|Red and White Stores were found in small|
towns across North America like this one.
|Independent Grocers Association|
The Groulx's IGA was further down the street on the opposite side right next door to the building that was once the bakery run by Dad's parents when he was a small child .
Three small privately run stores , Walter's on Bissett St. , Gilligan's on McConnell St. and Huard's on John St., took care of immediate needs of families who lived near by . Dad had an account in Huard's that was about a mile from the CPR section house .
Mum and Dad used all the grocery stores , juggling an account at each store that was never fully paid off for years .
Shopping Day was Saturdays and Movie Day for the kids . While Mum and Dad did the shopping , each child was given a quarter to buy a ticket to the Saturday afternoon movie . Saturday afternoon was for children .
Next door to Lamothe's Taxi stand near the Mattawa House Hotel , the Mattawa theatre stood in some isolation . There was a gap before Ritter's Men's and Women's Clothing Store . The theatre sign was lined with light bulbs that flashed on and off around the name . These were the only bright lights in Mattawa and added to the excitement of Saturdays . The first time I saw them at night , I was suitably impressed .
The movie started at 1:00 pm and the doors opened at 12:40 for ticket selling .At 12:30 ,children were lined up along the front of the theatre excited by glossy posters announcing upcoming features -while complaining about how slow the line was moving . Every Saturday , it was the same or at least very similar conversation and routine .
This is where you cast your eyes over other children of the town . For us , most were strangers for our circle of friends/acquaintances was small indeed . After a few Saturdays , faces became familiar - noname friends with whom spontaneous movie conversation was shared in the excitement . When the ticket booth opened , a cheer erupted and craning necks judged how long until entry.
At my turn, I got my 15 cent ticket along with 10 cents change from Mrs. Consky . Then I moved on to Mr. Consky who waited at the inside doors to tear my ticket in half and place a portion into a slotted box . "Keep your stub," he announced each week and I held it tightly in my left hand for the duration never knowing why I needed it but holding it desperately. My biggest fear was that he would 'throw me out' because I lost my stub .
At entry , a kind of mob fever raced through the kids . They ran up and down the two aisles , looking for the perfect seat and location in a panic to get it before someone else did . Or they joined the press in front of Gloria at the snack bar to buy candy , soda pop and popcorn . I used my dime to buy a small box of popcorn or a package of Cinnamon Hearts or Nibs . All of this happened within a 15 minute window which heightened the fever . There is nothing like the ticking clock to make the excitement/activity race through a child .
By the time the lights dimmed and the curtains opened , all popcorn had been devoured and boxes pressed flat in anticipation of this moment . At the precise second when the projector's beam bore into the darkness , boxes were hurled (like Frizbees) through the light and huge silhouettes sailed across the empty screen in the quintessential arc . The quality of the arc was everything for you would be judged : Oo-oo or Boo-oo .
A mass cheer and clapping greeted the first flicker of the logo ; followed by a singalong slide show where you followed the bouncing ball and sang your lungs out ; next a preview of the movie for the coming week . Then came the cartoons , two of them : Woody Woodpecker , Mr. Magoo , Chip n' Dale , Heckyl and Jeckyl were a few of my favourites .
After cartoons came the comedy routines of The Bowry Boys , Our Gang , Ma and Pa Kettle or The Three Stooges . I never did find these particular slapstick comedians funny . Deliberately hurting peole did not seem right to me . I still turn my eyes away , when I see any harm happening to eyes . I blame that on The Three Stooges.
Then came a weekly episode of the serial which always started with a scene that took up the story from the week before . The hero , in danger of death only a week ago , survives by guile or quick-thinking . The villain then uses the fifteen minutes to get the hero or his paramour into another crisis situation and keep us in suspense for the next seven days .
By this point an hour after entering the theatre, the kids were ready . As the feature presentation was signalled by closing the curtain on silly antics . A moment of darkness quietened the crowd . Coloured lights spread up the curtains from the base then dimmed as the Film Studio icon took up the folds of the drapes . Slowly , they pulled away to reveal the feature's title . Mr. Consky's timing was perfect in building up the anticipation to a crescendo of cheers and clapping . For the remainder of the movie the kids were encompassed by a story that took over the controls from Mr. Consky .
At the end , kids exploded into the four o'clock sunlight of Saturday afternoon , shielding their eyes against the brightness until their pupils shrank to pinholes . Excitedly , they chattered their way to waiting parents ,or home . The boys always seemed to begin the play acting mimicry of the film at this point . It would keep them occupied for at least the rest of the day , if not the week .
Upon leaving the theatre , I always shouted " Thanks , Mr.Consky ! That was really good . 'See you next week ." I did not realize just how much the experience at the Mattawa Theatre was not just in the movie . Mr. C. knew his audience and how to show a them a good time .