by James Parrish
|Charles Starrett as The Durango Kid|
The idea for the Bijou Film Center really begins with a kid -- the Durango Kid. You see, I grew up listening to my dad to tell stories of the many Saturdays he spent at the Princess Theatre in the 1940s and 50s in Benson, North Carolina, our hometown.
By the time I came along, the screen of the Princess had long been dark and those exciting Saturdays packed with enthusiastic kids were trapped behind the boarded up windows and doors of the theatre, projected only the mind's eyes of those kids, now adults, like my dad and his childhood friend, "Fish."
Even today, you can see the twinkle in his eye when he describes how he gathered his pennies and nickels for the Saturday afternoon shows by selling discarded soft drink bottles to the grocer, old newspapers to the fish market and used coat hangers to the dry cleaners. For dad those pennies and nickels were passage into the worlds of Wild Bill Hickcok, Lash LaRue, Whip Wilson, Johnny Mack Brown, Bob Steele, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and his favorite, the Durango Kid. When the credits rolled, my dad and his friends would fling open the doors of the Princess, rushing home to recreate this week's showdowns between good and evil.
It was my dad who took my brother and me to the movies to see Star Wars and Indiana Jones and countless others, giving us our own childhood memories and passing along his love of the movies. The Bijou Film Center, first and foremost, will be for the kid in all of us who wants nothing more than to spend Saturdays at the movies and then save the day, just in the nick of time.