I have mentioned often about my young life in Wasco and the field work I did before I left for the military. Well, it occurred to me this morning that you might have thought I was a deprived young man. To the contrary, I actually had a great life as a young man.
I knew I was loved by my family, and to be honest, what else could you ask for? Yes, I worked hard on different farms, but that was expected, and so I didn’t know the difference between one job or another. One of the best distractions from hard work was The Wasco Theater. I saw some really great movies there, and though I didn’t like the romantics, there were plenty of other shows I could see. I didn’t care for movies unless they had a hero and a villain.
As I grew older I used it as a meeting place when I was wooing a young lady. What could be better for a young man than a dark atmosphere where you might be able to sneak a kiss? I say might because that was the time when they had ushers who were from the local high school and they didn’t allow such foolishness. No kissing, no talking during the movie.
And as strange as it seems today, you could smoke in the balcony if you were old enough to be allowed up there. You followed the rules because nothing was worse than to be kicked out because of your intensions. Handholding was OK, but you didn’t dare sneak a kiss or you would be sent up to the lobby to await your parents to come and pick you up.
I loved the movies for another reason. They did what movies were supposed to do, which was to transport you to another dimension. I saw all my heroes: Lash Larue, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Abbot and Costello, Flash Gordon. Oh, the list is long of my heroes during that period in my life. When I was a little older, I even got to watch Elvis Presley sing in his first movie. If you are of a certain age, you probably remember where you first saw The King the first time. In those days of innocence, every young man wanted to be the next Elvis.
It really didn’t matter what movie was playing. You were not expected to be a critic. Most of the movies were in black and white. Looking back I suppose colored movies probably cost more for the owner of the theater. I can still remember turning around and sticking my head into the fold of the seat when Frankenstein was getting close to getting his hands on Costello when he and Abbot met that same monster. I learned how to read the credits so I would know when to be quiet.
I know there was a movie theater in Gonzales, and I’m sure those emotions were not strange to the kids of that age. I didn’t care for musicals or sappy love stories. Until, that is, a favorite movie of mine, even after all these years, played there: “The Music Man,” starring Robert Preston. I don’t know if it was because I was getting older, but I can remember, to this day, the songs that were sung.
In case you don’t remember or you never saw this movie, Preston played a con artist who traveled to a small town and tried to get the town to sponsor a band. Of course, he sold the town all the instruments and convinced the city fathers to buy into his scheme. Once he got the money, he would catch the next train out of town. Or at least that is what he had been doing until he reached River City. There he met his fate because he fell in love with the starring female. That movie had some of the best songs I had ever heard. “Seventy-Six Trombones” was the final song sung as the credits rolled.
There was one other song that was used during the movie, “Ya Got Trouble.” This was a catchy little tune that was sung by Preston and assorted others that was used to convince the town not to allow a pool table to be installed in one of the drinking establishments. “Trouble, and that starts with ’T’ which rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for pool!”
You probably have heard this song or at least some of it because it has been used for a lot of problems that anyone or group could have. The air force captain who flew over our patrols would spot movement and tell us, “Ya got trouble.” It wasn’t as funny then, but I knew what he was saying. And I still hear his warnings.
Why am I boring you with details about this song? It’s because I feel that we may be living this song. Obviously not about a pool hall, but about our nation and the travails that wait if we are not careful. We are going to have new neighbors soon. The border between the USA and Mexico has fallen, as I have written would happen in an early column.
I know you may not be aware that it has been found that the earliest DNA that we all share came from the San People in southern Africa. Think about that. Every person in the world shares the DNA that was found. That means that we are all related to each other. We are brother and sister to everyone. True! It is only by DNA, but still…
“We the People!” These words from our preamble are how our country came about. The country is still a grand experiment. All experiments make mistakes and you know that we still do, but hopefully we continue to learn and grow.
We know that this country was settled by means that we are not always proud of, but the end result is that we are the greatest country in the world and the most coveted destination of anyone seeking a better life. I am proud of all that we share. I have volunteered to risk my life for this country and I have no doubt that “We the People” of Gonzales would do it again.