Saturday, August 21, 2010

A chance to do some free cussin'

When I was a child, we used to drive past this theater in Osgood, Indiana in Ripley County on our way to see Uncle Graham, Aunt Mimi and Carol. Please believe me when I tell you that I never, not even one single time, missed the opportunity to remark casually from the back seat, "Look. There's that DAMM THEATER again."

It never failed to send my mother into orbit, which was, of course, my purpose. She could hardly punish me for calling the place by it name, could she? In all fairness, she could not. Although I do remember that she once darkly mentioned the intent of my heart, but I argue to this day -- strenuously -- that my objective was not to curse, but rather to see how fast I could get her head to turn on her neck as she whipped around and glared at me over the seat.

As I drove through Osgood a few weeks ago, I giggled at the memory and pulled over to the side of the road to take this picture. I came home wondering how this little bitty theater in this little tiny town got its name. My Google search was rewarded by the discovery of The Damm Theater website, As it turns out, the Damm Theater was named for its owner, a German immigrant whose name was Louis Damm, who purchased it from two other townsmen in 1922. The original name of Osgood's theater was the Columbia, but I think that Damm is really catchy, allowing one a certain frisson of naughty pleasure that the staid and solid "Columbia" just doesn't offer, don't you?

Mr. Damm was both energetic and enterprising and saw to it that the theater -- moved across the street from its original location -- was open five nights a week for Osgood's moviegoers instead of just one. The theater seated four hundred people and also had a sizeable maple hardwood dance floor on the second story of the building.

I've never been inside the theater, but the website tells readers that many original elements are still there to be seen: cast-iron seats with red velvet upholstery, molded tin ceilings and wall sconces. It has been restored, and current owners Robert and Judy Damm are working to get the theater listed with the National Register of Historic Places, which would surely be a good thing. Because it has so much history -- I found the website extremely interesting -- but also because it has the greatest name, like, ever.

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