The theater was a very old building, built on the same blueprint as all the early 20th century theaters. The front facade was tall and ornate with the original name of the builder and owner proudly displayed at the top of the building.
The theater sat on the south side of Main Street facing north, and had proudly inhabited the corner for more than 50 years. It proudly bore the name of The Palace Theater above the front doors.
The ticket booth looked out onto the sidewalk. Once you paid your $1.00 and you had your ticket in hand you were allowed into the theater through the two doors on either side of the ticket booth.
The front entry was crowded with the candy counter on the south side of the little room. It was flanked by the two doors into the theater. The inside of the glass counter was full of all kinds of candy to tempt you.
On the east end of the counter sat the large popcorn machine, merrily popping away. On the west end of the counter sat the red coke machine ready to dispense its bubbly beverage.
The smell of the popcorn was always impossible to ignore and I had to have a bag or a box with butter. Then I had to have a coke, and since they didn’t have cherry to put in it I had to rough it with a plain coke.
The stairs to the balcony were on the far west wall of the lobby. There were about 6 steps straight up and then they made a left turn. Then 5 more steps took you up to the front of the balcony. Then there were steps up the side to the top where the projection room sat.
The balcony was set up like the main floor, it had three sections with an aisle between them. There were steps from the railing at the front of the 5 rows of seats to the top.
There was barely room to walk between the railing and the front row of seats. All the better for the three of us so we could look over easily.
The theater was long and narrow, with three sections in the interior, just like every other theater built at the time. The two outside sections had only 6 seats. Then in the middle the rows were 14 seats wide.
The interior was decorated in the burgundy fabric that most of the theaters of that era were decked out in. Deep burgundy velvet seats and drapes looked rich even years after it was built.
Many thousands of hands had touched those seats and they were still beautiful and comfortable. The walls and ceiling were all carved with ornate designs; some of them gilded with gold.
Sometimes when the weather was bad or if my friend Kaye asked, I would stay in Kinsley and we would go to the show. Dick Fox, the man I worked for, would usually tag along with us. It didn’t matter what the movie was; because it wasn’t the movie we were going for, we had other plans for the evening.
We always sat up in the balcony because Kaye and I were in our early twenties and Dick was older than we were, and only adults were allowed up there. The three of us were the only ones sitting in the balcony most of the time so we could talk and laugh and not disturb anyone.
The balcony had only 5 rows of seats, and I am not sure why they didn’t want the teenagers up there. It could have been that the balcony was not that sturdy anymore, or they were afraid of what the kids would do.
Little did the owners of the movie theater know that they should not have allowed these three adults into the balcony either? We were probably worse than most teenagers.
Once we were in the balcony we’d watch all the teenagers come in and sit down below us. Since Kaye and Dick knew most of the kids in town, they knew which couple to tease. Once we picked out a couple they were the targets for the evening.
When the movie started one of us would lean over the railing and keep an eye on the targets on the main floor to see what they were doing. If we saw the guy lean in to steal a kiss there was definitely going to be a shower of popcorn falling down onto his head.
Fortunately they never suspected someone sitting in the balcony because it was only adults up there. They usually would look around and spot someone else on the main floor that was sitting behind them and blame them.
We started more than one argument during a movie. One night during the movie a real shouting match started and the manager had to leave the projection room above us and go down stairs to straighten it out.
Once he had quieted down the teenagers on the main floor he came back up to the balcony. He came over to tell us about the squabble below. He was livid and announced that the arguments were the reason he didn’t want teenagers sitting in the balcony. He said they were always causing trouble.
We readily agreed and tried our best to keep a straight face until he made his way up the stairs mumbling all the way and then stumbling over the top step. When we heard the door to the projection room shut with a thundering bang we broke out in howls of laughter.
The movie playing that night was not a comedy and I am sure that everyone sitting on the main floor wondered what was so funny to the people that were sitting in the balcony.
The teenagers on the main floor never knew that the commotion in the theater was actually caused by three adults sitting in the balcony where no teenagers were allowed.
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