Web Extra: An Retrospective of Abilene
"Downtown was the only place to go."
The thrill of 1940s movie theaters, playing hooky at the pool hall, and greetings from the Drake Hotel. Abilene old-timers tell all.
“Where the Grace Museum is now,” says local geologist Gilbert Korman, who graduated from high school in 1950, “that was originally the Drake Hotel. And there was a pool hall in the Drake … through the 1940s and 50s and probably into the 60s. I wasn’t a pool shooter, but we’d all go down there.”
Financial planner Eddie Hodges fills in additional details: “Right next to the Drake, across the alley, there was another pool hall. The bigger boys used to go there to play snooker and pool. And yeah, I did play hooky from school and go there once or twice. I was probably about 10.”
“Downtown was the only place to go,” says Korman. “And there were three movie theaters on Cypress—the Paramount, the Majestic, and the Queen. The Paramount got two shows a week—the top movies—and we’d usually make both of them. In grade school, the place to go was the Queen. The Queen had the serial cartoons.”
“I think my mother used to give me ten cents to go to the Queen to see the serials…Batman or something,” says Hodges. “You know, you’d have the action and drama, and then the character would have a crisis..and the cartoon would end. You’d have to go back the next week to see what happened.
“Everything at that time was local, independently owned,” Hodges continues. “There were two or three department stores, a few drug stores, and an old bowling alley about four blocks from the hotel. Bowling was a very popular sport back then.
“When I was a young child, during the second world war, Camp Barkeley was still operating as a military base here—for awhile they housed German prisoners there. There was a huge USO in the downtown area. Always lots of activity to engage a young boy’s imagination.”
–– as told to Lori Moffatt
From the June 2012 issue.
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