Finders Keepers

No Telling

I never visited the Palace Theater in Greenwood, Arkansas. This lobby card was in a pile of others like it underneath a dusty Chatty Cathy doll with a wonky right eye.

The Girls take a trip at the end of the spring semester each year to spend money at the outlet malls in Branson, Missouri. There are only two of us interested in roadside yard sales, rusty flea markets, and the like, so stopping at the little gas-station-turned-junk-shop in Marshall had to be a quick trip. Besides, everyone needed a potty break.

I bought the whole stack of lobby cards from the old theater, finished the trip, put them in a drawer, and forgot.

I don’t know why I started digging around tonight, but there in my Hideous Gift Scarves Drawer was the pile. The woman who sold it to me for five dollars felt guilty because they were so dusty and had packed them neatly in plastic sheeting. She was a sweet woman on the other side of fifty who wore her hair piled high in the back. Miss Clairol ash blonde. When she wasn’t waiting on customers, she worked a baby quilt behind the counter. Sunbonnet Sue, so it must be a girl.

She really doesn’t matter to this story, but I remember writing notes about her when I returned to the van. Can’t find the notes, but I remember her raisin-colored nail polish clearly enough.

In July 1967, the couples who bought tickets to the Palace Theater in Greenwood, Arkansas saw Doris Day, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, and Elvis. Some sat in the balcony and necked while others sat below and pointed upward. There were only about 2,000 people living there then and I know this because eight months later a good portion of them lost their whole world and many loved ones to a drop-down tornado that flattened most of the town.

I don’t know if the Palace Theater survived the carnage. It’s doubtful. What did survive are these fairly pristine lobby cards, stacks of them dating back from 1955 through this one in 1967. Some are a little brown around the edges from exposure, but none look like they were fished out of a tornado.

The storm blew up in the late afternoon and had it hesitated, waited a couple of hours more, the Palace would have been full of young lovers holding popcorn and each other on a Friday night. Maybe somewhere near the back row there would have been young fella with a fresh shave and clean fingernails escorting his ash-blonde sweetheart to her seat.

Maybe.

21 thoughts on “Finders Keepers

  1. I've got a cousin (don't all good Arkansas stories start out this way) who runs a quilt shop in either Leslie or Marshall. I should probably ask my mother sometime.
    šŸ™‚

  2. I love this post. And I love treasure-hunting in junk shops. In fact, the last time I visited my folks (Mountain Home AR) we took a day trip to Branson do to the famous outlet shopping. On the way back, I wanted to stop and browse that very shop (I'm sure of it!) in Marshall, but we were so tired and full of food we just went on home, promising to come back, though we never did. Next time!

  3. I can't think of a better way to start my day then reading this article. I was wishing to be alongside you while you were purchasing your wonderful find, then finding them all over again. šŸ™‚ M

  4. One reason I love being a hospice nurse- ordinary people turn out to have the most extraordinary stories…

    love the cards- and the memories they carry with them…

    very thought provoking blog- I'll mull over it all day… thank you…

  5. Laura, you have to go with us next time. We need more people in the van willing to stop at every roadside sale. Ask your mama – it may be the same woman.

    Mountain Home is a gorgeous place, NanU. Since there's not much else in Marshall, I'm sure it was the same store.

    The notebook is a beautiful story, Nathanael – thanks!

    Thanks, Amuse Me. Clearly it's time to clean out a few drawers around here. No telling how many stories I've bought and hidden away.

    You said it, Sally. I wish someone would pay me to travel around and collect stories for a living – you know, like they did with the WPA after the Depression.

  6. I love garage sales and flea markets. This past summer my daughter and I went to a flea market. I bought two old glass pitchers that the kind woman told me were at least 50 years old. I felt a bond to this woman immediately. She reminded me of my Aunt Nell. We talked for awhile, and when I left, she gave me a big hug. She had so many old fashioned dishes that I would have loved to buy, but living in a trailer limits my space. šŸ™‚

  7. Great writing, again. I'm so glad I found your blog because I learn by reading your work…how to tell a story, structure, to imitate your view of the world, maybe.
    Thanks.

  8. Hi again–do you follow the healthcare debate? I'd really like it if you looked at my blog on the subject; I linked to a recent NPR interview which was excellent.
    herdingcatsandsuch.blogspot.com
    Thanks

  9. I wish you many fine stories today, Sally. Go forth!

    Thanks, Steven!

    Oh, Pat. I've a weakness for old china.

    Thanks, Erin – and yes I do follow the healthcare debate. It seems to be about everything except healthcare at the moment. I checked out your blog and completely agree. We are morally responsible for one another. Partisan politics helps no one and makes me tired. I've tried to steer clear from writing fiery rants on this (oh, I've got two or three bubbling up) but I have a couple of friends I can count on to poke me with a sharp stick or two to get me riled up enough. Look out.

    Kate, I love the everyday – don't you?

  10. Landed on ur page accidentally and am real glad that I did. Everything about ur blog I found very original. And thoroughly enjoyed reading ur posts.

    Keep Blogging…

    Cheers
    Eidothia

  11. Such a treasure (the cards, and your words.) I am a sucker for “one man's trash,” and will stop at any antique store, flea market, roadside stand that looks promising!

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