Dad would give my brother Philip and me 25¢ each on Saturday morning. This was money well invested. It got us out of the house so Mom and our older sister Janie and brother Sonny could clean it. Plus, for only 50¢ Mom and Dad could concentrate on chores we kids were not trusted with, such things as paying the weekly bills and preparing for Sunday’s church related duties.
Phil and I would walk the two miles to the picture show which opened at 9:30 am. 10¢ of our quarter would purchase a black and white double feature of black hat/white hat cowboy movies that started with a serial starring Rocket Man or some wobbly paper mache dinosaurs.
Popcorn was 5¢, a pop was 5¢ and a candy bar one could actually make breakfast of was 5¢. The floor was cement and sticky. There was only one exit. And the sounds from 50 screaming kids made the bare brick walls quiver.
You might think because I grew up on the Osage Indian Reservation my friends and I would root for the Indians. Nope, you see while many of the kids were Indians many of them also lived on cattle ranches. Everybody cheered for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Lash LaRue, Jimmy Wakely and especially the Durango Kid.
Although we kids on the main floor did not see or mix with the Colored kids in the balcony, we could occasionally hear an approving murmur from above when an Indian won a skirmish. We paid no attention.
Life was good on Saturday mornings in Pawhuska, Oklahoma for my brother and me in the 1950’s. Movies for a quarter assuaged all worries, even shoe soles that stuck to the floor.
I recalled those halcyon days last weekend when Peg and I went to a movie in Evansville, Indiana. Although I truly am a romantic guy I had not taken Peg to the theatre since Rocky lost to Apollo Creed. We were both amazed at the changes.
Peg had ordered our tickets online so I could not find some (any) reason to be somewhere (anywhere) else. Can you believe people do not even use the monetary system that has served us well since the Phoenicians were trading around the Mediterranean? Peg did not tell me what the tickets cost before we went and I assumed it was an act of wifely love when Peg said she’d get the popcorn and Cokes. She told me to find which of the ten or so screens our movie was playing on.
When Peg came up with our refreshments we entered our venue and found a carpeted floor with woven directions to our row and assigned seats. We sat down on and were enveloped in deep, plush recliners with electric controls. Some other customers were already reclining so far back their only view was their toes. I heard a couple of people snoring.
The movie was of the action genre. In fact, the plot appeared to be one long car chase broken up by intermittent motorcycle crashes. After two hours of deafening destruction, mercy arrived with the credits. However, as we were struggling to rise from the den furniture, Peg told me we had to stop by the theatre’s office before we left.
When we got to the office I casually referred to the cost of my childhood movies. The manager smiled condescendingly and pushed a legal size document toward us which had a listing of the cost of our tickets and refreshments. I thought it unusual that it asked for our Social Security numbers, birthdates and employment history. Then I saw the caption: Credit Application.
(Thanks to Cindy & Jeff Smotherman for the use of their photograph of the new theatre seats.)