My neighborhood buddy, Chuck Brown, and I were both diehard Western movie fans, like most 11 and 12- year-old boys of that era. I plastered one wall of my room with fan magazine photos of cowboy stars like Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tom Mix and Ken Maynard—along with my favorite photo of “Lindy,” a photo of the actress Sally Eilers (Hoot Gibson’s wife), a photo of Jimmy Doolittle sitting in the cockpit of his GB Sportster, plus a newspaper clipping of Wiley Post standing in front of the Winnie Mae.
(In July 1933, the American aviator and one-eyed adventurer Wiley Post made the first solo flight around the world, flying a Lockheed Yega monoplane named the Winnie Mae. He flew 15,596 miles in 7 days, 18 hours, 49 minutes, a new record for that distance.)
On many a rainy Saturday afternoon, Chuck Brown and I sat scrunched down in our seats at the Rex Theater for hours on end, watching the good guys come thundering over the ridge, again and again.
The Rex was a rundown movie house that featured Western movies exclusively. It was located on Portland’s west side, a block or two up from the waterfront. And it cost a dime to get in.
Sometimes that was a problem for us.
Still, we got along.
To start with, we’d usually hitch a free ride into town on the back ledge of one of the big streetcars that cut a swath down through the sprawling east side of Portland to the Morrison Street Bridge and on across the Willamette River into the heart of downtown. The first time we tried this trick, the conductor spotted us and kicked us off at the next stop.
As the depression deepened, however, the transit system did away with conductors. They ran the big green and yellow streetcars with only the one motorman up front. So we’d crouch low on the back end and ride the rails all the way to the bridge.
Dangerous? Yes, it probably was. But we didn’t tell our mothers about it.
At the Rex Theater, on those occasions when we only had a dime between the two of us, we’d try to sneak in. As you sat in the theater, the small men’s room was down the aisle and through some velvet curtains to the left of the screen. Early on, we’d spotted the small “exit” sign above the curtained doorway. Sure enough, at the end of that hallway was a door that opened onto a back alley.