Lyric and Teddy Bear

Lyric Theater, Brownwood, Texas (ca. 1940s)

In the 1940s, in Brownwood, Texas, three movie palaces illuminated downtown: the Bowie, Lyric and Queen.  I sat in all of them and learned much about Hollywood life, even Mexico because the Queen ran some of the best desperado celluloids I have ever seen.  The Bowie theater showed upscale film, hardly any Saturday morning trailers for boys and girls.  The Lyric posted both upscale (MGM, Colombia, 20th Century Fox) as well as the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Tarzan and the Three Stooges.  I can still see the darkened theater and kids at the Lyric waving and shouting and screaming and laughing, hands and arms waving between me and the screen.  When I saw Purple Rose of Cairo, I saw myself in the audience at the Lyric theater watching the film come right off the screen and into my heart.

Mother took me to the Lyric one day and I took my teddy bear, young boy that I was.  I fell asleep.  After the showing, we came back to the trailer house on Austin Avenue, where the clocks spun in the dirt.  The trailer was cramped for the three of us: mom, grandmother and me.  Sweltering in the summer, pumping and pushing those sprayers of mosquito repellent at night.  I looked for my bear at bedtime.  The bear was gone.  I had dropped teddy when I fell asleep and now it was gone and in the hands of who-knows-who at the Lyric theater.

A day went by and I missed that bear.

Then, magic, like Hollywood and the desperado escapes in Mexico, mother said, “Look under your pillow, Little Jack.”

I uplifted the pillow and there was my teddy bear, black buttons for eyes and leather for its paws, all back in my clutches, never to leave my side again.  What vacuum had been was now evaporated in the retrieval my mother obtained from the Lyric theater management.  She had gone next door to use the landlady’s telephone to have them hold the bear until she could walk (we had no car) back downtown the next day, rescue the bear and come back to our trailer house on Austin Avenue.

The good citizens of Brownwood have turned the old theater — it has been shut for decades — into a thespian venue, replete with new furnishings and grand opening.  A new palace for acting and art.  I can extrapolate, but won’t right now.  It’s good, not bad.

I parse the loss of the bear and its return.  What I see and feel is a mother caring, a business attentive to lost toys and a town that nurtured its community with innocent amusement for a post-war generation.  The Lyric theater in 1914, from what I read about it, was to be a theater for live performance, probably a late-vaudeville medium as well.  If that is true, then the Lyric theater has gone from a venue for live performance to Hollywood and serials on Saturday back again to live performance.  A cycle.

When I lived in that small town, I never lost anything, not even a bear at the Lyric.

The Lyric Today in Brownwood (2010)



For a link to the changing venue of the Lyric, click on: Lyric Lights Up Downtown Brownwood – Photos & Video.


Filed under Recollections 1942-1966

8 responses to “Lyric and Teddy Bear

  1. I LOVE this post! Takes me right back to days at the Odean in Tucumcari, which, amazingly enough, is still showing movies. And selling a large popcorn for less than a mortgage payment. You’ve inspired me to do a piece on the Odean. And you’re right – living in a small town really does make you feel like you’ve lost nothing and gained a million things every day. Hugs from little old ladies at the post office. Expressions of concern when your mother goes to the doctor (how does that news travel so fast?). Visits from the cheerleaders when there’s a home game that night and they want you to attend. Hellos called across the cafe when you drop in for coffee.

  2. Jack, your stories draw me in and won’t let go.

    We have an old theater named the Lyric here in Bisbee, too. It’s now an office, but the actual theater in all its plush glory still silently remains, behind locked doors (I was lucky enough one day to see it.) It had a roof that somehow opened. I think it closed in the ’70s.

    I’m glad your Lyric Theater will be used for performances. As it should be.

  3. Kay Gray Malone

    Jack, I sat in that very same theater — remember watching westerns, Abbott and Costello, etc. We may have even been there at the same time. There was another run-down theater or two–one called the Ritz–can’t remember the name of the other. One of them had an aisle down the middle and at at the front of that aisle by the screen was a huge gas heater. Mother insisted I sit by the aisle on the back row in case o fire. I remember being fascinated by the posters advertising the burlesque films when I walked down the street. No, I never even tried to go. Even at 9 or 10 I knew better than to ask Myvan!

    I think all these theaters came about because of Camp Bowie.

    Love your blogs — awaken precious memories of childhood, Gywn and Effie. I do miss your wonderful Mom.

    • Yes, we were probably there at the same time. I don’t remember the theater that had the heater in the middle. Nope, don’t ask her about those places! Camp Bowie did a lot of things for Brownwood. Thank you for remembering Mom. She thought the world of Myvan, a great influence in her life. And, mine.

  4. I love old theaters, especially those in small towns, some still showing movies. As far as the bigger theaters go, have you and Brenda ever attended an event at the Lensic in Santa Fe? It’s a beauty.

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