Posts Tagged ‘kid movie serials’

Those Old Time Kid Movie Saturdays

January 4, 2011

At age 5 in 1943, I discovered Batman at the Studewood Theatre in the Heights.

It wasn’t the greatest job of acting, costume design, plot line, or driving literary narrative ever put up there on the big silver screen, but for me, at age 5 in 1943, the movie serial “Batman” was just about all I could think about for the twelve weeks it ran every weekend as a cliffhanging, ongoing story at the old Studewood Theatre in the Heights. In an oh so different day and time, millions of American kids my age and older were allowed to leave home alone every Saturday and make it over to our neighborhood theaters for a double feature, cartoon, and serial. We would be gone three to four hours on our own each Saturday – and nobody had to worry about us getting abducted or killed in the process. If we could negotiate crossing a few busy streets without getting hit by a car, we were going to be OK.

I had about a six block walk from our little house on Fugate Street to the Studewood Theatre on Studewood Avenue in Houston. It was no big deal. And I would not have missed “Batman” for anything, as long as my folks would spring for the nine cent movie ticket and extra dime for pop corn and coke. And I was so smitten by the benevolent power of Batman that I could hardly stand the thought of all those things the bad guys tried to do to kill him.

"HOLY BAMBOOZLEMENT, BATMAN! DO YOU REALLY THINK THE KIDS WILL BELIEVE US IF WE KEEP MAKING MOVIES IN THESE CRAPPY COSTUMES?"

We believed in Batman – no matter how corny he looks today by comparison to what Hollywood has done to generate a stronger, more virile attire for this great fighter for truth and justice over the years that have since followed 1943. Back then, all I had to do was spot that Batman logo on the outside movie poster slot to start melting under the power of the cape crusader who awaited us all inside the movie house.

For me, Batman was just the highly emotional start of a long string of Saturday movie heroes and villains that would parade before my eyes each week through the 1940s and into the early 1950s. After Batman, the rest came my way via the Avalon Theatre on 75th near Lawndale in the Houston East End. Our family move to Pecan Park in 1945 simply did a relocation job on the same kind of experience that had started for me personally at “The Stude.”

Over the years, my favorite serials included: The Purple Monster Strikes, The Crimson Ghost, King of the Rocket Men, King of the Forest Rangers, The Daughter of Don Q, The Phantom Rider, and a second Batman serial that wasn’t nearly as powerful to me as the first one of years earlier.

On these Saturday movie excursions, we also got a western each week, featuring stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but also including lesser known heroes like Eddie Dean, Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson, Rod Cameron, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Wild Bill Elliott, Bob Steele, Jimmy Wakely, Tim Holt, The Cisco Kid, Zorro, Tito Guizar, Joel McCrea, and Randolph Scott.

Along with the westerns, we would also get a comedy or detective movie starring people like Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Abbott and Costello, The Bowery Boys, and a host of others whose names no longer ring any bells – not even with me. Throw in Bugs Bunny and we were looking at one quarter spent for the best entertainment package a kid ever bought at the movies for admission, pop corn, and a coke.

As I’m often given to say in declarative form: Those were the days, my friends!