Editor’s note: This column appeared in a previous edition of The Leader.
Saturday was a special day for Rosemark rednecks. If we had behaved all week and completed our chores (jobs) maybe, just maybe we could go to the Strand Theater picture show in Millington and watch our favorite cowboys catch the black hatted crooks. One of the grown ups would haul us in a car or in the back of a pickup sitting on planks. We were dropped off and told to meet at a special time or hoof it back.
Once inside the big barn (to little kids) we had the time of our life. The sound of popcorn with the once yellow kernels bouncing inside this greasy square glass filling the overflowing theater with an aroma only found at a show.
By the time drinks were spilled on the floor with kids bumping into each other, and a crowd, the man that had torn up our ticket was fit to be tied. He spent the next two hours telling everyone to shut up, be quiet, and tried to find a reason to throw someone out of the theater, which he did occasionally.
I guess whenever he promoted himself from ticket-taker to now an usher; he really got the big head. We constantly watched each other like tracking a rabbit.
Friends, shuffling down the aisles, it’s hard for a bunch of boys to agree on the seating arrangement, but we preferred the middle seats about half way down. But, if we didn’t get there early enough, a few hundred other kids claimed our special location. First come, first served. We tried the balcony a few times, but that didn’t work out too well. One thing it seems like there would be some lovebirds back in the dark corners all snuggled up, and we didn’t understand why they spent their money and didn’t watch the show. They didn’t want to be disturbed either. They were a lot older maybe fourteen or sixteen and real mean.
Although, we were lucky, a couple of times, the mean older boys grabbed a couple of the kids by the ankles, and dangled them over the iron rail causing some screaming. This got everyone’s attention, so we stayed out of the hayloft. The other problem was when one of us would jump up and holler, we would get in the flickering light, and this would make the man in the projector room mad, and he’d fence row cuss us. We can’t win. All we were doing was enjoying the show. He didn’t see it that way. He won.
Stumbling down the aisle, guided by the little lights at the bottom of the seats, we finally got situated and always sat together, no matter what.
At last we are now ready for our entertainment.
The lights would go out, the screen would start roaring, the curtain would be pulled, and a huge cheer would go up in the audience. We got a preview of all the coming attractions, so you had better prepared since the greatest shows in the world are coming.
Neighbor, usually there would be about ten minutes of news. Who cared, we want to see our cowboys.
The news consisted of the United States fighting a war, hopefully winning, with everyone celebrating. Sometimes there were sad faces showing all the soldier boys with their back packs on preparing to go to war. With their wives, girlfriends and family waving good bye, we wondered, is all the United States does is fight in wars?
We realized later in life, if Uncle Sam ain’t fighting overseas, he’s fighting at home and it’s been that way for over two hundred years.
Then we had cartoons for about ten minutes and these usually consisted of Woody Woodpecker, Porky the Pig or Donald Duck.
Imitations of the talking through out the audience highlighted the entire cartoon as the usher acts like he has rabies.
He drained those flashlight batteries, ’cause he shined and blinked the beam for over two hours. Finally, our cowboys are riding fast and shooting as the audience screams….GLORY!
Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin.” He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School. For more from Griffin, log on to shakeragproductions.com.