Last week I wrote
about a nerve racking experience that happened to me, when I
was a very young man, at a movie theater in Santa Fe called
The Santa Fe Theater. I also stated that the theater no longer
exists. Well as I took my usual walk this morning, I was reminded
of several other movie theaters that no longer exist today.
One of those theaters was named the Alley Theater which was
across the street from the present Lensic Performing Arts Center
on West San Francisco Street. The Alley Theater was named after
a famous street in Santa Fe, called Burro Alley.
I remembered when
I was very young, it seemed that most of us kids in Santa Fe
went to the movies every Saturday morning at the Alley Theater.
They started at 9 AM and it cost ten cents of the twenty-five
cents that my mother would give me and I still had enough left
for whatever treats I wanted.
The program usually
started with a serial that was very much like the present day
soap operas that are so popular today, only it was a western.
Cisco Kid and Pancho was my favorite. The two of them would
get in some kind of trouble and just when something bad was
about to happen, the serial would end and all of us would have
to come back the following Saturday to find out what happened.
a cartoon would follow and if we were really lucky, there would
be a second cartoon. After all of that, the main feature would
start, which was usually a Western with some well known cowboy
star or a comedy such as the Bowery Boys or Abbot and Costello.
I loved Lash Laurue, who was a cowboy that carried a whip wrapped
around his pistol and he could grab the whip and knock the pistol
out of a desperado's hand before the desperado could shoot.
Another theater called
The El Paseo Theater was a couple of blocks east of the Alley
Theater on San Francisco Street. One afternoon I went to a double
feature there and the first feature was a Roy Rogers movie.
After it finished, Roy came back on the screen and told us that
he wanted to introduce a new cowboy to us. Then, a cowboy started
riding his horse, at full speed, towards us on the screen and
just as it appeared he would ride right into the audience, the
movie projector was turned off and out on stage walked Rex Allen.
BOY were we kids excited, even though we had never heard of
him before. After he introduced himself to us and then gave
a demonstration on his shooting ability, the second movie started.
This of course featured none other then Rex Allen and his horse
Kokomo. They also became a favorite of all of us kids.
The third theater
was The Arco Theater. It was located on west Hickox Street.
The movies had to be really good for the kids in my neighborhood
to go. The reason was that it was located in a different grade
school district other then the school I attended and anytime
any of my school friends or I went to the Arco Theater, we were
out of our territory. Stepping out of our territory meant that
we were in Joe's territory and the story about Joe, we never
knew his last name, was that he was a golden glove boxer and
boy was he mean. Yup, Joe was a legend in his own time. We never
met him, we never saw him, but he put the fear of God in us.
I know that the whole
concept of movie theaters has changed, but I wonder if the youngsters
of today are having as much fun as we did when I was a kid?
I want to tell you
one last story about an experience my mother and I had at the
El Paseo Theater and then I promise never to talk about Santa
Fe movie theaters again. This happened during World War II,
when I was very young. I saved this story until last because
you might want to throw up after I finish. My mother surely
thought about it.
During the War, my
mother worked in a military hospital in Santa Fe. The site,
where the hospital was located is now The College of Santa Fe.
Many commodities were rationed at the time because they were
being sent to our military personnel. Sugar was one of those
commodities. Because of the rationing, chewing gum had very
little sugar. One day my mom came home from work with a whole
sack full of gum balls that a soldier had given her. Boy was
I excited. Since the gum had very little sugar, I would chew
a piece for a little while and then I would add another piece
and continue the process until I as had this huge lump in my
mouth. Well my mother put a stop to that and started rationing
One Saturday, as
was our custom, my mother and I went to the movie. It was usually
my choice, but this particular Saturday a romantic film called
"Chained," starring Betty Davis was showing. My mother
really wanted to see this movie, so she talked me into going
and because I agreed, I got an extra allotment of gum. We always
went to lunch at a restaurant first. That day my mother and
I were in a hurry to get through lunch for different reasons.
She wanted to get to the movie and I wanted to get to my extra
allotment of gum. We finally got through lunch and headed to
the theater, which was just a short distance from the restaurant
where we ate. In a few minutes we were settled into our seats
for an hour and a half of pleasure. As the lights in the theater
were dimmed and the screen lit up, I was immediately into my
bag of gum and my mother was well absorbed into what she knew
was going to be a great romantic story
After about an hour
or so, of romantic movie, I was probably out of gum. Not that
I remember this, but I'm sure by then I was squirming from boredom
of all that kissing and stuff. My mother tells me that I tapped
her shoulder and said, "Mom, do you want this gum?"
By that time, she was so engrossed in the movie and not knowing
what to do with her child's gum, she put the little hard ball
in her mouth. After a while, I again tapped her on the shoulder
and asked her the same question and again she put the gum in
her mouth. A few minutes later, I tapped her on the shoulder
again. This time, the movie was at it's crescendo and my mother
did not respond to my tap. I tapped her shoulder again. This
time with more authority and again she did not respond. Finally,
with a child's persistence, I shook her shoulder and in total
exasperation my mother turned to me and as I was about to hand
her another piece of gum, she said, "Do not give me anymore
gum!" This was at the moment in the movie when the leading man
was about to say, "I love you Roberta," or whatever
leading men told the heroin in movies in those days. At that
moment, I told my mom, "Why not? There's lots of it under
here," as I pointed to the bottom of my seat.
My mother immediately
spit the gum in her mouth into her hand. A little late I'm afraid.
She ran to the ladies room and spit into the sink and then cupped
her hand under the faucet to get water to rinse her mouth. Thinking
that water wasn't enough and in total frustration, she put her
hand under the powdered soap container that hung on the wall
and push the plunger to release the soap. She put her hand to
her mouth and took in the powdered soap. You can imagine the
taste. She added water to her mouth and sloshed the combination
back and forth between her teeth.
About fifteen minutes
with me wondering where my mother was, she returned. Even after
having rinsed her mouth several times with water, the heavy
taste of soap remained. To top off the whole ordeal, the climax
of the movie had long passed.
Have a great day.