Historic Tennessee Theatre - Est. 1928 Knoxville, Tennessee


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Memories of the Theatre

Libbie McBee Haynes, Farragut:

"During the summer I would ride the Fox bus from Concord, go to a movie at the theatre and then take the streetcar to my grandmother's house on Morgan Street. I remember the cool feeling of entering the grand lobby with its wonderful marble floors and brass handrails."

Rhonda Barlow, Knoxville:

"I believed I was in the Sistine Chapel or something like that. I thought the theatre was so grand and beautiful."

June Norman, Alcoa:

"The year was 1946 and I was sitting in the balcony. This handsome young man who had just returned home from World War II sat down beside me and offered me a piece of Juicy Fruit Gum. We dated for eight months and saw a number of movies from the balcony. We were married in 1947, and he always joked that he got me at the Tennessee Theatre with a piece of Juicy Fruit gum."

Billie Vinyard Dalton, Knoxville:

"He asked me to marry him while we were waiting in line on the Theatre’s opening day in 1928.  I said yes!"

Wallace W. Baumann, Knoxville:

Wallace remembers his first visit to the Tennessee when his mother took him to the theatre to celebrate his sixth birthday. “When the curtains closed and that beautiful red and gold Wurlitzer organ console rose majestically in the spotlight, playing music that filled the theatre, little Wallace thought he had died and gone to heaven!”

Mrs. Margaret F. Bacon, Knoxville:

“We were so engrossed in the musicals that we danced out in the front lobby looking in all the big mirrors and up at the beautiful chandeliers pretending we were Betty Grable, June Haver, or whoever we had seen in the movie that day.”

Bobbie Merritt, Dandridge:

“I spent my first New Year’s Eve as a new bride at the Tennessee Theatre.” Bobbie and her husband were married on December 28, 1955.

Pete Piatt, Knoxville, a Tennessee Theatre usher in the 1950s:

“The really good thing about being an usher at the Tennessee was that the girls seemed to be impressed.”

Anna Lee Cox, Knoxville, Theatre Concession Clerk, 1943-44:

“I would go early and pop the popcorn downstairs, bag it, and carry it up to the large booth in the middle of that grand lobby. Some evenings I would be completely surrounded by people – that huge lobby was filled to capacity!”

Vivian R. Slaughter, Knoxville:

“I never had much money, but sometimes I would get a snack, which was always a roll of Necco wafers. It was the largest candy and lasted the longest for only a nickel.”

Ms. Diana D. Moore, Knoxville:

“When I was old enough to ride the bus uptown alone, and during my high school years and the years I worked at Miller’s on Gay Street, I saw many a movie at the Tennessee.”

Paul Caton, church organist, Knoxville:

“And then, the organ would rise from the floor with Billy Barnes playing as only he could, and I credit that particular part of the Tennessee with stirring my interest in studying organ...”

Mrs. James (Hazel) Walker, Maryville:

“On Oct. 5, 1951, in the beautiful lounge of the Tennessee, Jim proposed to me and gave me a lovely engagement ring.”

Helen Beeler Parris of Knoxville:

She remembers singing over WNOX radio and on stage at the Tennessee Theatre in 1940 at the Popeye Club when she was only 3 or 4 years old. “I remember they would stand me on a box in order to reach the microphone.”

Joyce G. Whedbee of Knoxville:

She recalls fond memories of when she and her best friend would hop on the Fairmont Boulevard bus to ride “uptown” to pay bills for their families and see whatever was showing at the Tennessee. “I took my son to the theatre years later and his eyes got just as big as mine did when he saw that magic organ.”

Mattie Galyon of Knoxville:

She remembers when she was 11 or 12 taking the bus alone from Fountain City to the Tennessee to see the Popeye Club. “I won a little camera once; they called out a row number and a seat number and I was the winner.”

Corinne Palko of Oak Ridge:

She recalls Saturday mornings in the late 1930s and ’40s and no school! She and her friends would hop the Broadway Avenue bus to the Tennessee for the Popeye Club. “A huge cheer would go up as the magnificent Wurlitzer organ arose from the orchestra pit with the music in full swing.”

Michael Russell of New York, NY

 “Your daddy helped build the Tennessee Theatre, back in the ’20s,” Michael recalls his mother told him in the 1950s, while they were watching a movie at the theater. In the mid-1980s, Michael’s stage play, “Tennessee Waltz,” had its world premiere in the Tennessee: “That night, as I sat listening to actors bringing my work to life onstage, I felt the life's work of a father and a son embrace.”

Bobbie Dalton of Knoxville:

“The Tennessee Theatre is the reason I'm here: it's where my parents met. I’m truly a child of the cinema.” Bobbie recalls that while her father, Bill Davis, managed the Tennessee, he became “enamored” with a young woman who would attend the movies and would send her free passes. 

 Dale Cagle of Knoxville:

“The Tennessee Theatre is where I took my wife on our first date in 1999. I also went with her to my ‘first’ high school prom there in May 2000. I am a 1979 graduate of Lexington (TN) High School, and our class was the only one never to have a prom. My wife is a teacher… she took me to the high school prom when she served as a chaperone, to show me what I missed. We danced to Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and it was truly wonderful dancing at my prom 21 years later. The magic of the Tennessee Theatre is still alive.”


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April 2015