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Scott Boyd: Nostalgic for the “Mono” Theater

By Scott Boyd
for hottytoddy.com

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, through some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments…”

That’s by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, from, as you well know, “In My Life,” one of the most beautiful songs the Beatles ever recorded. They were just kids when they wrote those lyrics. It was released in 1965 from the Rubber Soul album.

Photo courtesy of Scott Boyd.

I don’t remember being very nostalgic, melancholy, or wistful, (not sure which is the correct word) when I was in my 20’s. But, as 60 barrels down on me like a hungry lion, I sure do think about a lot of the things that were a big part of my childhood.

So, I’m in one of those moods after making a quick trip over to Monticello today to see for myself, since Phil Thames had posted (thanks Phil or I would have probably missed it) that the Mono Theater is being reduced to a pile of bricks and boards. I guess it’s like a lot of things in life. You just think those things will always be there.

I’m not sure if the city is taking it down because it has become unsafe and an eyesore. Or, if the owner wants it off his tax bill. I think it’s been sitting vacant for at least 25 years. Maybe longer.

Photo courtesy of Scott Boyd.

I should have asked Ernest Clinton all those years ago why it was named the “Mono.” I always assumed it had something to do with “Monticello,” much like the “Haven” in Brookhaven. I’m not sure of all the history. When the old barn-like building had it’s bead board siding covered with a layer of brick? I’m not sure when our Black friends were no longer required to watch movies from the balcony.

Growing up in Monticello in the 60’s and 70’s, the Mono Theater, honestly, was right up there with church or the baseball park. THE place to go on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

I’m not sure if we were all conscious of “first-run” movies back then. As a kid growing up in Monticello, I knew little about the outside world other than Walter Cronkite talking about Neil Armstrong, or Curt Gowdy talking about Bob Gibson.

But, when I think back on what the Mono Theatre meant to us back then, I think about Julie Andrews standing in that meadow, singing in the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. Or General Patton standing and saluting in front of that American flag that covered the entire screen.

I have this picture burned into my mind of Mr. McGrew, the theater manager (I think that was his name) walking down the aisles during the show, shining his flashlight on the rows from which the noise was coming – or, where a young couple was huddled up and not paying attention to the movie.

I remember being carted in the bottle buggy, forced to strip down to my underwear, curled up like a fetus in that buggy, hoping no one would recognize me, covered in sugar, and out-of-date eggs, and who knows what all, as part of my initiation that was required by my co-workers, not the boss man, at the Piggly Wiggly. Just so happened that my initiation fell during the showing of the film that probably drew the biggest crowds ever in the history of the Mono – “Walking Tall.” The line to get in the “show” was all the way back to the Press office. Had to be at least a thousand people, or so I thought at the time. And, hearing the best looking girl in town, at that time, screaming out ….”oh my God, that’s Scott Boyd.” And, the roar of laughter that followed. Lucky me.

But, the Mono still holds a place in my heart, despite my embarrassment.

Can’t remember the last movie I saw there, or even when the Mono closed. Probably sometime in the 80’s. One of my last visits came during my senior year at Monticello High, when Mrs. Lois Russell took our class to watch Wuthering Heights. She thought it was important whether we did or not. The smart kids in the class probably appreciated it more then. I appreciate it now.

In Macon, the cool place where I work now, there was the Dreamland Theater. Local folks still talk about it. Remember the exact spot it sat, who tore it down. We all bemoan the fact that small towns can’t support things like new car dealerships and movie theaters.

“Some are dead and some are living. In my life, I’ve loved them all.” Ain’t that the truth?

Editor’s Note: Scott Boyd is a photo-journalist with the Macon Beacon, formerly with the Clarion Ledger and editor of Lawrence County Press. Scott reflects on the passing scene of local movie theatres that are rapidly vanishing from small towns in America.

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