The Pleasures of Life Dept.
The Carolina Theatre at 90
In the words of those who loved it most
Compiled by Lynn Donovan
and Nancy Oakley
“There was the National, the Carolina, the Imperial, the Criterion and the State.That’s all there was uptown. As kids we used to go to the Carolina on Saturday mornings. I remember the big organ up there on the right that was always playing.” Alan Cone
“My father always read Kipling to me. The Jungle Book was one of my favorites when I was little. When Elephant Boy with Sabu was coming to the theater and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to see that.’ So my mother took me, and it was very sad. And I was just hysterically weeping, and I remember her telling me, ‘You wasted your money on this!’
Another time, she and some friends went to the Carolina to see Rudolf Valentino in a revival of The Sheik, which she had loved as a young girl. By then it was so dated, they broke into a fit of giggles. The ushers asked them to leave because they were laughing so hard.” Ann Y. Oakley
“As a middle school and high school student, I was involved several summers in local summer stock performances. The Livestock [Players Musical] Theatre shifted its summer theater performances and rehearsals from a literal cow barn to the Carolina Theatre when I was in high school in the late 1970s. Although I don’t remember the specific musical we were rehearsing that particular summer, I vividly recall one day when some cast mates and I were bored and decided to explore the lovely, but aging, theater. We were stunned to find a “Negroes Only” entrance around the corner and to the left of the main entrance, and even more stunned to find that this entrance led to a separate staircase to an upper level balcony. I felt that this was a telling moment for me personally, witnessing first-hand what others had been faced with not very many years before.” Carol Lutz
“I worked there for a few months while in high school . . . around 1970 . . . at the Carolina Theatre in concessions. There was a man who made the popcorn fresh every day in a little spot in the side of the building. It was the best popcorn.” Linda Greene Cruciano
“Early in my clown career, I worked with Sam Hummel on a tribute to Vaudeville that was a huge success! Wonderful memories of the magical space that is The Carolina.” Jeff Darnell (former Livestocker & Ringling Brothers Circus Clown)
“Great memories of Circle K at the Carolina Theatre. My hand was first held by a boy at Circle K! 6th grade, 1958! Remember it like it was yesterday!” Meegie Guy
“Had my ballet dance recital there.” Ellen Hinshaw
“My uncle who is 75 says they had to go in the side door and could only sit in the balcony. He says at the time he was a kid and segregation was just the norm. He says the crazy part was that as he got older and times changed and he could sit where he wanted, he realized the best seats were in the balcony. He also said as a kid they took delight at throwing popcorn at the white people below just to annoy them. My memories were of watching all the blaxploitation and kung fu movies of the ’70s. I knew a guy who didn’t take a single martial arts training lesson. But through looking at every kung fu movie at the Carolina Theatre, I saw him get in a fight and take the guy out better than Bruce Lee. He got suspended but he was a local hero from that day forward.” Paul Swann
“Me and my brothers would ride the Duke Power bus early Saturday and go to Circle K with McDonald’s wrappers then ride home. I guess we were 10 to 12 at the time. . . . Can’t do that these days.” Bob Taylor
“Had my ears pierced there in the ladies room with a needle, rubbing alcohol and concession stand ice when I was 16.” Elaine Grantham March
“The time when my entire class at GHS [Grimsley High School] went to see Romeo and Juliet. And the gorgeous chandelier!” Dale Wilson Fulton
“The last movie I saw at the Carolina was Moby Dick, it was to be the last time I went to a movie with my dad, as he was killed by a drunk driver. I loved the Carolina it was so beautiful. I remember the huge chandelier, and the graceful staircase. I always felt like a princess when I was little walking down the stairs.” Cindy Alvis Goad
“Some of my very best childhood memories were the movies shown at the Carolina. I was 8 years old and the year was 1956 when my grandmother, Lillie Kirkman, took me to see The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. She took me in 1959 to see Ben Hur, again Charlton Heston starred. By 1963, I was old enough to go to downtown Greensboro on the bus that picked up on Walker Avenue in front of my house. That was the year I saw The Birds and I will never forget the images in that movie. I cannot count the number of times I have seen Gone With the Wind. I am so happy to have old memories of this wonderful place. I cannot wait to bring my 3-year-old grandchild to the next showing of The Wizard of Oz.” Susan K. Evans
