The Cecil Theatre in Mason City, Iowa has a vivid memory for several Clear Lake High School students that graduated in 1955 to 1956. It was learned from several Mason City students that there was a sealed off third balcony in the theatre. This balcony could only be accessed by a fire escape from the roof of an adjoining building. We needed to access the fire escape from a building on the south end of the block. From the roof of that building we walked across the roof of two buildings and jump across to the roof of the Cecil Hotel. If you missed the jump you would fall five stories to the ground. Probably a little dangerous but the space was only about 4 feet. We then had to climb another fire escape that came to the fire door of the third balcony. Once on the third balcony we were completely separate from anything inside the theatre. The only way anyone could bother us was by climbing the fire escapes just like we did. All the seats were taken out of the 3rd balcony and all that was left was very dusty, dirty tiers that once held the special seats of the theatre when it was used for opera and stage plays before movies. We went to the Cecil Theatre every time the movie changed. We watch several dozen movies without paying. When it came time to go to the rest room, we climbed down the fire escape, crossed the two buildings and down the fire escape, walked around the block and into the front lobby of the theatre. We asked the usher if we could use the rest room, did our business, purchased some pop corn at the concessions stand, walked around the block up the fire escape, jumped across the building, up the fire escape and back to our improvised seats to watch the rest of the movie. Several girls from Mason City and Clear Lake wanted to join us guys in the 3rd balcony. We decided that we had better give the place a good cleaning if we were going to have female guests. So, one night while the movie was going that we had already seen twice, we hauled brooms and dust pans up there and did the best that high school boys could do in cleaning the place up. The next night we took some clean blankets up there so out guests could have a somewhat nice place to sit. If I remember correctly there were three girls that came up the fire escape at the south end and across the roof but when it came time to make the 4 foot leap across space, they decided they wouldn't do it. No amount of coaching could convince them they could jump 4 feet. We took them back home and that was the last time we made a date to take a girl to a free movie.
One night Russ Wood (Class of '56) didn't want to go through the hassle of going to the rest room so he found a bucket. It was during one of those very suspenseful scenes in the movie when it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. It sounded all over the entire theater!! The rest of us were chocking while trying to suppress our laughter. About 15 minutes later we heard someone coming up the fire escape. We all froze in fear that we were caught and in real hot water. We all hid way up in the dark corner hoping the person would not be able to see us. It turned out to be one of the Mason City boys that came in to see the movie. The stories of the Cecil Theatre's 3rd balcony were great subjects at our class reunions for the next 25 years.
Ron Gerdes, Class of 1956.
The Cecil Theater in Mason City, Iowa
23 January, 2009
28 March, 2009
If you have any memories of the Cecil Theater that are safe to share with us all.