Movies on Aruba - a long time ago
The following was written in February of 2005 (6 years ago.) Originally it was just some thoughts and then they became this short story. It was not put on the the internet because of the many grammar and spelling mistakes . A friend of mine read it and liked it and encouraged me to post it and I did . It was a grammar disaster and spelling nightmare, however I received more e-mail on it that anything I had posted at that time. Further, the readership on it was very strong. In KOOYMAN’s yesterday, a person (will remain nameless) reminded me about it and told me how much he had enjoyed it. He encouraged me to polish it up a little and re-post it. I am not a great polisher, however this is the shinier version.
As a last note: When I originally posted it, I was so surprised to get letters from persons that worked at LAGO during that time. It seems that, even though they had their own movie house in the LAGO Colony that many came to the Good-Ole-Rialto. Some names I can mention without problems are the relatives of the “Brooks “family as well as the “Dunbar” Family.
Movies On Aruba
MY AGE AT THE TME +/- 10 YEARS OLD
During those times, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays were days to look forward to going to the movies on Sunday- specifically at the “Boulevard” theater or (my favorite) “the Rialto Theater”. What lofty days those were.
The “Boulevard Theater” was located about where the Crystal Casino is today and, it was the place for special movies such as swashbucklers and Epics staring Stewart Granger or Errol Flynn. Swords, Long rifles, Derringers and six-guns, not to mention the mountainous horses carrying heroes and pulling wagon trains are the things that bathed my eyes and stirred my mind. The Boulevard Theater filled my childish eyes with multi-sailed galleons on high seas and during the ocean encounters, the sides of these galleons would open and cannons would start blazing out the sides. Such glorious memories. More than once, I looked at the screen and saw the hero standing against a backdrop as he slowly moved his head to look at his deeds for that day. Heroes had eyes that shined (almost twinkled) with hair that moved like large bed-sheets hanging in the wind. That the wind came from fans blowing behind the camera was not known to me nor was it important. No one needed to tell me the story or its meaning. It wasn’t important either. It was about the event and the sights and thrill of it all. But know this – I carved wooden swords and made wooden pistols. Much like the children of today, I wanted to be “The hero on the screen.” Like I said – “What lofty days those were.”
Going to the Boulevard meant wearing starched and ironed pants and shirts and when the movie ended, the walk to the TROCADERO restaurant next door was home to another dream of croquettes dipped in golden mustard from a little pot that sat on the table. The walk home was along the sea and we smiled and waved at the resting sailors in the many little fruit boats that hovered there. The current Seaport area was not there. There was only a long stretch of coast all the way to a canal inlet and the small island where, across the street, the governor’s house sat and still does. Today, there are two canals and a large piece of land that was created by filling it. One canal goes into a hotel and has circulating water. The new land (fill) is where the queen stands in marble splendor keeping tabs on and watching Aruba - her island. The original canal is stagnant and the water does not flow freely. Changes are not always good.
But for me, the very best on the silver screen came from the Rialto Theater which was more in the center of town. The Rialto was a hidden Gem. My best friend Dennis Henriquez (currently a professor of calculus in Holland) felt, or at least acted as if, this movie house was built just for the two of us. Perhaps he still thinks that – who knows.
The Rialto was more of “movie house” and not a theater - in the sense that it wasn’t fancy. The floors crunched with peanut shells and the seats were made up of long rows of high fold-down wood. The Rialto was dark before the lights were turned down and an abyss when they were finally shut off. The only sign of life was the flickering screen on the furthest wall to the South. The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Durango Kid, Gene Autry and a host of other horse-riding good-guys leapt on to that wall and whispered to Dennis, sitting right next to me, “Tell that skinny kid (me) we are her for you two”. Or so he would have me to believe and “future” calculus professors do not lie.
Sound crackled from ‘maybe’ two speakers in the front and was unmistakably the sounds made by our heroes and their steeds. Durango Kid was a Western Robin Hood. He dressed in black and rode a black horse with a black saddle. He wore a black bandana and when doing good deeds and pulled the black bandana up over his face so as to not be recognized – and I joyously believed it. Taking into consideration that the movies were all black and white made it all the better. I (more than once) asked what happened to Gene Audrey’s guitar when he was chasing bad guys. There was never an adequate response. Ole Gene would be riding along singing and then encounter trouble. He would look down at his trusty steed and say something like – “C’mon girl, we have work to do” and then POOFF the guitar would disappear.
