Dreaming in the Dark

The sleek, very modern Terrace theatre, with its pale stone and plate glass façade, was a space age novelty in our little farm community. Robbinsdale in the 1950s had a main street with one story shops, a fire station adjacent to railroad tracks, a water tower and the usual mix of Midwestern churches. Homes were compact, two-bedroom bungalows in which families of six lived, and the big event of the year was Whiz Bang Days, a town festival with a parade and the high school marching band.

Our old-fashioned local movie theater, a tiny structure with a fancy marquis at the end of main street—where my father took me to see The Boy With the Green Hair when I was six years old and everyone else in the family was sick with ‘flu—had become a dry cleaner by the time the Terrace theatre was built. 

Tickets were popularly priced, but it was still a big deal to pay admission and buy popcorn. We dressed up. On Saturday afternoons there were always birthday party outings, and in the evenings it was the date place. I remember many of the movies I saw there: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Robe, How to Marry a Millionaire, Unchained Melody and The Summer of ’42.

It was sad to see the decline of the Terrace over the years. It became the shabby, out-sized structure anchoring one end of a parking lot for a low-end shopping mall and discount grocery. Occasionally, on trips home, I would stand near the old VFW Hall and focus my eyes on just the Terrace theatre, recalling its glory days and my own growing up years in Robbinsdale.

It may have been the Paramount, perhaps the old Academy, and it seems to me it was a grand old movie house located on Hennepin Avenue . . . in any case, as a young girl I skipped school with two girlfriends and rode the bus downtown to that theatre to see Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender and scream my lungs out.

Many years later, my two brothers booked a stretch limo to drive my parents and entire family from Robbinsdale to downtown Minneapolis for the 1971 opening of House of Dark Shadows at that same theatre. It was such fun! And I’ll never forget my father, wearing his best Sunday suit, stepping out of the limo to look up at the marquis—he was so proud of his daughter starring in her first big movie!

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