Buren Martin outside the restored facade of the Inman Theater.  Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich.

The Inman Theatre marquee alive with light.

EXTENDED VERSION
The Last Picture Show: Inman’s Theaters as Great Good Places
By Bonnie Werlinich
Movie houses of the early twentieth century once provided America with entertainment, culture, and a window to the world outside their one-horse towns. They were gathering places where residents could leave their troubles at the door and relax among familiar faces. In his book The Great Good Places, Urban sociologist Dr. Ray Oldenburg discussed the need for these “third places” in our communities. “In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them... places where individuals may come and go as they please, in which no one is required to play host, and in which we all feel at home and comfortable." The theaters of Inman were once Great Good Places. When the final curtain fell and these theaters closed, the town of Inman lost a valuable support system that connected the residents, one to the other, and to the pulse of the town itself.
Before “moving pictures” came to Inman, people entertained each other. In her book The Early History of Inman South Carolina, local historian Jimmie Lou Bishop Brown said neighbors from Inman and other farm communities would meet above the Stewart Wingo Store; the Woodsmen of the World band would play while people sang popular songs of the day. “They did lots of singing together in homes, then, especially when friends came to visit at night.” People socialized at church, marveled at a medicine show, and discussed the novelty of  “the largest onion ever seen” in the window of the Inman Drug Company.
On April 16, 1911, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal announced:  “There will be a moving picture show [in Inman], commencing tonight and continuing for one week.” Silent movies – films without synchronized sound - had been around since 1896; commercial distribution began in earnest with “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903. Before Inman had electricity, Roy Bishop attached his father’s planning mill gasoline engine to a generator with a light bulb over it and projected silent movies in a makeshift theater (across from 19 Mill Street). “Mill Street was a dirt street then,” Mrs. Brown noted, “so he ran a wire in a tiny groove across the road from the gasoline engine to the generator at the show. If the picture stopped, everyone sitting on the benches knew he had gone to check the generator or the gas engine.” This was the earliest movie theater in the town of Inman.
According to Mrs. Brown, the first permanent theater in Inman was the called The Amuzu. Built by Lewis Layne on South Main Street, it occupied the building where Fran’s is now. In 1919, Henry and Bob Wofford built the big Ford building next to the Amuzu Theatre. A plat map dated September 15, 1919 shows that the three properties at the corner of Mill and Main had been sold with the Ford Agency drawn in. Lewis Layne died April 26, 1922 following a yearlong illness. His obituary stated: “He was also for some time one of the principle owners of the Amuzu Theatre, this new business at that time being established under his management.” After Mr. Layne’s death, Henry E. Wofford and his brother ran the theater. 
James Walton Lawrence, Sr., however, wrote in his book, They Called It Inman, that on September 7, 1922, Inman “got its first movie theater when Town Council granted a license to the Dixie Theater.” An October 9, 1922 newspaper article stated that Inman had “two movie shows – one for whites and the other for colored folks.” Mrs. Brown wrote that Roy Bishop “operated a picture show near the old Gin and Lumber Yard, for the black people” after electricity came to town in 1918. Another resident heard that when one of the five reels was finished at the Amuzu, someone would run it across the tracks to Roy’s theater so they would not have to pay to rent the film twice. Perhaps Mr. Bishop’s theater was called The Dixie. 
When the Amuzu Theater opened, it could seat 250 people and advertised coming attractions to draw large crowds. The November 24, 1922 edition of The Inman Times advertised the silent film “Ten Nights In A Barroom,” documenting the evils of drink. The movies may not always have been first run or big box office hits, but The Amuzu offered a variety of fare, such as the Tuesday April 29, 1924 line up of  “The Near Lady,” a comedy called “The Jail Bird,” and the fifth episode of “Steel Train.”
