Relaxing in Houston






Reading this in 2017, I noticed a few things that have been gone from our normal life for almost all the time between 1951 and now: double features (with cartoons) at the movies, and organ grinders. In case you're not old enough to remember:
  • A movie theater show in the 1940s and '50s typically consisted of a few "shorts" and two full-length movies. The shorts were a newsreel, one or two "coming attractions", and one or two cartoons (like Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner). The show was run continuously. When the show finished, it started up again immediately; there was no pause with the house lights on, to allow the theater to clear and a new audience come in. One function of the shorts was to give people time to leave and enter at the beginning of one of the features. But if you missed the beginning, you could just stay through and see what you had missed. In case you never really understood the expression, "Here's where I came in," this is its source and meaning. "I've seen all of this movie now; I can leave because I know exactly what happens from here."
  • Organ grinders were pretty much a thing of the past by then; the fact I mention it in the diary suggests I had not seen many. They were a form of street beggar. They would stand with the portable equivalent of a player piano, but rather than struck strings the music was woodwind. The operator stood and turned the crank on a box (hence "grinder") and music would come out. The tradition included the organ grinder's pet monkey, trained to further entertain the audience and to carry a cup into the audience for donations.