“You make a better door than a window”


‘Consuming media the Mid-Century Modern way’

So. The Dude and I went to an actual movie yesterday afternoon. In an actual movie theater. It was the new Mission Impossible. (The one everybody else on earth saw, like, six weeks ago.) I must say that I’m glad we caught those zooming motorcycles and dueling helicopters and ticking nuclear bombs before they left the theaters and we had to stream the whole shebang instead.

Looks like Youngest Younger Brother Doug’s been doing a little ‘streaming’. Or maybe ‘laking’

I can remember only too well those days when, if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to a movie theater. (I shouldn’t say “had to”, because it was really fun.) The only thing that was kind of a downside was that the one movie theater in my hometown only had one screen and pretty much played only one movie at a time. I say “pretty much”, because sometimes they’d play Kid Movies in the daytime and Grownup Movies at night.

You’d buy popcorn or Milk Duds and sit in the balcony with your friends. If you were naughty, you’d warm the Milk Duds in the palm of your hand, then throw them at the screen. The goal was to get them to stick in an embarrassing spot — like on the Leading Lady’s cheek.

Oh, and in the summer that theater would shut down. (Too expensive to run the AC, I’m guessing.) And the drive-in would open. Our whole family would pile in the car and go see such fare as “The Absent-Minded Professor”. We would pop our own corn and take it in a big washtub. This was not only to save money, but so we kids wouldn’t get “educated” on walks to the concession stand. There were other cars with suspiciously steamed-up windows, you see — even at the Disney movies.

Phishing. A gang of Mid-Century kids left to their own non-electronic devices

When I reached high-school age I was absolutely forbidden to go to the “Passion Pit”, as my mother called the drive-in. Though once I famously got into Big Trouble for going there anyway when she was out of town and my Dad was in charge. (See “Double-Dating at the Drive-In with Bonnie and Clyde” for gory details. Note: I am still grounded.)

Oh — the other way we watched movies was on TV. I don’t remember there being that many channels, but there seemed to be lots of choices. You could watch not only “To Catch a Thief” (one of my Dad’s faves) but cool “foreign” stuff like “The Lavender Hill Mob”. I distinctly remember my Dad digging “Knife in the Water”. Which was in Polish, for heaven’s sakes.

While watching, if we weren’t devouring vats of popcorn popped by my Youngest Younger Brother Doug (who could barely reach the stove to shake the popcorn pot, which was what you had to do, microwaves being non-existent), we were powering down giant bowls of vanilla ice cream. (The only flavor, pretty much, that was on hand, since Mom could buy humongous cartons of it on sale.)

One minor wrinkle was that you could only watch movies on TV when they were actually scheduled. There was no “on demand”, unless you count my father dictating the choices. (He ruled with an iron hand even before the invention of the “remote”. If you had the temerity to change the channel — even if he was snoring in the supine position — there was heck to pay. “I was watching that!” he would snarl, and you’d better darn change it back to the golf game, and be quick about it.)

Flat-screen TVs are nice, but you can’t display family photos or Christmas decorations on them, much less lighted candles. Cool photo by Oldest Younger Brother Scott (whose grad pic that is). Scott also took the classic Doug upside-down news shot at the top of this story.

Oh yes. There was one other little drawback. Which was that there were seven of us. And even though we had a pretty big TV, it could be tough to get in good viewing position. Basically, we left the couches and chairs to our parents, and deployed ourselves all around the floor. (Wall-to-wall carpeted, as all floors were back then, at least all the floors I came in contact with.)

Doug again, in prime viewing position. Except that it looks like Major, instead of a sibling, might be blocking his view

The littler kids in my family would sometimes plant themselves smack dab in front of the screen and have to be reminded that, as my title says, “he or sometimes she made a better door than a window”.

Just try to go running with a set of these. That’s not Doug, but The Child, listening to Beethoven, no doubt

By the way, speaking of littler kids, check out the picture at the top of this post. It’s Doug again, at prime screen-blocking age, reading the daily paper, bless him — upside down.

Here is The Child, post trick-or-treating, using an early version of Seamless 

I could go on and on, but I have to go check on my grocery delivery. The Fresh Direct internet elves tell me it should be here by now. In the meantime, if you haven’t already seen the ever-youthful how-does-he-still-do-his-own-stunts Tom Cruise in the new Mission Impossible, I highly recommend you do so before streaming is your only option.

The Child setting me up with Facebook. Which I am sure she now eternally regrets

New York City. September 2018

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8 thoughts on ““You make a better door than a window”

  1. I loved reading your post about movie theatre and drive in( we never had drive in in Italy). I haven’t seen Mission impossible yet will have to tell my husband….it is time to go and watch a non Disney movie for once. Miss the black and white tv and sit around the tv to watch a program all together without distractions. Thanks for writing such a great story and forgive my English.

    • Dear Delicious, your English is certainly better than my Italian! Thank you for reading, enjoying, and commenting. I think you and your husband will get a kick out of the Mission Impossible — there’s a terrific motorcycle chase that’s definitely not Disney! Too bad you didn’t have drive-in movies in Italy. But if your mom was anything like mine, she wouldn’t have let you go anyway (!) At least not in high school. With a BOY. Hope to see you here again soon. xoxo

  2. Deborah

    All of us in our neighborhood only had black and white TVs when I was a kid. But one neighbor had this flat plastic gizmo that fit on the screen that was transparent but tinted pale blueish at the top, pale pinkish in the center and pale greenish at the bottom. I think it stuck to the TV by static cling. The idea was that it was supposed to make your black and white TV appear in color. Since many scenes have blue sky and green landscapes above and below, the pinkish part was for faces in the center. Of course it was ridiculous as close ups of people ended up looking like they were both bruised and nauseated. It made watching dumb shows funny though.

    Oh how we yearned for a color TV when the Wonderful World of Disney came on. We didn’t get a color TV until my sister and I were in college.

    • Omigoodness, Deborah! We had one of those plastic things! I can remember watching a cartoon that I called ‘Seder Rabbit’ with (thru?) it. The character was actually named ‘Crusader Rabbit’, but my Mom thought my pronunciation too funny to correct. I remember that we got our first color TV in time to warch the St. Louis Cardinals play in the World Series. Mid 60s, I’m thinking.

  3. It was a big deal when a big movie would be shown on TV! I remember my friend’s mom being all aflutter when Planet of the Apes was going to air that night for the first time. Because… Charlton Heston without a shirt!

    • Charlton Heston without a shirt!!! Totally get that. Did you ever go over to another friend’s just to watch a big movie together? I remember when they aired all three Godfather films in a row. I went over to Kitty Baker’s place to OD on Mafia Guys and Junk Food!

      • Absolutely! And the excitement of everyone getting seated and settled before it started – not like today when you can start and pause whenever you want. I also remember mini-series like Roots. I had flute lessons a few blocks away and my teacher let me go 5 minutes early so I could hop on my bike and get home it time for that night’s episode. In those days it was truly “must see TV.”

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