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Movies Ease the Rites of Passage

Herloise Thompson wrote “Movies Ease the Rites of Passage” about the moviegoing culture in Prescott during the 1940s and 1950s. On Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, “going to the show” was the norm. Thompson recalls going to the Gem Theater on Fridays with her family as a child to see Western films. At the time, screenings of films in the theater were preceded by cartoons, comedy shorts, news features, and public service announcements for charities. Children would sit with their parents until they were 8 or 9 years old. Then they were expected to sit in the front row where they had to look up to see the screen, which was painful but considered an important rite of passage. As a teen, Thompson and other girls often went to see romance films at the Nevada Theater and emulated big movie stars like Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor. Thompson’s senior prom included a movie. After dinner and dancing, the class of 1955 attended a screening of the film “Three Ring Circus” at the Nevada Theater, which kept the students busy while easing school staff and parents’ worries about safety. Thompson notes that moviegoing was a common first date for young couples of the day. The couples would be less nervous to talk to each other after the show, when they would discuss the movie they had seen and plan the next date. Thompson ended up meeting her own husband at a double date to the movies.

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