A guest post by Pat Haley, Wilmington, Ohio resident and Clinton County Commissioner
Curious about The Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio?
Up for a stroll down memory lane?
My grandfather, William Haley, was born in Clinton County ten years after Generals Lee and Grant signed the surrender documents in Appomattox, Virginia, which brought an end to the Civil War.
Like his parents before him, a favorite place for the Haley family to visit every Friday night was the Murphy Theatre on West Main Street in Wilmington.
Almost one-hundred years later, in my quiet times, I often sit back, relax, and reminisce about the movies that I saw at the Murphy Theater during my formative years.
It is easy to remember as the holidays approach, the Christmas movies of old. We couldn’t wait for the big wooden doors to open, as we made our way to our seats to watch Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life, and Bing Crosby in Going My Way.
If you grew-up in the 1950’s, you were a child of the cowboy movies. A favorite western movie of mine is John Ford's, The Searchers. The movie begins with a cabin door opening into the desert, looking into the rough country of Monument Valley.
Much like the opening of the doors in The Searchers, the welcoming doors of the Murphy Theatre opened often for the Haley family.
Like most towns across America, the movie house was the main landmark on the main street in downtown. Movie theatres are interesting places. But unlike most small town theatres, the Murphy Theatre remains a showplace, rivaling the best theatres in New York and Chicago in their heyday.
According to my parents, the Murphy Theatre brought the Clinton County community together during the war years, and reminded them each week that they were part of a larger world. For those of us of a certain age, the Murphy Theatre didn’t just keep us informed of national events, it connected our families together.
“Do you remember when we took our dates to the Murphy and paid fifty-cents to get in, and ten-cents more for a bag of popcorn,” I might ask friends of mine of the same age.
Their eyes light up with the memories of our common small town heritage. There is nothing like the laughter or applause of a couple hundred people, friends and neighbors, coming together to share a special time, particularly around the holidays.
For one night a year, the small downtown is bustling, alive with people, as it was years ago when people came ‘to town’ on Friday and Saturday nights. The HoliDazzle brings the Merry Tuba Christmas, Barbershop singing, and Christmas carols back to the Murphy, along with a brief visit back to a more peaceful time in our lives.
So, will we see you at The Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio this holiday season?