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Texas | Columns | "Spunky Flat and Beyond"

The Movies in 1930s Marlin

A Memoir by George Lester

Separating parents and children in Falls County was easier than you'd think. While the Great Depression had no cure - symptoms were lessened by ground beef and cola - taken orally and digested in the dark. - Editor

Picking Cotton

It is almost impossible for youth of today to imagine what life was like for youngsters of the 30s. Rather than lecture on how tough we had it, I'll simply present a slice of life in a different era.

My brother Sam and I lived on a farm in north central Texas about 10 miles east of Marlin. In those days most kids had chores to do. It was taken for granted. It was just the way things were then and we didn't question it.

In the spring we chopped miles of cotton rows, clearing the weeds between the stalks. Later, when the cotton matured it had to be picked. We didn't have machinery to do it and we didn't just pull bolls and all. We had to painstakingly pull the fluffy white fibers out of the prickly bolls. After a while our fingers were sore and bleeding, but they later became as tough as shoe leather.
Palace Theater and Palace Cafe, Marlin, Texas
The Palace Theater & Palace Café

Hamburgers at the Café were a nickel or a dime - depending on who was eating them.

TE photo, 2003

Hamburgers and R.C.

It was in the heart of the depression and although we always had plenty to eat we had very little spending money.

Our dad gave us each a quarter to spend on our big "Saturday-go-to-town" day. With that quarter I got two hamburgers, an R.C. Cola and still had a dime left over. There was a café right next to the Palace Theatre that sold hamburgers to kids for a nickel but the grown-ups had to pay a dime for them. I have never tasted any kind of gourmet food that could compare with the sensation of a biting into a Palace Cafe hamburger and washing it down with a swallow of "R.C.".
Strand Theater, Marlin, Texas
The Strand Theater building today
TE photo, 2003

Parents in the Palace
and Stranded Kids

Even though we had dined right next door to the Palace Theatre, Sam and I never considered seeing a movie there. The Palace featured those grownup romance-type films - the kind no kid would be caught dead watching.

Instead, my brother and I ran the few blocks to the Strand Theatre where the "Shoot 'em up" westerns were playing. I can still feel the tingle of excitement waiting in the darkened room for the movie to start. When that first flicker of light came across the screen the place went wild. The western stars of those days were Buck Jones, Hopalong Cassidy, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, and Tom Mix among others. When the movie was over we would meet mother and dad coming out of the Palace theatre.

On the trip back home the stark reality sank in that we were about to face another six days of labor. But for a short time there in the darkness of the Strand theatre we were lifted far above everyday life - enjoying Western adventure with a tummy full of nickel hamburgers and R.C. Cola.


© George Lester
April 2003

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