The Union Recorder


June 10, 2014

BROWN: Saturdays at the movies in Richland

MILLEDGEVILLE — Bullets, bandits, and ballad-singing gents; sidekicks, stagecoaches, and sweet-talking heroines all combined to create captivating chronicles filled with rolling dust, sweaty horses and on occasion, unreciprocated affection. Let’s return for more remembrances about movie houses of the past.

When an admission ticket was presented to the usher, he tore it in half, deposited part into a locked box, and returned the remaining portion. Sometime during the afternoon, prizes were awarded, so you always kept your ticket stub. In the evening, attendants carrying flashlights escorted people into the theatre, but on Saturday, we chose our seats, that is, after pausing a moment inside the entranceway while our eyes adjusted to the darkness.

Adults rarely attended the Saturday matinee therefore the entertainment was geared toward adolescents and teenagers. The first offering was a movie reel featuring current events, followed by the coming attractions. Sometimes the clips were so frightening that I clamped my eyes shut until David promised that the worst part had concluded. There was an advertisement about the irresistible specials offered at the concession stand, and for several years there was a commercial featuring our family owned business.

If the projected light-beam was angled just right, you saw wisps of blue smoke in the reflection. When you heard that familiar flop, flop, flop noise coming from the projection booth, you knew to be patient while they repaired and re-winded the film.

Our favorite presentations were serial short stories starring either Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers; it was our first exposure to science fiction cinema. Once the black and white serialized adventure concluded, you were treated to a Technicolor cartoon.

The immense structured building was ancient and the interior appeared grimy. The edges of the colossal screen were encased with over-sized, and faded red, heavy velvet drapes. Although youngsters weren’t allowed to examine the stage, we understood that the curtains were filled with the odor of stale tobacco smoke, and contaminated with musty smelling dust.

The metal framed wooden chairs, complete with armrests, had curved backs and bottoms that folded up when not in use. In our theater, the rigid chairs had no cushions. Both of the slanted aisles were covered with well-worn and stained carpet, and the concrete sections under the seats were littered with trash and the floor was everlastingly sticky.

We enjoyed attending a movie on Saturday, but I bet seeing it in daylight would truly be a frightening experience. Even so, in Richland, it was a heartbreaking day when the marquee was removed and the movie-house closed forever.

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