Me and the Movies

Well, back to it. For today, anyway…

Because it’s been a while (and because I’ve added some new names to the mailing list), perhaps a reminder. This web site was set up four years ago. For most of that time, I wrote a story nearly every week; usually about some aspect of hockey history, or baseball history. Sometimes the stories had a personal angle, but often they were just quirky things I’d come across in my work. Since Barbara got sick, I’ve only posted four stories. None since things took their turn for the worst in late July.

Recently, I’ve gotten back to some hockey writing for jobs I’d already contracted to do. Everyone was wonderful about telling me to take all the time I needed, but I didn’t want these things out there looming, so I’ve started them. It’s been harder than I expected. (Don’t worry, Scholastic, I’ll be delivering it close to on time and up to the usual standards!) The truth is, quirky hasn’t been as much fun lately, and I’m pretty burned out on hockey. Still, I guess it’s good that the urge to write is strong some days. And I do want to get to certain things that are more personally meaningful to me. Not sure if this qualifies, exactly, but I was thinking about all this while I was out for a walk this morning (yesterday as you read this), and I wanted to get it down.

Our DVD collection. Until recently, we had nearly as many VHS tapes too.

Movies have always been a big part of my life. They were for Barbara too. In our early days together, we saw everything! People who knew us would often ask if something new was worth seeing because they knew we’d have seen it already. But over the years, we started cutting back. Movies got too expensive, and, too often, not good enough. (I’m not a fan of comic books and superheroes or big-action-blow’em-ups.) And, really, it may have been more of an early warning sign than either of us realized a year or two ago when Barbara started to lose interest in movies even after expressing a desire to see them. But I don’t like to think too much about that.

I’ve been going to the movies for longer than I can even remember. I know (at least I think I’ve been told) that the first movie I saw was Mary Poppins. My parents loved movies, but given that Mary Poppins came out in 1964, I have a hard time believing they took me to see it when I was only 1 year old. Perhaps it was still playing somewhere in Toronto a few years later. I do remember seeing Oliver! in a giant downtown theater. It came out in 1968, a little before I turned 5, but I’m guessing I saw it some time in the spring of 1969. I still watch at least some of it whenever I notice it’s on TV. I must have seen The Love Bug around the same time, and I also retain a warm spot in my heart for Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle.

Jaws was my first grown-up movie. Ben Hur was Barbara’s. For Amanda, it was Titanic.

I saw a lot of Disney live-action films in the early 1970s, and others like them. Some have been remade in recent years, but I’m not sure that too many critics were impressed at the time. Still, they were fun for a young kid.

My first truly grown up movie was Jaws, which I saw very shortly after its release in June of 1975. I went with a few friends from school to see it at a matinee a day or two after the end of Grade 6. I was 11, although some in the group were probably 12. It was terrifying, but thrilling too! I know I didn’t sleep very well that night and I distinctly remember keeping my arms and legs underneath the covers. (Everyone knows covers can save you from ghosts and bogeymen and things, so it felt a lot safer to keep my limbs tucked under the sheets and blanket rather than dangling off the side of the bed.) Still, seeing Jaws did NOT keep me out of the water at the cottage that summer … so take that!

Bayfield Mall only had two cinemas back in my father’s day. It’s closed down now.

Around that same time, my father and a friend opened the Bayfield Mall Cinema in Barrie. (Until then, Barrie only had two old downtown theaters: the Roxy and the Imperial.) For a movie-lover, having a father who owned a theater was like being a kid in a candy store! In point of fact, we had to pay for any popcorn and candy we wanted – Dad and Mr. Hamat didn’t own the concession rights – but I got to see a lot of free movies over the next few years. They never got a lot of first-run films, so I saw some strange things, and some older stuff too, including What’s Up Doc from 1972 which is still one of my favorite comedies. I also saw Gone With the Wind with my mother on one of its re-releases circa 1976. And the big hits of the day did eventually play there. I definitely saw Rocky more than once at my Dad’s theater during the summer of 1977.

