Saturday matinees kept us on edge of, and under, our seats
The TV screens in homes keep getting bigger and bigger, while the movie screens in theaters are getting smaller and smaller. My cousin Gervase has a home theater with a screen so big that he has to keep the drapes closed.
If he doesn't do that when he is showing a good movie, cars block the street because the drivers think that they are at a drive-in theater.
You couldn't confuse TV screens with movie screens in the days of my misspent youth. And that wasn't just because I was smaller then and the screens at the town movie theater just seemed larger.
The Vic might have been a bit rough around the edges after decades of hosting kids who were a little rough around the edges themselves in thousands of Saturday afternoon matinees, but there was no denying that King Kong would appear life-size on its screen.
(On the mini-theater screens of today, King Kong would look like a chimpanzee with a bad attitude.)
I spent more time in the dark than the average mushroom as I watched and forgot countless watchable and forgettable films, eroding the upholstery on the seats that were installed around the time my dad was born.
Most of my matinee movie-watching was done in the days before movies had the ratings that everyone ignores today. The only time you might hear an inappropriate word in the Vic was if the usher stubbed her toe on one of the seats.
I know there weren't too many Westerns shown. That's not because we kids did not like tales of the Old West. It's just that there were so many Westerns on TV in those days that most of the guys were walking bowlegged even though none of them had ever been on a horse other than the mechanical one in front of the 5-and-10-cent store.
I seem to recall that just about every other movie was cranked out by Walt Disney. About half of these were new or recycled animated films ranging from classics such as "Pinocchio" and "Bambi" to new ones such as "101 Dalmatians" and "The Jungle Book."
Strangely, almost every one of those films had at least one scene that either scared us or made us cry. I had to be pried away from the ancient Jujubes under the seat when Pinocchio started to change into a donkey on the Island of Lost Boys.
I have an even more painful memory of "101 Dalmatians." Waiting in line at the box office, I somehow got into a confrontation with a bully several years my senior.
I was young and dumb (fill in your own joke here) and punched him in the mouth. He had picked me up and was about to body slam me when a theater usher intervened. I watched that afternoon hiding from the bully in Jujubes level under a seat.
Who says Disney films are non-violent?
I have more pleasant memories of a couple non-animated Disney films, "The Absent-minded Professor," and its sequel, "Son of Flubber." Fred MacMurray invented an anti-gravity material called flubber that can make a car fly and basketball players soar through the air.
I got the inspired idea to create my own version of the material by wrapping a Super Ball, a high-bouncing rubber product, with Silly Putty, a moldable mound of silicone that came in plastic eggs.
Alas, nothing came of that experiment. When I stuck the Silly Putty Super Ball onto the bottom of my pogo stick, I left a trail of Silly Putty down the sidewalk and wound up being bounced into the gutter by the uncovered Super Ball.
Of course, the Vic didn't only show Disney films. There were also educational offerings - such as the classic "The Three Stooges in Orbit," "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" and "Snow White and The Three Stooges."
There was nothing like watching the Three Stooges' short films on Sally Starr's "Popeye Theater" every weekday and then going to the movies on Saturdays to see feature-length Three Stooges productions. You can never get too much of a good thing.
Another one of our favorites was a comedian with the artistic flair and Shakespearian sense of drama normally associated only with Moe, Larry and Curly - Jerry Lewis.
There was nothing quite like seeing a grown man acting like a 3-year-old kid in such unforgettable films as "The Disorderly Orderly," "The Family Jewels," "The Patsy" and "The Bellboy."
Growing up in the shadow of the Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis, I am living proof that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree.
They would never dare show mushy, romantic pictures at Saturday matinees, so the only films I usually skipped were horror films.
I'm not saying I was scared of such fare.
Let's just say I spent enough time under the seat stuck to stale Jujubes watching Disney animated films and hiding from bullies.
I didn't need Frankenstein or the Wolfman to give me any more reasons for staggering from the dark theater into blinding sunlight looking like a giant popcorn ball with that movie snack sticking to the Jujubes sticking to me.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)