A Perfect Crime: Our Great "Walk-in Theater Prankfest"
Standing in-line at the walk-in theater
More sights and sounds of the walk-in theater
Walk with me back in time
I don't want to burst any bubbles, but I confess to having a dark side to my personality. Not in present days at age, 58, but when I was between the ages of 14 and 16. Yes, it's sad to admit, but my friends and I made it our business to follow our dark sides. Regularly. And often.
Let me explain. Our dark sides is not to be confused with robbery, vandalism, high-speed chases with the authorities, or starting fist-fights. Our dark sides were for the most part, a lot of clean mischievousness and American fun manufactured by a handful of red-blooded American teen boys. In short, pranks that annoy, mystify and confuse.
My crew consisted of: Allan Coons, who owned a slick, tomato-red '57 Chevy with Cherry Bomb glasspacks, Glenn Childers; Gary Childers, Dwight "Oz" Ausborn and James Childers. Together or apart, this list of guys could reek havoc, I mean, create good, clean American fun in almost any setting. Not to boast, but we were so good in our "pranking," that none of us to this day, has a criminal record.
One of our all-time favorite pranks was to save-up our money and visit our local walk-in movie theater fittingly-named, Hamilton Walk-in Theater, which was owned by a Mr. White Bedford who also owned a drive-in theater named, fittingly-again, Bedford's Drive-in Theater, in our hometown, Hamilton, Alabama. Bedford loved his customers as much as he loved their money. Nahhh, his customers always came in "second."
Mr. Bedford was loved by our hometown, and had a "cheap streak," wide and long. He wouldn't spend a dollar unless he had three to take its place. Thus the reason why he didn't have "bouncers," or attendants to keep order in his walk-in theater, only his drive-in. The "bouncer," at his drive-in theater was named, "Willard," a man in his 40's, tanned, quiet-natured and worldly. "Willard," looked to us as if he could handle himself in most bar room brawls. As for Mr. Bedford's economic-logic, I just believed what most people said of him that he was a man of many quirks. One being, and only to prove my point, he loved to wear sunglasses after dark.
We loved Bedford's "Hamilton Walk-In Theater," and it was a fine hang-out for teenage boys to spend a few hours in an air-conditioned building watching an exciting film and doing things that today would get most people thrown-out (and banned) from any public business. My crew and I were pretty wild in those days. So wild that just talking about it gives me nightmares. In my blood-curdling dreams I can see Mr. Bedford in sunglasses, derby hat, and white shirt reaching toward me growling, "I n-e-e-e-e-e-d an apolo-g-e-e-e-e from you, K-e-e-e-nneth, for the trouble you and your pals caused me when you were boys."
As Mr. Bedford (in this nightmare) draws closer, I cannot help but burst into unbridled laughter at his never-changing fashion image and then I awaken and laugh some more.
How our "fun" would begin would start was by paying for our tickets and smiling large at the older kid Mr. Bedford hired, a guy around 17, to stand at the theater entrance and take-up the tickets. He was a guy not to be messed with. For some reason, he was the only 17-year-old guy we knew in Hamilton who had rattlesnake tattoo's on his forearms. And this was long before "tat's" were the "in thing." FYI, another reason "we" knew this guy was tough because it was rumored that he loved to smoke Marlboro cigarettes.
By way of public service, may I say to the young people who might be reading "this" story, "as you go down the road of life, if you meet a guy or girl who has rattlesnake tat's on their forearms and love smoking Marlboro cigarettes, take my advice and leave them be." Thank you.
We would pick out a good place near the seats where the "older" people, the men and women in their late 20's would be sitting. And using our razor-sharp strategy, we would make sure that we could slide-down in our semi-plastic seats as to not be seen by anyone as we opened our "bag of fun tricks." We thought of everything. Talk about six (counting myself), happy guys. We "had it made in the shade." Actually now that I reflect on this time frame in my life, I always wondered "if" any of my crew, and myself, ever had a conscience.
When the movie, preferably a horror film began, we would give the "older" people (ages mentioned above) time to get settled-in and relax. Then like perfect clockwork, someone in our group, Allan or Gary, would whisper in a low, scary movie such as the horror figure seen in the movie, "yoo-hoo, citizens of this theater. You are being watched." And you could hear the terrified sound of theater patrons' feet scuffing while they strained their necks and squinted their eyes to see whom was talking to them. When "that" first wave of "terror," wore off, Glenn or James would use the same scary voice to issue another scary message to these now-on-edge theater customers. What fun that was.