Barbara and I passed on our love of movies to Amanda. Her childhood coincided with the rebirth of classic Disney cartoons such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, but one of my best Amanda movie memories is introducing her to Buster Keaton on television. My mother had taken my brothers and me to see Charlie Chaplin movies as young kids, and I was sure Amanda would enjoy Keaton. Barbara was less sure, but I was right! Amanda was so young (only about 5 years old) that we had to read her the title cards, but she loved “Busty”. Didn’t matter that the movies were black-and-white and silent; they’re great and Keaton’s comedy is classic.

Charlie Chaplin (left) was my introduction to silent films, though I’ve come
to enjoy the movies of Buster Keaton (center) and Harold Lloyd (right) more.

This past month or so, I’ve found myself going to the movies again. Sometimes with friends; sometimes alone. And I’ve been enjoying it. I’m sure Barbara would be happy to know that.

20 thoughts on “Me and the Movies

  1. I remember the good old days at Bayfield Cinemas! Do you have any movies on how to turn back time? Continued prayers and best wishes to you my friend!

  2. Thanks for sharing Eric – a fun read! Very interesting… I never knew your dad owned a movie theatre – so cool! Hoping you have more good days than bad… xo

  3. Loved the photo of the marquee. The only film I’d heard of is Blades of Glory! What did you do with all the VHSs? We also have loads of them (and still have a VHS player) including almost all the Disney cartoons which we bought for Deborah to watch.

    1. We (I) still have a VHS player and an old TV with a VHS built in!
      Looked into trying to find anyone to take them. No one was interested. We ended up throwing most of them out…

  4. Enjoyed your movie nostalgia, Eric. I can relate to your anti-comic book views and really appreciate a good drama. We’re fortunate in the Twin Cities to have the Landmark chain which specializes in art house films, both domestic and foreign. Look forward to seeing you at the May meeting.

  5. Hugs to you Eric, this is another amazing write up. I’m sure Barbara is sitting near you when you are watching 🙂
    And, on another note, seeing your collection of movies, I feel less guilty about having my own huge collection.

  6. Bonnie’s first was Sound of Music. She saw the opening montage of Austria in the Alps and thought that was the whole movie and, at four, was ready to go home. Her young brother saw The Wizard of Oz on tv, but covered his face with an tissue whenever the witch appeared. You could have used one at Jaws!
    Why not tell us what sport themed movies were good and bad or quirky things about sports movies such as who skated for Rob Lowe in his hockey opus? Or what gymnast did Peter Pan? Or what was the most and least believable sports films?
    Some try to recreate an actual sporting event, others rely on lots of sex to distract.

  7. Another poignant, ‘memories’ reviving anecdote (s). My first film in a theatre was when my mum took us to an early ’50s, matinee reprise of The Wizard of Oz.
    I will ALWAYS remember my first two ‘grown-up’ films, they are indelibly etched in my memory and both were at drive-ins during summer, camping vacations also in the early ’50s…The Bridges at Toko-Ri with Wiliam Holden and Grace Kelly (both my 1st ‘war’ movie and 1st ‘love story’), and The Naked Jungle with Charleton Heston and Eleanor Parker, the latter which provoked nightmares for years! (‘Marabunta’…miles of marching, all-devouring ants in the South American jungle.


  8. Every time they run The Wizard of Oz on TV I just gotta watch it. In doing so I’m transported back to when I saw it for the first time in the old and much beloved Alhambra Theatre just up the street from the Filey walk-up flat on Bathurst St. I sat through it so many times that day that my dad had to come and “yank” me out of the theatre. Interestingly, when that film was released in late 1939 it was a dud; when I saw it in the mid-’40s after it had been re-released it became an “instant” hit. Keep writing, it helps.

  9. Glad to be reading you again. I’ve never been much of a hockey fan, but am now in the chorus of a musical play, “I Come from the Valley – The Tales and Times of Joan Finnegan” ( You’ll know that Joan was the daughter of Frank Finnegan, and a most enjoyable song by the ensemble is titled, “The Cradle of Hockey”. Apparently Joan has also written about a few interesting memories she got from her hockey playing father.
    Many thanks for your support of the Killaloe Kids BookFest!
    Cathy and I send our deepest condolences.

  10. Earlier this week my mind drifted to cinema, a fairly serious hobby of mine; and, as always, I decided, in the Halloween spirit, to watch one of my guilty pleasures: Halloween. I know, I know, it’s a sophomoric high school movie; but I’m sorry, I think it’s a masterpiece in its own right.

