LIFE ON THE PLAINS: Saturdays at the movies

by Roland D. Hallee

Well, following a brief hiatus, I am ready to continue with Life on the Plains, and how it was in the 1950s and’60s.

Let’s take a look at Saturdays.

Recently, in speaking with some “old timers” – I’m not one of them, of course. Ha!

Although I remember the Maine Theater, on Water St., I never set foot inside the building. But one gentleman was telling me of the 8-cents admission for Saturday movies for kids. I’m sure some of you out there do, also.

My recollection of Saturdays at the movies involved the State Theater, which was located on Silver St., where Cancun’s Mexican Restaurant is now, and Steve’s Restaurant, prior to that.

We’d rise on Saturday mornings, have our breakfast, do a few chores, and then our mother would give us money to go to the movies. This is where some of you younger readers will have a hard time believing. She would give each of us a quarter. For that quarter, we would pay for admission, popcorn and soda. We would arrive around 10 a.m., and pick a spot in the theater. Now, only the older kids were allowed in the balcony, I don’t remember how old, but I think it was over 12 years old. I don’t remember ever sitting in the balcony where all the “action” was.

Oh, and on occasion, there were door prizes given away. I recall them giving away bicycles from time to time.

So, it would begin with a series of cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tom & Jerry, and probably my favorite, Mighty Mouse. Following that, there would be at least two full-length films, usually Westerns – Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Hoppalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and Tom Mix to name a few. They would chase the bad guys across the silver screen, and Rogers and Autry would always camp out at night, and belt out a tune or two.

From time to time, they would have a “monster movie” – Godzilla, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. – a film that would scare the daylights out of us. Now, let’s take a break and fast forward to today.

Every Saturday night, my wife and I religiously watch the MeTV show Svengoolie, who shows classic, old horror movies. Well, on two occasions recently, they have shown The Creature from the Black Lagoon. For some reason, that movie doesn’t seem so scary, anymore.


Back to Saturday mornings.

Usually, between the cartoons and the feature films, they would have News Reels, video of current events happening around the globe. None of us really cared about them. That’s when the teasing and loud shouting took place, which the ushers had to step in and take control.

Now, we need to take a look at the “action” going on in the balcony. Remember, these were the older kids. They must have had extra money to spend. Because, as sure as the day is long, sometime during the shows, popcorn and soda would come raining down on us poor shmucks down below. That is why it was important to show up early to get a seat close to the stage, which was out of their range. Occasionally, the ushers would catch someone in the act, and would be escorted out the door. That was not always a wise decision, because, if your parents were coming to pick you up, you’d have a long wait, or even worse, some explaining to do.

And, once all the shows were done, we’d leave the theater and head for home. Depending on the time of year, it was dark. A whole bunch of us would descend the Jinjine Hill, feeling comfortable being in a group.

I remember a couple of times when these were held at the Waterville Opera House.

Many years – and decades – later, I still feel as though our mother would send us off so she could enjoy a day of peace and quiet without us boys running around creating havoc.


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