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Friday, May 6, 2016

Backroads : Movies Were Marvelous

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

(Editor's note: Valued Chronicle Times correspondent Ron Flewelling died last week at age 64, a few days after submitting this "Backroads" column. His family agrees that publishing Ron's final column would be a fitting tribute to his many years of entertaining our readers.)

Okay, I admit it...

I am an addict of the Silver Screen...

For years I have been a movie buff...a little stroll that has carried me from "B" movies at the Ritz Theater in Correctionville and blockbusters at Sioux City's Orpheum Theater to reruns of "Casablanca" and "Citizen Kane" on cable.

I've stormed beaches with the Duke, faced down the bad guys with Roy, stomped the bejeebers out of Peter Lorre with Bogey and wept unashamedly at the climax of "Old Yeller."

Heck, I've even tapped danced across the floor in sync with Bojangles Robinson, Fred Astaire or any number of the hoofers of fame on the silver screen .

Character actors, the likes of Walter Brennan, Jack Elam, L. Q. Jones, Dub Taylor and Harry Carey Jr., are as familiar as the faces adorning my family tree...a little asset that comes in handy when it comes to playing "Trivial Pursuit..Silver Screen Edition."

Although it has its drawbacks, there is one advantage to being an official Observer of the Human Experience and that is the opportunity it provides to wax nostalgic from time to time.

I realize that these hi-tech times we are living in have left many of you slightly jaded...as far as movies are concerned.

Most of you have grown up with a montage of multiplex theaters at the mall and the availability of movies at the click of the remote control hooked up to your mega-channel cable set-up.



But...hey, sorry about that...but you turkeys missed out on the good old days...

I grew up in the southern end of the county back in the 50's...In the early part of that decade there wasn't even television (gasp) to keep us entertained...and unlike you folks who lived in the big metropolises (or is it "metropoli?") like Cherokee, Correctionville or Marcus, we did not have a movie theater.

In other words, going to a real movie was a treat...one to be appreciated and savored for a long, long time.

Early on, these opportunities, which generally occurred at family reunions or holiday get-togethers, usually entailed something like...

"Good God! Send these brats off to a movie so we can hear ourselves think!"

With just a bit of smugness, I will say that I was luckier than a lot of the kids my age around home...My grandparents lived in Sioux City...the home, at the time, of five, (count them,) five movie theaters...the "Hollywood, the "Orpheum," the "Capitol," the "Princess" and the "Iowa."

A typical afternoon at any one of these theaters included a couple of cartoons, a short feature or two (like the "Three Stooges"), a news reel, 15 minutes of previews of coming attractions, a "B" feature (usually a western featuring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Randolph Scott or Johnny Mack Brown,) and an "A" feature...a first run movie starring the latest headliner honcho like the Duke or Jimmy Stewart...

And the best part of it was that way back then, you didn't need some busybody like Leonard Maltin or Roger Ebert giving you a thumbs-up or down to tell you if a movie was good or bad...

Even if it was stinko there was no way you were ever going to walk out.

That's not so say that we didn't have our favorites. "The Bowery Boys," "Tarzan" and any western were always edge of the seat entertainment for me.

Yeah, those were the days...The popcorn was more buttery, the seats more comfortable and, best of all, I didn't have to sneak out to the lobby for a smoke since I hadn't as yet taken up with the evil weed.

Like all good things, however, there was a downside..namely "reality."

You would walk through the portals of these movie theaters at one in the afternoon and emerge five hours later....

Everything looked unreal...Everything had a washed out appearance when compared to the vivid colors that had splashed across the movie screen the past several hours.

I guess you could call it cinematic withdrawal or "Welcome back to the real world, fellow!"

Or as my brother Ray used to put it:

"My eyes are like little square boxes...The real world is uglier, seedier and smells a whole lot worse...

We always got a lot of mileage from our movies. We would bisect the plot among ourselves, commenting and admiring the professionalism of a barroom brawl or a particularly spooky moment in the flick.

We would often act out these movies on occasion, each of us taking assigned parts, even if we hadn't been in the audience.

By that time, you had heard enough about the movie that it was as if you'd seen it yourself.

Time passes, however, and technology runs rampant.

When earth station satellites became available to the masses, I was one of those who stepped forward and laid my money down and soon had one of those marvelous great gadgets adorning my back yard just pulling in movies left and right out of the stratosphere.

Signing up for a subscription with a jillion movie channels, I was soon watching The Sands of Iwo Jima from the comfort of my couch with a cup of coffee in one hand and the remote in the other.

Over the next couple of months, I went on what could best be defined as a movie binge, catching up on newer movies and revisiting old favorites.

Eventually, as in overdoing anything, I found myself becoming sated with the whole movie thing and was soon began tiring of the whole media.

Eventually, I became so jaded that my movie viewing was down to a mere 10, 12 hours a day.

You see, I discovered that much of the charm of the whole movie thing was the social aspect.

You know what I mean...The entire audience roaring with laughter at a funny line, the collective gasp at a spooky climax, the guys and girls necking in the shadows of the back row and like I said before, the distinct smell of hot buttered popcorn.

Besides, it finally occurred to me that movies were also a great equalizer of the classes...

Whether you were a millionaire or a wage slave, your ticket...whether it cost you $5.00 or $1.50, still bought you the right to see the same movie.

Yeah, movies were marvelous all right.