This story started out focusing on one subject, expanded to another, and wound up including a third. There were twists and turns along the way, but I go where things lead or push me.
And like a lot of stories, it began a long time ago.
In the middle of the twentieth century, in fact. I was around then but only four when the event that set the tale in motion occurred. I am not even sure what that event was.
I've gained insights working on this. Some that seem obvious now but that were brought to my attention as I rolled along.
The story is about Janesville, Wisconsin; in particular, movie theaters and things tangential, including an actor with Hollywood credits who grew up in what a friend from Milton—Janesville's close neighbor to the northeast—called the "Burg." But much of what is depicted in substance, if not in details, happened in small cities across America as wealth increased, automobiles became affordable, and people stopped walking in favor of driving.
It is a microcosm story in that sense.
Committing it to electrons began with an article I wrote for the Winter 2013 The Finial, the magazine of the Rock County Historical Society. My purpose was finding a photograph:
"When I was a boy in the 1950s, my dad, then a driver for W.R. Arthur Company [later Janesville Auto Transport Company and recently, Allied Automotive Group], took me to the movies at a theater in downtown Janesville that stood on the east side of Main Street, just south of Milwaukee Street.
"My memory of the theater is vague, but it has stuck with me, possibly because the building was razed not long after I visited and that early exposure to impermanence left a lasting impression.
"Years later, I asked other Janesville residents if they remembered it; at first, I just wanted to learn its name. None did until I mentioned it to the oldest brother of a long-time friend about fifteen years ago who immediately replied: "That was the Beverly!" 1
CuriousI wondered what the Beverly looked like, its exact location, and what happened to it. I had many questions and was just plain curious. Never did I think I would work on finding out for something approaching two years.