When I was eight years old, I went to Miller’s theater in Navasota, Texas, on a Sunday afternoon.
I guess the film was really boring and I fell asleep. When it came time to close for the day — no evening show— whoever was in charge of closing up failed to this sleeping little boy.
When I woke up, lights were off and the theater was closed, no one around.
I got scared of course and tried to get out by pushing on the doors but a skinny eight year old wasn’t match for the big heavy securely locked doors.
I was finally able to jimmy open the lock to the box office and get to the phone.
My parents were a little frantic that I had not shown up for dinner and they had called the police. Before the police got there, I called them to say I had gotten locked inside the picture show and couldn’t get out.
My dad called the owner, Mr. Wallace (he was always chewing on a cigar), and he came down and let me out.
My dad wasn’t angry or anything but more amused as this was just another mishap I had gotten into.
But the post-script to all this was when my brother found out what had happened, he said, “you were alone in the picture show and you didn’t raid the candy counter? You’re a dumbass!”
It was around 1952 or 53. I was eleven or twelve years old. The Plaza Theater on 26th street in Lubbock was the venue. Saturday afternoons were full of cartoons, western movies (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, etc.), Abbot and Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle and many others. A few years later, the Plaza was also where live music events took place occasionally, including Buddy Holly and his band.
At the time in question, there was a cry room at the rear of the theater. It was enclosed with a glass window that was hard to see into, but easy to see out of . The room was heavily insulated so crying babies couldn’t be heard in the theater. The door could be locked from the inside. Some boys that I knew (one of them very well), would once in a while be able to talk some girls to go into the cry room with them, lock the door, and take part in some kissing games. On one occasion, a real mother with a real crying baby wanted to go into the cry room, but found the door locked. She knocked a few times, but the little lads and lasses inside were much too busy to hear her. She finally went to the manager, who had a key. He unlocked the room, rudely interrupting the kids.
There was a lot of shouting and confusion as the baby continued to cry, the manager loudly voiced his opinion on what was going on, and the kids scrambled to get out of the room and run into the theater in order to hide in the audience. I observed that the next week, the lock had been removed from the cry room. A new sign adorned the door. “This room only for mothers and babies.”