Joseph P. Lawlor


Joe Gerbracht gave me my first job in 1941 when I turned 16 and got my Social Security number.  I worked first as an usher (in blue and yellow formal uniform) at the plush, fabulous Collegian Theater.  Later I became their projectionist.  It was great!  I recall that Gone With the Wind came on 13 reels compared to the usual three or four per movie.

I played the trombone in the high school band, and recall when the beautiful actress, Gene Tierney (Hollywood’s Mona Lisa), came to Ames to join Joe in a parade down Main Street.  We marched ahead of Joe’s red convertible with Joe and Miss Tierney seated aloft, and looked back as we were able to increase the rapture of it all.


A group of Ames Cub Scouts are shown in the projection booth of the Collegian Theater.

Later I was assigned to the New Ames projection booth.  There I especially remember showing Captain January with Shirley Temple and Guy Kibbee.  I used to study my high school assignments between reel changes.  My last position was as projectionist at the neighboring Varsity Theater.  Before my father, Joseph P. Lawlor (senior), left to serve in the Marine Corps in World War II, our family had Joe over for dinner.


We moved to Laguna Beach for a year where I finished high school.  Then I worked in a defense plant for B24 bombers before returning to Ames.  In 1981 I retired to central Florida where my father had retired in 1960.  With my Finnish wife, Pirkko, we started Ballet Conservatory, Dance Centre of Winter Haven.  As I look back, Ames gave me a fine start from 1932 to 1944, and I give it my sincere appreciation.