The Way Sam Remembers It

I watched the last hour of Academy Awards Sunday and enjoyed it very much. It was made more interesting since Adrien and I had seen two of the highly-favored films. “Ray” and “The Aviator.” I also enjoy watching Clint Eastwood accept two Oscars. I always like to watch Clint, even if I have seen the film before. Now, his film, “Million Dollar Baby” is set to play at Slickrock Cinemas. It was the big winner Sunday, and we plan to see it later in the week.

Even though I see only a handful of movies on the big screen in a year, I have always enjoyed going to the picture show.

My first memory of attending a moving picture was in the 1930s, screened at Woodman Hall (later the Grand County Ball Room, later the Arches Ballroom and now Center Street Square). It was a silent film. The first “talkie” I saw was in the Ides Theatre on Main Street.

According to Grand Memories, the first movie in Woodman Hall was shown in 1912, by theater pioneers Robert Clark and his wife, Elberta. Later the two showed the first talking picture, featuring Al Jolson in “Sonny Boy.”

Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Clark carried on the theater business, building the first modern theater building in town. She, with the assistance of her daughter, Neva Kirk and granddaughters Dorothy and Janice Kirk operated the new Ides Theater until the late 1960s when she sold it to Max Day who renamed it the Holiday Theater. It was located where the Wells Fargo parking lot is now located. I was told the Ides was named after the Ides of March, when it first opened.

I never missed a movie when I was growing up. I particularly never missed a continuously running matinee on Saturday afternoons. One primary reason I never missed a show was that I got in free, a deal between Mrs. Clark and my Dad. Our fee entry into the Ides was in exchange for advertising. I spent countless hours there, parking my bike in the little alley between the theater and the drug store. I think I always behaved. The thought of having Mrs. Clark come down the aisle with her flashlight during a show threatening dire consequences if offenders didn’t shut up, kept us all pretty good.

I also worked at the Ides for a year as janitor, and found Mrs. Clark to be a strict employer, but fair.

My duties included sweeping up the popcorn and candy wrappers, vacuuming the carpets, mopping and cleaning the restrooms and tending the heating and air conditioning units located in the basement. The furnace was coal-burning. I had to open the furnace door and lift out the “clinker” with a set of tongs, and then fill the stoker with coal. The air conditioner was a huge (probably home-made) collection of pipes and nozzles which sprayed water over a large screen mounted in front of a big fan. The cooling and heating were carried throughout the Ides via a spooky tunnel beneath the floor. The units kept the theater warm in the winter and chilling cool in the summer.

It took several hours each day to do the job, and I was not encouraged to invite any of my friends to visit with me during the cleaning. If we were beginning a new movie, I had to carry the big aluminum cans from in front of the theater and put them near where the projectionist could find them. Moab Garage Company delivered them several times a week and picked up the old movies to ship to the next town.

I held a lot of jobs during my growing up years. Being the janitor at the Ides Theater was probably the most glamorous.