A note from a local history enthusiast with a nose for good stories from Carter County reminded me the Dixie Theater, once an anchor in downtown Olive Hill, would have been 95 years old in 2019.
The Dixie was long gone by the time I got back to this area, so I shot out a note on social media, asking if anyone else had any memories associated with the single-screen cinema. In the first wave of responses, it became apparent that people have different recollections about the place depending on the time frame when they patronized it.
For Sue Roberts, the Dixie was a place of distinction and family tradition in the mid 1960s.
“On Christmas day all the 'older cousins' went to the Dixie for a movie in the afternoon. You knew you were privileged when you were old enough to be included in the gang. I wish I could remember some of the movies. It didn't matter what we saw, it was just fun to hang with the cousins.”
For Ken Hart, who was there for some of the Dixie's final screenings, the memories weren't quite so warm and fuzzy and, “mostly involve being able to get in to see R-rated movies there, including 'Blazing Saddles,' 'Death Wish' and a few cheesy biker and sexploitation flicks when I was only 12 or 13.
“The people in charge there didn't give a damn about the ratings system; they only cared that you had the money for admission. On the other hand, the manager of the theater in Morehead ran a pretty tight ship. I have vivid memories of being kicked out of there when I tried to get in to see "The Exorcist" at the age of 12.
“I also went on my very first date at the Dixie,” he continued. “Many years later, the girl I went with was at the center of an international incident after she and her husband were accused of murder while docked in an island nation in the Caribbean. Both were acquitted, but not until after spending more than a year in a prison that sounded like nothing short of a medieval hellhole.”
Rick Cundiff said, “I remember the last movie I saw there had be on television a couple of weeks before.”
Cundiff and Hart theorize the Dixie may have closed and reopened a couple of times, and that it was the scene of a concert to raise money for Hart's senior class trip.
Cundiff noted, “I actually got used to the tear in the screen,” and added “I remember seeing 'Rollerball' there, and some trashy rogue trucker flick -- 'White Line Fever,' maybe? And some even trashier women-in-prison epic. Good times on a Saturday afternoon.”
Which prompted Hart's list - “Some of the other movies I can remember seeing there are 'Born Losers' (the first Billy Jack movie), 'Saturday Night Fever,' 'Carrie,' 'The Car and 'Death Race 2000."
Former Olive Hill Mayor and downtown business owner Jim Short even got drawn into the conversation,
“I own the old Dixie. It is now my warehouse. However, prior to leveling the floor and pouring concrete (it sloped 4 ft. From front to back), I discovered several things... First of all, there was a storage tank in the floor near the front where the floor could be washed and the stored waste water could be pumped out. Through research, I found that one of the previous owners also owned a farm and after 3 days of weekend movies, would bring a herd of chickens to harvest all the excess popcorn on the floor. The chickens would eat the popcorn with the end result where the popcorn was now fertilizer that was then washed to the storage tank and pumped on the farm crops. Ingenious! Olive Hill has been first in many things. So, I guess Olive Hill had Dixie Chicks way before they started a singing group.”
Mike Barker, who also had a couple of photos of the Dixie, recalled “The Dixie did many special promotions when I was a kid. They had coloring contests, Halloween costume contests, dance contests, live music shows, talent contests. They even had a promotion with Spring Grove Dairy where they would give kids free admission on Saturdays if you had two 1/2 gallon milk tops from the dairy. They also had a 1957 Chevy station wagon with loudspeakers on the top and would go through town announcing the movies for the week.”
I particularly enjoyed memories shared by Debbie Baker Harman and Mike Barker.
“Dates, friends, best popcorn anywhere, Christmas Eve matinee, Saturday’s, getting to sit in the balcony on a snowy night, many many great movies! Oh... and running across the RR tracks to my cousins’ to go to the bathroom!!” she said.
He offered, “Buck Roger's serials on Saturday mornings, now that's going way back!”
We have a few changes in store for the local newspapers, including plans to publish news of public record such as wedding licenses and deeds, as well as increased “courthouse news” in the weeks ahead.
Let us know if there are any other forms of local information you would enjoy reading each week.
Tim Preston can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at (606) 474-5101.