Another great, harmless prank, well, "con," was two of us to sit on opposite ends of the section of seats with bags of fresh Golden Flake potato chips. The other four guys would sit in the middle of the seating section to "act" as upset customers who scolded us for our annoying chewing during the steamy love scenes. Now that I mention it. Have you ever really ever listened to a human mouth bearing down on a fresh potato chip? This can grind a person's nerves into pulp in a short time.
But the real fun came when Gary or his brother, Glenn would "act" severely-angry whisper dangerous threats at the two of us guys on the end of the seats eating potato chips. "Listen, punk. If I have to get out of this seat, " Gary might say in a deep voice. "I will tear your arms off and beat you senseless with them," he would add and people sitting in front of us hearing this irate outburst, would suddenly grow silent. These poor, unsuspecting people just knew that a scuffle or fist-fight was about to start.
One "prank" that James, the oldest guy in our crew, loved to pull was called the "Red Hot Lovers." It was simple. When movie fans were deep into concentration watching the movie, James would change his voice to a girl and say, "Ohhh, Julio! Julio! My blood runs hot for you, my Julio! Oh kiss my hungry lips, young Julio! We will run away from Hamilton and my daddy won't miss me." Now this line stopped all the popcorn-eating on it's ear. I would bet if infrared glasses had been around in that day and time, "we" would be millionaires right now. And when James was "Julio," he would say, "Ohh, miss Ginger, senorita, me theeenks that, ehh, you love another, so Julio's anger is red with fire," There would be total-silence after "Julio" spoke his reply to "Ginger."
Now this prank I am going to tell you about, is a bit vulgar, but I won't write the words we all would say in a tone just above a whisper. Gary would, at a strategic time in the movie, say, "you d - - - idiot! Why don't you move out of my way, you d - - -fool!" Gary would also be like James who could change his voice. "Who in h - - -you talking to, punk? I was here first you d - - - numb skull!" Gary would reply. Then we would listen to hear, "Harry! Harry! I think there might be some of those hooligans in here wanting to fight. Let's go," from a terrified woman. "Shucks, Jane. We just got to the love scene," her husband, "Harry," would say with a huff and they would leave while we laughed (under our breath) until our chests hurt.
Allan Coons' all-time favorite prank was his mastery of animal sounds. He would sit in a seat that was hard for people to know where he was sitting and just like a fine-tuned engine, at ten minutes into the movie, Coons would let go a beautiful donkey bray. You could hear the sighs of disgust along with mild cursing. Allan would let things settle, then do the sound of a hog eating his slop. That one always "killed me," and I give you my word, one time I heard a voice from the back of the theater yell, "Sooo-eeee, hog!" Allen's "bag of animal sounds," contained ape, gorilla and a few deep-breathing "horror creature" sounds that thrilled me and my crew, but not all in the theater.
I will never know if what I am going to share with you now is true or not, but during one of Coons' "animal sound concerts in the dark," his sounds and our laughter were suddenly-silenced during one visit we had made to the Hamilton Walk-In Theater. I heard footsteps in the aisle coming from the ticket stand at the front of the theater. I punched Gary, who punched Glenn and so on, until "we" were all "quiet as church mice." We swore that some grown-up had grew wise to our antics and was coming to toss us out on our butts. But that awful moment never came. Thank God.
Then there were the remedial pranks like tossing pieces of popcorn way across the theater to hit some joker on the head. Or stand up in front of other movie viewers on purpose and see how long we could test their patience. Let me tell you. Not very long. "Sit down, or be put down," some irate movie fan would growl. We would laugh to ourselves and then realize that we had grown tired of our, as we called it, "Cussin' in the dark," escapades and leave the walk-in theater in search of other places and new pranks to pull.
Right now you may be asking yourself where the 17-year old guy with rattlesnake tat's on his forearms was during all of our "pranking"? Well, I can only provide you with an uneducated guess, but I will say for the record that he was undoubtedly with a hot girl who loved rattlesnake tat's and Marlboro's in the backseat of his car parked at the back of the theater for when he was finished taking-up tickets, he was never seen again.
Now even in 2012 when my wife and I just happen to be sitting in a modern, upgraded walk-in theater, and just when the film comes to a critical moment and I hear, "that sucks! You are so-o-o-o-o-o a loser," or someone chewing like a hungry mule being fed corn from the stalk in a farmer's cornfield . . .
I smile. And silently think back to James, Gary, and Glenn Childers, along with Allen Coons with the neat, tomato-red '57 Chevy with Cherry Bomb glass packs and thank my Maker that Coons' car always cranked when we were making one of our famous "walk-in theater get-aways.
Ahhh. Good times.