The 1930s is often referred to as the "Golden Age of Movies", as Americans of all ages sought to escape the reality of the depression. In his story, "Going to the Movies", St. Paul native Robert McKewin remembered spending many a happy Saturday at the movies with his older brother, George.
My family was not hit so severely by the depression as were many others. My father kept his job as sales manager of the Industrial Division of Farwell, Ozmun, Kirk, and Company that had their warehouse and offices at the corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Robert Street. My father had his pay reduced to $100 a week, which was enough for him to keep his second- hand car, continue to pay interest on the mortgage of his $10,000 house at 1371 Fairmount Avenue, and to have himself, wife, and children clothed and fed. When my brother, George, was ten, and I was eight, in 1932, we were given an allowance of fifteen cents each and every Saturday.
Before the afternoon was over we had spent it all.
Going to the Movies
The movies were ten cents, and we could buy three quarter-pound candy bars for a dime. Usually George chose a Baby Ruth, and I a Snickers, and we split a Mounds bar. (Mounds came in two pieces so we didn't have to argue over which of us got the bigger half.
The movies were at The St. Clair, the Uptown, or the Grandview. We walked to the theater, and we walked home. As the movies started at 2:00, we would leave home before 1:15, and when we arrived at the theater we stood in line waiting for the doors to open.
Our parents helped us select the movie choice for the week as we looked in the paper. My brother and I always went together, sometimes taking a friend apiece along with us, but few of our friends were so fortunate as to have such a large allowance. Our sister never went with us.
Losing a Dime
Once I lost my dime on the way to the St. Clair theater, and stood in front of the place crying my eyes out. Of course, we had the two extra nickels, but that would mean we couldn't buy our candy.
The manager of the theater came to my rescue. He knelt in front of me, and asked piercing questions about whether I had truly lost the money. Apparently he was satisfied, and I was allowed to enter the darkened theater with my brother. I don't remember if we ever found the lost dime, but I know we each had our fill of candy before returning home.
We were never curious enough to ask our parents what they did of a Saturday afternoon with us away for three hours. But now, decades later, having reared children of my own, I can imagine they just sat together enjoying the relative peace of a Saturday afternoon without two noisy boys around the house.
McKewin, Robert Williams Going to the Movies. Minnesota Historical Society, Share Your Story, R. McKewin, 2006.