"Hey, that's a pretty neat old popcorn machine."

"Yeah, we've been trying to get rid of it. Nobody will take it."

"Really? I wouldn't mind having it."


And that's how I inherited a vintage 1950s movie-theater popcorn machine.

I was on one of my research trips for the upcoming book Weird Oklahoma and was visiting the Shortgrass Playhouse in Hobart, a community theater that's reportedly haunted by the spirit of a man whose 1918 headstone was mysteriously discovered upstairs during renovations.

While I was being given a tour, I spotted the art-deco-style machine collecting dust in the corner. I was joking when I said I'd take it off their hands, but the owners were genuinely excited that someone was actually interested in hauling it off. So, last weekend I returned with a friend of mine to roll it out and lug it down the fire escape.

After I unloaded it at my father's workshop here in Texas, I scoured the Internet for any information I could find on the machine. I shouldn't have been surprised to discover there are quite a few people out there interested in restoring old popcorn makers, all of whom are eager to share what knowledge they have.

Turns out, mine is a Model 32 Manley Aristocrat, produced in Kansas City, Missouri. I even found an owner's manual.

Over the next few months I'll be cleaning it up and converting it to a TV stand for my living room. Why not restore it to its original function? Well, to be honest, I don't really like popcorn.

In the meantime, enjoy a tour of the machine in its current condition.