Things don’t necessarily have to be that old to interest people who work at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, said Paul Ferguson, Heritage Collections Manager.
“We are the community’s memory,” Ferguson said.
He was invited into the boarded up Paramount building recently to save some of the cinematic memorabilia on behalf of the local museum.
“It was an amazing opportunity for us to go into a place that had been largely left as is,” he said.
As they came up the stairs, everything in the kiosk and concession had been left as if the business would resume again in short order, right down to the bags of popcorn kernels.
As Ferguson toured the old building, they picked out items to save, as the building awaited demolition.
“Certainly the Paramount has created good memories for people who watched some of their first films there, and all those years it was open.”
The experience was similar to when he entered an old Chilliwack hops field, when the business had just shut down.
Some of the larger Paramount objects now in museum storage include a film projector, theatre seats, film canisters, as well as the popcorn machine with the scoop and a bag of popcorn kernels, Slurpee and pop machines. There is even a pay phone and a section of the carpet they pulled up.
“It would be impossible otherwise to acquire all of it once it was dispersed into the community or further afield. Here was an opportunity for us to pick it up and store it in Chilliwack. It will be here in perpetuity.
“Because once this stuff is gone, it’s gone.”
One of the plum objects for the museum pickers was one of the original Paramount film projectors.
“We were trying to collect the things that epitomized the use of the building, so the projector was one of them.”
They found out through research it that the theatre used a three-tiered platter system, as a labour saving device.
The movie screen, although small by today’s standards, was once considered quite large.
“That was a big screen in its day.”
In an “ideal world” they would have taken out the entire concession stand, right down to the counters, popcorn warming machine and ratty old carpet. That’s what it takes to get the details exactly right.
But there wasn’t enough to room at the museum to store it all.
“But those types of items are all part of recreating the ambiance. How many first dates occurred here at the Paramount I wonder? It was a wonderful theatre the way it was designed.
“So what does the Paramount represent? It was an icon in North America for its time when the theatres represented the movie companies.”
Going to see a film at the cinema was often a special weekend outing for local families.
“Today we take it for granted,” said Ferguson. He remembered movies from his own childhood, transported in the family Volvo station wagon for an experience that included a movie and dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
“I’ve always been interested in film.”
One day Chilliwack residents might come across these special artifacts in a museum display featuring old theatres of downtown, for example.
“If my job gets people to reminisce about seeing films at the Paramount, and how they felt about it, then I’ve done my job.”