Jamestown, ND in the fifties was something special for me. I lived close to a great city park and just a couple of blocks from school. Only two blocks east of school was the Star Theater. There are some good stories that center on that movie house.
First grade was a big deal for me. It was the start of my independence. We were living with my grandmother, and she was an experienced mother. Even when I was in first grade, she knew enough to let me do some things that other, younger parents would never allow. Later on her permissiveness allowed me to have a wonderful high school experience, and she set the stage with what I believed I could do during the first year at college.
Our first grade teacher, like so many teachers in that era, liked order. All of us kids were arranged alphabetically by last name. That meant that Paula H sat in front of me. Outside of school, Paula spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house, which was just across the street from the school, and I walked by it every day on my way to and from school. We became friends that year.
Two things are very prominent in my memory of the spring of first grade. As I said, Paula and I had become good friends. By spring we were close enough to kiss under the slide during recess. I’ve been interested in girls ever since. The second thing that plays large in my memory of that spring is the first grade teacher giving a lecture about proper behavior on the playground. She must have been talking about someone else.
Our friendship continued that summer. Remember the Star Theater? It was four blocks from my house, and halfway between was Paula. A couple of times that summer I would stop by her house and we’d walk to a movie. The movies were great, always starting with a newsreel, then a serial, and then the feature. (It occurs to me that not many people born since 1980 will understand those words.) Admission on a Saturday afternoon was only a nickel or a dime. Popcorn was a nickel. We lived on the cheap side of the tracks. The first class theater was the Grand, on the other side of downtown. Popcorn was a dime, but they didn’t close the box, so you got an extra couple of handfuls of popcorn. There was only one size of popcorn, equivalent to a child’s portion at today’s theaters. The Grand Theater was in the same block as the Gladstone Hotel, which you’ll hear about later.
The movie that really sticks with me from that era is The Fly. I don’t know if Paula and I went to this one or not, but I did see it at the Star Theater. There were a lot of horror flicks in those days. Perhaps they were trying to distract us from the horror of “duck and cover.”
Paula and I stayed close for a long time – alphabetically, that is. Even in senior high algebra class she was one seat in front of me. At our ten year high school reunion we ended up sitting together, much to the amusement of the master of ceremonies. She was a beautiful woman, but left this world far too soon.