By: Paige Cline
I first wrote this back in 1986.
I know that in law there is a thing called the “statute of limitations.” As I understand it, in simple terms it means that after a certain amount of time goes by, you can’t be prosecuted for a crime. Well, I;m not sure about the application of that law, so my decision to tell or not tell about certain incidents depends not so much on time as it does on whether the offended parties are still living.
We used to look forward eagerly to those Fridays in the summertime when a few lucky kids would board that old Ford pickup in front of the Pine Theatre and head out to deliver handbills that told what movies would be playing next week. The route went from Pineville to Baileysville, through Clear Fork, then Oceana, on to Kopperston and back to Pineville, completing the circuit.
At the larger communities we would take and armload of handbills and deliver them door-to-door. At other times, the handbills were put in mailboxes and newspaper boxes by the driver, usually the theatre manager, and the other up-front passenger, usually the projectionist. They were adept at hitting those boxes without coming to a complete stop.
Now, here’s the part that I am reluctant to tell. Sometimes the driver would not be in a great frame of mind and would fuss at us for being slow or suspecting us of skipping houses. So, sometimes their skill at flipping handbills into mailboxes was matched by our ability to pull them right back out as they pulled back onto the highway. We felt somewhat justified since we were given one free pass plus a sandwich and coke at the Koppers store in Oceana for a job that took all day. But this was a risky undertaking. We knew that, if caught, we would very likely be left to find our own way back home. And, what’s worse, we would be left when the truck pulled out the next week.
Besides the handbills, we would put posters up on telephone and light poles. Well, not us exactly, since most of us were too short to reach as high as the posters needed to go. I thought the world had reached the ultimate in technological advancement when the theatre bought a stapler to replace the hammer and carpet tacks. You could hold the poster with one hand and staple it to the pole with the other.
There were also a few small billboards scattered around–the kind you pasted advertising to. We carried a bucket of the gooey stuff and a long-handled brush in the truck with us. Now, we were not the angels that you might think. Some of those mean old boys would actually dip handbills in the paste, roll them into a slimy ball and splatter unsuspecting pedestrians as we sped past. Panic would set in if we would gleefully let our missiles fly at a target, and then, instead of speeding away, the truck would slow don for a mailbox Many times we
would pull out with an irate victim shaking his fist, questioning our sanity, our intelligence, our ancestry and calling us everything but a milk cow.
Figuring out a way to get into the movies free was largely a matter of economics, but it was also a challenge and a matter of status. I have been in the Pine Theatre so many times without paying that it would darn near equal the times I paid. And at different stages of my life I used different tactics to achieve that end. For instance, when I was very small and we lived near the theatre, I used my pitiful little bot routine. I would stand conspicuously in front of the theatre making it obvious that, if I had the price of a ticket, there was no place I wold rather be than watching the show. Many’s the tie that Mrs. Harvey, the manager’s wife, would decide that they would lose no money if she told me to “go on in”. And I did. I joined my friends who would catch me up on the parts I had missed. Other friends were not so fortunate and seldom got to see a movie–except for the Saturday western, usually a double feature.
(To be continued next week).
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