At lunch the other day, a friend and life-long Staten Islander who is an extraordinary storyteller, recalled an experience from her childhood in the balcony of the St. George Theatre. The year was 1948, 28 years before we’d try our luck as theater operators. She was ten years old.
I was with my brothers and sisters for the afternoon at the theater, but, as usual, I ran ahead of them up the stairs to the balcony, where we liked to sit. I always wanted to be first so I could sit near the wall of the balcony and look over to watch the people coming into the theater below. On that particular day, I found a large manila envelope on the floor leaning against the wall. I didn’t want my brothers and sisters to see it, so I set it down on the seat next to me. The movie came on screen, The Search, about a lost boy at the end of the war. I remember being riveted, but I could hardly wait to peek into the package. I did, and the first thing I saw was two books, one with a golden cover. The other was green. There was also in that envelope a slim box, maroon. I put my hand in and opened the box. A gun! A pistol, all black, just like my toy guns, except it was real! I couldn’t wait to get it home — to see if it would fit in my cap-gun holster! I didn’t want anyone, especially my older brother, who was sitting next to me, to see it. He would have taken it away. I knew he wouldn’t care about the books.
The movie was over, we took the bus home. I showed them all the envelope and said, “It’s just books, see?” When we got home, I went to get my holster. But my mother said, “What do you have there?”
“Just a couple of books I found in the movie...”
She took the envelope away and pulled the books out. “You’re too young for these!” she told me. The title I could figure out was, The Golden Hawk, by Frank Yerby. I wasn’t sure what the other one was all about. My mother looked deep into the envelope, “Well, you’re certainly not going to keep this!” she declared.
I burst into tears. “They’re mine! I found them!”
“Well, you’re not getting them,” and she took all the items and hid them somewhere.
I waited until she left the house, then I searched and searched, until I found them. They were on a high shelf — I had to climb up on a chair and look between some folded blankets. I knew better than to take the gun, but I took the books. My sister was five years older, so I asked if she could read them to me. When she saw the title of the green one, Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living, she said “Yeah!!!!!” I’ll never forget how hard I laughed — till my stomach hurt. That book was graphic. I remember saying about one part, “You mean that happens to Daddy?”
The gun was around the house for a long time. When I got older I noticed that on the barrel it said “22 caliber.” I thought about the person who left the package — he was probably a man.
Thankfully, there were no bullets.
There was at least one gun we knew about, that entered the St. George in our year, 1976; it arrived in in the hands of a very young boy and was carried all the way to the balcony. You’ll have to wait to read that story until the book — for which this blog was founded (Starts Wednesday: a Year in the Life of a Movie Palace) comes to press.
Wednesday, May 12, 1976
Jaws swam on-screen at The St. George Theatre,
"All Seats, All Times, $1.50, children 90 cents."
(Text from the original listing:
Clip this ad and receive FREE popcorn!
Check out our Dinner Movie Special,
Dinner at Casa Barone, Movie at The St. George,
both for only $4.79!}