The Historic Masonic Theatre needs
your help and support. Write a story
about a special memory you have
experienced in the Masonic/Stonewall
Theatre. Tell us what the Theatre
renovation means to you and to
the Highlands Community. This
beautiful 107-year old landmark
celebrated another birthday on
July 4, 2012 and we want to
celebrate its contribution to our
community. Send your story to
firstname.lastname@example.org or to
Masonic Theatre, Box 119, Clifton
Forge, VA 24422. If we print your
story on our website on in the
Virginian Review, we will send you two free tickets to an upcoming show at the
Masonic Ampitheatre. Be sure to print your name and contact information when submitting your story. Join our "Save the Masonic" efforts by telling a story, contributing money to the renovation efforts (look on the Community Support page to see all who have contributed) and by wearing a "Save the Masonic" wristband available at area businesses. Read the "Save the Masonic" stories below! Thank you for your support!
'Save the Masonic" stories are written by Highlands community members--a recollection of beloved memories of The Historic Masonic Theatre!
The Romantic Masonic Theatre
Margaret Coffey from Selma met her future husband, Jim, at the Historic Masonic Theatre when she was only 15 years old. Margaret was with her friend and cousin when she saw Jim on the corner and they all went into the Theatre together to enjoy a movie. This was in the early 1940’s. Margaret and Jim were married on July 2 in 1948 and they were married for 63 years until Jim passed away last April, 2011 just shy of their 64th anniversary. Naturally the Historic Masonic holds a very special place in Margaret’s heart. She and Jim would go to the movies often and pay the twenty five cents to sit downstairs. “You had a choice of paying twenty five cents to sit downstairs or ten cents and sit upstairs.” Jim and Margaret would share popcorn and a Coca Cola. She doesn’t remember the titles of many of the movies because of the excitement of being on a date with Jim, but she does remember when the movies “went Technicolor” and she remembers seeing “Gone With the Wind” at the Historic Masonic. Margaret had six brothers in the service and so the war movies she saw were especially meaningful.
Margaret, who was born and raised in Selma, remembers walking to Clifton Forge to go to the beautiful Masonic Theatre. After she met Jim he would pick her up in his car and she remembers him courting her with taxi rides for a quarter. He earned his money working at the Clifton Forge Laundry before working in the C&O yard and later owning his own construction business. “He was an honest man and did a lot of good in the community. When he died, we celebrated his life. That is what he wished.”
“And that is why the Masonic Theatre provides so many happy memories for me. When he talked to me that first day I met him at the Theatre, I knew he was mine the first time I saw him. I’m sentimental about that beautiful Theatre and I will be happy to go to shows there once it is restored. Meade Snyder gave me a tour of the Theatre not too long ago. There is so much enthusiasm about restoring the Theatre and it means a tremendous amount to this area. The Theatre was always full when I used to go to the movies. We didn’t have lots of money but we had a good life and the Theatre was part of that life. It was a gathering place for everyone in the area.”
Margaret Coffey, Selma, VA
The Theatre of My Childhood
My first memories of the Masonic Theatre were in 1942 when I was taken to the movies by my “nanny”, Dorothy Shelton, who still lives in Clifton Forge at Scott Hill. Many babysitters and nannies often took their charges to see matinees—cartoon, world news, preview of coming attractions, and the feature movie—during the war years. We all sat together upstairs in the far right balcony. The kids got to see the movies and the caretakers got to talk and visit with friends. It was a win-win situation for both.
After I turned 5, I was usually taken to the matinees at the Theatre by an employee from Sirles’ Book Store, my great aunts’ luncheon/book store on Ridgeway Street. The employee would pay for my ticket, and I would go in and sit downstairs with the adults. Unfortunately for the Theatre, there were only 2 or 3 adults at the show, and I usually was the only child. I think I went to more movies during the 1942-45 war years than anyone in the city. If you add in the number of times I went to the Ridge Theatre on Ridgeway Street, across from Sirles’ Book Store, I know I was number one. Movies at both theatres changed two to three times a week with double features on Saturdays. Sometimes, on Saturdays, the Masonic Theatre presented live entertainment, with such western movie stars as Lash LaRue; Red Ryder and Little Beaver; Whip Wilson; Tex Ritter (my favorite), who sang “Rye Whiskey” and “The Boll Weevil Song”; and Roy Rogers , Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers. (I do not remember seeing Roy Rogers at the Masonic, but I do remember seeing him on stage at the Clifton Forge High School.) What a fun time to grow up in good old Clifton Forge.
Jimmie Houff, Mayor of Clifton Forge, 2012
Masonic memories #2
During my high school years, many of the students at CFHS and Central HS in Low Moor went to see the movies at the Masonic. We usually filled up the far left balcony. Depending on your age and whether you could drive a car, you either met your “date” or you went together. I met my first date at a Saturday matinee; we were under 15. Many groups of friends sat together, ate popcorn, and enjoyed the most recent movies. In many cases, it was the high light of the weekend and a special social event.
Jimmie Houff, Mayor of Clifton Forge, September 18, 2012