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13 July 2006

A WHOLE DAY FOR 25 CENTS


L

ater on today I'm taking my two daughters to see Pirates of the Caribbean. Yesterday I bought the tickets online and the bill came to $20.80. Now I have bought movie tickets before for myself and my daughters and usually paid around the same price... 1 adult and 2 children - $18, $19 $20. But for some unknown reason it simply made me sit back and think. My brain raced through hyper-space, like on Stargate-SG1. The year was about 1957.

I was standing on the corner of Frankford Ave. and Girard in the Fishtown section of Philly. In front of me was my entertainment for almost the entire Saturday. The Jumbo Theater. This venerable movie palace was named after Jumbo the Elephant (see picture) in P.T. Barnum's Circus and was billed as the biggest elephant on earth and it was the biggest.

Back in those days when I say going to the movies was an almost all day event... it really was an all day event. For the ticket price of .25 yes, twenty-five cents, you got 2 first run, full length films, a whole gaggle of cartoons, the latest installment of Flash Gordon and Ming the evil emperor, and of course the informative NewsReel of world events. Plus as a bonus on Saturday you could also buy a whole dinner setting, plate by plate. No back-ordering... you had to be there to purchase the plate of the week. You wanted a serving for 4? You already knew where you would be for the next 4 Saturdays. Popcorn was a nickle, but if you had the money you could really splurge and get the HUMONGOUS SIZE for 10 cents.

Now I can't remember if Camel was his first name or he was Mr. Camel, but we just called him Camel. Ever present flashlight in his hand, Camel would stalk the aisles in the theater for loud and noisey kids...ummm namely me. As disgusting as it sounds now, the floors of the movie house, under the seats, would become the under-terrain for whatever was in the movie that day. Flash Gordon? The floor was Ming's evil dungeon. The bunch of us would slither along the floor of the nasty ruler's domain and week after week we would be escaping his menacing clutches.

Then there was Mr. Kelly, the general manager. The only time you ever saw him was if you were in trouble. Over time Mr. Kelly got to know me very well and knew my first and last name on site. I don't think that was a good sign.

The third person was the cleaning lady. Poor, poor woman... I sit today and can't even imagine what she went through by the time we were done having popcorn fights and ju-ju bead fights. She had to be a saint... she was also my grandmother... that made me a man among men... "Wow, Denny's grandmother is the cleaning lady!"

The Jumbo opened in 1909 and closed down forever in 1964.

So today I'll go to the movies, just like all the Saturdays ago. Plunk down my $20 for butter popcorn and a soda for the girls and watch one film and a few advertisements for upcoming movies. When did going to the movies get so boring?

Going to the movies in 1957: .35 (including popcorn)
Going to the movies in 2006: $40.80 (including popcorn)
Taking my 2 daughters: Priceless

Observations and Questions
Can you remember ever going to the movies by yourself for the first time?
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