BLOG: The Norwood Theatre Brings Back Memories

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September 12, 2012

BLOG: The Norwood Theatre Brings Back Memories

This story appeared on Norwood Patch. Read the article on their website.

Who wants to take a stroll down memory lane with me? You don’t? Well, too bad because that’s what we’re going to do. So you may as well lace up your hiking boots, do some stretching, and try to keep up. Today we’re going back… back to the NORWOOD MOVIE THEATRE!

You thought the Norwood Theatre was closed? Well, my friend, you would be wrong. After two years of renovation and having lots of money poured into it, the theatre was re-opened Labor Day weekend.

On Friday night, the owner had a gala event celebrating the opening. I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t find my tux… or my invitation. Then, on Saturday night they had a big band orchestra playing up on stage. I heard it was great. They played Sinatra songs and what-not. If Guns N’ Roses was there, you know I would’ve been front and center.

But gala events and big bands are not my bag, baby. I’m a movie guy! And fortunately for me, Sunday was my day to shine at the theatre. They were showing the movie “Mary Poppins.”

We’ll get to my review of that in a bit. What I really want to talk about is the theatre itself. Now I don’t have any connections with the theatre, so what I say is pretty much coming from what I have heard. I hear a lovely lady from Dover named Susan Lewis bought the theatre in 2010 and decided to restore it. Now, I may not know this lady from Adam and I have never met her, but I can tell you from this movie reviewer’s perspective I am totally in love with her. This lady refurbished, restored, and re-opened my favorite childhood and teenage hang-out.

I kid you not, every single Friday night from age 14 to 18, I spent at the Norwood movie theatre. It may be longer, I’m terrible at estimating… as a matter of fact, I think the moon is a million miles away, and I think the sun is a hundred miles away. See, terrible.

It was not only my teenage hang-out, it was also a place of great childhood memories. The first movie I ever saw was at the Norwood Theatre. It was called “A Challenge to be Free.” Now, I’ve looked this movie up on IMDb and they have no recollection of it. But I vividly remember sitting there with my mother and father and a few of my siblings, (whichever ones were already born) crying because a bear died. I truly think the TV show “Grizzly Adams” was modelled after this movie. I asked my brother Andy if he remembered any of this and he recalled bits and pieces. He didn’t think I was crazy… well, not because of this movie at least.

But my first real and awesome memories came from when my mother and my Aunt Laverne took me and my cousins to see the best movie ever made… the movie that changed movies… the movie that made me fall in love with movies. That movie was “STAR WARS.”

Still to this day it is my favorite film. And a major reason for that was because of the Norwood Theatre. The movie came out in May of 1977, but I don’t think it got to Norwood until August. It was a lot different back then. You had to wait for a movie to get to you before you could see it. I collected all the “Star Wars” trading cards and I knew every character long before I ever saw the movie.

What I remember from that film was (and Norwood people may remember this) standing in line for hours just waiting to get a ticket. The line went all the way around the corner, past the old “Sanco Toy” (a store where I would later on in my childhood steal “Star Wars” action figures from) and all the way down to the bowling alley. We got our tickets and grabbed our seats. My mother and my aunt went up to get us refreshments before the movie started. That was when over forty people asked me (a little seven-year-old), “Is this seat taken?” This is when I first realized that when I got older I’d go to the movies by myself. I hated the pressure of saving seats. Eventually, we got our pop and our corn, and the rest is movie history.

The first movie I ever got to see by myself (well, without parents) was “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Me and my brothers saw it together. But we were not completely alone, my parents had the younger siblings and my older sister upstairs seeing “Pinocchio.” Yes, there were two theatres at one time, and yes, I can guarantee you my mother was ten rows behind us, keeping a watchful eye on us boys. She was real good like that.

My teenage years at the Norwood Theatre were great too. Me and my younger brother Andy were inseperable. We had a crew of friends that would always meet down on the common at 6:45 and hit the seven o’clock show. Our parents would drop us off there and then they’d say, “Be home by nine o’clock or you’re gonna git a whoopin’!” Actually, they didn’t say that at all, but you know what I mean. We’d meet a bunch of girls down there and we’d go see a movie. I’d sit in the back row and watch the film. My little brother would sit in the row in front of me and make out with his girlfriend. I’d throw popcorn and act like a real tool. This is when I noticed that I may be going down the path to Loserville, so I had my brother teach me how to kiss and I got myself a girlfriend and started my own make-out sessions. (I’m just kidding, my brother never taught me how to kiss… I had to learn that the old-fashioned way: practice, practice, practice.)

