Back in the 1960s, the two movie theatres in Virginia offered kids something to do on Saturday mornings.  The practice disappeared long ago, but I am glad it was there to enjoy.


The theatres offered a kids’ movie festival.  For three dollars and fifty cents, kids could take in a movie ten Saturday mornings in a row.  (The price went up to five dollars once – Dad almost didn’t let me go.)   The tickets came printed on yellow cardstock, the top portion presenting an ad for the Granada and the Maco theatres and the lower portion perforated into 10 tickets, each with a date, time, movie title, and theatre for the day.  Tear off the bottom ticket, go to the theatre listed on the right day, and enjoy a fun movie with your friends.


Though not first run movies, horror movies or westerns, these movies were fine for us.  The Three Stooges movies taught say “nyuk nyuk nyuk” with slapstick accuracy. Jerry Lewis’ voice shouting “Hey LAAAADDDYY” was useful to imitate.   “Atta Boy, Luther!” came from the nervous antics of Don Knotts in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”.  Animal adventures like “The Littlest Hobo”, a runaway German Shepherd, were typical. Stories like Shirley Temple’s “Heidi” appeared, but you could bet those audiences would be female.  Occasionally, high class movies would show up.   “Spencer’s Mountain” was shown, a precursor to TV’s “The Waltons”.  Lesser known Disney movies were scheduled, including literary versions of “Swiss Family Robinson” or the thrilling “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with its giant squids, or the lesser known “Merlin Jones” series with TommyKirk.  In science fiction,  “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”, frightened me with Martian space ships and death rays.


Though about the same size, the Granada and the Maco were like two different cars: the Maco as a Cadillac and the Granada a Chevy.  The classier, art deco Maco featured neon-backlit Indian statues in the theatre itself.  It had an air of class and style that reflected back to the golden era of movies.  The seats were a cushier, the restrooms better appointed, and the chrome handles shinier than in the Granada.  That pretty much made the Granada a bit less grand; but certainly just as able.  Both were owned by the Cohn family.  (Thanks to Mary Jo Ralston for that specific detail….)


Once at the theatre, our adventure began.  Entering through the heavy silver-handled doors, we bypassed the lady in the window, handed the ticket to the sober usher at the door, and then made a rush to the concession area.  We teemed with just enough cash for a treat.  Pop and popcorn were customary, but there was something special about those candies you could only get at the movies like Junior Mints, Black Crows, or Dots. 


Carrying more than enough sugar for an entire month, through the swinging doors into the theatre we’d go, debating the virtues of sitting front, back, left, right or center.  Eventually, we’d settle in.


As we entered the actual theatre, curtains covered the screen…. yes, curtains.  In at least one of the two theatres, probably the Maco, curtains were lighted from beneath by a myriad of spotlights, panning back and forth across the thick drapes with multi-colored lights, creating a very nice Hollywood effect. 


As scheduled, or maybe a hair late, the auditorium darkened completely, the colored lights faded, the curtains would part, and the affair would begin.  We tolerated the concession ads, ‘ooh-ed’ at coming attractions, then a short or two – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck or a live action short with the Stooges or Laurel and Hardy –  the feature movie of the day was greeted with whoops of joy and a touch of applause.. We’d laugh at the appropriate times, gasp when moved to do so.  For a crowd of kids, behavior was quite good, except for a few pieces of candy chucked at the bad guy on the screen.  It was a generally receptive group, glad to have a Saturday morning like this, swimming in the magic of the theatre. 


“THE END” appeared on the screen and the lights came up.  We left chatting about the movie, and maybe a little better for it, agreeing it was over much too quickly.  If there was a better way to spend such time, we were hard pressed to name it.


We could hardly wait for the next Saturday.