& HOOT GIBSON|
if you can, a treat on a very special occasion you look forward to for a whole
week. When the moment comes it is so wonderful that you almost hate for it to
begin because you know that every minute some of it will be lost and you can’t
regain in for another week. It wasn’t something Sam and I took for granted. For
this exciting event to take place we had to earn it.|
There was a lot of
work to be done on our Spunky Flat farm and the Lester boys did their share. As
soon as the cotton sprouted in the spring our job, along with the rest of the
family and the hired help, was to chop the weeds away from the stalks with a hoe.
We had miles of cotton rows and it took a long time to get it all done. Then,
with hardly a pause, we had to start over again. The weeds didn’t know they were
supposed to stop growing. When the cotton matured the really hard job came. In
the hottest part of the summer we had to crawl on our knees dragging a cotton
sack and plucking the white fibers out of the prickly bolls. It was painful on
the hands and fingers until they toughen up. If that were not enough, there was
corn to be pulled and thrown into a wagon. After a while the pollen from the ears
penetrated every bit of our clothing causing a nagging itch. There was much more
but I’ll let it go at that. This started on Monday and went on until Saturday
morning when we would come in from the fields, clean up and head for Marlin for
our weekly “goin’ to town” day. This is where the treat came in.
Sam and me a quarter each to spend as we pleased. We had to do some careful planning
to make sure we got as much mileage as possible out of our allowance. After much
research we discovered the Palace Café, where the owner must have really loved
kids because we got hamburgers there for just a nickel. The grownups had to pay
the full price of ten cents. We each ordered two hamburgers and an R.C. Cola.
That took fifteen cents of our bankroll. I wish I could find the words to describe
the taste sensation of that delectable hamburger, enhanced even more by a swallow
of R.C. Cola. I knew that with each bite there was that much less left to enjoy
and I hated to see it end.
Next came part two of our Saturday adventure.
Picture show time! Even though the Palace Café was right next door to the Palace
Theatre we never considered seeing a movie there. They featured the romantic,
mushy type films that most kids wouldn’t be caught dead watching. We chose instead
to jog the few blocks to the Strand Theatre where every week a new western “shoot
‘em up” was showing. The dime we had left paid our admission. Among the big stars
of that era were Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Charles Starret, Bob Steele, Tim McCoy,
Tom Mix, Tex Ritter and Hoot Gibson. We always arrived as soon as the doors opened,
so sitting there in the darkened theatre waiting for the show to start was almost
more anticipation than we could stand. After what seemed forever that first flicker
of light came across the screen sending a tingle of excitement throughout the
room. The opening credits where greeted with deafening cheers and applause. The
magic of watching the bigger than life, rip-roaring action reflecting back at
us was a thrill that I have never been able to completely capture again.
When it was all over we walked out into the bright light of the real world and
met our parents at the car. On the trip back home it began to sink in that we
were about to face another week of drab, everyday life. But we knew that each
day of labor brought us one day closer to that wonderful two hours of escape from
reality in the darkness of the Strand Theatre enjoying the adventures of our cowboy
heroes with a tummy full of nickel hamburgers and R.C.Cola.