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Southern Theater

By John I. Blair

Fifty cents in 1945
Bought admission to the Southern –
Two westerns, cartoon, Pathé news,
Next Flash Gordon episode –
With enough remaining
For a bag of buttered popcorn.

I’d walk there from my house:
Up to the intersection by the drugstore,
Across the street on bricks as hard as iron,
Past the beer hall, Farha’s grocery,
A Gypsy fortuneteller, RC bottling plant,
Over the railroad’s rusty tracks,
Then four more blocks
Of drab shops, grubby parking lots,
Until the Southern came in view.

What’s opposite of movie palace?
The Southern’s tiny ticket booth,
Concrete lobby three steps up,
Snack stand stink of stale oil, sugared soda;
Swinging doors, a musty auditorium
Lined with rows of sticky seats,
Strew of spills across the floor,
Shrieking kids running wild,
Closest thing to adult supervision
An usher’s pimply, scowling face.

But matinees at the Southern
With Tom Mix, Roy, Rex, Gene,
Hopalong and all their pards
Galloping across the screen
Brought flickering magic to my life,
Gave me names to claim
As I dashed down alleys fighting bad guys
With plastic pistols and rubber knives;

Left me decades afterward
Scuffling through these tangled piles
Of notions, images, emotions
In the dim projection booth
Of dusty childhood memories.

©2010 John I. Blair

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