Traverse City Record-Eagle


July 18, 2011

Lifelines: Real life has film quality

The Traverse City Film Festival is coming back to town next week. Let's celebrate with three folk poems about early movie venues, theaters and promotional gimmicks in the 1930's.

Another summer homecoming of a different sort occurred 68 years ago. In early January, my column ended with a young bride, Betty Bowden, heartbroken as her lonesome husband sailed off to war. (Read Terry's January colum here.) Phil ended up serving under Patton in North Africa.

Two years later, on a warm, starry July night, Phil returned. The last poem continues their story, and lights up an Oscar quality film sequence in the theater of my imagination.

Floyd Webster

I always liked the outdoor free shows

in Kingsley

on Saturday nights.


On the side of the building

that's now the auto parts store,

you can see a white square.

That was the movie screen.


So everybody could sit down,

they put posts in the ground

every few feet,

and cut them off.

Then they spiked wide boards

to those posts.


They built a bandstand below

the white square.

Kids in the high school band

would play before the movies.


Next morning I'd go there

and look underneath the boards.

Ooh, there was a quarter.

There was a dime.

There was a nickel.

Ooh, a dollar all crumpled up.


Once I made more money

on Sunday morning

than dad made all week

at the tater house.


Don Bellinger

The early part of my life

in Charlevoix

was during the Great Depression.

A nickel was a nickel,

and a dime was a dime.

For a penny we could buy

a lot of candy.


Saturday matinee movies cost ten cents,

and were westerns

or adventure serials.

Each week was a different chapter.


There was a brand of bread

called Wonder Bread.

If you saved ten wrappers

from Wonder Bread loaves,

you could take them to the theater

and get a free ticket.

So kids ate lots of Wonder Bread.

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