The Amuzu was, according to Mrs. Brown, “the most popular place in town on Saturday afternoons.” Popcorn was five cents a bag and admission was only ten cents. “The music of the self player piano, peddled by Herb Bishop, Jr. was enjoyed by all during those silent movies (This was one incentive that helped children learn to read).” A long time resident remembers that a wood stove once heated the Amuzu. As the coals began to wane, patrons seated nearby would throw another log onto the fire. 
When it was not showing movies, the theater would host a special event, like a free movie and talk hosted by Wofford Motor Company in March of 1923 showcasing the latest Ford models. The congregation of the Inman Presbyterian Church also used the theater as a meeting place until it moved to the Inman Mills Chapel in 1929. The first “talking pictures” debuted between 1926 and 1928, but the Amuzu was not wired for sound until 1932. 
George Ward, Sr. was a projectionist at the Amuzu in the thirties. His Fox 1935-36 Date Book listed the date a film ran, if it had 1 or 2 reels, and the running time, which varied from sixty to eighty-eight minutes. In 1945, the theater was still operating under the Amuzu name. It was later renamed the State Theatre.
    Movies were shown in other public and private spaces to entertain and inform the citizenry. County agent Ernest Carnes instructed the American Cattle Club in 1923 using a film about dairy work. In 1935, the baseball film “Textile Leaguers” plus the two-reel film “With Admiral Byrd at the North Pole” was shown at Inman High. During the 1947 American Cancer Society Drive, thirteen home demonstration clubs heightened awareness about the disease by showing a moving picture. In 1949, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal announced: “The Soap Box Derby film ‘Patterned For Sportsmanship’ will be shown to boys of Derby age” to teach them about the All-American competition. The Rotarians showed community service films such as “Operation – Deep Freeze” and “Harvey’s Dilemma,” and the Inman Mills Women’s Club were entertained when James A. Chapman, Sr. showed a film of his trip to Europe during the annual Thanksgiving Social of in the Inman Mills dining room in 1957.
On July 1, 1948, the Moonlite Drive-In Theatre opened on a five-acre site along the Asheville Highway. By shaping their “outdoor theater” like a crescent, owners George Ward, Sr. and T. J. Hannon, Jr. found a way around Richard Hollingshed’s 1933 patent for a V-shaped lot. Each car had it’s own speaker. Children under twelve were free; regular admission was thirty-five cents a head. In later years, residents confessed that they had snuck in under a blanket in the back seat. “We knew,” George Ward Jr. said. “The logic was a man and his wife with two or three kids could not afford to pay for everyone…but when they parked, they would all get out and go to the concession stand.” 
As a boy, George Ward Jr. worked the concession stand with his mother, Ruth Hannon Ward. In those days “there weren’t a lot of places to go out to eat,” Ward said. “We had homemade hamburgers and hot dogs, not frozen, it was fresh. The concession stand was where you could come to eat a meal.” The “kwiki”  - a hot dog on a stick “dipped in kwiki-mix and French-fried to a golden brown before your eyes” - was exclusive to drive-ins. “It was important that it was good food,” Ward said. 
An evening at the Moonlite was more than just watching a movie; it was an enjoyable outing for the entire community. People would arrive at 7:30 for the 8:30 show to chat with neighbors while the kids played with their friends; children often fell asleep during the movie and had to be carried to bed. Even when other drive-ins started showing risqué features, the Wards kept their content clean. George Ward, Jr. worked his way up to projectionist and recalled that once a year, his father would show a Disney film and invite the children of Inman to see it for free. The Wards also gave back to the community by hosting benefits for the March of Dimes.
In a 1993 Spartanburg Herald-Journal article, resident Joe Stone recalled: “I can remember nights when cars would line up to get in.” At the height of its popularity, there were over 5,000 drive-in theaters in America. According to Ruth Ward: “ Television ruined the drive-in movie business.” After the Moonlite closed in the mid-eighties, George Ward, Jr.’s twin sister, Ginny Ward, moved the ticket booth to her back yard. The Marquee of the old Moonlite was lovingly restored and still stands in front of the Ward Motor Company, a reminder of a bye-gone era.
