The small town of Nopiming in In the Context of Love is loosely modeled after my hometown, Independence, Ohio. Characters Angelica and Joe’s first date are to the Maple Theater, based on my hometown theater, The Willow. Their first kiss is in the parking lot after their date. My boyfriend and I also made out in the parking lot, as well as inside the theater.
Independence was proud of The Willow Theater. It was built in 1950 in Art Deco style with one screen and a stage with big red velvet curtains, and seating for 950 patrons on the main floor. As you can see in the ad below, it boasted “scientifically refrigerated air” and a “Cyclo Ramic” screen.
You bought your ticket from someone who sat in a booth behind a glass window outside the main doors. Years later, the ticket booth was boarded up and patrons paid for their tickets inside.
Parents could take crying babies or talkative children upstairs to a special balcony area where they could watch and hear the movie and not disturb others. The theater had a built-in pay phone room with wood and glass doors so you could see the film while talking on the phone. It was swanky.
In the seventies, the crying-room/balcony was closed off. My boyfriend worked as an usher, and, apparently, this granted him certain privileges, or at least it afforded him the boldness to go where the public would not dare. One night, he and I slipped past the “No Admittance” sign draped across the stairs and climbed up in the dark to the balcony. M*A*S*H, with Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland, was playing. The balcony was dusty and the velvet seats were shabby, but it was the coolest spot ever to make out. We called this necking. Whatever you call it, I never saw the entire film until years later.
I’ve scoured the internet for information on the history of the Willow Theater or more photographs, but the only photo I could find was taken by a hardware store that purchased the building after it was gutted by a fire in 1976. It was a sad day because I lost many fond memories.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love: a new contemporary fiction about love, lust, and family secrets.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters