I was reminiscing the other day with a friend about the days when it cost only a dime, and later fifteen cents, to get in the movies. That sounds like nothing today, but for kids in large families during the depression, it was a lot. You didn’t just go to your parents and tell them you were going to the movies and you need the money. That happened, but not often.
I remember there was a shoot-em-up double feature playing and one was a picture that I wanted to see badly. It was probably Tim McCoy, he was one of my favorites. My problem had to do with a serious lack of funds and no apparent solution. At least not in time for the Saturday matinee which was fast approaching.
Then I saw something in the weeds as I was starting across the Kentucky Side bridge. I was heading home to ponder my chances of finding some way to come up with “show fare.” There, half hidden, was an empty pop bottle. I picked it up and it was a Coke bottle. It was good for a penny at most stores.
I poked around and found another. And another. Pepsi, RC, Sun Crest, Dr. Pepper. Now, I didn’t find all these bottles in one convenient pile. It took considerable walking, poking, prodding and general hard work to uncover my hopes for a Tim McCoy Saturday.
I put my bounty in an old paper box I found and started looking for a buyer. I strode into Crews” store and suffered a temporary but serious setback when I was informed that they already had enough empties.
I encountered the same problem at Allen’s Restaurant and Pine Ridge Service Station. This was getting serious.
I sat on the little loading dock at the back door of Crews’ store and assessed my situation. I could hear the sounds of country music coming from the windows of the basement portion of the store. It was coming from The Dugout. The pool room was well-known in town but I had never been inside. The entrance was below street level (hence the name Dugout) so you couldn’t see in. Sometimes we would get on our hands and knees and peek in the small windows and watch the adults shoot pool and drink beer.
As a last resort, I summoned my courage, which was borne of desperation, and descended the steps into this strange netherworld. I pulled the heavy screen door open and stepped inside. I was still gawking at the many pool tables, the fellow dancing in front of the juke box and the guys talking and drinking beer, when a voice from behind the counter said, “What you doin’ down here boy?” It was not mean sounding, but it still scared me.
“I was wondering if you wanted to buy some pop bottles.’
“No. got plenty. Don’t need ’em.”
Dejected, I dragged my box off the counter and started toward the door. At least I had seen the Dugout and would have stuff to tell my buddies at a later time. Then I heard,” What was you gonna do with the money?’
“Go to the show,” I said.
“How many bottles you got there?”
“I dunno.” But I put the box back on the counter and the man started to count.
We counted nineteen bottles. He hit the NO SALE key on the cash register and handed me a quarter. I looked at him. Then he said for me to get out and get to the movies, I was too young to be down there.
I ran to the theatre and bought my ticket. I had enough for popcorn, which made me instantly popular with my friends already in the theatre.
Later that evening, and in many evenings to come, I was reminded of an act of kindness that came from an unexpected source. It was a good lesson that a person’s job or station in life does not tell you what’s inside.
Thanks to my friend in the pool room, I had a wonderful Saturday with my buddies…and Tim McCoy.
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