Thursday, May 28, 2009


It was pure fate that made Mark Tiedje and John Coles pull off the Interstate and drive up to the Princess Theater. Posted on the ticket booth window was a poster advertising “Appalachian Dreams”. Just then a tall man in a cowboy hat walked up looking for the show. It was Marshal Andy, who was mistaken about the location of the show, and together they drove on to Roane State. Mark and John finally found tickets and they watched the entire show in awe of what people had done in support of their beloved theater.

There is no explanation for our decision to pull of the interstate at Harriman except my childhood memories*. We really believe these things happen for a reason,” Mark told us in an email earlier today.

He and John write and operate a website called “South Carolina Movie Theaters”, and have a great love for old single screen theaters. We had such a great time at the show on the 16th in Harriman. It was a total surprise to us. We just happened to stop in Harriman that day on our way to Nashville from Charleston, South Carolina. We have a web site about the old single screen movie theaters of South Carolina. It’s been evolving for the past six years. We just posted a feature on the Princess Theater and the wonderful show we saw at Roane State Community College. The show was first rate and we know the effort it takes to mount such a large show.

After the show, the audience was so gathered around the stage and the isles leading down, that they could not get back to their new friend Andy Smalls, nor did they get to meet Gary Baker or Bill Landry. However, both Gary and I have invited them back. We’re sure they have learned a lot of valuable lessons in bringing back old theaters from their travels throughout the south. We also promised to let them know when the “grand re-opening” occurred!

It’s little things like this story and the fate that pulled them into our lives that prove to us the Princess project will succeed, and that the Princess Theater is destined to return to us.

*I asked them (John and Mark) to explain their comment about “childhood memories” later, and John replied in an email with the following explanation:

Hi Paul,

This is John typing. I was born in Nashville in 1944. I remember taking the last passenger run of the Tennessee Central Railway from Nashville to Harriman and back in 1955. My mother and I made the trip with our next-door neighbor. The massive engine shook the ground at Union Station when the train pulled in. It was the most exciting thing I had ever done. In Carthage, a woman boarded with her son. He was my age and we became friends. We were pen pals for several years until we eventually lost contact. A porter on the train came along and entertained the children with a “jack limber legs” which he made dance on a paddle while he whistled some old tune. I was mesmerized by this toy. The man said he would make one for me. My mother cautioned me that this would probably not happen. To my delight, a tall black man appeared on our front porch in Nashville a week later. It was the porter from the train. In his hand was a “Jack limber legs.” He said he hadn’t had time to make one so he was giving me the one he used on the train. I still have it. Since Harriman was the terminus for that historic train ride, I’ve always associated the town with happy childhood memories. I posted the story with a photo at”

Please make a special effort to visit Mark and John’s websites and read about all the wonderful theaters they have visited. If you have the time, email them (address link is on the main web page) and thank them for featuring our theater on their page.

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