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At one time Gravette had a theatre. My husband Jerry remembers when his brother Vance ran the projector.

Movies came on huge reels and there were often several reels. Each reel had 20 minutes of movie. A vehicle would come by and leave the reel cases and pick up old ones when the movies changed. Two projectors were used to show the movie out of holes in the projection room. Dots would appear when it was time to switch. Vance had to have the next reel ready so there was no break in the show.

If the projectionist fell asleep, or got distracted, the end of the reel would flap over and over. The patient audience would wait until the one running the projector would start the second projector and the movie could continue. Once, when a Jesse James movie was playing, Jerry cut a few strips off for a keepsake. A couple of pieces off the reel would never be missed.

When Bye Coverston owned the theater, Faye Bishop sold tickets. After he sold it to the Brown’s, their daughter Marie sold tickets at the window and often worked at the concession stand. I guess popcorn was a companion to movies from the beginning and it was the only refreshment sold at the Cozy until Marie’s folks added soft drinks. There was no restroom!

After Vance got out of school he cleaned the theatre. He also checked for any breaks in the movies. If he discovered a break he would repair it by splicing the reel. Vance took Jerry with him and, as he would clean up all that spilled popcorn among the seats, Jerry would head for the popcorn machine and take home what was left. Vance had so little free time he gave Jerry spending money to clean his room. Jerry swept out his upstairs bedroom and mopped the floor.

There were a lot of westerns shown, especially on Saturday. At one time serials were shown, with parts played weekly. Some of my favorite stars were Shelly Winters, Jimmy Stewart and Jeff Chandler.

After Vance married the owner’s daughter (yes, there are two Marie Putmans) and left for the Navy, I met Jerry and we began dating. The only entertainment in Gravette was the Cozy Theatre. Movies changed about three times a week so that’s how often we dated. By then Glen Justice was running the projector. His day job was setting type at the Gravette newspaper. That’s before the days of computers.

The projection room was upstairs and beside it was a crying room, with a large window to view the screen. That’s where mothers were supposed to bring their babies when they cried but I never saw any babies in there. When Jerry and I went to the show, we often sat in the crying room. You could do a lot of smooching there. One night Glen came out and saw Jerry and me kissing. He grinned and said, “That’s a good way to spread germs.”

One night, after Jerry and I married, I told him, “I want to go to the show.” He headed for the pool hall instead. I sighed, thinking I wouldn’t be able to go to the movies this night. I stood behind his chair as he played dominoes with Buck Stoltz. They played for about 25 cents a game. Soon Jerry stood up and said, “Let’s go to the show”. He’d won enough money to take me. I hadn’t known he was broke.

Back then shows probably cost 25 cents. A far cry from the huge price to go to movies these days. I never go to movies anymore, just watch them when they appear on TV - and sometimes I microwave a bag of popcorn.

Marie Putman, one-time Gravette resident, shares her thoughts with our readers twice each month.

News, Pages 4 on 05/13/2010

Print Headline: Going To The Movies At The Cozy Theatre

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