One of my first memories of The Lamp was when I went with my mother and sister to see “The Rose,” the story of Janis Joplin.
Forget the fact that I was only nine and the subject matter was a bit adult for me, and forget the fact that other kids my age were probably watching “The Empire Strikes Back” somewhere else. I’m sure it was Ladies Night at The Lamp and seats were a whopping dollar.
When The Lamp finally closed its doors, the effects of time had taken a serious toll. But how could it not? This is the same space where my 80-year-old father never saw a full-length movie because his parents made him leave the minute they got their sugar and flour on their monthly trip to Irwin.
This is the same space where my two older brothers shared penny candy during a Saturday matinee in the early ’60s. By the time I was a child, the seats were repaired with duct tape, the floors were perpetually sticky and it always took a few tries before the movie would run without technical delays.
Still, there was something nostalgic and comforting about a movie at The Lamp. The blinking marquee along Main Street was certainly inviting. So I was excited to hear that plans were underway for The Lamp’s restoration.
I thought of The Music Box, a movie theater in my old Chicago neighborhood. It was an older, beautifully renovated venue with a player piano strumming before the previews. It showed new releases, but also classics like “Casablanca.”
Every holiday season, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was on the schedule. They held a Christmas carol sing-a-long, where the whole audience followed the bouncing ball on the screen.
Of course, the experience was really fun after a few beers at the bar next door, but it was one tradition that brought a small-town feel to a sometimes overwhelming city.
As I recall those experiences, I think there are promising possibilities for The Lamp. Let’s just hope Ladies Night is still on the schedule.
Jennifer Fitzgerald is a North Huntingdon resident. Originally published August 20, 2009, in the Norwin Star.