By Ian Bailey
In an era when people got dressed up to go out and enjoy themselves at parties, dances, balls or go to the movies, few venues could capture the memories of a night at the ‘pitchers’ – The Strand Theatre in Narrabri.
Nestled between the Savoy open air theatre and the Monterey Cafe, The Strand took its place in Maitland Street for a century and underwent many structural and decorative changes over the years.
The original building was constructed in 1915, but was burned down and a new theatre opened in June, 1921.
Moviegoers were seated in chairs made locally by Harry Logan.
The ‘talkies’, movies with sound came in December 1929 and the first to be screened was ‘Strange Cargo’ and ‘Mother’s Boy’
The theatre was rebuilt in 1937 and the outdoor theatre, the Savoy, was added in 1938 for summer time use.
By 1946 it was operated by Mr and Mrs Jack Jaffray who also ran the Savoy.
Previous owners included Russells, Mr and Mrs Fuchs and finally Mr Wilson.
The Strand not only screened movies but in the late 1950s a Mayoral Ball was held to raise money for the proposed Narrabri swimming pool fund.
Popular radio personality Jack Davey hosted his Colgate Palmolive Show from the stage with an audience of over 1000 people.
The Strand was closed in 1976 when the Narrabri Drive In was opened.
The Strand lay dormant and a demolition order was slapped on the building.
In 1985 entrepreneur Ed Frater developed squash courts downstairs and George Lawty reconstructed the upstairs by removing the gallery seat and slope and re-decking it to a level dance studio, and a gym was operated by Sue Ryman.
After 100 years, the old girl remains an integral part of Narrabri’s main street and still keeps the secrets of the front row shenanigans of our youth out for a night at the pictures.
The Strand building nowadays lives on, serving the community as a church, Thrive.
Weekend shows at The Strand
The last movie screened at the Strand Theatre was the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind, starring Clark Gable and Viven Leigh.
Narrabri audiences flocked to the old movie as they did for the many classics, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and more, the big westerns and the war films like Screaming Eagles.
A night at the movies was a big event for most.
Some were ‘Adults Only’, much to some kids’ chagrin – Peyton Place was much anticipated as was God’s Little Acre.
But Saturday matinees at The Strand were also a big drawcard for those kids fortunate enough to have the one or two shillings admission.
Saturday arvo serials were much anticipated, with each episode ending in a cliff hanger.
Black Hawk was big, as was Hopalong Cassidy, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Superman.
Half time meant a rush for the adjacent White Rose or Monterey cafes.
The taking of hot chips into the theatre was frowned on and one of the proprietors earned a reputaiton for ensuring that miscreant chip smugglers were sent back outside.
Some savvy kids would be waiting until just after half time, when the attendant’s guard may be down, and slip in without paying after the second half movie started.To order photos from this page click here