by Jim Harrison
The movie theater (we always referred to it as the picture show) was the only “formal” entertainment in Moorhead, Mississippi, when I was growing up there in the 1940’s. The theater was a delightful place and we attended often.
Every Saturday afternoon my brother (Tomberry--one year younger than I) and I would go to the matinee. The films were always westerns (cowboy movies) and we loved them, although we didn’t like the singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers (too sissy) nearly as much as Red Ryder, Hopalong Cassidy, Johnnie Mac Brown and others whose names I can no longer remember.
The movie always started with “Coming Attractions.” Then the serial episode (only on Saturdays) was followed by the comedy feature. And then, the Main Feature!
When we were very young (about five or six) we were sometimes taken to the movie by our next door neighbor, Sonny Beatty, who was three years older. He later attended Ole Miss where he was a standout player on the football team in the early 1950’s.
Later, when we were older, we went to the Saturday movies on our own. We always had to stop off at my Big Daddy’s service station (which was across the street) to get the 15 cents that was charged in those days. Sometimes we got an extra nickel for popcorn.
At the Moorhead picture show, the film broke often, especially during the World War II years. When the film broke, a yellow light that resembled a flash of fire would streak across the screen and then the screen would become blank. This always sent shivers down our spines. Worse still, up in the balcony the black customers would hollow FIRE! FIRE! (They sat near the projector room and the source of the supposed fire.) Downstairs, some of us would scream and everyone would stampede out of the theater as fast as possible.
One of these frightening FIRE! events happened one night when my Granny and Big Daddy were present. Granny was so unnerved that she refused to return to see the rest of the movie. Big Daddy was pretty upset because he was really enjoying himself. There never was an actual fire when I was present—but quite a few of these false alarms.
James K. Harrison is a retired NASA engineer who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with his school-teacher wife (Nancy) and step-daughter, Heather. He graduated from Mississippi State in 1958. James is a history buff and a writer of his own unpublished family history. He was born in Greenville, Mississippi, on June 2, 1935. After his father died in 1938 he and his two-year-old brother (Tomberry--short for Thomas Castleberry) went to live with their Castleberry grandparents in Moorhead, Mississippi. There they lived for eight years until 1946. From 1946 to 1953 James and Tomberry (although living in Vicksburg, Mississippi) returned each summer to Moorhead to visit their Castleberry grandparents. Those carefree summer days in the Mississippi Delta were filled with fun and frolic.
Little Harlem Club
Red Tops of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Saturday Night in Moorhead, Mississippi
Staying Cool in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940's
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