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January 25, 2014

Looking Back: Fond memories of movie nights in suburban Jersey

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The Daily Star

---- — Not too long ago, we were shopping on Southside when I glanced up at the movie marquee. They were showing 10 movies at the same time. Imagine that. For back in my youth, the theaters showed perhaps a double feature along with a few shorts — but 10 all in the same place?

How times have changed since “yesteryear” when we teenagers went to the movies. It was in the 1940s … and a lot less dough-ray-me along with the student ticket. I lived in suburbia New Jersey. The shops and stores lined up on the main drag, side-by-side, along with two multi-level department stores. We even had a branch of the famous Macy’s called Bambergers. (Amazing what I can recall.) 

The four movie theaters were sandwiched in between the shops with brightly colored marquees flashing to advertise the latest entertainment.

Back then, a weekly movie was a real treat. There was no TV, so it was either on a Friday night or a Saturday that you would find a group of us teenagers downtown at one of those four theaters. We usually attended the Strand, since it seemed to be “higher class” and in a better section of the Main Street. The names of all the movies were always advertised early in the week in our local newspaper so we could make our plans on where to attend.

A few of us would meet and gather up in the balcony with the rest of our peers. There was the double feature, a cartoon and always the showing of the news with a large crowing rooster in black and white to announce that, and then a pair of binoculars would zero in on us with “The Eyes and Ears of the World” full screen.

As we would settle down, changing the seating arrangement ever so often, we visited and chatted as we ate buttered popcorn. Too much talking called for the usher to appear with flashlight and a rebuke.

The first showing was over about 10 p.m. and if we were late and missed the first part then we could stay for part of the second showing. That was convenient, and some of the guys would stay for the whole shebang.

After the movie, it was time to chow down at the local hamburger joint. There were tables with benches and small jukeboxes against each partition in between every booth. We fed in our nickel and pushed the button for the tune we wanted. That signaled the large bright-colored automated major unit that sat in the back of the restaurant to select the record from its enclosed stack to play. Everyone seemed to have a nickel and so sometimes we would have a long wait to hear our own selections.

Certain friends would group with their certain friends. I guess you could call them “cliques.” 

Looking back, I can relate how youth can be very prejudice even back in early life.

A gal I was friendly with was of a different faith than the rest of us. (Which my parents often reminded me of and of which I ignored.) A problem came up when we met for a Friday night movie. We had to wait until midnight so the friend could have her hamburger. (Of course that’s all changed now … no more meatless Fridays.)

But the problem was that when it was my parents' turn to taxi us, the after midnight phone call was not appreciated. No problem. We moved our movie date to Saturday instead and, of course, our parents’ curfew was met.

At that time I often wondered why my parents would harp on the fact that one of my friends was different in that respect or even to mention where she lived verses where we did.

Prejudices are ugly and should be put aside. Every individual has God-given freedom of choice and we should respect that. Have the times changed regarding that? Now I can recall what is said at Romans 2:11 and James 3:17 … all with admonition and for our benefit.

Elaine W. Kniskern is an 81-year-old resident of Schenevus and a grandmother of five. She can reached at elaine-kniskern@stny.rr.com. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www. thedailystar.com/seniorscene.