one of all. I remember The Kentucky Theatre got into hot water back in 1999 for wanting to show the X-rated 3-D film Disco Dolls in Hot Skin. My first Rocky Horror was the first one at the theater since the controversy, and everyone really let their inhibitions go. Instead of a small strip tease during the opening credits, the dancers onstage got down to their underwear with full intent to get naked. That is, until theater heads and security guards gently advised them against it. As fun as it was to see Rocky Horror there, it never got as wild as that again.

One thing I loved about The Kentucky Theatre was how they went above and beyond being just another cinema. I went to one concert there, to see Suzanne Vega as part of the Troubadour Concert Series back in 1997. I distinctly remember also seeing a special screening of The King and I, presented by American Movie Classics (back when they cared about cinema), and hosted by Nick Clooney, whom my parents and I were able to meet. I also fondly remember the silent movies I was able to see there, from Nosferatu and Phantom of the Opera to Broken Blossoms.

It would be a great loss if The Kentucky Theatre (both screens of it) were to ever close. It is as much a part of the state's greatness as the Derby or the Wildcats. - Leah Biel, 28, Brooklyn, N.Y.


It was a Saturday afternoon and it was time, for various reasons, for me and my son and daughter to get out of the house. With nothing to do particularly and no advance thought to where we were going, we wound up driving near The Kentucky. The thought occurred: "Well, maybe a movie."

At that time The Kentucky was playing multiple films each day rather than a single film again and again. Finding a French film playing at that time, I called the manager to ask if it was suitable for kids. He must have answered yes because we parked the car and went to the theater.

By happenstance, the afternoon turned out to be one of our favorite movie memories (at least mine). The movie was The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, starring ... I have no idea. It was a comedy in French with subtitles. It must have been something of a magic film because the three of us came out thinking it was the best movie we had ever seen. A thirtysomething man, a 9-year-old boy (who could read) and a 4-year-old girl (who could not) laughing and enjoying a French film in subtitles.

I don't know how many times I put in the suggestion box at The Kentucky a suggestion to show that film again. Apparently no one agreed with the three of us on the merits of "the best movie ever," because it never showed up again. - Charles Taylor, 70, Lexington


It was my first time in the "big" city of Lexington. A group of History Club students from Clark County were attending the Kentucky Historical Society convention in the Lafayette Hotel. John Jacob Niles was the guest entertainer. But during the business meeting portion of the event, several of us freshmen got bored and slipped into The Kentucky Theatre for the afternoon.

It was a non-stop event of horror movies, the greatest works of Edgar Allan Poe. I hid my eyes as the big pendulum swung back and forth getting closer to the victim in The Pit and the Pendulum. Then Vincent Price at his best in The Fall of the House of Usher, and so many more. By the time we went back to the big hotel for the dinner and entertainment portion, you can be sure we were afraid of every spooky shadow. - Fronza Gould, 60, Winchester


During the summer of 1980, my roommates and I viewed The Shining one dark and stormy night. After the movie, we ran home in the rain to find our neighborhood without power. Very, very scary night following a very, very scary movie. We were without power for a week One of the ways I kept cool was at the air-conditioned Kentucky. I watched every early afternoon screening of the Greta Garbo Film Festival that week.

I loved The Kentucky so much that, when my Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government office was moved to the Switow Building, I was thrilled that my Palladian office windows were directly above The Kentucky's marquee. My current position in LexCall is next door to The Kentucky with the back French doors of my office accessible to the State Theatre's art gallery. A lovely watercolor enhanced sketch of The Kentucky Theatre at night by a local artist hangs on the wall over my office desk. - Julie Fisher Terrell, 51, Lexington


I saw with my mother what I think was my first movie at The Kentucky Theatre: 1950's Two Weeks With Love, in which Debbie Reynolds sang Abba Dabba Honeymoon. I knew at that moment I was in love with the movies. Popcorn was a dime, candy bars a nickel and drinks were not allowed inside the theater.

In 1951 or '52, I saw Rosemary Clooney in person at The Kentucky. I think her first movie premiered there. She sang Come On-A My House and wore the prettiest pale blue dress that I had ever seen. My girlfriend Betty and I rode the city bus (fare was a nickel) downtown to see it. I was enchanted with the whole atmosphere.

