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A woman I spoke with recently told me she had attended a Catholic school near The Willow. Around Easter each year, the kindly Jewish man who owned the theatre shut down the current shows and ran a movie about the Resurrection. The Catholic school kids got the afternoon off from school to see the free movie and probably a lot of Protestant kids got to see it as well.
During the 30’s or 40’s, Tony the Barber, a hero of the South End, used to rent the Arcade for occasional Saturday afternoons. He would invite all the neighborhood kids to come for a free matinee complete with prizes. I know a man who won one of those prizes: a baseball glove.
When Springfield native Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel was growing up, he used to skip class and catch the matinee at the Bijou. He was reprimanded by his mother who told him that boys that go to the movies would never amount to anything. The truant officers headed first to the theatres to catch hookey players.
A Springfield lawyer in his 70’s remembers a big “S” on the front of the Strand. He tells of his Six Corners buddies pooling their resources and buying a single ticket. The ticket holder would gain admission and let his cronies in through a side door.