In my 19 years in
Alderson, I figured that I spent approximately 4100 hours in the movie
theater. After all, I only went every time it changed, and that was
usually three times a week. During that time, I rode with the Durango
Kid, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Sunset Carson, Lash LaRue, and many
cowpokes who wore white hats. I fought wars with John Wayne, Van
Johnson, Frank Lovejoy, and a host of others. I fell in love with Doris
Day, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Mitzi Gaynor. I sailed the seven
seas with Errol Flynn. I watched Charlton Heston part the waters. I
visited the planet Altair with Leslie Neilson, and Robby the Robot. I
was chased by Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Creature from the
Black Lagoon. Like most of us, I've led a very exciting life, in the
While watching the picture, there were always other things to do. For
instant, talking back to the screen. "Watch out Durango, He's right
behind you!" I could never understand why he didn't realize that.
Throwing popcorn, candy, and coke cups at people. Putting your feet up
on the seat, and having the usher come and tell you to take them down.
All the guys singing out in unison, "We know where you've been," when
several girls came back to their seats together. Buying several boxes of
popcorn to get a free ticket that may be inside. Not caring (or
realizing) if the price of a ticket was less than the price of several
boxes of popcorn. Remember your feet sticking to the floor because of
the spilled coke? How about some gal letting out a scream when one of
the resident rats ran across her feet. It was also a time of segregation
and blacks were not allowed to sit with whites, and were forced to sit
up in the balcony.
Yep, I was there for all that, except the time David Honaker and I
stomped the spokes out of some girl's bike, and I was offered two
choices of punishment by my parents. A good whipping, or a two week ban
from the movies. Knowing how my Step-dad could spank, I choose the two
weeks ban, but I got both. And, at the time, the long awaited Walt Disney
film, Pinocchio, was showing. I stood outside on the street for two
nights of the showing, trying to get a glimpse of the film, as people
would go in and out the inner doors. Someone must have told my parents,
and they felt sorry for me. I got to see the film.
As teens, Jim Jones and I got to work at the theater. Jim ran all the
downstairs and I was the projectionist. Mr. Grimes, an electrician, was
the regular projectionist, and recruited me for Saturdays. Ever wonder
how they rewind the film for the next showing? Most theaters have a
rewind device which is completely enclosed and rewinds the film slowly,
and safely. We didn't. Mr. Grimes had two spindles, one which was the
shaft of a big electric motor. He would put the empty reel on the motor
side, and the reel of film on the other spindle, which could turn
freely. He would start the motor and lay his hands on both reels with
just enough pressure to keep tension on the film. Zip! It was finished
in a flash. Didn't look too safe to me, and I tried it only once. Those
reels of film weighed about 10-12 pounds. You could imagine what would
happen if they came off the spindles at a high rate of speed. Well, you
duck down, with your hands to cover your head, as they fly around the
room, and make dents into the walls. And once they come to a stop, you
can splice the film back together.
Unfortunately, all of that is gone. The theater no longer exist in
Alderson. TV is the appetite of most people today, including myself.
There have been a few attempts at reviving the theater, but with no kids
around and the general population being older, they have failed. Most of
the movies they make today, I don't care to watch anyway. American Movie
Classics and Turner Classic Movies on cable are the closest thing.
However, in some cities across the U.S., there are movie palaces.
Beautiful movie palaces, where you can watch an old film as you did
then. With their ornate carvings, lush decor, and giant pipes for the
live organ, they have been restored to their original grandeur. And that
experience, that marvelous, wonderful time, when you could enter and not
be concerned with the outside world, still exists. Popcorn anyone?
(For a look at a restored theatre:
The Ohio Theatre)