Going To the Movies

This is me in my Davey Crockett shirt. While not really released as a movie I was a big fan

 

A few days ago I was watching on television the original King Kong movie. I remembered as a child when I first watched this movie and feeling very sorry for King Kong. This caused me to reflect on my lifelong affection for movies. I also started to think about how these movies played a part in the narrative of my family’s story. Movies seem to weave in and out of some of my fondest memories.

Westerns were and still are a favorite movie to watch.
Picture from Flickr, The Commons. Contributing Library, The Library of Congress, from the book The Story of Montana year 1916.

I grew up going to the movies at the Strand Theater. The Strand was a fixture in downtown Plattsburgh, N.Y., and still is even today. My mother, Veronica Deloria, worked there for a short while selling tickets and worked the concession stand. She often told the story of how they stopped the movie and announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor. All military personnel had to report to the local base right away. Soon everyone was listening to the radio trying to get the latest news on what would be for us the start of World War Two. My early story at the Strand was very different. I was about six or seven when my mother brought me to see the Walt Disney movie Old Yeller. If you have not seen the movie, you may want to skip the next few lines. It was a great movie about a boy and his dog. I can clearly remember how thrilling the movie was and that I was on the edge of my seat for much of the movie. However, the ending was gut-wrenching when the dog came down with rabies after fighting off a rabid animal saving once again the family. The young boy had to put down Old Yeller. At that moment I stood up and let out the longest and loudest booooo that I could muster. My poor mother grasped my arm and tried to calm me down. That’s when I wailed “but mom they shot the dog.” I have never to this day fully trusted a Walt Disney movie. However, I was hooked on the movies and the many worlds to which they would transport me. My wife and I who I meet in high school went on countless movie dates to the Strand. Over the years times grew hard on the single screen, downtown movie theaters. Many towns have lost these gems. However due to the efforts of far-sighted people, a very small town was able to save and restore this special and wonderful place. Their website is; http://www.strandcenter.org/ and well worth the look. They were very helpful and sent me the pictures below to use with this blog.

Theater restoration, inside the Strand Theater, Plattsburgh, N.Y.. Picture courtesy of the Strand Center for the Arts.

The restored Strand Theater. I remember that is was never a good idea when I was young and attending an afternoon matinee to sit in the rows just in front of the end of the balcony. One never knew if you would be the target of flying missiles of candy. I played it safe and sat underneath the balcony.
All pictures of the Strand Theater courtesy of the The Strand Center for the Arts. Plattsburgh, New York.

 

The newly renovated Strand Theater in Plattsburg, N.Y.. For many years many of my dreams would start with this curtain being drawn back and my dream starting on the movie screen. Picture courtesy of the Strand Center for the Arts, Plattsburgh, New York.

Also, we had several drive-in movie establishments located in our area. Plattsburgh did a large business in the tourist trade bringing down visitors from north of the border. On most weekends during the summer you could see their cars filling up the spaces at all of our local drive-ins. When I was about 16, my Aunt Verna treated me to a movie at the drive-in. The movie was The Dirty Dozen, and as many of you know, it was an action packed movie. I enjoyed the movie, and today I own a DVD so I can watch it whenever I want. However, I cannot watch the movie or catch a glimpse of it on television without thinking of my aunt. After we had come home from the movie when my aunt thought I was somewhere else in the house, I overheard her talking to my mom in a hushed voice. She was horrified at all the profanities in the movie and could not believe they were allowed to do that in a movie. To tell the truth, I had not even noticed. Also, I am sure now looking back, that the movie had many other parts that would have made my aunt uncomfortable. It always brings a smile when I think about it.

My wife Sandra Lyon Moore also has fond memories of movies and television shows. Her father would come home from work and relax by watching TV. He had installed a very high-end antenna on top of the house that could draw in stations from Canada. While many of the shows were in French and his understanding was very limited it did not stop him from enjoying all types of science fiction and off beat movies. I think one of the reasons we got along was the fact we both liked Star Trek. He also enjoyed cartoons such as The Flintstones and Huckleberry Hound and was on a first-name basis with Bugs Bunny and his whole gang. How they could make him laugh.

 

My Father-Law Robert Lyon in his easy chair after a day of hard work. The shoes and socks are off and soon he would be in a tee shirt and a bib overalls. My wife Sandy recalls all the strange movies he would watch from this chair.

In my own little family, we made good use of the new must have VCR to bring countless movies home to the family. It was for us a good way of watching and enjoy movies as a family. While most of the movies we watched are long forgotten to this day my adult children recall the huge “popcorn bowl” that the five of us shared while watching the movies. I was myself a manager at a movie multi-screen complex for a couple of years. The family including the grandchildren enjoyed the perks of free movies which they enjoyed to the fullest. However, I discovered my own movie watching went way down during this period as you were way too busy working to watch the movies and the last place you wanted to go on your time off was back to the workplace to try and catch a movie. So a much smaller popcorn bowl was often used at home while I watched my movies on a DVD.

