Archive for October, 2010

 P.S. Before being turned into a theater, the Old Barn at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah used to be a working barn. There’s a very good chance that Trigger, Buttercup, Silver, Scout, and one of the many horses John Wayne used got to sleep there during movie filming. 
 There also used  to be a speakeasy-type club in back called The Black Cat where the stars used to go for their entertainment. Kanab has always been quite a quiet, Mormon town, and even though it’s fairly close to Las Vegas, sometimes a little liquid refreshment or a game of cards on site hit the spot. The place burned down long ago, and not many people know about it. Now you do.

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Working in a Barn

Like me, I’m sure you’ve occasionally done something stupid enough that someone asked, “Were you raised in a barn?” Well, although I was definitely not RAISED in that barn, I’ve now spent lots of time in one.  Since beginning work at Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah on April 1, I’ve hung around in a barn three hours a night, five nights a week, showing old Western movies that were filmed in this area.

Being raised during the 1950s and ’60s, I grew up watching the Lone Ranger and Tonto save the West from the bad guys, the ones who almost always wore black hats. I very seldom missed an episode of “Gunsmoke” or “Daniel Boone,” or “Have Gun, Will Travel,” but gave absolutely no thought to where those TV shows were filmed. But now I know.

Have you ever heard of Kanab, Utah? Before coming here four years ago to work at Parry Lodge, I didn’t know this place existed until my brother once told me that he and his wife were considering moving here. My intelligent comment at the time was, “Where?” They didn’t, but I’ve now spent a total of fourteen months here, a lot of that time showing old Western movies in The Old Barn.

All of the films we show, nineteen this season, have been filmed in this area of Kane County and Kanab, Utah. Although the fantastic red rock scenery doesn’t show to good advantage in black and white, in Technicolor it’s beautiful. What a great place to make Westerns!

Actor Joel McCrea starred in many movies here: “Cattle Drive” in 1951 with a very young Dean Stockwell, based on Kipling’s “Captains Courageous; “Ramrod” (1947) with a luminous-looking Veronica Lake; “The Outriders” (1950) with Arlene Dahl; and one of my favorites, “Trooper Hook” (1957) with Barbara Stanwyck. That movie was ahead of its time in serving as a commentary on toleration and acceptance of differences.

Rod Cameron starred in the forgettable, at least to me, “Oh! Susanna” (1951), which has absolutely nothing to do with a Susanna other than the title music.The plot concerns strained relations at an army fort during Indian wars. He also filmed “Ride the Man Down” (1952) with Forrest Tucker, a much better movie.

Two of my favorites this season have been “The Fargo Kid” (1940) and “Wagon Train,” (1940), both starring Tim Holt, the one with a beautiful smile. “The Fargo Kid” is a light Western comedy about mistaken identity.

Of course, the hands-on favorite of just about everyone this season has been “The Lone Ranger” with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, filmed in 1956. Every night it’s played to a full house with applause afterward.

As in any decent old movie house, I sell freshly-made popcorn as well as soft drinks and various kinds of ice cream. The comfortable, mismatched seats once graced various rooms in the Lodge. If you get there early enough, you can choose the most comfortable ones in the place–two plaid, overstuffed rockers.

Many guests have asked me how many people usually show up for the movies and, being honest, I tell them there’s really no way of knowing beforehand. It all depends on how many people are registered at the Lodge on a particular night, how many tour buses, and what country the folks on those tours are from, and how many people from the community show up for a night out. The French rarely come, most likely because of the language difference; the films were made before subtitles. However, the Japanese, as a rule, love their Westerns and their popcorn. Germans like the movies, as do the British. Most of the old Westerns have enough action to satisfy just about anyone.

Enough talking. Here are some pictures I took the other night.

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Here’s a  little Kanab “movie-in-the-barn” trivia for you. Last night I calculated just how many times I’ve shown the 24-minute short feature, “Return to Little Hollywood,” since April 1. My first season here, I complained about having to watch “Buffalo Bill” 38 times. Well, the figure for “Little Hollywood” is now at 160 with four more to go this coming week. Gee, do you think that might be the reason I can repeat it all in my sleep? However, I really love the freedom of this job. And smoozing with guests from all over the world is wonderful fun, especially when some of them dance to the pre-film Western music or applaud at the end of  “The Lone Ranger.” That makes it all worthwhile.

It’s the same here in the workampers RV park. As long as the place looks decent, I can pretty much do what I think needs to be done and set my own time for doing it. Getting rid of huge, still-green tumbleweeds is ideal as they take up a lot of space yet are very easy to pull up.

 The trick is to time their removal right before trash-emptying Thursdays. Otherwise they get dry and stickery before I can shove them into the dumpster. But,  I think it’s going to take a while before I’ll be able to see one in the desert somewhere and not think, “gotta pull that one up.”

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