Hometown USA world premier

The month of April is associated with three significant events in Medina’s history — the 1945 world premiere of a Hollywood movie (actually a 30 minute short subject) describing the village as the quintessential American small town, and two devastating fires: the first on April 11, 1848 and the second on April 14, 1870.

We’ll deal with the fires in due time. But first, let us go to the gala world premiere of  Medina’s movie, “Home Town USA” at 7 o’clock on the evening of April 10, 1945.

The big night of the "Home Town USA" premiere

The big night of the "Home Town USA" premiere

In 1945, just as WWII was ending in Europe, “Pathfinder”,  a weekly news magazine for small towns, selected Medina as a model of small town life. Together with the film company RKO Pathe, they produced a 30 minute film about Medina called “Hometown USA”.

Sixty five years later, watching “Home Town USA” is still a very moving experience.  A bygone Medina (population 4,500) is captured forever on black and white film on a particular October day when, the narrator says, “the air in northeast Ohio is like wine.”

The film features two professional actors and dozens of local residents.  In the opening scene, a fictional lawyer, played by a middle-aged actor, dictates a letter to his secretary, a young actress.  In the letter, which is addressed to his nephew who is serving in the Armed Forces, he shares news about the folks back home  All the people he talks about are actual residents of Medina.

After a while, the lawyer ambles across Public Square and chats with several local businessmen. The Square bustles with traffic and activity.  Pretty young women with the shoulder-length hair styles of the 1940’s shop in the stores and  smile into the camera. The park in the center of the Square is thick with trees planted just after the Civil War. (They all succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1950’s.)

Local high school students, eternally sixteen and high spirited, crowd into Tony’s Candy Kitchen for ice cream sodas after school. A smiling Miss Ella, the legendary kindergarten teacher (rather incongruously decked out in a fashionable hat) pushes her little charges round and round on a carousel on the playground of the Lincoln School. Sam Masi, the equally legendary  football coach shows the lawyer the military fitness program for young men that he runs  behind the high school.

And as the lawyer walks home at the end of the day, he strolls past century homes and churches that still look much the same today.

According to a  March 29, 1945 Gazette article, the movie “shows Medina as a shining example of small town America with its advantages, its opportunities and its general all around better living.”

The film was shown to audiences throughout the country in the late 1940’s.  It is available in DVD form at the Medina District Library.

Scene of small town America

3 Responses to “Medina’s Hollywood Moment”

  1. Chris Ellis Says:

    An excellent account of small town America. And I absolutely love the “the air in northeast Ohio is like wine” quote.

  2. Brad Grubb Says:

    Main Street Medina is trying to locate the film. A copy was in the library, but now it is not.

  3. Kathy Says:

    This comes up frequently. The promo calls it “Hometown USA” and many people ask for the movie by that name. What the library owns is a movie that fits the description, a fictional lawyer extolling the virtues of living in Medina, and made by Pathe Studios for the Pathfinder magazine. However, the title on the DVD case and in the movie is “Main Street USA”. I don’t know how or why the mix up was made.

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