The other day I was having a texting session with Frances (AKA Beanie) and I mentioned riding bicycles with my father to go watch movies in Ocean Park when we lived in Santa Monica. There were several movie houses in town but the boardwalk between the Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Park Pier was popular just as it is today for riding a bicycle.
Going to the movies predated my bicycle riding days. Towards the end of WW2 I would spend Saturdays at my cousin's house. The house was on Pico Blvd and someday I will go riding over there to see if anything looks familiar. My cousin Ronald's father was still in the Army and had not came back from Europe yet. Ronald and I would walk to the movies and watch the kid's shows which consisted of serials and one movie.
One morning we had an adventure and traveled by the Red Cars through Culver City rode by Venice finally to reach Santa Monica. We saw Gulliver's Travels at the Criterion on Third Street. On the street car journey I can remember the newspaper vendors at various intersection shouting out the headlines about a bomb and Japs.
Several years later when I was in Junior High I had a morning paper route with The Los Angeles Examiner. It was always creepy in the dark early hours before the sun came up. Especially the Criterion Apartments where I had to drop off a couple of papers inside.
Thanks to Google and IMDb I can set dates that match some of my memories. My Grandfather, Grandmother and Uncle lived on Vermont at 78th Street. There was a theater on the East side of Vermont a few blocks away. We saw "The Picture of Dorian Grey" there. That would set the date around 1945 when the movie was released. The film scared me when the character's picture kept changing. So as a four year old it made quite an impression. Scary movies usually drove me to the lobby to sit until the movie sound track softened and it was safe to return to my seat.
Another movie that frighten me even though it was billed as a comedy was "The Secret Life of Water Middy" which I saw at a theater in the Pacific Palisades when I was six. Travel around Southern California was not complicated by freeways then and if you did not have a car handy there was always the bus or the street cars. Some cities didn't allow street cars and one time we got stranded in Beverly Hills trying to get back from watching radio shows in Hollywood.
Often my father would take me to the theaters on Broadway by riding the street cars along Vermont. Once we went to a matinee at the Orpheum to see a double header of Vaudeville and a movie. The star billed was Eddy Peabody the "King of the Banjo". My father beside being a movie buff was also a banjo player. My father played the piano, violin, cornet, reeds, trumpet and banjo. He played by ear. I could never do that and had to read sheet music. Even while playing in the high school band and performing the same damn song over and over I rarely could play a complete piece from memory.
Since I lived on Tenth Street the walk to any of the four movie house in down town Santa Monica was not very far to walk. One of our favorite haunts was the El Miro on Third Street where I saw "Blackboard Jungle". The music from that apparently started Rock and Roll. A side note about Blackboard Jungle was the star was Glenn Ford who attended Santa Monica High School. If you left the ticket office of the El Miro walked down the side walk entered the arcade that went through to Fourth Street you came out next to the Hitching Post Theater. The Hitching Post played only cowboy stuff. The tickets were twenty cents so all you had to do was search the alleys for returnable bottles and go to the market or liquor store and cash in. The lobby of the theater had racks behind the candy counter to hang your cap guns and holsters as guns were not allowed in the theater.
My favorite cowboy then was Lash La Rue. He didn't sing like Roy Rodgers or Autry se was just cool.