04-30-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


Saturday afternoon shoot’em up! Back in the day there was no YouTube, Facebook, text messaging, or E-mail… television had not yet been invented. We did have radios and telephones. And discussion that someday pictures and conversation would be sent on the airwaves. But we had not seen it! What we did have was “going to the movies”. And we went. There were special programs aimed at kids. For instance, no adult with brains would be caught in a movie house on Saturday afternoon. That was kids’ day! They had double features, usually westerns, plus news, a cartoon and even a weekly serial segment. This was a story that ran for several Saturdays in a row. It might be Dick Tracy, The Lone Ranger, or some other adventure flick. The common denominator was that at the end of each half hour segment, the hero was left in an utterly impossible situation. He could never survive this one… but next week there he would be, again, and with a plausible explanation for what had happened previously. For instance: One week the Lone Ranger was fighting for his life in a gold ore stamping mill. There he was, locked in mortal combat, and at the end the villain got in a lucky punch and the Lone Ranger fell into the stamping machine. AND IT CAME RIGHT DOWN ON HIM! We all left the theater shaking our heads. He really got it that time! But wait… next Saturday we sat breathlessly; and when the serial came on, they backed it up a few frames… the Lone Ranger fell into the stamping machine and rolled out of the way just in time. I don’t know about the other kids, but I was upset. They had cheated on us… I didn’t want him killed, but they really led us to believe THIS IS IT! … Of course, knowing we would be back to find out. You see, that masked man was one of our main heroes! Silver Cup bread sponsored him on the radio. One time they offered a picture of him on the great horse, Silver, in every loaf of their bread. My Mom let me buy a loaf at Don Olds’ grocery on the south side of Main Street to get the picture. It was good bread too! In Hartford we had a 5- and 10-cent store owned by Jim and Marie Knight. This was Mecca for us little kids. In the front, a three-sided candy counter… enough to make us drool! And once a year, near Christmas, the Knights rented the theater and put on a free show for every kid in Hartford. In addition, we each got a small bag of candy. Smart advertising, I’d say! We lined up clear down the block for that free show. I can’t remember what any of the films were, but it didn’t matter. We’d watch anything that moved on the silver screen. Do any of you remember when the movies changed from black and white to Technicolor? The first film I saw like that was “The Wizard of Oz”. Well into the film, when Dorothy came to her senses in that impossible land, everything changed to color! It was something to behold. And then another improvement… I was teaching in Watervliet at the time. One class, a smallish boy came in all excited and said, “You should see the movie we went to last night! It was in Sinister Scope!” (He meant Cinemascope.) Now, at the risk of being relegated to dinosaur land, I’m going to say that some films are just better in black and white. There is even a name for those stories – popular in the 1950s and 1960s… they were referred to as “film noir.” That means dark! And there is a type of crime story that just begs to be told in black and white. Think of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in “The Big Sleep”. Years later it was remade in color and starred Robert Mitchum. Now, he is a favorite of mine… but that color version was just not as sinister, not as mood provoking! Another film that could not be improved by color… “High Noon”! This is a stark cold story that unfolds in dramatic black-and-white tones. A western, it takes place in an hour on the clock that ticks in the town marshal’s office. Gary Cooper has sent to prison a horrible criminal named Frank. He is now out, has his gang with him, and is headed back to take revenge on the marshal. Cooper tries vainly to enlist help from the townspeople. They all tell him to leave. He has a beautiful Quaker wife (Grace Kelly) who is fiercely pacifist. She says if he will not go, she will leave without him. The whole story unfolds as the hapless marshal tries to devise a plan. And the villain does come. He and his men swagger down Main Street; the marshal faces them all alone. But his wife reconsiders, comes back, and helps him to defeat the outlaws. Happy ending? Well, not quite. The couple, their belongings in a horse-drawn wagon, are leaving town to make a new life. The townspeople all come out to wish them well. He looks into all of the faces of the people who would not help him. Then he takes off his badge and throws it into the dirt of Main Street and they drive off. That story is much more effective in black and white than it would have been in color. In fact, back in the day we were so used to black and white… colored films at first were almost a distraction. We all had our favorite cowboy stars and followed their each and every film exploit with awe. We recreated those movie scenes when we played “Cowboys” on Saturdays with cap guns. And even if we had to turn about “taking our deads”, they were days of real glory. We were weaving golden threads into the Tapestry of Life in our storybook towns! (Reprint from the April 30, 2009 issue of the Tri-City Record.)

Do you ever remember giant hailstones? On March 15, 1945 these hailstones fell from the sky? Do you remember Jean Silaula? Do you have an interesting weather story to share? If you have any information on this photo or a story to share, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, info@northberrienhistory.org, or facebook.com/NorthBerrienHistory/. The museum is closed until further notice. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


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