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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 336. The California Style

It's Just Me Again No. 336: The 'California Style' For past Chuck Hinman columns, thumb back through Sundays with CM, reading as a Daily Newspaper.
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The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman. IJMA No. 080 Men Stay Out!

by Chuck Hinman

When I was growing up in the 1925-1940 time period, movies were not the technological marvels they are today.

It's hard for today's youngsters to believe that "talkies" had not been mastered. All movies had sub-titles. Remember? Every movie was in black and white. There were no color movies. Actually most film was not even sharp black and white but sort of mud-colored. Yuk!

Many of the films contained an endless chase with the good guys pitted against the bad guys. If it was a western, there was a long chase aboard horses. A very popular chase involved a smoke-spouting train and a horse-drawn fire-wagon. What heart-stopping drama! Such movies were not for the faint of heart!

In later years and before talkies began, some of the theaters in large cities had theater pipe organs to give musical accompaniment to "chases" or love scenes. It took a skilled organist to create just the right sound-bites for rapid changes of mood.

During my childhood, because of the "hard times" created by the great depression followed by years of drought, the insect plagues, etc., there was little room in the budget for pay movies such as were shown at the glittery Lyric theater in Wymore, Nebraska. FREE movies were shown outside in the small town of Barneston, Nebraska. There was row after row of wooden planks set on a metal frame. Many families brought a blanket and sat on the grass. The theater setting was a long way from the luxuries of today's multi-plex theaters or even the Lyric Theater in Wymore, Nebraska, with its colorful marquis. Oh Lord, I'm in heaven and I'm not dead!

And instead of there being a refreshment stand in the huge lobby of today's multi-screen movie houses, we felt lucky if there was enough money left after Mom had purchased the week's groceries at Wolken's grocery store in Barneston, Nebraska, for each of us kids to have a penny pack of life-savers to munch on at the movie. Chocolate-flavored life savers were my favorite.

Some of the early-day comedians were Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers. Some of the actors/actresses were Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Douglas Fairbanks, and Robert Taylor who had grown-up twelve miles away in Beatrice, Nebraska. A movie "tell-all" magazine of the day reported the important news that Robert Taylor suffered from halitosis (bad breath) causing leading movie queens not want to be cast opposite him where much kissing was involved. Such important news was restroom gossip at the remote country school I attended. I bet you didn't know that about RT.

One of my all-time favorite movies which I was privileged to see in the luxurious Stuart theater in Lincoln, Nebraska, was "Old Yeller" a dog story classic with beautiful background scenery.

Movies came along at an ideal time in my life. They transformed for a moment every Saturday night the seeming hum-drum, no frills life of a Nebraska farm boy with their Hollywood wizardry. It was dazzling and I loved it!

When my favorite cousin -- Lois Allington -- came to visit us from California, she would razzle-dazzle us by jerking the velour shawl off our ancient upright piano (the piano smelling of a dead mouse in a forgotten trap). She would drape the shawl over her early developing body, turning her head demurely over her shoulders and announcing in her sexiest voice -- "This is the California style." Oh God! You could have fooled my brother Bob and me! We were mesmerized.

In those days, starlet Deanna Durbin was the teen-age "darling" in Hollywood. Every teenage girl who could warble a song hoped to emulate Deanna Durbin. So cousin Lois and her mother took-off for Glendale, California, where Lois took voice lessons from Deanna Durbin's voice teacher.

Thus in those dreary no frills days when nothing approaching "sexiness" ever happened in a Nebraska teen-age farm boy's life, Lois's "strip-show" in the Hinman boys' living room was a break from reality and we fell for it big time!

But in retrospect isn't that what movies are about?

The years have rolled by and cousin Lois and I are the only ones left of our families. Both of us are suffering age-related frailties in a graceful way. I always get a Christmas letter from her signed simply but chock-full of memories -- "your California cousin."

Excuse me while I dry my eyes. I'm OK now...

History of the Stuart Theatre

On Monday, June 10, 1929, the Stuart Theatre opened its doors to the public for the first time. The first show to be performed on the historic stage was "The Rainbow Man."

The original structure occupied six floors in the 13-story building. Seating capacity was 1,850. The theater's architecture boasted influences resembling that of Italian Romanesque, with a slight Moorish influence. Strains of other architectural types were also evident in the beamed and panel designed ceiling, two balconies and six chandeliers. The interior walls, consisting of stone and terra cotta, were designed like that of an Old Italian Palace.

This story was posted on 2011-06-19 08:47:10
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