In all honesty, I can’t recall the first motion picture I saw. But “DOA” stands out in my mind as one of the earliest.
As a 4-year-old living down Highway 29 in West Point, Georgia, I walked, skipped and hopped across the Chattahoochee River bridge holding my sister’s hand. When we got to the theater, she realized she didn’t have her glasses, so she left me there while she ran home to get them. You could do that in those days.
The movie started before she got back. I fidgeted and squirmed. In case you don’t know, “DOA” stands for dead on arrival.
I watched most of my early movies at the Langdale drive-in. While Daddy built our rock cabin overlooking the Chattahoochee, he rewarded my sister Jane and me for helping by taking us to drive-in movies.
He’d ease the Ford through the gate, pick a spot, park, hook the speaker to the window, and turn up the volume. Then he would drop off into a deep sleep and snore through the whole movie. He always told us he enjoyed the show, but we knew better.
I loved that outdoor theater, especially when Roy Rogers, riding his Palomino, Trigger, cleared the West of outlaws while warbling “Happy Trails to You.” I don’t remember mosquitoes gnawing on me, but they must have. I guess it takes more than blood-sucking insects to dampen a little girl's happiness.
After we’d moved to Auburn, my oldest sister took me to a free movie at API’s Grave’s Amphitheater to see “Stranger on a Train.” As an experienced 7-year-old, I knew when to keep my eyes closed. Not long ago, I watched that mystery again on AMC, and it still scared me.
Other than an occasional Friday night film at Langdon Hall, I did my movie viewing at the Tiger and War Eagle theaters. Barefoot, wearing rolled up blue jeans, Jane and I hiked up North College Street to one of those theaters on summertime Saturday mornings clutching our dimes for admission.
Back then when we called them picture shows, we watched musicals like “Singing in the Rain,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and “Calamity Jane,” along with the Esther Williams swimming extravaganzas.
The adventures of Tarzan and Cheeta and The Lone Ranger and Tonto captivated us. “Francis the Talking Mule” and “Ma and Pa Kettle” made us laugh. We didn’t have Hallmark movies at Christmastime. Instead, we watched “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Wide CinemaScope screens made the actors as well as the stories seem bigger than life. Nowadays, the theaters and screens are half the size. We still refer to motion pictures as the “big screen,” but they don’t compare.
The good news, especially during the pandemic, is that there are lots of classics on TV, so I’m able record them on DVR. That means I can watch what I want, when I want and as many times as I want.