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Five Retro Things I Am Pondering

The mind is a strange thing. I had an almost sleepless night as a lingering cough objected loudly any time I tried to lie down. I sat up in my bed for hours and so many thoughts crossed my mind. After a few hours of sleep, these are the thoughts that still linger.

  1. We had a Western Auto store in the small town 7 miles from the Valley. I don’t think they exist anymore, but this is where my parents bought our first (and only) bicycles. A red boy’s bike for my brother and a blue girl’s bike for me and my sisters to share. I thought Western Auto was a hardware store, but I think now they were an auto parts store.
  2. We had wire pant stretchers used to help stretch and put creases in pants after they were washed. I have not seen them in ages, but they are still available for purchase. Laundry was always hung on a clothesline to dry, so anything to help keep the shape intact was helpful I suppose.
  3. Speaking of laundry, after clothes came in off the line, they needed to be ironed as almost everything was cotton in those days. My grandmother put clothes that needed to be pressed into an ironing basket. She had a green 7-Up bottle with a laundry sprinkler top designed to allow small droplets of water to moisten the clothes before ironing. You can still buy those, too.
  4. We had a five and dime store in the same town as the Western Auto. Our five and dime was part of a local chain started by entrepreneur Pete Ramsey. His stores eventually spread from the original location in Tennessee to include stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida. My favorite part of the store was the candy counter where I bought coconut bonbons and the toy section where I bought a TomThumb toy cash register and an amber colored glass piggy bank.
  5. I was trying to remember the first movie I ever saw in an indoor movie theatre. I think it was Swiss Family Robinson released in 1960. Our movie theater may not have received new releases right away so I cannot tell you what year I may have actually seen it. I don’t think there was a snack bar in the theater. We might have stopped at the local drug store next door to enjoy a vanilla or cherry coke before seeing the movie.

Did we share any experiences? What was the first movie you ever saw at an indoor theater? Do you remember?

37 thoughts on “Five Retro Things I Am Pondering”

  1. Wikipedia has a page on Western Auto.
    Founded: 1909; 112 years ago
    Founder George Pepperdine
    Defunct 2003; 18 years ago as brand
    Successor Advance Auto Parts
    Headquarters Kansas City, Missouri, United States
    Products; automobile parts, firearms, tires, bicycles, lawn mowers, home appliances

    I was taken to the cinema regularly as a child. (At least once a week, sometimes twice) One of the first films I remember seeing was the musical ‘South Pacific’, in 1958. I was 6 years old, and on the way home, my mum and I kept singing ‘Happy Talk’, one of the songs in the film. My dad later sung ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ on stage in pubs in London.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thanks for the info, Pete. I was a kid so I only noticed those things of interest to me.

      I love “Some Enchanted Evening” but do not remember “Happy Talk”. That was quite a first film for a young lad.

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  2. I believe my first indoor movie was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” when I was around four years old. I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. I despise that movie and to this day refuse to rewatch it, or see the reboot.

    Cheating a bit…the first movie that came to mind was “Star Wars.” I was five when I saw it. The start was a bit scary, but the scenes in the cantina were totally engrossing. This was my introduction to science fiction, and I took that ball and ran with it. Still am running with it.

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    1. Hi, Victoria! So glad to see you here. You are in my thoughts often. I hope you are doing well.

      Thank you about your thoughts on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. I found it disturbing as well. The original Star Wars movie will always be hard to beat.

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  3. The names differ but your memories sure trigger a lot of similar memories with me.
    I remember seeing Bambi in a theater with some older cousins. Growing I went to a lot of movies but always with the cousins.
    The first and only movie ever saw with my dad, who had gone to western movies several times, was The Boy With Green Hair, a weird, very weird picture. Once it started Dad grumbled a lot and closed his eyes and went to sleep. I fell asleep shortly after. When Mom asked him if we had fun, Dad growled about how they don’t make movies like they use to. Mom only saw one movie in a theater. Her sister took her to see Going My Way, the only time my maternal grandparents ever saw a movie. My paternal grandmother only saw one, The Song of Bernadette. She fell on the way back to the car and broke her hip. Never got out of bed and died soon after.

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    1. Wow, Don, that’s a lot of memories tucked into one comment. I just watched the trailer for “The Boy With Green Hair”. I guess the weird movie for me was “Soylent Green”. I did not see a lot of movies as a kid. We saved Foremost milk circles or pop bottle lids to get into the movies free. What a sad event for your grandmother. I am sorry that she had to endure that.