“One of the best at the Carolina was The Sound of Music singalong! People dressed in costumes, with props, singing along with the words scrolling on the screen, major hissing when the baroness appeared on screen.” Carrot McClure
“Performing in Pippin as a dance partner with my then new husband Johnny King. We met through the Livestock Theatre group and our marriage has now lasted 40 years. I had the joy of taking my daughter to see the remake of Pippin recently and got to tell to her about her dad and I doing the show together at the Carolina. Wonderful memories!” Karen King
“I enjoyed so many amazing Livestock Theatre productions at the Carolina Theatre but my most memorable was Secret Garden in 1997. This breathtakingly beautiful show was dedicated to our brother who died from melanoma a few months later.” Laura Michael
“December 25th, 1969, my parents took me to see Disney’s 101 Dalmations. (We used to always go to a movie Christmas night.) When we came out it was snowing.” Tara Dingus
“My next-door neighbor, Tim Johnson, was about five years older than me. He played in a band that played sometimes at Circle K on Saturday mornings. He would give me drumsticks to carry and say I was part of the band and I would get in free! Felt really “cool” being part of a band!!”
Lisa Martin Streat
“I always enjoyed going to the Carolina Theatre. Growing up, on Saturdays Mother would take my two brothers and me to the Carolina to see mostly Disney movies, but thanks to my brothers we also got to see tons of cowboy movies.
Once, when I was old enough to go without Mother, I went with a friend. When we went to the water fountain outside the Ladies room there was a sign on it that said ‘Beware of the Triffids,’ so of course neither one of us would drink the water. Later on we found out it was an advertisement for an upcoming movie The Day of The Triffids. . .” Charlene McGrady
“The Carolina Theatre was built in 1927 as a Vaudeville house. David, who works there and takes great care of the place, told me locals still pack the house during Christmas movie season when the theater shows classics. He said It’s A Wonderful Life still always sells out. Experiencing something you love with others who love it too is a powerful and reassuring experience. These great old theaters are like churches in that way. Thanks to the people of Greensboro for keeping the Carolina Theatre going for all of us.” Lyle Lovett
“I have so many memories of the Carolina Theatre both on and off stage that it is hard to pick a favorite. I performed on that wonderful stage for many years as part of Livestock Players, Razz-Ma-Tazz Musical Revue Company and CTG [Community Theatre of Greensboro]. Highlights of the many roles I played include flying across the stage as Peter Pan, tap dancing as Nellie Cohan in George M!, and living through 50 years of marriage’s ups and downs as Agnes in I Do! I Do!. I have also been privileged to photograph many of the stage’s stellar talents for the theater.
However, my most special memory has to be the one when Razz-Ma-Tazz performed a number from Jelly’s Last Jam to open a show by Gregory Hines. He watched our number, then performed his phenomenal show. At the end, he called us all back up on stage, borrowed a vest from one of the guys and told us he was going to do the number with us. He not only performed the number but did not miss a step after seeing it one time. Director Carole Potter took a photo showing him watching my feet as we tapped. Years later when he returned to the Carolina, I took that photo to show him and he autographed it. Not long after that, the world lost one incredible talent.”
Party On, Carolina! Party On, Carolina! Party
To celebrate its 90th anniversary, the Carolina Theatre will host a number of events into next year. This month: a screening of the 1931 version of Frankenstein, part of the Decades of Film series (October 10th, 7 p.m.). Sorry Halloween buffs, but the Carolina Paranormal Lock-in on October 21st is sold out, but as a consolation, you can see the cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show on the 27th at 7 p.m. On October 28th at 8 p.m. catch The Spirit of Carolina: Celebrating 90 Years, a one-night performance of dance, music, drama, history, magic and more. For information on subsequent events, visit carolinatheatre.com.