My Memories of the State Theatre

Myra English Buffkin

On May 28, 1954 I arrived at the bus station in Cocoa, Florida. Our school in Echols County, Georgia let out two weeks prior to the schools in Brevard County. I specifically came to work at the State Theater in downtown Cocoa. The girl was graduating from high school that was working behind the candy counter, and Mr. Ellinor said I could have the job. At that time, you had to be sixteen years old to work there. My sixteenth birthday wasn’t until July of that year. Mr. Ellinor never knew about that.

I loved working behind the candy counter because I could eat all the popcorn I wanted. However, that was short term. The girl who was working the ticket booth left and Mr. Ellinor promoted me to selling tickets. That is where I got to know a lot of the town folks. I remember that there were special people that Mr. Ellinor had on a typed list that got into the theater for two cents. That’s right, two cents. There were the Pastors from St. Mark’s, First Baptist, King Street, and First Methodist churches, along with their wives, that I remember got in for two cents per person. Also, a number of the physicians in the local area and their wives and others. I particularly remember Dr. & Mrs. Keuster. When my parents moved to Florida in August of 1957, Dr. Kuester became their family doctor.

I must tell you that my parents had purchased property on Merritt A venue in Merritt Island several years prior to 1954. I came every summer and sometimes during Christmas holidays to visit with my aunts and uncles who already lived in the Merritt Island and Cocoa areas. During the summer, I attended Vacation Bible School at Merritt Island First Baptist Church. The land was cleared and the building began on my parent’s home in 1954. It took three years for completion due to the fact that it was being built as monies became available. I lived with my aunt and uncle, Kelly and Bobbie Brinson, until my parents moved to Merritt Island.

Now back to the State Theater memories. There were a lot of Saturday morning matinees, which meant going into work at 10:00 AM to sell tickets. That was a lot of fun to see the children come and enjoy the movies. I remember distinctly Dr. Kuester’s children coming to the theater. I always had to call their mother to come pick them up.

I remember one particular movie, Davey Crockett. It seemed like all the children in the area came to see that movie. The opening was on a Saturday morning and the children filled the sidewalk up and down Brevard A venue. It even was so popular that the Cocoa Tribune paper took a picture of it. I kept that picture with me sitting in the ticket booth for years. I’m not sure what happened to it.

I wish I could remember the elderly man who took up tickets during the time I worked at the theater. He was so nice to us girls. I remember he and his wife would pick me up from Cocoa High (which is now Rockledge High) and bring me to the theater to work the afternoon shift on those days when I was scheduled to work the afternoon shift. I had study hall the last period of the day, so that worked out fine for me to leave school early on those days. I think the best part of working at the theater is that you got to meet some of the nicest people of the Cocoa, Merritt Island and Rockledge areas. It was a very pleasant experience for a young person. When I had to work double shift, they gave us time off to walk across the street to Myrt’s Restaurant to have dinner. Since those were pre-integration days, from time to time I would relieve that person and sell tickets upstairs.

Since I had to work most Sundays, it was always a rush to get home from church and make it to the theater on time for work. So sometime in my senior year (1955-56), I decided to go to work for Doc Jones at Jones Pharmacy right down the street on Brevard Avenue. My Aunt Sadie was already working for Doc Jones and that seemed, at the time, the best solution to being off work all day on Sundays. I loved working for Doc Jones and getting to know his family as well. I worked for him until I graduated from high school and then went to work for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

All great memories for a girl who grew up on a farm in rural Georgia moving to the “big city” to live.

Facebookby feather
Facebookby feather
%d bloggers like this: