Charlie Edwards and the Popular Theater: The Early Years

I think I am about 5 years too young to have been told off by Charlie Edwards for carrying on during a movie. There would be very few people who grew up in Grand Falls-Windsor during most of the twentieth century, that didn’t know Charlie. 

In July of 1955 it was reported that preliminary work had started on the building of a new theater for Grand Falls. The contractor for the project was E.J Clarke. Another man, Mr. Fred Kilpatrick from New Brunswick was brought in to supervise the actual laying out of the the theater. Kilpatrick appears to have been some sort of specialist in theater construction. The theater was to be 120 feet long, 50 feet wide and 25 feet high.(1)

The Popular Theater was opened in February of 1956 (2) and was the culmination of an over 20 year association between Charlie Edwards and motion pictures.

The association of the Edwards family with motion pictures goes back beyond Charlie and even beyond them moving to the nascent community of  Grand Falls.

Patrick Edwards was a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Around 1912 representatives from the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company contacted that police force about the possibility of one of its members coming to Grand Falls to manage security for them. Patrick Edwards would be that man.

Besides being a police officer Edwards had also worked for the Nickle Theater in St. John’s and had experience in operating movie projectors and other equipment.(Interview with Charlie Edwards)

Movies were popular in the new town of Grand Falls and they were put off in the town hall. After coming to town in 1912 most often the projector was run by Patrick Edwards. This was the era of the silent movie and often the movies were accompanied by a lady on piano, both a Mrs. Little who lived on Riverview Road and Mary McCormack played for the silent pictures.

theatre-town-hall
Theater in the Grand Falls Town Hall. Up until 1956 the town hall was also used as movie theater. Prior to Grand Falls becoming a municipality many community events were held at the Town Hall.

At some point Patrick Edwards entered into an agreement where he rented out the Town Hall from the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to show movies. By the 1930’s although it was still based out of the town hall, those nights that movies were shown it was the hall was known as the People’s Theater and later the Popular Theater. Around 1936 a rental agreement was agreed to by Patrick Edwards whereby the Company would rent him the Hall for four nights a week, each week for approximately five years.

Popular Theatre Advertiser 1936
From the Advertiser, 1936.

By the time advertisements for the Popular Theater started appearing in the town’s nascent newspaper, The Advertiser, Patrick Edwards had already been joined in the venture by his son Charlie.

Charlie Edwards Middle Tom Sutton
Grand Falls Track team about 1937. Charlie Edwards at center. Besides being known as owner and operator of the theater Charlie was a well known athlete before his service in World War Two, besides participating in track Charlie was a very well known baseball player. (Tom Sutton, Facebook)

Charlie started to get involved in showing movies as a teenager and appears to have really taken an active role when he was about 17 in 1929. This was around the same time as the “Talking pictures” came about and a young Charlie Edwards was operating the machines as the “Jazz Singer” was shown at the Grand Falls Town Hall.

In about 1931 Charlie Edwards went to work in the electrical department in the mill, still working with his father showing movies on the side. In fact, the same year that Charlie went to work in the mill, sound equipment was installed in the town hall for the “talkies.” Sometime in the late 1930’s, while working in the mill, he completed a correspondence course in electrical through ICS.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War Charlie Edwards joined the Royal Air force.

Charlie’s experience as an electrician made him valuable as ground crew for the RAF. After some time in Great Britain he was transferred to the Far East. It was 1941 and  tensions were growing between Great Britain and an expanding Japanese Empire.

In December of 1941 the Japanese attacked British, American and Dutch possessions in the far east; including Malaya and Singapore. Thousands of British servicemen were taken prisoner, including Leading Aircraftman Charlie Edwards of Grand Falls, Newfoundland.


Note:

I am having trouble trying to track down details on Charlie’s war service. It almost seems as though he may have gone overseas with or as part of the Newfoundland Artillery contingent and transferred to the RAF because of his skill set. I also can’t seem to find where he was captured, although I know it was in either Malaysia or Singapore. The majority of British POW’s were captured in Singapore, but there weren’t many RAF personnel captured in that area. It seems he may have been interned in Java or Sumatra in modern day Indonesia, whereas many more British POW’s were imprisoned in Thailand and Burma. Any help would be appreciated. 

5 comments

  1. Thank you. Great work.

    On Thu, May 9, 2019 at 12:51 PM Anglo Newfoundland Development Company wrote:

    > Bryan Marsh posted: “I think I am about 5 years too young to have been > told off by Charlie Edwards for carrying on during a movie. There would be > very few people who grew up in Grand Falls during most of the twentieth > century, that didn’t know Charlie. In July of 1955 it wa” >

    Like

    • I checked a data base in the U.K. (names and service numbers only) and found EIGHT men named Charles Edwards served in the RAF during WW2, five of whom enlisted in 1940. Our Charlie was taken prisoner during the fall of Singapore on Feb. 21, 1942.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoy your articles, Bryan ! So valuable as a recording of the historical significance of Central Nfld..
    As someone of Wilf’s vintage, ( although not possessed with his historical knowledge and research skills ),
    your work often evokes good memories. Kudos to you, and to Wilf !

    Like

  3. An excellent piece Bryan. I was one of the boys Charlie would shout at saying, “Hey Mac, put your feet down”.
    He was a lovely man and all the Edwards family were good people.
    Reg Locke

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s