In November 1948, another theater was built downtown. The Inman Theatre was owned and operated by Stewart and Everett Theaters out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Joseph Blackwell was the projectionist. The ticket price was originally twenty-five cents for adults and fifteen cents for children under twelve. Councilman Ray Rogers remembered: “25 cents would get you in for a Saturday double feature, plus cartoons, a superman series, and a big sugar daddy. A coke was 10 more pennies.” The Inman Theater showed flat-fee movies that had already played in Spartanburg in order to keep ticket prices affordable.
Having a theater within walking distance was an essential part of the vitality of Inman’s downtown district. Cars were rarely parked in front of the theater. Residents walked home after an evening movie without worrying about their safety. Local historian Pete Miller remembers walking to the Inman Theater alone to see “King Kong.” Miller recalled: “I had a red leather change purse with the extra money from my quarter plus a nickel from before, but I never got to spend it…I just watched that big gorilla go up those tall buildings in New York…I was too frightened to go [to the concession stand]. I chewed a hole in my change purse and lost all my money.” It was wonderful time of innocence.
When George Ward, Sr. took over the Inman Theatre in 1959, times were changing. After the African American theater burned down, the Moonlite Drive-In was the only theater in Inman that admitted blacks. The balcony at the Inman Theater was built as a smoking section. Mr. Ward installed a restroom upstairs and allowed people of color to sit in the balcony. A side entrance and a separate ticket window were added due to partitioning laws. Admission for blacks was fifteen cents. White customers entered through the front lobby and paid twenty-five cents a ticket. Buren Martin, the current owner of the Inman Theatre, recalled that Mr. Ward was the first adult to say to him that segregation was wrong.
Mr. Martin became one of the projectionists at the theater, but it remained a “mom and pop” operation: George Ward, Sr. ran the carbon arc projector, while Mrs. Ward sat at the ticket booth. Ginny Ward used an old crank phone in the lobby to tell the projectionist to adjust the picture. She felt the movies provided an important educational experience; you could learn what Hawaii and the old west looked like without ever leaving town. “The Inman Theatre was a community…our little get together,” Ms. Ward said. “A lot of people couldn’t go into Spartanburg to the movies.” Twice a year, when the floors got a deep cleaning, Ruth Ward would put the word out and residents would show up to help. Food was shared, children slid down the soapy aisles, and everyone had a good time. It was a joyful gathering that the citizens of Inman looked forward to each year. 
Sadly, George Ward, Sr. died in 1972, and Ruth Ward sold the Inman Theatre in 1974. It then became the home of the Andrews Singers, a gospel group with Ray Andrews, his wife Catherine, and their two oldest daughters, Jeanean and Renee. Aunt Helen often joined the group, but the youngest daughter Kelly McKnight “was too shy too sing.” The Andrews Singers won the 1974 North Carolina Apple Festival Gospel Sing and were awarded a fee-paid recording session with a public appearance in Bristol, Tennessee. 
The theater was renamed the Old Inman Gospel Theater. Gospel Sings were held every Saturday night from 7:30 to 10:00. Different groups were paid to appear with the Andrews onstage each week. Admission to hear gospel music in 1974 was initially $1.00 with children under twelve free; however, “Brother” Ray wanted everyone to be able to enter, so admission became free for all. The evening would begin and end with singing with an intermission in between. The theater met expenses by placing a donation box in the lobby and through the sales of home made cakes, hot dogs, and soft drinks at the concession stand. Even when crowds were thin and bills piled up, Ray Andrews did not charge admission; he believed that if the Lord wanted him to continue, He would provide.
