A note from Lindsey: Today is my 23rd birthday! I’m celebrating here on the blog by ramblin’ on about my history as a classic film fan. Is it possible for film fanaticism to be passed down unknowingly through three generations? I’m starting to think so! And here’s why…
A few months after I started this blog I published a post called “How I fell in love with classic film,” detailing the long journey that led to me to level of old movie obsession that inspired the beginnings of this blog. In that post I described being shown a few classics by my grandparents, but I never knew them to be rabid devotees of cinema, and it wasn’t until I discovered Turner Classic Movies that I started to really become a classic film buff.
Over two years have passed since I wrote that post, and today I need to amend it. In recent conversations with my grandmother, I have discovered that my love of film may have been inherited after all.
The first time I had an inkling of this idea, my grandma (aka Grammy, my mom’s mom) and I were visiting my favorite antique shop, where I bought my first classic movie fan magazine, and where I have continued to feed my collection of film mags and vintage entertainment books since.
As we were about to step out of the car and head into the shop, Grammy dropped a bomb: she used to read the very same magazines I was hunting for at the antique shop! Her two favorites (coincidentally, also my favorites) were Photoplay and Modern Screen. She and her best friend would visit the local newsstand each month when new issues were released. They would each buy one of the two magazines, read the one that they bought, and then switch off.
Now, this is the woman who introduced me to Gone with the Wind, so I knew that she had some appreciation for film, but I never knew that her love for movies was so strong that she looked forward to buying fan magazines every month. I’ve always credited my love for classic film in part to her, thanks to the films she introduced me to as a child, but after learning that she bought the magazines religiously, I began to think that she deserved even more credit. I inherited her adoration for the stars of the mid-century.
As it turns out, the love actually goes back yet another generation, to Pa, Grammy’s father and my great-grandfather. Through an odd train of research, I’ve discovered that Pa managed one of Dearborn, Michigan’s most popular theaters, the Calvin Theater, in the 1940s.
It all began when I noticed a recently-uncovered facade in downtown West Dearborn. The first few times I passed it, I saw only “GOOD FOOD” painted on the storefront and assumed it may have been a diner or market. Giving it a closer look, I saw that it was actually a bar called the Aviation Bar. When my grandma found out that this facade had been uncovered, she recognized the name of the bar as one that Pa used to frequent, just a few blocks away from their house.
Being the curious mind that I am, I decided to do a bit more research into the building’s history and read that at one time it was a silent film theater (which I know now was called The Strand). This was when the lightbulb clicked and Grammy realized that the Aviation Bar was on the same block as the Calvin Theater, where Pa worked. (We soon confirmed that we had the right block/building by looking at historic photographs published in the book Images of America: Dearborn, Michigan.) So, not only did they live close-by the bar, he also worked only a few doors away!
The Calvin Theater took the place of The Strand in 1927, featuring first-run films, organ concerts and special events until it was renovated (according to cinematreasures.org) as a second-run theater in the mid-1960s.
The Calvin Theater suffered two fires in the early 1980s and, since they left the building gutted, it had to be demolished. Today, a Buddy’s Pizza stands in its place, right next to one of my favorite metro Detroit-area libraries, the Bryant Branch of the Dearborn Public system.
My grandma was just a young’n during this time, so she isn’t sure of the exact years that Pa worked at the Calvin, but he managed the place and was responsible for bringing first-run films (as well as special events, like political rallies) to the people of Dearborn. Some of the films that I consider favorites now were screened by my great-grandfather at this lost theater. A love of classic film has run in my blood much longer than I ever thought!