Then the real magic came in 1961: Breakfast at Tiffany's. My future husband, James, and I fell in love during this one, and Moon River became "our song."

Now in the 21st century, The Kentucky Theatre is the best place ever to celebrate New Year's Eve with the live music. Beautiful.

I will always consider this theater among my very favorite memories: the smell of popcorn, the magnificent overhead dome and still affordable prices. Thank you Fred Mills for all that you do and have done in the past. - Mary Kemper


I went to The Kentucky Theatre a lot, but my favorite memory was my first visit. It was the first time my mother let me go with a girlfriend by ourselves. I was 12 years old. She let us off in front of the theater. I felt so grown up when I went through those doors for the first time without a parent. The movie we saw was Hitchcock's original 1960 Psycho. When the "shower" scene came up, my friend and I got out of our seats and knelt down in front of them in the floor. We peeped out over the seats in front of us when it was over. I have never forgotten that. - Pam Perkins, 63, Bardstown, but originally from Lexington


I remember three specific movies that I saw at The Kentucky Theatre. Two were arguably the finest comedies of our generation, Blazing Saddles (1974) and Animal House (1978). The third was Eraserhead (1977), a movie directed by David Lynch. I remember leaving the theater thinking, "What the ---- did I just see?" Some of the best and most bizarre film experiences of my life were seen at The Kentucky Theatre. - Phil Hestand, 57, Shelbyville


While at Lexington Cemetery visiting my deceased husband's grave I saw an old friend, Jack Royse. At 64 years old, I would never have thought I'd be contemplating going on a date. After a few mishaps and three phone calls I said "yes."

Jack picked me up, and we headed out to a movie at The Kentucky Theatre. It had been years since I had been there. He bought our tickets, drinks and popcorn, and we found a cozy seat made for two, quite nice.

I cannot remember the name of the movie we watched that night, but I do remember that seat and the feeling I had sitting next to the man who has given me 17 years of happiness. - Barbara Royse, 80, Lexington


My oldest brother, Melvin Gaitskill (now deceased), worked as an usher at The Kentucky in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Many years later, after a career in theater management with Schine theaters, he was manager of The Kentucky Theatre for some years.

Among my memories is seeing Gone With the Wind in 1939.

I remember being there for a movie (perhaps Till the Clouds Roll By) when they held a fund drive for the March of Dimes. The house lights came up, and they played You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel. Very dramatic. - Bob Gaitskill, Bradenton, Fla., but born and raised in Lexington


My memories of The Kentucky Theatre go back 50 years. When I was a little girl my parents would take us to holiday shows like Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. When I was in grade school, the nuns would arrange to take our class to special shows. We saw Ben-Hur, The Robe and The Song of Bernadette to name a few. It was magical just going in the door. Everything was so beautiful and cool. It smelled just wonderful.

In the 1970s, my best friend, Jim McKee, was employed by The Kentucky, and they managed to get the best movies in the state, new movies and classics, too.

I now live in Indiana, but when I visit Lexington I always make it a point to see at least one movie at The Kentucky Theatre. In this age of "mini cinemas" with tiny screens and inferior sound systems, it is such a pleasure to sit in a comfortable chair, look at the beautiful surroundings and enjoy a good movie on a huge screen with wonderful sound equipment.

I hope The Kentucky Theatre stays open for another 90 years so future generations can enjoy a movie as it should be. - Gretchen Irving, Bristow, Ind.


At 87, I have lots of memories of The Kentucky. I remember the Ben Ali and Ada Meade, but my first visit to The Kentucky was a special experience. It looked like a real theater. I remember seeing My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music early. Our children enjoyed Old Yeller. My son, Jim, was involved in promoting The Kentucky for many years. I even helped him deliver the calendars when they had new ones every six weeks. - Rose McKee, Lexington


One of my favorite memories was the reopening of The Kentucky Theatre in 1992. I had my picture made with Debbie Reynolds; we share the same birthday. We were dressed fit to kill. - JoAnn Miller, 80, Lexington


