Saturday, January 2, 2016

Main Street Stories

Here's the thing about Main Street stories: they are stories of our collective life. When I first started studying Main Streets, I never thought of Saturday afternoons at the Embassy Theater as anything other than a really pleasant memory of childhood.  But, especially as the University of Orange had worked on "Unearthing the Future: the Reverse Archaeology of Route 280," I've heard so many people's stories of the Embassy -- and they're all more or less like mine.  Fran McClain told Chris Matthews, chief reverse archaeologist,
Embassy Theater on Main Street, Orange, NJ
There were so many movies here. We had the Hollywood [theater], which was right out here on Central Avenue …. We’d roller skate there. It was only a quarter to get into the movies. We saw the cartoons, two features, then we would roller skate back home. There was also the Embassy Theater on Main Street by the library and the Palace theater on Main Street by East Orange. I remember seeing Moby Dick, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Westerns with John Wayne.
We have the same memories, because we all went there together.  And that is the power and mystery of Main Street.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -- such a strange movie!  How did that shape our young minds?  What did it say about America?  What kind of delicious life did we have on roller skates?  I love the song "Brand New Key" by Melanie:
I got a brand new pair of roller skates,
You got a brand new key.
One day I found a roller skate key in a pile of junk and I added it to my keychain.  I was partly imitating others in my family who have exotic collections on their key chains.  But I was also remembering how precious it was to have a roller skate key, as the skates had to be tightened all the time.  And this is the magic of Main Street: it opens our eyes to the shared part of our existence, woven with our culture, our times, our keys.

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