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Prime Time | Jeb Monge: Movies provided fun, news, entertainment

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Prime Time | Jeb Monge: Movies provided fun, news, entertainment
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

By Jeb Monge

Movies were basic to our lives. Every Friday night we went to see a “show.” Our source of news was the long newsreel before the show began. We got the news of the world and our state from the Minneapolis Star at suppertime and the Minneapolis Tribune in the morning. The Headlight Herald covered Tracy and Lyon County.


The fun of the newsreel was that we could experience history in action. The news was a week or two old, but that did not bother us. There was no way we could see the news several times during the day and then read about it in the paper. I remember when we invaded Grenada some 30 years ago, and the news television crews were waiting on shore for our troops to land. We had instant news. Not back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. There was at least a week before we heard and saw anything.

I loved the newsreels. We were watching history in motion. We could cheer our soldiers on in Europe and the Pacific. We could see victory firsthand. I wonder if they showed us the defeats. Who cares? It was fun to watch.

The O’Brien theater, or as we called it “the old theater,” had cowboy movies on Saturday night. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Tom Mix and others filled the screen with lots of action: shooting and fighting. We never saw blood. When a guy was shot, he said: “Ohhh,” fell down, and died in great agony.

On Friday nights or Sunday afternoons – I didn’t know afternoon movies were called matinees until I moved to Minneapolis – we saw the new Hollywood movies. They all would have been rated G, if they had been a rating system then. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Rock Hudson and Doris Day, the star of “Once in Love with Amy,” Van Johnson, Gregory Peck, and on and on, were seen each week. Remember, there was no TV, so the movies were our weekly entertainment.

Fifteen cents was the price of the movie, along with 10 cents for popcorn. Johnny Glaser enjoyed us kids coming to the movie. He made us feel special when he made and distributed the popcorn and candy. Most often we just had popcorn.

We sat up toward the front and in the middle of the theater, eating our popcorn, watching the newsreels and enjoying the movie.

There seemed to be a lot of musicals, like “Once in Love with Amy.” Van Johnson both sang and acted. Doris Day was a popular singer/actor.

The theater was big part of our lives. I remember whenever I walked by the theater I thought of how nice Johnny Glaser was and also would remember the different movies I had seen.

“The Wizard of Oz” first came out the year I was born: 1939. I don’t know how many times I have seen that movie, both in the theater and since in the years I have lived in Minneapolis. It is truly a classic.

The Friday night movies were also a group event. We never went alone but also with a group of buddies. Later on it was a special place we took our girlfriends.