Red Bank’s Carlton Theatre: A Poem


It wasn’t the deep south.
No sign at the entrance read:
Negroes must sit in the balcony.

No ominous warning
on the rest room door said:
“Whites only.”

Intimidating messages were hidden
behind smiling masks, clouded bifocals.

In the thirties, white fans sat downstairs to see
Gable and Leigh in “Gone With the Wind.”
Coloreds watched McDaniels and McQueen
from the dark balcony.
Stars shining on the silver screen were welcomed.

In the forties, Fort Monmouth soldiers,
Strangers in town who didn’t see the signs,
   Smoked Luckies in the restrooms
   Sat in plush orchestra seats eating
   chocolate Hershey bars with almonds.
Times changed – the Carlton became the “Basie.”

Saturday nights opera buffs applaud “Carmen.”
Music lovers listen to Monmouth Civic Chorus’
          “Sea Symphony,”
or rock to “Springsteen Live.”

The theater is no longer a black and white movie
house.
Clear glass doors invite you into a brightly lit lobby
No shadows      no signs.

        A sculpture of the Count welcomes.

 

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