In the Good Old Summer Time
We walked to about the midway point in Ellisville's Varsity Theater and sat on the three end seats. Helen sat between Mama and me. It was Wednesday afternoon, five till four, and the movie would start any time after 4:00, depending on the arrival of the projectionist. All the stores in our little town had agreed to close at noon on Fridays during the three and a half months the schools were out for summer vacation. Even Daddy was relieved to have a good excuse to go out to the surrounding neighborhoods, visiting wit friends and customers who might have a cow or calf for sale: or, at least, know of somebody who did.
The war was now in its third year, and our greatly reduced-in-size family had grown accustomed to staying as close to each other as possible. Daddy, and the three of us clung to each other jealously. He, however, did not accompany us on our daily late-afternoon walks, nor did he consent to join us at the picture-show very often. George was now stationed in India, where he was a chaplain's assistant; Sammy had stayed in the States and was now stationed in Sioux City, Iowa He had recently married a beautiful young girl there. Herr name was Lorraine. Anna was running Josephine's theater in Richton, while she and her husband, Bill Sibley, moved all over the state of Louisiana as he worked as a Drag-Line operator. Jimmy, Rosie's husband, had been sent to Attu, in the Aleutians, in what would prove to be his undoing as frostbite caused him to have his left leg amputated. He was in a veteran's hospital, at this time and Rosie was with him. As soon as I was seated, I knew there was something different about the tacky old theater. Mrs. Bishop, a widow, and the mother of my Civics teacher (Mary Eleanor) had been having a long string of bad luck recently: Rats had began walking boldly amongst the customers during the movies at night, and would eat the popcorn that fell out of the bags and lay there on the floor. Finally, when one of the town's most prominent citizens took off her shoes and drew her legs up under her on the seat, she let out a blood-curdling scream when she stuck her foot into one of the shoes, only to feel a huge rat had taken up residence there! Mrs. Bishop bought lots of rat poison, and it really did work: the only trouble was the odor of dead rats was so pronounced that even I had to stop going to the movies for two or three weeks until the air cleared a little.
I gazed at the screen and was amazed to see it changing colors like a Chameleon! Yellow, to green; then red; then blue and then the cycle would begin again. I turned my head and looked up and back at a small projector attached to the lower part of the balcony. The light emitted by this projector was given off as a circle of the different colored cellophane produced the colors on the screen. "How d'you like that?" I asked Helen.
"It's right tacky," was her matter-of-fact assessment.
Mama looked at it and smiled. "I sort of like it." She said.
"I do, too, Mama!" Of course if it had yellow it was a lead pipe cinch that I would automatically love it.
"Francis, what's that man's name?" Helen asked now, as someone walked briskly down the aisle across from our seats.
I looked up and could hardly believe my eyes: "Why, that's Garland Ross May!" I knew him instantly. He had been the manager of the theater in Richton before Josephine bought it. At that time, it had been owned by Mr. DeValle, who lived here in Ellisville.
"I thought he looked mighty familiar."
I remembered we had him out for supper once, after he had told Josephine that George and I could have free passes any time, from then on.
"I'll bet he's Miz Bishop's manager now," I mused aloud.
Just then, the house lights went off and the projectors could be heard humming. I always felt a little bit of excitement at that familiar sound. As usual, there were the previews of coming attractions, but the projectionist had failed to turn off the colored disks, and it seemed so strange to see black and white movies advertised in colors!
Warner Brothers' logo proclaimed that they were presenting Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan in "Shine On, Harvest Moon". It turned out to be a fairly entertaining musical loosely based on the life of Nora Bays (a nightclub entertainer of the 1890's.)
"I'll bet the finale is in Technicolor," Helen whispered to me about halfway through the film.
"I'll bet it isn't! I loved Technicolor and would suffer through almost any amount of boredom so long as it was colorful. I remember how disappointed I was when "How Green was my Valley" turned out not to be in color. I truly felt I had been deceived!
As usual, Helen was right. But I always felt that she had been told that little item by somebody who had seen it before we did.
We walked about a mile around our small home town before going home.
"What do y'all want for supper?" Helen posed the eternal question.
"Girl, it's too hot to cook," Mama said.
"Let's have sandwiches!" I said. I usually preferred these to hot meals in the summer months, too.
"Want me to make some pimento-cheese?" she asked.
"Oh, Boy! YES!"
Mama laughed. "That's too much trouble, Helen," she said.
"Not really! The only thing hard about it is cleaning the little grinder after we eat."
"I can do that," I would gladly do that small chore to get a pimento-cheese sandwich- or two!
Of course, before I could get around to keeping my promise, Mama had washed everything while Helen dried and put everything away. Daddy had returned just before we got home and had cooked a steak for his own supper. For once, I preferred that pimento cheese to a steak!
It's a sweet memory from my childhood..