Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Matinee's Idol

I took the kids to an afternoon movie the other day, and as I was quietly eating my Goobers, trying hard to stay awake and not drool or snore too much, I drifted back in time…

'Riotous' would be a good description of the Saturday matinees we enjoyed growing up.

It was the Nova Theater for entertainment in our town (Mr. Tom Fowler, proprietor), and it was awesome fun.

We would gather outside the front door to commit minor acts of vandalism or robbery, until such time as we could enter and continue these activities inside.

We would purchase tickets and several pounds of candy and popcorn from the hotties behind the counter, upon whom we usually had life-threatening crushes, and we would proceed past the 'Cry Room' and into the theater proper.

The Cry Room was the place where, normally, mothers went if they had noisy, out-of-control infants. During Saturday matinees, however, it was where we went when our eardrums burst from the racket during the movie itself, as made by all us noisy, out-of-control adolescents.

In order to get to a seat we'd have to wade into a fray that was like a Wild West saloon in the middle of a good brawl. The air would be filled with flying candy, popcorn boxes, shoes, marbles, and occasionally, small children. Party!!

When the lights dimmed the background noise became a deafening roar as hundreds of kids yelled "Yay!!" at the top of their lungs.

With the lights fully out the fun would really start. If you've ever been to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show (and you should), you’ll have some understanding of the atmosphere.

Hurling flattened popcorn boxes into the light of the projector beam was a favourite activity, long flights being rewarded handsomely with applause, catcalls and showers of hard candy. Extreme praise was bestowed upon those who sailed their whirling projectile into the head of some anonymous victim in the front row, since only weird kids sat up there.

Rivulets of soda pop swirled and eddied around one’s ankles as occasionally we’d hear, during very rare quiet moments, the sound of marbles or 'boulders' being rolled in waves from the back of the theater. These could be heard smacking into feet and seat anchors as they accelerated their way down the inclined floor to the very front. This would elicit massive cheers for the ‘winner’ of each heat.

After the cartoons, the din would settle down slightly as we began to enjoy some dreadful “B” movie, usually something with cowboys or soldiers who could shoot five bad guys dead with only one shot. Who were we to question how six-shooters could carry 39 rounds of ammunition?

During the movie we were getting shot ourselves, with Hot Tamales and other confections. We could also observe the bald head of Tom Fowler (proprietor), walking up and down the aisles, inadvertently getting into the spirit of things by being beaned repeatedly with Hot Tamales and other confections.

He would be trying in vain to stop dozens of juvenile delinquents from putting their feet on the back of the seat in front of them (a criminal offense), by the expedient means of shining a flashlight at them.

This was effective for at least two milliseconds, until such time as the beam of light moved on to the next offender. The previous slouching miscreant immediately returned his feet to the seat while simultaneously feeling up his slouching, miscreant girlfriend.

Just as Mr. Fowler was leaving the theater, ears ringing and dinged head throbbing, some wag would, of course, hurl a popcorn box up into the nose of John Wayne, to the cheers of everyone, and the consternation of the always-suffering theater owner.

I'm sure the man must have had several nervous breakdowns. I can only imagine his nightmares, thinking of his children growing up amongst the rotten kids who patronized his business.

I hope he made a fortune.

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