Rebecca Johnston: Old movies bring forth happy memories
by Rebecca Johnston
March 04, 2012 12:01 AM | 2140 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hearing several big names reminisce about the first movie they ever saw was more a highlight of last week’s Oscar night than the award ceremony itself.

Just as movies themselves do, the memories of those experiences long ago transported me back in space and time. There is magic in that time travel.

I remembered “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the first movie I ever saw at the old Canton Theatre when I was a small child about 4 or 5 years old. It must have taken it a long time for the popular Disney film to get to Canton, because it was about 20 years after it was originally released.

What I still remember vividly is how frightened I was, not just of the wicked witch but of the movie theater itself.

The red curtains surrounding the room, the little twinkling exit light, the door at the side of the screen all seemed to continue the theme of the movie that was playing out its story of treachery, destruction of innocence and jealous envy.

Of course all I felt at the time was the grip of fear for poor Snow White as the hunter led her into the forest. The memories of that fateful day when I first was transported into another dimension in my mind would stay with me forever.

Fast forward to the late 1960s when my family — mother, father, sister, and brother and I — would pile into our old car and ride down Highway 41 to downtown Atlanta to go to what we considered the beautiful Martin Cinerama Theater.

I remember us seeing movies like “Mary Poppins” and “Pinocchio” together and I remember my mother crying when the little puppet boy was swallowed by a whale. We rarely saw our mother cry, so that in itself was a memorable event.

But my happiest memory of that time is going to Atlanta to see the blockbuster “The Sound of Music.” When we came out into the street afterward it was snowing.

The opening scene of the movie panning over the snow-capped Austrian Alps as the beautiful voice of Julie Andrews swelled in volume thrilled me. I was 16 at the time and I lived every minute of the ill-fated attraction of the daughter and her boyfriend who turned Hitler Youth.

Each song, each vignette, the children cycling, the wedding scene, the final frightening escape, all of it captured and held me, my teenage disbelief suspended for a short time.

But what I cherish is how close we all felt as a family, how for those few hours we were all drawn together mentally and physically as a tight unit. It seems all too rarely that we spent that type of quality time together.

To drive for an hour and laugh and talk, and then huddle in the dark together caught up in a beautiful movie, and then to step out to the magic of snowflakes captured in the twinkling street lights is a beautiful memory for me of my parents and my siblings.

Most of the time in those days, I was busy with school activities and had no desire to hang out with my younger siblings, much less my parents. But for those few hours we had a wonderful time together.

Of course, I never got tired of going to the movies with my high school sweetheart, Harry. We first began to hold hands in the dark at the Canton Theatre while watching such movies as the James Bond series and the Elvis movies.

Before Harry even had his permanent driver’s license, we were concocting ways to finagle a car from his grandmother and drive to Atlanta to see “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Graduate.”

The edgier themes, the music of the changing time, the excitement of the era reflected in the movies, all added up to provide a life theme as we came of age in an evolving time in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I also remember when my son Nathan was just a tiny toddler and we had just gotten a VCR. We had to drive to Roswell to rent movies, but we thought it was worth it.

I sat holding him as we watched “Dumbo” together, and I remember how he held my hand tight and looked so sad when the elephant and his mother were separated.

I hugged him and reassured him that it was just a movie, and not to be afraid. I would always be there for him.

Simple movies, many of them children’s films, echoed the times of my life and I cherish those memories still.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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