Those of us who were reared in rural Eastern Kentucky during the 1940s and early 1950s may not have been privileged economically, but since we didn’t know any better, we might as well have been. After all, you can’t miss what you’ve never had.
As I’ve mentioned over the years -- probably on far too many occasions since I’ve been accused of being guilty of doing just that -- in the days before TV came up our holler, most all the kids in our neighborhood were avid movie goers. There wasn’t a person among us who couldn’t tell you the names of every cowboy’s sidekick, the name of his horse, and whether he wore two guns or one. Especially on weekends, it was not unusual for eight or ten of us to walk to town together for a double dose of thrills and excitement as we’d take in the double feature at both the Royal and the Sipp theaters.
Of course, while westerns were our favorite, we watched whatever happened to be playing. Not too long ago, someone asked me whether or not I had ever, as a kid, compared the way I lived to all the fine homes, and especially the modern conveniences, that were displayed in movies. Like, for examples, those extravagant homes that were backdrops to the big two-hour Technicolor musicals that we enjoyed on Sunday afternoons. You know the ones I mean, where a large family lived in a house with all the modern facilities -- individual bedrooms for each member of the family and indoor plumbing --and where the father sat around in his cardigan and read a newspaper while he smoked his pipe as the mother, who, nine times out of ten, was portrayed as sort of a comic figure who did little but scurry about the kitchen baking pies and uttering silly little remarks that did nothing to add to the plot of the tale being told.
My response to the question, of course, was that not once did it ever enter my mind that those folks were living any better than I was. Perhaps, without even knowing I was doing it, I just considered them as residing in a land of make believe that in no way resembles reality.
I supposed that if I had compared any incidents that I experienced via the silver screen to real life, they would have related more to the cowboy shows than to anything else. I can imagine myself wondering about how a six-shooter could fire 15 or 20 times without having to be reloaded or how come the horses in the movies never had to use the bathroom.
But such were the thoughts of a ten-year-old boy who had never been so far from home that he couldn’t get back before dark. I can remember, however, as a bunch of us walked home one night in the dark, having a pretty good argument about where the orchestra was hiding as it accompanied Gene (or was it Roy) as he rode along -- not another person in sight -- down the dusty trail singing to his horse.
Other than that, though, movies then were simply fun … something to enjoy without having to give them too much thought.