Best Show in Town, Best Show in Town
Remember when movie tickets were a dime and cokes were a nickel? When I was a young boy growing up in Grace, Idaho, during the 1940s, that was the case. We kids could buy a ticket to a movie, a box of popcorn, a coke, and have money left over from a quarter. Our movie ticket was a dime, (I believe our parents tickets were fifteen cents) the coke and popcorn were a nickel each. The gentleman who owned the movie theater, was a man named Burt Orr. The theater at that time was called the Grace Opera House, I can still see Mr. Orr in my mind’s eye today standing out on the street corner with his megaphone in hand like the carnival barkers at the midway used to do. His refrain was: “come on in folks, best show in town, best show in town. Kids only a dime, parents fifteen cents, best show in town.”
Of course with Grace being a town of only 500 people, give or take ten, it was the only show in town. As I recall, however, he usually had a full house. This was probably due to him showing the movie News Reels which he would change once a week. Twenty-four hour seven days a week visual news coverage wasn’t available in those days as it is today; and those News Reels gave the folks back home a small glimpse of how the war was going “over seas.”
I remember Mr. Orr had snow white hair and was most always dressed in a business suit and tie. He was rarely ever seen in any other attire except the times when he worked in his yard or garden. He and Mrs. Orr lived just two houses down on the same street from where we lived. I remember he had a beautiful rock garden in the back yard, and I mean it was huge. It was a small mountain. It was the kind of rock garden you wandered through in order to grasp its full beauty.
Mr. and Mrs. Orr had a granddaughter about my age who would come from Idaho Falls every summer to visit. She usually stayed with her grandparents about two weeks. She and I used to play Tarzan and Jane in the rock garden; a garden alive with a large variety of different flowers and plants that we imagined to be jungle plants. During that time period, the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies were popular with the kid set. Atop this imaginary jungle was a little gazebo where we took pleasure eating lunch that Mrs. Orr often prepared for us.
However, there was one incident where I fell out of grace with the Orrs for a short period of time. Mr. Orr had planted some young sapling trees along the front of his yard. One day while walking down the sidewalk on my way to Grandma’s house, I casually snapped off the top half of those young trees. Unfortunately for me, a neighbor across the street saw what I had done and reported it to Mr. Orr, who later brought this to the attention of Dad; and needless to say, there were consequences for my action. As I look back on it now, the concept of actions having consequences was one that seemed difficult for me to grasp in my early pre-adolescent years. 🙂 Not that any of my actions had a malicious intent; they mostly happened without forethought.
I had been saving some of my allowance for something I had wanted, and I had a cache of about $2.50 saved. Dad and Mr. Orr agreed on the amount it would take to replace the trees for which it was determined I would pay. There went my cache plus a portion of my allowance for several weeks until the debt was paid. The Orrs did eventually forgive me my transgression and I was later able to work my way back into their good graces.
Perhaps this would be a good place to take a moment to explain how the little village of Grace acquired its name. Quite often communities are named after something around them like the landscape or some other phenomenon. Not in the case of Grace, Idaho. Back in the early days of the town’s existance when it came time to be designated an official chartered village with a post office, the application had to be made through the post office in Blackfoot, Idaho.
When the city fathers made their official application, the Postmaster asked them what the name was they had selected for their little community. Up until that time the people and the city officials hadn’t been able to agree on a name. The Blackfoot Postmaster said they had to submit something. His wife’s name was Grace. “We’ll put that on the application for now,” he said. “You can always request a name change later when you decide what you want.” The name stuck, and that’s how Grace, Idaho came to be officially named Grace, Idaho. 🙂
If you would like to get a further glimpse of life in this little village during the 1940s, and get a short two hour respite from today’s harrowing world,you can do so by going to upper right of this page, click on the free download button and receive a free copy of my book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, and enjoy some of Buddy’s and cousin Mont’s adventures.