'Wash tub' popcorn among the changes at the moviesWhen I was a kid, the Saturday catechism class at St. James Catholic Church let out just in time for the youngsters to hoof it downtown and catch the matinee at the State Theater. For a bit of pocket change, a kid could get a bag of popcorn, catch up on current events with Movie Tone News, laugh through a cartoon (or selected short feature) and watch a feature film that wouldn’t be showing on television for about 30 years.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
When I was a kid, the Saturday catechism class at St. James Catholic Church let out just in time for the youngsters to hoof it downtown and catch the matinee at the State Theater.
For a bit of pocket change, a kid could get a bag of popcorn, catch up on current events with Movie Tone News, laugh through a cartoon (or selected short feature) and watch a feature film that wouldn’t be showing on television for about 30 years.
And somebody thought life could get better than that.
The last time our granddaughter was here from Brookings, she took Grandma and Grandpa to see a show. By taking us to the show, I mean she chose the film we would see, she and Grandma made their selections at the concession stand and Grandpa stood in line for the tickets. Holy cow. They don’t give those things away these days.
When I caught up with Lara and Grandma after wangling a short-term loan and leaving the title to my truck, they were waiting for whatever snack Lara had decided was appropriate for the film we were about to view. Meanwhile, I looked over the selections. When I was young, movie-theater popcorn came in a cute little paper bag with red stripes and a clown face. One of Nancy’s first jobs in Chamberlain was selling the popcorn at the State Theater. She could have poured the entire contents of the popping kettle from the Chamberlain show house into one of the wash tub sizes sold these days. And back on the farm, we could have watered the cattle herd with the largest drink cup available.
I can’t remember the name of the movie we watched with our granddaughter. I enjoyed it quite a lot. It had one of those popular young guys — maybe the kid from “Titanic” (I get him mixed up with the young kid who plays Jason Bourne). Anyway, the star had to do something outlandish to ever see his kids again. There was a lot of group dreaming, and dreaming inside of dreams and more dreaming inside of more dreams. I willingly suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the show. I left the theater not quite sure whether the last scene was real or a dream, but it was a movie. It wasn’t supposed to be real, just entertaining. I learned that truth way back in Chamberlain at the Saturday matinees.
Movie Tone News, now that was real. The news was somewhat dated, of course. People were using film in those days, so it had to be processed, edited and shipped to the various theaters. Still, those news clips were about the only way people in Chamberlain saw images of fighting from Korea or a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.
Eventually, television accelerated the business of delivering news from faraway places with strange-sounding names. When I was a kid, the news came in a printed paper, in radio headlines or on the movie screen. Most kids paid attention to the news clips, too, even though we knew that the cartoon was next.
Once the cartoon finished, we saw a preview of coming attractions, and then the feature film. On many Saturdays, that meant a western movie.
Those were the days when good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black hats. But you didn’t need the hats to know who the good guy was. He was the one who wouldn’t let a bully draw him into a fistfight but who would wade into a whole gang of bad guys if it meant a lady’s honor or the town’s savings in the bank. Most of the time, things were settled with fists, even though everyone wore a gun. When gunplay was necessary, the good guy stood in a hail of bullets and calmly — with one shot — blasted the six-shooter out of the hand of the villain.
Walking home after the show, we’d get into huge arguments over the identity of King of the Cowboys. Was it Roy Rogers or Gene Autry?
These days, I guess, the argument would be, was Roy awake or dreaming when he saved the poor widow’s ranch from the villain?