Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Thursday, February 23, 2006




Black-Market Popcorn --- Now It Can Be Told


Frugal breakfast bore unexpected fruit when I made my customary 6:00 a.m. entrance at the little diner where morning oatmeal is served. As I walked by a booth out front, I overheard snatches of conversation between one of the cooks and her grandfather, him preparing to attack a plate of biscuits and gravy. "Back when I worked at the theatre…" he said, which got my attention. Could this be a veteran of long past days at the Liberty, Allen, or even the generations-defunct Rose? Turns out he worked at the Allen from 1941 through 1944, his job to hustling popcorn. Wesley couldn’t be bothered about movies they ran, but his memories of that corn were vivid as to permeate our dining area with a smell of molten butter. Seems business was slow in ’41 when Wesley initially took charge of the counter (popcorn all they had for concessions, with no candy, and but one coke machine in the lobby). He made do with sluggish sales until a fateful day he added extra seasoning to the mix. Now, if you’re a connoisseur of theatre popcorn, the matter of seasoning can often draw a line of demarcation between a tasty treat and negation of your movie-going experience. Wesley’s enhanced popcorn was a sensation, with sales rocketing. The boss was delighted. Only problem lay in the fact that there was a war on, and popcorn seasoning was a rationed item. You could only get one 450 pound barrel every four months. Wes had used up the Allen’s barrel in six weeks. Not to worry, said senior management, and then, in a hushed aside, "I’ll get that seasoning…" Sure there was a war out there, but here was 1500 bags of popcorn being sold each Saturday, and at a nickel a bag, that’s seventy-five dollars. For this kind of windfall, rationing be hanged! Wesley is still loathe to speculate just how his boss got the extra barrels. All he knows is … they was got. One’s imagination runs riot at the prospect of a small-town exhibitor dealing in black-market popcorn seasoning. How did he acquire it? What sort of criminal element was involved? Was our humble community honeycombed with dealers in wartime contraband? Did sinister Axis agency lend assist to obtain the flavorful salt and butter combination? It’s fortunate I wasn’t born yet. Otherwise, I might have been sitting there eating popcorn at the expense of our boys in uniform. For all I know, this web of seditious intrigue extended all the way to Berlin or Tokyo. Perhaps it is best this story remain hidden. The Allen burned in 1962, Wesley the only one left who knows of its secret past. Let us mark this file --- confidential.


By way of background, here are 1941 ads for the Allen, and its rival up the street, the Liberty. The Allen ran second behind the Liberty, both in seating capacity (about 300 less of them), and the fact the Allen had no stage. Note the Liberty’s promise of "Deluxe Big-Time Vaudeville." They had stars making personal appearances as well. Wesley remembers seeing Wild Bill Elliot up there once. By the way, the Allen's run of Carolina may have been one of the last times the 1934 Fox feature was seen anywhere, as it is now a lost film, pretty incredible that a major studio feature of such late vintage should vanish from the face of the earth, but there it is. If anyone knows if and where Carolina survives, do make contact, and I’ll gladly update (Henry King directed a cast including Janet Gaynor, Lionel Barrymore, and Robert Young --- above is a still). For obvious reasons, this is a film I’d really like to see.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, a very funny and entertainig post.
Keep up the good work!

Greetings from UK.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, a very funny and entertainig post.
Keep up the good work!

Greetings from UK.

2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021