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.