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  4. The first movie I saw in an inside theater was Babes in Toyland. It scared me to my core, setting the stage for me never really liking movies. I was always happy to have a Vanilla Coke!

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    1. So many of those early films were quite frightening. I am not a huge movie buff myself. I always preferred a Vanilla Coke to a Cherry Coke – but I was the odd man out in my family..

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  5. “Cinderella” was my first movie. I must have been 4. I fell in love with the fairy godmother. When I was in my back to nature phase in the 70’s there was a Western Auto store which had a wide variety of stuff, rather like Sears. We went to see “The Wizard of Oz” when I was 7 and my brother 4. He ran screaming out of the theater as soon as the witch rode by on her bicycle, so that was the end of that time!

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    1. Elizabeth, I always wanted a Fairy Godmother! That was a great first film, but at 4, I am surprised some of it was not a little unsettling. You must have latched on to the positive. Western Auto was quite an important store in our small community. We only saw the Wizard of Oz on television. None of it ever scared me. I remember the first time I saw it on a color tv. When the movie shifted from black and white to color, it was so beautiful. Seeing it on a black and white tv did not have the same impact. Lots of young kids were disturbed by the witch or the flying monkeys!

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  6. I’d never heard of wire pant stretchers so googled to see. I saw things I didn’t even know existed – do not look if you are of a delicate disposition!

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  7. The Blogger’s Best Friend tells us that Western Auto was bought out by Advance Auto Parts and vanished around 2003. I see someone already told you that, but I couldn’t stop myself.

    We had those pant stretchers, but I think Mom just got a Pepsi bottle, filled it with water, and used her thumb to control the water coming out when she was ironing. A friend’s mom had one of those sprinkler thingies, though, so I’ve seen them.

    We had dime stores: most of the ones in Chicago were Woolworth’s, but there was one in Delavan, Wisconsin called Schultz Brothers.

    I can’t remember if the first movie I saw was “Mary Poppins” in early 1964 or if it was a Saturday afternoon-type movie that involved a lot of blood and swordplay and a guy whose heart was frozen into a block of ice… you don’t want to hear about it, so let’s call it “Mary Poppins.”

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    1. John, I can always rely on you to have had similar experiences. Did you have a Western Auto?

      It was hard to beat Woolworths but we were too small town for such a big chain. When we went into the closest big town I always loved eating at the lunch counter. Were they the chain that had the blue plate special?

      I can remember sprinkling clothes for my grandmother, then closing them in a plastic bag to keep them damp while she ironed.

      I also remember going to see “River of Blood” (?) at the drive-in which was a piranha movie. It was pretty bloody for the time I guess.

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      1. We didn’t have Western Auto in Chicago, but when I was traveling in the ’80’s and ’90’s I’d see them pretty frequently.

        As for the Blue Plate Special, I don’t recall it (though I’ve heard of it), but Woolworth’s was known for their lunch counter, so it wouldn’t surprise me. While I was in college, the store I worked at was next door to a Woolworth’s, and it was a place for a cheap meal. We used to go there on break because they had real coffee, not the machine stuff…

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  8. Since we had the pandemic a year ago, I don’t need to iron clothes since the kids work from home. There are so many brand of iron now with sprinklers.

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    1. I don’t think K-Mart came on the scene for us until much later. I am wondering about Kresge’s, though. They might have had a store in our closest large town, 40 miles away.

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  9. Yes to the Western Auto, five and dime store, pants stretchers for the clothsline, and sprinkling of clothes with a soda bottle and perforated metal stopper.

    As for my first movie, we lived in the Ozarks and rarely went ANYWHERE. When I was in second grade, Dad announced he was taking all of us to the movie theater that evening to see “North to Alaska.” I was beyond excited and couldn’t wait for the school day to end so I could go to an actual movie theater. When I got home, I learned Dad had changed his mind and wasn’t taking us to see “North to Alaska.” My sweet mom, who (1) rarely took us kids anywhere at night and (2) almost never countered Dad on anything, took my sister and me (out of sympathy for our disappointment) to see the movie. Not the “typical” first movie for a kid to watch, but I still remember some of the theme song.

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    1. Ahhh, someone who had very similar memories! I am glad I am not alone in them.

      “North to Alaska” sounds like a great movie to see – sounds adventurous. I think I saw it years ago, but do not remember much about it. Movies were not big for us, either. Times were too tough and everyone had to be very frugal.

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