Thursday, October 18, 2007

Saturday Matinee

As a child, in Juneau, a highlight of the week was the Saturday matinee. There were two theaters in town, both very old. One of them was the Twentieth Century Theater, and it was located on Front Street, near Percy's. Percy's, at that time, was a drug store and soda fountain, and was the favorite hang-out for the teen crowd. The other theater was around the corner and up the hill a block, across from the Elk's Club on Franklin Street.

A ticket to the Saturday matinee cost 25 cents. In addition, I usually bought popcorn, Jujubees, and a bottle of Card's Pop - all for a second quarter. Card's Pop was made locally and bottled in recycled beer bottles. With my snacks in hand, I would part the heavy maroon velvet curtain that hung between the lobby and the dimly-lit theater, stand there for a moment to let my eyes adjust, and then find a group of friends to sit with. That was never a problem, because the matinee was the place to be, for the pre-teen crowd, on a Saturday afternoon.

One of the theaters had an orchestra pit, and a large organ sat there. Sometimes Alan M., the older brother of a boy in my class, would play the organ before the start of the movie. Then came the drawing; one child was chosen to come and draw a slip of paper out of a box. On the slips of paper were written the months of the year. If our birthday-month was selected we won a prize - usually a free pass to the movie, or maybe a box of popcorn. Occasionally the Capitol Theater conducted major contests. The one I especially remember was the Lynden egg carton contest. The person who brought in the most Lynden egg cartons on a particular Saturday won a bicycle! I so wanted to win that prize. And since my dad was a baker, I thought I had it "in the bag," so to speak. Dad saved all his cartons for me, and on award-Saturday I stood in line on the sidewalk, outside the ticket booth, with my 78 cartons all tied together with twine. But I underestimated the ambition of my peers. There were several boys who came in with well over 100 cartons. I suppose they went door to door; or maybe they had the advantage of having large families. Whatever the reason, I was trounced in the Lynden egg carton contest, and had to walk home after the movie, instead of riding a new bike.

After the organ music and the prizes, the lights went down, and a hush came over the auditorium - not so much because of our wonderful theater manners, but because of the uniformed ushers (usually 15 or 16 years old), who roamed the aisles with a flashlight and the coveted authority to expel anyone who was disorderly.

And finally the screen came alive. First was a newsreel, which none of us were interested in. Next, however, came that week's episode of a serial movie - Zorro (my favorite), Flash Gordon, Red Ryder, or Tarzan, to name a few. The serials were most effective at bringing us back, week after week without fail. Missing an episode was unthinkable! Following the serial came a cartoon or two, previews of coming attractions, and, finally, the feature film.

I remember, on the Saturday before Christmas, at the conclusion of the feature film, being lined up and marched out the doors of the Capitol Theater, across Franklin Street, to the Elk's Club. There we waited our turn to receive a Christmas stocking, made of netting, and full of candy, nuts and fruit, from Santa Claus, who sat in a leather chair inside the Elk's Club.

The Saturday matinee was so much more than just "going to the movies." We usually didn't know or care what movie we were coming to see. But it was the social hub of the '50s and '60s for the pre-teens of Juneau.

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