Matinee at the Fox

(winterwonderland.com)
(winterwonderland.com)

By: Wayne Brown

 

For so many of us aging “Baby Boomers”, the Saturday afternoon treat was to get to an age where you were old enough to go to the movie matinee at the town theater all by yourself or with friends.  Neither mom or dad went along.  It was big guy stuff! Saturday just could not come around soon enough and we always prayed for a good movie to watch although back then it seemed like any movie was a good one if you were there.

 

Our old theater was on the town square.  It was called the “Fox Theater” for all the years that I knew it.  It was on the east side of the small town square that circled the county courthouse in the center. The outside of the square was a bordering arrangement of stores including a couple of drug stores, some dry goods outlets, a men’s suit shop, a Western Auto Store, a couple of small groceries, a hardware store and a sporting goods shop.  Most of the commerce of the town took place right there on that one little square block. It only made sense that the theater would be there and parents could dump the kids off while they shopped in the stores.

I always liked getting to the picture show (that’s what I called) in time to get some popcorn, a drink, and maybe even a sour dill pickle if I had the extra money.  I loved salty popcorn and the pickle just added to the excitement.  The pickle also came in handy if you got bored and needed something to throw at the screen during the show.   Most of the time, we ate them as we always seemed to have some room to pack in the food.

 

Now, if you got to the movie on time, you saw the preview of coming attractions first.  These were trailers which advertised shows that would be coming to town in the next week, month, or next several months.  Some were westerns with lots of shoot ‘em up, some were scary Vincent Price or Alfred Hitchcock sci-fi, and then of course there were the gooey love stories that all of us had to endure and groan about but that was back before the women all got naked in the shows…we started liking them better then!

 

After the previews, several different things could happen.  Sometimes they ran a chapter in an on going adventure like “The Shadow”…kind of like reading the Sunday clip of the Dick Tracy series…just enough to get you back the next Saturday.  Occasionally, the Marx Brothers showed up in a short clip or those funny Three Stooges.  I was a big fan of “Curly” with his shaved head.  The Stooges always ripped us guys up but the girls never seemed to like them as much.  I guess the Stooges reminded them of us…go figure!

 

Most of the time, we just had a good old fashion cartoon that started off with that great music….dah, dah, da, da, dun, dun, dah, dah , da, da dun, dun…well you get the picture.  Then somebody like Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig showed up in an adventure.  I really liked Foghorn Leghorn (I say, son, son, it’s a joke son!) and that little chicken hawk feller.  I was also a big Yosemite Sam fan as well.  “Consairn it, you dad burn Varmint, stand still so’s I can shoot yer ears off!”  And so it went until the music started playing and the end and Porky showed up to say “bid de, bid de, bid de, that’s all folks!”

 

Then, it was show time!  Time for the main event.  Now we started getting settled down in our seats and shut our mouths.  We were way down front so we had to look up at the screen. It was easier to lay in your chair and watch the movie than sit in it.  The scarier the movie, the closer to the front we went and we screamed our heads off when the monsters came.  The old theater air conditioning system was one of the best that I have ever encountered.  In the dead of summer with temps outside of over 100 degrees, everybody in the theater was freezin’ their butts off and lovin’ it.  The older guys really liked it cause the girls wanted to snuggle up to ‘em.  We like to sit behind them and watch but usually got run off early in the show.

 

I saw a lot of Roy Rogers back then.  We were still of the age of side holsters and stick horses so a get Saturday afternoon oat burner was right up our alley for entertainment.  I also remember Lash LaRue with his whip and another guy called “Whip Wilson”.  There was Bob Steele, Gene Autry, along with Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine aka “Jingles”.  Ol’ Gabby Hayes had such a chew under his tongue and you could always tell it when the camera flashed on him and he said, “Well, I‘ll just tell you what, Roy.”  That was about all Gabby could do.  I think he might have been drunk in all those films looking back on it.

