Remembering the Movie Man
Charles Jerry “C.J.” Hayes died Feb. 27, after a career spanning more than 50 years at the Appalachian Theatre.
C.J. was not just the theater’s long-time manager; he was Boone’s own “Movie Man.”
He and his wife, Polly, worked together as a team. C. J. and Polly were a couple dedicated to good management and gracious welcomes.
A photo of the Appalachian Theatre, dated 1947, graces the cover of Donna Warmuth’s “Images of America: Boone.” Warmuth describes the Hayeses as “familiar friends with the townspeople.”
This familiarity extended to friends, family, churchgoers and students alike. Families brought their children to see wholesome movies. College kids took a break from study. Fellows escorted their girls on Saturday night dates.
C.J. welcomed all with a booming, “How ya doin’ tonight?” He moved down the counter, whispered instructions to his snack crew and scooped popcorn into a striped bag.
From its building in 1938 to its present day closing, the Appalachian Theatre made it possible for hundreds of college students to earn an education.
Textbooks and notebook papers were always spread on a Formica table top in the vestibule. Laughter, popcorn popping and soda machine fizzle drowned the movie soundtrack.
The smell of buttered popcorn, from the little “popcorn house” out back, permeated the rows. C.J. always insisted he had nothing to do with the 1950 grease fire that gutted the theater’s interior.
Worn carpet, heavy pleated curtains and art deco mirrors created an atmosphere like “grandma’s house.” Comfortable old theater chairs creaked when tilted down. Occasionally, a broken seat spring would catapult the viewer onto the wooden floor.
Technical difficulties were a break time for catching up with audience neighbors.
Once, corroding celluloid clattered to broken stop.
A man shouted, “What the devil? Crummy place.”
A woman spat, “Sit down! What do you expect for a dollar?”
Ticket prices began as 35 cents for adults and nine cents for children. When admission finally rose to one dollar, we all called the place “The Dollar Flick.”
My college roommates and I figured out how to get in free. We propped the back screen door open with a wooden stop. One of us would pay full price, while the rest snuck around back to the screen door.
“I knew you kids were breaking in!” C.J.’s former boss, Jay Beach, chuckled when I confessed decades later.
C.J. and Polly worked night shift together their entire married life. They had their fair share of heartache, but never showed it as they smiled.
C.J. also managed the Chalet cinemas built across from what is now the Wellness Center, while Polly remained at the downtown theater.
A van crashed through the glass exit doors after a film. Polly was unflappable. She made sure her glass-shared crowd was unharmed. Next, she checked the stunned driver and notified the police.
Polly Hayes did not need to notify our townspeople when C.J. passed away. We lost our home town “Movie Man.”
We all kept our movie memories.