Writing the Distance: Gladys Meacock

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Gladys Meacock provides prose and a photograph.

A Dillingham Lowe’s Theater Memory

My parents Bill and Marie Andrews managed Lowe’s Store and Movie Theater, a welcome entertainment since we didn’t have radio or TV. Movies came through the US mail, the theater seats were wooden and music was played all over town via loud speakers before the movie started. Pat and Willie ran the projectors, Avis and Steve sold candy and I sold tickets. In the summer, the elder Natives would spend their days sitting on the theater’s outside benches. They didn’t have currency so I would sit them up front with the kids. An Elder before I left for college gave me a flint spear head to keep forever that I still have.

It was early spring when the movie WAR OF THE WORLDS was shown. The theater building had a main entrance and two side doors for safety. As the movie progressed, a blizzard came along blocking the two side exits. The snow also came down the chimney causing the oil fed furnace started to shoot streams of fire across the “now” only exit, all this taking place during the war between the two worlds scene. The sound was loud and no one noticed there was an actual fire problem! When it was brought to Pat’s attention, he turned off the projector and Willie ran to get Dad. The audience began to yell so Pat restarted the movie! Dad came, turned on the lights, turned off the projector and fixed the furnace. As the movie “war” progressed the furnace again started shooting flames. By now the oil smell was very strong and Pat again stopped the projectors.

Most of the audience was unaware of the fire issue and became very irate. Dad came to check the furnace, announced he couldn’t fix it so they would have to stop the show! Now everyone was angry and the blizzard really raging. Dad said that if he ran the furnace it would burn down the theater and everyone in it. A group decision was made to turn off the furnace and continue the movie even if it was really cold! The next day, Dad as promised, fixed the furnace, turned on the loudspeaker music and everyone watched the movie again for free!!

My cousin Mary Osterhaus Lusk shared another Lowe’s Theater memory. When the movie JAIL HOUSE ROCK played at Lowes Theater, her brother Baby Guy brought all his records. When the movie was over, benches were pushed aside and all ages danced the night away!

*My friend Dorothy Schroeder Ward made a statement “We were standing with a foot in two worlds and didn’t even know we were doing it”.


Gladys Meacock lives and writes in Kenai. She recently won the Non-Fiction Open to the Public category in the 2020 UAA/Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest.


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