By Slim Randles
Mickey Baker has owned The Strand – our local movie theater – since the new releases starred Virginia Mayo. The Strand, naturally, is an icon here. More than a few of our long-lasting marriages in the area began with a first date there. Most of us have consumed more than our share of Raisinettes and Jujubes while watching Duke Wayne whip the bad guys. We know every inch of The Strand. We know where the rips are in the used-to-be blood-red carpet, which of the seats don’t fold all the way down, which seats are most secluded in case it’s a smooching date. It was ol’ Dud, back when he was about four feet tall, who discovered how to combine chewing gum and the lock on the back door to provide five-finger discounts for friends wanting to watch Victor Mature run around in a loincloth. The Strand, in other words, is a vital part of our past, if not of our lives today.
We seem to just go rent those tapes and disks now and stay home and watch the newer films when we feel like it, and that might be because we now appreciate being able to stop the action for an occasional bathroom break now and then.
Attendance dropped dramatically when home entertainment really hit a lick. But Mickey fought back. He tried the free popcorn route for a while. All he charged for was the butter. Attendance didn’t really pick up, and the popcorn bill was … well, appreciable if not staggering.
Mickey now thinks he has the answer. He bought a disk player thingie that works on a big screen. Then he bought some old movies and lowered the price.
The first night he did this was a triple header, and we all turned out to see our old heroes vanquish Nazis, solve the bank robbery in Cactus Gulch, and find out who really killed the big-city mayor. We paid too much for popcorn, but who cares?
The Strand lives on, even if there is more gray hair there than at a Percheron horse show. Besides, when was the last time you saw The Duke standing 15-feet tall?
Pick up “Home Country: Drama, dreams and laughter from the American heartland” www.lpdpress.com.