John Cawley
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Frames of Time...

088_04 - Modern Ghost Towns
I have a secret passion for 'modern' ghost attractions. Well, I guess it isn't a secret anymore.

Some of my friends go to great effort to find the typical ghost towns. These are the locations for cities that are no longer. Like ancient ruins, many of them have little really to show. Maybe a few foundations. Maybe a delapidated building. I recall one that we visited Just outside of Las Vegas was now nothing more than streets. In fact, you could only really see it from a nearby mountain. Looking down you saw the street patterns, foundations of former structures and such. At the end of one street, there was a fenced off building, the former train depot. It looked as if in recent history someone had tried to refurbish the structure. Perhaps they thought the area was a possible tourist spot.

But I digest. I enjoy the more modern ghost attractions. These are attractions that are not 100s of years old. These are locations that were alive and thriving maybe only a decade ago. Like this photo. It is of a theater in Hawaii. Unlike a ghost town or ancient ruin, this is not a sign of some major shift in cultures or population. These modern ghosts are closer to a freak accident that happens quickly. One day they are thriving. Suddenly they are gone. Sometimes, so quickly that no one has time to react.

Take this theater. When my folks lived in Hawaii during the 1980s, I would visit them at least once a year. Since I am not a 'beach person', it was often a game to see if they could find something unusual for me to see. Being an island, it soon became more and more difficult to find 'new' things. After all, many folks (including my parents) only stay in Hawaii for around 6-10 years. In that time "Island Fever" develops where you just HAVE to get out of there and see something new!

This particular year, they decided to take me to "the old theater" on the other side of the Island (Oahu). I am in the entertainment business. I love old movies. At the time, I collected films and memorabilia. It seemed a natural. Ah, as the Fat Man might say, "If only I had gotten there a bit sooner." The theater itself was in pretty decent shape. It had not been "a theater" in almost 10 years. More recently it had become a stage for local groups and churches. However, when I got to see it, it had not been used for any real venue in over a month.

As I walked around the structure, I marvelled at its condition. It was really a beautiful building, worthy of many of the Hollywood picture palaces. I ran into a local and asked about the theater. They had little memory of the place, as it had not been open in 'so long'. The person stated a few years ago, they had cleaned it out, with big plans to make it a place for plays. But, according to them, "money ran out" and it was never completed. It was at this point we rounded the building and I found myself at the back.

Yes, the building had been 'cleaned out'. In a pile under the stairs at the back of the theatre were reels of film. All were faded to the point no image existed. That Hawaiian sun. Next to it was a pile of wadded up papers. Residue of countless movie posters, lobby cards and such. All were in the stage of pulp. That Hawaiian rain. I could only think that a few years ago there might have been film and collectibles worth thousands of dollars laying there. Now there was nothing by garbage. I sighed.

After around an hour, I had walked around the site several times. I took some pictures for memories and general curiosity. I also took around a foot of the blank 35mm film. Just a souvenir. The film has since vanished. Perhaps the building has too. But the pictures are my proof of an elegant 'ghost' theater in Hawaii. Kind of neat.

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