LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- It's safe to say when Christmas rolls around each year I'm kidded about my name because the character Jimmy Stewart plays in the 1946 Christmas movie It's A Wonderful Life is, you guessed it, George Bailey.
If you haven't seen this movie, here's the gist of the story. Set in upstate New York in the first half of the 20th century, it tells the life of a young man who wants to travel (except for the young man part, kind of what I'm doing now), and seek adventures. Before he can travel, his father suddenly dies. He now feels committed to save his father's bank from a scrooge-like character who wants to take over his savings and loan. For many years he works hard, treats people decently and helps others.
However, one tumultuous Christmas Eve George Bailey plunges into despair and decides to commit suicide. But his guardian angel, Clarence, visits him and shows him what life would be like in his hometown of Bedford Falls without him. People in the town rally to help George when his wife Mary spreads the word that he needs money to save him and the bank from disaster. He survives and so does the Savings and Loan Association.
One reviewer at the time called it, "sentimental hogwash."
Now, if you'd like to see this "sentimental hogwash" and slow down the hectic holidays, I've got the answer for you. It's A Wonderful Life can be seen in its original black-and-white version at the historic Palace Theatre located in downtown Lockport, N.Y. on Friday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18 at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. Admission is $5, a small popcorn costs $2 and a pop is $1. How's that for a Christmas gift?
Sorry, advance tickets are not available. The theatre opens 45 minutes before show time. Get there early to nab one of the 1,100 seats. There's nothing like watching an old movie in an old theatre that's older than the movie itself while sitting in an old seat that people have sat in for the past 85 years.
Throughout the year the theatre has a wide variety of live shows, movies, community choral and band concerts.
The Palace Theatre
(www.lockportpalacetheatre.com or 716-438-1130)
This theatre is steeped in history and if the walls could talk they would tell some great stories. Just entering the theatre reinforces the connection with the past. When it was first opened on July 17, 1925, theatre president Edmund Lee proclaimed to a large audience, "The Palace Theatre has been built not for the aristocracy, but for all the people. For the size of our town, this is the most complete, most perfect and most beautiful theatre in the world."
The old girl still has charm.
Arnold Herdendork, present-day theatre projectionist, gave me a quick tour of the gorgeously-restored theatre. He pointed out the open balcony seating is original and available to first come (another reason to get here early). With an infectious smile he said, "We even have a resident ghost by the name of George. He was the original projectionist and a chain smoker. Some days we can smell his cigarettes and feel his presence".
Get here early and soak up the heritage buildings found in the neighbourhood. A short stroll down Main St. will have you gawking at magnificent limestone and red-brick buildings like the Lockport Public Library and U.S. Court House. Antique and nostalgia lovers can get lost in several stores found within walking distance of the theatre. Walk a few blocks to see the Old City Hall near the old Erie Canal.
Stay healthy, stay happy and remember no man is a failure who has friends. From the richest guy in town, George Bailey
If You Go
From the Niagara border take Highway 31 East to the theatre located at 2 East Ave. in downtown Lockport. It's an easy 45-minute drive, except for the construction detour at the beginning of Highway 31.
Need to know
It's a Wonderful Life at the Palace Theatre
Friday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 18 at 1, 4 and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m
Contact www.lockportpalacetheatre.com or 716-438-1130 for more information
Contact George Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org