I can also remember it being 8:45 and having to be home in fifteen minutes. That’s when me and Andy would tighten up the Reeboks, kiss our ladies goodbye, (while they snickered at us for having to be home so early) and then go “Usain Bolting” up Nahatan Street to make our nine o’clock curfew. You see, if you didn’t make curfew in the Kelley household, then you don’t make it to the movies the following week. Which, in turn meant no make-out sessions.

Believe me, these were some of the greatest times of my life.

Some of my favorite movies I’ve ever seen have been at the Norwood Theatre. I saw “Back to the Future” fifteen times there. It’s still to this day one of the best movies ever. I saw “Cocoon,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Teen Wolf,” “Three Amigos,” “Popeye,”  “Crocodile Dundee,” and “Commando” all at that theatre. I could go on forever about the movies that I’ve seen there but I won’t. Let’s just say that the Norwood Theatre is where I got my start into the professional movie reviewing business.

Later on in my teen years it became the place I was going even when I wasn’t really going to the movies. I’d have my parents drop me off with my brother and then we’d sprint to the Fr. Mac’s swamp and hang out with our crew. We’d do what boys would do. We’d be idiots. We’d be idiots for a solid two hours and then we’d sprint back down to the theatre and get picked up at nine o’clock and no one would be the wiser. Now that I think about it, my parents had to know what was going on. They probably just gave up. We were quite a handful.

I owe my childhood and my teenage years to that theatre. It was like a best friend to me. If I was happy, I’d go to that theatre. If I was sad, I’d go to that theatre. If I was in love, I’d go to that theatre. If I was angry, I’d go to that theatre. If I was drunk, I’d go to that theatre. I’m telling you, it was my best friend, and when it closed, I was crushed.

Eventually, I ended up jumping on the bus and hooking up with the Norwood Theatre’s ugly cousin, the Dedham Cinema. She was cool enough I guess, but it just wasn’t the same.

It took me a long time to get over the Norwood Theatre, but I moved on.

Then, out of the blue, I heard an angel sent from the heavens (Dover) was fixing the place up and re-opening it! My knees got all wobbily! When it finally opened on Sunday, Sept. 2, for the premiere showing of “Mary Poppins” I got so nervous! It was like seeing an old girlfriend for the first time in years. I walked in and looked around. The place was magnificent! (Just like my old girlfriends!) It was one big theatre again, with lovely chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There was a beautiful stage in front of the screen and the balcony was perfect. It had a back row with two seats only. That last row, last seat was calling out my name: “Matty, sit here! I’m yours!” I rushed to my seat, hugged it, and said, “Hey buddy, me and you are gonna be like peas and carrots.”

I got comfortable and enjoyed the free showing of “Mary Poppins.” Guess what? I’d never seen that movie before! And it was great! Julie Andrews was in it, and so was Dick Van Dyke. It was a musical about a nanny who has to take care of two mischievous children. (Personally, I don’t think they were that mischievous at all. At that age I was lighting the F.M. woods on fire.)

Julie Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Mary Poppins that year (1964). But I honestly believe Dick Van Dyke deserved an Oscar also. Or at least a nomination! He was great. He sang well, he danced well, and he acted superbly. He was a loveable character and a talented actor too. This is stuff I never knew about D.V.D.

Ok, so I loved the movie, but this review was not really about the movie at all. It was about that historic building in Norwood center that I love so much. The Norwood Theatre has brought me so much joy over the years, to see it open again brought tears to my eyes. I bet if you asked any of my friends to say something about the Norwood Theatre, they would be able to sit you down and talk for hours. I’m not gonna say that all the stories will be excellent, but I will say they would all be interesting.

So, Susan Lewis, you are this movie reviewer’s gift from God and I just want you to know that you have brought a grown man’s childhood smile back to his face. (Now bring back “Star Wars” and “Back to the Future” for me, will ya?) I can’t wait to someday meet you and personally thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful job you have done with the Norwood Theatre.

Looking forward to getting back to my roots. (Starting with my personal chair: Last seat, last row.)

Matty W. Kelley, Norwood Patch, reporting.

Fun Fact: If I remember correctly, the first girl I ever kissed at the Norwood Theatre was a gal named Marilyn (and no, it wasn’t Monroe). Maybe it was Jane, I’m not sure, I’ll ask her and get back to you. All I know was I very, very scared… I don’t take rejection well.

Fun Matty Fact: I write almost all of my movie reviews in just my underwear and my “movie” slippers.