This sounded great to me, so I wheedled and wheedled the price of admission from my mother, and went the next Saturday. It was then that I learned that the movie changes every week, as I sat through an incomprehensible film about grown-ups who just talked to each other. Nothing happened at all!
I knew that movies were supposed to have fights and mahem, because I’d seen a movie before, while visiting kinfolk in Houston. That movie was Treasure Island, a stirring adventure about a young boy very much like me, I then imagined. I remember it clearly, and in fact, sometimes I can still hear Long John Silver’s parrot, crying “Pieces of Eight! Pieces of Eight!”
After Long John Silver and the big ants report, this “talking” movie seemed pretty lame.
On the same street as the Dorothy theatre, and several blocks north, across from the courthouse sat the Royal Theatre. The Royal had exciting pictures out front, generally showing cowboys, but in addition to Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hoppalong Cassidy, and Lash Larue, they also featured Abbot and Costello and Ma and Pa Kettle. I saw Peter Pan there, and This Island Earth, and a horrifying 3-D movie called House of Wax.
In the early days, the Royal’s Saturday serial featured Commander Cody, who wore a helmet and rocket pack, and after making a kind of jump could be seen flying through the sky. Flash Gordon and crew fell into eternal pickles with that rascal Ming the Merciless, and week after week Tarzan narrowly escaped being trampled, roasted, drowned, and eaten.
About the time I became a teen, the Dorothy burned down, leaving a hollow stone shell and the Royal, but a few months later, our town was abuzz with the news that a new drive-in movie was being built west of town.
The Clay County Leader newspaper trumpeted a big contest to name the new drive-in. My grandfather, usually taciturn, found this so exciting he decided to enter, because he’d figured out a sure-fire winner.
Since our town was named “Henrietta”, he reasoned that “The Henry” would be the perfect name for the drive-in. Sitting at his wooden desk, he wrote out a letter to enter the contest.
For weeks we watched the contest. I was there the day the paper arrived, announcing the winner. Grandfather fetched the mail and brought it into the kitchen and sat down at the table. He opened the newspaper. He stiffened.
“The Rietta?” he said. “What kind of stupid name is that?”