Hello and welcome to Maine Memories, little snippets of life from our home state. For this installment, I have a story about the wonderful Saturday nights of my childhood.
I recall when Saturday night was something to look forward to, a truly special and momentous event. My home town only had a general store, a post office, and a small service station, so every Saturday night, we’d drive to the nearest bigger town, which was 12 miles away. They had everything a family like mine could possibly want, and I looked at Saturday night there as a magical adventure. Plus, we’d top off the fun by taking in a great movie!
There were so many interesting things to do. I loved going to the restaurant, where we enjoyed grilled hot dogs. Dad liked going to the full service station, usually spending a whole dollar’s worth. A courteous young man dressed in a company shirt and cap pumped our gas, washed the windshield and mirrors and always asked, ‘may I check the oil, sir?’ That’s real customer service!
Afterward, we’d visit the five and ten cent store. What a place! The second we walked in, the enticing smell of roasted peanuts hit us like a wave. All the nuts and candy were displayed inside large sparkling glass containers. It was an experience for the senses, and even today, when I smell peanuts, I’m reminded of those long ago childhood days.
Mom and Dad bought peanuts for the movies. They allowed me to have a new jump rope or marbles or something that caught my eye, as long as it didn’t cost more than a quarter. Money was scarce during those days, and I made the most of my choices.
Next on our itinerary, we shopped at the grocery store. There, we’d get flour, sugar, coffee, tea, molasses and crackers.
Molasses was drawn from a barrel by a pump into a jug, which mom had brought with us. Most of our food was grown on the farm, like meat, vegetables and berries, but the other stuff we needed from the store. And oh, I sure loved molasses!
Once the groceries were placed carefully in our car, we headed for the movie theater, on Main Street.
Upon entering the building, you went up four or five steps, and in the middle of the floor stood a glass-topped booth. Inside was a young lady, from whom dad purchased tickets for admission. The concession stand was nearby, and there were dozens of choices! We usually settled on a big box of delicious hot buttered popcorn for ten cents.
With everything bought, a man in a red jacket and cap politely ushered us to our seats, using his flashlight to guide the way. The best spot was half way down, on the right side.
Now came my favorite part: a 10-15 minute cartoon before the main attraction. They made me laugh, especially Felix the Cat. Sometimes, there were short black and white news reels on World War II. I closed my eyes through those, as I still had sad memories of my dad being gone, and I didn’t like to be reminded.
As a child, I loved Walt Disney’s animated movies. Musicals and comedies were high on my list, too. Bambi, The Wizard of Oz, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and the Three Stooges. I saw them all.
Well, that theater is still standing, boarded up and lonely. Its faded green paint is peeling, an old relic from another time. The service station is now a vacant lot, and the grocery store an insurance company. The five and ten cent store is closed, too. Everything changes.
I have lived in that town three times, once as a baby, once as a young woman, and the last, as a wife. My husband and I even had a small business there.
But my memories remain of a town and its Saturday nights many years ago, when a little girl and her parents ate roasted peanuts and popcorn at the charming movie theater on Main Street. I remember it well!