Friday, May 26, 2017

A Day at the Movies

Coronado Theater, Rockford, IL
Whenever I go up to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, for one of my annual follow-up checkups, I like to try to see a movie, which I seldom have the chance to do at home. This time, I saw two; one Sunday and one Monday at one of those 470-screen SuperCinePlexes.

Paying my $6.00 early-bird-or-whatever rate on Sunday, I decided I’d try once again to eat a bag of popcorn. I love popcorn; I always have. But though I am always the optimist, I am never able to finish even a small bag. The kernels break up into a thousand pieces during chewing and, because my salivary glands were destroyed by radiation during the treatment of my tongue cancer, I have no natural way of simply gathering the thousands of pieces, moving them unnoticed to the back of my mouth, and swallowing, ready for the next handful. 

Instead, the broken up kernels adhere to every possible surface of my mouth; between my tongue and teeth, and between my teeth and my gums. Trying to wash them loose with a sip of soda is an exercise in futility.

But I digress, as usual. What I’m getting at is that a very small bag of popcorn cost $3.25 and a small soda cost another $3.25. I was thinking of mentioning to the manager that if they were going to rob the customers, they could at least wear masks and carry guns. So a trip to the movies cost $12.50. And I know the $6.00 ticket price was a steal compared to some theaters. Needless to say, I opted to forgo the snack bar on a return visit.

In the great depression, movie theaters survived not so much on the ticket sales, but on selling 10 cents a bag. I am sure the modern cineplexes operate on a similar theory, though on a far, far grander scale.

I began going to movies on my own when I was around 10, I believe. Every Saturday, my mom would give me $1.25, and with that princely sum I would take the bus (I believe 10 cents a ride) downtown, where I would go to the State or the Times, or the Palace (which frequently had vaudeville on weekends), or the Midway on the other side of town, or very rarely to the Coronado, which was and is a magnificent old Grand Dame of a movie palace.

The Coronado and the Midway showed only first runs from major studios. The Times and Palace often showed second-runs or B-grade movies; The State showed lesser movies, but ran serials every Saturday and was therefore the favorite of most of the kids.

Anyway, I would ride the bus down town, go immediately to Woolworths’ soda fountain where I would have a chocolate soda (when was the last time you had a real chocolate soda? If you’re under 50, chances are you may never have had one. And is there, for that matter, a single real soda fountain left anywhere?). The soda set me back $.25, and I’d also have a hot dog (fifteen cents, if I’m not mistaken). From there I would move on to the theater of my choice, buy my ticket for fifty cents, and a order a huge bag of fresh-popped Manley’s Popcorn, which featured an elephant on the bag, for a dime. If I’d managed somehow during the week to scrape up an extra dime, I would have two bags.

The only Coliseum seating then was found in Rome. The entire audience sat on one level, though there usually was a sloping of the floor to provide some slightly better view of the screen. Most theaters had their seats lined up directly in front of one another; only a few staggered the rows slightly so you could look over someone’s shoulder rather than at the back of their heads.

And it was a wondrous and wonderful time, when a movie cost fifty cents and popcorn a dime.

But as I sat in the SuperCinePlex in Rochester, Minnesota trying to get through a $3.25 bag of popcorn far smaller than the old Manley’s dime bag, and drinking my $3.25 coke and feeling very nostalgic for the old days, I remembered that back in those wondrous, magical, halcyon days, when you were diagnosed with cancer, you died.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from and; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/ You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: 

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