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December 29, 1998

Let’s return to the stories about some of the movie theatres that have existed here through the years. We may not be able to cover all of them, but we will touch on several.

John and Patti Moore Terry came to Perry from Wewoka in 1941 to operate the two existing theatres, the Roxy and the Annex, and they quickly became immersed in the city’s civic and social life. Mr. Terry was a distinguished looking man with white hair and a fine mustache. He was rather like a Kentucky colonel, an imposing figure yet very outgoing and gregarious, a friend of all mankind. Patti Moore was equally charming and she had a slight drawl that added to her image as a gentile southern lady. John soon joined Rotary and Patti Moore became active in various women’s clubs. John was a devoted outdoorsman who relished occasional fishing or hunting trips with kindred spirits. The Terrys had two sons, John Jr. and Jerry.

For a time Mr. Terry also was a partner in the Bush-Terry Implement Co., which dealt in International Harvester farm equipment and Pontiac automobiles. The dealership was in a building at Sixth and Elm Streets where Lloyd Hughes now has an auto repair business. The manager of Bush-Terry, the late W.A. (Art) Coffey, later opened an insurance agency here and eventually operated a Ditch Witch dealership in the Los Angeles area. Bruce VanArsdell followed him as the International Harvester dealer here.

The opening of Mr. Terry’s new Perry Theatre was a cause for rejoicing in north-central Oklahoma. It was a grand film palace worthy of patronage by all of us who doted on the offerings from Hollywood. Carolyn Nichols, whose father, Ted Kimball, was a projectionist at the Roxy Theatre and later at the Perry Theatre, has some clippings from The Perry Daily Journal that ran in a special edition celebrating the grand opening. The date of the opening apparently was January 16, 1942, and, according to a photograph of the marquee, the premiere presentation starred Fredric March in “Bedtime Story.” The newspaper’s coverage of the grand opening contained pictures of the front of the theatre, the lobby and the spacious interior seating area. A story about Mr. Kimball’s experience as a projectionist was among the numerous news articles.

Before the Terrys became operators of the theatres here, Henry Tate and Charlie Wolleson ran the Annex and Roxy Theatres, both on the east side of the square. Several other film palaces came and went through the years, but the Annex and the Roxy lasted longest. Because they changed features at both theatres each Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, it was not always possible for hard core movie addicts, like my sisters and me, to see every film that came to town, all of them for an admission price of about ten cents each. But we tried.

With wide-open young eyes fixed unblinkingly on the screen, watching from the deep recesses of the theatre’s front row or as close to it as we could manage, we beheld the greatest entertainment fare of the age. Dramas, romances, comedies, cartoons, newsreels, short subjects about everything under the sun, all of these unreeled in black and white splendor as we sat, transfixed there in the darkness, with our heads of mush being shaped and kneaded into some kind of more or less permanent psychoglism.

Westerns appealed to all ages, perhaps because of our state’s frontier heritage. You had your major cowboy stars, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, William S. Hart, Lash LaRue, Bob Steele and the like, long before Roy Rogers and Gene Autry sang, yodeled and rode their way to immortality. They all wore white hats and kept them securely on their heads despite frequent but bloodless gunfights and the never-ending pursuit of right over wrong. Justice always triumphed. Leading ladies were never kissed and they certainly didn’t shed any petticoats on screen. It was an age of innocence. We need some of that today. More along this line coming up soon.