By David Broyles
September 6, 2013
Is it just me or did August just blow right past us? I chafe every time I remember smirking when my mother and father told me when I’d lived long enough time goes faster. Honestly, I’m beginning to doubt I will ever get used to someone I remember being in pigtails introducing me to their family.
Twenty years ago when I tried my last foray into softball, I remember a moment of clarity as I was chugging down the line for first base and I thought, what’s a young dude like me doing in this old frame? Time taps you on one shoulder and you look the wrong way. Tuesday I had finished some shots of the County Agricultural Fair and couldn’t resist slipping over to look at the midway before all the action hit.
One of the carnival troupe walked up to me and struck up a conversation on how many elements (rides) the show had and the new, state-of-the-art lights on the Ferris wheel. It was great talk. In the true gracious style of carny folks, I was told the aerialists only needed five minutes notice and they’d stage some shots for me but I had to be on to my next assignment.
Part of our conversation was how essentially American a fair was and how the numbers of circuses and fairs are declining. The conscientious was, it is because of a lot less disposable income being out there. I had the nagging suspension another part of it was a cultural change. Crazy hours of work and no time for family take a toll. We didn’t know why. It reminded me of my first job making popcorn in the downtown theaters.
At one time, my happening hometown burg of Narrows had two movie theaters. One was a blue collar sort of joint and the other was “uptown.” My boss was one Richard Herring who was a promoter cut from P.T. Barnum cloth. It was Richard who taught me a lot of the business then was make your money on concessions. To this day I make a point of not salting popcorn because of the extra salt he constantly had me throw to the corn, freshly fallen from the kettle. We had to sell those Cokes. Mr. Herring insisted the corn be just out of the kettle as the door opened nightly.
He constantly had promotions going on to grab attention. I’m not going to even go into the piranha in a tank for an action movie we had once. Richard was a bit of a rascal, but he had a good heart and he mentored a lot of us. Another property in the Herring empire was the drive-in theater, which had the owner’s home built under the big screen.
Drive-ins were something then. It was more socializing on car hoods and teen angst than you see in “American Graffiti.” What I remember most is how rapidly Richard Herring got out of the business. His only words to me were “Davy, there’s this new thing coming. Videotape.” Boom! The theaters were closed down or gone or in the case of the drive-in, plowed under for the industrial park.
The carny folks and I agreed the only thing to do was just enjoy the time we are in right now. Revel in it a bit before it slips away. They reminded me the days of non-digital newspapers are probably numbered as well. Enjoy it while you can but it could wind up being like one of the few times I ever sneaked food into a drive-in. We were going to a show in Pulaski, Va. And we hid a pepperoni pizza in the trunk, hooked the speaker to the window and waited for darkness. We were sharp. We were pulling a fast one.
We laughed, watched the movie and had a big time. When the lights went up and we gathered up the blankets and the chairs, we noticed we’d been eating a pepperoni and ant pizza. It was covered with the little buggers!
Time and ants wait for no one I guess.
David Broyles is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.