The Artesia Picture Show

By Dottie Maxey Dewberry, March 23, 2015

On Friday night or Saturday night, usually, the family would load up in whatever vehicle had gas in it, and off we would go to the picture show. Sometimes there might be seven people in the cab of the truck for the short three mile trip to Artesia. If it was in the summer time we kids rode in the back of the truck in the bed. If it got cold we all sat up against the cab hugging the quilt Momma would bring for the trip home. On the way down when it was still warm we would sit up on the side or sit on the tailgate. Today our parents would be fined or arrested for letting us do such.

We would park on Front Street in front of the picture show, which was next to McIlwain’s Hardware Store. Nothing was ever locked; for that matter the keys were probably left in the ignition. For fifteen cents, you could watch the first show. The second show would cost you another fifteen cents. We only got to watch the first one. Snow cones, popcorn and fountain cokes (remember all drinks are called coke) were a nickel each.

It was exciting to look as we went in at the big posters in the two windows which told us what was going to be on. We probably already knew because every time we came to Artesia, we would look at the posters. A Tarzan movie would have us ecstatic; actually any movie would have us excited.

There was no such thing as stadium seating; just rows of wooden seats all connected together. This way nobody could move them out of line. It really wasn’t a big place but we had two sides with rows and rows of seats for all of us squirmy kids to sit in watch the big screen. One side was for the white people and the other side was for the colored people. They could see us just like we could see them. No intermingling. We might have known some of them from the farm or the Oak Ridge Store.

In the back (where you came in) was the movie reel up on a stand above our heads. Sometimes, the reel (film strip) would break and the picture show lady had to put it back together. I guess she used tape. This is when we all liked to make racket; just what she needed. Basically, we were all good kids and still are good adults, but back then we liked to whistle and holler. The picture show lady would threaten to put us out because all of us thought we could make the Woody Wood Pecker sound, the Tarzan yells (Johnny Weissmuller), and the Leo the Lion roar. We would all practice our yells and hollers, but not for long though because we DID NOT want to be put out. We did not do this all the time only for Tarzan movies or for Woody Wood Pecker. LOL!!! We were just a bunch of country kids at the picture show, but it really is a wonder that she did not throw us out. Yep, those were the good old days.

Our favorite movies were all of them. LOL!! We really liked Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Tarzan, Gene Autry, Johnny Mack Brown, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Elliot, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne. When we went back to school in the fall, we always got the tablets (paper) with our favorite characters on the front. Sometimes we were lucky enough to get a book satchel with a movie star on the front. A book satchel would be called a book bag today. Ours had a neat little handle at the top; it reminds you of an attaché case (brief case).

At the beginning of the show, there was always a comedy: Woody Wood Pecker, Daffy Duck, Wiley Coyote and Beep Beep, the Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Fog Horn the White Leghorn. Those were the best.

One year in Artesia, MS, they had a special treat for us: George Francis "Gabby" Hayes (May 7, 1885 – February 9, 1969) who was an American radio, film, and television actor (or someone dressed up like him-what did we know?) came and talked to us. Hayes, in real life was an intelligent, well groomed and articulate man, was cast as a grizzled codger who uttered phrases like "consarn it," "yer durn tootin'," "dadgummit," "durn persnickety female," and "young whippersnapper." From 1935 to 1939, Hayes played the part of the sidekick to Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd). We all thought he was fabulous. Soon we were all using his expressions. Dadgummit!!

It was sad when the picture show place closed; we had to start going up to West Point to the movies. Yep, we were up town then. It was a nice, long, cold ride back home in the bed of the truck. We all hunkered down under the quilt or in our coats and up against each other. It cost more at the movies but those were the good old days; it cost a quarter or fifty cents. There went all our money at one pop, but next week we would have some more money to go to the picture show. Life was good.