It was December 1960 and I was home from Illinois State University for the holidays. On a chilly night very close to Christmas, Ed picked me up in his powder blue 1957 Ford Fairlane for a movie date at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville. We had come for the after-prom movies in 1959 for his senior year, and 1960 for my senior year, so the Wildey was part of our memories of being together.
We stopped in the parking lot, and Ed didn’t shut off the engine immediately. I wondered what was going on as he fished in his pocket for a small box. You can guess the rest: I soon had tears shining in my eyes, and a sparkling ring on my finger. I don’t remember what was playing, or even if we went in to see the show. But whenever we drive by the theater, I think of that special night.
We celebrated our 46th anniversary on August 19, 2007. My father says he thinks this marriage might just work out.
Pat Forguson (nee Smith)
“A Pictorial History of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon 1800-1991” - Published by the Edwardsville Intelligencer, 1991.
Imagine my thrill at being hired as an usher by the indomitable Verna Duffy. Starting on my 16th birthday in August of 1961, I manned the door ticket box in my burgundy blazer that first night with great pride. In those days, “Preach” was a regular fixture in the lobby, and he often walked Mrs. Duffy up the street at closing to make the bank deposit. Amazingly, he knew the names of so many of the kids who frequented the Wildey in those busy days. The Wildey was a natural for date nights because a couple could get in and enjoy an assortment of concessions, all for about $3.00. Popcorn was popped fresh each night, and the lobby always smelled so good. There was real butter on the popcorn in those days too.
I’ll always remember that Mrs. Verna Duffy regarded her cadre of ushers and concession girls as her kids. For many years when I was in town, I would stop in at the Wildey to say hello and see how she was. Kenny Cassens and Bob Rohrkaste worked as ushers at the Wildey too, and working with these guys made the job all that much more fun. Mrs. Duffy’s no-nonsense policy and how much she cared about her kids and the Wildey set a management example for me that I drew on my entire career in broadcasting and theater.
I am so delighted at seeing the Wildey on its way back! It is a wonderful old building with many memories and much potential as a fantastic community resource.
The Wildey Theatre holds special memories to me during two specific and varied time periods of my life. At the end of the 1960’s, the Wildey was my first place of independence from my parents. They would drop me off there for Saturday afternoon matinees. Ah, the freedom! What I recall most specifically from this time period were the snacks at the concession stand. Favorites included Sno-Cones, popcorn, Cokes, malted milk balls and for a change of pace, lemon drops. If, during the course of theatre restoration, half-eaten lemon drops were found stuck to the movie screen, I cannot assuredly deny that they were mine. However, lacking the presence of DNA evidence, nor will I admit involvement in any way.
My experience at the Wildey changed during the late 1970’s. The movie house provided the environment to sit shoulder to shoulder with a beautiful young woman. As much of the movie flickered across the screen, my mind pondered my hand touching hers. Finally, an awkward move was made and was graciously accepted. As time progressed, many hours were spent in the darkness of the theatre with more than an occasional kiss had in the balcony.
I literally grew up with the Wildey, mom working there for years. First with Mr. Foehrkalb, and later Mrs. Duffy. I believe every kid in Edwardsville, knew “Mom” Frisse. She had so many great stories about all the kids that worked with her, and she held a special place in her heart for all of them. Prom night was always one of her special nights and had many pictures to prove it. The Wildey was a special place. If you had not experienced it, you truly missed something.
I have many fond memories of the Wildey Theater. My mother used to work at the Wildey Theater when she was in high school. She was a “ticket girl” in the early 1940’s.
The first time I ever went to the Wildey was with my sister and her boyfriend when I was only about 9 years old. I believe we saw, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” I was just amazed at the size of the movie screen and the size of the theater itself. I remember the candy counter and the “coming attractions” that were on the posters in the lobby and the windows outside the theater. The theater seemed enormous to a young girl. I especially remember the sign above the movie screen which read, “Asbestos.” I wondered what asbestos meant, thinking it must be a foreign word for theater! Little did I know!!!
Years later, as a young teenager, I spent many Friday nights at the Wildey with my friends. We didn’t do much movie watching, though. We did more scoping out what boy was with what girl and watching to see if they would “make out” during the movie!
I remember being afraid of Mrs. Duffy, who ran the theater. She ran a tight ship and I used to think she was such a grumpy old lady. Of course, I see now that she ran a tight ship to benefit all movie-goers. I wish theater owners today ran their theaters the way Mrs. Duffy ran the Wildey. She made sure the ushers were always checking things out and keeping people from talking loudly, throwing popcorn or otherwise disturbing a great experience for those who were truly interested in watching the movie.
The Wildey is an institution in Edwardsville and I am so happy it is being preserved. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!
Sincerely, Beverly Holtmann
Oh, for the days of sitting in the “lush” seats of the Wildey Theatre on a Saturday afternoon watching a great movie with your best friends. The feel of all that gum accumulated on the bottom of your seat and not getting caught by Mrs. Duffy when you added yours to the collection.
Intermission time….Mrs. Duffy is making her way to center stage with a container holding all the ticket stubs of the movies goers for this show. ‘Will she pick mine?’……’I hope so.’…… ‘Please call out my number’…. ‘I’m watching, not mine, not mine…she never calls mine.’ “Yes, Yes that’s my number!” I call off my number for verification by Mrs. Duffy and off I go to the stage to get my prize. “Today was the best day of my life!!”
