Living with Lardie: For A Quarter
by Dick Lardie
Travel back with me if you will to a place where one quarter bought an entire afternoon of fun.
Was there any better time when we were young than Saturday afternoon? We would all trudge off to the local movie house for the best day a person could have. It started for me at about age 9 and went to about age 15.
The early years, 9 till about 12, were exciting and new. I was allowed to go with my friends alone and spend the whole day without adult supervision (Unless you count the teenage ushers as adults, and I never counted them).
Ten cents to get in, ten cents for popcorn and a nickel for candy were the best bargains around. The locations were endless. The Uptown, Doan, Yale, Jewel, Commodore, Ezella, Éclair, Fairmount, Granada, Madison, Euclid, Riverside, Detroit, Beachcliff, Hilliard Square, Homestead, Capital, Yorktown, Euclid, Lake , Shore, LaSalle. I won’t mention all the downtown houses because most of us did not go down there till we were older.
Off you went into the show. Always a double feature of mostly “B” movies, but it would include a cartoon; Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig, if you were lucky, maybe Tom and Jerry or Woody Woodpecker, but hopefully not Merrie Melodies.
This was before television and Saturday morning cartoons. I would always try to stay through the double feature and watch the cartoons a second time. After the cartoon came the News Reel.
It was seven or eight minutes of News with film. This was fascinating as we only had radio news. Actual moving pictures with the news. What a concept. I told my friend Tony that News with film would never catch on because people just wanted to hear the news, not watch it. They got the adults to come every Wednesday night by giving away dishes and glasses. These were presented with music and exciting voices by companies like Movie Tone News and March of Time. Most of the kids were not interested in the news reels. We were anxious for the serial to start.
These were continuing stories shown each week designed to make sure you went every week. At the end of the film our hero would be in a predicament that he or she could not survive. That meant you had to come back next week to see how they managed to get them out of hot water.
We all envied these heroes, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Dick Tracy, Batman and Robin, Superman, Zorro, Captain Marvel, The Lone Ranger, The Phantom, Brenda Starr, Terry and the Pirates, The Green Hornet, Tarzan, The Shadow, Captain Midnight. This list is not complete but you get the idea; weekly thrills for a 10 year old to become the hero, as he lost himself in the film, sword fighting all the way home, slaying the villains and saving the pretty maiden. All of this for a quarter and the movie hadn’t started yet.
The actors and actresses were not the kind that won awards but they were our stars. Glen Ford, Dan Dureya, Jeff Chandler, Anne Baxter, Ester Williams, Boris Karloff, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bela Lugosi, John Agar, Audey Murphy, John Carradine, Barbara Steele, Bruce Dern, Michael Rennie, Richard Carlson, Randolph Scott, Vincent Price, James Whitmore, and again the list goes on.
The memorable movies for me at that age were the beginning of science fiction and of course horror movies. Some of my scariest movies to walk home from were Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Mole People, The Invisible Man, and The Werewolf.
Three movies stick out for me as the most memorable as a ten year old. The first was “War of the Worlds’ with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. The robots from Mars could not be stopped. They tried guns, gasoline, electricity, water, bombs and rockets. Nothing worked until God intervened and killed them with our germs. Whew, that was close.
The second movie that scared me was the movie “Them”. We had all heard about the A bomb tests and radioactivity was a scary proposition. The movie was about some ant colony that got radiated and grew to enormous proportions. The colony hatched some new queens that flew off and settled in the sewers of Los Angeles. It featured Edmund Gwenn (Santa from miracle on 34th street) as a scientist who is trying to explain the problem of giant ants. It has an eerie sound when the ants are about to appear. It was almost as scary as the scream in “Psycho”. The army was called in and they finally saved us, but the movie ended with a warning about the atomic age. Large ants invaded my dreams for many years after that.
My final movie from that era was “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. Wow, a flying saucer lands on the ground in Washington and an alien exits the saucer saying he comes in peace. Of course we shoot him and a robot named Gort comes out of the ship shooting people and weapons with a ray from his head. The alien, played wonderfully by Michael Rennie, tries to save the earth from all our wars but is injured in another attack. The female hero, played by Patricia Neal, has to get the robot to save the hero and almost gets fried because she forgets the phrase she has to say to the robot.
I am 74 years old and still know what to say to that robot if ever I run into him. “Gort, Klaatu Berada Nikto”. I will save the planet if called upon.
Getting older changed the movies, as we moved into Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, and then all the teen movies, followed by the rock and roll era movies. After that came Blackboard jungle, James Dean, Marlon Brando etc. Television soon took us away and the movies closed one by one.
Some of the old movie houses are slowly being saved. Let’s take our grandkids to the renovated theatres and tell them how we used to spend our Saturdays. Then tell them it only cost a quarter.