Saturday movies & a new school

Over the period of five years my family stayed on the East coast, Kathleen and I initially developed a friendship of sorts.  It wasn’t a boy/girl relationship at first, but, simply, a friend/friend.  Once I discovered a) how she looked in a bikini and b) erections, and what they were for, my relation changed into one with a bit more respect to it.  I watched her mature into a young lady and took note of the various ways to act around her.  My biggest help was movies.  By now I had given up corny westerns and had graduated to movies like “Roman Holiday” with the beautiful Audrey Hepburn and “Picnic” with Kim Novak.  (In later years, the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” cat scene would still bring tears to my eyes.)  I paid attention to how the male stars related to their female counterparts.  I wanted to be just like Gregory Peck or Cary Grant; suave, dapper, and always with the right word or phrase at the ready.

But at first, she and I would go, along with other neighborhood kids, to the Saturday movies in a nearby town.  Said trips would last all day from about nine in the morning to around three or four in the afternoon.  I have to think, in retrospect, that our parents used this time as a day of relaxation without having us kids underfoot; possibly fortified with a barrel of booze.

The theatre would be surrounded by hordes of kids with their ticket and candy money clenched in their hands.  A ticket would be only twenty-five cents which left a whole quarter left for various candies and/or popcorn.  You DO remember fifty-cent pieces, don’t you?  Most candy was a nickel and popcorn (the big one) was ten cents.  My favorite was to buy a roll of Necco wafers and dump them into a large bag of popcorn.  That way, they were nice and soft from the heat and wouldn’t chip your teeth. Another added treat was to buy a box of Dots (licorice) and add them to the mix.

Movie events generally started with a couple hundred cartoons – Droopy, Porky Pig, Bugs, Daffy, and the like.  Then followed the various serials that were popular at the time: such as Green Hornet, Lash Larue, Cowboy Bob, Gene Autrey, and Hopalong Cassidy.  If the main feature wasn’t long enough there might be several more cartoons preceding it.  Most main features, in that day, were either horror or science fiction (with an occasional western thrown in).  I remember such wonderful films as “The Brain Eaters”, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, “House of Blood”, and “Them” although my absolute favorite was “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.  Most of us kids would show a lot of bravado in the face of numbing fright by eating all their popcorn in handfuls and putting the bag over their head.  It must have quite a sight seeing all those popcorn bags bobbing up and down in their seats.  My mother couldn’t quite figure out why I sometimes returned home with hulls clinging to my hair. I told her that kids near me had a popcorn fight.

All good things must come to an end though and we filed orderly out of the theatre (in a pig’s eye) to find our parent’s car.  Once loaded, off home we went.

A word here on the trauma of entering a new school and trying to fit into the peer networks that have formed long before you arrived.  While still in grade school, things weren’t too bad because you stayed in one classroom all day (really boring, believe me).  But, once you graduated and moved into Junior High things got a lot more complicated.

First, and foremost, you were assigned a locker.  Said locker was usually several time zones away from where you classes were, and most had a tricky combination lock that took many attempts to trip.  Great fun was heaped on the new guys by dumping something (usually ketchup stolen from the cafeteria) into the ventilation slots in the locker.  If this wasn’t enough, those same fun guys would then clamp an extra lock on the hasp.  By the time you hunted up the custodian (back then they were janitors) the offending lock would be mysteriously missing – making you look like an idiot.

Next would be the light hazing offered by the usual group of rowdy boys who never managed to get caught.  “Kick Me” signs were popular, as was the angling blow in a busy hall that dropped your entire stock of books to the floor with a loud crash.  Backpacks hadn’t been invented back then so you had to carry a stack of books under your arm.  Some of the more nerdy kids (usually boys, but some girls too) carried a briefcase.  These were looked upon with derision as ‘sissy’ and even more demeaning terms.  Not realizing that these cases were ideal for carrying books, their detractors would guffaw and hoot at anyone carrying one.

Lunchtime was always a great time for social mixing.  All the members of one group would sit with their peers as would the members of each and every other group.  By mixing, I mean only with your group.  Once in a while an emissary would be sent from one group to another to offer a treaty of some sort.  If the emissary survived the mission they might eventually become part of both groups.  This happened several times to my recollection.

