Photograph by Alexa Bush

Photograph by Alexa Bush

December 2012

Popcorn 5 Cents

Rose Marie Ostler

Almost every Sunday, my mom, brother and I would go to the matinee at the New Potrero Theater at 18th and Connecticut Streets. We would have our usual lunch of pasta, quickly do the dishes and be at the movie house before the 1 p.m. start.

The theater was owned and run by a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, what a pair they were! She was short and pudgy, and he was very tall and thin. She always wore a white uniform with great yellow epaulets on the shoulders. The coat had large gold buttons and she topped it off with a white captain’s hat which also had gold braiding. Under her hat was a big, black wig. Of course she had a black bow tie. Mr. Holmes always wore a black suit with a white shirt and he also had a black bow tie. Neither one smiled much. He was very silent and always hovering in the background. He ran the projector. Once the movie started, she patrolled the aisles with her flashlight making sure no one was up to any mischief.

When we arrived we would pay our 25 cents and enter through the little side door. We would immediately head for the old-fashioned popcorn machine with our nickel. We took one of the little brown bags from the slot, placed it under the hole, put in our nickel and watched the yellow, buttered popcorn slide down into our bag. Oftentimes the “General” or her Icabod Crane husband would be lurking around the machine. The popcorn was usually stale and salty, but we loved it and gobbled it up quite fast as soon as the movie started. Sometimes we would get a candy too; maybe Necco Wafers or JuJuBees.

The lights would go down and the movie would begin. After the first movie there would be a newsreel, a cartoon, coming attractions and then the second movie. What a wonderful afternoon of make believe it was.

There was one drawback. The nickname for the show house was the “flea hole” and we often went home with a few bites. We would usually get home after 5 p.m. and mom would make pizza on English Muffins and we would have a special treat.....a coke. How simple those Sunday afternoons were.

We saw most of the wonderful musicals there and that began my love of tap dancing. I often imagined myself up on the screen dancing with Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire.

I’m not sure when the theater opened but much to our dismay it closed in the late 1950s. It was a great loss to our neighborhood, but of course the big screens and stereo sounds were becoming popular and the little “New Potrero Theater” could not compete. It gave many hours of wonderful entertainment to the working class who could not afford much more. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Holmes.

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