When I was a kid growing up on the ranch, a trip to town was a big deal. We lived about 23 miles from Craig, so by the time we drove there, ran our errands and drove back home, the day was done. We had chores to do before and after the trip, too, so the bottom line was that we just didn’t go to town very often (even less in the winter, when the roads were drifted with snow).
Evening trips to Craig were even more infrequent, but when weather permitted, we sometimes went to a movie at the West Theatre. Memories for this story probably go back to the 1950s.
In those days, the West Theatre sent out a monthly movie calendar to let people know what movies were scheduled. The movie calendar resembled a “regular” calendar except that the spaces under the dates were filled with small reprints of movie posters that gave us hints as to what the movies were about.
We hung the calendar up next to our “regular” calendar and studied it. Then we went to work on Dad, trying to get him to take us to a movie (although Mom had a driver’s license, she did not drive to Craig). It was pretty easy to get Dad to go see a Western, but not so easy to get him to see anything else.
The entire family enjoyed a movie night, and we talked about the movie all the way home. Then for days afterward, we girls imagined we were the starring characters as we acted out the movie at home.
For example, there was “Calamity Jane,” starring Doris Day and (I think) Howard Keel. We went out back of the house where Dad and Mom had left some rolls of woven wire after planting trees. One roll was quite large, and it was laying on its side. In our eyes, this roll of wire made a perfect imaginary stagecoach.
The wire was safe because it was too heavy to turn over and over, but when we got up on our pretend stagecoach, we could bounce up and down, making it all that more real. Not only that, but an imaginary team of horses was set to go. All we had to do was take the reins in our hands and the stage was off for the town of Deadwood.
“Calamity Jane” was a musical, and we remembered the words to some of the songs. So as we bounced on top of our stagecoach, we sang “The Deadwood Stage.”
“The Deadwood Stage is coming to town, with isinglass curtains that roll up and down …” is what I remember, and we sang it over and over.
We spent hours on the Deadwood Stage, and I’m sure that we acted out other scenes from the movie, as well.
Another movie I remember was “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It was kind of hard to think of a way to turn the backyard into a circus scene, but we did have a pretend trapeze. We had a swing, so we took turns swinging high up in the air, all the while pretending to be female trapeze artists who were performing thrilling tricks under the circus tent. Of course, the artists were dressed in sparkling sequin-covered dresses.
Oh, the power of imagination!