Ten Cent Movies  

rm_romeovoid40 63M
29 posts
11/15/2005 3:52 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Ten Cent Movies

Sure, I know that it's all about the sex and fun but since we're supposed to learn about each other... well, I humbly offer this.

Wichita Falls, Texas, 1954. The year in which I came into the world.

Thanks to the oil boom of the early 20th century, the town had grown into a city by then, with a very large upper-class society; a burgeoning middle-class and a huge number of poor, working-class people.

Segregation was the law; racism and discrimination were rampant. If you were poor - mattered not the color of your skin - you were expected to keep to "your side of town" and cause no problems for the law or for the "good folk" of the community. To that end (and because there was a fat contract for a Fat Cat) the city created the Wichita Falls Housing Authority and quickly constructed The Ben Donnell Housing Project. Low cost, rent controlled housing for the "poorer families". These houses were identical one story red-brick duplexes, one after another, lining the streets, block after monotonous block. Very few trees, not much grass, no sidewalks; bounded by the Wichita River on the south, the gas refinery on the north and Jefferson Street on the west with nothing to the east except scrubby ranchland.

Being a kid, I was unaware of the stigma attached to living in what became known as "The Project"; to me it was home, my neighborhood until I was eight years old. I never thought of our family as "poor,white trash" or myself as a juvenile delinquent though that's how the rest of the city viewed those of us who lived there. Now that I'm all grown up (and then some) I'm well aware of the Project's history and I can tell you... those people didn't know what they were missing.
The denizens of The Project were black, white and Hispanic... a wonderful and wondrous cultural mix. As I wandered the neighborhood with my friends, going from house to house, my senses were assaulted by a blend of sights, sounds and aromas that stay in my memory to this day. I grew up there listening to everything from delta blues, jazz and r n' b; every genre of Latino music; hard core country music and western swing and, of course, Rock and Roll (the very first 45 rpm record I ever owned was "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley; I was three years old). I was able to sample some of the best food ever cooked, everything from Soul Food to Mexican and Po' Folk Stew and the scent of those dishes still stir up my appetite. We were all poor but the people were so good and kind, so willing to band together and keep the neighborhood "safe for the young'uns" that I cherish every minute growing up there.

The best part? Saturdays, of course!

On that day, the Tower Theater (on Indiana Street, about a mile and a half from The Project) presented The Ten Cent Movie. It was the only integrated movie theater in the city and on Saturdays they opened it up to "The Project Kids", showing three hours worth of Warner Brothers and Popeye cartoons, Three Stooges films and various cowboy serials (Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy were my favorites). Me and my two best friends would hook up with the neighborhood gang around 9:10 AM and walk to the theater, the bigger kids (all of 11 years old) leading the way and we'd get to the theater around 9:30. Once there, everyone would check their small fortunes and carefully apportion the wealth... 10 cents for the movie, 10 cents for a drink, 10 cents for popcorn and on a really good weekend, an extra nickel for JuJuBe's or Sno-Caps! We'd sit and laugh and cut up like kids do, everyone having a great time and never once thinking about the color of another's skin or that we lived in the poorest part of town. On those saturdays we had everything a kid could ever need to be happy, including the best friends you could ever hope to have.

I have long since moved from The Project and settled into a nice middle-class life but I've never left The Project or the values I learned behind; it holds a wonderful place in my heart and I know that my life would be much, much poorer had I never lived there. It taught me that we are all one on this earth and that we all have so much to give and to receive from each other if we keep our hearts and minds open and receptive to new thoughts and ideas. My most sincere hope is that we can someday put aside prejudice and racism and "embrace the Human Race".

That's that...

Justforfungirl5 50F
68 posts
11/16/2005 11:50 am

What a wonderfully written piece. I look forward to more of your writings.

I often wonder ... do kids today have anything like this? What will be their childhood memories? Anything as innocent and heartwarming?

My favorite memories will always be sitting out in the yard on a blistering hot summer day with my brother and cousins eating the coldest and best watermelon ever grown that we had picked from my grandpa's garden. It was probably the only time the adults got any peace. Between the fighting and playing, it was the only time the house got quiet enough you could hear the winds through the pines. Just the sounds of kids spitting out seeds and an occasional giggle.

rm_saintlianna 46F
15466 posts
11/16/2005 12:11 pm

Actually I enjoyed growing up poor, I just don't like the continuing to be poor part.

silkysmoothlegs3 106F

11/19/2005 5:15 pm

We had very little as kids.. We had alot of fun though

Enjoyed reading that

keep writing babes

silky x

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