Saturday, June 23, 2007
Tickets Please 8.5" x 11" pencil
Saturday just doesn't feel like Saturday without a good, old cowboy movie to watch. It has to be one of those black and white "shoot 'em ups", where the hero is always the good guy. He has to have a wonderful, loyal horse and a sidekick, or even a small gang of good guys of his own (preferably a group that sings as they ride or sit around the campfire). They fight for right and freedom, but never just to be mean. And the heroine usually gets left behind with not so much as a kiss.
Growing up in Calvert, Texas, we had the Eloia Theatre on Main Street. It's still there, but is not used as a theatre anymore. Wide screens and tv ended their years of providing entertainment. After a fire, it was rebuilt with all the latest features including double wide seats at the end of every other row, and a cry room. You can't miss this theatre with its maroon tile with white paint .
This was a family operation with Miss Eloise (all women were called "Miss") working in the ticket booth . Her husband, Carl, sold popcorn, took tickets, as he is in my drawing, cleaned up, ran the projector, and still looked like he was very casual and not doing much of anything. Their son, Carl Jr., ran the projector and also sold popcorn. We thought he was so cute in his Aggie uniform selling popcorn, although we were much youger. He probably considered us pesky little kids!
The Eloia was named for Miss Eloise. I have shown her here in the ticket booth. She was so pale with a lot of powder, red lipstick, light blue eyes, and red hair softly curled. She always wore soft dresses or suits in pinks, lavenders, light green, colors that complimented her fair skin. I wondered if she might have once been an actress and had fallen in love with Carl, then settled in our small town. I don't really know their story.
As a child, I know that I probably looked at her with my mouth hanging open. I wondered if she were real. Her little booth reminded me of one of those gypsy fortune tellers that we saw in a little booth at the State Fair of Texas and Houston Fat Stock Show. Those gypsy ladies were not real, of course, but we wondered, as they moved their hand across cards, and seemed to look right at us. I was surprised when Miss Eloise would leave her booth and walk into the audience to watch for misbehaving children, budding romances, or people who were sitting through more than one show without paying .
Tim Holt was my hero and I would try to sit through every show when one of his movies was playing on a weekend, then pay to go back the next day. But, usually, Miss Eloise would let me sit through the second movie, if there weren't many people there. That 25 cents was hard to come by and I usually had to go from relative to relative, asking for a nickel until I had enough money. Sometimes I didn't get enough so I had to sadly watch people go into the show from the plate glass windows in my grandfather's dry goods store across the street. I didn't get an allowance, and, occasionally, they would let me work at the dry goods store. But, if I worked, I couldn't go to the show because I would be working on Saturday.
Everyone in town went to the Eloia. It was like a socail thing, and the town was like a big family. Today, family members might have their certain places to sit as they watch tv. Back then, it was like that as they sat in the everyday living room, to listen to the radio. And, the same applied when people went to the picture show, to church, or certain events. Everyone had their own place to sit. At the Eloia, little kids sat on the first couple of rows, and, as they grew older, they moved back. There was a rotund farmer, with great red cheeks, and a hearty laugh, who rode to town on his tractor. He would go to Miss Molly's hamburger place next door to my grandfather's dry goods store, and buy a small sack of hamburgers, which he would take to the show. He would sit on the double seat, on the first row, with all the little kids, eat his hamburgers, and have a great time at the show. They didn't sell drinks or snacks at the Eloia, just popcorn, and had a drinking fountain with cold water in the lobby. I think they said they put those double seats in just for Henry, the farmer, and thought he might choose other places to sit. But he stayed right up front with the kids.
I thought that, when I grew up and had lots of money, I would be sure to go to Miss Molly's, get a sack with maybe two dozen sissyburgers, and spend Saturday afternoon watching Tim Holt shows at the Eloia. But in the back row, not the front.
My parents always chose the back row, where Daddy would sit with his arm around Mama's shoulder. I usually sat in the middle rows, or where the kids my age were sitting. But, if I had a date, and after I married, we would sit in the back, on a side row-not in the center where my parents sat. My parents didn't go to the show so much after I grew up. Like everyone else, they were happy to stay at home, with tv dinners on a tv tray, and watch the shows there.
The picture show family had a beautiful home near Main Street. I was so surprised that they had a home! I, like a lot of kids, thought that people who we always saw at businesses, were always there. Just like teachers. We didn't realize that they were human beings, until we were older. We thought they lived at school, or their business, never ate or slept, drank or went to the bathroom, didn't have families, or a home.
In the front yard, just off the sidewalk, there was a fish pond with gold fish swimming around. For kids walking to town from school or home, stopping by the fish pond was about as good as a trip to the zoo. I think some kids dropped gum wrappers in the pond, so, if we were seen, one of the family would shoo us away. There was another fish pond in town, just like that one, so we had two places to watch the fish swim.
I went to the house at least one time, to see Miss Eloise. I was scared silly and hoped she wouldn't come to the door. I may have gone by to sell magazines or candy, but, I know this one time, I was intent on asking for one of the posters advertising a Tim Holt movie. I got to peek inside the leaded glass door, and I remember beautiful woodwork and hardwood floors in a wide room with gingerbread across an arch, and little wooden beads worked into the design. Miss Eloise told me that if she ever had an extra one that she didn't have to send back, she would save it for me.
I didn't get a poster, but I did have photo albums full of movie star pictures. All we had to do in those times was to write a fan letter to a star, and address it to Hollywood, California. Soon, we would have wonderful photos back, sometimes with a signature. Some started charging 25 cents as postage went up from 2 cents to mail an out of town letter.
The Chatmas Theatre in nearby Hearne got a widescreen when those became popular. Since the Eloia was new, they didn't want to have to make that investment, so they closed after a while. I still think that was one of the best theatres. I'm still not that wild about wide screens.
When I watch an old movie on tv, with the lights out, I can just go back to the Eloia. I can see my friends giggling and whispering secrets, Henry laughing, some kids helping the good guys with "gun noises", older couples holding hands, and the boys in our class making silly noises, like the Three Stooges. I can feel the cool we sought on a hot day in the dark theatre, the warmth in winter. Smell the popcorn from the colorful machine out in front. And wait for Miss Eloise or Carl, to walk the aisles. Maybe they are doing that still.
Cowboy shows, Tarzan, The Three Stooges, those type of movies are Saturday shows. Technicolor was for Sunday movies, and dramas, mysteries, the latest blockbusters or classics are weekday shows. That was the schedule, and I guess it was as ingrained in us as church on Sunday, washday on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, cleaning house on Wednesday, parties on Thursday, shopping or yardwork on Friday.