My Mind

My Mind
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Galloping into the sunset....

Saturday morning. 50 years ago we'd be getting our nickels and dimes together. It would be off to the Palace Theater at the lower end of King Street. My mother would pick up my friends and drive us to the front door of the Palace. We'd run to the ticket booth excited to grab our tickets.
"That'll be a dime, please," the girl in the glass cage would say. We'd shove our dimes through the small opening in the booth. She's slip us tickets off a fat roll and we'd run inside to the candy counter.
"Pop corn! Milk duds and a coke!" we'd yell. "Hurry! The show's gonna start any minute!"
"Don't wet your pants kids. You've got plenty of time."
We'd look at each other, "Wet our pants! HAHAHA, HEEHEEHEE! Wet our pants!"
Our goodies in hand we'd rush to the curtained entrance and run to the middle of the seating section. Kathump would go our seats as we sat on upturned cushioned seat and it collapsed into the down position with our rumps settling in. Kids would be streaming into their places with kathumps and giggles and high pitched whistles.
"Come on! Get the movies going! Bring on the Daltons and the Youngers!"
Our enthusiasm was overwhelming. M&M's were boucning off the screen along with flattened popcorn boxes sailing over our heads. I swear there were small tears in the screen from the corners of those boxes whistling through the air with a cachunk upon hitting the silver screen in front. Some of us would run forward and gather the collapsed boxes for future flights.
The chatter and laughter would rise to cescendo levels until the lights would begin to dim. Then a hush would fall upon the small room. As it became completely dark the screen would explode with light flicking numbers from 5, 4 , 3, 2, 1. Then bursting across the screen would gallop the riders of the Dalton Gang acompanied by music, hoots and hollers, with catcalls and whistles, the kathump, kathump of seats from bouncing bums and the ever present flat boxes sailing in all directions. Shootouts and fights, dry gulchers and bank robbers, trains with strong boxes and robbers in triangular masks threatening with 6-guns that shot thousands of rounds without a reload. It was exciting! It was good guys, white hats, and bad guys, black hats. We knew who to root for and who to hiss at the moment they came into sight.
The first feature would end and a hundred small feet would beat to the restrooms. When they shuffled back more popcorn and candy would be carried to the still warm seats. The lights would dim and onto the screen would flash the next countdown...5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Bang, bang The James gang and the Youngers would be galloping across the screen firing at the possee chasing them along tire rutted roads. A cloud of dust and hail of bullets sprayed across the flickering screen as the action subsided along with the hoots and whistles and the dialogue began.
"Boo! Bring on the action!" we'd shout until a gun was whipped from it's holster and lead was pumped into the poor sap with his 15 seconds of fame. Off the gunslinger would run. up into the saddle of his trusty steed and away from town in a cloud of dust. The music would rise as the sheriff would run to his nag and rip out after him. The chase was on with shots fired forward and backward. The movie raced forward to the final happy conclusion. The lights would come on with the patter of a hundred feet racing to the restrooms again.
There were several cartoons followed by the weekly serial which always ended with the hero in a terrible situation with no way out. With the shock ending we'd be told to be sure and see how our hero would escape the unescapable in next week's thrilling episode. As the lights came up every kid in the house rooted and tooted and whistled their frustration at being told the movie hour was over. We ducked as we filed up the outer aisles to the back exits avoiding those pesky sailing popcorn boxes. Sticky candy and spilled drinks stuck to our shoes catching with each step in our move to the curtained doors. Our excitement began to wind down as we opened the door to the outside world. Sunshine or rain, my mother would be waiting at the curb to pick us up. The ride home was filled with imaginary guns shooting at bad guys along the sidewalk. With each stop and farewell we'd remind each other to save our allowance for next Saturday's excursion. Twenty-five cents would do it. Fifty cents would be aiming for stomach aches. It was a small slice of heaven for a small boy.

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned the key memory I had of the Palace Theater......the sole-sucking sticky floor. Yikes.

    My two brothers and I lived in Ansonborough, Society Street at Meeting, so we more often would go to the Rivera at scary Market Street or to the Gloria at George St. or the Majestic.

    There's an enjoyable book by John Coles called "Movie Theaters of Charleston - Hollywood Meets The Holy City."