Friday night road trips to Madrid, Iowa, were always a special adventure for many young lads growing up in this neck of the woods during the early 1950s.
My parents, Phil and Mary Rood, would often set aside that night to chauffeur a group of generally unruly boys to the Iowa Theatre. It was definitely an unselfish act for a man and woman used to working 12-hour days, six days a week, producing a small-town newspaper.
The Slater News hit the streets each Thursday, containing a weekly capsule of happenings in the towns of Slater, Huxley, Sheldahl, Kelley and Alleman. Page 2 of each publication included the movie calendar. It was that page that most attracted the attention of me and my childhood friends.
In all but a few unexplainable instances, a double-feature western extravaganza would be playing each weekend. Burning up the screen at the Iowa Theatre were stars such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Durango Kid and Hoot Gibson.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., our front porch would fill with my friends anxiously anticipating a night at the movies. Carefully tucked in each boy’s pocket would be a couple dimes or a quarter – enough for admission plus treats.
The seven-mile journey to Madrid was anything but calm. Our 1949 maroon 2-door Ford would be packed to the roof with kids blowing off the steam. Disagreements might range from who had the best dog to how many strikeouts Bob Feller had racked up against the Yankees. The main course of conversation, however, would be guessing the plots of the movies we were about to take in.
The car would literally rock and roll from the commotion taking place inside until we crossed the railroad tracks east of Madrid. Order would then return as each of the young occupants silently prepared to spring out the door to be first in line at the ticket booth.
“Here comes Ma and Pa Kettle,” the staff at the theater would exclaim as kids poured out of the car out front. (Ma and Pa Kettle were the stars in a recent movie based on a married couple with a throng of extremely unruly kids.)
Admission for kids under 14 was a dime. Pop, popcorn, candy bars and suckers each cost a nickel. Those lucky enough to have a quarter were in for a full night of entertainment, several refreshments and, perhaps, a tummy ache.
For some unknown reason, Mom and Dad would take their time getting to the theater after parking the car. When they did arrive, they would usually take a seat as far to the back as possible. Their passengers, by this time, had taken up residency in the seats closest to the screen. It was in this section of the theater where unusual things often took place.
Sometime during the movie, there were always one or two who might want to express their emotions. This usually happened during an especially boring part – such as when the hero kisses the heroine. The expression might be a painful moan or a piercing catcall. Suddenly the whole front part of the theater would break out in hysteria.
Soon the usher would invade the area with his flashlight, trying to pinpoint the guilty party. This official act had an especially calming effect on the upfront gathering and things would immediately return to normal.
By the end of both features, most of us were more than ready for the return trip. We were usually asleep not far out of Madrid. The calm would last all the way to a mile west of Slater where the blacktop road suddenly turned to bumpy gravel.
“Well, we’re back in Story County,” Dad would say as we entered the world of reality once again.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.