Our hands mechanically broke toasted peanut shells as our heroes came to life before us. Our feet dangled from the wooden folding seats and we were happy, truly happy. It is amazing how that worked.
Sunday afternoons my mother would remind me that I was a good kid and with that gave me a handkerchief with the ends tied in a knot. Inside of this knotted kerchief was “Movie-money”. It was my ticket to happiness. Simplicity at its best. I would get to the movies and give the lady at the ticket window the handkerchief and she would undo the knots and give me change so I could buy peanuts and Toddy afterwards.
In all of this movie memory - the one event that I remembered most was on a particular Sunday when the Durango Kid was going to play. Dennis and I had seen the posters outside that were glued to a wall. On that Sunday, I put on my khaki shorts and t-shirt and ran downstairs to meet my friend Dennis. Excitement filled every pore as we headed off to the Rialto. Dennis stood at the window and paid with his handkerchief (mothers are all alike) and I dug into my pocket. It wasn’t there. The handkerchief was at home on the table by the bed. The ticket lady looked at me and said – “Bisa Elka pagami mayan” – which translates to “Tell Elka to pay me tomorrow” and then she gave me peanut and Toddy money from her purse. NOTE: Elka was (may she rest in peace) one of my Grandmothers – I had two and will explain that some other time.
Somehow it seemed normal – what the ticket lady did I mean. It seemed like a part of living here on this island and a part of going to the movies and a part of Sunday – being a religious day and all that stuff and a part of the Rialto. So I went in and lost myself in horses and heroes dressed in black and as easily as I accepted the event that let me into the Rialto that Sunday, I forgot to tell my Grandmother. Not known to me, she, the ticket lady, knew my grandfather and he paid my entrance and the peanut and Toddy money. Yet the wonder and the face of the ticket lady followed me for years in that I forgot to return the favor and that became unacceptable as time went on.
MY AGE TODAY 62 YEARS YOUNG
Same folks that had the Rialto also have the movies at the Paseo Herencia and I went there with my son about three weeks ago. Once inside, Junior – asked for Pop Corn and then dismissed me to my task of getting it. The theater lobby was relatively empty and no one was at the candy counter. (No peanuts or Toddy) The young girl charged me and
I overpaid her with a few dollars. When she went to return the money, I smiled and walked away and have no doubt that she (the overpaid young lady) thought I was crazy and left a tip – I didn’t. It was just time to pay an old debt – even though my grandfather secretly squared it years ago.
I heard recently that there are more movie companies coming to Aruba. I, for one, cannot see the benefit of more and I’ll tell you why.
Anyone coming into this market is not competing with the existing movie houses – not at all - they will compete with a professor of calculus in Holland who assured me that long ago a small movie house in the center of town was built just for the two of us. And as you know, professors of calculus do not lie.
There was a time when our hands mechanically broke toasted peanut shells as our heroes came to life before us. Now our children dig into Pop Corn.
Our feet dangled from the wooden folding seats and we were happy, truly happy. Now - my son sits on comfy seats as he marvels at his space heroes and laughs at a talking dog.
And I remember a lady that stood behind the ticket counter window at the Rialto Theater many years ago. I remember the toasted peanuts and the ‘Toddy’ afterwards and I know that by going to the movies today - those that are the offspring of the Rialto - that I am going to something that is family. Not “people family” but “Aruba Island Family” and I know that it has a long history that is represented (at least to me) by a soft face behind the ticket window of the RIALTO so many years ago.
It was mentioned to me that this might sound like a plug or seem to have special motives or interests. Not so. These are memories of my childhood on this island - nothing more and nothing less.
Re: Movies On Aruba
I have received much personal mail on this particular SNIPPET and must tell you that it surprises me. I should say that it was originally written some time ago and then amended recently - without looking at grammar or spelling. For some reason - it works well with these errors and I like it that way.
Thank you to those that took the time to drop me the notes you have.
Final note: 2-11-11
I answered over 50 e-mails on this little story when it first was posted and they still trickle in once in a while. Interesting.