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Festival will highlight historic popcorn machine

Peabody Historical Society is giving recognition to a piece of equipment that is a piece of Peabody’s history. The society will host a Popcorn Festival from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 16 to celebrate the return of the Sunflower Theater’s popcorn machine.

Several years ago, a group of people attending an auction at Raymond “Rainbow” Bain’s property learned the old oak, metal, and glass commercial popper up for bid had once belonged to the Sunflower Theater in downtown Peabody.

Becky Ediger, Gilbert Lowen, Susan Marshall, and Gary Jones quickly decided the item should remain in town and pooled their funds to purchase it.

Gary Jones’ son, Mike Jones of Seneca, was drafted to refinish the old grease-coated machine that had spent years in a shed after a life as a central part of many matinees and features in Peabody’s theater.

It took him more than a year to get it cleaned and back in shape. Finding working parts to finish the restoration led him to two popcorn machine museums in Marion, Ohio. The curator of one was able to help with replacement parts in the final steps of restoration.

The machine has been returned to Peabody and, according to that curator, is a functional piece of equipment. The Peabody Museum will be the site for the great unveiling of the restored old popper.

Several local residents recall popping corn in the machine at the theater, but so far no one has officially verified that it once had wheels and was pushed down Walnut Street to sell popcorn to folks parked along the business district on a Saturday night.

The historical society hopes that additional research verifies that story. Perhaps former popcorn machine operator Gerald Higgins, now of Marion, can share some stories at the Popcorn Festival, on Oct. 16.

The event is free and the historical society hopes the public will turn out to view the machine, reminisce about movies back in the day, and have some freshly popped corn.

Last modified Oct. 6, 2011

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