I assisted with the fund-raising campaign event featuring Willie Nelson for the Galbraith-Hammond 1995 state election. My story and memory is of Willie running late and Jerry Hammond's wife, Mary Lou, frantically pacing the front of the theater. Willie called Gate to assure us he was on his way from Tennessee, but his arrival was more than an hour late. I was selling T-shirts under the marquee; the tardy arrival didn't hurt sales. People from The Bar Complex next door were popping over, and the attendees inside never appeared worried. Needless to say, it was a fabulous performance, and Willie stayed for hours after his performance to sign autographs. - Delia Montgomery, 59, Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii


My favorite memory of going to The Kentucky Theatre was watching Pat Boone appear onstage in the summer of 1957 while he was in Lexington filming the movie April Love. When I looked at the paper the next day there was a picture of three young girls — my cousin, my sister and I — looking up at Pat Boone singing his hit songs.

After watching the filming of April Love at Lexington's Red Mile track and being paid to be an extra in the crowd scenes for a few days, naturally my favorite movie at The Kentucky Theatre on a Wednesday night in 1958 was the premiere of that movie. A few movie stars and a huge crowd were in attendance. What a thrill for a star-struck teenage girl. After 55 years I still have the picture of Pat Boone and the three girls in my scrapbook and those memories in my mind forever. - Donna M. Cadle, Lexington


In the early 1980s, I had the opportunity to meet the extraordinary actress Lillian Gish at The Kentucky Theatre. The Kentucky Film Foundation and The Kentucky Theatre hosted Miss Gish's appearance there. I treasure my autographed souvenir booklet from that memorable evening. It is 32 pages of classic photographs and biographical information. The Kentucky Theatre has always been a favorite source of entertainment for me. - Carolyn Helt Colliver, 70, Lexington


When The Kentucky Theatre was renovated in 1992, my husband bought a seat for me. The plaque on the back reads: "Leah Bond — with Love on Valentine's Day, 1992, Your husband, Bill." After that information appeared in an article in the Herald-Leader on April 5, 1992, I received telephone calls and messages from friends, many I hadn't heard from in a long time, telling me what a thoughtful and considerate husband I have. We attended the grand re-opening on April 11, 1992. It was such a spectacular night, the street was blocked off, and the special guest was Debbie Reynolds. We have attended many different artistic events and movies in the theater over the years, and we always try to sit in the seats behind my seat so I can read the plaque. - Leah Bond, 74, Lexington


My Kentucky Theatre story has five chapters and lasts more than 60 years.

My first wonderful memories were of attending any movie starring Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire or Esther Williams with my mother — and on a school night while I was in grade school (the nuns at St. Catherine Academy would not have approved, had they known). After the movies, my mother and I would go across Main Street to Bradley's Drug for a chocolate soda. Not only were the movies spectacular, but the elegant theater provided such a treat, with the two stained-glass ceiling windows and the absolutely gorgeous ladies room, complete with dressing tables in the lobby of the powder room.

Next, my first "date" with a boy, without others with us, was on an Easter Sunday afternoon to see Singin' in the Rain. This remains one of my favorite movies, as the 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds is such a bright star in this exceptional movie.

Saturday afternoons during high school started with lunch (either olive nut or pimento cheese sandwiches) at McAdams and Morford drug store with girls from my school and continued at The Kentucky Theatre, where we could watch a cartoon, the news and probably even a double feature, all for one admission price. Even today when I see news clips from the 1950s, I imagine watching them while sitting in The Kentucky, which was my favorite of all the six downtown movie theaters.

Debbie Reynolds, again, leads another great event when the renovated Kentucky Theatre opened with her as the guest mistress of ceremonies. Even more fun that evening was knowing about all the sponsored seats throughout the theater, including the secret one from the elusive, and some say imaginary, L. Bouvier — look on the right side of the house, toward the back. Ms. Bouvier was quite honored to have her own place, and her seat remains a meeting spot for many of my friends and family. - Rose Moloney Lucas, 73, Lexington


My Kentucky Theatre memory is when The Kentucky showed Singin' in the Rain. I was only about 8 or 9 when this happened. My mom actually kept me home from school that day so she, her friend and I could go see the movie. She claimed that going to The Kentucky Theatre would be more educational than anything school could teach. At the time I thought seeing a musical would be lame, but it was better than going to school. However, I really enjoyed the movie, laughed at Donald O'Connor's antics and still to this day, Singin' in the Rain is one of my favorite movies. - Michael Parker, 43, Versailles


It was in the late 1960s that a friend's mother took her daughter, my sister and me on a wonderful journey to The Kentucky Theatre. We got up early that day and left Lincoln County (in that day, travel time was about 11/2 hours to Lexington). We took the winding road around the river. Full of excitement, we were going to the movies! I remember downtown Lexington was full of hustle and bustle. We parked a way from the theater, but as teenagers that was no problem.

