Saturday Matinees at the Base Theater

For military brats, one common feature was the base theater.

It did not get first-run films, usually, but it was cheap (and, in the ’60’s it cost a dime). An special treat was the Saturday Matinee. Two feature films, a cartoon or two, and a serial (for the non-boomers, a movie run in episode format) were the usual entertainment.

Going to the movies with a dozen or so buddies added greatly to the enjoyment, especially when you could get seats in the first two to four rows down in the center section. Girls had their own groups, at that time boys and girls kept to their own ‘tribes’.

One thing you could do as military brats, something our civilian counterparts could not, was arrive early before the matinee and help the projectionist and/or concessionaire (snack counter operator). Waiting around for the set-up was fun, because the PX was just down the road and the geedunk (geedonk, depending upon your branch of service and time frame) was right around the corner.

Either way you and your ‘buds’ could hustle over to the store and get enough munchies to wait out the time until the NCO, Corporal or Private from Services would open the theater for set-up.

When the enlisted man, (usually Corporal), arrived, he would only be too glad to get help setting up. You’d get to do the ‘fun jobs’ like police (sweep up) the snack bar or the movie house itself. Oh Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! * Or if you were lucky, you got to carry in the film cans and help get them up to the projection booth. Sometimes, if you showed any G-2 (intelligence), you got to help thread the projectors. This was fun for a kid.

When the job was done, whatever the assignment, you got your just rewards. You got two candy bars of your choice a large soda and the biggest box of popcorn, with all the butter and salt your system could handle. Sometimes, the ‘box’ of popcorn was actually the long sleeve carton from the large drink cups. One of these boxes was as tall as you and measured four inches by four inches square, or bigger. A growing kid can put away a lot of kernels. Stomach pump, please!

Anyway, since we were already in the theater, we got to help open the doors for the ‘customers’ and we were assured of first pick of the house seats. Predictably we took the first two rows, down center, of course. Hey, we were the ‘in-crowd’. Let the rest of the pack take the ‘left overs’.

All right then, everything ship shape?

“Johnny, you got the M&M’s?” . . .

“Mike, you got the sodas?” . . .

“Joey, got the Butterfingers?” . . .

“Tom, you got the popcorn?” . . .

“We’re covered!” . . . “LET’S GO!” . . .

Lights down . . . music up. . . .

“Movie . . . Movie . . . Movie . . . MOVIE . . . YEAAAAAAH!” . . .

I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. (Acknowledgments to Ren and Stimpy).

And now you know where those AV nerds come from.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Military Brats Online in 1997.

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  1. I loved going to the Saturday morning matinees with my friends.  Yes, we girls sat together and the boys sat together!  It was so inexpensive and you got so much for it!  My brother and I just talked about this a couple of weeks ago.  I lived in Heidelberg and Mannheim Germany from 1963-1965.  Such great times as a kid!!!

  2. I lived in Pirmasens, Germany from 1969-72.  Our Saturdays were a fun filled day. First, we had the kids bowling league first thing in the morning. We’d bowl 3 games for 10 cents a game.  Then we’d have a hotdog with steamed bun with a coke for 15 cents.  Once done, we’d run across the parking lot to the theater for the matinee. It was pretty much as described above, although I didn’t get to help. We’d get popcorn for a dime, with butter being a nickel more. Soda was a nickel as well. We’d sit through all the matinee shows, and often into the first show of the evening programme.  Our parents loved it because we were out of their hair from 8am to 9pm every Saturday.

    The post theater showed a different movie every night of the week. We’d pick up our little printed schedule every Saturday and plan out what we wanted to see all week.  Movies were mostly second run US and often British films. You’d look for movies you hadn’t seen and favorites that were being rerun again.  Always interested in cars, I remember seeing “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World”, the original “Italian Job” and “The Yellow Rolls Royce”. Elvis movies were also pretty popular with the kids.  

    With the Pirmasens post closed and turned to German civilian use, I found that a new soccer stadium stands exactly where the Bowling Alley/ Post Gym/Post Theater complex once stood.




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