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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Roach

The Part of Lexington That is Still Alive

Today is #NationalPopcornDay and there is no better way to celebrate it than at the movies. But on this day, step up your theater game... go old school like Tam and I did this week. We visited The Kentucky Theatre, one of our very favorite places in Lexington. We took in a period movie, Mary Queen of Scots, and we had a wonderful time - vintage style.

After I left the theater, I wondered why I didn't frequent The Kentucky Theatre more often. It's such a beautiful place and reasonably priced. Downtown Lexington's scene is flourishing with additions of new restaurants and bars which now seem to attract my attention, but there was a time when downtown Lex was booming for different reasons, at least that is what my mom used to tell me. So I decided to call her and ask her to write about past Lexington and what it was like for her growing up. It's so much different from today. Below is what she wrote. Thanks, Mom, for painting this beautiful picture! I wished I could have seen it firsthand. However, I am so glad The Kentucky Theatre is still around to remind us of what use to be.

Written by Linda Baldwin

"Long before malls and shopping centers had been built for the convenience of residents, downtown Lexington was the hub of all shopping and entertainment for Lexington and surrounding counties. Going to town was a family experience as well as the gathering place for local teenagers. One did not throw on a pair of jeans and sweatshirt but dressed in a similar manner as one might wear to church on Sunday. I remember going to town with my mother and grandmother wearing one of my best dresses, white gloves and black patent shoes. Women always wore nice dresses, high heeled shoes, and hats were an unwritten requirement. When I was a teenager, we were a little less formal, but still dressed in school clothes that always consisted of dresses or skirts.

Most Saturdays, my girlfriends and I would catch the bus and head to town. If we were lucky to have enough money, the day would start with lunch at one of the five and dime stores. There were several and each had a nice dining area as well as a long lunch counter. From there we headed to one of the four movie theaters. There was no such thing as R-rated movies in those days so every movie was appropriate for viewing. The choice was a personal preference. It was not uncommon for theaters to compete for the teenage Saturday business so there was often some type of entertainment before the movie started. I remember attending dance contests held on the front stage and I even won a twist contest on one of these occasions. That was a real thrill for me at the time. Movie tickets were not very expensive. One could buy a ticket, purchase popcorn and a drink all on a dollar and still may have a little change left.

After the movie, most headed to the downtown record stores to listen to or purchase a 45 record. The top 10 recording list was always posted, so that was usually the songs that most were interested in. Although you could buy a record for under a dollar, I was not always able to afford one. It depended on how many baby sitting jobs I had during the week. There were sound proof rooms you could go into to listen to your picks before making a purchase. There were a number of large department stores or small dress shops we visited on occasion, but the one shop that we never skipped was the candy shop. I always bought a bag of freshly made red licorice to eat on the trip home. We ended the day by catching a bus home and already looking forward to returning on the upcoming Saturday.

Today, when my husband and I drive through town, I have both a nostalgic feeling and a longing for those days gone by. I can almost see the hustle and bustle of shoppers crowding the sidewalks, the long gone theaters, except for The Kentucky Theatre, with their beautiful stained glass ceilings and velvet drapes, and the many stores lining Main Street from end to end. I am sad that I can’t share this experience with my children or grandchildren but know they are making their own memories and that those memories will also be precious to them one day."

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