October 22nd, 2011
They were called the Popeye Club and the Mickey Mouse Club — and other variations, like Porky Pig Club — and usually the format was the same.
You’d head to your neighborhood theater every Saturday morning, where you’d plop down a dime — or two — to be admitted to a tradition that catered to youngsters keen on cowboy flocks and Three Stooges comedies, with a pre-feature cartoon or two.
This was an era when many communities had their own movie theaters: the Palama Theatre, the Kaimuki Theatre, the Liliha Theatre, the Kailua Theatre, the Kaneohe Theatre, the Aala Theatre, the Pawaa Theatre (which became the Cinerama), the Kewalo Theatre, the Kapahulu Theatre. And on and on...
Theaters were situated where folks lived — a single-standing monument with varying degrees of classic architecture.
Well before the advent of suburban multiplexes with stadium seats, movie houses were community fixtures where multi-use meant a Saturday morning geared to the young folks. The one I attended was Liliha; there were talent contests preceding the features, and community merchants donated prizes — a carnation lei or orchid corsage from a florist, some kind of a toy from a merchant, a cake from a bakery.
Then the films were shown —some were serials with cliff-hanger endings, begging for a return visit the next Saturday to continue the story.
The snacks were no different than today — Milk Duds, Jujubes, malted balls, Hershey bars, chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream morsels. But there were precious and pricy bags of dried scallop and abalone slices, too; the cost, I think, was 20 cents, a fortune for the time, so you’d suck out the seafood flavors for eternity before the last swallow.
No pizza, no nachos, no saimin — but plenty of popcorn popped fresh and hot, too. Nope, I don't remember tossing in kakemochi to mix with the popcorn; this was a habit yet to evolve.
The kiddie clubs were part of a simpler time, when kids didn’t have to dash off to soccer or swimming matches or hula and ballet classes.
Remarkably, the memories remain — along with some theaters that house businesses today, or sit idle and wasted. Think Cinerama, Palama, Kewalo, for instance.
So, what reminiscences do you have of those kiddie clubs and your neighborhood theater?