• DeWeese: Memories of a simpler time

  • After my Sept. 15 column about the locations of the Plaza and Electric theaters on the Square, I received a handful of additional phone calls. It’s as though readers’ fingers were waving at me, saying, “Ah, ah, ah. You forgot something.”

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  • The memories of Independence theaters gone by keep coming in.
    After my Sept. 15 column about the locations of the Plaza and Electric theaters on the Square, I received a handful of additional phone calls. It’s as though readers’ fingers were waving at me, saying, “Ah, ah, ah. You forgot something.”
    Of course. Amateur’s mistake. The Maywood and Fairmount areas also had their own theaters.
    “Transportation wasn’t readily available back in those days,” says Independence native Don Ross, 75, in remembering the Byam Theatre in Fairmount. “People pretty much walked or drove a short distance to their local theater.”
    As part of the Facebook group “You know you are from Independence Missouri if...” Betty Jane Stinnett said she would go to the Byam Theatre on Saturday morning “with a quarter and have a ball,” watching cartoons, serial westerns and other pictures.
    “For a dress-up movie with my mother and sister, we went to the Granada (Theatre),” Stinnett, a Sugar Creek resident, wrote. “That was just about the most classy place we knew of.”
    It was a real treat, Stinnett remembered, to walk to a nearby drug store and sit at the soda fountain. She and her friends would then go across the street to TG&Y, a variety store that declared bankruptcy a decade ago, to buy Blue Waltz perfume.
    “That stuff could remove paint,” she wrote, “but we thought it was uptown.”
    Independence native Emma Mulkey, now 72, also called me to share her memories, leading with “It was a lot of fun growing up here.” During her teenage years, Mulkey worked at Katz Drug Store where Ophelia’s is now located.
    During World War II, Mulkey says, the Electric Theatre on North Main Street showed movies that were mostly war-themed.
    “My mother liked to see those shows because she had so many brothers in the war,” Mulkey says.
    The Plaza Theatre at 119 W. Lexington Ave., she remembers, showed all the westerns, especially Gene Autry and Roy Rogers “and all the cowboys.” Bill Clow dropped off a photocopy of an advertisement from about 1943 that had the listings for the Granada, Plaza, Maywood and Electric theaters, and under the Plaza’s Saturday listings, pictures like “Riders of the Northwest Mounted” and “Lone Rider in Border Round-up” were showing for less than a quarter per person. (According to an online inflation calculator, 25 cents in 1943 equaled about $3.12 in 2010. And yet, it still costs us each about $8 to see a movie in today’s theaters.)
    On Saturdays, Mulkey says, her family “came to town” on the Square. She and her father would see the cowboy shows at the Plaza while her mother went shopping. The Granada tended to show more “fun” stories like “South Pacific,” Mulkey says.
    Page 2 of 3 - “The town was buzzin’,” Mulkey says of her time spent on the Square as a youth. “It’s just like a ghost town anymore, even though there are stores now. It just doesn’t seem the same because we had big stores. You could just do any kind of shopping you wanted to.”
    I love the nostalgia and romanticism tied to these memories, and it’s my hope that readers will continue to call me with more, whether they are theater-associated or not. The storefronts may be long gone, but as long as the memories are still alive, these mid-century tales won’t be forgotten.
    Reimal ready for his 70th year
    It’s just a number. Age is only a state of mind. You’re only as young as you feel.
    These adages all hold true for Mayor Don Reimal, who turned 70 years young on Sept. 16.
    “That’s what they keep telling me,” Reimal said Wednesday, laughing, when I called him to confirm that he had indeed recently celebrated seven decades of life, “but I’m not sure I believe it.
    “I’m not sure how 70 is supposed to feel, but I certainly don’t feel it. I keep telling myself that I’m 30 in my mind. I don’t feel that 70 affects the capabilities of anybody to do their job.”
    Reimal was born on Sept. 16, 1941, in Olathe, Kan., in a house that is still standing, he said. Reimal and his family moved to Independence when he was 6 months old, and he graduated from Van Horn High School in 1959. This year, Reimal became one of nine people selected to the inaugural class of the Van Horn Hall of Honor.
    On Oct. 12, Mayor Don will celebrate 48 years of marriage to his best friend, Jo Marie Bennett Reimal. He was first elected to serve District 1 on the City Council in 1994 and was elected as mayor in 2006 and in 2010.
    A retired Union carpenter, Reimal puts in at least 40 hours a week, but he doesn’t bother keeping track of how much time being the mayor of the fourth largest city in Missouri requires, adding, “The hours are the least of my worries.”
    And Reimal is everywhere, from collecting money on the Square in May at a weekend pancake breakfast that benefited the Animal Shelter to attending Mavericks games to his loyal attendance at City Council meetings. Despite his full schedule, Reimal is always just a phone call away, and he always makes it a point to return my messages, regardless of the topic I’m asking him about that day.
    In staying young at heart, he doesn’t have a special, secret regimen that he follows. Reimal said he enjoys eating a lot of different foods, but he keeps “the bad stuff” in moderation. He also walks as often as he can, a necessity in staying on top of his packed schedule of public appearances, answering constituents’ concerns and meeting with city staff.
    Page 3 of 3 - Perhaps Reimal’s best secret to reaching age 70 is his attitude. It’s a good one.
    “You talk to people who are concerned about turning 40 or 50 or 60 – you live through all of them,” he said. “You just make the best of everything that you’re doing. Keep a positive attitude, and things work out.”

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