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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

It’s important to point out my mom was very protective. She rarely let me go with friends to explore the woods nearby that surrounded our housing subdivision. She always wanted to know where I was going – and how long I’d be gone.

So it amazes me to this day that Mom regularly allowed me with my friends to walk from our home in Somerset, N.J., down Hamilton Street and into New Brunswick – a trek of about two miles or so – to go to the movies.

Today, with the rise in urban and suburban violence, child abductions and other acts of mayhem, such a thing would be unthinkable. Parents allowing their adolescent children to walk that far unsupervised would be considered irresponsible. Child neglect charges might even be forthcoming.

But the late 1950s and early ‘60s were different. We didn’t have “Amber Alerts” then. No need. And even my ever-vigilant, keep-son-tied-to-apron-strings mom never feared I wouldn’t return home in one piece. “Enjoy the movie, Robert. Don’t be late for supper.”

Many lazy, crazy days in summer, my friends and I pocketed money our parents provided and headed for “downtown” and either the RKO Rivoli, Albany or State theaters, owned the RKO Pictures film production and distribution company. There was one other theater, the Strand, but it showed movies we weren’t allowed to see. (Once on the Strand’s marquee I saw a couple of photos from films that were showing. Today, people probably wouldn’t blink, but those images seemed very racy then.)

At the acceptable theaters, I and my buddies would buy our tickets and enter, eager to view the latest James Bond film, a shoot-em-up western, a war movie like “Tora, Tora, Tora,” or action flicks like “Jason and the Argonauts,” “Hercules” or “Ben-Hur.” Back then showings began with a cartoon or short feature, and often we got to see not one movie but two, back-to-back. All for one price.

Popcorn was a must. Often a box of candy too, like Raisinets or Good ‘n Plenty. (On TV, Jon Hall, the actor that portrayed “Ramar of the Jungle,” made us yearn for Good ‘n Plenty, licorice with a candy coating.) And we couldn’t eat all that stuff without a Coke chaser. Today a movie ticket and such cinematic delicacies can cost well over $20. As I recall, we got the movies, snacks and drink for two or three bucks, tops.

Of course, another difference at that time was we had no “multiplex” cinemas. One theater, one screen, one main attraction. If you wanted to watch a different movie, you went to another theater. But we got to see a cartoon and a double feature too, so that was more than enough.

Sometimes we’d walk straight home after the movie, but other times we’d stroll around the retail district of New Brunswick, stopping in the F.W. Woolworth or J.J. Newberry department stores. We called them “five and 10” or “5 and dime” stores because you actually could buy some things that cost only a nickel or a dime.

The stores had soda fountains where you could get a milkshake or cherry Coke, along with a hamburger and French fries. The shakes weren’t thick, no spoon necessary, but yummy. The only times I remember eating at the soda fountains, however, were with my mom and sister. After-movie visits were just to pass time, not to further gorge ourselves! I guess the walks home worked off calories we consumed during the films.

And just think: We had no cell phones back then. So Mom couldn’t call to check up on us. There were pay phones, but we never had any crises so we just enjoyed our hours of independence. Maybe Mom did, too.

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