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New theatre, new memories in Nelson
Mitzi Hufty’s first job was usherette at the Nelson Civic Theatre.
“We had all the power,” she laughs, describing her flashlight-wielding days at the Famous Players theatre in the 1950s, where manager Mr. Hughes allowed no guff from theatre patrons. “We got to kick people out if they were getting too rowdy.”
As for the teenagers who came to “neck” in the back row, “we usually left them alone,” she says.
Mitzi’s friends were envious; a job at the Civic was a coveted thing. Eventually, she became candy bar attendant, trading in the airforce blue usherette uniform for a white, aproned uniform with a hat.
Candy bar attendants had to be fast when lineups were long. Mitzi remembers staff races to open, assemble and fill the folded popcorn boxes. After the last movie patron went home, Civic Theatre employees would go out together and have fun. Sometimes staff dressed up for a particular movie: for Rob Roy, the kilts came out.
The hottest film Mitzi remembers? “House of Wax, with Vincent Price. It was 3-D! We handed out glasses.”
At one time the Nelson Civic Theatre was the largest in BC, she says.
“It was magical. Everyone came to see the movies.”
Now, the Nelson Civic Theatre Society wants to make new memories in a renovated, reopened theatre. In this column we’ll be highlighting some of your memories from the past while we tell you about plans for the future.
There’s a lot to be done! Our long-term goal of three screens will offer plenty of choices for our eclectic community, but the view when you walk up the ramp — to where 14-year-old Mitzi with her flashlight would once have helped you find your seat while the newsreel played — will be as magical as ever. The first big change will be the comfortable seats, retrofitted and installed, followed eventually by new audio and digital projection as our fundraising success grows.
There are plenty of people like Mitzi who have fond memories and close connections with the Civic Theatre, and so we’ll throw the doors open on January 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. for folks to see how far we’ve come and where we have to go, and perhaps relive a memory or two. Find out how to get involved or donate, or just learn about the project: there will be presentations with Q&A, tours, popcorn, and we’ll be launching our Seat Sale. (Come fly with us!)
In February we’ll have our first movie night, followed by a special event with Selkirk College film and graphic design students, with a gradual build-up to regular programming as the ducks line up. The new Nelson Civic Theatre will be your theatre: built on memories, big on magic.
Anne DeGrace is the president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society. Large Popcorn, Extra Butter runs every other Wednesday in the Star. If you have a memory to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more at civictheatre.ca.