I remember certain grocery stores used to give out saturday matinee tickets to shoppers. This was a great marketing trick because the parents could drop off the kids at the theater and then have a few hours of kid free shopping. It was great for us kids too. They would usually show 2 features and have a drawing during intermission where we would win gift certificates for things like a quart of ice cream, box of popsicles or 50% off zoo admission. I imagine that the only loser in this deal was the theater for having to put up with hundreds of unchaperoned kids for 3 hours plus the clean up.
We watched Tarzan, cartoons, talking animals and westerns. I loved the westerns. Of course these were not the big box office pic's but for hundreds of screaming kids they were treasures. I remember part of one that I have never seen since. It was a cavalry flick with a couple young brothers stationed out on the Arizona desert. One of the brothers was courting the fort commanders daughter, of course. There was an Apache attack and the boy's rushed out to the horse corrals to protect the herd and while there an Apache threw a lance that pierced an older soldier. That scene made an impact on me as well as the old soldier. I don't know why but I have never seen this movie again so I don't know what the name of the movie was. I have spent a lot of time tivo'ing midnight flicks that I think might be it but have never found it.
There were several moments that planted the seed for my love of westerns and these old saturday matinees were probably the earliest.
Practically every Saturday around 1953/1954 when I was in 3rd/4th Grade, my Grandfather Bell & I would walk to downtown Enid, OK to the "Bowery" where there were several businesses and 2 movie houses. My Grandfather's favorite was "Johnny Mack Brown" who was also a football hero, as well as a Cowboy Matinee Idol. There would be at least one Cowboy Movie, a Serial (I remember watching Gene Autry in serials). I don't remember drawings, but there was a Piano Player for "intermission" rather than studio music, or music played over the loudspeakers. We would also get 1 or 2 cartoons, and a News Reel! (We didn't have a TV yet, so this was the "Network News".) Often we would stay the afternoon and see multiple showings (you didn't have to buy another ticket!)
Loved those Sat. matines! Roy, Gene, Lash, Johnny Mack, Rex ... well trained horses, pretty horses, some pretty fancy gymnastics and gun handling. Best of all the message to youth that moral actions and integrity rule.
Several years ago I saw an interview with Rex Allen that went something like this:
He was working a rodeo in one of the larger cities (Chicago or Detroit) and at the end of the day everyone wanted to go for a drink and he was invited. He said, "Sure, just let me go to the hotel and get out of this outfit."
So he's in the elevator, wearing his fancy suit, hat and brace of Colts and an older woman steps into the car. She say's something along the lines of, "I'm just so thrilled to be in an elevator with you, Mr. Rodgers. Could I have your autograph?"
Allen says, no problem, takes her offered paper and pen and writes something like, "A pleasure to have your support when I don't even sing as well as that Rex Allen fella." And then, of course, he signed, "Roy Rodgers."
Apparently, when RR heard the story he enjoyed it as well.