If odd-sounding names like Lash LaRue, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix, Crash Corrigan, and Hopalong Cassidy sound familiar, then you too have fond memories of the cowboy stars of long ago. For years their adventures were broadcast on the radio; the introduction of the cinema changed them into legends of the silver screen. Many were true marksmen; they rode handsome horses, performed rope tricks, and a few could even dance, but the most famous of them were singers.
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.
Stewart-Webster Gas Company was a liquefied-petroleum business, founded and operated by our parents. In those days, it was located downtown, on West Broad Street, adjacent to the Richland Theatre. When my brother David and I were declared mature enough to behave like young ladies and gentlemen, we were permitted to attend the Saturday afternoon matinee, unattended. We never dreamed of misbehaving because daddy frequently walked over from next door to check on us.
The price of admission was one dime, and for fifteen cents more we stood in line at the concession stand and purchased a box of hot buttered popcorn served in a red and white cardboard box, and a paper cup full of ice-cold “co-cola.” I remember it as afternoons packed with excitement and refreshment, all for twenty-five cents.
Occasionally momma furnished an extra nickel for a sticky, caramel flavored Sugar Daddy lollipop, or a frozen Milky-Way candy bar on a stick.
There was a lighted ticket booth that could be accessed from two sides; the entrance that we frequented, and the access used by our housekeeper, Hattie Mae and her family. They entered the movie by climbing a dimly lit staircase and viewed the motion picture from a smoked-filled balcony.
When you paid your money to the young lady in the glass-enclosed box, she dispensed a coupon through the tiny arched opening. During inclement weather, and until the next customer appeared, she blocked the opening with a chock of wood.
There are more memories of Saturday afternoon movies to follow; stay tuned.