Tag Archive | 1960s

Main Street

In the 1960s and ’70s one of the coolest things we could do downtown – at 407 Main Street and 516 Louisiana – was go to the movies in style. I’d give, well, not anything, but a lot to have photos of those theaters, but, alas, the only pictures I have of them are in my mind’s eye.

The Center Theater on Main and the Arkansas Theater on Louisiana were old-school movie houses, with red velvet curtains that opened before the show; large, lingering-friendly lobbies; and ushers with flashlights.

I’m not sure if I ever saw anything in the Capitol Theater on the corner of Capitol and Spring or if I just remember seeing the sign after it was closed, but I have vague memories of that, too.

If you’ve never seen a movie in such a theater, you don’t know what you’ve missed. Going to the movies was something of an event back then, similar, in the smallest of ways, to going to “the theatre” in a larger town, or maybe to Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock to see a play or recital – minus the fancy-dress clothes.

Of course we also had the Park Theater in North Little Rock, the Heights Theater on Kavanaugh, three drive-ins, and, in the late 1960s, the “futuristic” Cinema 150 on the corner of Asher and University.

But the downtown theaters were the coolest for junior highers. We could ride the bus to town, hang out for the day shopping (mainly window shopping), grab a bite, then see a movie. If it let out too late, an accommodating parent would pick us up.

For daytime movies, we could take the bus home.

My first somewhat vivid memory of the Center predates junior high by several years, though. When Spencer’s Mountain debuted in 1963, the entire family dressed up to go, even little Cathy, who was 4. 

We should have left her at home, as it turned out, because she was traumatized by the movie and ruined the experience for whichever parent had to take her screaming to the lobby. (Spoiler alert!!!)

Though it was billed as family fare and later spawned the long-running hit TV series The Waltons, seeing Grandfather Spencer crushed by a felled tree was too much for my little sister, who started crying and yelling, “I hate this movie! I want to leave!” My mortified parents tried to hush her, then one of them scooped her up and ran to the lobby.

It was a full house that night, as I remember. I think Daddy wore a suit.

Another major Center Theater memory is of the time Mother had some kind of daytime party for her friends, who brought their kids for me to watch. I must have been 11 or 12 and the children ranged in age from 4ish to 9ish. The moms didn’t want the kids in their hair (Wonder what kind of party that was?? Or maybe they went golfing. Hmmm …), so my job was to take them to see Walt Disney’s Snow White. 

I don’t remember exactly how many kids were in tow, but I know they outnumbered the dwarves. Things went well; remember, these were kindler, gentler times. I’m reasonably sure Pam agreed to help me herd munchkins.

I know Pam was part of my next important Center memory. Mother took us at 12 to see a special presentation of Gone With the Wind. I had just read the book for the first time (of at least six readings so far), and Vivien Leigh had just died, tragically young at 53 and still beautiful.

The curtains opened before the show, closed for intermission, then reopened for the second half. For Pam and me, the experience was a heavenly glimpse of the heyday of Hollywood blockbusters.

But my memories of seeing movies with friends downtown are mostly from the Arkansas Theater, which was on Louisiana. That’s where Gina McDonald and I saw Little Big Man in the ninth grade. At night. One of our parents picked us up.

I was moved and shocked by the movie’s intensity, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. And the book by Thomas Berger is one that you must read, if you haven’t already. You owe it to yourself. Trust me. You’ll forget that Jack Crabbe is fictional.

But I digress.

I’m sure I saw Planet of the Apes there the first time (before the P of A marathons at the drive-ins later) and True Grit. 

As always, forgive me (and correct me!) if I’m wrong – this is all from memory, though I did look up street numbers of the theaters.

One thing I know I remember perfectly is seeing the press sneak preview of The Exorcist at the Center Theater. I had just turned 18 and working part-time in the Arkansas Gazette library, so I scored a pass.

People were screaming and jumping, but, having read the book at 16 (straight through – I stayed up all night reading in our downstairs den on Blackhawk Road), I was able to stay cooler than some.

I still jumped and squirmed, of course. Scary stuff, demons and spirits.

That glorious theater was still filled with a spirit of its own, even in its waning days of life. They both died in the late 1970s. I still miss them.

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I’m a believer

In the seventh grade, I was still being forced (much against my will) to go to Ridgeroad Junior High makeup free. It was mortifying. All the cool girls at least got to wear their prescription liquid base from the dermatologist. Since I had maybe one pimple a month, I wasn’t even allowed that treasure, no matter how much I begged.

In between classes, it was a status symbol to pull out your prescription bottle of chalky liquid and apply liberally, all the while talking about what the doctor said during your last appointment. Alas, all I could do was glance in the mirror – and possibly use the restroom, if you get my drift. I was a blemish-free ’script wannabe.

Yardley keychain lipstick

But things began to change after Mother slipped an ever-so-cool Yardley of London three-lipstick set in my Christmas stocking. She was a pretty cool mom – totally straight moms didn’t give their daughters frosted white, frosted orange and frosted olive green lipstick. But mine did.

After that, it was Katie-bar-the-door, for a while, anyway. I mean, you can’t wear lipstick without mascara, right? And mascara is just a skip away from eyeliner, which leads to eyeshadow.

By eighth grade, I was in eye-makeup heaven. (But not base. Mother never gave in on that, and she must have known what she was doing, because I made it through high school with my one prominent zit a month.) Still don’t wear base to this day.

Pattie Boyd guided me through the prepubescent years, fashionwise, but in junior high, it was British supermodelJean Shrimpton all the way. She was glorious. She was beautiful. She was hip. She was a Yardley girl.

Pam and I began experimenting with makeup. Yardley of London was our main brand, and the summer between seventh and eighth or eighth and ninth grade – I just can’t remember after all these years – we did it all. Tiny flower-covered eyelids, little fake bottom lashes, a single heart below one eye. The coolest was covering our eyelids from lash to brow with black-and-white checks. And the coolest-coolest thing was the effect we didn’t anticipate – with eyes open, the checkerboard made a groovy optical illusion.

Very Peter Max.  I used Peter Max notebooks, by the way. Groovy.

Rosie Vela

(Side note: My 10th-grade Spanish teacher’s daughter Rosie Vela became a Revlon model and lived with Peter Max for a while. I met her at her mom’s second wedding, to which I was invited. The bride wore a micro-mini. Dig it.)

Pot o' Glimmerick

I spent a year wearing black liquid eyeliner, topped by white Glimmerick eyeliner, topped by olive green eyeliner to match my eyes. Yes, I was a triple threat.

Shortly after that, I was over it. Makeup takes too much time. By junior year, it was just black mascara (Revlon metal-wand only) and ‘30s-style plucked eyebrows.

(Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert

The incredible Garbo

ring a bell? Greta [I vant to be alone] Garbo? Their eyebrows had nothing on mine.)

I remain a makeup minimalist, and my eyebrows tend to fend for themselves these days. (Can’t see up-close well enough to do too much about them anyway, but after extreme plucking for years, they just get occasional strays anyway.)

But I do miss the merry mod days of old. I’m still a believer.