|This photo from 1949 is the only one I have of the Joy Theater.|
In a world of smartphones, iPads, 3-D movies, and HD television, it’s difficult to envision a time when radios were the most advanced medium in the home and a trip to the movie theater to see a “picture show” was a special treat. In fact, the number of people who remember those days is steadily shrinking, but some of us still recall when the Joy Theater was one of the most important establishments in downtown Roscoe.
The Joy Theater was located on the south side of the street, just east of the intersection of Broadway and Main and just west of Medlock’s Furniture store. In the early fifties, it was owned by Jack Wallace, but he gave it up to run the Midway drive-in theater between Roscoe and Sweetwater and sold the Joy to John Weatherhogg, the math teacher at Roscoe High, who ran it with his son, Neil.
The price of admission was 14¢ for kids under 12 and 35¢ for anyone 12 or over. When we went on Saturday mornings, my parents usually gave my brothers and me the correct change or maybe 15¢, but occasionally we got lucky and got a quarter apiece. That would not only get us into the picture show, but also a small sack of popcorn (5¢), a coke (5¢), and a piece of penny candy, such as a Tootsie Roll, a piece of bubble gum, or a little four-pack of Kits. The Joy also sold candy like Big Hunks and Sugar Daddy, both of which were popular with kids because they took a long time to eat.
Next to the candy counter was a staircase that went up to the colored section, which was just a small balcony upstairs in the back with a few folding chairs and benches.
The evening shows were always for adults, but Saturday mornings were for kids, and it was always a treat to get to go. My brother Joe and I regularly went with Ronnie and Cuppy Graham but would meet up with other friends once we got to the theater. Like other kids who lived in town, we walked together from one of our houses and, when it was over, walked back. I don’t think it ever occurred to any of our parents to drive us to the theater the way parents do now.
Inside the theater the best place to sit was the front row. Besides being closest to the big screen, it was next to the open area between it and the screen where you could play or wrestle before the show started.
When the lights went out, the show would start with Previews of Coming Attractions, followed by the Paramount World News. Then came the cartoon (or sometimes a Three Stooges short), which we considered the best part of all. Sometimes it would be a Disney cartoon with Donald Duck or Goofy, but more often than not it was Looney Tunes with Sylvester & Tweety, Tom & Jerry, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd & Bugs Bunny, or Woody Woodpecker.
Then came the serial, which ran in successive episodes from week to week and featured someone like Lash Larue or Flash Gordon and his nemesis, the mad scientist, Dr. Grood. In all of the serials there was also a pretty lady who got involved and needed rescuing from time to time. The episodes always ended with Flash Gordon or the pretty lady in dire peril of impending ruin—and then we had to wait for a whole week to find out what happened to them.
After the serial came the feature presentation, more often than not a black-and-white western starring Hopalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. We knew them and their comic sidekicks—and their horses. With Roy Rogers came Gabby Hayes and Trigger; with Gene Autry it was Smiley Burnett and Champion. Most kids had a strong preference for one or the other, with some liking Roy Rogers better, while others preferred Gene Autry.
My friend Biggy Miller said he liked Roy Rogers better because Roy Rogers could duck bullets, a claim that I thought was preposterous. He’d gotten this idea from scenes when the bad guys would be shooting at Roy while he was riding Trigger full speed, and naturally he’d look back and duck down when they shot at him. Biggy believed he could see the bullets coming and was dodging them.
Saturday morning movies weren’t always westerns, though. Sometimes they were jungle movies with Tarzan or Jungle Jim or Bomba the Jungle Boy. In these, the comic sidekick was Cheetah or some other chimpanzee just like him, who would at some point save the day. And sometimes they were war movies with John Wayne, Van Johnson, or Richard Widmark. It hadn’t been that long before that the country was at war, and the memory of sacrifice and victory was still fresh on people’s minds.
No matter what the movie was about, though, when it was over, we’d go back home and relive it in our play afterwards. If it was a war movie, we’d be out in some vacant lot killing Japs or Germans. If it was a western, it would be Indians or outlaws, and if it was a jungle movie, it would be crocodiles or gorillas or natives.
