When I asked a number of past and present Milton residents about the “free movies” that were shown in the park near the bandstand years ago, I received a number of replies.

But first, a little background.

Milton’s founder, Joseph Goodrich, was an ardent abolitionist and Seventh Day Baptist who settled in Milton in 1839 and established a church here. Over the years, that church grew to have a wide sphere of influence.

During the 1950s, most businesses closed their doors on Sundays. Meanwhile, local Seventh Day Baptists observed the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. This resulted in Milton business owners deciding to extend Saturday shopping hours into the evening. Those movie nights provided “free babysitting” for area shoppers.

As former Miltonian Mary Lou Schmidt (nee von Falkenstein) remarked, “Farmers would come to town early (on Saturday nights) to buy groceries. People would walk up and down Main Street, visiting and running errands.

“Mr. O’Neill had the Power & Light Company open so people could pay their bills, and the Milton Savings & Loan was also open. Even the barbershop stayed open,” she added.

Former Miltonian Norm Loomer recalled, “During the summers of 1954 and 1955, my dad, Al Loomer, was the projectionist, and I was his helper. We would pick up the movie equipment at Bean’s Emporium (or was it Lyman’s then?) where the equipment was stored in a closet.

“As I remember it, there was always a cartoon, a serial that ran through the summer and a feature film,” Norm said. “When my dad did a reel change, I showed slides of the sponsoring merchants. Kids would cheer or boo the various merchants according to their fickle mood that night.”

Norm thinks he was about 5 years old when he started attending the movies.

“It was always something we kids looked forward to. We’d see our friends and maybe hold hands with our favorite girl under a blanket. (Donna Ochs for me.) Those free movies are one of my favorite Milton memories.”

In response to Norman’s comment, Donna emailed, “Fun memories. Thanx Norm.”

Former Miltonian Wayland Bauer complained that the movie nights were “ruined when daylight savings was started”

Miltonian Polly Jones (nee Johnson) recalled “always (going) across the street to the Chiefs popcorn stand. Best buttery popcorn ever and only 5-10 cents! Brought my own ‘blankety’ to sit on.”

Miltonian Sally Rook (nee Van Horn) remembered seeing episodes of the 1955-56 TV show “Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.”

Several Miltonians remember initially watching movies in a bus parked by the bandstand. They called it “a potential firetrap.”

My brother, Jim Martinsen, said his most vivid memory about the free movies was going with his good friend and neighbor, Jerry von Falkenstein, to see the 1950 movie “Winchester ‘73.”

“It starred Jimmy Stewart and Dan Duryea,” Jim noted. “Jerry Lee and I were really into guns, so we were anxious to see that movie.”

My cousin and former Miltonian Doug Martinsen said his first stop on the way to the movies was Holmes Hardware Store, where he bought mosquito repellent

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