When I was five years old and in kindergarten in early 1961, my mother took me into downtown Flint, Michigan to see my first movie, “Where The Boys Are.”
I still have very clear memories of many things about that movie and of the movie theater we saw it in. I was so awed by so much that my little five year old mind was blown.
My mom and I saw the movie in the Capitol movie theater in downtown Flint. It was so huge and majestic and plush that immediately after we had entered the lobby after my mom purchased the tickets, I stopped in my tracks and looked all around with my mouth open in amazement. I whispered to my mom, “Are we in somebody’s palace?”
She laughed very hard and told me, “No, the Palace is a few blocks over” and I gave her a puzzled look, not understanding at all what she had said and why she had laughed so hard. When I was older I finally got her joke: there was another movie theater in Flint called the Palace and it was a couple of blocks from the Capitol theater.
The inside of the Capitol was decorated with many large marble columns and plants and red velvet on all of the chairs and seats and all of the massive curtains that hung everywhere were made of red velvet, There were marble floors everywhere too, even in the bathroom.
I had never seen marble before but it was so elegant and smooth and pretty. I was so busy looking up, down, and all around, that my mom had to continuously urge me to hurry up and finish so that we wouldn’t miss the beginning of the movie.
That was my first experience with movie theater popcorn too and as I followed behind my mother into the theater, munching on those hot, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth corny goodnesses, I believed that I had somehow entered heaven when we walked into that beautiful theater.
This was the biggest room I had ever been in before! I had been overwhelmed into uncharacteristic silence by the cavernous size of the the gym of my elementary school when I had entered it for the first time just a few months ago but this room made the gym look like a dollhouse!
There were so many fascinating things to look at. There were arches and columns that resembled magnificent entrances of long ago on both sides of the theater. There were enormous, glittery chandeliers and golden carved decorations all over the ceiling and large pictures of beautiful gardens on the stage curtains and up above the stage. When the chandeliers were dimmed, there were many little twinkling lights in the ceiling that looked like I was gazing up into a beautiful night sky.
I kept stroking the very soft and plush red velvet on my chair. It felt like a kitten. And the seats were so thick and comfortable too that I snuggled into mine with a contented sigh.
I didn’t know this at the time but the Capitol Theater was built in 1928 to resemble a Roman garden and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. All I knew was that we must be rich to be able to so easily enter such a fascinating and obviously wealthy place.
Then the lights dimmed and the movie began, and I sat there too fascinated again with what I was watching on this huge screen to twitch or move a muscle as any five year old would normally do.
I didn’t understand the plot too well. All I could follow was that there were four girls who were trying to get boys to like them. I didn’t understand that at all, especially being the only girl in my family with two younger brothers and because I was just now getting used to the noisy boys in my kindergarten class. I couldn’t understand why those girls were trying so hard to get those boys to like them. Boys just didn’t seem worth that much effort to me at that time.
And then I saw my very first swimming pool in color! In early 1961, swimming pools were an unheard of and extremely decadent thing for anybody to install into their backyards in our blue collar Michigan city. We did occasionally see aerial shots of movie stars’ swimming pools at their sprawling California homes but only in black-and-white on our television set.
And swimming itself was something completely unknown to me at the age of five. The only thing I had known even remotely equivalent to what those kids were doing on the movie screen were the weekly baths I had to take in our tub with my two brothers and we were forbidden from splashing each other and getting the bathroom wet. Those kids were having a lot more fun, jumping off a board into the water, and splashing water all over everybody and everything.
But that swimming pool fascinated me because its water was this beautiful deep blue and it was so sparkly and inviting. I had never seen blue water before and I wished our bath tub had blue water that looked like that. I wished so hard that I could jump into that pretty blue water and splash around and jump off that board and have fun like those kids were doing up on that huge screen.
But that movie was not all about pretty swimming pools and beach scenes. It was serious in some parts and about things I could not understand at all. I remember that Yvette Mimieux was my favorite of the four girls because I thought she was the prettiest and the saddest too for some reason that I never understood.
I clearly remember one scene that began when Yvette Mimieux went to visit the boy she liked and then my mom made me cover my eyes for a few minutes. Then when she told me I could watch the movie again is when Yvette Mimieux was walking along a road with her pretty dress all torn and she had a sad, blank, vacant expression on her face. I felt so sorry for her, and I was very shocked and upset when a car hit her and she ended up in the hospital.
It was many years later when I was much older and had re-watched the movie on T.V. that I realized that that character had been raped. I never asked my mom if she had known that that was a part of the plot before she took me to see that movie but I’ve always given her the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t know beforehand.
I also later learned that this movie was the first to portray a college spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The “Where The Boys Are” movie was the primary reason behind the popularity of the now infamous spring break annual tradition for college and high school students .
It was still a wonderful experience none the less. Watching movies in beautiful colors on a huge screen was so much better than watching anything on our much smaller black-and-white television console. Seeing a swimming pool with that fascinating pretty blue water and the joy and fun of the swimmers was something I so yearned to do as well. And watching my first movie inside that massive, magnificent, majestic Capitol Theater was like the maraschino cherry on top of the banana splits that me and my mom enjoyed afterwards: it was the topper, the ultimate in the whole fun time!