 

Sometimes I got more than I bargained for as we would show up expecting a western and find out that a scary movie was running instead.  Sometimes those movies would run a bit long and the sun would be going down by the time we got out of the picture show.  I would walk the mile or so down my street back home.  If I was lucky someone would be with me and we would pretend not to be scared.  If I was alone…I was officially scared and I ran from street light to street light as fast as I could.  There were several places along the way like that the county jail that had prisoners in it who always yelled at the window.  It was enough to make a young boy pee his pants after drinking all that soda.

 

One of the worst movies I saw at that time was scary was “The Blob” which starred a very young Steve McQueen.  It was about a bunch of Jell-O that showed up from outer space and could slide under doors and through cracks and attack people.  When it attacked them, they were totally consumed in the blob and disappeared.  I worried about that thing for a real long time after I saw that movie.  I was pretty sure it was hanging around my neighborhood.

 

Another one that set me on edge and sent me running home lickety-split was “I Was A Teenage Weir-Wolf” starring a very young Michael Landon.  Gee, he made such a good wolf and scared the crap out of us every single time he made that transformation.  As I ran home I could hear his claws digging into the concrete of the sidewalk behind me.  Wow! I could run like the wind in those days.  I didn’t just run as fast as I could, I ran as fast as I needed to!

 

Once I was home and totally out of breathe from running all the way, I would promise myself that I was never going to do that again because sooner of later one of the things that I had seen at the movie was going to get me.  You see, every single time you see something at the movie it will be there to chase you.  It joins the herd of things that chase you…you never forget any of them.  The more of them chasing you, the more likely one of them will get lucky.  I knew it was just a matter of time before they came up with some beast that was faster on his feet than me.  I knew my mama would cry if I didn’t make it home.  But, given a week, and the fear wore off and we were back in the theater again for another Saturday afternoon adventure.  We were stupid that way.

 

Then one day, we all just got to old to go to the matinee anymore.  We got interested in girls, cars, and sin.  We were replaced by a younger wave that looked just like us.  A wave that also would spend their early Saturday nights running from creatures in the dark.  We no longer understood that.  Oh, we knew the creatures were there alright, we understood that, but we didn’t understand why anyone would actually walk past them.  After all, by this time we could drive!

 

Such were the days of us pre-teen wonders as we honed our intellectual skills as young movie critics.  Our minds were keen and we remembered every detail for many years to come.  Then we started dating girls who didn’t like this movies, and suddenly we didn’t like anything they didn’t like.  Besides, our mind was on more important things, like parking out at the lake and watching the submarine races.  Come to think of it, I never saw any of the submarines but I am pretty sure I caught a glimpse of Michael Landon running through the trees.  That’s not something I like to talk about.

 

 

© Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 25 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wayne, how well I remember those days. And the best part was the movie ticket cost 15 cents. Movie, popcorn, and a drink for less than a buck.

I always thought for sure that Roy Rogers could kick Gene Autry's butt. And I also remember getting the news headlines on the big screen. Actual pictures from WW2.

Thanks for the nostalgia my friend.


Partisan Patriot 5 years ago

Wayne

Picture Show; that's a term I haven't heard in a long while. How about Jason and the Arganouts, The Vikings with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, The Magnificent Seven; now those were Picture Shows!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Old Poolman...Yeah, you remember those news reels they would run updating stories from around the globe...that was about our only touch with the outside world. Thanks much! WB

@Patisan Patriot...Yeah, I remember all of those. The "Jason & The Argonauts" would be really fun to see today. "The Magnificent Seven" as like nothing we had seen and it stayed that way until Clint Eastwood came along with the spaghetti westerns. Thanks much! WB


thebluestar profile image

thebluestar 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

Great times and lovely memories Wayne. I also loved porky pig and road runner beep beep. One of the things I remember most was the wurlitzer (organ) playing in the intervals. And the ice cream lady carrying her basket of goodies. Thinking of my belly again. Thank you for bringing back some happy memories. x


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Thanks for the flashback, Wayne, we had the same type of theater running the same type of movies when I was a youngster. I used to love the serials which would end with the hero or heroine apparently facing certain death, only to show up unscathed the following week in the next episode. Those were the days.