Most Saturdays, the theater would be full of area residents of all religions and colors. On Fridays and Sundays, the Andrews would travel to, churches and festivals- such as the Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival in Kodak, Tennessee - in a 1946 old school bus they called “Moses;” the bus was featured in the 1987 Ricky Schroeder movie “ Too Young The Hero.” They also sang on Saturdays at Tabs flea market. Disk jockey Jack Bratton would broadcast live from the theater during the Gospel Sing Festivals on “WAGI, 105.3 on your FM dial.” Every New Year’s Eve, the theater would have an alcohol-free gospel sing and countdown with a balloon drop from the balcony at midnight. 
Giving back to the community was important to the Andrews. An “Old Fashioned Gospel Sing and Bar-B-Q” was held in the parking lot so residents could “have a good time with the Lord!” A bloodmobile was set up in their parking lot to alleviate the holiday blood shortage during one of their New Years Eve celebrations. When the Church of God of Prophecy was struck by lightning and burned in 1989, the Old Inman Gospel Theatre was used as their temporary church. The Andrews honored Inman’s firefighters, policemen and veterans with an all night sing; senior citizens were honored at a special show in 1976.  As always, admission was free.
There was a rise of popularity in Southern gospel music in the late 1980’s. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal featured the Inman Gospel Theatre in an article about the resurgence of the genre. The photographs show the audience in the packed theatre with their hands in the air, some dancing in the aisles. Babies on their mother’s laps bounced along as Charles Seay led the audience participation portion of the evening. On stage, the Jubilee Echoes from Renfro Valley, Kentucky were rocking the house. 
    In 2005, Mr. Andrews was diagnosed with cancer, and the theater was sold. The New Generation Church rented it in the interim. In 2012, the Inman Theater Project investigated the possibility of bringing the theater back to life. Unfortunately, the ITP was unable to raise enough money to purchase the theater, but like-minded citizens Buren and Dottie Martin bought the building in 2014. The Martins had previously restored the old Inman High School gymnasium in hopes of having a dinner theater. When that project stalled, they bought the Inman Theatre and began restoration. The outside of the building was sandblasted and the marquee repainted. Dottie’s brother Cecil Graham refurbished the lobby while Buren removed and recovered the seats ten at a time. The Martins are still restoring the performance space. 
    The marquee now reads: “Home of the Baillie Players,” a professional touring company made up of Buren, Dottie, and their children Gloria and Milner. “We go into schools and do residencies and produce shows with the kids in the schools from May to October,” Buren said. “The four of us tour and do dinner theater in country clubs and independent living centers in Boston, Florida, and Arizona.” When Dottie became a drama teacher for both Chapman and Landrum High Schools, and their residencies in South Carolina schools increased, the Baillie Players decided not to tour in the summer. Buren hopes to offer a children’s theater program in the summer of 2016. 
The fun, fellowship, and entertainment that the residents of Inman enjoyed above that storefront years ago fulfilled a basic need in the community that is lacking in Inman today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014: “Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day).” With the exception of church or a trip to the post office, many people rarely interact on a regular basis with members of their community. Ray Oldenburg said: “What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably — a ‘place on the corner,’ real life alternatives to television.” While Inman’s Harvest Festival, Music on Mill, and Inman Ignites bring people together, they are seasonal; a permanent social hub open year round would provide a welcoming space for people to connect on a regular basis.
Mr. Martin says he embraces the opportunity to make his public space available to everyone: “ I am hoping that The Inman Theatre will become a place where people can once again enter to experience not only performances but the sense of community that was always felt when I worked there many years ago.” Catherine and Kelly Andrews hope that the theater will offer “gospel singings to spread God’s word” at a low cost so families with little money for entertainment can have a night out. Ginny Bishop believes that “a town suffers without culture and will not survive without art.” The Inman Theater offers our town the chance to reconnect with culture, entertainment, and each other through what promises to be another Great Good Place. 

