March 23, 2004
More movie memories from one of Perry's interesting individuals
Elizabeth Willems grew up in Perry, the daughter and granddaughter of pioneers. She graduated from Perry High School in the 1930s and went on to become a World War II officer in the WAVES, a branch of the U.S. Navy. She has always been something of an iconoclast, thirsting for intellectual pursuits at institutions of higher learning here and abroad. She lived in The Netherlands for several years after the war, acquiring and expanding her love of the European masters in classic art, literature and science. She was bilingual in the Dutch language and, of course, in English. Eventually she returned to her home town, still in search of knowledge. A visitor in her home, just down the street from us, might think Elizabeth engulfed by stacks of books, magazines and other publications. To some it would appear to be disorder, but she could go directly to the plethora of information and find specific reference to every imaginable subject. She is one of the most interesting individuals I have met.
So I was pleased to hear her comments the other day about the recent recollections of another reader about stoic cowboy heroes who seemed to spurn a lover's kiss in the Saturday Westerns at Perry picture shows. She believes those handsome cowpokes were as romantic as the other leading men in movies of that era, when Westerns were at their height of popularity.
Elizabeth says: "About 1925 or 1926, when I was not yet ten years old, Leonard Tate was a classmate in the Perry elementary school. His folks (Mr. And Mrs. Henry Tate) operated the Annex Theater on the east side of tie square. They had a Saturday morning matinee (usually a Western) and let kids in for a nickel. The movies were all silent then, no dialogue, and they even gave us a snack. They tried popcorn for a while but that was too messy so they gave us suckers, or some kind of candy, instead. My brother, John, and I used to go to all of those movies. Besides Westerns, they also showed some good mysteries. One title I remember is 'The Cat and The Canary.' Floyd Carley and his sister, Edna, were usually part of our gang.
"Two of my favorites were Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson," Elizabeth continued. "I remember when Tom Mix dies. He made personal appearances at some of the rodeos and that kind of thing and usually drove to those engagements in his big touring car, with the top down. In the back seat was a large metal trunk where he kept his costumes and other props. One time when he was returning home to Hollywood from a show in that area, he had to stop suddenly and the metal suitcase struck his head, killing him. My friends and I used to watch those Saturday morning shows, then return home and enact them with the same words they showed on the screen. Since I was small, they usually cast me as the preacher."
More of her memories are still bright and shiny and also very interesting. Elizabeth is a great resource of information on almost any subject we might bring up. Thanks to her for this, for her interest in so many subjects and her love of the English language.