Skytrain to the movies

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.


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My dread of Halloween

I write mystery books.  Also on occasion I write short-stories.  For no particular reason these often are about my childhood in Oklahoma in the 1950s.  You probably grew up in a different time and place, but I hope you find these little odes to the past interesting, or funny, or maybe even a little sad.

This is a true short, short story about Halloween.

In small town America in the 1950s Halloween night found every kid within miles walking in the neighborhood seeking those wonderful treats.  There were no trailing parents or watchful cars standing by to rescue little Johnny, because no one perceived a need for such caution.  It was a time when people had a sense of belonging that created a, no doubt, false sense of security.

On one memorable Halloween I had spent hours out with my group of buddies canvasing our immediate neighborhood and several blocks over in both directions.  At many of the houses the adults knew some of us and greeted us warmly.  There were kids everywhere going door to door.  Now, to be fair, there were a couple of houses we stayed away from.  One was occupied by an incredibly old man who glared at kids if they got close to his domain.  The kid rumor was that he was an escaped convict hiding in our neighborhood.  The legend was that he had been convicted of murdering his own children.  The chance of that tale being true was exactly zero; but every kid knew to stay clear of his un-kept house.

On this one night I had stayed out longer than usual, because I was also collecting Halloween goodies for my friend Bill who was sick.  He begged me to take his bag and get double treats—it was a pitiful scene with this huge kid begging me to get him candy while he coughed all over me; condemning me to catching some dreaded disease. 

My last lap was one street over from mine.  It was the rich people’s street in the neighborhood.  I had waited until the final push of the night to make the biggest haul.  Some of the houses had turned out their lights, but most had not.  There was an occasional grumble about me collecting two bags but most were still pleasant and generous with the goodies.

At the end of the rich people’s block I was loaded down.  It was about the maximum I could carry and I felt both joy and a self-important sense of accomplishment.  I couldn’t wait to get to Bill’s house and give him his bulging bag.  Bill was in kid’s terms, the fat kid.  He ate everything and in huge quantities.  He was going to be delirious.

It was late, even for Halloween, and I was now alone on my last leg.  First stop would be Bill’s and then finally home where I could explore my huge bag of sugary joy.

I heard the car before I saw it.  It had stopped hard just behind me.  When I turned I saw a car full of teenagers.  Now if you’re a pre-teen kid in safe, small town America there was one great fear in your world.  Teenage boys.  Often you knew them; maybe even friends of your older brother.  But you had seen their group behavior before.  Bullying, head rubbing, taunting; they were the most feared menace in your protected world.

It was the apocalypse; four teenagers on Halloween night charging a ten-year-old kid with two huge bags of candy.  In a flash I was on the ground with pain in my hand and elbow without any candy.  The old Ford hauled ass down the street.  I thought I could hear them laughing.

I stayed still for a while.  Then without warning I started to cry.  Curled up in a ball on a very dark Halloween night in the middle of a stranger’s yard, all alone, I bawled.  Just like a baby.  All of that work, hours and hours of trick or treating; gone in a matter of seconds.  Soon I stopped crying and almost immediately became angry.  More angry than I ever remember being before.  I stood in the middle of the night and shouted “Shit,” as loud as my little body could muster.  I knew that was wrong, but I had had it with being bullied and stomped on by those stupid teenage hoodlums.

I made it to Bill’s and gave him the bad news.  He was obviously very sad.  He suggested I still had time to go back and get some goodies.  I just looked at him like his head had exploded.  I said good-night and went home.

Once home I told my parents the story.  My dad was furious.  He debated about calling the cops or getting in his old car and finding the creeps.  My mother soothed him and told him it was bad but it would be best just to forget it.  He mumbled something and went outside to smoke his foul smelling cigar.

My mother consoled me, telling me those boys did not mean to hurt me, they were just being teenage boys.  That seemed like a lame excuse to me.  She hugged me and I cried again.  She tucked me in and read one of my favorite books.  I dreamed of the day when I would be a teenage boy and how I would treat everyone so nice and wouldn’t tease or torment little ten-year old kids.

From that time on I dreaded Halloween.  When I became a teenager, I definitely had my typical teenage boy moments, but I never tormented little kids and usually stayed home on Halloween.


Another holiday short story.

Click to go to my web site where you can download this short story

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