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Mr Hughes and the Dixie Theater

When I was 9 years old, I looked forward to Saturday nights. All the kids had a weekly appointment with Mr. Hughes, the owner of a grocery store in my hometown.
Each Saturday, at 5 pm, he’d come out of his store and head for his pickup truck. In the bed, protected somewhat with guard rails, would be a passel of youngsters, from 5 or 6 to 16.
Mr. Hughes, always clad in freshly laundered blue overalls and a red, long sleeved shirt topped off by a weathered straw hat, would ignore the kids in the back and get behind the wheel.
No one sat up front with him because we were terrified of him.
He’d start the truck and we’d head to Hugo and the Dixie Theater.
Admission to the Dixie was a dime and if you could cajole out of a quarter from the parents, that meant entrance plus a soft drink and popcorn, a rare treat.
All of us were alert to where Mr. Hughes sat, because at the precise time the features hit the exact point where he had entered, he’d stand and leave the theater. Without counting noses, he’d start up his truck, back up, and head home. If his young guests were not in the bed, they’d get left; no one ever was.
The Dixie shows were a dime escape from poverty. There’d always be a double feature with stars like Lash LaRue and his bullwhip, Allan Rocky Lane, and Tarzan. There was always a serial and if a Roadrunner came up, we’d all cheer.
It was the best of times in my young life.
-james a. clark