Fri 27 May, 2016 08:59 am
When I was just a kid, I did crossing guard duty at my elementary school. The school rewarded me with a movie pass. My Mom spoke with older brother Rusty and it was decided we three oldest children would hike the two or three miles to the theater, to attend the Saturday kiddie matinee, on a continuing basis. Most of the road we walked was farmland. The side we chose to stay on skirted lush alfalfa fields. A huge irrigation pipe ran the length of the fields, on the road side. Once, we made the mistake of climbing atop it for a few minutes. Our intent was not destructive, but the farmer could not believe that. He drove up in his pick up and hopped out. He was a small Japanese man, but he was big in esteem and anger. After telling us to stay away from his pipe, he swung a foot at my butt. I dodged and my brothers and I resumed our journey down the road. The farmer drove away. We never saw him after that, but that is only because we never went on his land again.
We always entered the theater about a half hour early. It would be jamb-packed with kids, who were so noisy, management had made a policy of playing Stars and Stripes Forever and other such band pieces, full volume, all the way up until showtime. The cashier gave us buttons, the kind you pin on your clothing, that were printed with likenesses of the popular cowboy actors of the day. I still have John Wayne. One of the buttons was unique and it carried a prize to the one that received it. Popcorn boxes were flattened by some of the ones sitting at the upper floor and sailed across the lower seats. We usually got to buy Sugar Babies, Good and Plenty and Look candy. A minute before the first film began, the lights blinked. Then, the place became dark.
It was there that I first learned of the Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, Bowery Boys and such. My favorites were the cowboys. Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry, in particular. We saw Mickey Rooney play Huck Finn and Young Tom Edison. Unexpectedly, King Kong appeared on the screen. The boy in the next seat asked me to save his place; he would be right back. But I think he went straight out the door, as he never returned. I had to watch with my peripheral vision, because I lacked the nerve to look Kong directly in the face. When, later, they played Mighty Joe Young, I was much more sophisticated about it.
They were special times. One Saturday, Rusty lost some of our money. "We can't get in," he said. We went back in a roundabout way that took us into town. Rusty knew about a theater that we could pay for and so we watched a single Edward G. Robinson film, instead of the kiddie matinee. I am writing this piece now, because I just saw the same Robinson film on TV. When first we entered the theater, Robinson, the lawyer, picked up a bottle of poison in court and drank it to prove it was not dangerous. I did not recognize that movie, until he drank the poison. It made me nostalgic for a time when my brothers, who are now deceased, and I shared a few hours of camaraderie in an otherwise uneventful period in our childhood.
Where was this taking place, Texas?
This was Fresno, CA. I lived there from '46 to '57.