Marshal Andy 30th anniversary pledge open house
Marshal Andy & Riders of the Silver Screen
Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.
Live the Old Time Westerns again with Marshal Andy Smalls as he presents classic B Westerns, serials and music.
This special program has been a East Tennessee staple on Saturday mornings for more than 20 years.
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My name is Andy Small, but the people in Knoxville TN know me as Marshal Andy or the Knoxville Cowboy. I was born in 1929 in Georgetown, SC & my childhood was encompassed in the one block area between Broad Street & Screven Street which was the main part of the downtown area on the waterfront. On this one block were the Palace & Strand Theaters which were to play a huge part in my childhood & shape my life in more ways than I could ever imagine.
The Palace theater is now a bank, but when it opened in 1936 it was next door to the Gladstone Hotel. Next to it was Amos Barber shop & next to the barber shop was a bank. Next door to the Palace was the Walgreens Drug store where all kids of Front Street would congregate & hang out.
The Palace theater was built by Morris Abrams & opened in 1936. I first attended the Palace theater in the fall of 1936 seeing a Charles Starrett movie, or what we would call a B western today. On Saturdays, the Palace would show a serial(these would include Buck Rogers, Our Gang comedies & Fighting with Kit Carson), cartoons(these would include Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry & of course, Bugs Bunny), selected short subject films & movie news before the main feature. These would play from 12:15pm to 11:00 pm & would feature western films starring Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones & Tim McCoy. As the 1930’s progressed, singing cowboys such as Gene Autry & Roy Rogers became increasingly popular. I remember seeing Tumbling Tumblweeds at the Palace in late 1936 or early 1937 & really enjoyed the singing cowboy westerns which were becoming increasingly popular at the time. With the Blue laws of the day in effect, the Palace wouldn’t open on Sundays until 1:15pm & then wouldn’t open back up until 9:15 at night.
On Mondays & Tuesdays, the Palace theater would show what is now consider to be A production films. These films included dramas, love stories & westerns & featured such actors as Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart & Robert Taylor. Wednesday at the Palace was double feature day. These included westerns & then a comedy or a Tarzan movie. Thursdays & Fridays the Palace went back to showing matinee idols that were featured on Monday & Tuesdays.
As the 1940’s began & WWII loomed on the horizon, I got a job at the Palace theater delivering circulars & taking tickets. As mentioned earlier, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers & Johnny Mack Brown movies were played. As WWII raged, more patriotic movies became in vogue featuring more A list stars as Hollywood jumped on board with the war effort. As the war ended in 1945 & we progressed into 1946, movies such as Back to Batan & To Hell & Back were shown at the Palace
One instance of a promotional event at the Palace stands out in my memory. During the war, automobiles were impossible to get as all production went into the war effort. After the war, I had gotten a job at the local Ford dealership(Loyal Ford) doing odd jobs such as cleaning up vehicle & other jobs they asked me to do. The promotion the Palace decided to do was a giveaway of a Ford vehicle.. When I reported to work at the Palace the night of the giveaway, I was asked to draw the name of the winner. Anita Stokes was the lucky winner & she was thrilled because their family couldn’t afford a vehicle. As the car was unveiled, I realized it was a car that I had washed that very day working at the Loyal Ford dealership! I really felt good about this & was very appreciative of the work the Palace was doing in the community.
As I look back on my life, it was hard to imagine the impact the Palace theater would have on my life. For the last 37 years, I have had a show in the local Knoxville TN PBS station, ETPBS, called the Riders of the Silver Screen featuring B westerns, serials & cartoons much as they were featured at the Palace back in the day. Without my experiences at the Palace in my youth, I truly believe my life would have turned out completely differently. I feel truly blessed by my experiences at the Palace Theater & want to record this information as best as I can recollect it & save it for future generations to come. Thanks for reading this & remember, if you don’t wear a white hat, please wear a smile so we can tell you from the bad guys.
Marshal Andy, the Knoxville Cowboy