    I decided to wait until dark for the proper mood and ambience, just before director John Carpenter’s theme began (he wrote the haunting music, you know), I sat down to check my emails, and in so doing came upon Eric’s “Me and the Movies.” I was stunned. Here now was Eric’s paean to cinema, his early experiencs, and a picture of his bookcase with what must be at least 300-350 films!

    Eric and I are extremely good friends and have been for over ten years. In all this time we’ve talked a lot of hockey, but rarely a syllable about film. Folks seem to be into the subject, and Eric himself has written an unusually long, informative, and enthusiastic introduction.

    So I’m going to take a swing at this project and share some of my favorite films with you. Before starting, however, a quick note to those of you who have many a movie in the wrong format: we used digital 8 for home use for a few days, there are Beta tapes in the closet, so too are our VHS relics, and laser discs (great quality), and then how many of you can boast of owning MiniDiscs? Occasionally I refer to myself as “Mr. Wrong Format.” Well, enough of that, let the show begin….

    1. Art’s List:

      Drama — The Letter & These Three (TIE)

      Western — Big Country & Culpepper Cattle Company (TIE)

      Foreign — Raise the Red Lantern

      Horror — Halloween

      Sci-Fi — War of the Worlds (1953 version)

      Comedy — Caddyshack

      Family (not for very impressionable children) — When Every Day Was the 4th of July

      Series — Sherlock Holmes (All the Rathbone Films)

      Action — Sea Hawk

      Historical Drama — Tora, Tora, Tora

      Sports — Bruins Stanley Cup Champions 2011 (Sorry – couldn’t help myself!)

      Animation — Despicable Me

      Worst — Plan 9 from Outer Space & Sasquatch (TIE)

      WAR = Crimson Tide

      Documentary — Civil War (Ken Burns)

      Crime — The Siege

      Best Actress — Ida Lupino

      Best Actor — Errol Flynn

      Honorable Mention Film — Magumbo

  11. OK let me pick myself up off the floor! I have Never seen so many DVD’s in one place in my life Eric!! WOW!!! Just WOW!!!
    I have about 12 DVD’s & here is the irony: I can’t remember how to operate the DVD player with the TV & not mess up the cable connection…..
    Anyway, the other irony is “Mary Poppins” was my 1st movie also!! I was 8 or 9 & my Father took me to see it. Altho’ I don’t ‘do’ musicals I do remember this movie with fondness. My 2nd movie was “A Hard Day’s Night” which my Mother took me to after a Dentist appt…she let me skip school…she was the Beatle lover…I was 9 or 10….. My 1st; going to the movies with a boyfriend; movie was “The Mechanic” starring Charles (OMG he was so ruggedly handsome) Bronson & Jan-Michael (Yummy) Vincent….I forgot I even had a boyfriend sitting beside me, hehehehe…
    My 1st restricted movie was (G-d forgive me) “The Exorcist” &let me tell you I almost got carried out….never went to another messed up movie like that again. I slept with lights on for 6 months!
    Now I don’t go to the movies because going alone is about as much fun as poking a stick in one’s eye…
    I HAVE watched “Jurassic World” twice on TV>>>fabulous!!!!! And I rewatch any “Star Trek” movies too!
    How did people live w/out movies in the ‘Dark Ages’, lol????
    Thanks for a fun post…..
    Sherri-Ellen & BellaDharma

  12. Eric,

    I sent you a separate e-mail/YouTube video with my all time favorite song “It’s All in the Movies” by Merle Haggard.

    Being a kid from the 1950’s/60’s, I grew up on Cowboy movies, think Roy Rogers, Gene Audrey, Hopalong Cassidy, Gabby Hayes, Smiley Burnett and “The Sons of the Pioneers”.

    Saturday afternoons in Everett, Massachusetts at the Park Theatre brings back great memories. “The Sons of the Pioneers” were founded by Tim Spencer, Leonard Slye (Roy Rogers) and Winnipeg born and at least partially New Brunswick bred Bob Nolan.


  13. Hi Eric! Just found time to read this blog. Really interesting. Thanks. Glad to be reading you again. Hugs, Linda

  14. What a wonderful story — I feel like movies and music save my life on a regular basis.

    And I hope your daughter still follows Buster Keaton – the best of them all!

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