Michael's 'Navy'

My friend Stan stumbled upon a carton of vintage newspapers recently. Remembering I had worked in a movie theatre during elementary school, he phoned to ask me a trivia question derived from "The Atlanta Constitution."

"Do you know what you were showing at the Emory on Aug. 5, 1964?"

I thought back 45 years and, without hesitation, said, "McHale's Navy"?

There was a long pause. Silence.

"Don't ever tell me how you think you're losing your memory, again," he snapped.

I giggled, "Good guess, huh?"

I have a solid grasp of my youth, but I have to read back to see what I wrote in the last paragraph. I'm absent-minded recalling the freshly-minted past.

Um. Yeah. "McHale's Navy." I see. Yeah, I remember that week vividly. My family was vacationing near Charleston, SC on Sullivan's Island, our annual retreat. I was distraught I was not present for the "McHale's Navy" engagement, all-new and based on the hit TV series and -- for the first time -- in color!

When I returned to Atlanta and scooted to the Emory Theatre, a half mile from my home, I learned of a phenomenal, unanticipated occurrence. "McHale's Navy" had sold-out several shows and many disgruntled customers, who were lined down the street and around the corner, were turned away at the door.

During my tenure on the staff, I had never seen any assembly reach full house proportions in the 492-seat auditorium, nicely accessorized with a snarling mob scene outside.

Oh, there was that one night, shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, when we had standing room only for "PT 109," his biography, but no fisticuffs were threatened at the box office from unruly parents behaving badly for their children.

The promise of armed combat with our elderly, no-nonsense ticket cashier, Mrs. Holloway -- well, there's an Indiana Jones movie for you.

I was 12, so, I mean, I was a legendary observer of the show business. This capacity news was astounding and I had missed it! I was crushed.

The next summer, I was in town and ready to wrangle customers when we played the highly-anticipated sequel, "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force," but the crowds didn't come.

Gee, Lt. Cmdr. McHale (Ernest Borgnine) didn't even bother to make the picture.

This time, it seemed everyone was on shore leave, but me.

Thanks to Stan Malone
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