Do you have stories about movies, television, plays, involving your family? Perhaps you should tell the stories, so they will be remembered and become part of your greater family legacy. One day an elderly woman who was a regular customer came into the movie theater I was working. She carried with her a large scrapbook which she wanted to show me. In the scrapbook she kept many of the tickets to movies, baseball games, Broadway shows, and other events she had attended throughout her life. She had started when her father many years ago brought her to her first show. While most of us will not be able to draw upon such a precious resource even one or two stories are better than none.

 

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44 Responses to Going To the Movies

  1. Sandi McGinnis says:

    Great as always!

  2. jecowell says:

    Great post…and shared!

  3. Great post.
    Movies have never been a big part of my life. We couldn’t go as children, so what I did watch was those on TV – in black & white. I never had a colour TV until about 1888, but by then I didn’t watch much TV & rarely went to the pictures. I have always been a reader instead.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I also consider myself a reader. However I was lucky and was introduced movies early and have enjoyed them over the years. We also did not have a color TV until the 80s. It seems also over the years I have settled on non fiction in my reading and fiction for my movies.

  4. Great post. I remember seeing ‘Old Yeller’. It was so sad. And going to the Saturday morning film club – where TV shows and kids programmes were shown on the big screen. I even remember singing and dancing in the aisle for the usherettes once and getting free sweets! Isn’t it amazing the confidence we had when we were younger! Thanks for bringing back so many good memories.

  5. Pierre Lagacé says:

    J’ai bien aimé votre billet. I have enjoyed your post.

  6. chattykerry says:

    I remember the lady who played the piano during the intermission. It was always Westerns on Saturday morning and there was always TWO movies!

  7. flamingdarts says:

    The first time I was taken to the movies was to see Pinocchio at the Warner Theater in DC in 1954 (its third release). I remember I was plagued for a time by nightmares featuring Monstro the whale.

    When I was but a little older (1955+), we lived in the Buckingham Apartments in Arlington, Virginia, never more that four blocks from the Buckingham theater. I saw just about every movie that came through. Vincent Price and John Wayne were my favorite cinema actors.

    Yet later, when I was in my teens, I rode the bus(ses) over to the exquisite MacArthur theater in Northwest DC to see British movies, especially the early sixties’ Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. I was so impressed that, during intermission or between showings, they served tea. TEA!

    My wife, who never saw a theatrical release until she moved down here for work at about age 20, feels a bit left out when i say things like, “Man! The special effects in Forbidden Planet were really something in those days!”

    Sadly, as we eschew profanity and nudity, there are few movies we consider worth the current price of admission. And we, too, haven’t “trusted” Disney as we once did, for many years.

    (P.S. I always preferred The Great Escape to The Dirty Dozen. A friend and I began the chore of tunneling between our homes…until we discovered both how much work it was and how slow the progress was.)

  8. chmjr2 says:

    Thank you for your great comment and for reading my blog. I also found that Pinocchio, was the cause of a few bad dreams. Going to the movies was such magic. In many cases the special effects were 2nd rate but our imagination was first rate. Vincent Price and John Wayne were and are some of my favorite actors. The Great Escape in a great movie and one that I have watched many times. It is surprising how many good movies that do not make to the multi-screen theaters these days. Where I live perhaps that is due to not having a big population to work with. However you can still find many good movies as they are released on DVDs.

    • flamingdarts says:

      Charles, We are fortunate enough in my area to have access to truly fast Internet, which makes access to streaming services quite tempting. We’ve caught several good movies on Amazon and have been watching several British and Scottish programs via Netflix lately. (We’ve all but abandoned Redbox for this cause.) Since you like Westerns, I’d wager you’d enjoy one “rescued” from A&E cancellation by Netflix: Longmire. It’s a modern-day Western drama with great characters.

      Thanks for your blog.

      • chmjr2 says:

        Longmire has also been recommended by one of my children so I guess I should give it a look. I also do use Amazon for streaming. The local public library also is a great place to get DVDs for all types of movies and TV shows. What they do not have on hand they are able to bring in from other libraries.

      • flamingdarts says:

        Season 1, Episode 1 (the pilot) of Longmire will both orient you toward the characters and locale…and its cinematic wonderfulness will “rope you in.”

  9. Amy says:

    What a grand old theater the Strand was! We had one somewhat the grand where I grew up, and I remember parents taking a whole bunch of us to movies on rainy days to get us out of their hair! Some of my favorite movies that I shared with the neighborhood kids were Sound of Music, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (at the Drive-in), Mary Poppins. and Nikki, Wild Dog of the North—my “Old Yeller” (which I never saw because my mother knew it would devastate me). So many more. I still love movies and much prefer going to a theater than seeing it on a small screen. Go see Beauty and the Beast—it’s not just for kids!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music what magic they had on the big screen. While I cannot sing I know most of the songs from these movies by heart. I agree with you nothing beats seeing a movie on the big screen.