Separate ticket windows in the lobby of the Inman Theater. Photo courtesy of Buren Martin.


BONUS: additional photos below

Sandblasting the exterior of the Inman Theater.  Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich.

       Most Saturdays, the theater would be full of area residents of all religions and colors. On Fridays and Sundays, the Andrews would travel to other churches and festivals in a 1946 old school bus they called "Moses;" the bus was featured in the 1987 Ricky Schroeder movie " Too Young The Hero." Disk jockey Jack Bratton would broadcast live on WAGI; gospel sings were televised on channel sixteen. Every New Year's Eve, the theater would have an alcohol-free gospel sing and countdown with a balloon drop from the balcony at midnight. 
    In 2005, Mr. Andrews was diagnosed with cancer, and the theater was sold. The New Generation Church rented the theater briefly. In 2012, the Inman Theater Project investigated the possibility of bringing the theater back to life. Unfortunately, the ITP was unable to raise enough money to purchase the theater, but like-minded citizens Buren and Dottie Martin bought the building in 2014. The Martins had previously restored the old Inman High School gymnasium in hopes of having a dinner theater. When that project stalled, they bought the Inman Theater and began restoration. The outside of the building was sandblasted and the marquee repainted. Dottie's brother Cecil Graham refurbished the lobby while Buren removed and recovered the seats ten at a time. The Martins are still restoring the performance space. 
    The marquee now reads: "Home of the Baillie Players," a professional touring company made up of Buren, Dottie, and their children Gloria and Milner. "We go into schools and do residencies and produce shows with the kids in the schools from May to October," Buren said. When Dottie became a drama teacher for both Chapman and Landrum High Schools, and their residencies in South Carolina schools increased, the Baillie Players decided not to tour in the summer. Buren hopes to offer a children's theater program in the summer of 2016.     

     The fun, fellowship, and entertainment that the residents of Inman enjoyed above that storefront years ago fulfilled a basic need in the community that is lacking in Inman today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014: “Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day).” With the exception of church or a trip to the post office, many people rarely interact on a regular basis with members of their community. Ray Oldenburg said: “What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably — a ‘place on the corner,’ real life alternatives to television.” While Inman’s Harvest Festival, Music on Mill, and Inman Ignites bring people together, they are seasonal; a permanent social hub open year round would provide a welcoming space for people to connect on a regular basis.
     Mr. Martin says he embraces the opportunity to make his public space available to everyone: “ I am hoping that The Inman Theatre will become a place where people can once again enter to experience not only performances but the sense of community that was always felt when I worked there many years ago.” Catherine and Kelly Andrews hope that the theater will offer “gospel singings to spread God’s word” at a low cost so families with little money for entertainment can have a night out. Ginny Bishop believes that “a town suffers without culture and will not survive without art.” The Inman Theater offers our town the chance to reconnect with culture, entertainment, and each other through what promises to be another Great Good Place. 
 

Ray Andrews behind counter of concession stand. Photo courtesy of Catherine Andrews.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

The ticket booth from the Moon Lite Drive-In Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

    Mr. Martin became one of the projectionists at the theater, but it remained a "mom and pop" operation: George Ward, Sr. ran the carbon arc projector, while Mrs. Ward sat at the ticket booth. Ginny Ward used a crank phone in the lobby to tell the projectionist to adjust the picture. She felt the movies provided an important educational experience; you could learn what Hawaii and the old west looked like without ever leaving town. "The Inman Theatre was a community…our little get together," Ms. Ward said. "A lot of people couldn't go into Spartanburg to the movies." Twice a year, when the floors got a deep cleaning, Ruth Ward would put the word out and residents would show up to help. Food was shared, children slid down the soapy aisles, and everyone had a good time. It was a joyful gathering that the citizens of Inman looked forward to each year. 

    Sadly, George Ward, Sr. died in 1972, and Ruth Ward sold the Inman Theatre in 1974. It then became the home of the Andrews Singers, a gospel group with Ray Andrews, his wife Catherine, and their two daughters, Jeanean and Renee; youngest daughter, Kelly McKnight "was too shy to sing." The theater was renamed the Old Inman Gospel Theater. Gospel Sings were held every Saturday night from 7:30 to 10:00. Different groups were paid to appear with the Andrews onstage each week. Admission to hear gospel music in 1974 was initially $1.00 with children under twelve free; however, "Brother" Ray wanted everyone to be able to enter, so admission became free for all. The theater met expenses by placing a donation box in the lobby and through the sales of homemade cakes, hot dogs, and soft drinks at the concession stand. Even when crowds were thin and bills piled up, Ray Andrews did not charge admission; he believed that if the Lord wanted him to continue, He would provide.

