In Saul DeGraw’s post on Back to the Future and nostalgia, Tod Kelly made an interesting statement about the nostalgia for BTTF, “I don’t see a lot of people talking about where they were when they first saw it” implying that true nostalgia would be something different from what he is seeing on the internet today. While some may feel that there are different sorts of nostalgia, the thoughts of BTTF have opened a flood of memories for me in the vein Tod asks about and caused me to look up facts to fill in the holes.
Well, to respond to Tod, I was here for both movies. As I had no idea that there was a third, I have no idea where I was for that. I saw the first one with my brother Jason and our friend Lee, who has since died in a drunk driving accident. I remember the first one being funny, thrilling and generally a good flick. Or was that the second one? They blend together in my mind now, good but largely forgettable. Before the movie, we had time to kill, so we snuck onto the roof of the Korbs building, which has since been torn down to make room for a shopping center.
The Fremont Theater was built in 1940 or ’42 and designed by Charles Lee. Of the streamline moderne style with 1100 seats, it was a centerpiece of entertainment for a college town of just under nine thousand. Located on one of the main streets in town, its only competition was the Obispo Theater, which opened in 1928 and burned down in 1975, around the time of my family’s arrival in town.
BTTF ran for over a year at that theater, due to the fact it was a massive old building that needed lots of expensive repairs, was deep in dept and couldn’t pay its distribution fee’s any longer and so it no longer received new movies to show. It survived on its continual Midnight Movie event, showing the typical fare of The Wall, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Song Remains the Same, etc. This was a staple of my high school life, as we would sneak booze in, no one cared if you smoked cigarettes or pot and more that a few of my friends had sex during the shows.
Going back further into my childhood, before the theaters appearance and operations fell so far, it had summer matinée’s for children, showing Don Knots movies, silly Tim Conway flicks and others that I can’t remember. We would walk down every week, to hand over our pre-paid tickets at the door, tickets that were sold to us in our grade school classes.
Eventually, ownership was picked up by a major chain, who initially wanted to tear it down to make room for a multiplex. Due to the enormous uproar, that plan was shelved, they opened a small multiplex next door and kept the Fremont in mostly working condition. New movies started to come in and new memories were formed. I remember seeing Angel Heart and Jacobs Ladder, going to see Rain Man on a date and a huge group of my friends and I piling in to see Stop Making Sense. Friends like Alison and Callie got jobs there and sometimes let us in for free, or got us into other theatres at half price.
When I head down to SLO to visit, I invariably drive past it, as the town is surprisingly small. It is still beautiful, but trouble still lurks in the shadows. It currently owes $98,000 in back taxes to the county.
The Fremont is a central part of my memories of my home town, along with sneaking onto the roofs of downtown buildings, walking along underground creeks and the general magic of growing up in a small town.