  10. What a beautiful theater! I love the details you include, a treasure for your posterity. If we would all write just a handful of posts like this our family would be so grateful one day. 🙂

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your comment. I try often to tell a little story about the family. Perhaps someday in the future it will be of interest to someone. It is something I think we all should do. I work hard on my family history trying to get all the important dates right, but it is the stories that really give it the flavor that draws people in. Otherwise it is like a history class in school where the teacher only gives events and dates (we have way too many of them) but never the story the human interest.

  11. KerryCan says:

    Ah, the Strand–I went on dates there and my school took us all to see Romeo and Juliet because we were reading it in class. It’s so great to see to see it refurbished. I love your posts about Plattsburgh–so many of your memories coincide with mine!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for your comment. But you are the lucky one being able to live in such a great area. One more story about the Strand. It was after a movie while holding hands with a very pretty girl (now my wife) walking to Arnie’s that I first turn to her and croaked out my first “I love you” to her. It is something I try to say to her now each day. I have gotten better at saying that over the years.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I was very short and used to get into the movies for under 12 when I was 14. I told myself if they didn’t ask, I wouldn’t mention it. If they asked, I told the truth. Teenage logic, I guess. I will write about movies in the future. Thanks for the idea and memories of single screen movie theaters.

  13. Gail says:

    Wow on the Strand makeover! What a jewel!

  14. dlpedit says:

    Wow! Your post brought back a lot of memories! Where should I begin? Well, the Davy Crockett shirt is a good place. Although I didn’t have a shirt like that, I did have a ‘coon-skin cap. The photo of the cowboys remind me of the Hopalong Cassidy show and other similar shows I watched on TV (e.g., Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and The Cisco Kid). We lived pretty far from town (Knoxville, TN), where the nearest movie theater was, and my parents sort of frowned on movie-going, but I visited the Tennessee Theater in town several times. The photos of the Strand remind me so much of the Tennessee. Very ornate decor. They also had a Wurlitzer organ there that would blow you out of the place! Thanks for the post and all the memories it brought back. By the way, my parents had friends who were from Plattsburg and lived in Knoxville briefly while the man was working on his doctorate. Dr. Jack Moravek teaches (or at least used to teach, he might be retired by now) geography at the university there. Your post also made me think of them.

  15. chmjr2 says:

    I recall all the Cowboy TV shows except The Cisco Kid, but perhaps that is due to the fact in my early years we had only two networks that reached us in Plattsburgh. I checked out you friend Dr. Moravek. The local paper had many articles about him and his family. Such a small world. Here are two links you may like to look at.

    http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn88074101/1982-03-24/ed-1/seq-16/#date1=01%2F01%2F1955&sort=relevance&date2=04%2F31%2F2015&searchType=advanced&SearchType=prox5&sequence=0&index=4&words=Moravek&proxdistance=5&county=Clinton&to_year=2015&rows=20&ortext=&from_year=1955&proxtext=+Moravek&phrasetext=&andtext=&dateFilterType=range&page=1

    Also: http://web.plattsburgh.edu/academics/geography/faculty/moravek.php

    • dlpedit says:

      I must have been interrupted while reading your reply and then forgot to return to finish it because I hadn’t seen the links. Thanks for including them–and for drawing my attention to them again! It’s good to know that I wasn’t wrong about my friend! (As I age, I’m finding my memory’s often inaccurate–not good for someone who writes history!) When I knew him, he was “Mr. Moravek,” but my parents referred to him as “Jack” (sort of like people referred to John Kennedy as “Jack”). I knew that he had had some health problems and assumed that he probably had retired, and I notice from one of the articles that he’s listed as “emeritus,” so I guess I was right on that account at least. Thanks again for drawing my attention to those links.

  16. Spyro says:

    I remember my brother would have to drag me to the movies sometimes, when our mother would not let him go without taking me. I was with my older brother and his friends!!! One day, we saw Magnificent Seven. I can still hear all the howling and yelling we did – not very good patrons I guess. One of my other memories of movies took place a little later, when I was finally able to go by myself with my friends. We say Dr. No the first James Bond. I can feel myself sitting there as the movie began with that spiral – looking in amazement. Thank you for bringing these memories back to me.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Going to the movies was such a good time for many of us when we were younger. It is very pleasant to look back on these good times. Thanks for taking the time to read m y blog and your comment.

  17. What a fun read! Movies have created memorable family moments for me too!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks I am glad you liked it. However since I just learned that you are related to Walt Disney, I wonder if your part of the family bear some responsibility for Old Yellers fate? 🙂

      • Oh that one always gets me! Tear Jerker! Mr. D. didn’t even know we existed….lol. Sure wish my mom knew that he was a distant, very distant cousin. She would have been tickled by that one.

  18. My first trip to the movies was Grizzly Adams, with my brother and great-grandma. I think my mom was looking for a place to park us while she shopped! I’ll never forget how amazing it was to see anything on that huge screen. I won’t forget the movie itself, either. Awesome!

    • chmjr2 says:

      What great memories the movies have given many of us. From not only the picture but with the people we went with and many times the theater itself.

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