Saturday At The Movies

Ah, yes, the movies. My cousin and I would collect pop bottles and turn them in for the deposit to raise money for a movie on Saturday. We'd hitchhike the ten miles from Stinnett where we lived to the big town of Borger, Texas where they had not one, but three movie theaters on Main Street.

One of the things to come out of the war was making cigarette lighters out of .50 caliber machinegun ammunition. They had been deactivated by removing the bullet, dumping the powder and setting the cap off by holding it over a flame. Then the lead was melted out of the bullet leaving the brass shell which would be stuffed with cotton and then capped with a wick and little wheel that sent sparks off the flint to light it. They sold for 50 and having one was the only sure ticket to membership in the fraternity of boyhood.

On this particular week, by haunting trash bins, walking the ditches along the road through town and depriving myself of Snickers Candy bars and Nehi Big Orange drinks, I'd amassed enough nickels for not only a ticket to the movie with popcorn but also enough for the magic cigarette lighter, not that I really needed one because I didn't smoke.

The first thing I did was to buy one of the lighters and a little squirt can of Energene lighter fluid at the drugstore down the block from the move. Then as soon as the lights went out and the Path Newsreel came on, I squirted the cotton in my lighter with the fluid and thumbed the little wheel. Sparks spit from the flint and flames erupted from my hands and the front of my pants, it's hard to see what you are doing in a dark theater and I'd squirted the lighter fluid everywhere.

I dropped the flaming bullet as my cousin and I tried to beat out the flames. Then I spotted the bullet, which was easy since it was for the rolling under the seats next to the aisle with flames a foot high coming from it as it headed for the screen where an ad for the local funeral home was now showing.

I chased after the fleeing bullet, trying stop it by stepping on it as it passed from one row to the next. Unfortunately, I was always just one step behind the flaming bullet as it rolled merrily along. Fortunately we were about the only people in there or it might have caused a stampede.

The errant flaming object, the manager, two ushers, my cousin and I all arrived at the last row of seats at about the same time as the flames flickered out. I managed to salvage the bullet and returned it to the safety of the main shell before they threw us out into the alley through the side door, leaving our popcorn and can of lighter fluid two thirds of the way to the back of the theater.

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Copyright 2012 by Jim Foreman