Friday, March 28, 2008

Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson (Uncle Pat)

I got a call from out of the blue yesterday, it was my uncle Pat. We talked about just about everything we could think of. I'll share a piece of it with you, and more later. Pat said that the Lyric Theatre in Cheraw, South Carolina was built the same year that he was born, in 1920. Pat worked as an usher there when he was fourteen-fifteen years old for Mr. Bob Rodgers, Sr - during the depression. He earned a $1.50 per week and got to see all the movies free. We laughed because Pat, to know Pat, he's been a movie buff ever since. He said most of his huge earnings went to helping out the Finlayson household but he occasionally got to treat himself to a Coke and a snack.

Future jazz great
Dizzy Gillespie also had a job at the theatre during that time. As most know, in those days, blacks had to be seated in the balcony of theaters with their own entrance. Pat said that Dizzy worked upstairs at the Lyric. I believe it was back in the early eighties that Pat went to one of Gillespie's concerts and got to talk with him back stage. They got catch up and talk a little about the old days. I remember that Dizzy once passed through Gadsden, AL -played - then went over to Mayor Steve Means residence for a visit. I believe that I heard that tidbit of information over the radio and told dad about it. I mentioned to dad that perhaps he'd like to call over to the mayors house and say hello. Dad smiled and shook his head no. I really wish that he had. Pat later told dad that during his conversation with Dizzy, that Dizzy said that he wished Westbrook had called that night. Oh well, perhaps they've had that conversation in the here after.

The Lyric Theatre, later the Cheraw Theatre, the building is still standing today. It's now called Theatre On The Green, home of The Cheraw Arts Commission, a place where you can experience live shows, art galleries, dinner theatre and the like. Again, Pat and I had a great phone conversation yesterday. Jennie (my sister) and I talked during the Christmas holidays about meeting in Columbia and doing some more interviews with dad's siblings. It's something I'd really like to do. I'll promise to post more of the phone conversation soon.

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