Low Budget Westerns Were Once Popular Entertainment in Moun-tain City
Bullets were flying and horses were racing through the canyon with their hoofs beating the ground in a staccato of muffled sound. The battle was on. The sheriff and his posse were trapped in a box canyon with the bad guys surrounding them and closing in. Al-though outnumbered two to one, when the dust settled and the gun-fire subsided, the good guys won the battle. In reality right doesnt always win over wrong. But it did almost 100% of the time on the silver screen in the mid part of the 20th Century.
As a youngster growing up a few miles from Mountain City, I looked forward to coming to town on Saturday night. The town of Mountain City was a bustling place on Saturday as people from near and far came in to purchase groceries and supplies often after a hard days work on the farm. Cars lined the streets and there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on Church and Main Streets. Folks took the opportunity to visit friends and kinfolks. It was a reprieve from the weeks work.
One of the things that I anticipated, after visiting one of the drug-stores in town for a cherry or vanilla Pepsi and maybe a hamburger or hot dog, was to take in a western movie at the Strand Theatre. If my memory is correct, the Strand was about where the florist shop on West Main Street is located. My initial discovery of that magic of the moving picture was when my uncle, Floyd Harper, took me to see Johnny Mack Brown at the Strand. I dont remember the plot, but I know Johnny Mack won out over whatever devious plans the bad guys devised. I know that because while it may not have been a perfect week for me, I could depend on old Johnny Mack to right the wrong on the silver screen before riding out to-ward the sunset on his faithful horse Rebel.
I dont remember the price of a ticket to the movies but it was probably around 50 cents and popcorn was about a nickel. Not a bad deal for a Saturday evening of entertainment for a youngster who was an avid western hero enthusiast. I also remember west-erns at the Taylor Theatre which was located about where Johnson County Banks parking lot is now. One in particular was with Tex Ritter as the good guy. I dont remember his horses name. Ritter came out the winner of a fight after knocking over a pot bellied stove and a few other things in the process.
Johnny Mack Brown and Tex Ritter were just two of a number of western heroes and heroines to ride into the hearts of the boys and girls who grew up in the mid 1900s. Some that I remember and the horses they rode are as follows: Tom Mix (Tony), Roy Rogers (Trigger), Gene Autry (Champion), Cisco Kid (Diablo), Dale Evans (Buttermilk) and Rex Allen (Koko). There were many more.
The Taylor Theatre if I remember right was opened not long before the Strand was closed and lasted for several years. Early on the theatres featured a western or sometimes a double feature western on Saturday night. There was usually a serial that ended with the hero in a fine mess with the words flashed across the screen: Con-tinued Next Week. Of course you just had to go back the next week to see if your hero got out of such peril. A cartoon was usu-ally included and perhaps a newsreel. All in all it was a great way to spend a Saturday night.