Motion Pictures

My grandfather said that when he was a teenager in the late 1890’s he went to a sideshow at the county fair where they were exhibiting a “moving picture.” This was something that he had read about but had never had the chance to see. He said the film which was very short showed a group of soldiers from the Spanish-American War marching from left to right on the screen. He had no problem with that, but out of the blue came an officer marching in the opposite direction. He could not understand how a picture could move in two directions at the same time. When he got home he told his father about seeing the “moving picture” and about the officer moving in the opposite direction from the group of soldiers.

His father said, “Son it’s all right to go to those sideshows, but there’s no use lying about what you see.”

Dr. Seawright had an office and drugstore in the building where Charles Ballard has his office today. He used to show movies once a week in front of this building in the middle of Highway 85. A huge screen was placed at the intersection of Highways 85 and 54. Some people came in cars and parked in a drive-in fashion, few had chairs, but most just stood in the road and watched. No fee was charged. Dr. Seawright just enjoyed showing off this technology. He was always on the cutting edge of new things. He had the first neon sign in Fayetteville which was displayed in the window of Seawright’s Drug Store.
One of my first experiences with motion pictures was with the tent shows that came to town several times a year. One tent show in order to entice people to come to their shows used a movie camera to take everyday activities of people in the community and to show them each night in addition to the feature film. We all wanted to see ourselves in the movies and their idea worked quite well. During World War II when most of the young men were away, this same tent show came to town. They had kept those old films made when things were peaceful and those away at war were still at home. They showed one each night and the tent would be overflowing with those of us wishing to get a glimpse of our loved ones away from home. My daddy had run a store on the courthouse square. I remember seeing a short clip of him in front of the store.

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Mr. James Jones (who later became Fayette’s sheriff) had an indoor theater in the building just west of where the A & T Grocery used to be. It was small and used folding chairs for seats.

Later when I was about fourteen, Mr. Duffy had a theater on the South Courthouse Square with a balcony where “blacks only” were allowed. Mr. Duffy also ran the Fayette Drive-In Theater located just north of Fayetteville on Highway 85.

It was many years before we had a first class theater.