# 16 The Star Theater
By Steve Stoker

[More on Steve Stoker's Books]

 

     Across from the Texaco station, and right behind Landvatter Motors, just off Main Street, was the Star Theater. It was the hub of all the pre-adult social life in Aberdeen. It was buzzing with activity every weekend. There was always a matinee on Saturday afternoon, and in the evenings, the teenagers took over the place, along with the Star Sweet Shop next door, which was connected with the theater through an open door in its lobby.

     The Star Theater had nice clean bathrooms, too, but they were upstairs. The upstairs lobby was a small anteroom that provided access to not only the restrooms, but also three other areas. You could always look in and see the projectionist and all the equipment in the projection booth. I always wanted to go in and look out on the floor below through one of those little square windows.

     There was a crying room on the one side of the projection booth, where mothers could take their babies and still watch the movie through a large glass window. There was a small balcony on the other side of the projection booth and that was where the teenagers took their babes. Both areas were off limits to kids my age.

     The Star Sweet Shop was a place for music and dancing and sodas and malts and all kinds of activities that the goofy older kids seemed to enjoy. My favorite thing, however, was to go to the matinee on Saturday. In fact, our matinee trips were almost ritualistic in their regularity.

     Mike and I would go to Grandma’s house and walk to town with Dwight and sometimes Denny. Grandpa Frank always gave us each a quarter. It cost twenty cents for the movie ticket, leaving us a nickel for popcorn or candy. I almost always had popcorn because you could get so much of it for a nickel. Mike got popcorn, too, but Dwight and Denny always liked candy better.

      Sometimes there were very special events during these matinees. I looked forward to them as much as the movie, because often there were real live celebrities promoting the movie of the day. We didn’t often see big and famous stars, but I must have met and shaken the hands of every western sidekick in the business, except for Gabby Hayes. I thought Andy Devine was the most famous, but my personal favorite was Smiley Burnette.

     Smiley Burnette held a drawing for a real live pony during the intermission and it was won by one of the kids from Springfield or Grandview. I didn’t know any of those kids. They had their own schools, so I had no real opportunity to meet them, except on rare occasions when my father’s softball team played their fathers’ softball teams.

     Once they had a very scary movie where they gave an insurance policy with the tickets. Nowadays, I would recognize it as pure hype, but I was certainly impressed at the time with such a thoughtful gesture. The name of the movie was "Macabre'. I had to look it up to find out what it meant.

     My favorite thing, though, were the 3D movies. It was so cool to put on the special glasses and have Indian lances and hatchets come right out of the screen! I always had trouble with the special glasses because of the fact that I already had glasses. I always had to use one hand to hold them on, and that made popcorn eating very difficult. Still — I wouldn’t have traded the experience. It was so neat!

     The Star Theater was the hub of community activity for Aberdeen holidays, too. On Easter, after the egg hunt in the city park, all the kids would gather at the Star to open those Easter eggs with “special prize” slips inside so we could see who won the new bike. I never did. In fact, I never even got one of the “special prize” eggs.

     Every Christmas, the lobby of the Star Theater had the best Christmas tree in town. It took up the whole left side of the lobby and had the most marvelous of decorations. My favorite things were little bubble tubes of various colors that reminded me of the marquee out in front.

     After the movie was over, we would walk through town until the sidewalk ran out, then onto the gravel road passed the slough to my grandparents’ house. On Friday nights, I would be allowed to spend the night at Grandma’s house. Most of the time we slept in the basement, but sometimes Dwight and I slept in one of the bedrooms on the main floor, in a bed that had funny metal swanlike things on the tops of the corner posts. More often than not, though, we could not sleep there because our noise would disturb my grandparents.

     After Saturday matinees, Mom was always waiting for us at Grandma’s house and we were whisked home for the weekly ritual of bathing, shining shoes, trimming hair, etc. in preparation for Sunday School. Then we had to wait an entire week before we could go to the next show.

     I shall never forget that wonderful theater! It was to be a special place to me until I finished high school years later — even when a poor economy limited it to opening only on weekends. Two years after I left Aberdeen, a horrible fire destroyed both the theater and the soda shop. Neither was ever rebuilt.