2007-12-05

Yo-Yo Kings -- Repost

This was on the original athensworld, I wrote it as a part of a series of posts on Athens in the 60s and 70s.
-----------------
The Palace Theater had Saturday afternoon at the movies. Kids got in free with a can of food for the poor folks sometimes. Sometimes it cost a quarter to get in. For that price, you got a newsreel, some previews, at least one cartoon, usually more, and a double feature. The double feature movies were always of a similar genre, like two westerns or two war movies. One Saturday we got two civil war movies. I remember watching the battle scene where the South got beat and the Union was saved. Most of the kids booed, there were several kids from Up North sitting down in front, they cheered and were promptly bombarded with popcorn.

About this time of year, when school had just let out and we had the whole summer in front of us, the Yo-Yo Kings would come through town. These were always Philipino guys who could do the most amazing tricks with their Yo-Yo's. Before the movie, the Yo-Yo Kings would be up on the stage in front of the screen, doing their tricks while music played over the sound system. We were mesmerized with the performance. The Palace Theater made sure we knew at least two weeks in advance of the Yo-Yo Kings arrival. This gave all us kids time to agitate our parents, cut grass, break into our piggy banks, whatever it took to get the money together because after the Yo-Yo Kings performed, they set up a table in the lobby and us kids would line up 50 deep. We'd stand there inside the plush velvet ropes and we'd buy our Duncan Yo-Yo, just knowing that if we got the latest model, we too could perform those same tricks. (Walk The Dog, Around The World, Jacob's Ladder etc etc). Of course, it never really worked out that way, but we bought into the dream every June anyway. We'd return to our seats with our new Yo-Yo in hand. The year the metal-flake model came out, I spent the next three hours admiring the little flashes of light as it picked up the projector light in the darkened theater. I don't think any of the kids there that year saw the movies at all, we were all trying to figure out how that Yo-Yo could sparkle like that. One year, the new model was the Butterfly model. It had edges that pointed out and within one hour of our getting the Butterfly model, all the kids had bruised fingers to show for it.

A few of the bolder kids would pair up with their sweethearts and sit together in the double seats that were on the isles of the theater. We called these the Love Seats and it was quite a scandal when one of our number didn't sit with us, but sat with a girl in a Love Seat. I admit to having sat with a girl in a Love Seat once myself. I was ostracized by my crowd for several days after that. The Love Seats were located on each isle, one every 10 rows or so. I found out years after the fact, that these weren't installed by the Palace Theater as Love Seats, but rather, were paid for by a prominent Athens businessman who was named Fats Baker. Fats tipped the scales at better than 400 pounds. I remember seeing him walking along College Square as he was going to lunch at the Mayflower. Anyway, Fats loved the movies, but he couldn't fit in the regular seats, so when the Palace was built, he had those custom seats put in for his use. Fats never went to Saturday Afternoon at the Movies, that was strictly kid terror-tory.

The Palace Theater was located up the hill from College Square, just up the hill from where Wuxtry is now. The whole building was torn down to build the parking deck some years ago. After the movies let out, all the kids would walk down the hill and go to the Varsity for a coke or a shake, it was located at the corner of College Square, where the Chinese place is today. The downtown Varsity is a topic for another post I suppose.

No comments: