Midwest City was America’s premier post-war planned community. An ultra-modern shopping mall was centerpiece to lovely, winding neighborhoods, well placed schools, and beautiful parks. Included in this design was the streamlined style Skytrain Theatre which opened by December 1944. It was closed in 1980.
Been watching a lot of television lately. Mostly bad stuff, but some good mixed in. My first experience with entertainment was the Skytrain Theatre—home of the Saturday triple feature. That experience was a combination of bad and good. The trolling manager with the flashlight looking for noisy children and smooching teens. Somehow the image of this frightening woman was the spitting (not allowed) image of the bad witch in the Wizard of Oz. Both terrified me.
My father worked on weekends at a shoe store in downtown Midwest City just around the corner from the Skytrain. On many of those weekends he would take me with him and deposit me in the Skytrain. No doubt this was a gift to my 1950s working mother. I was a regular on Saturday along with a house full of other kids whose parents identified the quarter admission as an amazingly cheap babysitting service.
On a few occasions during the week my older brother would take me (no doubt he was bribed or threatened by dad) to the movies at the Skytrain which was within walking distance of our small house. This never turned out well, and still is a source of bad dreams. My brother and his hoodlum buddies thought it was hilarious that I was terrified by “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” for them it was a source of great entertainment to continue the horror as we walked home in the dark. Kid’s fear is a long lasting source of deep psychological problems.
Another humiliating experience was when the evil witch in Wizard of Oz first showed up and tossed fire balls at Dorothy—I was gone; to the lobby. My brother tried to get me to go back into the theatre with a promise of that was the only “bad” part. I didn’t believe him; based on lots of brotherly experiences. Much, much later I saw the movie and wondered why it spooked me so much; but in my little kid brain that was one bad witch, who I wanted nothing to do with.
Most of the movies showing at the Skytrain in the 50s were not very scary, or for that matter very anything. There seemed to always be a feature of Francis the Talking Mule (have no idea how many of these they made, but it had to be a lot), Abbott and Costello chasing ghosts and mummies (and no it was not scary), and thousands of westerns.
Of course some of the most remembered or hated movies of the time were horror, sci-fi/space creatures, and comedies featuring the dumbest people on the planet. Kids like to watch dumb adults. Ma and Pa Kettle seemed to have a new movie every month—probably didn’t take a whole lot of time to make those gems. I watched them all. As I got older very few scared me the way the Wizard of Oz and the Creature from the Black Lagoon did—I had matured.
The movie ticket price break for kids was at 11. One price for a kid –a quarter; and a monster price for a young adult 12 to 16—seventy-five cents. One Saturday morning I walked around the corner from the shoe store to the Skytrain and plopped down my quarter. The lady starred at me and demanded in a threatening voice, “how old are you kid?” I stammered that I was eleven. She eyed me and my unusual height and demanded a king’s ransom of 75 cents.
I knew she was wrong, but she had an expression that seemed to suggest she had caught some international crime kingpin. I had some money for treats and a little hidden stash; so rather than argue; I forked over the extra 50 cents. Things changed after that, and I seldom went to the movie. Accused of being a liar changed my feelings about the Skytrain.
No more Saturday mornings at the Skytrain full of kids; loud and unruly, but always under the watchful eye of the sister of the evil witch from OZ with her trusty flashlight. I didn’t miss her at all. I did miss the movies; even the bad ones.