Photograph by Ethel Mortenson Davis
Essay by Thomas Davis
When I was six years old and living in Delta, Colorado where I was born, Saturday matinees (mostly Westerns) were the highlight of those weeks when my Mom allowed me to join a few score squirming, and sometimes screaming, depending on the movie, kids at the Egyptian Theatre downtown. Ethel took this photograph in Delta during our trip to Western Colorado, and we both had a good laugh. What a movie, A Wrinkle in Time, to be showing as we drove through town!
Now on the national historical registry, the Egyptian is still standing proud on Main Street, a relic, with contemporary relevance since it is still showing first run movies, that not only is a time capsule to my early life and Delta and the nation’s earlier days, but also travels across the Atlantic Ocean to King Tut’s land, illustrating an all-Egyptian craze that lasted in the United States for only a short period of time.
We first parked in front of the theatre on the way to lunch with Delta friends, Linda and Terry Brown at Western Colorado’s best Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Vallarta. Then, on the last day, as we drove to Grand Junction and the long trek over Loveland Pass toward Wisconsin and home, we stopped for a minute so that Ethel could take this photograph.
We could almost feel Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which transporting us through the universe by means of tesseract, the fifth-dimensional folding of the fabric of space and time in Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful novel. I could still feel myself squirming in my plush theatre seat as the lights blinked, signaling the start of the movie, while the rest of Delta moved around in 1950 white Chevrolets and went about shopping at my Dad’s corner grocery store or sipping ice cream sodas at the fountain just a few doors down from the store. At the same time I could feel the history of my two grandmothers living in Delta, the best-friendship of my Dad’s sister Viola and my mother, and then the marriage between my mother and Dad as they prepared to live in a tent on the Gunnison River just below my Grandma Davis’s place.
All of the people I just mentioned are gone now, except for my mother in a Grand Junction nursing home at 92, leaving a hole in my life and so many memories: Of my cousin and I having a pie eating contest that got us into trouble, the first time I slid into a base during a baseball game at Delta Elementary, my Grandma Bauer all excited when I hooked a big catfish and lost it on the banks of the Gunnison River not a quarter mile from town.
All of this as Ethel and I maneuvered around, trying to get the best angle for Ethel’s photograph, driving a Toyota Corolla with more computer power than existed in anybody’s imagination at the time the Egyptian Theatre was built. There is a story of America in the old building, of a time when the nation was building its middle class out of the completion of World War II, and, of course, of today when the Middle East is in turmoil and our lives sometimes seem out of control in the whirl of progress and national and world events and miscalculations. Still, there is the Egyptian on Delta’s Main Street, just where it has been for so many decades.
Ethel and I loved Western Colorado and our visit to spring. It is still winter in Sturgeon Bay, although the sun is shining. Perhaps the fifth-dimension is folding again, and we will see a totally different, and hopefully brighter, tomorrow that has not yet been.