       Having a theater within walking distance was an essential part of the vitality of Inman's downtown district. Residents walked home after an evening movie without worrying about their safety. Local historian Pete Miller remembers walking to the Inman Theater alone to see "King Kong." Miller recalled: "I had a red leather change purse with the extra money from my quarter plus a nickel from before, but I never got to spend it…I just watched that big gorilla go up those tall buildings in New York…I was too frightened to go [to the concession stand]. I chewed a hole in my change purse and lost all my money." It was wonderful time of innocence.
    When George Ward, Sr. took over the Inman Theatre in 1959, times were changing. After the African American theater burned down, the Moonlite Drive-In was the only theater in Inman that admitted blacks. The balcony at the Inman Theater was built as a smoking section. Mr. Ward installed a restroom upstairs and allowed people of color to sit in the balcony. A side entrance, and separate ticket window were added due to partitioning laws. Admission for blacks was fifteen cents and twenty-five cents for whites. Buren Martin, the current owner of the Inman Theatre, recalled that Mr. Ward was the first adult to say to him that segregation was wrong. 

          An evening at the Moonlite was more than just watching a movie; it was an enjoyable outing for the entire community. People would arrive at 7:30 for the 8:30 show to chat with neighbors while the kids played with their friends; children often fell asleep during the movie and had to be carried to bed. Even when other drive-ins started showing risqué features, the Wards kept their content clean. George Ward, Jr. worked his way up to projectionist and recalled that once a year, his father would show a Disney film and invite the children of Inman to see it for free.
    In a 1993 Spartanburg Herald-Journal article, resident Joe Stone recalled: "I can remember nights when cars would line up to get in." At the height of its popularity, there were over 5,000 drive-in theaters in America. According to Ruth Ward: " Television ruined the drive-in movie business." After the Moonlite closed in the mid-eighties, George Ward, Jr.'s twin sister, Ginny Ward, moved the ticket booth to her back yard. The Marquee of the old Moonlite was lovingly restored and still stands in front of the Ward Motor Company, a reminder of a bye-gone era.
    In November 1948, another theater was built downtown. The Inman Theatre was owned and operated by Stewart and Everett Theaters out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Joseph Blackwell was the projectionist. The ticket price was originally twenty-five cents for adults and fifteen cents for children under twelve. Councilman Ray Rogers remembered: "25 cents would get you in for a Saturday double feature, plus cartoons, a superman series, and a big sugar daddy. A coke was 10 more pennies." The Inman Theater showed flat-fee movies that had already played in Spartanburg in order to keep ticket prices affordable.

          As a boy, George Ward Jr. worked the concession stand with his mother, Ruth Hannon Ward. In those days "there weren't a lot of places to go out to eat," Ward said. "We had homemade hamburgers and hot dogs, not frozen, it was fresh. The concession stand was where you could come to eat a meal." The "kwiki"  - a hot dog on a stick "dipped in kwiki-mix and French-fried to a golden brown before your eyes" - was exclusive to drive-ins. "It was important that it was good food," Ward said. 

Aerial view of the Moon Lite Drive-In Theater and Ward Motor Company

Courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

          On July 1, 1948, the Moonlite Drive-In Theatre opened on a five-acre site along the Asheville Highway. By shaping their "outdoor theater" like a crescent, owners George Ward, Sr. and T. J. Hannon, Jr. found a way around Richard Hollingshed's 1933 patent for a V-shaped lot. Each car had it's own speaker. Children under twelve were free; regular admission was thirty-five cents a head. In later years, residents confessed that they had snuck in under a blanket in the back seat. "We knew," George Ward Jr. said. "The logic was a man and his wife with two or three kids could not afford to pay for everyone…but when they parked, they would all get out and go to the concession stand." 