Scot Ambuel – Edwardsville
Every Friday after school, my girlfriend, Sherry Buhrmester, and I would walk up to her parent’s store, drop off our school books, and proceed to enjoy what they would now call “girls night out.” We would have our hamburger, fries, and cherry coke at the local drug store and then head to the Wildey for an evening of great movies. I now live out of town, but every time I am in town and drive by the Wildey, I remember those great times.
Cindy Martinez (Warren)
I also remember the special Prom Night processions. Participants were treated to “Red Carpet” introductions followed by a first rate movie, then breakfast served by the parents in the gym. This was the Edwardsville way to avoid post prom celebrations that could have led to drinking, etc. We were treated like celebrities and I have many special memories of those red carpet walks over my four years at EHS.
Nancy Baptist Landers – EHS class of 1960
I was a 15 yr old sophomore at Triad High School and saw “Gone with the Wind” at the Wildey for the first time ever. I had read the book twice and was a great fan…. I will always remember that day as very special in my life. I am now 54, a mother and a grandmother.
Thanks for rehabbing the great old place.
Diane Heuiser Boulicault – St Louis, MO
My family moved to Edwardsville in 1957 and I lived there, graduating in 1967, until I married and moved away in 1968.
Friday nights were the night to go to the show with your girlfriends, starting in about 6th grade. Our parents would drop us off and pick us up. Sometimes a group of boys would sit in the rows behind us. I held hands for the first time at the Wildey. I remember the meat locker nearby had a cow statue mounted high for a sign and often that cow would have a flower-decorated hat tied on her head.
A well-known character from town “Preach” would walk the sidewalk passing out sticks of gum.
I did walk down the “red carpet” after the prom on my way to the show with my date. After the show, we would have breakfast at the school. Good times!
It was the late 60s and my buddies and I were “hanging out” in downtown Edwardsville one weekend. We usually went to the Friday-night movies at the Wildey, but this particular weekend they were showing Romeo and Juliet. We weren’t too interested in seeing this one with each other so we just kept walking. That’s when we discovered that the balcony door at the top of the fire escape was propped wide open, due to the warm temperature outside. We thought “what the heck” and climbed the fire escape to the balcony and saw Romeo and Juliet for free. We really didn’t pay much attention to the movie, but we had a great time making fun of all the couples in the balcony.
I was a senior (1964) at Edwardsville High School when I met my husband at the Wildey Theatre. He also worked at the Wildey as a ticket seller, monitored the concession stand and was an usher. He worked for a lady named Mrs. Duffy. His name is Jerome M. Bada and he and I have now been married 41 years. Thank you for the Wildey!
Diane Bada – Troy, IL
When the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” was first released, my friends and I attended one of the showings. Not knowing what to expect from the movie, at the beginning we were amazed at the opening scenes. I remember that as the movie began, we watched as an astronaut was running inside the spaceship. We were amazed at how futuristic the scenery and mechanics of the movie progressed. As we watched, one of the characters of the movie sat down at a table and was looking at a computer monitor displaying calculations and information. As the character sat there, we were watching with awe at what we were seeing.
Greg, one of the friends I was with, suddenly started laughing out loud. We kept looking at him trying to understand what was so funny. Finally he was able to quit laughing long enough to tell us the movie was running backwards. As we watched the movie, the computer was displaying the answers to problems, then showing the formulas, repeating this process several times. Next we watched as one of the characters setting at a table eating was taking food from his mouth and placing it back on the plate.
As soon as the rest of our group figured out what we were watching, we yelled out loud to all the other patrons what we had noticed. Soon everyone in the place was laughing and commenting on the mistake made by the projectionist. Of course Mrs. Duffy, the manager, was trying to get everyone quiet until she realized we were laughing at the mistake made by the projectionist, at which time she ran upstairs to try to correct their mistake.
We didn’t stay around for the movie, just left laughing at what we thought was a new look at the future, only to realize it was just another space movie, and we got to see another mistake made by the old man who ran the projector upstairs.
Brad Allen – Glen Carbon, IL
I am and have been a resident of Edwardsville, Illinois most of my life. I have a funny story to relate to you regarding my employment at the Wildey Theatre when I was a teenager in or about 1960 or 1961. I was hired to work behind the concession stand and also to sell tickets in the out-front ticket booth. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and the movie had started. I was sitting in the out-front ticket booth reading a book. To my surprise a man walked up to the booth and instead of purchasing a ticket from me for the movie, he stuck his lit cigar in the circle that you talk through and then proceeded to walk away without saying a word. Needless to say, the booth became very smoky and smelled of cigar smoke for quite a while.
Dannielle Holliday Peters
I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s just blocks away from the Wildey on Dunn Street. As a kid, we were allowed to walk to the Wildey to go to some of the matinees. I remember seeing “Old Yeller” and crying for the first time at a movie. We could see a movie for 25 cents and tried to pass as “children” as long as we could to avoid paying “adult” prices. I would get jujubees because they would last long! Our mother would take us to the Wildey on Prom night to watch them announce the couples and ooh and aah over the dresses.
When I was a little older and started dating, my boyfriend, Dave Barr, wasn’t old enough to drive yet. He would ride his bicycle over to my house and we would walk up to the Wildey on Friday or Saturday night. When he was old enough to drive, we still spent many a Friday or Saturday night at the Wildey. It was also very special when we were one of those couples being announced going into the Wildey on Prom night. We were married in 1969. We moved away from Edwardsville so were not able to go to the Wildey very much during its last years, but I have very fond memories of those times. I am now back in town and am glad to see that the Wildey is being revived.
Toni Becker Barr Wojcik