At a time when the 2019 Academy Awards nominees have just been announced, it seems like a good time to go back into our archives and revisit the places where area residents used to go to enjoy entertainment. We start our journey on Carthage Street. For many years in the first half of the last century, Carthage Street was the place to go, to see a movie. The San-Lee Theater opened around 1920 as the L-Ma Theater. Here we see it in around 1932.
Right across the street from the San-Lee and still going strong today as the area’s leading home for live performances, is the Temple Theatre. For much of its early existence, the Temple showed first-run films. It opened in around 1925 and was showing a Laurel & Hardy classic comedy when this picture was taken in 1940.
Another community jewel opened for business in 1925 as Sanford’s new high school on Steele Street. Today, we know this building as The Mann Center of North Carolina. The home site and benefactor of this year’s Sanford Arts & Vine Festival concert, the Mann Center is a present day home of live performances and other activities for local community groups.
The golden era of motion pictures and movie theaters is generally considered to cover the 1930s, 1940s and first part of the 1950s, before television gained in popularity. Downtown Jonesboro had its own booming theater for much of that time frame, as we see in this picture of the Center Theater in 1952.
Sadly, SanLee’s demise came a few years later, as a result of this fire in 1954. A severe tropical storm came through the area shortly after the fire, basically ensuring that the theater would never be rebuilt.
Of course, for many local residents, our community radio stations have also been a primary source of entertainment and information over the years. WWGP has been on the air since 1946. Live broadcasts from local businesses and locations have been a staple of WWGP’s community service right from the outset. This picture shows a remote broadcast from the grand opening of the Lee Builder Mart on old US Highway 421 from October 1963.
Editorial content, pictures and research background, compliments of Jimmy Haire and Images of America: Sanford and Lee County, by Jimmy Haire & W.W. Seymour, Jr, available here for purchase. All book proceeds go to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.