Poor as the neighborhood was, it wasn’t unusual for a family to walk into the lobby and ask if they could just buy some food and hang out. For the most part, the honor system worked, and they didn’t try to duck into the auditorium. In addition to Sno-Caps, Charleston Chews, Good ‘n Plenties, Reese Cups, Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Jujubes, Dots, and Jordan Almonds, we provided all-beef Kosher hot dogs on small homemade Italian breads delivered from a local bakery each morning. Our popcorn (freshly popped) came with real clarified butter. Haagen Dazs ice cream was almost avant-garde. A guy in a station wagon delivered it to the theater’s door in three flavors. Freshly-ground coffee — without which a number of us might have frozen to death — was a big seller. Coke, Diet Coke, root beer, Sprite, and Creme Soda arrived in syrup containers, carbonation and water to be added.
Looking out from the stand, through the plate-glass that separated the auditorium from the lobby, it was possible to follow the action on-screen while eating dinner. What would I have done that winter without at least one daily concession-stand meal? Popcorn, egg-salad from home, and kosher hot dogs formed the solid core of my diet, and I was not alone.
In addition to providing nourishment, the stand also served as a kind of hearth, where we gathered to keep warm and tell each other stories. Whoever had the night’s concession shift polished the glass, stocked the case, popped popcorn at strategic moments — before a feature began or between double features, filled the soft-drink heads, and inventoried the shelves in the closet. He or she was seldom alone. People from the street, who had no intention (or not enough money) to watch a movie came in to hang out. We could have set out tables on the tattered swirls of carpet in our lobby, if only it had been warm enough.