Originally created 07/29/01

Movies still draw crowd in summer

All jobs are easy to the person who doesn't have to do them.

- Holt's Law

Summer movies remain a seasonal staple.

Children out of school still flock to cool, darkened auditoriums.

They still eat popcorn.

Why, they even watch Planet of the Apes.

I did.

I liked the summer movie experience.

I liked it so much I once worked as a movie usher for a summer job.

It wasn't one of the modern multiscreen operations, but a real, old-fashioned theater down a one-way street off the town square.

My job was simple.

I stood in the outside lobby as people came in, smile formally and then spend most the time picking up dropped popcorn.

I wore a thin, red vest I was not allowed to take home.

I was also required to wear a white shirt, a dark tie and black pants.

Sometimes I would walk up and down the aisles during the feature presentation to discourage kissing in the dark (although I discovered this was not nearly as prevalent as I had been led to believe.)

Mostly, I told teen-agers to keep their feet off the seats in front of them.

Officially, I got a discount on popcorn and soft drinks. Unofficially, the girls behind the refreshment counter gave them to me for free.

That was one of the benefits of working at the movie theater. Another was seeing all the movies.

I didn't really get to sit down. That was not allowed while wearing the red vest.

There was one other perk, an odd one.

Every Tuesday night, I had to haul the stepladder from a storage room and change the marquee.

The letters were old and black and made of a metal similar to iron, though probably older.

Sometimes I'd run out.

That's when I learned how to doctor a "B" with masking tape and make it a "P."

Or, I would take some black electrical tape to make "F" into an "E."

One night I got another idea.

We were showing Gone With The Wind, always a popular choice.

It was when I was putting up the words that it dawned on me that no one would notice if I substituted my name ... just briefly ... for Clark Gable's.

Quickly, I put it up there in the role of Rhett Butler, scurried down the ladder and admired my handiwork on the quiet street.

Then I went back up and made things right. During the next few weeks, I began taking the names of my friends and starring them in variety of movie roles.

When finished with my altered casting, I would slide an Instamatic camera from my pocket and take a picture of my handiwork before anyone noticed.

Then I would put the right names up.

Soon my friends began getting photos in the mail.

They say stars are born.

But sometimes, you know, they're made.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344, or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.


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