I remember McQueen and the Blob, too. He looked like a teenager in that film.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I loved this walk down memory lane. When I went to the movies I looked forward to buying a piece of pizza and a coke for a quarter.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 5 years ago from On the edge

Gee, thanks for the wonderful memories. The first matinee I saw was South Pacific and the first scary movie was Buried Alive. I don't know why they let a kid in to watch that one. It haunted me for decades!!!! Ice cold soda and hot buttered popcorn ... life was GOOD.


caltex profile image

caltex 5 years ago

Wayne, I truly enjoyed this. I cannot help but laugh while trying to imagine you run from street light to street light as fast as you could. Thanks for sharing! Up and awesome as always.


Radioguy profile image

Radioguy 5 years ago from Maine

Yep, I remember those days. I didn't care much for Gene Autry. There were cars in his movies and he always had some %$%%@ !! radio broadcast to get to. I like the non-singers like Buster Crabbe, Charles Starrett (Durango Kid) and old Hopalong !!!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Gosh, I loved those movies. I remember 'the blob' and 'teenage weir wolf'. Vincent Pryce was the scariest of all actors.


flmortgagepro profile image

flmortgagepro 5 years ago from Winter Haven, Florida

We have a local movie theater... the Polk Theater.... that old and still in operation. Love it.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Thanks for the re-run from the good ol' days!

Another fun movie experience was the drive-ins. Hooking up the speaker to the window, squeezing as many friends in the car as possible (when the charge was by the car-load) . . . The food there was tasty too. And for the record, I always watched the movies. No hanky panky for me! Ha!


sunflowerbucky profile image

sunflowerbucky 5 years ago from Small Town, USA

I love nostalgic pieces like this. While I have movie matinee memories as well, they vary a bit from yours. The common thread though is that it was still a time when a kid could walk or bike to the movie and fear only the Blob, rather than the pedofile or kidnapper around the corner. These are great memories and it saddens me to realize my kids likely won't have the same ones. Thanks for this terrific trip!


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Nice walk down memory lane. We used to go down to the corner store and salvage 6 RC bottle caps during the week which was free admission to the Saturday matinée. With the money we got from cutting lawns we'd buy a soda and a moon pie and ease down into those theater rockers in the nice cold air conditioning to enter the world of make believe.

Didn't have to lock our bikes up because those were different times.

Thanks Wayne. You have a knack there my friend.

The Frog


Stu From VT 5 years ago

A little before my time, but I did see the Blob on TV!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

I loved Roy Rogers (and Dale Evans of course) and I think that is why I liked Alan Jackson, he and Roy kind of looked alike. I hope that first thing was Woody Wood Pecker? If not I am lost. lol


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Roy was my favorite. Gene was OK on Saturday night's Wrigley show, but he was no Roy Rogers!

It was the 'picture show' in Iowa too, and when I was very young, my much older cousin (about three years older) often took me to see Roy Rogers!

First of course was the newsreel and a cartoon.

Great Hub Wayne!


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

My baby loves the western movies too WB:-)! And the Blob - we watched that for fun not too long ago! Haha! What about The Creature from the Black Lagoon? I know you had to see that. I still love watching black and white movies on Sunday afternoons especially if it's raining. Thanks for reminding me of good times;)


Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

I remember around 69 when they came out with The Creeping Flesh... I saw that as a kid and it scared me half to death. We lived on a farm and about 2-3 miles away was the drive-in picture show. I remember many a summer night my brother and I would crawl up on the roof of the shed with binoculars and watch the dirty movies - like Confessions of Window Washer... lol etc. Mom would have skinned us alive if she caught us. Those were the days...