It was at lunchtime that Kathleen and I finally decided that we liked each other in a different manner.  I hadn’t come right out and said so – that would have been against the code of the male animal – but, nevertheless we boys were now expected to show something towards our opposite sex other than taunts, barbs, hair pulling and rolling in the mud wrestling matches.  They, on the other hand, appeared to be a bit more rounded now.  How had that escaped me since last year?  She had developed a chest, but hid it alluringly behind lacy blouses and loose sweaters.  She had also swelled out a bit from the hips and looked very good both coming and going in a tight skirt.

Why did I look away suddenly when she caught me looking at her?  What in the world was coming over me?  Why was I so damn clumsy?  Did love actually hit me?  Why am I asking you?

All of our parents worried when huge summer storms began showing up on the horizon.  We kids, on the other hand, eagerly awaited them.  This was mostly because we got to run around in the yard in bathing suits in the rain.  Distant rumblings and towering cumulonimbus clouds building up in the sky brought every one of us home and into our swim suits to await the first drops of rain.

Once the storm hit, we would all stream out into the yards and streets yelling, screaming, and dancing around like idiots.  We were not fearful of lightning strikes, or other odd occurrences, but, instead intent on building dams, scratching ditches, and floating plastic ship models down those ditches.

In the middle of one particular storm, we noticed that somebody was throwing ice cubes at us.  They would come crashing down and slam into the pavement with a huge SPLAT.  It wasn’t until on of my buddies got hit on the head and knocked cold that we realized that this was a Very Serious Thing.  We all scattered to the nearest porches as the hail storm built up.  Soon, huge piles of hailstones the size of baseballs were flowing down our streams and gutters.  The newspaper the next day said that one person had even been killed by a ball of ice that was softball-sized.  My mom was pretty upset that her car had seven huge dents in it from the hail.  This storm dampened (no pun intended) out enthusiasm for running out into storms – for about one storm.

One spring day we were playing out in the yard and we heard a huge ‘whoom’ followed by a big ball of smoke and fire about four of five blocks away.  “Quick, Robin – to the Batmobile!”

We pedaled furiously down the street seeking the source of what had become now a large column of black smoke.  When we rounded the final curve there was a wall of fire trucks and police vehicles blocking further access.  We didn’t want to get any closer because we could see the tail of a plane sticking out of the remains of a house.

A huge crowd had gathered and, once we asked around, we were told that a B-24 from the base had crashed into the house.  It sure looked the case now as most of us could identify the twin tail as it went up in flames.  As we worked our way around the bystanders, we could then see pieces of wing, a disconnected engine sitting partially through a neighboring roof, and another one burning in the street.

We must have stood there for hours watching firefighters trying to quench that blaze until four huge foaming trucks from the base arrived and shot retardant all over it.  Kids being kids, we were now not interested so we began drifting away.

Speaking of aircraft, how could I have possibly failed to mention my first aircraft love: the B-36?  When my dad was stationed up in Alaska, they flew all the time out of Ladd Air Force Base – and almost directly overhead.  When a flight of those wonderful birds began warming up I would run outside into the yard and await their takeoff runs.  First, you would hear a deep thrumming as those six trailing-edge-mounted propellers began to grab air.  The bass note would begin to climb the scale as the bird began to move down the runway.  By the time it was overhead, the noise had built into a ear-splitting, glorious roar.  If I was lucky, they would also cut in the four jet engines and pitched high above the propeller noise would be the shriek of those engines at max power.

Ladd was a SAC (Strategic Air Command) base and had a whole wing of B-36’s based there.  Those huge planes were longer by two thirds than even the B-29.  Their wingspan and tail height were even larger than the Soviet Antonov AN-22 and, until the Boeing 747 and the Lockheed C-5 appeared, no aircraft could lift a heavier payload.  Their in-flight profile was unmistakable – a long nose pushing out in front of those wide wings gave it the nickname of “Wild Goose” around the base.

If you really want to capture some stunning screen shots suitable for wallpaper on your desktop find a copy of ‘Strategic Air Command’ with Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson.  Some of the aerial shots are really breathtaking.



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