People did things at the Joy Theater that don’t happen at movie theaters now, and I’m talking about adults, too, not just kids. Sometimes there’d be a cartoon with songs. The lyrics would appear on the screen, and a bouncing ball would move from word to word in sync with the song—and the people in the audience would sing along with the song. I guess most of them were used to singing every Sunday morning in church, so nobody thought anything was unusual about singing in the Joy Theater--and so they did. I can remember singing along to tunes like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Oh, my darling Clementine.”
And on certain nights, Tuesdays I believe, between the cartoon and the movie they’d turn on the lights, and Mr. Weatherhogg would go to the front of the theater to conduct a drawing. The ticket stubs had numbers on them, and people would check theirs to see if their number matched the one that Mr. Weatherhogg drew and announced. If it did, they won a prize of some sort. After three or four prizes were awarded, Mr. Weatherhogg would remind everyone that there would be another drawing the next week, the lights would go back out, and the feature presentation would begin.
The movies that drew the biggest crowds were the religious ones. When they ran one called “King of Kings,” a show about Jesus, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, and another one, “Quo Vadis,” drew a similar crowd. Also, a black-and-white movie about Bonnie and Clyde once came to the Joy, and along with it came the actual bullet-riddled car that Bonnie and Clyde had been in when they were ambushed and killed. The car sat in front of the theater all day, and that evening the movie played to a packed audience.
However, the popularity of the Joy faded pretty quickly once Abilene and Sweetwater got broadcast television stations in the mid-fifties. I don’t think the theater brought in a lot of money in the first place, but when people started staying home to watch Slim Willett and similar programming for free—or went to Sweetwater to see picture shows at the Midway or the Rocket drive-ins, the competition was too much for the Joy, and it finally had to close its doors, becoming just another memory of an earlier time.
|The Joy's movie calendar for February 1948. (Click to enlarge.)|
PLOWGIRLS BEGIN DISTRICT PLAY WITH WINS OVER HERMLEIGH, WESTBROOK
The Plowgirls are now 2-0 in district play after defeating Hermleigh 46-22 in Roscoe on Friday and Westbrook 27-19 in Westbrook last night.
Against Hermleigh, the Plowgirls jumped out to an early 9-2 lead in the first quarter and never trailed the Cardinals for the rest of the game. The halftime score was 19-10 and at the end of three it was 33-16.
High scorer for the Plowgirls was Shelby Brown with 19, followed by Eva Aguayo with 13, Sunshine Saddler 6, Cha Cha Chavez 4, Ashton Payne 2, and Whitney Williams 2.
Then last night the Plowgirls defeated Westbrook 27-19. Once again, the Plowgirls jumped out to an early lead and then held serve in the second quarter. After one it was 6-2 and at halftime 14-10. The Wildcats were within one at the end of three with the score 17-16, but then the Plowgirls outscored Westbrook 10-3 in the fourth to win by nine, 27-19.
High scorer for the Plowgirls was Aguayo with 14 points. Sam Ortega had 5, Saddler 3, Williams 3, and Selena Perez 2.
The JV Plowgirls lost to the Hermleigh JV, 32-11, but then rebounded with a 19-12 victory over the Westbrook JV, 19-12. Scoring in the Hermleigh game was as follows: Caty Chavira 6, Alejandra Solis 2, Mireva Sanchez 2, and Lyndi Wilkinson 1. In the Westbrook game it was Danielle Dean 8, Wilkinson 5, Sanchez 3, Karina Cisneros 2, and Chavira 1.
The Plowgirls’ next opponent is Ira here Friday evening. The same is true for the Plowboys, who were idle this past week.
CURTIS GRIMES RETURNS TO LUMBERYARD SATURDAY NIGHT
The show starts at 9:00pm, and the cover charge is $10 at the door, $8 in advance. For more information, call the Lumberyard at 325-766-2457.
WEATHER REPORT: C-O-L-D
Sunday’s high was 37° and low 19°, while Monday’s high was only 32° with a low of 10°. Yesterday morning it was 20° at sunrise and actually got up to 48°, so it appears we’re through the hard part. This afternoon should get up into the upper fifties with a low tonight in the upper twenties.
On Thursday night the weathermen are forecasting a low in the forties and a 50% chance of rain, which will extend into Friday afternoon with temperatures rising into the upper sixties.
The weekend should be once again sunny and dry with highs in the fifties and lows in the thirties.