2015

1948

1948

Photo courtesy of Roger Newman    Inset courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

               When the Amuzu Theater opened, it could seat 250 people and was, according to Mrs. Brown, "the most popular place in town on Saturday afternoons." Popcorn was five cents a bag and admission was only ten cents. "The music of the self player piano, peddled by Herb Bishop, Jr. was enjoyed by all during those silent movies (This was one incentive that helped children learn to read)." A long time resident recalled that a wood
stove once heated the Amuzu. As the coals began to wane, patrons seated nearby would throw another log onto the fire. 
    When it was not showing movies, the theater would host a special event, like a free movie and talk hosted by Wofford Motor Company in March of 1923 showcasing the latest Ford models. The congregation of the Inman Presbyterian Church also used the theater as a meeting place until it moved to the Inman Mills Chapel in 1929. The first "talking pictures" debuted between 1926 and 1928, but the Amuzu was not wired for sound until 1932. George Ward, Sr. was a projectionist at the Amuzu in the thirties; his Fox 1935-36 Date Book listed the date a film ran, if it had 1 or 2 reels, and the running time, which varied from sixty to eighty-eight minutes. In 1945, the theater was still operating under the Amuzu name. It was later renamed the State Theatre.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

Amuzu Theatre, this new business at that time being established under his management." After Mr. Layne's death, Henry E. Wofford and his brother ran the theater. 
    James Walton Lawrence, Sr., however, wrote in his book, They Called It Inman, that on September 7, 1922, Inman "got its first movie theater when Town Council granted a license to the Dixie Theater." An October 9, 1922 newspaper article stated that   Inman  had "two movie shows – one for whites and the other for colored folks." Mrs. Brown wrote that Roy Bishop "operated a picture show near the old Gin and Lumber Yard, for the black people" after electricity came to town in 1918. One resident heard that when one of the five reels was finished at the Amuzu, someone would run it across the tracks to Roy's theater so they would not have to pay to rent the film twice. Perhaps Mr. Bishop's theater was called The Dixie. 

Photos courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

               On April 16, 1911, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal announced:  "There will be a moving picture show [in Inman], commencing tonight and continuing for one week." Silent movies – films without synchronized sound - had been around since 1896; commercial distribution began in earnest with "The Great Train Robbery" in 1903. Before Inman had electricity, Roy Bishop attached his father's planning mill gasoline engine to a generator with a light bulb over it and projected silent movies in a makeshift theater (across from 19 Mill Street). "Mill Street was a dirt street then," Mrs. Brown noted, "so he ran a wire in a tiny groove across the road from the gasoline engine to the generator at the show. If the picture stopped, everyone sitting on the benches knew he had gone to check the generator or the gas engine." This was the earliest movie theater in the town of Inman.
    According to Mrs. Brown, the permanent theater in Inman was called The Amuzu. Built by Lewis Layne on
South Main Street, it occupied the building where Fran's is now. In 1919, Henry and Bob Wofford built the big Ford building next to the Amuzu Theatre. A plat map dated September 15, 1919 shows that the three properties at the corner of Mill and Main had been sold with the Ford Agency drawn in. Lewis Layne died April 26, 1922 following a yearlong illness. His obituary stated: "He was also for some time one of the principle owners of the

South Carolina, local historian Jimmie Lou Bishop Brown said neighbors from Inman and other farm communities would meet above the Stewart Wingo Store; the Woodsmen of the World band would play while people sang popular songs of the day. "They did lots of singing together in homes,  then, especially when friends came to visit at night." People socialized at church, marveled at a medicine show, and discussed the novelty of  "the largest onion ever seen" in the window of the Inman Drug Company.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Werlinich

         Movie houses of the early twentieth century once provided America with entertainment, culture, and a window to the world outside their one-horse towns. They were gathering places where residents could leave their troubles at the door and relax among familiar faces. In his book The Great Good Places, Urban sociologist Dr. Ray Oldenburg discussed the need for these "third places" in our communities. "In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them... places where individuals may come and go as they please, in which no one is required to play host, and in which we all feel at home and comfortable." The theaters of Inman were once Great Good Places. When the final curtain fell and these theaters closed, the town of Inman lost a valuable support system that connected the residents, one to the other, and to the pulse of the town itself. 
    Before "moving pictures" came to Inman, people entertained each other. In her book The Early History of Inman

Ray and Catherine Andrews

Inman Theatre Feb 21 1990

The Andrews onstage at Inman