Theatre enhanced night life

To the Editor

This is the second installment in a two-part letter about Haliburton in the 1950s.

The Dysart Telephone System was owned and operated by the municipality which had a phone exchange at about the site of the Bank of Montreal. There was also an independent Dysart Hydro concern which was owned and operated by Dysart et al. Around 1953 the Ontario Hydro took over – I know this because my dad was contracted to feed the hydro crews at our restaurant; if you look toward the northern horizon in Haliburton you can make out a series of hydro pylons marching across the landscape; these were installed whilst the lunch-contract lasted.

Virtually everyone would take in a movie at the Molou on Saturday night. Tickets generally cost 25 cents but if a blockbuster came to town the price went all the way up to 75 cents. Movies like Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind were special favourites often shown years after they first came out. Popular shows were generally run twice in one evening when people would line up for half a block vying for a ticket.

My favourite was Bambi when it came out; I don’t know why but I saw it countless times; I could once recite the entire script. (I was an usher in that theatre so it cost me nothing; I could get in free.) Apart from the staff in the Molou only Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein (related to Molly and Lou of the Molou) were given free passage into the theatre and allowed to sit wherever they liked. Whenever especially popular movies were shown on a Friday or Saturday night (sometimes both nights) our restaurant and the Kosy would extend their hours to 2 a.m. from the usual 11 p.m.

This would accommodate not only for the movie crowd but also for the Slipper crowd where in summer there’d always be a Saturday night dance. I know because I worked quite a few of those nights; usually I’d usher for the early movie at the Molou then go to our restaurant to help out. Everyone seemed inclined to spring 35 cents for a hamburg and Coke after a movie or a dance.

All transactions were done by bartering or in cash there was no such thing as a credit card. You had to go to the bank and get money if you wanted to buy anything. Bread was 19 cents butter 65 cents most sandwiches 15 to 20 cents a T-bone steak with all the trimmings $2.50 a slice of pie 10 cents cigarettes 20 or 25 cents chewing gum six cents soft-drinks from five cents to seven to 10 cents and goldfish were 50 cents. Cheques were generally cashed at the bank when you got them at work or in the mail.

There was no mail delivery; everyone went to the post office to pick up their mail or mail a letter – there were no other means to post a letter. At the time the post office performed banking services; with your passbook you could deposit or withdraw money from any post office in the country; how innovative! I had such an account into the late 1950s when it was cancelled. I remember Lester Walling delivering milk by horse cart until the early 1950s money for the transaction would be placed in the empty milk bottles on one’s front porch. People left their keys in their cars houses were never locked; rarely did you even hear of a robbery.

Ed Burke