During my high school years, rather during my junior and senior years after I turned 16, I worked at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. This would be 1944-1945. I worked at the candy and popcorn stand, which was in the lobby of the theatre. I remember I had to wear a white pinafore apron while on duty. I also worked in the ticket booth, which was a small booth located in the front of the theatre. It was very small and could only hold one person comfortably. The manager at the time I worked there was Stuart Gavett.
Also working there were a few of my classmates – Leo Levora, Andy Nelson, and Marvin Winte. They were ushers and had to wear white shirts, ties, and dark trousers. They always carried a flashlight so that they could seat people and also walk up and down the aisles every now and then to make sure everything was okay. One of them was also stationed at the door to collect tickets. They would tear the ticket in half, giving half to the customer and putting the other half in the large container. They also had to change the marquee in the front of the building every time the picture changed. Movies changed three times a week. One picture would run Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday with a continuous showing starting at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. On Wednesday, they would run a double feature, usually B-type movies. They would run the next movie on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A cartoon and the news were usually run prior to the main attraction.
Another friend also worked in the ticket booth, Esther Bettman Meyer. She was the permanent cashier and worked at the Wildey for quite a long time. I was more or less her substitute in the ticket booth. Sometimes the line to buy tickets would stretch all the way down to the Tri-City Grocery, which is now known as Laurie’s Place. At the end of selling tickets, which was 9:00 p.m., John Huse, a police Officer, would come and escort the cashier into the building as she always had quite a bit of money from ticket sales.
When it was a sellout, the people would have to wait in the lobby until seats were available for the next movie. There were two projectionists, Andy Foehrkalb, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the other man’s name. I remember the large curtain that was used on the stage. If I remember correctly, it was heavy maroon velvet decorated with gold, which they would open before the movie and close at the end of the night.
A man by the name of Frank Carter was the all-around handyman. He kept the theatre very clean. There was a drinking fountain on the corner in front of the theatre and he kept that fountain sparkling clean and shiny.
My job, naturally, was to sell candy, gum, and popcorn. Sometimes we would have a contest to see who could fold the popcorn boxes the fastest. When we got real busy, someone would help fold boxes to keep ahead of the crowd. Popcorn was 25 cents a box. Candy bars and gum were 5 cents. This was during the war and people would ask for Hershey bars, which we could not get. We had a candy bar which was similar, called Nestles, which has now become a household name. I had to go in on Saturday mornings and clean the candy case and popcorn machine, which was never a fun job. I really enjoyed working at the theatre. It provided me with spending money, plus.
Claribel Huelskamp Ramsey
This takes place on Christmas Eve of 1941. There was a bright new white shiny 1941 Ford setting in the Lobby of the Wildey Theater, but let me go back in time.
The merchants of Edwardsville purchased a 1941 to be given away Christmas Eve. When you bought an item from a store, they would give you a ticket which you would fill out with your name and address and deposit it in a container in the lobby of the Wildey Theater. On the 24th my mother bought some meat at Pork House Meat Market. Mom had more shopping to do so she gave the tickets to my Dad. At the time we had a Model A Ford. We could not find anything to write with, but Dad found a stub of a pencil and filled out the tickets on the steering wheel. Needless to say, it was cold and the stub of the pencil he was using was not that good. My brother Earl took the tickets across the street to the Wildey. That night, my mom, brother and I went to church and came home to open our presents. My dad was working the 12 to 8 shift at Shell Oil and was taking a nap before going to work when my uncles and aunt came in and said you won the car. With all the excitement, dad came out of the bedroom raising cane because they woke him up. Al told him we won the car at the Wildey, but he didn’t believe us. When our neighbor Mrs. Moore came over, who was 80 years old, and started to do the jig, Dad finally believed it. He went to work and the next morning he went up to the Wildey with my uncle, because dad did not know how to drive a car with the shift on the steering column. Needless to say, it was a fond and happy memory of the Wildey Theater.
When my dad gave his mother a ride in his new Ford, she said “It’s like riding on a cloud.”