The line was very long. People were friendly, smiling, mostly adults. After being seated in the theater, I was amazed that there were no empty seats. The theater was spectacular. I was in awe.

The movie started. No noise was heard in the theater. I was mesmerized. I never once left my seat. My eyes never left the movie screen. The actors were bigger than life. I was at Gone With the Wind.

Since that time I have been to two movie premieres in Atlanta — Love Story and Funny Girl — and several Broadway plays in New York. But the feeling I got as a young teenage girl at The Kentucky Theatre watching Clark Gable will forever be a wonderful memory. - Vicki Folger, Lexington


Mother and a friend took my friend and me to see Gone With the Wind at the Kentucky Theatre when it was first released. There was an intermission, which was unusual. We missed the last two hours of school. I was in Morton Junior High then. Movies were 10 cents for children then. The Kentucky Theatre was very "plush," more than the Ben Ali and Strand. What memories when Lexington was only 25,000 people. - Bettie Tuttle


I am now 80 years old, and when I was growing up, one of the only things we did for entertainment was to attend the movies. My very favorite theater was The Kentucky Theatre. It was the nicest of all our theaters. We had the Ben Ali, Strand, Ada Meade and the theater that is now the Lexington Opera House. The Kentucky was by far the fanciest.

My sister and I used to go to the movies. My mother would do her shopping, and we would attend the movies. Sometimes, we would sit through the movies twice because we liked them so well.

We did not have shopping centers then, and the only Christmas shopping, clothing, shoe, furniture, appliances, etc., was downtown. Every one "went to town" for any purchases and entertainment. Any time you would go downtown, you would run into relatives and friends. It was a happy experience.

The Kentucky Theatre was a popular theater where we went on dates with our boyfriends. That was our very favorite thing to do when I was a teenager. Most of us did not have automobiles, so we want to town on the bus or walked to town. - Betty Ann Cason, 80, Lexington


Dinner and a movie

My most exciting memory of The Kentucky by far took place when I was a teenager in 1956. The film was Glory, a horse story starring Margaret O’Brien, the famous child star who was then 19. Some of the scenes from Glory were shot in the Bluegrass, and the movie premiere was held at The Kentucky Theatre.

In conjunction with this event, Purcell’s department store held a contest for girls. In 25 words or less, we responded to “why I want to have dinner with Margaret O’Brien.” Three winners were selected. I was one of them.

The prize was a formal dinner for the three winners and their dates with Margaret, her producer and her mother at the downtown Lafayette Hotel. After dinner, we proceeded next door to The Kentucky Theatre for the premiere showing of Glory.

Purcell’s provided each contest winner with a new party dress for the occasion. We were photographed in our new dresses with Margaret, and the picture appeared on the front page of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Margaret was charming, warm and unaffected in her white wool hooded sweater and black skirt. She was interested in hearing about our lives in Lexington.

My date was William Kathman Barrett, whose name now appears at the top of the list of Vietnam War veterans on the memorial plaque in front of the downtown Lexington library. I remember that he had rented a tux for the occasion and was quite nervous.

Jean-Marie Welch, Lexington


Scared seatless

I was about 11 or 12 when a schoolmate asked to take me to the movies. We got on the bus in front of my house on Hollywood Drive and went to town to The Kentucky. The movie was Dracula. I spent most of the time under the seat, scared to death. I hope I was polite to my host, but I have no memory of how I behaved. The boy was either Billy Green or Morris Lancaster — I can’t remember which. I remember and probably will never forget Dracula or Bela Lugosi. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen thousands of movies at The Kentucky in my lifetime, but none was as memorable as Dracula.

Harriett Rose, 92, Lexington

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