- Nice memories.

- Harlan


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Those were simpler days. Thanks for the memories.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@thebluestar...Great times..nothing to worry about but the monsters getting you on the way home! LOL! WB

@drbj...Those serials did star folks like Snerdly Whiplash who would tied Miss Nell to the rails and wait for the train. Thank goodness for heroes! WB

@breakfastpop...A dollar did go a long way back then. That was back before LBJ took all the silver out of the money because he was afraid of weirwolves! LOL! WB

@Poohgranma....I think I remember that "Buried Alive"...one of those movies that you kicked yourself in the butt for ever seeing! WB

@caltex...You can run very fast when all the monsters are chasing you...but they hate street lights, hate 'em with a passion. They can't come into the ring of light...it's a safety zone! LOL! WB

@RadioGuy...Gene Autry was a little bit like Elvis. He wanted someone to hold the bad guys while he sang to them. WB

@cardisa...Great ol' movies. Vincent Price was scary, weird, and funny all at the same time. I never knew how to take him. WB

@flmortgagepro...Yes, we have had a few revived here. Some were very well done with waitresses and menus, drinks, the whole bit. WB

@Truckstop Sally....Drive-ins! Wow, a whole different arena! You get home and find the speaker still attached to your car window! LOL! The girls could probably tell some good stories there...us boys would just lie and embellish! LOL! WB

@sunflowerbucky...You are so right, Bucky. We never worried about that stuff and neither did our parents. The monsters that chased me from street light to street light were the greater danger of that time. Something changed in that Post-Vietnam era that brought out a lot of ugliness in America. Maybe it was just the communications got better...I don't know, but it is a shame our children don't have those memories. WB

@The Frog Prince...we use to sell Coke bottles...got two cents each for them. Back then people would toss them out the car window so they were pretty easy to find. Mowing lawns, selling coke bottles, our income sources! WB

@Stu From VT...Some of those movies seem a bit funny today...like "The Blob" is a bit of a laugh but to see McQueen at that age was a joy. WB

@Jackie Lynnley...I always thought Roy and Clint Black were dead ringers. Woody Woodpecker did show up quite often...Huh Huh Huh hay aw! That's my best Woody for ya! WB

@WillStarr...I was the same way...I just tolerated Gene. He was always cocked to the sing a song position. "Let's go get 'em, Gene!" "Okay, but first, let me sing ol' Champ a song". I always wondered where he came up with that damn guitar so quick! LOL! By the way, Congrats on making that Top 200 Hubbers list...you deserve it! WB

@RealHousewife...Oh, "Creature From The Black Lagoon"...that was a scary one too! Is that the one that Adrienne Barbeau starred...or at least her breast did? LOL! WB

@Harlan Colt...First off, a big congratulations on making that Top 200 Hubbers List...nice work! I really wish I had been your neighbor back then. Saturday nights would have been a lot of fun sittin' on top of the shed! WB

@suziecat7...Those were some fine days of life...probably never see anything that compares again! WB


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

See I knew you saw that one;)! lol WB!


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

WB - This article (in our paper this weekend) is so interesting -- about Shamus Culhane, who animated lots of Woody Woodpeckers. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/arts/design/wood...

He was truly a Renaissance Man -- in the cartoons (at the matinees at The Fox). Ha!


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

It was Sat' morning flicks for us and i can still sing (badly) the Odeon theme song word for word. I remember Micky Rooney and Shirley Temple. Buck Rogers. The Lone Ranger. Zorro and all the cartoons. Popeye, road runner, micky mouse etc. Ah the good old three pence days. Cheers Wayne for a great nostalgic hub.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Truckstop Sally...Why that sneaky Shamus Culhane and his mischievous woodpecker friend have used us now for decades to prostitute his art...what a genius! LOL! WB

@attemptedhumor...Woo..up early on Saturday morning to make the matinee...that's dedication! LOL! WB

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