Kawartha Lakes Public Library - Digital Collections
Looking Back: John Lee
Canadian Post (Lindsay, ONT), 22 Oct 2001, p. 30

Hooper, John, Author
Media Type:
Item Type:
Written: 31 July 1997
Date of Publication:
22 Oct 2001
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.35012 Longitude: -78.73286
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Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Full Text

The late E. S. "Hi" Meehan, was one of the few theater managers who knew show business like the back of his hand.

Having played a banjo in Art Hooper Sr.'s orchestra for dances, special events and vaudeville shows "Hi" eventually purchased shares in the Academy Theater.

Eventually vaudeville was about to take a lengthy sabbatical when Meehan decided it was time to modernize the Academy and turn it into what we refer to to-day as a Cinema.

After several months of renovations the theater was ready for the public to view the "new look".

Every patron attending the opening received a copy of a booklet titled "Keeping Pace" that outlined what changes had been made and what the Theatre going public could look for in the future.

(Regretfully my mother loaned her copy to a friend involved with the refurbishing of the theatre when it was last renovated and it was never returned.)

Theatre patrons would be entertained with both movies (the talking kind) and occasionally bits of vaudeville.

Meehan was always full of surprises and one such example was when he booked a movie titled "John Lee, The Man They Could Not Hang." This was about a man who lived in England, I believe, and was charged with the murder of his wife.

He was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang.

Lee was placed on the gallows and the handle to the trap door was released but failed to open. A heavy bag of sand was placed on the trap door as a test and when the handle was released the trap door opened. Lee was again placed on the trap door and for a second time it failed to operate. The same procedure was tried a third time with still the same result.

Lee, who had pleaded his innocence right from the beginning, could not by law, be put through a further attempt and was made serve some time in jail.

At the end of the movie Meehan walked out to the center of the stage carrying a microphone and stand. He placed it on the stage and said "ladies & gentlemen I will now introduce to you," (much to the surprise of the audience,) "Mr. John Lee, "The Man They Could Not Hang!"

Lee came out on stage and fielded questions for a period of time. He said that he had always pleaded innocent and it was while he was in jail that new evidence was found proving his plea and as a result a full pardon was granted.

Meehan, still in love with vaudeville, often offered a mixture of live entertainment along with a movie.

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Looking Back: John Lee