Christmas, Frankenstein, Springdale History and Dawn’s Birthday

Aeons ago in the 70s, me, my brother and cousin Jimmy wanted to see a movie on Xmas Eve. The “new” Springdale Malco Twin theater was opening that night. Since my cousin Jimmy almost always got his way, all it took to implant the certainty of it was for him to mention it to his mom – about 100 times in an hour. I’m fairly certain that my Aunt Ardith gladly drove us to the new theater to get rid of us for a couple of hours. She barely slowed down as she drove up to the new theater as she handed my cousin unlimited candy money and lit a new cigarette for herself.

It didn’t hurt that the theater was up the road from Jimmy’s house. In those days, 412 was a 2-lane highway 68 and Carley Road was barren of most development. It was “about 1/2 a cigarette of driving” away from Jimmy’s house. (Our mothers smoked like chimneys. Everything could be measured in “cigarette increments.”)

Of all possible movies, we decided to see “Young Frankenstein.” It wasn’t exactly the most yule-spirited of movies. There were very few people at the theater. I’m not sure that the theater had publicized the soft opening that much. Not even all the seats had been installed, supplies were stacked everywhere, and the place felt like it had been opened on a dare.Even eating the popcorn, as delicious as it was to us as young kids, reminded us of fresh plastic.

Despite there being few people at the theater, it turns out that my wife Dawn and her father were two of the other handful of people in the theater that night, probably wondering why three goofy young boys were in the theater with them causing a commotion. As for why a dad would think a young girl would be a great audience for Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder causing their mayhem? Who knows. Let’s face it, for rambunctious boys,  though, “Young Frankenstein” is definitely an excuse for a lot of exchanged whispers and laughs. Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder exchanging hilariously and minimally-concealed risque references only fueled the muffled laughter.

Did I mention that Christmas Eve is Dawn’s birthday and that she was there in part to celebrate her birthday? It was one of those strange serendipitous convergences for Dawn and I to figure out that we were both in the same place at the same time when we were both considerably younger. (Everyone can easily imagine me being at “Young Frankenstein,” but almost no one could picture Dawn being there.)

Coincidences happen. It’s just refreshing to know that we share not only the opening of the Springdale Malco theater, but also this crazy movie on one of the most unlikely nights of the year. My wife doesn’t have any other birthday memories from that day, so it’s reassuring to think that we share such an outlandish memory in common on her birthday from so long ago.

I can’t think of “Young Frankenstein” without thinking of my cousin Jimmy or my wife, who had the misfortune of being saddled with a holiday birthday.

Update: Now that Gene Wilder has sauntered off, smiling like only he can, I’m glad that serendipity prevailed on that Xmas Eve decades ago.


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