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Belton, SC

All that's left of the Belton Theatre is a part of the balcony

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Belton Theatre
Belton, SC

Belton had two theaters listed in the Film Daily Yearbook of 1945, the Belton and the Virginia. In Belton, we learned of another theatre called the Joy.

Very often the local movie theater had a barber shop in or next to the theater building. We stopped in the barber shop and met Homer Booth. He was busy with a customer and had another customer waiting. He paused while we introduced ourselves and explained what we were trying to find. “It was right next door where The Jean Shop is now,” he said. “Go ask Eunice Fields to show you. You can still see some of it upstairs.”

At The Jean Shop, Mrs. Fields listened as we explained our mission. “It’s really dark up there but I’ll be glad to take you,” she said. A friend said she would get a flashlight.

At the back of the store, the four of us cautiously climbed the old creaking stairs. We came to a door and beyond it were more dark stairs. As we came to the top of the stairs and turned we found ourselves in a huge room. It had six hanging lights and could have been a ballroom. On the street side of the building we entered two smaller rooms that had fire places and windows overlooking Main Street. “Keep going,” Mrs. Fields said. “Open that door there on your right.”

We opened the door and saw what remained of the Belton Theater. It was the balcony, or at least a part of the balcony. Beyond the railing it was very dark. The flashlight revealed risers where the balcony seats had once been. Renovations to the building had been made to accommodate the new businesses. It was impossible to determine how large the Belton Theater had been or to know what it had looked like in its active years. But, we still had an exciting sense of discovery.

When we were back downstairs, Mrs. Fields suggested we talk to the pharmacist, Mr. Henry Clinkscales. We were glad to go into the corner drug store and get out of the summer heat. Mr. Clinkscales listened graciously to our story and smiled as we described the balcony of the Belton Theater we had just seen above The Jeans Store.

We asked if he had ever been to the Belton Theater. “Oh Lord, yes,” he said, “Every Saturday afternoon. There were three movie theaters in Belton and Mr. Adger Gray owned all of them. The Belton Theater was originally an old Opera House. You’ll notice it’s in the only three story building in town. The marquee used to hang out over the sidewalk. Mr. Gray bought it in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Then, during the war, there were three buildings where the bank parking lot is now. One was a restaurant, one was the Virginia Theater and the other was a Dodge dealership.

Right at the end of the square they built the Joy Theater. That was about 1947 or 1948. It was supposed to be state-of-the-art. There was a room for crying babies. It had a wonderful snack room and was famous for the hot dogs. Sometimes movie stars came to town to promote their films.

When I was twelve or thirteen, Lash LaRue came to town. He rode his horse right down the aisle of the theater. He did whip tricks. He would get someone to hold a cigarette in their mouth and he’d cut it down with his whip. Then, if you bought a picture of him for fifty cents, he would autograph it. I didn’t have fifty cents so I tore a popcorn box and he signed it. Gabby Hayes was here too.

On Monday and Tuesday was one movie. Then, on Wednesday, was a different movie, usually a “B” movie with short subjects. The movie changed again for Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday they always showed a western with a cartoon and maybe The Three Stooges. That would show until about ten o’clock.

This drugstore has been in my family since 1895. When I was in high school I worked here behind the soda fountain. All my friends would come by when the drugstore closed and we would go to the late show on Saturday night. It started a little after ten o’clock and was usually a scary movie and a serial. We had to be home by twelve.

 

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